Apparently, members of President Donald Trump’s team haven’t exactly been paying attention to what their leader is actually doing. At least, that would be a reasonable excuse for the POLITICO report that they were “dumbfounded” by the hostile reception to Trumpism that they faced at the latest installment of the long-running Munich Security Conference in recent days. What exactly did they expect to happen? Were they imagining that there’d be some kind of red carpet for the guy who veers between insisting that he’s “never understood wind” and lambasting decades-long partnerships between the U.S. and European powers?
‘For decades, the Munich Security Conference served as a powerful symbol of the strength of the Western alliance. The 2020 installment offered a testament to its accelerating decline… Those who thought last year’s tense gathering represented a low point in the relationship left Munich this year chastened.’
Points of contention included the U.S. take on major powers like Russia and China and the Trump administration’s continuing diplomatic disengagement across Europe. Where in years past, U.S. presidents might have used occasions like G7 and NATO summits to hammer out ambitious plans with their European allies for fighting threats like growing armaments and climate change, now, Trump just spends his time angrily tweeting through many of those kinds of events and sometimes flatly refuses to sign onto basic plans.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier insisted that the Trump administration is “rejecting the idea of the international community” and mockingly summarized their foreign policy as:
‘Every country should fend for itself and put its own interests over all others… ‘Great again’ — even at the expense of neighbors and partners.’
French President Emmanuel Macron, who’s sometimes made a show of trying to find common ground with Trump, added the next day that “what Europe wants is not quite the same as the U.S.” It’s at that point that POLITICO says that “U.S. officials were dumbfounded” — although again — have they read the president’s tweets? Any of them?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was one of those to actually rail against the criticism, but he acted like the only relevant question is whether there are more and bigger guns available, since he based his arguments on increased U.S. defense spending.
In his “agitated” remarks, he railed:
‘I’m here to tell you the facts… Those statements do not reflect reality… Is this an America that rejects responsibility? Let’s be straight up: The U.S. is out there fighting for sovereignty and our friends.’
They didn’t ask whether or not the U.S. was fighting for the global implementation of some vague version of nationalism. In fact, they asked whether the U.S. would continue to stand for past security and economic alliances, and Trump has proven that the answer is no.
POLITICO notes that the disinterested and disbelieving “reaction to Pompeo reflects the toll Trump’s aggressive, often abusive, rhetoric toward European allies has taken on the relationship.”
Will Pompeo actually work to change any of that rhetoric though rather than sticking to agitated, pompously self-righteous “dumbfoundedness”? Probably not.