Trump is top of mind for world lead­ers

Trudeau heads to NATO, G7 sum­mits where pre­dict­ing what the pres­i­dent will do is ‘vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble’

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JOANNA SMITH

OT­TAWA — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau heads to Europe this week for the NATO and G7 sum­mits, where global lead­ers are try­ing to fig­ure out ex­actly how the world works now that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is at the ta­ble.

The fu­ture of mil­i­tary al­liances, the fight against cli­mate change and even free trade all hang in the bal­ance as the new man in the White House sits down and lets them all know his plans — or maybe not.

“Pre­dict­ing what this pres­i­dent does would be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble,” said David Perry, a se­nior an­a­lyst with the Canadian Global Af­fairs In­sti­tute, de­liv­er­ing a com­mon an­swer to the ques­tion of what to ex­pect this week.

“Fire­works would be the base­line ex­pec­ta­tion of some sort.”

On Thurs­day, Trump, in the midst of his first for­eign trip as U.S. pres­i­dent, will sit down with Trudeau and other lead­ers at the NATO sum­mit at the group’s new head­quar­ters in Brus­sels.

Can­di­date Trump de­clared on the cam­paign trail that NATO had out­lived its use­ful­ness — a stance he re­versed last month.

The ad hoc meet­ing was or­ga­nized es­sen­tially to in­tro­duce the new U.S. pres­i­dent to the 28-coun­try mil­i­tary al­liance and have Trump out­line his vi­sion for NATO’s fu­ture ob­jec­tives.

Allen Sens, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia who fo­cuses on in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity, said the meet­ing comes at a time when the post-Sec­ond World War al­liance was al­ready deal­ing with com­pet­ing in­ter­ests that seem to be grow­ing stronger.

The south­ern flank of NATO wants to fo­cus on deal­ing with se­cu­rity in North Africa and the Mid­dle East, and the re­lated is­sue of mi­grants and refugees. East­ern Euro­pean part­ners are more con­cerned with Rus­sian ag­gres­sion.

There are also grow­ing concerns around the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Turkey and Rus­sia and their roles in the Syr­ian con­flict. Brexit, too, brings some un­cer­tainty to the dy­nam­ics.

“It’s be­ing pulled in var­i­ous dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, by of­ten com­pet­ing geopo­lit­i­cal forces, and at this very del­i­cate mo­ment, the United States — a key part­ner in the al­liance — is led by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion with its es­tab­lished record of volatil­ity, un­cer­tainty and im­pul­sive­ness,” said Sens.

Mean­while, the ele­phant out­side the room is the ex­plo­sive al­le­ga­tions and do­mes­tic U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tions of close ties be­tween the White House and Rus­sia.

There are ef­forts un­der­way to min­i­mize the im­pact for some of that in­fa­mous Trump un­pre­dictabil­ity, with for­eign del­e­ga­tions at both the NATO and the G7 sum­mits be­ing ad­vised it would be in their best in­ter­ests if ev­ery­one kept pre­sen­ta­tions short and to the point.

A fed­eral of­fi­cial said Canada plans to give “high-level brief­ings” to some of its al­lies at NATO.

On Fri­day and Satur­day, Trudeau and Trump will be in Taormina, a re­sort town in Si­cily, for the G7 Sum­mit.

John Kir­ton, di­rec­tor of the G8 Re­search Group at the Munk School of Global Af­fairs at the Univer­sity of Toronto, said this smaller fo­rum with lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties for face-to-face talks is made for some­one like Trump, who pro­fesses his pas­sion for mak­ing deals.

Kir­ton said he ex­pects the talks to fo­cus on try­ing to con­vince Trump not to go through with his pledge to back out of the UN Paris agree­ment on cli­mate change, the role of China in the world, and in­ter­na­tional trade.

But Kir­ton said the tenor of th­ese talks might de­pend on how things go in Brus­sels.

If things don’t go well at the NATO sum­mit, the G7 meet­ing will have to be rapidly re­con­fig­ured into a re­pair job, he said.

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