The Truth About Trump in Europe
Like Donald Trump, recent Republican presidents have provoked controversy on their first forays into Europe. Ronald Reagan arrived in Germany in 1982 to thousands of antinuclear protesters. George H.W. Bush had to counter a Soviet effort in May 1989 to undermine alliance unity on nuclear strategy.
By the time of his first visit in June 2001, George W. Bush had already withdrawn the U.S. from several international agreements, rankling allies. Germany’s Der Spiegel went so far as to portray Mr. Bush on its cover, three months into his presidency, standing atop the globe dressed as a cowboy. The caption: “The Little Sheriff: George W. Bush vs. the Rest of the World.”
Mr. Trump, by comparison, had an easy task last week at NATO and the G-7 summit. The press was quick to highlight every breach of protocol and anonymous sniping from European officials, but the reality is that European leaders are pleased with the professionalism that has marked their engagements so far with the Trump administration. While his rhetoric and domestic political distractions generate concerns about the sustainability of American leadership, the worst fears about Mr. Trump’s posture toward Europe have yet to materialize.
Mr. Trump repeated in Brussels a version of his fiery campaign speech about NATO allies failing to meet their spending commitments, but U.S. officials have engaged in cool-headed discussions with their counterparts in NATO capitals about capabilities and national-spending plans instead of arbitrary budget targets. The allies are developing specific plans to address capability gaps.