President Donald Trump ended his first overseas trip on a buoyant note Saturday, telling a crowd of American sailors at a naval base in Sicily: “I think we hit a home run.”
But aside from closing a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia on the first day of his nine-day tour, it wasn’t entirely clear what concrete goals the president achieved.
Trump made it through the grueling trip without a major diplomatic incident—despite a close call in Israel, where he volunteered to reporters that he’d never uttered the country’s name as the source of intelligence he reportedly shared with Russian officials during an Oval Office visit.
And he succeeded in putting off allies who were pressuring him to keep the U.S. in the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, buying himself the space to make a diplomatically awkward decision that will please his base at home.
Now, Trump returns home to deepening scandals related to his aides’ ties to Russia, having shown his ability to represent the U.S. on the world stage in true Trump fashion.
Here are POLITICO’S five takeaways after traveling with the president through five stops:
Trump prefers one-on-one meetings to big multilateral summits
Trump seemed to enjoy the first leg of his trip, with visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican. His time in Saudi Arabia was dominated by a celebration in a gilded palace where Trump mingled among royalty. Along with the dealmaking in Saudi, the first half of the tour was dominated by talk about security and terrorism, both favorite Trump topics.
But in Brussels and Sicily, Trump found counterparts who were largely unified against him—and decided not to give them what they wanted, whether it was a public commitment to NATO’s mutual defense clause or assent to staying in the Paris climate deal.
The optics were the message
Trump glowed as he placed his hands on an illuminated orb alongside King Salman at the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Trump was reverent and peaceful as he touched the wall with a yarmulke on his head. At the Vatican, Trump grinned alongside his black-clad wife and daughter while Pope Francis glowered.
In Europe, Trump had more awkward encounters that telegraphed his attitude. The photo of him tightly gripping the hand of French President Emmanuel Macron and video of him appearing to push past the prime minister of Montenegro out of his way made headlines. At the G7 summit family photo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked away while standing next to Trump, who was looking down.
Trump’s ‘home-run’ accomplished very little – perhaps by design
Privately, some U.S. officials called the jaunt “completely useless.” Very few decisions were made in the summit meetings, while Trump played to his base with an "America First” approach to foreign relations. But the president got away without making any promises that would be hard to keep back in Washington—and managed to reverse positions taken by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, without causing major diplomatic rows.
EU Council President Donald Tusk called this weekend’s gathering “the most difficult G7 summit,” because Trump arrived seeking to reverse prior positions held by the United States. Co-signers, desperate to keep the agreement together, have privately accepted that they may have to higher emissions levels for the U.S. to keep them in the pact, which Trump could eventually tout as a win, according to a U.S. diplomat.
The end result for the G7 was a watered-down communiqué, in which six of the seven members reaffirmed their “strong commitment” to the Paris accord on climate change. Trump has said he’ll make a final decision as soon as next week.
But Trump finally took a position on Russia
While the G7 allies weren’t able to nail down Trump’s stance on the Paris climate accord, they did get some more clarity on the administration’s position concerning sanctions against Russia.
Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn initially suggested in Brussels that the White House didn’t yet have a position on sanctions stemming from Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, but then told reporters on Friday, “We’re not lowering our sanctions on Russia. If anything, we would probably look to get tougher on Russia.”
The final G7 communiqué maintained a hard line on Russia.
Trump hoped for a reset, but at least he got to avoid his trouble at home for a week
President Donald Trump did not give a single press conference on the trip, breaking with tradition of speaking with reporters during major trips to promote the White House narrative.
While the other six leaders that attended the G7 summit held press conferences Saturday at the conclusion of the event, Trump took off for a U.S. naval base, where he thanked his wife, Melania, for joining him, and touted his “truly historic week.”