At G-7, Trump clashes with world leaders
President Trump looked isolated on the world stage this week as he clashed with allied leaders at the Group of Seven summit in France—skipping a meeting on climate change, attacking former President Obama, defending his trade war with China, and starting a heated exchange with other leaders over his contention that Russia should be readmitted to the group. Trump spoke publicly of “great unity,” but the annual three-day forum displayed little of the cooperative approach to global problem-solving it had in years past. French President Emmanuel Macron made a last-minute decision to host a “parallel event” with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who was sanctioned by the U.S. only last month, although Trump said Macron sought his approval ahead of time. Trump also broke with Japan over whether North Korean missile tests represented a violation of U.N. Security Council accords. On climate change, Trump waved away proposals for action, vowing not to “trade away” America’s “tremendous wealth” in natural resources for “dreams and windmills, which frankly, aren’t working too well.”
Following the Trump-less climate meeting, Macron said the G-7 would create a $22 million emergency fund to help Brazil combat more than 26,000 fires raging in the Amazon rain forest (see Briefing), calling it “the lungs of the planet.” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejected the offer angrily, saying it slighted Brazilian sovereignty, then followed up by insulting the appearance and age of Macron’s wife, Brigitte. In the end, Bolsonaro said Brazil might accept the aid after all, with the caveat that Brazil would determine how it was used.
What the editorials said
You could just as well have called this the “Group of 7, minus Trump,” said The New York Times. Fellow leaders tiptoed around the American president, to avoid provoking his unpredictable wrath. Now the “world’s major liberal democracies basically accept that they are out of sync with the president of the nation that should be leading their efforts.” When Trump didn’t show up to discuss the global threat of the Amazon fires, Macron and the others actually seemed relieved to carry on without the specter of Trump’s presence.
News reports are clearly painting the G-7 as just “another round of ‘world appalled by Trump,’” said the New York Post. But the truth is the president was the responsible one at this summit. He saw Macron’s stunt with Iran’s foreign minister for what it was—a pander to Macron’s domestic critics. Bottom line: Trump refused “to go ballistic over the empty gesture” and took it in stride. That’s how a real statesman acts.
What the columnists said
Trump may have seemed absent from much of the G-7 summit, but thanks to Trump’s advocacy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin was almost present, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Watching Trump blame Putin’s Crimean annexation on President Obama was an “Orwellian spectacle.” Behind closed doors, Trump was even more pro-Putin, arguing the case to bring him back into the group so vehemently that “it was tantamount to having Putin himself in the room.”
Trump may have come up with a new way to arrange the guest list, said Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg.com: “He’s been floating the possibility of hosting the Group of Seven summit” at his Doral golf club next year. “Each country,” Trump suggested, “can have their own villa or their own bungalow.” The search for personal profit is the bedrock principle of Trump’s conduct. The message that he’s sending to his own administration and foreign leaders is that “only a chump would miss a chance to do the same.”
It’s hardly a surprise that Bolsonaro—the “Trump of the Tropics”—claimed the G-7 was infringing on Brazil’s sovereignty by pledging money fight Amazon fires, said Frida Ghitis in CNN.com. Both presidents share the same creed: Be wary of international cooperation and reject “sacrifices for a common good.” But the crisis in the Amazon shows the lie at the heart of this worldview. Countries can no longer “wall themselves in and pretend that what goes on beyond their borders does not affect them.” As the nationalist demagogues ignore it, the Amazon is burning at a rate of one and a half soccer fields per minute. That’s a threat to us all. ■