Trump be­gins re­siz­ing U.S. role on world stage

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Tracy Wilkinson

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the his­toric Paris cli­mate ac­cord is the most con­crete sign yet that his “Amer­ica first” ap­proach to for­eign pol­icy has be­gun to dis­rupt the global or­der and ul­ti­mately could cede Washington’s dom­i­nant role on the world stage to China.

For ar­guably the first time since Washington built a web of mil­i­tary, trade and diplo­matic al­liances from the ru­ins of World War II, and as­sumed sole su­per­power sta­tus af­ter the Cold War, a pres­i­dent has thumbed his nose at vir­tu­ally the en­tire world — al­lies and ad­ver­saries alike — to fol­low a go-it-alone strat­egy in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.

Trump’s re­cent over­seas trip left bruised feel­ings in Europe, es­pe­cially af­ter he failed to ac­knowl­edge the por­tion of the NATO char­ter that de­clares an at­tack on one mem­ber is an at­tack on all. It ap­peared a star­tling re­pu­di­a­tion of staunch al­lies that in­voked the char­ter to back U.S. troops in Afghanistan af­ter the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

But his re­treat on cli­mate change — even if the com­mit­ments in the 194-na­tion Paris ac­cord were vol­un­tary and the U.S. al­ready has cut emis­sions sig­nif­i­cantly thanks to shale gas

and more ef­fi­cient cars — clearly marks a new chap­ter in U.S. for­eign pol­icy, one likely to rip­ple around the world.

It could af­fect the U.S. abil­ity to en­ter into other in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, from trade to se­cu­rity, for ex­am­ple, since pre­vi­ous U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tions were deeply in­volved in ne­go­ti­at­ing the Paris ac­cord — and the United States is the world’s sec­ond-largest car­bon emit­ter af­ter China.

It al­ready has sparked a back­lash in Europe, where Ger­many’s pub­lic in­ter­na­tional broad­caster, Deutche Welle, warned that Trump’s un­re­li­a­bil­ity is push­ing Europe to “pivot to Asia,” es­pe­cially China.

Trump’s un­pop­u­lar­ity is so wide­spread in Ger­many that both Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and her chal­lenger Martin Schultz have used him as a punch­ing bag in cam­paign ral­lies ahead of Septem­ber elec­tions.

“We are look­ing at a real weak­en­ing of the lead­er­ship and cred­i­bil­ity of the United States in the world,” said R. Ni­cholas Burns, for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to NATO un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, one of a cho­rus of crit­ics frus­trated by Trump’s de­ci­sion.

While Repub­li­cans largely backed the White House, Sen. Ben Cardin of Mary­land, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, de­scribed “a shock­ing reversal of Amer­i­can global lead­er­ship.”

China, Rus­sia, In­dia and other coun­tries “will move in short or­der to as­sume our spot at the head of the cli­mate diplo­macy ta­ble,” Cardin said.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, who had pressed Trump to re­main in the cli­mate deal, sought Fri­day to down­play the im­pact of the de­ci­sion — with­out quite de­fend­ing it.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that every­one rec­og­nize the United States has a ter­rific record on re­duc­ing our own green­house gas emis­sions,” Tiller­son, for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of en­ergy gi­ant Exxon Mo­bil, said at the State Depart­ment.

“I don’t think we’re go­ing to change our on­go­ing ef­forts to re­duce those emis­sions in the fu­ture ei­ther, so hope­fully peo­ple can keep it in per­spec­tive,” he added.

His pre­de­ces­sor, John F. Kerry, who saw the Paris deal through un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, was less diplo­matic. He said Trump falsely char­ac­ter­ized what the ac­cord re­quired, what it would achieve and who would ben­e­fit from it dur­ing his an­nounce­ment Thurs­day.

“This step does not make Amer­ica first,” Kerry told “CBS Evening News.” “It makes Amer­ica last.”

This is hardly the first White House to dis­agree with al­lies. In the 1970s, Pres­i­dent Nixon’s en­voys threw their weight around over a strong U.S. dol­lar at a time when some Euro­pean cur­ren­cies were weak.

And Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush re­fused to rat­ify the Ky­oto Pro­to­col, a United Na­tions-bro­kered cli­mate change treaty that took ef­fect in 2005.

Then-Sec­re­tary of State Colin Pow­ell later ac­knowl­edged that it was “sober­ing” to see how the de­ci­sion criptech­nol­ogy pled other U.S. diplo­matic ef­forts.

Steve Herz, in­ter­na­tional pol­icy ad­vi­sor for the Sierra Club, an en­vi­ron­men­tal group that strongly sup­ported the cli­mate deal, pre­dicted that the diplo­matic back­lash this time “will be much worse.”

“By aban­don­ing the global ef­fort to con­tain the cli­mate cri­sis, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is se­verely un­der­min­ing its abil­ity to achieve any of its other diplo­matic pri­or­i­ties,” Herz said Wed­nes­day.

Trump’s de­ci­sion came on the heels of a nine-day for­eign trip that saw him em­brace au­to­crats in the Mid­dle East and lec­ture al­lies in the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the 28-mem­ber mil­i­tary al­liance that has helped keep the peace in Europe for seven decades.

To be sure, sev­eral of Trump’s pre­de­ces­sors, in­clud­ing Obama, had de­manded that NATO mem­bers boost mil­i­tary bud­gets. Only five na­tions meet the al­liance goal of spend­ing at least 2% of their gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fense.

But diplo­mats say the dy­nam­ics seem dif­fer­ent now. Trump’s re­peated crit­i­cism of NATO, his praise for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and now his with­drawal from the land­mark cli­mate ac­cord has un­nerved many on the con­ti­nent.

Trump “has rev­o­lu­tion­ized our ideas of what the U.S. stands for,” wrote Martin Wolf, chief eco­nom­ics colum­nist at Bri­tain’s Fi­nan­cial Times. “We live in the world the U.S. made. Now it is un­mak­ing it. We can­not ig­nore that grim re­al­ity.”

The White House and some Repub­li­cans ar­gued Fri­day that leav­ing the Paris ac­cord would help the U.S. econ­omy and not hurt the en­vi­ron­ment.

“The pres­i­dent’s No. 1 pri­or­ity is to get the best deal for the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told re­porters. “The pres­i­dent has made it very clear that he is com­mit­ted to get­ting the best deal for Amer­ica, Amer­ica’s work­ers, Amer­ica’s man­u­fac­tur­ers.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups note that the with­drawal will take four years to im­ple­ment, and that a fu­ture U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion could de­cide to re­join the pact.

For now, other coun­tries are push­ing ahead with am­bi­tious projects to meet their Paris com­mit­ments.

In­dia has an­nounced a plan to end the sale of cars with in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines by 2030. China has com­mit­ted to spend­ing more than $360 bil­lion on re­new­able en­ergy sources, such as wind and so­lar power, through 2020.

China was al­ready widely seen as the chief ben­e­fi­ciary of Trump’s de­ci­sion to re­ject the pro­posed Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. The 12-na­tion trade deal, ne­go­ti­ated by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, was in­tended in part to help con­tain China’s grow­ing eco­nomic and mil­i­tary clout.

In Brussels on Fri­day, a long-planned meet­ing be­tween Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang and Euro­pean Union of­fi­cials be­came an ex­tended gripe about Trump’s de­ci­sion. In a state­ment, the 28 na­tions in the EU and China said they re­mained com­mit­ted to full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Paris ac­cord.

The joint state­ment com­mits to cut­ting back on fos­sil fu­els, de­vel­op­ing more green tech­nol­ogy and help­ing raise $100 bil­lion a year by 2020 to help poorer coun­tries cut their car­bon emis­sions.

“To every­one for whom the fu­ture of our planet is im­por­tant, I say let’s con­tinue go­ing down this path so we’re suc­cess­ful for our Mother Earth,” Merkel said.

In Paris, newly elected French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron al­luded to Trump’s cam­paign slo­gan and, in a rare ut­ter­ing of English in pub­lic, said it was time to “make the planet great again.”

Win McNamee Getty Images

PRES­I­DENT TRUMP’S with­drawal from the Paris cli­mate deal marks a de­ci­sive new chap­ter in U.S. for­eign pol­icy.

Ni­co­las Maeter­linck AFP/Getty Images

PRIME MIN­IS­TERS Li Ke­qiang of China, left, and Charles Michel of Bel­gium meet in Brussels, where they crit­i­cized Trump’s with­drawal from the Paris ac­cord. China and the EU say they will stand by the agree­ment.

Jacquelyn Martin AP

SEC­RE­TARY of State Rex Tiller­son, who op­posed leav­ing the ac­cord, said the U.S. would con­tinue re­duc­ing emis­sions.

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