How he will punish the “delinquents” remains to be seen, but we might get a hint from how he is, currently, treating Japan.
The Financial Times discusses the president’s transactional approach to alliances in an informative article that is, mainly, about a new Japanese jet fighter programme. Japan, the article explains, is planning to replace its F2 family of jet fighters; unlike Canada, it aims to do so before they are totally obsolete. Japan is exploring three options to develop “a sixth generation Tempest stealth fighter, according to three people familiar with discussions about the F-3 programme.” Their options are:
- A totally Japanese development ~ something their aircraft industry, unlike Canada’s, might be able to do;
- A combined project with Britain’s BAE for it’s new sixth-generation Tempest fighter (pictured). This appears to be the Japanese government’s preferred option; and
- A combined project with the American firm Lockheed-Martin, builder of the fifth-generation F-22 and F-35 aircraft.
There is considerable worry that President Trump will use his leverage ~ America’s security ‘guarantee’ for Japan ~ to force Japan to choose the American option. That would be in keeping with his predilections. The FT says that he has, already, ” stunned Japan in July when [he] said [America] would request a fourfold increase to $8bn when the allies renegotiated the “special measures agreement” that determines their contributions … [and] …Mr Trump has made Japan, and his own military officials, nervous by threatening to withdraw troops unless Tokyo pays more. He has also frequently touted Japanese purchases of US weapons in his meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.“
This is, of course, absolutely archetypical of President Trump’s transactional approach to protecting America’s vital interests: nothing, including global peace, is more important than his view of the quarterly ‘bottom line.’ He is completely oblivious to the fact that a strong, prosperous, friendly Japan (and Taiwan) is a major force aiding him in containing China in East Asia. All he sees is that Japan seems, to him, to be getting something for nothing. In Donald Trump’s worldview, only America is entitled to get that.
President Trump uses economic levers because they are the only ones that he thinks matter. I think that he really wants to disengage, militarily, from a world that he doesn’t understand and which actually frightens him. But he has too many top advisors who will push back against any serious disengagement. What they will not fight against is Trump’s use of economic and trade tools ~ tariffs and so on ~ to punish allies who don’t pay what he thinks is a “fair share.” That includes Japan ~ he wants them to quadruple their payments, and he is reported to want “cost plus 50%” from South Korea and Taiwan. His foreign policy and military advisors, strategic hawks though they may be, will not argue with him over that. Canada needs to take note. As our economy weakens, Canada cannot afford further punishment from the USA for not doing what we should have done, years ago … which includes fast-tracing the purchase of a new fifth-generation, American made fighter to replace our ancient CF-18s.