Queen Elizabeth II, whose own wartime duties involved joining the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, spoke with the veterans in attendance. “When I attended the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, some thought it might be the last such event,” the Queen said. “But the wartime generation—my generation—is resilient … It is with humility and pleasure on behalf of the entire country—indeed, the whole free world—that I say to you all: Thank you.”
It’s difficult to know what sort of impression the scene will have made on Trump. Yet as is often the case when this president travels overseas, his attentions were divided.
Read: Don’t expect Trump’s Europe trip to go smoothly
In the hours ahead of the visit to Portsmouth, he tweeted scornfully about a potential rival in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden, and targeted the actor Bette Midler for sharing a quote that Trump had never actually said. He called Midler a “washed-up psycho” and a “sick scammer.” But he also embraced the courtesies that Britain extended. He praised the partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom as “the greatest alliance the world has ever known” and fawned over the Queen. “Great woman, great woman,” Trump told the press pool as he said goodbye to his hosts here.
He is due to take part in another D-Day ceremony at Normandy on Thursday—a second opportunity for European counterparts to show Trump that the alliance is worth preserving, to urge him to rethink his practice of pushing away long-standing friends and courting authoritarians.
“Almost everyone in the world who is an ally of the United States is worrying, because you don’t know when push comes to shove that he’s going to come to help,” says Kathleen Burk, a specialist in Anglo-American relations at University College London. “The British idea was to remind him that we’re better united than divided. If you want to land in Europe, you need Britain. I hope he’s taken away the shared values and the shared necessity of banning together.”
Back home, some lawmakers have been baffled by Trump’s approach toward diplomacy. He has faulted NATO allies for not ponying up more money for their own defense. At the same time, he has gushed over leaders who have curbed or banned basic freedoms that were at stake in the D-Day invasion he is now celebrating.
Last month at the White House, Trump hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and praised him for having done “a tremendous job in so many different ways.” Orbán’s government has been criticized across Europe for its crackdown on Hungary’s universities, part of a broader effort to do away with the country’s liberal intellectual elite. “Highly respected. Respected all over Europe,” Trump said of his guest at the time.
Trump has said he “fell in love” with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It’s a romance that seems unrequited; Kim is resisting the president’s efforts to abandon the country’s nuclear program. Then there is Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump has been famously reluctant to confront over Russian interference in U.S. elections.