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5/28/17

EU: Trump’s 'Home Run' Trip Leaves White House Happy, Europe Mixed - Bloomberg

The world just got its first close-up look at Donald Trump. It didn’t always like what it saw.
There he was pushing aside Montenegro’s prime minister to be front-and-center for a NATO photo-op. Here he was beaming giddily next to a stern-faced pope. On the same day, his wife Melania swatted away his attempt to hold hands.

In Saudi Arabia, one senior White House official marveled at the lack of protesters, perhaps not realizing Saudi bans them. In Israel, after an historic direct flight from Riyadh, Trump raised eyebrows with the comment, “we just got back from the Middle East.” In Brussels, Trump walked into the gleaming new NATO headquarters -- and, with a real-estate mogul’s eye, made clear he wondered if they’d overpaid.

“Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!” Trump said to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi when they met in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, a friendly nod to a Mideast strongman who the U.S. largely snubbed during the Obama administration. El-Sisi visited the White House within three months of Trump taking office.

By the time he got to Sicily, Trump probably wished he were back at the glittering sword-dance ceremony in the Middle East, where various parties -- Israelis, Palestinians, Saudis -- need the U.S. for trade, peace and protection.

Europe, on the other hand, is prepared to go on without him. After the presidential election, the Continent’s leaders always figured they’d be going it alone without the Brexit-loving, free trade-bashing, NATO skeptic. Nothing that happened on this trip should fundamentally change that view.

The trans-Atlantic alliance stands, but with people on both sides in a state of sober, not heartfelt, embrace.

Trump himself called the trip a “home run,” and aides agreed, delighted over the lack of major gaffes and their ability to keep Trump largely on script and far away from reporters. Even Trump’s Twitter account was uncharacteristically free of top-of-mind rants -- despite the storm that awaits his return the U.S., with son-in-law Jared Kushner getting pulled deeper into the FBI’s Russia probe.

If Europeans thought a more diplomatic president would show up in this most diplomatic of settings, they obviously hadn’t paid attention to Trump’s first months in office, when American voters found out that at age 70, he is who he is.

That doesn’t mean they weren’t annoyed. German Chancellor Angela Merkel could barely contain her disdain for the American outlier on the Paris climate agreement.

Merkel, Europe’s most influential leader, was the least amused by Trump. She said, in effect, that NATO will join the anti-Islamic State coalition as Trump requested, but it won’t mean committing a single extra soldier. Merkel also brushed off Trump’s call for a quicker increase in defense spending.

“The whole discussion about climate has been difficult, or rather very unsatisfactory,” Merkel told reporters after the summit. “Here we have the situation that six members, or even seven if you want to add the EU, stand against one.”

Read more: Trump’s 'Home Run' Trip Leaves White House Happy, Europe Mixed - Bloomberg

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