Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tumult of Trump's Europe trip smashes presidential precedent

HELSINKI (AP) — Plenty of U.S. presidents have created commotion in their travels abroad, but none as much as President Donald Trump.

The president's tumultuous trip across Europe, historians say, smashed the conventions of American leaders on the world stage.

Trump's "America first" approach to foreign policy had him seeming to accept the word of a hostile power over his own intelligence agencies, insulting allies and sowing doubts about his commitment to the NATO alliance.

"We've never had a president go abroad and not only lecture to our NATO allies, but also to embarrass them," said Russia expert William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. "We've never had our president go on a foreign tour and categorize our allies as foes. And we've never had our president hold a joint news conference with a Russian leader where he assigned blame, from his perspective, to both parties, but in fact dedicated most of his time to blaming the U.S. Justice Department and intelligence services."

While past presidents have had difficult foreign trips and been criticized for their summits with Soviet leaders, Trump's behavior has few parallels, in the view of presidential historians and longtime Russia watchers.

Franklin Roosevelt was accused of "selling out" to Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945; John F. Kennedy and his aides admitted that he'd been unprepared for his 1961 Vienna summit with Nikita Khrushchev; the Reykjavík summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 was seen at the time to have ended in failure; and George W. Bush was mocked for telling reporters in 2001 after meeting with Putin that he had "looked the man in the eye" and "found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy."

Trump's trip was different.

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