As President Donald Trump prepares for this week’s G-20 summit, his European partners aren’t hiding their disillusionment with how his “America First” approach to foreign policy has damaged the liberal world order.
“This world order, the traditional liberal world order, is more or less undermined, really, or looks injured,” Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States, told Politico’s “Off Message” podcast in an episode that aired Monday. “Where [is] the United States? I think it’s impossible to move on without America, and I think also that the United States really can’t let the world move on.”
Yet the U.S. began taking a back seat in world affairs before Trump took office, Araud argued.
“‘America First,’ in a sense, was raised in a discreet way, also under President Obama,” Araud said, referring to the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to the crisis in Ukraine and his unwillingness to enforce his “red line” against chemical weapons use in Syria.
“It’s more interesting to ask the question about America itself,” Araud added, “not the America of Trump or the America of Obama, but what is today the appetite of the Americans, really, to have an active role in the world affairs?”
He noted the irony in Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, creating an opening for China to lead the charge on global climate action.
“It’s obvious that for the Europeans, the Europeans can’t think of building a future without the Americans,” he added.
Araud isn’t the only European political figure who has spoken out on the issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has gone from describing the United States as Germany’s “most important friend” to dropping the word “friend” entirely.
Trump’s first visit with his European counterparts left E.U. countries with a lot more questions than answers in terms of how to interpret the transatlantic relationship. As he had done throughout his campaign, he called out NATO partners for not spending more on collective defense. He also ruffled some feathers, shoving aside the prime minister of Montenegro during a visit to NATO headquarters.
The White House said he spoke to the leaders of Italy and Germany on Monday about issues including migration, trade and climate change in advance of the G-20 summit, which begins on Friday in Hamburg, Germany.
Beyond G-20 meetings, Trump will sit down with Russian president Vladimir Putin. French president Emmanuel Macron also invited him to spend Bastille Day in Paris.