First insults, then flatters UK Premier : Trump to meet Putin after NATO, UK debacle | Sunday Observer

First insults, then flatters UK Premier : Trump to meet Putin after NATO, UK debacle

15 July, 2018

How does a visiting head of state, on his first official visit to the foreign country that is his own nation’s closest ally, openly trash the head of his host government and then hold meetings with that same head of government and pretend that all is OK with her and that his official visit was a complete ‘success’? Either that head of state must hold superior power over his host country, or his host country’s political establishment does not take his words seriously.

US President Donald Trump is both. He is leader of the world’s sole superpower which is also the United Kingdom’s virtual political and military patron and closest ally. At the same time, Trump’s political and personal behaviour on his way to the US presidency and his behaviour as President have resulted in most of the entire world holding him with a degree of contempt and distaste far beyond any previous American leader has faced. ‘Uncouth’, ‘disgusting’, ‘uncivilised’, ‘incompetent’, even ‘idiotic’, are the kind of words that dominate any discussion of the current American President on the airwaves across the world.

Even Trump’s own appointee as Secretary of State (foreign minister), petroleum multimillionaire Rex Tillerson once called his President a “f…… moron” while in office. Tillerson, a highly respected leading business executive, did not last much longer in Cabinet, having been summarily sacked by his boss in March this year.

On Thursday, while on his first visit to the UK since entering White House, Trump, in an interview with UK’s top selling ‘Sun’ newspaper, described his host Prime Minister’s handling of the UK’s intended withdrawal from the European Union as a failure and declared that the UK had thereby lost any chance of getting ‘favoured nation’ status in future trade with the US. UK Premier Theresa May’s Conservative Party government has been hoping for a special trade deal with the US as an economic prop after exiting the EU. Trump’s crass remarks to the ‘Sun’ immediately embarrassed May and angered her own party. Worse, already facing a rebellion in her party ranks, May presented an even more fragile political image after her state guest’s hostile and belittling remarks.

But, most British commentators agree that since Trump is, in any case held with such low regard across UK’s political spectrum, and also point out that the US President dramatically contradicted himself at the final press briefing the very next day, pretending his high regard for May. The general opinion in the UK is that Trump’s remarks were not taken seriously and May will not be any more politically harmed than she already is due to her own current performance on Brexit (‘British Exit’ from the EU).

Nevertheless, in the UK, at the end of US Presidential visit, there seems to be a disconsolate resignation to the general decline of the UK’s prestige in relation to both Europe and also with the US. Many analysts are keenly aware that the UK, on its own, is a much smaller market and economy compared with the combined economic might of the EU.

Hence, a full exit from the EU will leave the UK much weaker economically and prey to the voracious appetites of other economic giants like its own ‘special friend’ the US or of China.

When Trump declared at the press briefing at the UK Premier’s country residence on Friday that the US – despite his previous negative remarks – was ready to strengthen trade ties with the UK once it left the EU, most British analysts read this remark as an anticipation that the US would seize the opportunity to economically dominate a weaker UK. Already, London is under pressure to relax its strict hygienic storage standards in the UK to enable better access for American chicken exports to the UK.

Today, Trump and wife Melania are briefly holidaying at their privately own golf club in Scotland. The Scottish countryside may somewhat shield the US first couple from the type of huge, hostile, political demonstrations that crowded the US visitors out of London. Never before has an American leader spent so little time in his host country’s capital, especially, that of ‘best friend’ the UK. Unlike previous American leaders, Trump did not address Parliament nor hold talks with the UK Premier at her office at the iconic No. 10, Downing Street.

A longer stay in London would have meant facing up to the large protests that clogged the capital’s streets and even the skies – with picturesque protest balloons that poked fun at the vain Trump.

Tomorrow, the American leader goes to the Finnish capital Helsinki for a summit meeting with Russia strongman President Vladimir Putin.

Trump goes to meet the head of what is the American-led Western power bloc’s main rival power – Russia, still the biggest European military power by far and with its own legacy as former superpower leader of the rival, but defunct, Socialist Bloc. Until the late 1980s, the world was straddled by two giant military-economic power blocs.

The richer one was the Western Capitalist bloc headed by the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance and including the EU of the time. Geo-politically and ideologically opposing it was the less rich, but socially more egalitarian, Socialist bloc under the powerful military umbrella of the Soviet Russian-led Warsaw Pact that grouped the East European socialist economies.

Even if all that is mostly history nowadays, Russia remains the main ‘rival’ to the EU and NATO dominated Europe given its military power that is second only to the US. Nuclear capability and deterrent means that Russia is yet on par with the US and its allies.

Trump goes for his summit with the Russian leader having left a kind of trail of destruction in Europe and the UK. Earlier last week the US leader caused much dissension and disunity at the annual NATO summit at the Atlantic Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Having publicly branded major NATO military partner Germany as a ‘captive’ of Russia (because of a minor gas supply link with Russia), Trump went on to demand that NATO members ‘immediately’ raise their military spending to more than 2 per cent of their national Budget and increase their contribution to the maintenance of NATO’s military capabilities.

Although Trump later bragged publicly that his NATO colleagues had agreed to that higher cost sharing, the official NATO post-summit communique merely affirmed the member states’ commitment to fully attaining the 2 per cent of budget target set earlier in 2014. At one point during the NATO summit the US leader apparently threatened to walk out of the Alliance, although that was later denied by White House.

In past decades, when the Western alliance’s leader was due to meet the rival Eastern bloc leadership, there was usually a round of consultations between the US President and NATO governments, especially, the UK in which there was much consensus and a common platform of approach to Moscow. Not so with Trump.

Instead, the NATO summit was full of acrimony and dissension followed by further acrimony and dissension in the UK. Indeed, while in Brussels, Trump at one point tweeted that he looked forward more to his meeting with Putin than his NATO meeting.

All this exposes two things: the continued incompetence of simpleton Trump in handling complex multilateral geopolitics at the very highest levels and, secondly, that simpleton’s resort, then, to simplistic populism and an electoral political style that addresses his domestic vote banks rather than the powers he has to immediately deal with.

A similar behaviour was observable in Trump at the June Group of Seven summit in Canada which he left in disarray and rushed off to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

What will come out of the Trump-Putin summit is also likely to be more entertaining rather that politically productive.

Trump will get his pomp and ceremony while Putin will bask in the international legitimacy that comes with consorting with the world’s most powerful (if incompetent) leader. Increasingly, we are reminded of the decadence of the Roman emperors once Rome had matured as a powerful and rich empire.

More alarming than Trump himself is the behaviour of his Republican Party government that seems to turn a blind eye to all these disruptive antics because they are blindly relying on Trump’s continued electoral popularity for their own political fortunes come the November mid-term congressional elections. Again, is there a historic parallel with declining Rome’s Senate? And is Trump another Caligula? Better than a another Nero!