Damnit, Donald: President Trump Successfully Damages International Relations

Raeesa Ashique -
Posted on: June 5, 2017

Last issue, President Donald Trump was heading to Europe after a successful few days of meetings in the Middle East. He signed a $350 billion trade deal with Saudi Arabia. He delivered a well-structured, non-offensive, anti-terrorism speech to assembled leaders in Riyadh, even managing to distinguish between Islam and ISIS.

He acted, surprisingly, like a decent human being; he followed his script, and kept his foot out of his mouth. This requires some analysis: how was Donald so un-Donald? One opinion regards his shared priorities with King Salman and Prime Minister Netanyahu: all three leaders are interested in both Iran and the fight against terrorism. Additionally, Saudi was very interested in signing the trade deal with the US, particularly the arms aspect. These common goals necessitated the success of the discussions. It was also likely the motivation behind Saudi treating Trump like royalty, and bestowing upon him the country’s highest civilian honour.

Interestingly, there was no mention of human rights violations in the region; it’s easier to gloss over uncomfortable topics.

Nonetheless, there were high hopes for the remainder of his international trip. Alas, as should have been anticipated, it was too good to be true.

Europe was, in short, a disaster. Trump lectured American allies on their many shortcomings, refused to follow up on prior commitments, and essentially accused all assembled parties of conspiring against the US. Not to mention, his facts required checking.

Germany’s financial newspaper Handelsblatt appropriately referred to him as the “Boor-in-Chief”.

Let’s take a closer look at Trump’s recent adventures. Much of the following information comes from Washington Post interviews with over ten EU diplomats and officials, many of whom chose to remain anonymous.

Trump in Europe

After meeting with the Pope in Rome, Trump attended three and a half days of meetings with EU leaders in Brussels and Sicily.

The NATO summit started as badly as it finished. Trump’s handshake with new French President Emmanuel Macron was aggressive and unfriendly. He then shoved Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of the way to stand front and centre of the NATO leaders’ traditional photo-op.

With the “niceties” out of the way, Trump delivered a speech in front of a twisted fragment from the World Trade Center, which stands as a memorial at NATO headquarters, criticizing them as individual and collective nations. He condemned their handling of defense spending, calling it unfair to American taxpayers that “23 out of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying.” He is referring to the goal that each country should spend 2% of its GDP on defense, which is only being met by five countries. However, this is only a guideline, and the deadline to increase military spending is 2024. Leaders have been moving to increase this goal in the last couple of years, since Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Additionally, Europe “certainly owes nothing to the US”, according to Ivo Daalder, a former ambassador to NATO under President Obama.

Trump called Germany “bad, very bad”, because of their trade surplus. While it is true that Germany sells almost twice as much to the US than it buys, which is a concern shared by other countries, Germany also often hires American workers rather than simply exporting products. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also argues that German products are simply better.

Trump’s speech conveniently failed to address climate change, human rights violations, the growing threat which is Russia, and most highly anticipated, Article 5. Article 5 is the defense part of the NATO pact, stating that an attack on one member nation constitutes war with every nation in the alliance.

At dinner, Trump continued to rail that “the United States has not been treated fairly,” and has been “taken advantage of.” He also told the Belgian prime minister that his aversion to the EU is a result of obstacles faced while trying to set up golf courses in Europe.

G7 talks in Sicily fared no better, with Trump refusing to commit to the Paris Climate Accord, and taking a tougher stance on the assembled nations than he did in Saudi Arabia.

Trump view of the trip was not commonly shared, tweeting: “Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!”

Paris Climate Accord

After weeks of speculation, Trump broke the news last Thursday that the United States will be withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. This had been the indicated decision by White House officials, but Trump is infamous for changing his mind.

Echoing his comments from the NATO summit, Trump called the agreement “very unfair to the United States”, saying, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was less than pleased and tweeted, “Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow Paris Agreement.”

There has been significant opposition, with American city and state officials, American corporation leaders, and international leaders pledging to continue fighting climate change.

Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for Secretary General António Guterres, said in a statement, “The decision by the United States to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change is a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.” Mr. Obama has expressed disappointment in the decision, which reflects “the absence of American leadership.” Canada has announced its “unwavering commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth.”

Other countries will also be forced to step up, making sacrifices to compensate for the US’s withdrawal.

In his speech, Trump announced that “in order to fulfill [his] solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord”, continuing to advocate the “America First” message upon which his campaign was built and which permeated the Europe meetings.

The gist of his speech was this idea of a conspiracy against the US, with the Paris agreement only one facet of an evil master plan; Trump said that these countries whose “trade practices” and “lax contributions” to military spending are undermining the US are the ones who support the agreement.

Again, Trump ignored uncomfortable topics: his speech failed to address global warming and how to cope with it, or the pros and cons of the agreement. He claimed to be open to renegotiation, saying “we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fair.” His sole focus is American citizens, and this focus is built on alternative facts, with little or no concern for the rest of the world.

Interestingly, “President Trump believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation”, according to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union”. Apparently, withdrawing from the agreement does not mean the US will not continue fighting climate change.

Implications

So how deep is this hole Trump has dug for his Great Country?

These past few weeks have been a turning point in an alliance formed in the aftermath of World War II. Many EU officials say they are preparing for years of conflict with the Trump administration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands”, because the US can no longer be relied upon.

One Friday, Europe held long-scheduled meetings with China, signing agreements “to preserve our Creation” by cutting back on fossil fuels, developing more green technology, and raising funds to help poorer countries reduce emissions. The US may become an outlier in a world where the balance of power may be shifting. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang observed, “A stable China-EU relationship is useful to counter the uncertainties in this world.”

The real question is to what extent the two entities can disengage. With Trump’s unwillingness to work with the allied nations, he may be hard-pressed to find support when he needs it in the future, particularly regarding Iran and ISIS. Derek Chollet, the former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama administration, said “he’s giving them little incentive to cooperate. In fact, he’s giving the opposite incentive.” However, as the world’s largest economy, the US is a huge market for European goods. Their military is also crucial to European security.

At this point, European countries will continue moving ahead with their plans, with or without American support.

In Other News

Trump is set to release a plan for cutting federal funding to infrastructure; he is calling for cities, states, and corporations to take on additional responsibility. Although the plan is nowhere near fully formed, he will at least provide a skeleton of the goals.

According to ABC news, Trump has filed for an extension on his 2016 tax returns, the reason for which has not been disclosed, with October 18 as his new deadline. He will apparently release his past tax returns after the IRS audit has ended, although there is no legal reason he cannot release them while being audited.

James Comey is expected to testify in an open Senate hearing on Thursday. Let’s see what new dirt will arise this week.

I would like to thank Donald Trump for existing, and giving us unlimited content for filling space, if necessary. I would also like to blame Donald Trump for existing, as researching his complicated shenanigans takes valuable time away from my interview and midterm studying.