On May 31, the same day the Trump Administration announced steel and aluminum tariffs against the European Union, French President Emmanuel Macron placed a call to President Trump. It didn’t go well. Hoping perhaps to draw on goodwill fostered by the congenial time they spent together in Washington in April–just before Trump disappointed Macron by withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal–the French President decided to try some straight talk with Trump on trade. A source explained the outcome to CNN: “Macron thought he would be able to speak his mind, based on the relationship. But Trump can’t handle being criticized like that.”
That’s why the gathering of leaders of the G-7 countries–the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada–in La Malbaie, Quebec, on June 8 and 9 is unusually interesting. The host nation’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, previewed the G-7 meeting as “extraordinarily valuable, because it’s an opportunity for like-minded nations to come together and talk about shared challenges.” Like-minded? Shared challenges? Not with a U.S. President who sees allies as constraints and prefers to get things done by twisting arms and making threats.
Donald Trump made his mark in the cutthroat world of New York real estate the way a tough-minded poker player bullies those at the table with less money to spend. He played as if he had bottomless pockets. The guy who is not afraid to lose a few hands likes to push the stakes, to go all in and to dare those across the table to accept more risk by staying in the game. With that strategy, he won many hands without always holding the best cards or sitting on a fat wallet.
As President, Trump brought this strategy to the table with South Korea and Brazil. When he made trade threats, the governments of those countries knew they could bring the U.S. before the World Trade Organization and (probably) win. But that would take years, and their economies would suffer much damage in the meantime. Instead, they cut deals. And so they figured: Give the bully some of what he wants and maybe he’ll turn his attention toward someone else. (The renegotiation of NAFTA may eventually end in the same fashion.)
But there are limits to this strategy. What happens when someone calls Trump's bluff? If Kim Jong Un steps into the white-hot spotlight that follows Trump and offers him something tomorrow but nothing today, what does Trump do about it? Launch a strike that risks a war? Call him names? Threaten tariffs on China so it puts more pressure on North Korea?
Furthermore, what happens when Trump discovers he doesn't have the big advantage he thinks he has? Trump believes (correctly) that if it comes to a trade war, the U.S. economy can withstand more pain than the Chinese economy. But Chinese President Xi Jinping believes (correctly) that Trump is politically much more vulnerable; Xi doesn't need to win swing states to remain in charge. Sanctions targeted at Trump voters can do more damage more quickly than Trump might expect.
Finally, when you discover you've picked a tougher fight than you expected, it's best to have friends in the room. Like, say, the G-7 allies. But as those meeting with Trump in Quebec during this summit already know, Trump's "America first" approach is backed by the threat of U.S. power, not the opportunities created by shared values and common interests. Because of this, it's worth noting the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which will bring Russia, India, Iran and others to China on June 9 and 10. The Europeans, Japanese and Canadians all know that trade with China will be a big part of their future. China may even soon overtake the U.S. as the E.U.'s largest trade partner.
International relations are not a poker game. In a world of "every nation for itself"-a G-zero world-it's harder than ever to accomplish anything ambitious without allies. Trump's indiscriminate use of "I dare you to fight" tactics with friends and foes alike is eroding not only traditional alliances but also the institutions those alliances have sustained over many decades. Over the long term, that's bad for the U.S. and bad for the world.
And Susan B. Glasser wrote in NewYorker :
Under Trump, "America First" Really Is Turning Out to Be America Alone
...For close to a year and a half, Trudeau and his counterparts have employed various strategies to try to head off conflict with the volatile American President, from flattery to stonewalling to hours of schmoozing on the golf course. But in recent weeks Trump has confounded their efforts, unleashing a tit-for-tat trade war with allies, blowing up the Iran nuclear deal over European objections, and walking away from a deal with Canada and Mexico to overhaul NAFTA, all while lavishing praise on the North Korean dictator with whom he hopes to reach an accord next week. Adding insult to injury, Trump even cited an obscure national-security provision to justify the tariffs, as if America's closest friends had suddenly become its biggest enemies. As a result, the G-7 meeting that Trudeau will host on Friday and Saturday was shaping up to be the most contentious, and possibly the most consequential, since the summits began, in 1975.
Trump's chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told the White House press corps on Wednesday that this was all just a "family quarrel," but, if so, it's one ugly fight. As Kudlow acknowledged the rift, Trudeau and France's President, Emmanuel Macron, were meeting to plot strategy, and everyone was wondering why Trump, who is often described as averse to face-to-face conflict, had chosen the weeks preceding the annual G-7 summit to punch his allies in the face. In the days leading up to the meeting, Trump had tense phone calls with Trudeau, Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Macron, who has been especially humiliated by the series of adverse decisions after flying to Washington to lobby Trump personally. All of them appear to fix blame on Trump himself. "We've gotten used to unorthodox behavior from your President," the Trudeau adviser said.
...As Trump's dramatic moves have played out this spring and hardened into a Presidential narrative of American victimization at the hands of free-riding allies, senior government officials in London, Berlin, and other European capitals, and in Washington, have said they now worry that Trump may be a greater immediate threat to the alliance than even authoritarian great-power rivals, such as Russia and China. Equally striking is the extent to which America's long-term allies have no real strategy for coping with the challenges posed by such an American President. Trump may be reorienting U.S. foreign policy away from its closest friends, such as Great Britain and Germany, and toward those with whom Trump is more politically aligned in Israel, the Gulf, and along Europe's restive fringes, but his traditional partners have no real strategy for how to respond.
... several German officials made similar references to personal and familial dysfunction. In their view, Trump's decision to take on his allies on so many issues all at once is quite different from the standard-issue European policy disputes with the United States, such as the 2003 rift over George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, or Ronald Reagan's early nineteen-eighties military buildup against the Soviet Union. Those were differing views over how to protect the alliance; now Trump is questioning the alliance itself. "It's like your parents questioning their love for you," Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the Bundestag's foreign-affairs committee.
... After, Trump reorganized his foreign-policy team, replacing his Secretary of State and national-security adviser with the more like-minded Mike Pompeo and John Bolton and launching his trade war, did they finally get that "this is real. And still many people haven't come to grips with the idea that Trump is not considering us an ally and as a son but maybe even as adversary."
The latest controversy was reinforcing the idea that Germany was no longer America's favored ally. Trump had named Richard Grenell, a Republican activist well known for his aggressive Twitter spats and dismissive views, to be the new U.S. Ambassador to Germany, and he, even before meeting his German hosts, had just given an interview to the right-wing Web site Breitbart praising the European far right. Grenell later insisted on Twitter that his remarks had been misconstrued, but not before some German politicians called for him to be kicked out and the German Foreign Office asked for a formal clarification of his comments. The fracas had a certain Trumpian irrelevance, but a more consequential rebuke came in a speech this week at the conservative Heritage Foundation, in Washington, where the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, A. Wess Mitchell, outlined a new strategy toward the Continent that suggested a shift away from longtime allies, such as France and Germany, and toward newcomers in Central and Eastern Europe, where Trump-style populism flourishes and democratic norms are being challenged.
Still, Röttgen, like Merkel herself, remains wary of outright confrontation with the Trump Administration over these policies, even as the German public becomes increasingly disillusioned. "We should choose the option of damage limitation instead of escalation," Röttgen said told me. "Trump might force us to become more confrontational, but we should try to resist." How bad has it already gotten? A recent poll found that only fourteen per cent of Germans now believe the United States is a reliable partner, compared with thirty-six per cent in Russia and forty-three per cent in China...