World & Asia
Better buy your London house now! Lankans with an eye to Anglophile prestige, may want to invest in that London house sooner rather than later. House property values are on the rise across the board despite the fears of market isolation due to Brexit, according to Global Mansions magazine. The mass market housing shortage in the UK continues, sustaining middle class home prices. And, continuing interest by foreign luxury buyers – especially, China’s new rich – will boost the luxury housing market upwards this year, the elite magazine’s latest market analysis predicts.
Continental Europe, however, will soon muscle in on this lucrative market as European Union leaders now pull together to address what appears to be a somewhat cloudy economic future for the world’s most affluent continent. At their special summit meeting in Malta last week, EU leaders not only finalized an immigration plan for the continuing hordes of Africans, but also re-assessed the state of the Union after Brexit and the new US administration’s posture on Europe.
In fact, the flood of sudden and disruptive policy pronouncements and executive decisions in the first ten days of Donald Trump’s presidency superseded the illegal immigration problem at the Malta summit. For the first time in modern history, Europe, the demographic home of American culture and society, has all but called the United States an ‘enemy’!
In his formal letter to all EU leaders in the lead up to the European summit last week, EU President Donald Tusk classed the United States together with Russia and China as the main ‘threats’ to Europe’s future as a major economic and political power. A one-time academic and former Prime Minister of Poland, Tusk described the new US administration as a ‘challenge’ to Europe alongside China, Russia and even the Islamic State! And the EU leaders in Malta acknowledged their new global challenges and vowed to remain united.
Just as much as Europe is keenly aware, across the globe, the US’ long-time military allies are disturbed and uncertain about the continuing confusion emanating from Washington. On the one hand, there are Donald Trump’s many election promises that clearly enunciated a posture of US interests prioritized above collective Western interests in global geo-politics. And now, some of these Trump postures are being contradicted by his newly appointed officials in their efforts to affirm Washington’s continuing interest in maintaining old friendships and alliances.
Election campaign promises made by Trump starkly contradicted long-standing US global policies such as, the tight military alliances linking up major capitalist democracies, as well as, some not-so-democratic states across the globe aimed at protecting Western economic and political dominance while bolstering the regimes of US allies (irrespective of whether or not those regimes were democratically elected).
Then, in the first week of the Trump presidency, there have been some reassuring noises by various US officials on America’s foreign policy consistency, seemingly, countering some of those loose pronouncements by their President that had panicked America’s friends about the future of US support.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abé, for example, had initially been humiliated by not being among the first US allies to make the congratulatory telephone call to the new American leader. But, last Thursday, Abe was happy to receive the new US Secretary for Defence Secretary (one time Marine General) James Mattis in Tokyo where the hawkish American Defence chief pronounced continued US commitment to military treaties. In his earlier stop in South Korea in that same tour – the first foreign trip by a cabinet member of the new US government – Mattis also reassured his counterpart in Seoul of firm US military support in the face of any threat by North Korea. But Mattis’ pronouncements, consistent as they are with long-time US policy, especially, Republican Party foreign policy, will never bring back that old regard for the US as the one-time ‘leader of the free world’.
With Trump’s election promise not to honour US military commitments to allies unless those allies paid for US alliance costs, many US allies across the world had been alarmed and, have already begun contingency planning for any reneging on alliances by Washington. The European Union countries are now looking beyond the historic North Atlantic Treaty that has bound much of the Western powers in a tight and powerful military alliance that has dominated the world for half a century and, in fact, was able to declare ‘victory’ with the collapse of the rival Warsaw Pact communist powers led by the former Soviet Union.
The contours of a new European military force that is independent of NATO are already being mapped out. With some of the world’s oldest and leading arms producers and, cutting edge capabilities in military as well as space technology, as well as, decades of well-oiled defence co-operation mechanisms, the EU is confident that it can sustain its own military power without US support.
Further, with one-time Communist super-power Russia at its doorstep, Europe is not prepared to blindly echo Washington’s confrontational stance toward Moscow. At the same time, America’s European allies will be even more reluctant to join any American military adventures as it has done in the past - as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In this light, with global alignments rapidly shifting, noises from Washington last week to modulate Trump’s isolationism and reassert the old discourse of US as world policeman are already sounding hollow. When State Department spokesmen (note the decreasing number of women actors in the new administration) last week made strident statements about Iran’s ‘misbehaviour’ following Tehran’s latest missile tests, much of the world realized that such thundering pronouncements by Washington are no longer that intimidating. This is because America, courtesy Trump, not only does not seem to have the stomach for sustained foreign battles but, was also rapidly losing its military alliance network precisely because of its new isolationism.
When Washington now threatens to trash the nuclear armaments deal with Iran, the world watches somewhat amusedly because the agreement was a multilateral one with Russia and EU powers also signatories and cannot be abrogated by any one country. Even if Washington unilaterally withdraws from that treaty, the other signatory countries are likely to maintain the treaty with America standing to lose much in the loss of engagement with Iran. Furthermore, having once been fooled by Washington’s ‘WMD’ justification for the disastrous invasion of Iraq (if there ever was a recent ‘war crime’ this was) the other Western powers are not buying the wild claims by Washington today about an Iranian ‘threat’.
Increasingly, the world is beginning to see Iran as probably the most stable West Asia nation today, with a wholly legitimate, popularly elected government. And there is a new awareness of Shia Islam’s value as the softer and more inclusive Islamic denomination in the face of the rising tribal-type fundamentalism within Sunni Islam. During the immediate post-Shah phase, Tehran was seen as building possibly disruptive alliances with Shia minorities in other parts of West Asia. Today, the terror and destruction of Al Qaeda and ISIL and, the Shias’ exclusion from Salafist fundamentalism, has prompted a completely new perception of Iran, long known as one of the world’s greatest and oldest civilizations. Certainly, the EU wasted no time re-building ties with Iran with a lucrative deal to sell 100 Airbus passenger planes just being the biggest of many trade deals with the rising Gulf power. Those aware of the nuclear control treaty know that it does not curtail Tehran’s right to maintain a credible defence capability. Indeed, much of the world is happy that Iran is becoming a mature and stable state that is a bulwark against the spread of the disease of Islamist warlordism.
Meanwhile, efforts by new Trump administration officials to modulate Trumpian isolationism is only sending mixed signals abroad because of the string of presidential executive orders that confirmed that President Trump is going to fulfil some, if not all, his controversial campaign promises that threaten US relations with allies and commitments to long-standing alliances. True, Mattis has reaffirmed commitment to Japan and South Korea. True also that the State Department has mildly criticized Israeli’s new plans for more Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.
But, the increasing disjunct between some of Trump’s actual decisions and some officials’ policy reassurances means that Washington is no longer seen the tough global power that it once was. Indeed, that proverbial Native American perception that “White Man speaks with forked tongue” may now be endorsed globally – at least as far as Donald Trump is concerned.