HHow much damage did Donald Trump do around the world, can it be repaired, and did he accomplish anything of lasting significance? The evaluation of the international legacy of the 45th president of the United States is not so much a conventional survey of achievements and failures. It’s more like tracking the attacks of a curmudgeonly rogue elephant that leaves a trail of random destruction and mangled shibboleths in its wake. The wild wave of pardons last week is a good example.
First, the big picture. Trump’s confrontational attitude, combined with his “America First” agenda, seriously undermined transatlantic relations and America’s global leadership. Joe Biden promises to fix this, but it won’t be easy. Frenchman Emmanuel Macron took advantage of the introspection of the United States to promote ideas of European autonomy and integration. Leaders of the UK, Hungary and Poland cynically praised Trump for his own political ends.
Trump’s poorly disguised hostility left deep scars on Germany, Europe’s most important ally. This apparent phobia, fueled by Berlin’s large trade surplus and relatively low defense spending, had a misogynistic tinge. At times, he was incredibly rude to Chancellor Angela Merkel. A recent Pew poll found that only 34% of Germans believe that American relations are in good shape.
“Transatlantic relations worsened exponentially under Trump due to his open disdain for the European Union, his often belligerent interactions with EU leaders, and his vocal support for Brexit,” a new analysis of the International Institute for Strategic Studies He says. However, the divergences were already evident before Trump, he notes. George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was deeply unpopular in Europe. Barack Obama’s “turn to Asia” made old friends feel unloved.
All that said, NATO not only survived Trump’s constant criticism; In some respects, its original purpose, to deter Russia, was reinforced by the deployment of US forces in Eastern Europe and the Baltic republics. Trump’s demand that European allies spend more on defense was not unreasonable, although his harassment brought only limited change.
Trump’s habit of thinking transactionally, not strategically, had a disastrous impact in Asia and elsewhere. He treated loyal allies Japan and South Korea with disdain, especially for flawed talks with North Korea. Was pleased shakers like Rodrigo DuterteThe president of the Philippines antagonized Pakistan, but still failed to significantly improve ties with India.
The fierce mutual animosity currently poisoning US-China relations it is Trump’s most troublesome geopolitical legacy. Before 2017, there was still a chance that the old and new superpowers could find ways to get along. That is gone. China is now viewed by Americans of all stripes as the number one threat. Beijing’s aggressive leadership has many flaws. But Trump’s trade and tech wars, Taiwan’s risky politics, and “Wuhan virus” rhetoric made things worse.
Biden has bought the fight from China, which looks set to continue. At the same time, it must repair the damage caused by Trump’s inexplicably deferential attitude toward Vladimir Putin in Russia, the backdrop to the Mueller investigation and his impeachment. This puzzle has yet to be solved. It resurfaced last week when Trump downplayed Russia’s latest cyber attack.
In assessing Trump’s foreign policy record, supporters point to his brokering of new ties between Israel and the Arab regimes, including the grandly named Abraham Accords. If these agreements lead to a more comprehensive and just solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict, claims of “historic” success may ultimately be justified. To date, Trump’s main contribution has been to help secure Benjamin Netanyahu, a far-right prime minister. with the opposition of the majority of voters in Israel, who is on trial for alleged corruption.
In conflict zones around the world, Trump’s America was largely absent without permission. He promised to end “wars forever.” But in Afghanistan, their peace efforts camouflaged a dishonorable fight for the exit. He betrayed Kurdish allies in Syria, falsely claimed to have defeated Isis, and ceded the battlefield to Bashar al-Assad, Russia and Turkey. By ruining the Iran nuclear deal, he made a infinitely worse dangerous problem.
Trump fans like Fred Fleitz, writing for Fox News, evoke a mirror image of these shameful dropouts. Trump “restored American leadership on the world stage, put the interests of the American people ahead of the dictates of globalist foreign policy elites, and kept our nation out of unnecessary wars,” Fleitz wrote. Biden, he predicted, will “hand over America’s sovereignty to the United Nations and Europe” and allow Russia and China to “walk all over America.”
It is difficult to make sense of such seemingly distorted opinions. But that, in a nutshell, is the great bifurcated conundrum left behind by the Trump era. Trump was a catastrophe for the climate and environment crisis, for the Covid emergency, for racial and gender equality, for the global fight against poverty and hunger, and for the UN and multilateralism in general. In a connected world, he cut the cord.
Trump encouraged authoritarian “strongmen” leaders like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and hooligans like Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. He pampered autocrats like Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Putin of Russia. Worse still, his lies eroded trust in democracy and the rule of law, at home and abroad. However, even when, properly and electorally defeated, he leaves slowly, he continues to antagonize and divide, and to be praised by the right.
It may not be so difficult to see why. Trump’s personal brand of evil appealed to all the worst human instincts, justified all vile prejudices, excused all mean and unpleasant thoughts. His is a blind ignorance that resonates with those who are unwilling or unable to see. Falsehood is always easier than truth. For these reasons, Trump’s global legacy is Trumpism. It will live: toxic, immoral, omnipresent and always threatening.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.