G7 proves Trump is 'the great unraveller-in-chief,' says diplomat

Donald Trump is bent on destroying the world order set up by Western powers after the Second World War, says former U.K. ambassador Christopher Meyer.

'He's undoing the work of a whole succession of American presidents,' says former U.K. ambassador to the U.S.

This photo of G7 leaders and advisers at the G7 summit was posted to the Instagram account of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, centre, on Saturday, June 9, 2018 with the description "a spontaneous meeting between two working sessions." (Jesco Denzel/German Federal Government via AP)
Listen9:11

U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be bent on destroying the world order set up by Western powers after the Second World War, says a former British diplomat.

The president clashed with Canada and other U.S. allies last week during a tumultuous G7 meeting in Quebec, in which he showed up late, demanded Russia be allowed back into the international alliance, and took swipes at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

As he was flying from Canada to Singapore on Air Force One on Saturday, Trump pulled the U.S. out of a joint G7 communiqué in string of angry tweets, in which he called Trudeau "very dishonest and weak" for criticizing U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs.

Christopher Meyer, former U.K. ambassador to Washington, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about the state of international relations on the heels of the chaotic meeting. Here is part of that conversation. 

Many people are dismissing the tweets of Mr. Trump as just some kind of theatre ... positioning himself for his trip to Singapore. How seriously are you taking what he had to say?

I'm taking it extremely seriously and I think the people who scoffed at the idea of the president of the United States using Twitter as a formal means of communication are having to eat their words now.

Can you just for a moment try to imagine what happened on Air Force One as they left Quebec?

I suspect that there was Trump watching the TV news and up comes Justin Trudeau during his press conference.

And Trudeau said something about retaliation and not tolerating tariffs ... and this must have sparked a reaction in Trump, no doubt volcanic. 

And then he dispatched people to the Sunday shows. The message even got more inflamed. We heard [Trump's trade adviser Peter] Navarro say that there's "a special place in hell" for people like Justin Trudeau. ... What are we to make of that?

This is no way to run an alliance. This is no way to conduct international relations with your closest allies.

And it is another example, I'm afraid, of President Trump pulling down the architecture of international relations and a rules-based international order, as set up by the United States itself after the Second World War.

He arrived at the meeting and one of the things he wanted to do was to bring Russia back into the fold. And at the same time, trashing Canada and Western Europe. I mean, are those things in some way related? Are they just a coincidence, or do you see some pattern there?

There is actually predictability in his unpredictability, because we know what his instincts and biases are. They've been apparent ever since he started talking about international relations. So what do we know?

We know that he likes dictators, which of course includes [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.

He believes true leaders are above the law.

He hates multilateral diplomacy because he thinks it works against the American interest.

He believes in surprise and dislocation as weapons of choice in negotiations.

He thinks trade deficits are a sign of national weakness.

He also thinks that the allies — all of whom were present in Canada — play the U.S. for a sucker. 

He dislikes anything that was achieved by [former U.S. president Barack] Obama.

You put all that together, and you actually begin to see a pattern in the way he behaves, in the agreements that he ducks out of, in his espousal of Russia, which is a very curious thing, and now blowing up the G7.

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the conclusion of the G7 leaders summit in Charlevoix, Que. 42:20

But much of what he is blowing up is put in place not by president Obama, but by successive American administrations over the years. I mean, this is the Atlantic alliance. This is the ... new world order writ large. These all the things that the United States shaped and put its stamp on. So is that what he's pursuing?

If we are living in the age of the great unraveling of the old order, what we have discovered about President Trump is he is the great unraveller-in-chief.

And indeed, if he has any awareness of this, he is undoing the work of a whole succession of American presidents, great figures both Democrats and Republicans, who have put this order in place and done their level best with our allies to sustain it.

What are the consequences?

I see something similar to 19th-century power politics returning to the world. I see things like balance of power, spheres of influence. I think Trump temperamentally is attracted to that.

I wonder if that photo of the G7 leaders ... is that emblematic of what you're talking about?

I think it's a photo that will live for time's eternity. That will constantly appear as an emblem of what is going on today.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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