What could Trump learn from the Queen?

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Story highlights

  • It seems paradoxical that this paragon of thoughtful, quiet progress should be at the top of President Trump's wish list of overseas visits
  • Since taking office, the President has begun to unpick the fabric of the modern world

Nic Robertson is CNN's International Diplomatic Editor. The opinions expressed in this article are his.

(CNN)This week, Queen Elizabeth II quietly slipped past another extraordinary milestone of her reign. Without fanfare, she celebrated her Sapphire Jubilee: 65 years on the throne.

Her measured hand has helped guide post-war Britain through mesmerizing change -- both social and technological -- on a scale not witnessed by her predecessors.
In London's Queen Square, a memorial urn celebrating her Silver jubilee 40 years ago bears the inscription: "In times where nothing stood, But worsened or grew strange, There was one constant good, She did not change."
It seems paradoxical that this paragon of thoughtful, quiet progress should be at the top of President Donald Trump's wish list of overseas visits.
Since taking office, the President has begun to unpick the fabric of the modern world. Britain built its empire over centuries, America over decades. Trump may pull it down in a matter of months.
Putative enemies are testing Trump's new direction. Iran's rhetoric and reaction to being put "on notice" by the White House ratchets up by the day. China's cutters are calculating US resolve around contested islands in the East China Sea.
Even allies are acting out. Israel has abandoned its Obama-era restraint over settlements to build more homes. In the UK, the Speaker of the Commons has spoken out against Trump's values and questioned how appropriate it would be to welcome the American President on a state visit.
As Trump puts "America First" and signals that a shift from the center of the global stage draws near, others are already stepping up to take the place of the US.
In a matter of days, Trump has done what no other US president has been able to do in decades: unite Europe, convincing nations recently at each other's throats that they must now lead the world.
It's not what he wanted -- a band of countries with global clout touting free trade and liberal values. But it indicates that Europe is in transition.
No one but old school European diplomats can really believe that the Union will survive in its current form. As Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says, views about what the EU means vary from nation to nation (he envisions a multi-tier bloc of nations in the future).
Though not as he may have intended, Trump is already leaving his mark on the wider world. He is souring relations that may never recover under his leadership, yet he seems reluctant to tackle his most scrutinized overseas relationship: the one he intends with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
That it is on his mind this week is clear. Just minutes past 7 a.m. on the East Coast of America one morning, his first tweet of the day denied any connection to the Russian leader: "I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia."
With chaos slip-streaming Trump's other fast-moving global relationships, his courtship of Putin is looking increasingly protracted -- and the Kremlin seems to be playing along.
So far Putin is deftly dancing around otherwise offensive comments, such as during Trump's interview with Fox's Bill O'Reilly, accepting the anchor's claim that Putin is a killer. Putin's spokesman described it as "an unfortunate incident for Fox," overlooking Trump's implicit endorsement of the Russian leader's allegedly deadly track record.
Even while Trump's seniors label Moscow dangerous and double down on Ukraine sanctions, raising the bar for compliance above the EU threshold of the Minsk agreement to handing back Crimea, Russia holds its nerve.
Trump may be Moscow's best shot in decades of retooling world order to fit the Kremlin's desires, and no amount of new administration needling can change that.
Time is certainly on Putin's side. As his aid quipped to O'Reilly, even if Trump gets another term, Putin will still be in power: "We'll put a note in the calendar for 2023 and get back to him on this issue."
However you read it, from London to Beijing and Tehran, from Jerusalem to Moscow, Trump's inward-looking America is shaking America's allies, emboldening its enemies and making America weaker.
China already stands to be the biggest winner in the wake of the TPP's demise, and as Trump abruptly ended a phone call with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull -- a key military ally in the Pacific region -- Chinese officials must have been rubbing their hands with glee.
So while Trump effuses great respect and admiration for Her Majesty, he has to date done little to emulate the Queen's careful, nurturing, pragmatic style.
Trump's mother, whom he says he gets his religion from, was a big fan of the Queen: she loved the pomp and ceremony. She was from a Scottish island so remote from London that a trip to New York was more common for her generation than going to Britain's capital. But despite London feeling a world away, she would watch every time the Queen came on TV, according to the President.
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So what is it that drives Trump's ambition to meet Britain's longest-serving monarch? Is it purely to be a part of the pomp and ceremony? Perhaps to live out his mother's lasting wish: an audience with the Queen? Maybe the President simply wants a photograph for the Oval Office? Or he may simply see being pictured with a figure as popular as Her Majesty a helpful hand in winning back lost support.
Britain's Monarch has known her own pain of getting it wrong with her subjects. Twenty years ago this summer, Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident, trailed by paparazzi in a gloomy Paris tunnel.
The Queen waited for so long in her Scottish home, far from the emotional outpourings of affection for her grandchildren's mother hundreds of miles away in London, that when she spoke, she seemed remote from the pain that afflicted the British people.
It was a stumble in the otherwise well choreographed waltz that embraces "the people" with "the monarchy," but she has since recovered their warmth.
Nearly 2 million of her loyal subjects have signed a petition in order to spare their Queen the embarrassment of meeting a man they feel undeserving of the honor of a state visit.
If Trump is, as they fear, the antithesis of all she holds vital in power -- the careful execution of duty -- then his mission to meet her can only be one of self-aggrandizement.
It would be a very farsighted optimist, sporting the strongest of rose-tinted shades, who could believe that Trump might learn something.
But if we hold belief in suspension for a moment, whom better to crack through his abrasive bluster than the woman his mother loved, a woman who has had the measure of his hard-nosed type many times before?
If she can't, then what hope for other world leaders? Trump's track record leaves little room for optimism. He regards tactful friendliness from an ally as a bull does a matador in a red cape.