Trump’s Kick to the Negotiating Table

Withdrawal? Repositioning? The cascade of decisions made by Donald Trump on foreign policy leaves room for several interpretations. And one certainty — the undoing of Barack Obama’s soft legacy. This is why he withdrew from two major treaties negotiated by his predecessor: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a commercial agreement with Asian allies, and the Paris climate accord.

Trump’s stampeding away turn the U.S. into a “country that withdraws,” Pablo Pardo wrote some days ago when quoting Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank. It is going back to isolationism, after decades of interventionism in foreign countries triggered by the Cold War.

In his White House Memo published in The New York Times, Peter Baker said, “The president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday may be only the start of a period of several weeks in which he repositions the United States in the world in a way that could last for years.” He was referring to two very polemical decisions of major diplomatic and informative relevance.

The withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal pits Washington against Europe, which is holding its breath during the commercial rates negotiations. The relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem raises tensions with the main Arabian allies. The chosen date, the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel — and therefore, of that of the Naqba, which forced 700,000 Palestinians to leave the territory — leaves no room for doubt about Trump’s preferences. People smiled during the inauguration of the new office. There were six dozen dead in the Gaza Strip.

In the Asian arena, Trump is playing two chess games simultaneously: a commercial one with China, the only power that can match the U.S. nowadays; and another one with North Korea, led by the unpredictable and atomic Kim.

A Spanish man who closely follows American foreign policy told me yesterday in his office overlooking Manhattan, “Trump does not respect diplomatic formalities. First thing he does is kick the table. But we should not forget his reputation, which goes back before the time he entered politics, as an agreement negotiator.”

So far, there is a great deal of tension in the consulates, and a large part of the global public is angry. This is not the case with his electoral base, which is satisfied with a politician who is keeping his promise: “America first.” We will see how it goes when the time comes to go back to the negotiating table.

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