How an iso­lated Trump in­sulted al­lies and dis­missed the world China: elec­tion med­dling claim ‘to­tally far-fetched’

Bay of Plenty Times - - WORLD - Charles Lip­son, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal science at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago

For a meet­ing of diplo­mats, there was lit­tle diplo­macy to be seen on either side at the United Na­tions, write

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ar­rived at the United Na­tions this week look­ing to rally global sup­port against Iran and show that his poli­cies on North Korea were low­er­ing the risk of nu­clear war.

By Thurs­day, he made clear he didn’t care whether he per­suaded any­one.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what world lead­ers think on Iran,” he said after ab­sorb­ing crit­i­cism from Amer­ica’s al­lies up close, in­sist­ing that “Iran’s go­ing to come back to me and make a deal”.

The com­ment was em­blem­atic of Trump’s en­tire ap­proach at a meet­ing many world lead­ers use to help nar­row di­vides, not widen them. After dou­bling down on his “Amer­ica First” ap­proach, with its in­sis­tence on na­tional sovereignty and re­jec­tion of glob­al­ism, he’ll leave New York this week with al­lies and ad­ver­saries as frus­trated as ever with the US over is­sues from trade to cli­mate change to Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram.

For a meet­ing of diplo­mats, there was lit­tle diplo­macy to be seen on either side.

The push­back on Trump and his ap­proach to for­eign pol­icy started dur­ing his speech to the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly on Wed­nes­day, when a mur­mur of laugh­ter greeted the pres­i­dent’s claim that his ad­min­is­tra­tion had ac­com­plished more than al­most any in US his­tory. A day later at a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing he hosted, Bo­li­vian Pres­i­dent Evo China is flatly deny­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tion that it is in­ter­fer­ing in Novem­ber’s midterm elec­tions, im­ply­ing that it is the United States that has a track record of med­dling in other coun­tries’ busi­ness.

With an ac­ri­mo­nious trade dis­pute and an in­creas­ingly frac­tious se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment, the lat­est tit-for-tat could worsen the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the world’s largest economies.

“I be­lieve the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity knows very well who is most used to med­dling in the in­ter­nal af­fairs of oth­ers,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry, told Mo­rales, who has long­stand­ing anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ments, in­sulted the US to Trump’s face, say­ing Amer­ica had no in­ter­est in up­hold­ing democ­racy.

More sur­pris­ing was the chid­ing from al­lies.

In a ref­er­ence to Trump’s re­buke of al­liances and mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions, UK Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said that de­liv­er­ing for cit­i­zens at home “does not have to be at the ex­pense of global co­op­er­a­tion”. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron dis­puted Trump’s claim that ties with France were “99 per cent good”, say­ing “the dis­agree­ments are known and they are more than 1 per cent”, cit­ing a di­ver­gence over is­sues in­clud­ing cli­mate change and Iran.

“It’s never been like this be­fore,” said Daniel Kurtzer, a for­mer am­bas­sador to Egypt and Is­rael un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush who’s now a pro­fes­sor at Prince­ton. “US pol­icy al­ways has en­gen­dered op­po­si­tion from al­lies — Ger­many and France dur­ing re­porters. He did not name the United States but was re­spond­ing to a ques­tion about Trump’s claim Bei­jing was try­ing to in­flu­ence the midterms.

“They do not want me or us to win be­cause I am the first pres­i­dent to ever chal­lenge China on trade,” Trump said at a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing, “and we are win­ning on trade — we are win­ning on ev­ery level”.

But the Pres­i­dent and his top aides of­fered no ev­i­dence to sup­port the con­tention that China was med­dling.

Trump’s ire ap­peared sparked by a four-page sup­ple­ment that the an English­language the 2003 in­va­sion of Iraq — but what’s new is the de­ri­sion.”

No one was in a bridge-build­ing mood. With US-China trade ten­sions only get­ting worse, Trump sug­gested his much-touted friend­ship with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping was com­ing to an end, and ac­cused Bei­jing of in­ter­fer­ing in the up­com­ing US midterm elec­tions.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials an­grily re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tions yes­ter­day, say­ing the US was “smear­ing” their coun­try.

Al­most as glar­ing was the mini-drama that un­furled at a lun­cheon for lead­ers on Wed­nes­day, when cam­eras caught the pres­i­dent ig­nor­ing Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s at­tempt to say hello. Trump then curtly shook his hand but would not get up from his seat as he did for other lead­ers.

Trump later said at a free­wheel­ing press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day that he re­jected Trudeau’s re­quest for a one-onone meet­ing, say­ing “Canada has The world loathes what Trump says, but they pay deep at­ten­tion to the new cred­i­ble threats of eco­nomic and mil­i­tary co­er­cion. pub­li­ca­tion owned by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, bought in the

Asked about the news­pa­per ads, Geng said the idea that they amounted to elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence was “to­tally far­fetched and fic­tional”.

“We ad­vise the US side to stop its un­war­ranted ac­cu­sa­tions and slan­der against China and re­frain from wrong words and deeds that might hurt our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and fun­da­men­tal in­ter­ests.”

Iowa was the per­fect tar­get for China for a num­ber of rea­sons. For one, its sta­tus as the first state to vote dur­ing pres­i­den­tial pri­mary sea­son gives it out­size in­flu­ence over the elec­toral process. Sec­ond, it has a spe­cial sta­tus in the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship. Long be­fore he be­came China’s pres­i­dent, Xi trav­elled to Iowa, to learn about agri­cul­ture. Third, Iowa, a ma­jor grower of soy beans and pro­ducer of pork, stands to suf­fer greatly from an ex­tended trade war.

The Iowa gov­er­nor’s race is close. The lat­est polls sug­gest that Fred Hubbell, the Demo­cratic can­di­date has an edge over in­cum­bent Repub­li­can, Kim Reynolds. treated us very badly”. Trudeau’s of­fice later said he had never sought a meet­ing. “Lash­ing out at the Cana­di­ans in highly per­sonal terms was diplo­matic car­nage,” said Richard Gowan, a se­nior fel­low at the United Na­tions Uni­ver­sity’s Cen­ter for Pol­icy Re­search. Gowan called Trump’s more than hour-long press con­fer­ence “a steam­ing hot mess”. Trump and his team be­lieve they can af­ford to be dis­mis­sive. Iran’s econ­omy has been pinched by US sanc­tions that he vows will only get tougher. Trump said his out­reach to North Korea helped stave off a nu­clear war that looked im­mi­nent when he came to of­fice. If Canada doesn’t back down on dairy tar­iffs, Trump ar­gued, he’ll just tax cars im­ported from the north.

“The world loathes what Trump says, but they pay deep at­ten­tion to the new cred­i­ble threats of eco­nomic and mil­i­tary co­er­cion,” said Charles Lip­son, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal science at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago. “Trump sees the old in­ter­na­tional or­der as fun­da­men­tally un­sus­tain­able.”

As the week went on, do­mes­tic pol­i­tics proved to be in­creas­ingly dis­tract­ing, with sto­ries about his em­bat­tled Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh crowd­ing Trump’s for­eign pol­icy agenda out of the head­lines.

That led to some awk­ward mo­ments. Most glar­ing was dur­ing the open­ing of his meet­ing with Ja­pa­nese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, when he ac­cused Democrats of “bring­ing peo­ple out of the woods” to smear Ka­vanaugh.

“They can do that to any­body, they can to it to any­body,” Trump said as he sat next to Abe.

“Other than per­haps Prime Min­is­ter Abe be­cause he’s so pure.”

As his UN trip wound down, Trump de­clined to ac­knowl­edge the distress he ap­peared to have left in his wake. Asked about the laugh­ter that greeted the open­ing of his Gen­eral Assem­bly speech, the US pres­i­dent said the au­di­ence was laugh­ing with him, not at him.

“We had fun,” Trump said. “Peo­ple had a good time with me.”

Bloomberg’s Robert Hut­ton and Gre­gory Vis­cusi con­trib­uted.

PHOTO / AP

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