Trump has visited 13 countries in his first year
He's also hosted many world leaders for meetings at the White House
President Donald Trump has welcomed dozens of his counterparts to the White House since he entered office a year ago and has visited 13 countries himself, each time deepening ties to the club of world leaders he’s now joined.
The at-times bombastic Trump has also shown a flair for diplomacy, befriending and charming unlikely world leaders, as both a host and a guest.
As he looks out across the globe one year in, the President finds both friends and adversaries – though the distinction is rarely clear-cut.
And as he enters his second year, here’s a look at the state of Trump’s global ties:
The Linchpin: Chinese President Xi Jinping
Everything Trump wants to do in Asia rests on his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That was clear in April, mere months into Trump’s presidency, when the businessman-turned-President hosted Xi at Mar-a-Lago, his opulent private club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump has maintained a hot-and-cold approach to China since launching his presidential campaign. The President slammed the world power during the campaign but leaned heavily on China and Xi to tighten the world’s grip on North Korea. The strategy has had its low points, such as Trump suggesting Xi wasn’t doing enough to clamp down on North Korea or when the Trump administration slammed China’s trade practices.
But the President also relished the pomp and circumstance bestowed upon him during his November visit to China. A year into his presidency, what has remained clear is that Trump’s fate in Asia is inextricably tied to Xi.
The Interpreter: French President Emmanuel Macron
Elected in May, French President Emmanuel Macron is one in a small club of leaders with less experience in office than Trump. Macron appears to have used that to his advantage, forging strong ties with the White House based on a mutual desire to change the status quo.
The pair’s first meeting in Brussels was symbolized by a prolonged, white-knuckle handshake. Since then, there have been highs (an intimate dinner with wives on the second landing of the Eiffel Tower) and lows (Macron has openly aired his disagreements with Trump on Iran, climate change and the Middle East).
Through it all, Macron’s aides say he views himself as Trump’s interpreter in Europe, sifting through the brash pronouncements to find places of common interest. As leaders in Berlin and London find themselves distracted by internal politics, Paris-Washington ties are enjoying renewed strength. And Macron is charting France to play a bigger role on the world stage as Trump looks inward.
The Meddler: Russian President Vladimir Putin
No leader looms larger over Trump’s presidency than Russian President Vladimir Putin, who US intelligence agencies agree directed an election meddling campaign in 2016 designed to favor Trump.
The parallel investigations into the potential role that Trump campaign officials had in Russia’s meddling have loomed large over Trump’s first year in office.
At the same time, however, Trump has steadfastly insisted that US-Russia ties must improve. He’s met with Putin on the sidelines of various world summits, each time with their interactions thoroughly scrutinized. After their last encounter, in Vietnam, Trump declared he took Putin at his word that the Russian President believes his country didn’t interfere in the US election. Meanwhile, congressional leaders have insisted the administration take a harder line on Moscow, requiring new sanctions by the end of this month.
The Rocket Man: North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un
Few leaders have drawn more of Trump’s attention – and scorn – than Kim Jong Un of North Korea. Looking to brandish his diplomatic credentials and strike a deal that perplexed more experienced presidents, Trump made stopping the North Korean nuclear program a key focus of his first year in office. He’s bashed and disparaged the unpredictable North Korean leader, slammed other countries for continuing to work with Kim and devoted his longest international trip to combating the issue.
Even as Trump has ramped up sanctions and tried to muster the international community, little has outwardly changed on the peninsula and 2017 was a year of rapid progress for North Korea’s missile program.
Trump, more recently, has signaled a willingness to talk to Kim, even going so far as to leave the door open to whether they have already talked. Though it’s highly unlikely, experts say, Trump’s willingness shows his desire to buck tradition to address the North Korea issue.
The Golf Buddy: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe
There are few things Trump likes more than golf – and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe was sure to indulge those desires when he visited Trump’s private Florida club last February. The two back-slapped their way to warm relations that weekend and have since held a number of friendly talks, including multiple phone calls and face-to-face meetings at international summits.
One reason for the warmth may be that Abe seems willing to let Trump be the alpha male in the relationship, smiling through his jokes about Japan being second to the United States and engaging in a 20-second-long Oval Office handshake in February.
He has also flattered Trump, touting his golf score (’My scores in golf is not up to the level of Donald’) and America’s booming economy. In addition to their warm personal connection, the two are united by a common enemy – North Korea – and Trump has leaned heavily on Japan to curb the rogue nation’s ambitions.
The Explainer: German Chancellor Angela Merkel
When Trump took office a year ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was widely regarded as the most politically secure leader in Europe – if not the entire West – and, as such, looked to as a bulwark against Trump’s nationalist instincts. She came to the White House in March armed with maps and charts that she hoped could instill in the visual-learner President a sense of how important American engagement was in maintaining the international order.
But it was an awkward match, highlighted by Trump’s seeming refusal to shake her hand. Since then, Merkel has established herself as a voice for the types of international agreements that Trump relishes ripping up. But she was badly weakened in last year’s elections, leaving some to fear that her sway with Trump could wane.
The Negotiator: South Korean President Moon Jae-in
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, though uncertain of Trump at the start of his administration, has come around to the unconventional leader. He now seems wed to working with the United States to fix the nagging issue of North Korea.
Jae-in rolled out the red carpet for Trump when he visited in November and has since looked to flatter him with praise for his work in North Korea, telling reporters earlier this year that the American President deserves “big credit” for his work to counter North Korea.
The strategy worked: Trump has lauded the South Korean President for his leadership and a relationship that could have been fraught, given their political differences, has so far remained stable.
The Tightrope Walker: British Prime Minister Theresa May
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrived at the White House just seven days after Trump took office, and found herself hand-in-hand with the new President as they strolled along the Rose Garden. In the year since, things have become more complicated.
Embroiled in her own political woes, May has been forced to balance Trump’s deep unpopularity in Britain with a necessity to maintain the US-UK “special relationship.” It hasn’t been easy for her. Trump has sparked a series of fights, including retweeting anti-Muslim videos created by a British nationalist group.
The invitation to London that May extended a year ago still hasn’t been fulfilled, and last week Trump announced he would forgo a visit to open the new US Embassy there – though large protests are expected to greet him whenever he does arrive.
The Autocrat: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
Where President Barack Obama distanced himself from Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump has embraced him. Duterte, an autocratic leader who has bragged about personally killing people and has overseen a ruthless drug war that has killed thousands, hosted Trump in Manila in November.
Many foreign policy experts were confused as to why Trump, who was in the Philippines attending the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was honoring Duterte with a one-on-one meeting. The confusion continued after the meeting The White House said the two leaders discussed human rights, while the Philippine side said the issue never came up.
Whatever they discussed, the indelible image of Trump and Duterte may have been when the two took part in the ASEAN handshake, leaving Trump tied in knots standing next to the Philippines strongman.
The Confronter: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Malcolm Turnbull, the affable Prime Minister of a longtime US ally, may have been the first world leader to directly confront Trump. During a call eight days after Trump stepped into the White House, according to a transcript posted by The Washington Post, the two held a contentious call where Trump said that upholding a refugee-swap deal “will make us look awfully bad” and called the agreement “stupid.” Turnbull didn’t back down from Trump, telling the new President that “a deal is a deal” and urging Trump to “act in good faith.”
Since then – at least publicly – Trump and Turnbull have had a warm relationship. The two met in New York aboard the USS Intrepid in May, and they joked about their trade deficit during a November meeting in the Philippines. The two have looked to work together on North Korea and, for now at least, the refugee swap deal that caused their confrontation remains intact.
The Foil: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto