Donald Trump's first overseas trip as US President was portrayed as a series of headline-grabbing gaffes, but it now looks like a serious disaster.

There were numerous opportunities for satire: an awkward handshake with the French President, wife Melania slapping his hand away, a painful meeting with a solemn Pope, a childish guestbook note at a Holocaust Museum, Trump apparently ignoring his host at the G7 summit, his shoving Montenegro's PM out of the way and a cringeworthy "curtsy" to the King of Saudi Arabia.

But behind the theatre of it all were alarming developments, and world leaders have been vocal in their displeasure, news.com.au reports.

Although the White House has publicly declared the nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe a resounding success, Trump is holding urgent meetings with his top aides back in Washington to fix what is looking like a dire situation.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has openly announced that the US has lost Germany's trust, and doubts are growing across the rest of the world - even in the West Wing.

Here's why the President has a problem.

That Nato speech

President Donald Trump has just returned from his first overseas trip at US President. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump has just returned from his first overseas trip at US President. Photo / AP

Trump caused shockwaves at his first Nato summit in Brussels last Thursday, when he told 23 of the 28 member nations they owed "massive amounts of money" to funding the military alliance.

He refused to explicitly endorse the longstanding Article 5 principle of mutual defence, instead criticising Nato countries who have not put 2 per cent of their gross domestic product towards military spending. He also told the meeting "the Germans are bad, very bad" for their trade surplus, and should stop selling millions of cars to the US, Der Spiegel reported.

His behaviour has attracted anger and criticism from world leaders, commentators and politicians.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called him out at the meeting, saying free trade was good for everyone.

House minority whip Steny Hoyer said on Monday that Trump had "shown the world an America that appears rudderless and in crisis", adding: "I urge him to right the ship and take steps to reassure our allies that we stand by our Nato commitments without qualification."

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the President's "brash and condescending lecture to Nato leaders disrespected our closest allies" and that his dishonouring of a defence pact vital to global security "emboldens Russian aggression in Europe".

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Losing Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Europe 'must take its fate into its own hands'. Photo / AP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Europe 'must take its fate into its own hands'. Photo / AP

The President took a harsher stance against European allies than leaders in the Middle East, refusing to "lecture" Saudi Arabia or advocate a two-state solution in Israel.

In a speech on Monday, Merkel reiterated her message from Sunday that "the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over" and that "Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands".

The German Chancellor added to those comments at a conference on sustainable development in Berlin, saying: "It became clear at the G7, when there was no agreement with the USA, how long and rocky this path would be."

Germany says it can't rely on the US. what does that means?

And she had a clear warning for the US President: "Anyone who today puts on national blinkers and no longer has eyes for the world around him is, I am convinced, ultimately out on a limb."

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel underlined her point, saying that although it was important to maintain dialogue with Washington, Europe was now the priority.

Merkel's forthright remarks came after the US President's Nato insult and refusal to endorse a global climate change accord at the G7. Trump said he would made a decision on the Paris Agreement in the next week or so.

The Russia connection

Jared Kushner is under investigation over a reported proposal for a secret, bug-proof communications line with the Kremlin. Photo / AP
Jared Kushner is under investigation over a reported proposal for a secret, bug-proof communications line with the Kremlin. Photo / AP

The drama overseas comes at an inopportune time for the Trump administration as it battles serious allegations about suspected ties with Russia.

The President's son-in-law and trusted confidant Jared Kushner is the latest senior adviser to come under scrutiny over his links to Vladimir Putin's regime in the FBI probe into Russian interference in last year's election. The Washington Post reported he had tried to establish a secret communications line between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin and met the head of a Russian bank on a US sanctions list.

John Podesta, Bill Clinton's chief of staff during the Monica Lewinsky investigation and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, said the Trump team needs to "organise itself so that this becomes isolated" and that the President was "constantly throwing gasoline on the fire".

Trump's "catastrophic" trip would certainly please one leader - Putin. Russia has previously been restrained by Nato from further aggressions, in the Crimea, for example.

The pressure is likely to come to a head when fired FBI director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, with murmurings of "impeachment" still refusing to die.

'Ugly and dangerous'

Already, sparks are starting to fly in America.

"Donald Trump is doing damage to the deepest and most broadly agreed foreign-policy interests of the United States," former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote in the Atlantic. "He is doing so while people associated with his campaign are under suspicion of colluding with Vladimir Putin's spy agencies to bring him to office. The situation is both ugly and dangerous."

One unnamed official told the Daily Beast website: "When it comes to diplomacy, President Trump is a drunk tourist."

The Trump administration is in a "perpetual quagmire on side issues", chief executive of Newsmax Media Chris Ruddy told the Wall Street Journal. In the West Wing, that has reportedly led to an atmosphere of "backbiting and insecurity".

There are suggestions the President may move staff around or fire and hire new advisers.

One thing seems clear, the President's nine-day trip was far from the resounding success the White House wants us to think it was.

- With wires