“People are less worried than they were six weeks ago, less afraid,” a senior German government official with extensive experience in the United States told me. “Now they see the clownish nature.” Or, as another German said on the sidelines of a meeting here devoted to taking stock of 70 years of U.S.-German relations, “People here think Trump is a laughingstock.”…

When European diplomats meet these days, they often swap stories about Trump—and how to manage their volatile new ally. “The president of the United States has a 12-second attention span,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a former senior official in April after meeting Trump in the Oval Office. Not only that, this person told me, the president seemed unprepared and ill-informed, turning the conversation to North Korea and apparently unaware that NATO is not a part of the ongoing North Korea saga. (A NATO spokesman later denied this, saying “the Secretary-General never said this and it does not represent his views.”)

Such anecdotes have shaped how Europe’s anxious leaders are preparing for Trump’s trip this week – he will come to Brussels for a NATO session on Thursday—and for another one planned for early July, when he visits Germany for a G-20 summit at which he is expected to meet Putin face to face for the first time…

NATO has downgraded the May 25 session to a meeting from a summit and will hold only a dinner to minimize the chances of a Trump eruption. Leaders have been told to hold normally windy remarks to just two to four minutes to keep Trump’s attention. They are even preparing to consider a “deliverable” to Trump of having NATO officially join the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria, as Trump has said his priority is getting NATO to do more in combating terrorism. “It’s a phony deliverable to give to Trump, a Twitter deliverable,” said a former senior U.S. official, pointing out that the individual NATO member states are already members of that coalition.