Nikolas K. Gvosdev
Trump is betting that the old G-7 edifice can be taken down and rebuilt according to his specifications. Could it work?
The June 2018 G-7 Summit at Charlevoix, Quebec, may go down as the place and time when Donald Trump, roughly five hundred days into his presidency, put his stamp on U.S. foreign policy, just prior to his encounter with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. As a secondary consequence, it may also serve as the death knell for the Group of seven, at least in its post–Cold War form.
For the past two years, ever since his surprise November 2016 election, the U.S. foreign-policy establishment has sought to convince its counterparts across the Atlantic that nothing would really change in the dynamics of the Euro-Atlantic community—a line first sounded by outgoing Vice President Joe Biden. Generally, there were two types of reassurances. The first piece of advice was to ignore what Trump says in his speeches, rallies, and tweets, because he either didn’t really mean it or would not be particularly interested in the nuts and bolts of national-security policy—and so his off-the-cuff remarks could be ignored. The second was to point to the presence of committed Atlanticists in staff choices and cabinet and subcabinet picks, to suggest that day-to-day policy would remain in the hands of trusted personnel, and that these appointees at the National Security Council, the State Department and the Pentagon would keep things on track. The release of the 2017 National Security Strategy was cited as proof of this process: that a few rhetorical bones were tossed to assuage the president’s preferences and worldview, but that the core remained a traditional Republican approach to world affairs. Sometimes, the language used—about the so-called “adults” in the room that would school and correct the chief executive—ran perilously close to the complaints made in these pages some years back by Richard Perle about the ways in which a president can be disconnected from the levers of power.