Trump continues with his demolition of multilateralism

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from UNESCO is the latest evidence of the president’s dangerous strategy of moving the world’s most important democracy away from multilateral organizations and agreements. The announcement arrived at the same time as some harsh criticism of the nuclear agreement with Iran signed by six countries in 2015, including his own, which prevented the regime in Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons in the short term.

As the outgoing director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova emphasized upon learning of the news that the work of this international organization is vital for strengthening the links between these sites which represent our shared inheritance. Washington’s decision represents a large blow for this renowned and widely accepted project, especially if other countries decide to follow the path laid out by the current White House incumbent. This is not the first time the U.S. has left UNESCO; under Ronald Reagan, the country took a similar measure, accusing the organization of being too favorable to the Soviet Union. Trump now claims a constant anti-Israeli bias in the decisions taken by the organization.

However, while Reagan’s decision can be understood as part of a more tactical game on the world stage in which the then-president would never give up, Trump’s decision appears to be the result of a complete failure to understand the necessity of being present on all of the world’s stages where important decisions of any type are taken. If UNESCO’s resolutions toward Israel are unacceptable to the U.S., the logical response would be for it to use its strength and influence from inside the organization in order to prevent or counteract them. An empty seat always represents a surrender and Trump should understand the damage he is doing to his country — and incidentally, to his allies — with his increasingly isolationist politics.

Even more alarming, if possible, is the identical path Trump has started down with regards to the Iran nuclear deal, the signing of which the president previously savaged during the election campaign and that has been in his sights since assuming the presidency. A week does not go by without Trump negatively mentioning an agreement whose first verifiable consequences were to stop the military aspect of the Iranian nuclear program dead in its tracks and to immediately reduce hostilities in an area of the world—which does not exactly need more tension. Deliberately ignoring all of this, Trump has focused his efforts on denigrating the treaty, as recently as this Wednesday, stating in an interview that it was “incompetently drawn.” It must be pointed out that a U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal would represent a devastating blow for stability, not only in the Middle East, but in the rest of the world too. The American president’s isolationist drift could turn out to be very costly indeed.