Sup­port from Un­cle Sam

The Baltic Times - - FRONT PAGE - Karlis Streips

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

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