According to newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron, his tense, tight-gripped handshake with American president Donald Trump at the NATO summit in Belgium this week was no accident. To the contrary, Macron told the French press that it was a necessary show of strength, a symbol that France “won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, while not overhyping things either,” according to Politico.
The handshake made headlines, both for its length and the apparent intensity between the two leaders, both of them relative newcomers on the world stage. Trump’s rather brutish handshake style has drawn a great amount of scrutiny in the first few months of his administration; his unbelievably long grip on the hand of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was an early example, as well as his aggressive arm-jerking of his own Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
But it seems as if some world leaders have caught wise to the act, which comes across as an effort to establish control and dominance over someone in advance of a conversation.
When Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau visited Trump for the first time, he was clearly prepared. When Trump went in for the handshake, he was met with an unrelenting response, with Trudeau holding his arm steady and firm against any attempted yank.
The first meeting between Trump and Macron at the NATO summit was immortalized in this decidedly awkward video, and by the time the two sat down for their first formal meeting with the press in attendance, the French president had another plan in place.
From the looks of the video, the 70-year-old Trump doesn’t have quite such an easy time strong-arming people when they’re prepared for it.
In short, any world leaders who haven’t yet met with Trump ought to take note of this. It’s clearly something he tries out on everyone at least once, and whether to protect the health and integrity of their shoulder socket, or merely to save face on the international stage, there’s no harm in being ready for what’s coming.