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What to expect from Donald Trump

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]n principle, Donald Trump thinks that the NATO and non-NATO US traditional allies are free riders, namely fully autonomous decision-makers which accept the US military support, but then do their own way, at least in foreign policy. Donald Trump does not want to pay billions of dollars to protect US friendly nations which, however, do not spend the amount required for their defense.

He is not entirely wrong since currently the United States still bear 73% of NATO’s total cost, although it is worth noting that they manipulate and use most of the Allies’ defense potential for their own purposes.

During the election campaign, Donald Trump has often said that the 28 NATO Member States do not pay their “fair share” and that the Atlantic Alliance is “obsolete” because it has not been focused on the rogue countries’ terrorism.

We believe this stance by Donald Trump is technically wrong, since the Alliance has often favored, with irrational operations, the Middle East regime change and the current encirclement of Russia, which, however, “The Donald” has promised to downsize on its European border.

Hence all US interests, but certainly not European Union’s.

With specific reference to Europe, Donald Trump’s line is to check the support and the possibility of reaching agreements – also at military level – for each NATO country.

Therefore Italy will be relegated to an even smaller role than the current one, because a substantial share of costs shall be paid for the military engagement in the Alliance.

Briefly Europe’s relying fully on the United States is an objectively outdated behavior, though not yet in EU decision-makers’ mind.

In fact, the “mutual” agreement with the winners of the Second World War has long been over.

After all, Donald Trump evaluates the European Union indirectly, according to what he said on “Brexit” to support it: borders are natural and necessary.

People want to see borders – and here we can recall Carl Schmitt with his theory whereby modern liberal States have scarce “political” awareness because they have too much fluid borders.

I think that the future negotiations between a Europe under crisis and Trump’s USA, which have no interest in managing relations with EU technocrats, will be hard.

Furthermore Trump does no longer reason as his predecessors, who regarded the EU as a US natural ally and even an imitation of the US federal model.

Again in contrast with the “old-style Europe”, he does not even accept the JCPOA, namely the nuclear treaty with Iran. He does not believe in it and he thinks it has been reached by negotiators lacking clear perception of their interests, who got carried away by the Kantian myth of perpetual peace.

Trump deems it the “worst deal ever” and hence the worst danger to US security in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.

The reason which is easy to guess is that – thanks to this nuclear deal, which, as Trump rightly thinks, does not put a stop to the Iranian strategic aims – the Shiite republic can become the dominant system in the whole Middle East. According to the President-elect, the United States will impose again sanctions against7 Iran.

Donald Trump’s United States will never leave the Middle East, which is the axis of their expansion in the oil system and in the periphery of the Russian region.

Indeed Donald Trump thinks of a serious mediation between Israeli and Palestinians – as those carried out in the real estate sector, as he said ironically in a recent interview.

Nevertheless in this case, as in others, the issue will lie in resorting to “tough negotiators instead of naïve academics”- just to use Trump’s words – although, so far, the US negotiators have been mostly politicians and not professors.

In Trump’s opinion, however, also the professional diplomats are too focused on the nuances rather on the substance of negotiations.

And in his opinion, persuasion rather than power characterizes diplomacy at its best.

The President-elect also maintains he has to improve the relations with Israel, which Barack Obama had led to an all-time low.

Israel is the essential friend to make the whole Middle East safe.

It is by no mere coincidence that, during the election campaign, Trump spoke in favor of the US Embassy transfer from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so as to publicly and officially support Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the Territories.

Trump wants to rebuild good relations with the Jewish State because he still deems it the fundamental and indispensable US link in the Middle East.

Gone are the days when Saudi Arabia funded 20% of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and the same holds true for the Saudi support to McCain and to Bush senior and junior, as well as the Qatari funds to Bill Clinton and his Foundation – and the Clintons were well aware that Saudi Arabia and Qatar lavishly funded the ISIS Caliphate.

Not to mention the support provided by Obama to the “radical” Islamic world – which would have been even expanded by Hillary Clinton, if she had won the presidential elections – as well as to the jihadists fighting the tyrant Bashar al-Assad.

With the risk – which has already materialized – of making CIA and the State Department train a brigade of so-called “moderate” jihadists against Assad-led Syria who, soon after being armed and paid by the United States, went to wage their war in Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate.

The ambiguous role played by the United States in Syria will no longer be so: Trump wants Russia to defeat ISIS in Syria on its own and he also wants Germany alone to keep Ukraine.

Trump does not want to repeat the mistakes of the universal “fight against tyrants” and the exporting of democracy everywhere. He wants to reaffirm the US real interests and establish good relations in all the other areas.

NATO is not against Russia, as he has repeatedly said during the election campaign.

As Trump has frequently reiterated, in the Middle East it is better to have strong men than chaos: perhaps it is even better to have Bashar al-Assad with the Russian support than the systematic disaster of the endless more or less “moderate” jihadist groups which, by destroying that country, will lead to a very dangerous void in the whole Middle East.

Only a fool would want chaos instead of Bashar al-Assad – we have already had that fool and it would have been even worse with Hillary Clinton.

With specific reference to China, Donald Trump maintains that, on the one hand, China should settle the North Korean issue. The President-elect sees two options in this regard: US-North Korean negotiations and hard pressures on China to stop North Korea’s nuclear military race.

China fears the protectionist drift to which Trump’s economic policy may lead.

On the other hand, China is glad that the US President is a businessman who does not bother about “human rights”.

However it fears Trump’s position on freedom of the seas in Asia, while Xi Jinping has soon proposed to the US President-elect comprehensive bilateral cooperation on all issues.

The traditional US alliance with Japan will be strengthened and even Duterte’s Philippines will have the opportunity of cooperating with the new United States.

In all likelihood, the worst will materialize with the old and now powerless European Union.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Billionaires, Vanity and Modern Democracy

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The bullying in Washington is the current trend.  On Monday, the British ambassador resigned his post after Trump refused to deal with him.  Well-liked in Washington and the halls of Congress, his downfall was an honest assessment of the Trump administration as ‘inept’ and ‘dysfunctional’.  The letters were leaked in the U.K.

Suppose the president tweets comments contrary to current established policy, does that mean a policy change?  Do departments adapt promptly.  Nobody knows.  That’s dysfunctional, and everyone knows it.  In the meantime, he has enjoyed 17 golf outings since February averaging three a month.  No wonder he is that rare president who does not seem to age in office from the stresses of the job.  Obama’s hair turned gray.

But then a lighter hand on the tiller has kept us out of war, whereas Obama, the Nobel Peace Laureate, destroyed Libya and escalated in Afghanistan.  The consequences are still being felt in Southern Europe particularly, through the hordes of refugees still continuing to arrive.  Also in the resurgence of anti-immigration political parties in northern Europe.

The supreme irony is the fact of refugees being rescued from ramshackle boats and dinghies or often dying in one part of the Mediterranean while the Obamas cruise on a billionaire’s luxury yacht in another.  Is that a metaphor for democracies in the modern world?  One is also reminded of Mr. Modi’s specially woven pinstripe cloth repeating his name endlessly on the stripes in the material. 

Fortunately, the current president does not like the sea, or we would never see him in Washington.  As it is he has had 14 visits to golf clubs (not as much time on the course however) since the beginning of June.  He once had a small yacht that lay anchored in New York until he sold it.  His pleasures have generally centered on the more mundane:  cheeseburgers and women — the younger the better, although perhaps not as young as those that have gotten his friend Jeffrey Epstein in trouble again.  To be fair, Trump had a falling out with him ‘about 15 years ago’ he said recently.  ‘I was not a fan of his, I can tell you,’ he added although he called him a ‘terrific guy’ in 2002.

At least one party had 28 girls to a so-called calendar-girl party at Mar-a-Lago (Trump’s estate and club) in Florida, meaning selection of a calendar girl.  The male celebrities attending, according to the man assigned the task of finding the girls, happened to be Trump and Epstein, and no one else!  So surprised, the man still remembers the story.  The falling out between Trump and Epstein was rumored to have been a business deal.

It brings us to the second resignation, that of Alex Acosta the Labor Secretary.  A Harvard-educated lawyer, Mr. Acosta was the US attorney for the Southern District of Florida when he made a generous agreement with Epstein who had been charged with sex crimes.  For a 13-month sentence of mostly community work, usually from his mansion, Mr. Epstein was protected from further prosecution.  In a clear rebuke to Acosta, the case has been re-opened with a new charge of sex-trafficking minors.

As a result, Mr. Acosta has had to bow to the chorus of calls for his resignation.  The real question:  How ever did Trump get elected?  A mainstream press failure?

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What has happened to Western liberal idea?

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In the recent interview with President Putin, the Financial Times seems to have launched a discussion on liberalism only at its own peril. Inadvertently, a real problem was touched upon, whose pressing nature is no longer denied by anyone in the West. The newspaper had to admit it in its Editorial of 29 June. Its authors claim that the threat to liberalism comes from within, including President Trump and his policies, Brexit and, certainly, the rise of “populist nationalism”. They refer to voters’ disillusionment with liberalism and loss of confidence in the economic system and trust in political elites. The latter are invited to redouble their efforts to take into consideration issues raised by voters and “to renew liberalism”.

Hence, the Russian leader has only identified a problem that Western elites are unable to acknowledge, desperately defending the status-quo as having no alternative. But where is the problem?

The systemic crisis of Western society, if we are to call a spade a spade, has its roots in Reaganomics and Thatcherism. In early 1980s, disregard for the lessons of the Great Depression led to Anglo-American attempts to sort of try the pre-1929 Pure Capitalism. This unleashed the forcers of a “self-regulated market” with the state playing a minimal role – a key concept of liberal economics. The idea of social accountability of business had no place in that system.

At the same time, financial sector was deregulated through the step-by-step repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was one of key elements of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Its architect was British economist John Maynard Keynes. It was only natural that the 2008 crisis also started in the financial sphere which had practically lost touch with the real sector of economy.

Then neoliberalism (as it became known) came to be imposed by Anglo-Saxon nations on the whole of the EU through the Lisbon agenda. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair was pretty good at it. When asked what she considered as her key legacy, Margaret Thatcher pointed to Blair who continued her economic policies under the “New Labour” slogan.

For instance, everyone knows what the nationalization of British railways led to. Profits are reaped by operators, while costs are borne by taxpayers who finance UK Rail, the state-run company responsible for railroad infrastructure. And this is not the only way to privatise profits while collectivising costs. In fact, globalisation has become one such practice for Western elites. Its original motive was quite liberal and far from being altruistic or even geopolitical (Donald Trump has reassessed this part of it when he blamed globalisation for China’s economic rise). It was about cheap labour for increased profits. The jobs  that were to be transferred abroad should have been compensated for by a new technological revolution. But it’s not happening, not even in the second generation. Information technologies do not create as many jobs, and we are already talking of robotisation and artificial intelligence, as well as a universal minimum living allowance as a solution to the problem of poverty and unemployment. It was Keynes who said: “Free trade assumes that if you throw men out of work in one direction you re-employ them in another. As soon as that link is broken the whole of the free trade argument breaks down”.

Liberalism in politics, especially after the end of the Cold War, has degenerated into averaging and alternative-free policies in the “end of history” spirit. Even Henry Kissinger admitted in his “World Order” (2014) that Western elites had again relied on automaticity, as was the case with the market. But as it was shown by Karl Marx supported by modern economists (Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Thomas Picketty and others), free markets always give advantage to the investing classes, which only leads to more inequality.

In this respect, the 45-year post-WW2 period was an exception to the rule due to the creation of a social welfare state – the one that is now being destroyed by the neoliberal economics. Along with it the middle class is being destroyed – the pillar of Western democracy. For these reasons the real discourse of democracy is being substituted in the West by a discourse of liberalism. This involves labelling all protest voters as “populists” and “nationalists”, allowing to side-step the issue of the inability of the actual political system to represent this silent majority. Yet, that is what’s going on when differences blur between the Right and the Left, Tory and Labour in Britain, Republicans and Democrats in the US, or Christian Democrats and Social Democrats in Germany’s “Grand coalition”. Is it any wonder that when an opportunity arises to have a say, this majority votes for Brexit, Trump, or newly-created anti-system parties and movements, often with marginal ideologies?    

In social terms, as BBC is trying to explain in this ongoing debate, liberalism is about protecting the rights of minorities of all kind, including transgender persons. It turns out that there’s nobody to protect the interests of the majority. Yet, we are speaking of the post-war “social contract”, which simply does not work in liberal economics. Anglo-Saxons are on the path of further liberalisation, which the continental Europe cannot afford. Boris Johnson, contributing to the discussion, has said the other day that Brexit is precisely aimed at giving a new lease of life to it by following the US in income tax reductions for business and private individuals.    

British political analyst David Goodhart (in “The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics”, 2017) shows another perspective of the issue. In his opinion, the elites have become cosmopolitan, but the majority has remained rooted in their own countries, regions and communities. In other words, the majority sticks to its national identity, unlike the elites. Even the European middle class, united by similar living standards and occupations, becomes aware of its nationality when hit by bad economic times.

Those who accuse Russia of meddling in internal affairs of Western countries are essentially denying their voters the right to vote, while the genesis of the liberalism crisis clearly points to its roots and origins inside the system. It was no-one else but Angela Merkel who in 2010 spoke of failure of multiculturalism in Germany, while calling for intensifying efforts at integrating immigrants into German society.

It was not Moscow that drew the attention to this problem. As early as 2007, the Economist wrote of a “secular overreachl” in the West, while today many are voicing concerns over a “liberal overreach”. Speaking broadly, it can be said that in the absence of a competitive environment in the realm of ideas after the end of the Cold War (which ended up doing a disservice to Western elites), liberalism has mutated into a dogma, a totalitarian ideology which does not tolerate dissent or pluralism of ideas. No wonder that the elites have resorted to political technologies, media control and political correctness to tighten the grip on the freedom of speech and generate semblance of an alternative-free existence. Social media have put an end to this, becoming a tool for politically alienated electorate to self-organize. As a measure to protect the status quo, the elites are now constructing an artificial dichotomy of liberalism vs authoritarianism, i.e. if not one, it’s definitely the other.

It is, therefore, not about the end of the liberal idea, just as President Putin pointed out, but that it cannot claim to be a one-size-fits-all model negating the wealth of ideas in Europe and the world. The problem is that any ideology, as history has shown, is always aggressive when it claims the ultimate truth, exceptionalism and, as a result, becomes a threat to the world. The notion of a “liberal world order” has also been introduced only recently, as a defensive reaction of the West when its dominance in global politics, economy and finance is coming to an end. Everything could have been different, had Western elites bothered to make this order, Bretton Woods institutions included, truly liberal, open and inclusive. Nobody was preventing them from doing so.

From our partner International Affairs

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Could Trump’s tricks boost his ratings and settle the Syrian conflict?

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Recently the U.S. President Donald Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign in front of a large crowd in Orlando, Florida. The campaign is gaining momentum. We have already seen the celebrities and politicians speeches, preliminary ratings and even the economic models of the New York Times predicting Trump’s victory. For his part, the candidate keeps on delighting the world community by posting promising Tweets to increase his popularity and to retake votes from his opponents. According to Gallup, 45% of U.S. adults said Trump should be impeached and removed from office over the matter, while 53% said he should not be. 45% is too much for the sitting president, so it has been decided to increase his positions in the eyes of freedom fighters.

In this case, we are not speaking about the strict implementation of all his statements, but only about election promises that can snatch the next agenda from competitors. For instance, the situation is so with Trump’s report on the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It looks like the White House analysts are working on the same scenario.

Last Monday President Trump told Fox News that he would leave an intelligence presence in Afghanistan, though he has long hoped for a full withdrawal of U.S. military presence from the country. So, according to Trump’s statement, the U.S. will retain intelligence in the region. That’s ridiculous! Washington has been trying to withdraw troops from Afghanistan for several years.

Boutros Marjana – the head of Syria’s parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee in response stated that this action was focused on the media, to make the average American to believe that the unnecessary and external conflict is over. “Tramp said the same on Syria. However, a radical change in the area of hostilities has not happened. The situation on the ground is quite different from what was stated. So far, in my opinion, the United States has not developed a strategy for the situation in the eastern coast of the Euphrates River”, Marjana said.

And while Trump is posting Tweets for his electorate, the U.S.-led international coalition carried out another air raid on the residential area in Idlib province. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) units were the alleged aim of the aviation. The details on casualties among civilians have not been reported. It worth noting, that during the previous bombardment, apart from the extremists, 49 civilians in a mosque were killed.

U.S. Central Command announced that the attack had been initiated in response to HTS terrorist acts in residential areas. It is unlikely that Trump will actually withdraw from Syria or Afghanistan because the killing of terrorists and civilians does not stop.

Moreover, telling the world about the withdrawal of troops the White House decided to put pressure upon Germany to expand its participation in the Syrian conflict (apparently instead of Washington).

Currently, Germany supplies weapons and surveillance planes to Syria. However, the United States insists on Germany to send its ground forces.

It is hardly surprising that some international coalition members suddenly proclaim their participation in the joint operation against ISIS terrorists under any pretext. In fact, their contingent will be intended to replace the U.S. troops that following Trump’s intention should be withdrawn from Syria. Wonder who will get all the U.S. military bases in Syria? In this situation, the obvious question arises: why should the EU troops be located in Syria instead of the U.S.? And who is going to replace the U.S. forces in Afghanistan?

At the same time, Israel is also playing an active role in the ‘peacemaking’ process in Syria. On June 1, at least 15 citizens, including five women and a child, were killed as a result of the Israeli air strike on Syria.

Anyway, illegal U.S. forces presence is a considerable obstacle to the political settlement of the Syrian conflict. And the cynical Israeli air attacks, as well as its international policy, break any hope for resolving all disputes peacefully. Trump may make the only right decision that will let him increase his ratings using the Syrian issue. The current president should do his best to reconcile the parties, suspend cooperation with Israel, and also establish a dialogue with Turkey, Russia, and Iran. That is very unlikely. Therefore Trump has to go on tricks with a contingent from other states.

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