In Trump’s Times

For many people, Greenland is an unknown territory; a huge majority would not be able to find it on a map, much less identify it as Danish territory. Yet, what everyone does know is that Greenland is not for sale. Everyone, that is, except one person: United States President Donald Trump.

It would be a funny story if it weren’t for his serious inquiry concerning its price. The world heard the news last Thursday. The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump was asking how to buy it. The president was so sincere that his advisers took him literally. So much so that reporters at The Wall Street Journal took notice.

Sunday, Trump confirmed it. He told newscasters that it would be an interesting idea. “Denmark essentially owns it. We’re very good allies with Denmark,” he explained. “We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, ‘Certainly I’d be.’ Strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested … It’s not No. 1 on the burner.”

Confronted with Trump’s comments, the Danish government saw the need for a tough response: “Greenland is not for sale. … Greenland is not Danish. … Greenland is Greenlandic.”

Trump did not hesitate to react, and canceled a visit to Denmark that had been scheduled in two weeks time. An issue that was not a priority ended up dominating the agenda. Trump called the prime minister “nasty” and referred to her comments about the sale of Greenland as “inappropriate.” His interest in the territory — rich in various resources — is understandable, but this is not how diplomatic relations are conducted. There is a personal aspect of this leader’s character that offends close allies.

He is not the only one. As for tactless heads of state, Trump had company last week in Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Last Wednesday, Bolsonaro announced — without evidence — that nongovernmental organizations could be behind the recent fires in the Amazon.

In Trump style, he made the accusation with room to wiggle out. “Maybe — I am not affirming it,” he said, “these (NGO people) are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil … This is the war that we are facing,” he added.

Bolsonaro claims that the NGOs were hit by cuts in government aid. “The fires were set, apparently, in strategic locations … Not even you would be able to film all of those places that are on fire and send that out. By all indications, they were there to film and set fires. That is what I think,” the president stated. This declaration is very serious because of who said it. He is not just any citizen.

However, there were no consequences. Bolsonaro’s words were overlooked. It’s part of his “personality,” you don’t have to completely believe him.

The opposite is true for Boris Johnson, the brash British prime minister: nobody expects him to keep his promise to leave the European Union without an agreement. He repeats it over and over, but for now, little sticks.

They don’t believe Johnson, and they see elections as a stronger possibility than a hard Brexit. I think they are wrong. Johnson is not Theresa May; Brexit is his life, and he has Trump in his corner.

If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on Oct. 31, it will be a historic event. That is what Boris Johnson is betting on. What happens afterward is superfluous. It’s not important. It interests Trump even less: what could be a disaster in Europe barely gets his attention. He supports policies that leave winners and losers, nothing halfway.

Bolsonaro, for his part, is like Trump: a man who apparently wins. Also like the U.S. president, he has an affinity for his own, naming one of his sons as ambassador to Washington.

The anti-Trumpers dream of Jan. 20, 2021, when the White House will have a new president who will bury Trump’s four years. Sadly, that is not a sure thing. Trump’s defeat would not mean a return to the past. This is wishful thinking. It is easier to destroy than to build. It could take years, possibly decades, to regain trust. That is the magic of Trump: without him everything seems finished.

There are changes that took place on Nov. 8, 2016 that can never be undone. This was Trump. Accept it. The Chinese already understand this.

I am writing from Shanghai, the most westernized city in China. There is no discussion of the trade war, nor of Hong Kong. The revolution continues, as always. However, Trump is not concerned. Looking at the sky on Wednesday, he commented that he is “the chosen one” to deal with the Chinese.

Last week’s events reflect the great problem of our times: the unthinkable and unforeseeable can occur.

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