Next week US President Donald Trump sweeps into Europe on a mission to make its leaders nervous.
The trip will unfold in ascending order of enjoyment for Trump. He first meets with NATO leaders in Brussels, then British Prime Minister Theresa May in London and finally with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
The visit comes at a testing time for transatlantic relations. Policy differences on trade, NATO contributions and relations with Russia divide the partners. Look out for three key developments.
Pushing Europe right
First, we may see more of Trump and his acolytes' ongoing efforts to boost the European hard right. His associates have been busy on this front. Steve Bannon, Trump's early link to the American hard right, has been traipsing around Europe drumming up support and publicity for nationalist parties in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Italy. And US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told an interviewer from Bannon's former soapbox, Breitbart News, that he wanted to "empower other conservatives throughout Europe". For his part, Trump has publicly attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, declaring the Germans were "turning against their leadership".
This is not just instinct. Trump has interests in pushing European politics towards the nationalist right. He is a bilateralist, right at home bullying or cajoling his opposite number. Any collective international organisation is viewed as a plot against the US.
And a united Europe is much harder to push around on trade issues. In 2016, Barack Obama warned Britain that should it exit the European Union, it would go to the "back of the queue" for a trade deal. But Trump recently told French President Emmanuel Macron that should France withdraw from the EU, Paris would be rewarded with a better deal.
Foreign policy in balance
Second, we will get an insight into who holds power behind the golden throne.
The replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton tipped the balance away from the technocrats and towards the America Firsters. Until recently, both Pompeo and Bolton were firm critics of Russia and strong supporters of NATO. This trip may confirm their allegiance to Trump overrides those views.
The rumoured isolation of Secretary of Defence James Mattis almost completes the takeover. Mattis has been the most accomplished moderator of Trump's instincts. He has been effective in diluting the President's policy directions and calming nervous European allies. If Mattis is pushed out, Trump will be rid of his most effective foreign policy restraint.
On his first trip to Europe, Trump initially ignored the script, refusing to endorse the collective defence guarantee of the North Atlantic Treaty. His advisers pulled out all the stops to repair the damage. What will happen if he repeats the trick or over-promises in his meeting with Putin? Who will clean up after Trump this time?
The response from leaders
Third, we will learn about how the Europeans plan to deal with an 'America First' president growing in confidence. Trump does have a strong argument that the Europeans should contribute more to their own defence. And his assertiveness has sharpened that argument in a way his predecessors could not. But portraying NATO as a protection racket with underpaying clients and arguing that "the EU was set up to take advantage of the US" will undo hard-won trust from European allies.
The Europeans are carrying on without the US on major international initiatives including the Iran deal and the Paris Climate Agreement. But the temptation to try to ride out four years of Trump has faded.
Trump may also be the catalyst the integrationist Europeans required to push for more self-reliance. Macron is leading the development of a new European defence scheme, the European Intervention Initiative, made up of a core of nine countries rather than the EU 27. The inclusion of the mid-Brexit UK shows a welcome pragmatism. And with Trump's pouting performance at the G7 pushing Merkel and Macron closer together, bolder reforms on finance and trade may soon find momentum.
This trip will be a turning point in Trump's foreign policy. By now we know his approach: look for the path of least resistance to produce maximum sound and colour. In his mind that is a face-to-face meeting with a controversial figure or finding something to withdraw from. This trip offers a worrying chance for a double play.
This visit should be watched closely by all US allies. European leaders can hedge in the short term. But if Trump is re-elected in 2020, a much deeper shift becomes necessary.