It’s the kind of political whiplash that other world leaders have felt as well. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who staked his political fortunes on close collaborations with Trump over nuclear negotiations with North Korea, is now facing the president’s demands that Seoul increase its payments fivefold to support U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has courted Trump relentlessly, with nearly four dozen meetings and phone calls and an elaborate state visit to Tokyo in the spring. But Tokyo was not spared from steel tariffs early in Trump’s tenure, and Trump contradicted Abe over the summer by refusing to declare North Korea’s short-range missile tests a violation of U.N. resolutions.
For Bolsonaro, a far-right leader who had patterned his campaign after Trump’s and aggressively sought to ingratiate himself with the White House, the tariffs represented an embarrassing reality check on his strategy of gambling his administration’s foreign policy largely on good personal chemistry with a president who craves validation — but who views virtually all relationships as transactional and, potentially, disposable.