On May 19th, President Trump departed for his inaugural foreign visit where he made stops across the Middle East and Europe over the course of nine days. His visit began in Saudi Arabia and included meeting with King Salman and the royal family of the nation, as well as attending a meeting with many leaders in the Gulf States coalition. From here, President Trump traveled to Israel and the West Bank and met with both the leaders of the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel itself. His trip then continued in Rome where he met with the Pope and the President of Italy in the Vatican. He concluded his traveling in Brussels, then Sicily, where the President met with the NATO coalition and the G7 members.
While praised by some, this trip was indicative of a faltering and confused administration. Hypocrisy, a common staple of this presidency, found its way into most moments, such as when the President bowed in front of the Saudi king. While in Saudi Arabia, President Trump signed a massive arms deal with the Saudis which threatens democracy and peace in the region, similar to how Ivanka spoke about women leaders at an event where women reporters were not allowed. His speech on Islam was heavy-handed and ultimately misguided, and most of this trip felt more like a parade.
President Trump’s actions preceded him in Israel as the nation was still fuming over his alleged leaks of Israeli intelligence in the White House to the Russian ambassador. While the President denies these charges, it seemed to have an effect on his presence in the region. His administration found ways to embarrass itself, from typos to classic Trumpian rhetoric, and very little substantive policy or messaging came from his time spent in Israel.
However, the most catastrophic part of the trip came at its conclusion. While the media focused on many of the publicity nightmares for the President (his handshake with French President Macron or when he pushed himself past the Prime Minister of Montenegro), there were a lot of relationships and diplomatic norms under siege. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s statement about the strength of American commitment is incredibly worrisome and should not be overlooked, especially as talks of a European nuclear program begin to unfold. Furthermore, the leaders of the G7 nations ridiculed President Trump for his stance on Russia as well as global warming, and this questioned the leadership and integrity of the United States.
Many are calling this a successful trip, but it’s difficult to see by which metric this administration can claim a win. Not only did gaffes dominate the news cycle and stymie any developments in professionalism, but ignorance gave way to the erosion of American credibility and involvement in the international community.