Support from Uncle Sam
Last week Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis received a letter from US President Donald Trump, who I prefer to call the emperor of Trumpistan for all of his airs and gaudiness, in which Trump promised that the United States will continue to be a stalwart supporter of the Baltic States. He also mentioned that he is a fan of the New York Knicks basketball team, and so he is also a big fan of Latvian breakout star Kristaps Porzingis, who has posted very good results during his two seasons, even though the team itself has not done so well.
I would have said that Trump’s statement about ongoing support should be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as how this is a man who has constantly changed his mind about one thing after another, but now Trump has also signalled, after a meeting with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, that he no longer considers NATO to be obsolete, as he often said during last year’s campaign in America and even after he was already elected, but not yet in office. The unbelievable ego of Trump made him declare that he himself had convinced NATO to join in the fight against terrorism, and so that is why he no longer thinks poorly of the alliance. It is entirely unclear, as usual, what he is talking about, because NATO installed a supremo for the war against terror last summer, but at least there is no longer reason to be utterly concerned about the possibility that the United States might turn its back on NATO and, by extension, Latvia. True, Trump continues to carp about the fact that member states are not keeping their bargain in terms of financing for defence and for NATO. He wasn’t really joking when he presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a “bill” for hundreds of millions of Euros for American services rendered. That, of course, is utter hogwash; NATO does not work that way. But generally speaking, apparently the man has come to his senses about the alliance.
This is not the only area in which the Donald has changed his mind. In recent times, he has declared that he no longer considers China to be a currency manipulator, which he claimed endlessly during the campaign. His bromance with the Russian tsar appears to be cooling, as seen in last week’s meeting between America’s Secretary of Exxon, um, I mean State, Tillerson, meeting with his opposite number in Moscow, Lavrov, and then with the tsar himself, Tillerson emerging from said meetings with the declaration that relations between the United States and Russia are at an all-time low. That, of course, should concern Latvians. If the two major powers of the world are finding themselves at loggerheads, our little country, and not only it, might find itself crushed in the middle. Fingers crossed that that will not happen.
In all other respects, however, the Trump Administration is an utter disaster. There are some 550 government posts in America for which the president makes a nomination, and then the Senate votes to confirm or reject the nominee. Of these, the immense number of 22 have so far been approved, and another 40 or so are in the pipeline. That makes 62, barely over 10 per cent of all of the appointees. There is endless infighting in the White House between nationalist idiot Steve Bannon and his supporters, and more rational people such as Trump’s daughter and her husband. The husband, Jared Kushner, has less than zero experience in politics and diplomacy, but he has been given carte blanche to basically run the country’s entire foreign policy sector. The administration’s hapless Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, finds himself lying constantly, and then last week he got into really hot water by declaring that in comparison to the dictator of Syria, Adolf Hitler was actually not such a bad guy, because he never “sank” to using chemical weapons. The jaws dropping to the floor after this remark must have resounded for miles around. Could it possibly be that the press secretary didn’t know about the Holocaust and the gas ovens? No, no, he said, he didn’t mean that. He knew what happened at Holocaust centres. He was talking about innocents. The Jews in the ovens weren’t innocents? And so on and so on.
Latvia can be pleased that Washington claims to support it. The utter train wreck that is America’s current government, however, should make everyone lose sleep at night. God grant that the emperor of Trumpistan doesn’t drag the whole world down with him!
“I would have said that Trump’s statement about ongoing support should be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as how this is a man who has constantly changed his mind about one thing after another, but now Trump has also signalled, after a meeting with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, that he no longer considers NATO to be obsolete.”
Karlis Streips is a Us-born Latvian journalist