Consider Macron’s tweets Thursday after his arrival in Canada for a summit of the G7 nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.—which comprise the world’s seven most advanced economies. Leaders typically use such occasions to say how much they are looking forward to meeting their counterparts and signal the issues on which they hope to reach some agreement, and on which they sign a final communique. But Macron and other members of the G7 are smarting over the Trump administration’s tariffs. Macron tweeted that the “will to have a [final] text signed by 7 countries must not be stronger than the content of that text. On principle, we must not rule out a 6+1 agreement.” In other words, Macron was suggesting America’s allies were happy to isolate it.
“The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” Macron tweeted in both French and English. “Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”
Trump dispelled any doubts over how the U.S. would respond. He tweeted almost immediately after Macron’s own tweets and the French leader’s joint news conference with Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister (who reached his own breaking point with Trump last week), accusing both countries of “charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers” and later adding: “Take down your tariffs & barriers or we will more than match you!”
Trump has been consistent about one thing: He believes, despite economic evidence to the contrary, that the U.S. has lost on trade and is being taken advantage of by its trading partners. He pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, and has reportedly sought tariffs on German luxury cars because he says it’s unfair that Germans don’t buy American cars. This may fly in the face of economic expertise from across the political spectrum, and it may not be what U.S. allies want to hear, but it is a message the president will likely continue to deliver to them at the G7.
On Friday, Trump provided more clues about what the tone of the summit would be. “Looking forward to straightening out unfair Trade Deals with the G-7 countries,” he said on Twitter. “If it doesn’t happen, we come out even better!” (He later told reporters that he favored letting Russia back into the grouping, adding more drama to what promises to be an already fractious meeting.)
It might be tempting to feel sorry for the other G7 leaders, especially Macron, and to a lesser extent Trudeau, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who have tried to cozy up to Trump in the hopes his “America First” agenda includes them in some way. But it would be equally fair to say that they have brought this situation upon themselves. For far too long, the Western world has relied on the U.S. to pick up the slack on defense, diplomacy, and trade. And now that the U.S. appears to be rethinking its commitment to the world, America’s allies have neither options for alliances—Russia remains a concern for them and China’s trade practices are seen as unfair—nor a natural successor to the U.S.