Charmed Trump dances to Xi’s, Putin’s tunes | Sunday Observer

Charmed Trump dances to Xi’s, Putin’s tunes

Sudden political and military events in the Arabian Peninsula jolt us away from our continued fascination with the Trump phenomenon and thriller type drama on-going further West. Even as Trump left behind a string of public speech gaffes and diplomatic reversals in his five-nation Asian tour last week, a potentially deadly ballistic missile launch against Riyadh by Yemeni Houthi rebels prompted Saudi anger against Iran, suspect backer of the Houthis. Also last week a clutch of Saudi royalty princes and powerful Saudi businessmen and their aides were arrested by the Saudi government’s anti-corruption authority fulling worries over instability in the monarchy.

And, in the Iraqi and Syrian borderlands, Iraqi forces with US/NATO support and Syrian forces with Russian and Iranian support closed in on the final, minor urban centres held by the Islamic State insurgents in that remote, mostly arid and thinly populated region. This was after a joint Syrian and Iraqi offensive last week dislodged the IS from most of the Syrian eastern border city of Al Bulkamal, the only major city yet held by IS. Western-backed Syrian anti-government rebel groups, however, claim that IS has not yet given up Al Bukamal.

US President Donald Trump had harshly labelled China as a currency manipulator and economic ‘rapist’ during his election campaign. He had adopted postures of determination to compel China to help re-balance bilateral trade currently heavily skewed in Beijing’s favour. He had reiterated intentions of getting China to curb North Korea’s dogged – if dangerously sensationalised - nuclearisation.

The American mainstream media pretended to wait with baited breath for the outcome of a Trump challenge to Beijing during his Asian tour. Many European and Asian commenters, however, anticipated that the US President would dodge these issues. And dodge them, he did.

When Donald Trump completed his talks with the Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, the two Presidents did not allow questions at the usual news media conference, the event which the news media awaits to communicate to the world the outcome of discussions between the world’s two most powerful countries. And the announced tangible outcome of this US-China summit was not much more than a set of good bilateral business deals – a cool US$ 250 billion worth!

The most sensational of the American leader’s pronouncements while in from Beijing was his dramatic withdrawal of his previous accusations that China was “raping” the American economy. Addressing an audience of government and business dignitaries and news media, Trump unashamedly announced that he no longer “blamed” China for the US’ economic woes! He went on to justify this political reversal by offering a crude, old-fashioned argument of laissez faire economics: every country has the right to look to its interest “first”.

And all that America and China could publicly agree on with regard to North Korea – the discussion point most awaited – was to continue with current diplomatic efforts and pressures. Clearly, the Donald Trump administration has conceded that Washington’s long practised approach to North Korea, as implemented previously by successive US administrations, is the only way forward. Absolutely nothing new came out of the Being summit between the two global powers that added anything new to Washington’s previous strategy of ‘strategic patience’ – although Trump himself has loudly and often derided that strategy and announced its abandonment.

In effect, Beijing has not budged from its barely covert support to North Korea in that country’s historic endeavour to perfect a full politico-military capability to resist any pressures in the world arena.

Increasingly, global opinion is shifting in favour of acknowledgement of the reality of a nuclear-armed North Korea and use of the leverage of formal recognition to enforce a regime of containment and regulation of use of fissionable material as is done with all other nuclear powers.

All the US news media could do in the wake of this political fiasco on the part of the nation’s leadership on the world stage was to highlight the glamorous aspects of the Trump visit to Beijing. It seems quite embarrassing to see the great American news channels make much of the special tour given toTrump and his entourage of the historic ‘Forbidden City’, the old imperial palace in Beijing. After all, what the American first couple got was not much more than what thousands of tourists get daily in what is Beijing’s greatest tourist attraction.

Earlier, while visiting Japan, Donald Trump had his American entourage and his Japanese hosts all red-faced when he revealed his shocking ignorance Japanese investment in the American auto-industry. In a public speech the US President melodramatically beseeched Japan to invest in automobile manufacturing in the US to help create jobs. Even many Sri Lankans have long known of the Lexus and other automobile brands launched in the US by major Japanese firms like Nissan, Toyota and Suzuki as far back as two decades ago.

In Vietnam, attending the Asia-Pacific economic summit, Donald Trump avoided an official bilateral meeting with his “friend” Russian President Vladimir Putin. Instead, the two leaders met briefly and informal during the summit sessions, although the Russians had wanted a quick US-Russia summit that would enable consultation on urgent global flashpoints such as the IS, Afghanistan and Syria.

Predictably, Trump used his reported brief informal meeting with Putin to announce to the world that Putin had denied any truth in the allegations of covert Russian interference in American electoral politics and attempted cyber sabotage of the American voting system. Despite the official conclusion by the combined US counter-subversion agencies that there was Russian covert interference during the last US presidential elections, President Trump thought fit to announce to the world that the head of the very country the US officially accuses of active subversion had denied these charges. The manner of this announcement by the US President seems to be an acceptance of this bland denial by the suspect perpetrator state!

Of course, the picture emerging of some kind of collusion between members of the Donal Trump presidential election campaign and Russian agents indicates the alarming possibility that Trump himself is vulnerable to pressure by Moscow. Did a pliant Trump, ostensibly beholden to Putin for his election victory and complicit, therefore, in hostile subversion of the American State itself, have no option but to transmit to the world the official Russian version of this whole scandal and possible crime?

This begins to sound more dramatic than any fictional spy drama or ‘conspiracy thriller’. Let us wait for the next episode of this political drama in the midst of a declining super power.