From Berlin to Tokyo, officials speaking on condition of anonymity acknowledge a few truths. One is that when it comes to dealing with a president who likes to shock to gain the upper hand, even friends are caught off guard. Another is that trying to stay out of harm’s way is one way to avoid getting targeted, but by no means enough. That flattery works, but will only get you so far.
And perhaps most critically, that multilateralism, as it was conceived in the post-war era with the likes of NATO and the United Nations, has been so compromised that it may never recover.
According to an official close to the leader of one big Group of Seven economy, governments have come to realize that in their dealings with Trump, they can only be reactive. It’s impossible to plan ahead with a leader who behaves in such an erratic way, the person said.
Leaders from the Group of 20 are bracing themselves for the American president to get even more unpredictable. From Trump calling Canada’s Justin Trudeau “two-faced” after a hot-mic incident, to a report he told Germany’s Angela Merkel she was “stupid” during a phone call, the idea that crystalized for many is that anyone is fair game.