The Trump Effect (5)

Mark MacKinnon, the Globe and Mail‘s senior international corespondent, says, in a recent article in that newspaper, that “No matter what happens on U.S. election day, no one will ever say that Donald Trump did not leave his mark on the world during his time as President of the United States.

I had hoped that the Trump Effect might include getting countries like Canada (and Germany and others) to step up (again) and do a full and fair share of making the wold safe for the US-led (largely liberal-democratic) West. But, Mr MacKinnon says “if he is elected, Mr. Biden will inherit a world made wary of U.S. power and skeptical of its long-term intentions. Key institutions such as the NATO military alliance and the Group of Seven industrialized countries have been weakened over the past four years, while the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have all grown more assertive.” In other words, President Trump’s bullying, hectoring and lying have all weakened the West, not strengthened it.

Mark MacKinnon acknowledges that not everyone will be happy to see Donald Trump lose ~ IF he loses ~ Israel and some Arab states and some Balkan states have benefited from the Trump presidency. “Mr. Trump’s presidency has unquestionably made an impact on regions, such as the Middle East, that he has an interest in … [he says, and] … His administration’s biggest foreign-policy accomplishment may be this year’s agreements to normalize ties between Israel and the Gulf kingdoms of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. But peace agreements they are not. The UAE and Bahrain were never formally at war with Israel, and the deals do nothing to address the status of the Palestinians who have lived under Israeli military occupation since 1967.” I disagree with that last bit. I think the recent Abraham Accords help to define the status of Palestine, put simply, it doesn’t matter to the Arabs. Palestine and the Palestinians were, always, just a political tool to use against Israel, but now the Sunni Arabs need Israel to help protect them from Iran (and Turkey? (and themselves?) as they try to sort out their own region in their own way.

But, Mark MacKinnon says, “This White House has often been more noticeable for its absence than its engagement on key international files such as the popular uprising in Belarus and the renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The latter conflict – which risks escalating into a regional war that could draw in Turkey, which has supported Azerbaijan, and Russia, which is treaty-bound to defend Armenia – would seem particularly ripe for Mr. Trump to play a role in solving, given his warm relationships with both Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan … [but] … Mr. Trump has yet to make a statement on either Belarus or Nagorno-Karabakh. “Never before has the U.S. been so much absent,” said Olesya Vartanyan, a Caucasus analyst at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank.” He says that the ““Trump’s administration never saw an interest in taking part in any efforts related to [the Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict.”I suspect there is considerable “interest” and a lot of chatter in the US State Department but the White House is, I guess, totally and completely focused on the coming election and Russia could invade Lithuania, a NATO ally, to seize a corridor to Kaliningrad and President Trump would, most likely, not notice.

Mr MacKinnon says that President Trump took many steps “that undermined the integrity of NATO, an alliance whose relevance he has repeatedly questioned. Meanwhile, the President divided the G7 by repeatedly suggesting that Russia be readmitted, despite the annexation of Crimea and Mr. Putin’s ongoing military support for separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine, as well as Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria … [but Jasmin Mujanovic, an expert on the Balkans, gets it right, I think, when he says that ““From a European perspective, the problem isn’t Donald Trump, it’s the American electorate.” In other words,” Mark MacKinnon suggests, “even if Mr. Biden wins the Nov. 3 election, America’s allies and rivals alike are left to wonder what kind of leader U.S. voters will elect in 2024 or 2028.” This is a point I have made several times. Biden may replace Trump in 2021 but the Trumpian ideas will live on and anotherAmerica Firster may be elected in 2024 because many tens of millions of Americans share those ideas …

… it is very possible to be a Tumpian without sharing any of Donald J Trumps many and manifestly dangerous and harmful personal attributes.

Mr MacKinnon reminds us that “Mr. Biden was vice-president when Barack Obama first came to office in 2008, promising to change America’s role in the world after the disastrous invasion of Iraq five years earlier. One of the supposed fixes was to “pivot” America’s focus away from the Middle East and toward Asia and a rising China. If Mr. Biden makes it to the top job, he will need to contemplate an even more daunting realignment … [Yossi Alpher, an Israeli political analyst and former Mossad official, is quoted as saying that] … “Given the damage that Trump has done, Biden can’t just say ‘I’m pivoting to the East.’ He needs to be more active in Europe, in the Caucasus, in the Middle East, in Asia. That will be Biden’s challenge.”

My guess, based upon my reading of his record, is that Joe Biden is a liberalinternationalist of the Nixon-Reagan-Bush(41)-Clinton school. He was not, I think, a “cold warrior” of the Truman-Eisenhower-Johnson school and I suspect he will want to try to resolve Cold War 2.0 … but I believe he will fail. His primary achievable task will be to reunite the West (liberal and conservative democracies) behind a few common goals, including: containing China, Iran and Russia; building upon the slowly growing “peace” in the Middle East; and rebuilding international alliances and institutions (such as the WTO and the WHO). I think that, if elected next month, he will reach out, early, to Canada ~ a traditional ally and a like minded liberal democracy ~ but his domestic policies and priorities will create political problems for Justin Trudeau. I suspect that both Joe Biden and Canadians will be happier when Erin O’Toole is prime minister: relations will be more cleat and straight forward because the Trudeau and Biden agendas are NOT compatible in most important areas.

The Canadian “problem” is that Justin Trudeau is more like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than he is like either Joe Biden or Nikki Haley. He, Prime Minister Trudeau, is NOT in the American political mainstream. Erin O’Toole, on the other hand, could be described as either a right leaning Democrat or a left wing Republican, but he’s comfortably familiar to the mainstream in both parties:

Mark MacKinnon says that “Perhaps the biggest loss of the past four years is the hardest to see. As Mr. Trump has cheered harsh police actions against protesters in the U.S., and ridiculed his country’s media – and took only token action after Saudi agents killed Jamal Khashoggi, a critical journalist who was also a Washington Post columnist – it has become easier for authoritarians such as Mr. Xi, Mr. Putin and Mr. Erdogan to defend the repression of their own critics … [thus] … Yu Jie, a China specialist at London-based Chatham House, said that while future relations between Beijing and Washington will be rocky no matter who wins the Nov. 3 vote, China’s leadership was likely more comfortable with Mr. Trump. His “erratic” style of rule, combined with well-publicized episodes of police violence, and the U.S.’s bungled handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, have strengthened the Communist Party by making democracy look less appealing to ordinary Chinese, Ms. Yu said …[and he added] … “Before Donald Trump came to power, the U.S. was looked up to by China’s youngsters, who said ‘that’s the place where I want to study.’ Not now … They’ve made a comparison between the two systems and thought ‘perhaps this is safer for us, even if we don’t have the political freedoms.’”” Once again, Joe Biden, IF he becomes POTUS, is likely to want allies, like Erin O’Toole, who will stand up to and help to contain China rather than heads of government like Justin Trudeau who are still, desperately, looking for ways to get along with China. The Cold War with China is here whether Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau like it or not; that’s part of the Trump Effect. If he is elected Joe Biden will be looking to Canada to step up and to play a bigger role in defending Europe against Russian opportunistic adventurism and in defending East and South Asia against Chinese bullying. He’s not going to find a friend in Justin Trudeau; but Erin O’Toole and Joe Biden will be able to work together as like-minded colleagues.

There might be a snap election in the offing in Canada, the CBC‘s Aaron Wherry says. If Joe Biden wins the US presidential election in early November then Canadians will be able to choose, wisely, to dump the unethical, inept Justin Trudeau and replace him with a real leader who can and will work with the United States FOR Canada: Erin O’Toole.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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