As President Donald Trump returned from his first international trip as president on Sunday, his German counterpart told the world she believes the era of American global leadership has ended.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces parliamentary elections in the fall, told a crowd in Munich on Sunday. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
The comments reflect new divisions between Washington and European capitals. Just before her meeting with Trump and other leaders from the G7 in Brussels, Merkel welcomed former President Barack Obama with a celebration at the Brandenburg Gate, underscoring her tension with his successor.
Since his campaign, Trump has deplored the amount of money the United States contributes to NATO, a Cold War-era alliance that has overseen a half-century of stability across much of Europe. He also backed Britain’s plans to leave the European Union and has criticized European countries — including Merkel’s Germany — for accepting refugees from the Syrian crisis.
The G7 releases a communique after each of its meetings to summarize points of consensus identified between leaders. Past communiques have weighed in at over 30 pages; Trump’s visit produced just a six-page memo, NPR’s Tamara Keith noted.
The chief points of tension between Trump and his counterparts in Brussels were the Paris climate agreement and the core principles underlying the NATO alliance itself.
Trump is reportedly readying to renege on the climate deal. Merkel called the group’s discussions around the deal as “six against one” and “very difficult.” Trump also “demurred from explicitly endorsing America’s commitment to NATO’s principle of collective defense,” as the New York Times put it.
Trump’s at times awkward meetings in Europe came in stark contrast with the trip’s earlier visits to Saudi Arabia, where Trump celebrated a massive new arms deal with the Saudi regime, and to Israel, where he visited with conservative prime minister Bibi Netanyahu.
“It was different. There weren’t the same sort of red carpets,” Keith reported. Absent the celebratory environs of his early stops, Trump’s conduct on the European leg of the trip “has been described as lecturing,” Keith said.