Trump Offers a Helping Hand to China, Russia

Trump Offers a Helping  Hand to China, RussiaTrump Offers a Helping  Hand to China, Russia
A Gallup survey showed a startling drop in global approval of Washington’s role in the world—from 48% under Obama to 30% under Trump. China, on the other hand, surged to 31% and Russia to 27%

In his State of the Union address, US President Donald Trump warned grimly of “rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values.” In response, he demanded that Congress give even more money to “our great military” and fund the growth and modernization of the US nuclear arsenal, making it “so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else.” And yet, in a near biblical performance in his first year in office, Trump inadvertently rolled out a love-thy-enemy set of policies that only enhanced the roles of both of those challengers, favors never imagined by the Robert Mueller Russia investigation.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that last October in Beijing in his speech to the 19th congress of the Communist Party, Chinese President Xi Jinping displayed the sort of confidence that befits a true rising power on planet Earth. With remarkable chutzpah, he anointed his country the leading global force on contemporary political, economic, and environmental issues by declaring, “It is time for us to take center stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind.” With the unintended help of Donald Trump, he could indeed make it so, Dilip Hiro wrote for Middle East Online.

Two months later in Washington, Trump launched his National Security Strategy (NSS), an uninspired hodgepodge lacking in either vision or clarity. It did, however, return the US to the Cold War era by identifying China and Russia as the two main challengers to its power, influence and interests, though offering no serious thoughts about what to do on the subject (except dump more money into the Pentagon budget and the American nuclear arsenal).

On the eve of the anniversary of Trump’s first year in office, for instance, a Gallup survey of 134 countries showed a startling drop—from 48% under Barack Obama to 30% under Trump— in global approval of Washington’s role in the world. For a president who values records, that was an achievement: the worst figure since Gallup started recording them in 2007. China, on the other hand, surged to 31% and Russia to 27%. And that was before Trump referred to various unnamed African nations as “shithole countries.”

Here, then, is a list of favors that Donald Trump has done for America’s latest challengers and how they have reacted on what, after almost two decades of a sole superpower global order, is once again a planet with more than one world power.

  Climate Change Leadership

By pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate accord in June 2017, Trump created a global leadership vacuum—soon to be filled both by French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi. In December 2017, on the second anniversary of the Paris climate accord and in coordination with the United Nations and the World Bank, Macron chaired a One Planet summit of more than 50 heads of state and government, as well as three mega-rich individual sponsors.

In opposition to Trump, eight American states, all invested in speeding up the use of electric vehicles, remained committed to the Paris Agreement. So, too, did a private-sector coalition called America’s Pledge, which promised to honor the climate goals set in 2015. According to former New York mayor Bloomberg, that pledge group “now represents half of the US economy.” In this way, Trump ceded leadership on what may be the single most crucial long-term issue for humanity to the French president and China’s Xi.

  In the Middle East

By using Russian forces to intervene in the Syrian civil war in September 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin helped turn the tide in favor of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. His alliance with Assad had three dimensions: Syria’s historic links to the Soviet Union in the Cold War era; the Kremlin’s desire to have a naval facility in the Mediterranean after the loss of such a port in Libya when Muammar Gaddafi fell in 2011; and his doctrine that any group that takes up arms against an internationally recognized government is a terrorist organization.

Having acquired a key role in the Syrian civil war, Putin proceeded to coopt not only Iran, a traditional ally of Syria, but also Turkey, a NATO member initially opposed to the Assad regime. 

A confident Putin has been busy wooing other US allies in the region. In 2016, to shore up the price of a barrel of oil, which had dropped to a dismal $30, Saudi Arabia pressed other Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries members to cut overall output. For such a strategy to succeed, however, non-OPEC oil producers needed to cooperate. Being the largest among them, Russia was the key player and Putin, as eager as the Saudis to see prices rise, agreed. 

Unsurprisingly, King Salman became the first reigning Saudi monarch to visit Moscow last October. While there, he signed 15 cooperation agreements covering oil, military affairs (including a $3 billion arms deal involving, among other things, the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles), and even space exploration. 

And so it goes. Though powerful and wealthy, the United States looks ever more alone. Whether in its fruitless wars, in its remarkable focus on military power, in its dismantling of the State Department, in its urge to build walls of every kind and shut so many people out, “America First” Donald Trump has so far followed policies that have only eased the way for the Chinese dragon to roar past Uncle Sam, with the Russian bear not far behind.

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