Trump leaves European leaders scratching their heads

As Air Force One took off from Brussels and President Trump headed to the Group of Seven Summit in Sicily to fight new battles against the global consensus on trade and climate change, European leaders were as confused as ever over where his United States is heading.

Previous months have seen one reassurance effort after the other. Vice President Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have been clear in their efforts to explain that the United States remains a reliable partner and ally.

And European audiences have listened, nodded and said, fine. But it would be nice to hear those words from the man occupying the Oval Office.

Expectations prior to him touching down in Brussels were distinctly low. Everything was geared to trying to ensure that no major accidents happened. Shorter meetings. Nice words. Certainly no media encounters.

And there were good aspects. He turned up at the European Union’s headquarters – that had taken some time for previous occupants of his position. And he abstained from publicly declaring either NATO or the E.U. obsolete or wrong. By the standards of these days, this was perhaps even a small success. But beyond that it was all rather confused and slightly unsettling.

The one thing that was expected of his appearance with the other NATO leaders was an unequivocal commitment to the Article 5 mutual-defense clause that is the very core of the alliance. And it can’t be…

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