Trump’s Geopolitical Madness

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his then-defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

Defenders of Donald Trump’s foreign policy confuse his lack of sentimentality for realism. In fact, his disinterest in America’s decades-old alliances in Europe and the Far East defies a century of geopolitical wisdom.

Strategists from Halford Mackinder to Zbigniew Brzezinski understood that only a united Eurasia, which has two-thirds of the world’s population and resources, can pose a threat to the Americas, while Robert Kagan and Henry Kissinger recently warned, in The Jungle Grows Back (2018) and World Order (2014), respectively, that the long peace since World War II has owed as much to American “hard” power as to the world’s belief that Americans will, by and large, do the right thing.

These assumptions were widely shared in Washington — until Trump became president. Read more “Trump’s Geopolitical Madness”

“Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals

Angela Merkel Ursula von der Leyen Emmanuel Macron Mark Rutte
German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and French president Emmanuel Macron watch Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte walk into a European Council meeting in Brussels, July 18 (European Council)

Emmanuel Macron and Mark Rutte belong to the same European liberal family, but they take different views on the future of the liberal world order.

The French president believes Europe should become less reliant on the United States and foreign trade. He argues for “strategic autonomy” in everything from the digital economy to defense to environmental policy.

The Dutch prime minister has doubts, rooted in decades of Dutch Atlanticism and centuries of overseas trade.

Both have allies.

Macron has the support of German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, a former German defense minister.

Rutte is backed by smaller countries in Central and Northern Europe as well others in the European Commission. The Financial Times reports that plenty suspect “strategic autonomy” is a fancy way to dress up French protectionism; are wary of formally endorsing the principle if it means undermining NATO and open trade; and are skeptical of the push for reshoring of industry and supply chains.

They have reason to be. Read more ““Strategic Autonomy” Divides Europe’s Top Liberals”

Macron Defends Rules-Based Pacific Order, Five Stars Call for New Elections

French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of a guest outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, July 6, 2017 (World Bank/Ibrahim Ajaja)

During a visit to Sydney, French president Emmanuel Macron said he wanted to work with the largest democracies in the region — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — to “balance” Chinese power and protect “rule-based development” in Asia.

“It’s important… not to have any hegemony in the region,” he said.

Australia has eyed accommodation with China since Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership in 2017. But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, speaking alongside Macron, insisted his country is still committed to preserving a rules-based order.

France is a Pacific power. It has around one million citizens in the region. Read more “Macron Defends Rules-Based Pacific Order, Five Stars Call for New Elections”

How Is the Liberal World Order Holding Up?

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

Donald Trump’s election caused many foreign-policy hands to worry that America could abandon its stewardship of the liberal world order: that constellation of alliances and institutions that has promoted peace and prosperity since World War II.

One year into Trump’s presidency, the results are mixed.

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, four experts reflect on the state of the world. Their consensus: The world America built has by no means disappeared, but there is no time for complacency. Read more “How Is the Liberal World Order Holding Up?”

Four Ways Trump’s Promise to Remake the World Could Pan Out

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

Gideon Rachman argues in the Financial Times that Donald Trump’s promise to reform the international system could pan out in one of four ways:

  1. Trump succeeds in getting the changes he wants and the system survives, in a modified form, with America still the global leader.
  2. A new system emerges, with the rest of the world operating under multilateral rules and ignoring unilateralist America as far as possible.
  3. America’s withdrawal leads to a collapse in the rules-based order — and chaos.
  4. Trump is satisfied with essentially cosmetic changes and the system continues much as it is now. Read more “Four Ways Trump’s Promise to Remake the World Could Pan Out”

Nationalism May Be Down, But It’s Not Out

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

Nationalism may be down, but it’s not out, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The nationalist insurgency is both growing and metamorphosing. It is not just eating away at relations between countries on issues such as free trade; it is also eroding the institutions and norms that prevail within countries.

With economies growing on both sides of the Atlantic, populists now draw on cultural grievances to undermine the stable, rules-based environment businesses crave. Read more “Nationalism May Be Down, But It’s Not Out”

How Worried Is the World About Trump’s Abdication of Leadership?

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

How worried is the rest of the world about Donald Trump’s abdication of American leadership?

Not as much as is commonly assumed, argues Parag Khanna. He sees Trump’s presidency as merely continuing the demise of American hyperpower in favor of a multipolar world.

Fred Kaplan disagrees. He argues that by his very abrogation of leadership, Trump has shown just how important the United States remain. Read more “How Worried Is the World About Trump’s Abdication of Leadership?”

Trump Accelerates Demise of American World Order

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

Donald Trump hasn’t ushered in a post-American world yet. But he is accelerating the demise of a benign hegemony that has made the world more peaceful and more prosperous with his policy of “America first”. Read more “Trump Accelerates Demise of American World Order”

World Not Waiting for America: Pacific Nations Continue Trade Deal

Prime Ministers Shinzō Abe of Japan and Justin Trudeau of Canada speak in Washington DC, March 31, 2016
Prime Ministers Shinzō Abe of Japan and Justin Trudeau of Canada speak in Washington DC, March 31, 2016 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

In another sign that the world isn’t waiting for the United States, eleven countries in Asia and Latin America have announced their intention to keep the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) alive.

One of Donald Trump’s first acts as president was to withdraw from the trade pact.

Japan and Mexico stepped into America’s place to salvage it.

Both have also intensified their trade negotiations with the EU, which itself is rushing to defend globalization from a suddenly protectionist America. Read more “World Not Waiting for America: Pacific Nations Continue Trade Deal”

Allies Hope for the Best from Trump, Must Plan for the Worst

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States listen to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of NATO making a speech in Brussels, May 25 (NATO)

American allies are coping with Donald Trump’s disruptive presidency in similar ways, a collection of essays in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine reveals:

  • All feel they need to step up and defend the liberal world order as Trump is determined to put “America first”.
  • They worry that a new era of American isolationism could make the world poorer and less safe.
  • Leaders are doing their best to rein in Trump’s worst impulses and most of their voters understand the need for pragmatism, although they have little faith in this president. Read more “Allies Hope for the Best from Trump, Must Plan for the Worst”