Trump meets with Orbán, Saudis, Cameron as they prepare for his return

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Former President Trump is holding court with world leaders as foreign governments brace for the possibility of a second Trump administration, which would bring with it a major shift in U.S. foreign policy.

Trump met Wednesday at Trump Tower with Polish President Andrzej Duda, following meetings in recent weeks with Hungarian President Viktor Orbán and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron. He also reportedly spoke on the phone recently with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Experts said it is not unusual for foreign emissaries to speak with a presidential candidate ahead of an election, but the discussions underscore how world leaders are trying to get a read on Trump and what he might do should he win in November.

“Everyone is searching for clues as to what Trump would do if he got a second term,” said Richard Fontaine, a former State Department official and CEO of the Center for a New American Security.

“Question number one internationally now is what would Trump do if he comes back,” Fontaine said. “Part of it is because they’ve got some baseline for expectations … but the other thing is, even within those four years, to say he was unpredictable would be putting it mildly.”

Trump met in early March with Orbán, the Hungarian autocrat who has offered praise for the former president and become a popular international figure among conservatives in the U.S. Following the meeting, Orbán said he and Trump were aligned on the war in Ukraine and that Trump would not give “a single penny” to Kyiv if elected.

The former president met earlier this month with Cameron, the U.K. foreign secretary, where the war in Ukraine was also on the agenda. The Biden administration has worked closely with British officials to coordinate a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trump on Wednesday night spoke with Duda for 2 1/2 hours. The two leaders have a friendly relationship, and Trump’s campaign said they discussed the war in Ukraine, the war between Israel and Hamas, and NATO spending commitments.

Poland is a NATO member that shares a border with Ukraine. U.S. officials have warned that if Russia overtakes Ukraine, it could look to move into Poland or another neighboring country, triggering a wider global war.

Duda met with President Biden at the White House in March, and Cameron met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to the U.S. this month.

The New York Times reported in early April that Trump also had spoken with the Saudi crown prince, an influential figure in the Middle East and the de facto leader of a key U.S. ally in the region at a time when tensions are high. 

“Leaders from around the world know that with President Trump we had a safer, more peaceful world,” campaign spokesperson Brian Hughes said in a statement. “He is widely recognized as a leader who, with the support of the American people, kept our nation and allies safe, our enemies in check, and American workers protected from unfair globalist trade policies.”

“Meetings and calls from world leaders reflect the recognition of what we already know here at home,” Hughes added. “Joe Biden is weak, and when President Trump is sworn in as the 47th President of the United States, the world will be more secure and America will be more prosperous.”

Fontaine called it “entirely usual” for foreign heads of state to meet with U.S. presidential candidates, adding that Orbán’s meeting was perhaps the only anomaly because the Hungarian leader has openly embraced Trump while foreign officials tend to remain neutral in foreign elections.

It is also common for American officials to meet with representatives of different political parties. For example, White House officials have in recent weeks met with Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, political rivals to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House has declined to weigh in on Trump’s meetings with other foreign leaders.

Polls show a close race for the White House between Trump and Biden, with the former president narrowly leading in most battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome in November, including Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan and Nevada. Biden has fared better in polls out of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Biden campaigned in 2020 partly on restoring U.S. leadership on the world stage after four years of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy doctrine upended traditional alliances. Trump imposed tariffs on the European Union, chastised NATO allies for not spending enough on defense and spoke warmly of dictators, like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

A second Trump term could upend U.S. foreign policy at a precarious moment in the world.

While Biden has made U.S. support for Ukraine a central pillar of his foreign policy, boasting about America’s role in uniting the world against Russia’s invasion, Trump has said aid for Kyiv is not a vital U.S. interest and has questioned why Europe is not spending more to fund the war effort.

Biden has celebrated the NATO alliance and called its mutual defense provisions “sacred,” blasting Trump when he recounted how he told an ally he would let Russia do whatever it wanted if they did not contribute enough to defense spending. 

And Biden has sought to balance U.S. military support for Israel with public and private calls for Israeli leaders to do more to protect civilians in Gaza, while Trump has offered little of substance about how he would handle the conflict in the Middle East besides cracking down on Iran.

Biden this week endorsed a series of House bills that would provide billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Indo-Pacific like Taiwan. Trump has not formally weighed in on the legislation.

“I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed,” Biden said in a statement.

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