What Trump would be proposing, as we said in November 2016, is a type of total commercial war, with changes in global equilibria, but also in the principal paradigms of world order.
Donald Trump’s European tour can only be called a diplomatic calamity and its last chapter, the meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, has concluded with the greatest scandal in memory regarding a president of the United States: Trump, enchanted by Putin, placing greater credence in Putin’s word than in the investigations of the FBI, of the 17 intelligence agencies in his own country, of the Department of Justice and of Congress. Trump cast it all side after two hours alone with Putin. This time, not even the most ardent Republicans have been able to defend Trump.
The importance of the delegation that the U.S. president sent to Mexico last week confirms that this country is on his geopolitical radar, in a strategy that seems irrational here, but in its logic makes complete sense. And it is not anything new. On Nov. 15, 2016, just a few days after his surprising electoral triumph, we published here that it was what Trump proposed to do upon assuming the presidency of his country. It was not speculation; it was part of a discussion with close members of his team, here in Mexico.
What Trump would be proposing, as we said that Nov. 15, is a type of total commercial war, with changes in global equilibria, but also in the principal paradigms of world order. If there is something that the current paradigms in international politics represent it is respect for the principles the arose after the Napoleonic wars with the so-called Peace of Westphalia. The consequences of that treaty were the acceptance of the principle of territorial sovereignty, the principle of not interfering in internal affairs, and the equal treatment of states, irrespective of their size or power. In practice, we all know that things were not always that way and what resulted in the last century and a half was very unequal for different states. In his last book, titled “World Order,” Henry Kissinger proposes a new kind of Peace of Westphalia for the world, adequate for the current time, that allows coexistence between political systems, adhering to guidelines for basic coexistence. That is, basically, what Hillary Clinton proposed.
The Trump administration, as we said in Nov. 2016, seems to be thinking about something very different: With its profound distancing from China and the creation of blocs centered in the U.S., the proposal, as is no secret to anyone, is to draw closer to Russia.
In that sense, consider that Russia (and Turkey) are the essential pieces for putting an end to the Islamic State and for going about recovering stability in the Middle East. Of course, in that sense, thinking about an anti-Islamic State group military operation, the formula would have to include an agreement with Russia – which in turn backs the Assad regime – to defeat that terrorist force and in thus cut the flow of refugees toward Europe and other countries, as well as diminish the terrorist threats themselves.
That would be the principle divergence from Europe. The Westphalia order, as Kissinger would say, is the one that recovered in Europe after World War II and has set the boundaries for international diplomacy since then.
But Trump wants a more active and interventionist Europe and if he feels that it will not share his objectives, he does not fear distancing himself from it. Although this may appear bold to many, according to Trump’s logic, if it is not useful to his central objectives, NATO is then a burdensome antique. He prefers timely agreements with specific countries.
That is the reason for drawing closer to Great Britain and the Brexit leaders, who share his logic, and for distancing himself from Angela Merkel. Trump favors defending interests rather than principles, and that will provide a basis for confrontation with the European governments, at least the more liberal ones, and it is also the basis for Trump to draw closer to the European neo-right on the one hand, and to Putin on the other.
The other central issue, that text concluded, is the one of energy. It is no secret to anyone that Trump will bet on traditional sources of energy, with all their byproducts, such as fracking, without too much worry about global warming. This will also be a basis for the agreement with Russia, one with Mexico, and, without doubt, it will be another instrument in the dispute with China. That is all in the November 2016 text.
What Trump said during the campaign and what we analyzed at that time has been fully implemented and Trump has gone even farther. He has described the European Union as the enemy of the U.S., sees Putin as a friend and partner, has not done anything to bother Assad in Syria, has not lifted a finger to mitigate the growing toughening of Erdogan in Turkey, has begun a trade war with China, and does not want global agreements, only unilateral ones, with Great Britain, with Mexico or with Canada. He prefers to work with strong, centralized, authoritarian governments than with “weak” democracies, as he considers no less than the Germans. That is the new world.