The US was left alone and humiliated on the world stage as European allies collectively dunked on Trump’s ‘America First’ policy at a major security conference

  • President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach keeps isolating the US from its closest allies.
  • World leaders slammed the approach at the Munich Security Conference, saying the US is rejecting the international community.
  • This left US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo trying to defend the US’ relationship with Europe but unable to convince many leaders, Politico reported.
  • The entire conference was themed around the idea of the Western alliance fading, leaving Republicans who attended “taken aback” and defensive, according to Politico.
  • Tensions are again spiking between the US and Europe, particularly the UK, historically its closest ally.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US was once again left alienated from its European allies at the world’s biggest security conference as they rubbished President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach and painted a picture of an isolated country.

The Munich Security Conference in Germany, which was established in 1963, has long been a meeting of minds between nations. This year’s summit ended last Sunday.

But since Trump became president, the US has been pushing for the withdrawal from global agreements – such as the Paris climate accord – creating new tension between him and other world leaders, nations, and global institutions, particularly in the West.

This gulf has long been illustrated in global conferences, such as last December’s NATO summit, where a group of world leaders appeared to mock him at a party.

And over the course of the Munich summit, European leaders used a series of public speeches and private conversations to lament the US’ change in commitment as a longstanding ally, causing the US to hit back, Politico reported.


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Foto: French President Emmanuel Macron at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020.sourceAndreas Gebert via Reuters

In the conference’s opening speech, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “Under its current Administration, our closest ally, the United States of America, rejects the very concept of an international community.”

“Every country, it believes, should look after itself and put its own interests before all others. As if everyone thinking of himself meant that everyone is being considered,” he said, according to an official transcript.

“‘Great again’ – even at the expense of neighbors and partners,” Steinmeier said, referring to Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

According to Politico, French President Emmanuel Macron also told the conference that “what Europe wants is not quite the same as the US.”

He has frequently sparred with Trump over foreign policy, publicly fact-checking him at the December NATO summit and slamming Trump’s Syria policy in a November interview with The Economist.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, also said of the US’ gradual military withdrawal according to Deutsche Welle: “For too long, we Europeans have shut our eyes to the uncomfortable reality of what a withdrawal of the US from military engagement and from international treaties means for us.”

munich security conference 2017

Foto: A dinner at the Munich Security Conference in 2017.sourceohannes Simon – Pool / Getty

While Trump himself was not there, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit back at Steinmeier and others’ comments, quoting them before saying: “I’m here to tell you the facts. Those statements do not reflect reality,” according to Politico.

He also noted the resources the US gives to global alliances and how many trips he has personally made to those countries, saying according to Politico: “Is this an America that rejects responsibility? Let’s be straight up: The US is out there fighting for sovereignty and our friends.”

But most European representatives were unswayed by Pompeo’s rebuttal, and felt that his speech was designed to appease Trump rather than the international leaders in the room, Politico reported.

Mike Pompeo Heiko Maas

Foto: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Munich Security Conference on February 14, 2020.sourceMichael Dalder/Pool via Reuters

Republicans believe the event centered on attacking the US

The three-day event, which brings together world leaders, military chiefs, and CEOs and can be considered more important than the World Economic Forum in Davos, ended on Sunday.

It was very much a global event, with speeches this year from leaders and foreign ministers of countries including Azerbaijan, China, India, and Iran, as well as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

But the focus this year was on Western alliances.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Westlessness”: what organizers called “a widespread feeling of uneasiness and restlessness in the face of increasing uncertainty about the enduring purpose of the West.”

According to Politico, this title frustrated Republicans – Trump’s party members – who viewed it as a jab at the US and the idea that it stepped back from its traditional leadership role.

Mike Turner, a Republican congressman from Ohio and long-time conference attendee, told Politico that he was “a little taken aback by the tone” and how he felt the US had to defend its commitment to Europe.


Foto: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020.sourceAndreas Gebert via Reuters

The presence of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the conference, and a quote by prominent Democrat Joe Biden on the conference website’s main page also suggested a European appreciation for Democrats rather than Republicans.

(Biden’s quote, which is prominently featured on the conference’s homepage, says: “Like no other global forum, Munich connects European leaders and thinking wth their peers from across the world.”)

And last year, when US Vice President Mike Pence brought greetings from Trump to the conference, he was met with several seconds of silence. Conference members then also openly criticized the president.

Trump campaigned on this idea of changing America’s role on the global stage, and relations between him and other world leaders have strained since he entered office.

Tensions are also now flaring between the US and the UK – two countries that have long touted their “special relationship” – particularly after Britain decided to go ahead with a 5G deal with Chinese telecoms company Huawei, in what some have seen as a sign in the decline of US influence.

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