Monday, January 16, 2017

Well, He Does Know a Thing or Two About Divorce.

Is the marriage over? For longer than I've drawn breath, Europe and America have been intertwined in a relationship that blossomed into a marriage in the aftermath of WWII.

Now, in a pattern that echoes his path from Ivana to Marla to Melania, Donald Trump seems intent on straining America's relationship with Europe, perhaps in favour of a new paramour, Russia.

Trump recently dissed both NATO and the European Union, dismissing America's oldest military alliance as "obsolete" while praising Brexit, predicting the departure of other member states from the E.U. and blasting Angela Merkel's migrant policy. These are not actions by which mutual confidence is sustained.

For a while the president-elect said he welcomed a nuclear arms race with Russia. Barely a week later he advocated a reduction in Russia's and America's nuclear arsenals, hinting that he might scrap U.S. sanctions against Russia in the bargain.

The Europeans know that Trump does not have the confidence of America's 17 national security/intelligence agencies. They know that because America's intelligence types have been telling their counterparts not to share anything they don't want Putin to know about. Again, not great for sustaining mutual confidence.

French president Francois Hollande made it clear today that he's heard enough from the Great Orange Bloat.

"Europe will be ready to pursue transatlantic cooperation, but it will based on its interests and values," Hollande said before awarding France's highest honour to outgoing US ambassador Jane Hartley. "It does not need outside advice to tell it what to do."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, two Chinese state newspapers have warned of trouble ahead.

China will "take off the gloves" and take strong action if US President-elect Donald Trump continues to provoke Beijing over Taiwan once he assumes office, two leading state-run newspapers said on Monday.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Friday, Trump said the "One China" policy was up for negotiation. China's foreign ministry, in response, said "One China" was the foundation of China-US ties and was non-negotiable.

"If Trump is determined to use this gambit in taking office, a period of fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable, as Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves," the English-language China Daily said.

One recent analysis concluded that in a major trade war, China's economy might sustain a 50% hit. America's economy could take an unrecoverable 75% blow. China, being more manufacturing focused, has the more resilient economy that would recover in short order. A trade war could leave America's FIRE economy (and the economies of America's dependents) mortally wounded.

In what Angela Merkel has termed Trump's "thought environment," the incoming president imagines America's strength as perhaps much greater than it would prove to be if strained. That would, of necessity, reset America's relationships with rivals, adversaries and one faithful allies alike.


Anonymous said...

As chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov noted, "Every [foreign policy] position Trump takes, starting from total ignorance around year ago, is on Putin's wish list. Brexit, Ukraine, NATO, EU, Merkel."

I wonder what was on the mind of incoming White House national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn when he called the Russian embassy 5 times on December 29? I'm sure it was a mere coincidence that that was the day Obama retaliated with additional sanctions on Putin. Surely the Russians couldn't have had a mole at the highest level of the Defence Intelligence Agency.


Toby said...

Mound, I think your big three - global warming, over-population and neo-liberalism - are stressing everything. Globalization is coming apart due to too large a work force and automation. Desertification, high water and melting ice are driving people out of their home environs. In places that means wars. Etc. You have talked about all of it. They are all worsening.

Brexit and Donald Trump are symptoms as much as anything. They can both cause untold damage but it is your big three pushing. Collectively, we are noticing the symptoms but are either not seeing the causes or unwilling to deal with them. My suspicion is that Trump (like Trudeau) will make things worse; he (like Trudeau) is not up to the tasks at hand.

If climate scientists are right and I think they are, then the climate chaos we witnessed for the past few years will put so many people under such stress that we will soon look back at the present refugee problem as a trickle. It is going to get ugly. Which world leader will be the first to order troops to shoot refugees? Will Trump build his wall and mount automatic machine guns as in Gwynne Dyer's scenario?

divp said...

Thanks for sharing...nice post

The Mound of Sound said...

Cap, there can be no doubt that Trump's pre-inaugural musings indeed seem to play to Putin's interests. Your list - Brexit, Ukraine, sanctions, the notion that Article 5 of the NATO charter may not be honoured by Trump's Washington, Trump's disparagement of NATO and the European Union - all sounds like someone other than Trump won this election.

Trump has acknowledged that Putin meddled in the election - in Trump's favour. Trump knows he's suspect by his own intelligence/security agencies and by America's allies from Europe to Asia Pacific. Yet he pursues policies that can only reinforce his critics' doubts and suspicions.

The most remarkable thing is that Trump seems to believe his rampage won't have consequences for the United States and his presidency. He can't get his mind out of his reality show studio.

The Mound of Sound said...

Toby, it's telling that of the three existential challenges you've referenced, the global community isn't even addressing two.

The population bomb that currently consists of Africa and much of Asia is not going to be defused. It will run its course to near certain catastrophe.

Over-consumption, well we're still snarled in the perpetual, exponential growth paradigm. In the developed world the rate will decline somewhat but it will remain both perpetual and exponential at the very time we should have it in reverse, retreat. We have set the example for Africa and Asia to follow. Not only are we living unsustainably, far beyond our planet's ecological carrying capacity, but we have allowed ourselves to become mortally dependent on continuing what is unsustainable.

I've never felt that a global consensus on climate change would work. To begin with, it would be dependent on a high degree of political and economic stability among the participating nations. That's a far less robust condition than we might think. Impacts that we were told just 10 years ago might occur by the end of the century if we didn't mend our ways are already upon us yet, like the first little piggy, our house remains built of straw. Even the wealthiest, most advantaged nations have done next to nothing by way of adaptation and, on mitigation, we toss out lofty ideas like carbon pricing.

Globalization, the beating heart of the neoliberal order, is likewise failing and not just at the hands of populists. How could it not fail when it is constructed on the perpetual, exponential growth model. And the same degree of global political and economic stability required for climate change is even more essential to globalism.

Trump, like most populists, may be a symptom of a malaise that will be greatly worsened by these three threats but how this will all play out, from one nation to the next, and when, is the subject of informed guessing at best.

We are looking at unprecedented challenges and, as you point out, leadership of no great willingness to address them.