On a trip marked by hubris, egotism, and a deep ignorance of the roots, histories, and futures of global politics, Donald J. Trump has managed to display to the world his disinterest in even the most important international issues, and again, proves he can’t see past personal relationships to understand what “winning” truly is.
Trump started the week by fumbling his NATO visit. In what was supposed to be a meeting designed for shoring up the half a century old alliance which America has always led, he started by viciously attacking America’s closest allies, hypocritically criticizing Germany for their ties with Russia, calling them “captive” and “totally controlled by Russia.”
He quipped, “Germany just started paying Russia, the country they want protection from, billions of dollars for their energy needs coming out of a new pipeline from Russia,” lambasting German spending on a natural gas pipeline to Russia, which ironically, is actually a privately-owned commercial pipeline and is has no public ownership.
The meeting, then, itself was marked by rancor, with one diplomat claiming that Trump came in fundamentally misunderstanding the politics and even geography of Europe. Trump finished off by claiming victory over strengthening an organization he has personally called “obsolete,” and took personal responsibility for funding increases which had already been agreed to in 2014 under Obama, years before his candidacy was even launched. “Everyone’s agreed to substantially up their commitment, they are going to up it at levels never thought of before,” he said, falsely trying to claim credit for his toughness.
This emergency meeting came days before a purposeless meeting he personally initiated with Vladimir Putin, a man with whom Trump has had a bizarrely close and unhealthy relationship, particularly in light of the clear claims of Russian interference in US elections, the behavior of his administration, namely annexing Crimea, and ramping up support for Bashar al-Assad. This was in sharp contrast with his testy relationship with close American allies, with his child-like antics throwing candy at German chancellor Angela Merkel during the G7 meetings, a meeting for which he said that Russia should once again be invited, his administration saying that Canadian PM Trudeau would go to hell because of his disagreements with Trump, and at the last NATO meeting, Trump shoving the Montenegrin leader out of the way to be at the front of a photo op.
He next made his way to the UK, a stop he made clear was only to kill time before his meeting with his Putin.
He criticized CNN, an American network, as fake news while refusing to take their questions, all while on foreign soil.
Further, on the heels of Boris Johnson’s abrupt resignation from Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, throwing the UK government into turmoil, he disparaged his host, the Prime Minister, and her plans for a “soft” Brexit, while making comments that indicated he didn’t understand the difference between a hard and soft Brexit, nor was he clear on the fundamentals of the negotiations for the UK’s departure from the US and the consequences of an abrupt exit on borders and trade. After criticizing the acting government, he had words of praise for Boris Johnson, a man who had previously offered words of support, saying, “I’m just saying I think (Johnson) would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes and I think he has got the right attitude to be a great prime minister.”
What he hopes to accomplish from his meeting with Putin is anyone’s guess, as he has had nothing but positive words for the leader, and there are few international issues on which they can find common ground, other than the dismantling of the Western international order.
His relationships, consisting of consistently disparaging leaders of democratic states, all of whom have stakes in changing the direction of his policy and opposing his behavior, yet praising and congratulating leaders who have no need to challenge him, and who heap compliments at his feet, have led the world to a dangerous situation. A man who has little understanding of the importance of our global allies and values little human rights and democracy has what he would consider strong personal relationships with a series of leaders who shower him in praise, and psychologically play him. Meanwhile, his relationships with American allies, of which the alliances are based on common national values, interests, and deep historical ties are strained, mostly because his bizarre foreign policy aims threaten to undermine the Western order, and the resultant personal strain between him and the foreign leaders is interpreted as hostility and affects America’s international relations.
Donald Trump fails to realize this, and the damage done to international relationships could deeply affect American ties, trade, and alliances for decades to come if America is not careful to disassociate itself from the behavior and choices of its president.
Staff writer: Ari B