In mid-May, President Donald Trump departed on his first international diplomatic trip.
While previous presidents have often made their first international trips to either Mexico or Canada, President Trump decided to fly to the Middle East and then to parts of Europe. Throughout his trip he has begun to lay the foundation for his administration’s foreign policy.
This is extremely important as US presidents often have far more power abroad than they do at home. At home, president Trump has been unable to push much legislation because of the checks and balances of Congress. Abroad, however, his impact has already been felt through the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.
Diplomacy is the activity of managing a country’s interests on an international level. It can be carried out by either the leader of a country or its representatives. Often, diplomacy is considered peaceful and the opposite of warfare. Diplomacy is best performed face-to-face. With personal interactions, it is easier to understand the other side’s viewpoints or perspectives. It is also an efficient way to form stronger bonds between the leaders of friendly countries or to reveal the humanity of leaders of rival countries.
President Trump's first visit was to Saudi Arabia where he made a plea for Middle Eastern countries to increase their fight against terrorism. In Israel, he met with both Israeli President Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas. Trump appealed to the leaders to find peace within the region and to continue working towards their goal of a “two-state solution.”
After the Middle East, Trump flew to Europe. In the Vatican, President Trump and Pope Francis reportedly had a private and cordial meeting. The Pope also presented Trump with a letter on climate change and international arms sales. Trump’s second European destination, Belgium, is perhaps one of the most important to US security. He also met with Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
While in Belgium, Trump met with the leaders of NATO - a military alliance of European and North American allies. He has previously criticized the organization, leading many European leaders to feel unsure about the commitment of the US. NATO's philosophy is best summarized as "an attack on one member country is an attack on all."
Last week, President Trump also made the decision to pull US out of the Paris Climate Treaty. This is a global treaty with a mission to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and keep the Earth's temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius. This means that the US along with war-torn Syria and Nicaragua are the only countries that have not joined the pact of 195 nations who are genuinely concerned. Watch out for our article on what this treaty is all about.