While President Trump and the European Union have not warmed up to each other and there are definite signs of tension over trade agreements and defense, it is clear that terrorism remains a source of common ground.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, noted after his meeting with President Trump that the leaders found agreement on counter-terrorism, especially in the wake of the Manchester attacks.
During his visit in Brussels, Trump indicated that he and the king pledged to cooperate “on various problems” and that “the top problem right now is terrorism”. However, in comments in 2016, Trump has harsh things to say about the immigration policies of European cities. He indicated that they accept too many poor Muslims and refugees.
His discussion with the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel included counter-terrorism in the wake of the recent bombing in the United Kingdom, for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility.
The president also planned to advocate that NATO formally join a global coalition to battle the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. NATO and Trump will also be discussing ongoing operations in Afghanistan. Trump has not indicated his decision on troop levels in Afghanistan.
Terrorism has been on the forefront of Trump’s agenda throughout this foreign trip, which started in the Middle East. There he focused on Iran, attempting to rally the Gulf and Arab states to stand up against Iran’s efforts to sow discord throughout the region.
Earlier in his foreign trip, Trump assured Israel that Iran will never have nuclear weapons. During that meeting, he noted that Iran has felt he can do what he wants since the 2015 nuclear agreement. Hostility to Iran is the glue that binds what some would like to believe is an emerging coalition between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States together. Criticizing Tehran performs multiple functions, including allowing him to sound tough on the world stage, especially as he completes his European tour.
President Rouhani is already encouraging some European politicians to talk of the search for an opening to Tehran. That may not go down well in Washington. The Trump administration’s almost brash belief in the possibilities of a wider Middle East peace seem to be at variance with most experts who know the region well. They argue neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are ready to make the hard compromises necessary to achieve a lasting peace.
His first foreign tour is nearly over, but it is also clear that terrorism and Iran are still on the forefront of the mind of the Trump administration.