While his official, "grownup" advisors continue to pledge America to its historic military internationalism, to NATO, and to a strong and prosperous EU, Trump seems to continue with his own agenda, the white nationalist and America First Buchananism of his campaign days, at least as regards Europe.
The agenda beloved of Steve Bannon, Pat Buchanan, the likes of Nigel Farage, and Vladimir Putin.
The Fix Is In; Nato Is Out
[T]his cluster of signs and provocations suggests strongly that we are still in the same place, still in a position where the President of the United States is actively seeking to undermine NATO and – through different modalities and for slightly different reasons – the EU as well.
Each of these aims, each of these goals lines up more or less perfectly with the strategic ambitions of the Russian Federation, which sees NATO as a bulwark of Western/US military strength hemming Russia in behind borderlands it sees as within its proper sphere of influence and with the EU, representing a liberal internationalist order which it has set itself against.
A lot of this thinking comes from the Bannonite/”nationalist” part of the Trump crew, though Trump has espoused elements of this vision for years.
That group, in turn has deep ties to various European rightist parties which share this anti-NATO, anti-EU, politically illiberal stance. Many or most are funded by Russia.
Whether or not this is being done on Putin’s behalf, it clearly lines up within Putin’s and Russia’s aims.
Putin wants a fragmented Europe; Trump does too.
We should not lose sight of this elemental fact in what seems like a herky-jerky parade of provocations and gaffes on this latter portion of Trump’s trip.
The Russia story isn’t just what happened last year.
Or maybe all of this is just a colossal distraction at the end of a trip that was itself a distraction - from the ongoing Russia scandals, sure, but also from the CBO score of the health care bill, from the horrific budget, and from the godawful tax proposals of the Congressional Republicans.