Sunday, July 02, 2017

America's Enemies Have Less to Worry About Than Her Friends

The upcoming G20 summit in Berlin promises to be a lot livelier than the gatherings of the past.

And, yes, that's because of the terrible-tempered man baby/president, Donald Trump.   Everybody, friend and foe, by now has taken the measure of this emotionally dysfunctional head of state and this will likely be the beginning of a grand realignment of relationships between Washington and other powerful nations.

Hamburg officials are already bracing for what could be huge anti-Trump demonstrations.  Perhaps they'll take a page out of the Brits' playbook and stage a mass mooning along Trump's limo route. It sounds as though plans are underway to humiliate the man who knows no shame. Tough gig.

As host, Angela Merkel gets to set the agenda and her focus will be on the looming climate change emergency. Trump showed what he thinks of that problem during the G7 summit.

The G20 leaders are a thoroughly mixed bag of statesmen, thugs and, well, Trump.  Putin, Erdogan, Modi, Widodo, Salman al Saud, Trump and the badly winged Theresa May. Everyone is going to want something from Trump even if it's just to be left alone.

The Guardian's Richard Wolfe thinks the "leader of the free world" could be sidelined.

This is the Trump paradox, five months into his presidency: the more he tries to assert US leadership, the less of a leadership role he plays. For someone who campaigned on the promise to make America great again, the reality of government has been an exercise in looking weak again and again.

It is possible to measure how much Trump has made America weak again. The Pew Research Center surveyed more than 40,000 people in 37 countries this year, examining global attitudes to the US and the president since Barack Obama left office. The numbers are grim reading for anyone but Vladimir Putin.

Confidence in the US president has collapsed 42 points to just 22%, while favorable views of the country overall have dropped 15 points to 49%. The declines are staggering in European countries, and the 10 countries where US presidential favorability ratings plunged the most includes South Korea and Japan: two allies who are clearly not reassured by Trump’s belligerent tone toward North Korea. Trump starts his presidency at the low point where George W Bush ended his, after years of cowboy diplomacy and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are just two countries registering a rise in confidence since the Obama era ended: Israel and Russia. In Israel, where Obama clashed repeatedly with the Netanyahu government, confidence has risen 7 points, from 49 to 56%: hardly a tidal wave of happiness.

The only country to fully embrace Donald Trump is Mother Russia herself, where confidence has rocketed 42 points, from 11% to 53%. Given the number of Russian immigrants in Israel, the two countries may really reflect only one dynamic: the curious case of Trump’s crush on Moscow.

The result of all this chest-thumping is the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of promoting American leadership, Trump is leaving a vacuum in Europe that is being filled by the German-French alliance. With Britain busy with its own Brexit chaos, that leaves Trump and the US with fewer friends and less influence.

Much like political junkies in America, the international community of elected officials and policymakers seems exhausted by five months of Trump’s engagement with the world. But that exhaustion is not just the result of Trump; rather, it follows a path of disappointment stretching back more than a decade.

We can almost afford to take a break from American leadership,” says Robin Niblett, the director of Chatham House, an international affairs thinktank. “First we had George W Bush and the failures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then Obama ended up failing to follow through on the rhetoric in the Middle East. And now we have Trump. That’s quite a trio. Does he put an end to the withdrawal of American leadership? It’s a short step from leading from behind to not leading at all.”

Other presidents have been lampooned. Europeans considered Reagan as lightweight as Trump. George W Bush threatened to blow up international peace, much like Trump.

But the pace and the depth of Trump’s decline is astonishing, and the gap between his rhetoric and the reality is intercontinental. As George W Bush discovered, the unilateral path is hard to travel when America’s allies are essential players on everything from economic to military cooperation. The first six months do not bode well for Trump or America’s fortunes. If this is Trump’s idea of a stronger America, his foreign foes have less to worry about than his friends.


Anonymous said...

Anyong....Some people give Trump such credence when referring to him as the "leader of the world." He does not have one bit of trust, confidence or reliance to do anything except wave his tongue about all those bad people doing him wrong....what a baby!

The Mound of Sound said...

His immaturity, coupled with his ignorance and laziness, is profound and creates a host of vulnerabilities that worry allies and tantalize adversaries. This is not going to play out well and America's longtime allies know their best option is to put plenty of distance between themselves and Washington.

crf said...

Maybe the rest of the world (much of the G20) needs to start acting like adults too. Forming an anti-Trump clique is junior high-school. No G-20 country is actually dealing with the climate problem in a mature fashion.

For example, both Germany and, now, South Korea and the Swiss are exiting nuclear (their largest non-carbon emitting sources). And France is kneecapping their industry. These concrete actions are a more puerile policy than anything actually done by Trump so far (of course Trump is just getting going).

Another example, closer to home, in B.C. is the new NDP and site C review. The adult thing to do is to let the utilities commission review the project with future climate mitigation efforts in mind. What is juvenile is to review the project based solely on present and historic electricity demand, which cannot give much insight on how climate change mitigation might affect it over next century (or longer).

The Mound of Sound said...

I can't agree, Chris. There's no way the Euros can follow Trump as they have previous presidents. The man is not mentally sound. They'll have to work around him until such time as the U.S. is under new management.