It doesn’t matter if your country has loyally supported the United States for decades, fought alongside American soldiers in every major war of the twentieth century, shared intelligence, trade and a commitment to the freedom of navigation in Southeast Asia; one critical word from your prime minister and, in the era of Donald Trump, the relationship can be at risk.
The Washington Post reports that the new American president berated Malcolm Turnbull in a phone call on Saturday.
The conversation was meant to last an hour, but Trump cut it short after 25 minutes.
He accused Turnbull — who is ideologically close to Trump’s Republicans — of seeking to export the “next Boston bombers”, because he asked America to honor a pledge to admit some 1,200 refugees currently held in detention by Australia on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Many fled from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia, four of the seven countries listed in Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees.
“Worst deal ever”
“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed, apparently unaware of the agreement his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, had made.
The president then took to Twitter to complain:
Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!
The Post dryly notes that Trump’s behavior on the call provides “insight” into his “temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job”.
Which is another way of saying he’s not up to the requirements of the job.
If this is how Trump’s America treats its closest friends, don’t be surprised if allies start making their own accommodations with China and Russia.
Australia already has. After Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a proposed free-trade zone for the countries in East Asia and Latin America that took almost the entirely of Barack Obama’s presidency to negotiate, it reached out to China to start trade talks instead. Expect other countries to follow.