Trump cuts an iso­lated fig­ure on world stage

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Dur­ing a dif­fi­cult visit to Europe Don­ald Trump ap­peared out of sync with tra­di­tional al­lies, strug­gling to show that un­ortho­dox strate­gies to­ward ri­val pow­ers Rus­sia and China can de­liver re­sults. At one point Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel ex­changed a know­ing glance as the US pres­i­dent veered off on an­other tan­gent. What were to be re­marks about women en­trepreneurs had be­come a Trumpian so­lil­o­quy on his daugh­ter Ivanka’s mer­its and his pa­ter­nal fail­ings. “If she weren’t my daugh­ter it would be so much eas­ier for her,” Trump said. “It might be the only bad thing go­ing for her.”

A few feet away, Merkel and Trudeau’s nervy laughs were cor­po­ral ac­knowl­edg­ment that Trump’s po­lit­i­cal peers are still un­sure how to take the mer­cu­rial 71-year-old. Through­out the meet­ing there was a sense the pres­i­dent of the United States, leader of the so-called “in­dis­pens­able na­tion,” has shifted po­si­tions, leav­ing every­one else strug­gling to cor­rect. In War­saw, on the first stop of his four day trip, Trump sought to re­assert his claim to lead the free world. Like a king rid­ing along the cavalry front­line, he sounded the charge against ter­ror­ism and bu­reau­cracy, which he painted as threats to Christian civ­i­liza­tion.

He em­braced al­lies by af­firm­ing his com­mit­ment to NATO’s mu­tual de­fense clause, sat­is­fy­ing long­stand­ing de­mands to be clearer about the al­liance. But for many, Trump’s idea of the West as a group of na­tions that “cry out ‘We want God’” - a West of high borders and fierce na­tion­al­ism - seemed out of kil­ter with the times. “It is no ac­ci­dent that he gave this speech to a coun­try with an ul­tra-conservative and Euroscep­tic gov­ern­ment,” said Thomas Wright of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. “The great risk,” Wright added, is that Trump’s re­marks “be­gin di­vid­ing Europe into old and new - or those who don’t like him and his mes­sage and those who do.”

Trump’s claim to be the guardian of West­ern val­ues was fur­ther un­der­mined by a press con­fer­ence that saw sus­tained at­tacks on the free press and a down­play­ing of Rus­sia’s elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence. Later at the G20 in Hamburg, Trump ap­peared even more clearly out­side the policy main­stream. The art­ful draft­ing of a joint com­mu­nique saw world lead­ers band­ing to­gether without the United States: In the fight against cli­mate change, it was 19 in fa­vor and a lone Trump against. “To get 20 of your friends to agree where to have din­ner to­gether tonight is re­ally hard,” said top Trump economic ad­vi­sor Gary Cohn, deny­ing US iso­la­tion.

Trump’s ef­forts to re­set re­la­tions with global ri­vals were equally vexed. Dur­ing a his­toric two-hour-and-six­teen-minute meet­ing with Vladimir Putin, the US pres­i­dent ef­fec­tively agreed to put Rus­sia’s 2016 elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence in the past - a ma­jor con­ces­sion to Moscow. “After very sub­stan­tive di­a­logue on this, they agreed to move on to other dis­cus­sions,” said Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin. But that bought few tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits beyond a pos­si­ble cease­fire agree­ment for south­ern Syria.

Of­fi­cials are hope­ful the mea­sure, ef­fec­tive from noon yes­ter­day, can stem the blood­let­ting and open the door for a broader cool­ing of the vi­cious six-year civil war - but such cease­fires have come and gone many times be­fore. For months, ne­go­tia­tors in Amman had been search­ing for some­thing much more durable: a safe zone, en­forced by troops, which would se­cure Jor­dan’s bor­der and al­low the regime’s op­po­nents their own ter­ri­tory.

That prospect still seems dis­tant. “The best pos­si­ble out­come is that this ‘agree­ment’ be­comes a build­ing block for more US-Rus­sian co­op­er­a­tion in Syria,” Cliff Kupchan of Eura­sia group told clients in a re­search note. “But the emerg­ing truce also faces sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cles, and its fate is un­clear at best.”

On North Korea, Trump ap­peared un­able to trans­late weeks of sus­tained pub­lic pressure and angry tweets on China into mean­ing­ful diplo­matic progress. Across the ta­ble from Trump, Xi Jin­ping of­fered lit­tle in­di­ca­tion he would im­pose the type of sanc­tions that could make Py­ongyang think twice about de­vel­op­ing ever-more pow­er­ful long range nu­clear mis­siles. Trump was left to aban­don his own sense of ur­gency. “It may take longer than I like, it may take longer than you’d like... but there will be suc­cess in the end, one way or the other,” he said. With his ide­o­log­i­cal hard­line and diplomacy fail­ing to live up to his “win­ning” rhetoric, Trump’s sec­ond for­eign visit left “Amer­ica first” at risk of be­com­ing “Amer­ica alone”.

— AFP

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and First Lady Me­la­nia Trump dis­em­bark from Air Force One upon ar­rival at An­drews Air Force Base in Mary­land on Satur­day.

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