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The year in Trump handshake diplomacy

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Get a grip.
By Max de Haldevang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Donald Trump doesn’t set much store by diplomacy. He’s disemboweled the State Department, said secretary of state Rex Tillerson is “wasting his time” (paywall) by talking to North Korea, and threatened to cut aid to countries that vote against the US at the UN.

His infamously aggressive handshakes with foreign leaders illustrate the world of zero-sum competition he lives in. Here are some of the best encounters of 2017:

Bout One: Trump vs Abe

Reuters/Jim Bourg

Trump made his debut on the world stage by yanking the hand of visibly uncomfortable Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe around for 19 seconds.

Winner? Trump, but Abe gets points for making Trump look boorish with his post-grip facial expression.

Bout Two: Trump vs Trudeau

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Canada’s Justin Trudeau, a lover of boxing, successfully parries Trump by balancing off his shoulder in a standing-up first round. Round two is short and cordial, above, with little pulling around while they were seated.

Winner? Tie.

Bout Three: Phantom Trump vs Merkel

Trump seemed less up for the challenge when faced with the most powerful woman in the world. Or perhaps he didn’t hear her. Either way, we were left with an embarrassing silence and a great bemused reaction from the German chancellor.

Winner? A moral victory for Angela Merkel? She didn’t really seem into the game anyway.

Bout Four: Trump vs Rakhmon

By May, word on Trump’s maneuvers seems to have reached all the way to Tajikistan. President Emomali Rakhmon caught Trump unawares with the full Neil Gorsuch treatment when they met at the Muslim Leaders Summit in Riyadh.

Winner? Clearly Rakhmon, but to be fair to Trump, he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, whose hand he’s shaking, or where the hell Tajikistan is.

Bout Five: Trump vs Macron

Reuters/Peter Dejong/Pool
Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Close-up of Trump (left) and Macron’s handshake.

France’s Emmanuel Macron puts on a steely face and even steelier grip.

Winner? Macron—ouch. (Though, to be honest, this duel’s tedious extension over three more bouts made them both end up looking foolish.)

Bout Six: Trump vs Putin

Reuters/Carlos Barria

The handshake itself is short and gentle, but Putin makes perfect use of the meaningful pause. With Trump always the first to extend his hand, Putin took long enough for photographers to catch him staring disdainfully at it, before eventually following suit.

Winner? Putin, by a glance.

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