The ruins left behind by President Donald Trump's first foreign trip don't look anything like the archeological wonders in Taormina, Sicily, site of this past weekend's G7 summit. The rubble left in Trump's path can be reassembled in brutal words of German, French, Italian, English and other languages spoken and written in different European and world capitals, gauging the potential lasting damage to global alliances by the new inward-looking American foreign policy.
Both in gestures and deeds, the U.S. president has shown on the world stage that he is truly ready to pull America back from longstanding alliances and its role as global superpower. Trump wouldn't sign on Saturday to a joint document to carry out the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, and appeared at odds with the other leaders on trade, after chiding NATO allies last week for not investing in the military alliance.
Denmark's Politiken says Trump's first trip overseas "destroyed every illusion that he might be better than feared: He's just as bad as feared."The Atlantic"s David Frum describes the trip as a "catastrophe for U.S.-Europe relations." Italy's La Repubblica meanwhile speaks of Trump as the man who sabotato the G7. That's Italian for "sabotage."
But the most devastating words Sunday came in the language of Goethe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday that Europe could no longer rely on the U.S. the way they have been doing since World War II. "We, Europeans, have to take our destiny into our own hands," she said, speaking at an election rally in the southern German city of Munich. "The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days."
He's just as bad as feared.
How far and deep will Merkel's words reach? It's worth noting that yesterday's comments were made on the campaign trail (a general election will take place in September), in a state — Bavaria — that has been very critical of her leadership, especially regarding the migrant crisis. And clearly, standing up to Trump has become a politically beneficial tactic.
Still, this is bigger than election-year calculations. On Monday, when new French President Emmanuel Macron was hosting a potentially tense bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Paris-based daily Le Mondenoted another significance of Merkel's declaration: "When Angela Merkel says ‘we, Europeans," she's sending a call out to France, the only alternative in case the Americans and British wind up walking away for good."
Henry Farrell in The Washington Post, says the signal the German Chancellor sent could end up shaking up the world's entire set of alliances. "If the current U.S. administration has decided that it no longer needs to rely on allies as much as in the past, those allies are deciding that they cannot rely on the United States anymore." In any language, that usually spells trouble.