In a two-and-a-half-page document, the heads of state and government of the seven leading industrialized nations have outlined where the current front lines are in the western world. This is unprecedented in the history of the G7. But it was important for the leaders surrounding German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron to document the six-to-one outcome of the vote on the subject of climate. After the vote, Ms. Merkel referred to it as a “highly unsatisfactory” result. She could also have said: The Germans and their cars may be “bad” for US President Donald Trump, but from the standpoint of Germany, Italy, Great Britain, France, Canada and Japan, Mr. Trump is the bad, bad boy of the West.
These are not trivial matters. Mr. Trump appeared to pout as Mr. Macron looks as if he were approaching him but then turns to the side to greet Chancellor Merkel with a kiss instead. As much as such encounters reveal about Mr. Trump and his worldview, they remain trivial.
National interests and effective international cooperation are not mutually exclusive – they are mutually dependent.
Far worse is the fact that the US president is on the verge of upending the established system of values in the western world. All US presidents before him have always championed their country’s values. The German chancellor does the same thing, although she wouldn’t call it “Germany first.” But when Mr. Trump pushes aside NATO, free trade and the Paris climate protection agreement, he is not only doing grave harm to Germany’s interests but – in the long run – also those of the United States. National interests and effective international cooperation are not mutually exclusive – they are mutually dependent. Smart politicians know this.
Mr. Trump prefers to rave about autocrats like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Leaving the summit in Sicily, one wouldn’t necessarily have the impression that the United States stands for international solidarity and democratic values.
But there is hope. Mr. Trump’s advisers and the attendees of the G7 meeting have increasingly noticed learning effects with the new US president. After his visit to Israel, even Mr. Trump recognized that the conflict in the Middle East cannot be resolved in an afternoon. In his speech in Saudi Arabia on the Muslim world, he appeared to realize that you have to deal with matters of foreign policy to resolve the urgent security policy issues facing the United States. For the other G7 summit attendees, this means sticking to their guns and not backing away from their own goals in favor of a convenient compromise.
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