HAMBURG President Trump attended the G-20 summit in Hamburg, but he wasn't really a part of it.
Instead, Trump used the conference space generously provided by his host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to conduct a series of his own mini-summits separate on-on-one "meetings on the sidelines" with other world leaders where Trump pursued his own agenda.
He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin about his interference in western elections. He met with leaders in Asia about North Korea. And he met with trading partners throughout the world in a two-day binge of talks.
This focus on one-on-one meetings, which ended with Trump declaring newly created great friendships with world leaders, meant that he often stepped away from the bigger meetings. On Saturday, he left his daughter Ivanka to represent the United States on the floor of the G-20 while he met with the president of Indonesia.
And when the rest of the summit agreed that the Paris climate agreement was "irreversible," Trump withheld U.S. support for that part of the final communique.
The dynamic was apparent from the very beginning, while posing for the "family photo" with other world leaders. It was Merkel taking center stage, her bright red jacket standing out all the more from a sea of black business suits.
Trump was on the outskirts, unable to shove his way through the crowd to get to the center as he did with the Montenegrin prime minister at the NATO summit in May. Instead, he was in the corner, engaged in small talk with French President Emmanuel Macron.
It was a visual representation of Trump's brand of diplomacy. While he loves to command a room, he prefers to work one-on-one as opposed to groups.
If President George W. Bush was accused of being a unilateral president, too often going it alone on the world stage; and President Barack Obama was a multilateral president, seeking broad consensus on issues like climate change, trade and security then Trump is a bilateral president, seeking to make deals one at a time.
That preference for bilateral relationships is based on personality, experience in business and a philosophy that puts narrow national interests ahead of broader global concerns like wealth inequality, refugee resettlement and climate change.
It's a worldview Trump articulated in his speech in Warsaw on Thursday, where he extolled the virtues of national sovereignty, self-determination, strong borders and nations paying for their own defense.
While he pledged to defend NATO allies from attack something he pointedly did not do at the NATO summit he also expressed a deep skepticism of international bureaucracies.
Bureaucracies like the G-20. the group of 19 of the largest national economies (plus the European Union) founded in 1999 to address the world's most pressing economic issues.
Trump now has three major foreign summits under his belt, plus two other smaller group meetings in Saudi Arabia and Poland. While he often seemed on the sidelines, aides say Trump will not "lead from behind."
Trump is driven by a "clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a 'global community' but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage," national security adviser H.R. McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn wrote in the Wall Street Journal after his first foreign trip.