Like any successful wheeler and dealer, Donald Trump knows how to make his clients feel valued. But, as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron discovered last week, there's a considerable difference between sincerity and salesmanship.
PARIS - Barack Obama wasn't very interested in Europe. Something which was made clear in 2010, when he didn't even show up for an EU-US summit in Madrid. Instead, at least in the early part of his presidency, Obama focused on Asia. Leaving the old continent to dwell on its diminished importance in Washington.
Yet, despite this snub, Obama generally went through the motions and treated its leaders with respect. Indeed, he belatedly realized that the likes of Angela Merkel and David Cameron were liberal bedfellows useful for his issues-driven presidency. Nevertheless, there's a lingering feeling that the Democrat darling never really got Europe.
By contrast, his successor Trump, with his family roots in Germany and Scotland, arguably understands the place better than any US president since John F. Kennedy. He's married into both Czechia and Slovenia and spent decades crisscrossing the continent, pursing business deals from County Clare in Ireland to the Russian capital of Moscow.
And it's clear all this experience has taught him not to take any of America's NATO partners seriously. Because, make no mistake, Trump doesn't see them as allies. Instead, he views them as client states who are subject to Washington's orders.
Of course, the West European "big three" only have themselves to blame for this situation, as they never heeded the old maxim: "United we stand, divided we fall." And rather than pooling resources to create the sort of "common European home" once proposed by figures as diverse as Mikhail Gorbachev and Charles de Gaulle, they've jostled for American favor. Which makes them appear weak and easily manipulated.
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