Wednesday, 15 January, 2020

Donald Trump’s six big foreign-policy problems

In his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump faces major international tests with China, North Korea and on trade, according to an article published by The Star.

Here are six:

Conflict with China

No relationship is more important to the U.S. than its tie with China. Yet no country has been attacked more by Trump than China. Why is this so? Does the Trump team not understand how explosive this issue can be? By supporting Taiwan and undermining Beijing’s “One China” policy, they risk a break of relations, which could lead to military conflict.

Chaos of a trade war

Trump’s campaign rhetoric was aggressively critical of American free trade deals — both with Asia and its North American neighbours, Canada and Mexico. He also targeted China. Since the election, his cabinet choices have only reinforced the truculent approach of the incoming U.S. administration toward global trade. But a trade war could grievously harm America’s economic interests.

Collusion with Russia

What does Vladimir Putin have on Trump? What else could explain Trump’s gushing infatuation with Russia’s strongman? Reports suggest that a summit between Putin and Trump may happen soon. It raises the question: “Why?” Putin oversees a stagnant economy and a weakened military. His only bright spot lately has been getting his man into the Oval Office. But where will this odd couple take us?

Breakup of Europe

Since the 1950s, the cornerstone of international security has been the U.S.-European alliance. Incredibly, that relationship is now in doubt. In words that could have come out of Putin’s mouth, Trump has described NATO as “obsolete” and insulted Europe’s most respected leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. With elections approaching in the Netherlands, France and Germany, his words have thrilled Europe’s far-right political parties.

A Middle East made worse

Trump seems obsessed with “Islamic terror” even as the actual threat has receded in the Middle East. But he has given no details how he will deal with it. Instead, Trump has announced that the United States will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to placate the right-wing rulers of Israel. If this happens, violence in the region is certain to increase.

Risks of a nuclear nightmare

Once again, the Doomsday Clock appears to be ticking. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said on Jan. 1 that his country was in the “last stage” of test-firing a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the United States. Trump’s response was a tweet stating that this test “won’t happen.” But Trump also says he wants to scrap its nuclear agreement with Iran, which would encourage Tehran to build a bomb.

The prominence given to the first 100 days of an American presidency dates to Franklin D. Roosevelt taking office in 1933. He was faced with the horrors of the Depression. By creating the bold experiment he called the “New Deal,” Roosevelt knew that the American people wanted more than reassurance. As he said in his inaugural address: “This nation asks for action, and action now. I am prepared to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.”

Donald Trump’s first 100 days ends April 30. The country that Trump inherits, and the wider world in which it is part, are far different than in Roosevelt’s time. And it’s inconceivable in this polarized 21st century that Trump, or any president for that matter, could match Roosevelt’s early accomplishments.

In the next three months, we will likely have some sense of where we are heading in a Trump world, but the outlook is dire. A year ago, who would have imagined that America’s deeply flawed electoral system would place the world in such a spot?

By Tony Burman; former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News

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