Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday June 15, 2021
The Wreckage Donald Trump Left Behind
Somewhere in China, a company recently received an order for boxes and boxes of reusable face masks with g7 uk 2021 embroidered on them. Over the weekend in Cornwall, in southwest England, these little bits of protective cloth were handed to journalists covering the 2021 summit of some of the world’s most powerful industrial economies—so they could write in safety about these leaders’ efforts to contain China.
The irony of the situation neatly summed up the trouble with this year’s G7 summit. The gathering was supposed to mark a turning point, a physical meeting symbolizing not only the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic but also a return to something approaching normalcy after the years of Donald Trump and Brexit. And in certain senses it was. With Joe Biden—the walking embodiment of the traditional American paterfamilias that Trump was not—no one feared a sudden explosion or American walkout as before. Biden is not the sort of person to hurl Starbursts at another leader in a fit of pique. And yet, the reality was that the leaders in attendance were playing their diplomatic games within tram lines graffitied on the floor largely by the former U.S. president, not the incumbent one.
Emerging from a weekend of summitry last night, it was hard to avoid the reality that the great questions hanging over the gathering were ones shaped either by Trump or by the years of Trump: Europe’s frustration with American vaccine protectionism (which began under Trump but has been maintained by Biden), ongoing disputes over Brexit, the future of NATO, worries over Russian interference, and, ultimately, China, the great other at this event. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her closing remarks: “Look, the election of Joe Biden as U.S. president doesn’t mean that the world no longer has problems.”
Everywhere you looked—whether in the communiqué itself, or the press conferences and summaries of leaders’ meetings—you could see the unresolved questions of the past few years, as presidents and prime ministers reacted to the problems thrown up, exacerbated, or actively caused by Trump. All agreed that they wanted to move on from the instability of his tenure, but they seemed divided and unclear about how, never mind what the new era should look like. With Biden’s congressional majority in doubt and Trump’s future intentions uncertain, Europe retains a latent fear that the U.S. is merely between eruptions, not recovering from one.
The leaders seemed to embody this sense of time being paused. Merkel has been chancellor so long, she attended her first G7 summit with George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Italy’s Mario Draghi might be a new prime minister, but he is no stranger to the world’s global establishment—a representative of the old order if ever there was one. Even Biden himself, hailed as a “breath of fresh air” by the summit’s host, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is hardly a new face on the world stage.
Ultimately, this G7 summit seemed to be stuck somewhere between the past and the future—between the era of Trump and the world some of these politicians hope to create. (The Atlantic)