When President Donald Trump sits down for dinner in Saudi Arabia, caterers have ensured that his favorite meal – steak with a side of ketchup – will be offered alongside the traditional local cuisine. At NATO and the Group of 7 summits, foreign delegations have gotten word that the new U.S. president prefers short presentations and lots of visual aids. And at all of Trump’s five stops on his first Foreign trip, his team has spent weeks trying to build daily downtime into his otherwise jam-packed schedule.
Even before Trump’s trip morphed from a quick jaunt to Europe into a nine-day behemoth, White House aides were on edge about how the president would take to grueling pressures of foreign travel: the time zone changes, the unfamiliar hotels, the local delicacies. Two officials said they feared that a difficult foreign trip might even lead the president to hand off future traveling duties to Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump’s final itinerary hardly eases him into the delicate world of international diplomacy on foreign soil. After departing Friday on an overnight flight on Air Force One, Trump will hopscotch from Saudi Arabia to Israel to the Vatican. He’ll close his trip with a pair of summits in Brussels and Sicily, often-staid affairs that require leaders to be locked in lengthy plenary sessions.
“The chance of something going wrong – you insult the hosts, you get sick, your boss gets sick, you miscommunicate with your hosts, you make a scheduling error, you need to change the schedule just hours before a meeting, the motorcade get stuck in traffic, or the plane is stranded due to bad weather – is extremely high,” said Julianne Smith, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and is now a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security.