The G7 summit meeting of world leaders in Quebec two years ago was a diplomatic car crash.
Mr Trump said his host, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, was not only “meek and mild” but also “very dishonest”, Mr Trudeau dismissed Mr Trump’s decision to invoke national security to justify tariffs on Canadian imports as “insulting”, and the president trumped the proceedings by refusing to sign the joint communique that by convention concludes such gatherings.
Rarely had the leaders of allied countries travelled so far to achieve so little, other than to put Mr Trump’s distaste for multinational gatherings on show in the window for the world — and especially for the West’s adversaries — to see.
This year’s summit, re-scheduled from this month to September and hosted by Mr Trump at Camp David either online or in person, ought to have been seen as a timely opportunity to agree a common response to the global health and economic crises.
Optimism about such outcomes must be curbed.
The president’s suggestion that Australia, India and South Korea should take part was constructive, but his unilateral invitation to Russia — opposed by Britain and Canada — illustrates the extent to which the US is relinquishing the diplomatic leadership that for decades has kept the West’s key alliances on firm ground.