NAVAL BASE SIGONELLA, SICILY, President Donald Trump is back to Washington following a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe. Abroad, he gave the sense of being another conventional American leader but didn’t converse in a traditional manner.
Air Force One, the presidential plane landed soon after 9 pm Eastern time at Andrews Joint Base in suburban Maryland. The president’s first official trip included visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. Trump met with heads of state in all countries and went to NATO meetings with leaders and members of the industrialized countries of the G-7.
Trump laid a funeral wreath within the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, met with the French pope at the Vatican and stood by Western allies on two different summits.
When he spoke, Trump would not follow the rules that various other presidents followed. Publicly, he did not seek to promote democracy or human rights. In Israel and the West Bank, he did not argue in favor of a two-state solution, which the United States has long supported. And in the heart of Europe, Trump scolded his NATO allies for their financial commitments – and would not explicitly support NATO’s defense doctrine.
Trump called his first trip abroad a “home run” and vowed to overcome the threat of terrorism. He made that baseball reference, equivalent to a “golazo” in football jargon, in a speech to the forces stationed in Sicily, in which he reviewed his tour. He said the terrorist attacks in Manchester and Egypt underscore the need for the United States to “defeat terrorism and protect civilization.”
“Terrorism is a threat, a major threat to all humanity,” Trump stated, standing before a massive American flag at Sigonella’s base. “Together we will overcome this threat, we will triumph.”
Trump tweeted hours before he will make a decision in the coming days about whether to withdraw from the climate pact. European leaders with whom he participated in the Group of 7 summit in Sicily have pressed him to ratify the agreement, arguing that United states leadership in the matter is crucial.
In Washington, in addition to the decision on the pact, Trump will face a new avalanche of controversy on the relationship with Russia.
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner spoke with the Russian ambassador in the states about the possibility of developing a secret means to communicate with Moscow.
Trump managed to evade questions on the subject because he did not hold press conferences throughout the trip. In Sicily, its advisors H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn declined to comment on Kushner’s conversation with Russia’s ambassador to the America, Sergey Kislyak.
In March, the White House confirmed that Kushner and also Kislyak met at Trump Tower in December for what one official called a brief courtesy meeting.
McMaster added that “we have secret means of communication with several countries”.
“It enables you to communicate in a discreet way,” he said.
The White House hoped the tour would serve to reinstate his presidency. Trump received a warm welcome on his first stopovers in Saudi Arabia and Israel, but not in Europe, where he had been pressured to ratify the Paris agreement.