“A nice chat, some good wine, no unity with Trump” – this is how the New York Times aptly summed up the expectations of the G7 leaders for this weekend’s summit in Biarritz. This year’s host, French President Emmanuel Macron, has probably childproofed the house and all the other attendees are taking a deep breath as they go about the task of damage limitation.
So far, nothing out of the ordinary seems to have occurred, apart from a minor glitch in which the Tweeter-in-Chief misspelled the name of the summit’s host: “Just had lunch with French President @EmanuelMacrone. Many good things are happening for both of our countries. Big weekend with other world leaders!” The tweet was subsequently deleted and replaced – perhaps a valiant aide managed to wrestle Donald Trump’s phone out of his hands for a minute to make the changes. Owing to the circumstances, the presidential Twitter flow was somewhat subdued for most of the day (until he misspelled Macron’s name again hours later), but there is still a fairly voluminous output, which suggests that the American President was playing with his phone under the desk like a bored schoolboy on various occasions.
Even before the beginning of this summit of low expectations, President Macron had declared that – contrary to custom – this year’s meeting would not produce a final communique, due to deep divisions among participants on a variety of issues, such as climate change or the reinstatement of the Russian Federation as a member state.
It was Donald Trump who had raised the idea of inviting Russia back into the group, despite the fact that the country has done nothing to clean up its act and to remove the reasons for which it was kicked out in 2014. This idea was promptly and decisively shot down by another Donald – European Council President Donald Tusk. During an address in Biarritz on Saturday, Tusk stated that Russia should be allowed back at the table “under no condition”, given the current state of affairs. Instead, he suggested that it would perhaps be a good idea to invite Ukraine to be a guest at the next G7 meeting. If you’re looking for an example of a skilled diplomat giving someone the finger – look no further. Somewhat surprisingly, Donald Trump hasn’t reacted by throwing his toys out of the pram and going home, which feels like a remarkable display of self-control in the light of his response to Denmark’s refusal to sell Greenland to him. Perhaps he simply didn’t catch what Tusk was saying because he was busy playing with his phone at the time.
While everything seems to be going fairly smoothly on the surface so far, there are hints that – behind the scenes – Donald Trump is upset by the fact that the Amazon fires and climate change in general feature so prominently on the G7 agenda, highlighting the differences between the U.S. and the rest of the group. It remains to be seen if tensions will rise in the course of the second day of the summit or if everyone will go home without breaking any dishes. All in all, the motto of this year’s G7 is likely to be “no news is good news”.