Wednesday, July 18, 2018


This American president is an unstoppable train-wreck. He continues to booby-trap America while he also torches the world order. He disrespects truth both home and abroad and becomes ever more the Manchurian villain or the undercover "mole" set to destroy the fabric of the accepted Western value system. He is alienating allies and stoking divisions which might well finish the American experiment.

The Republicans act like lemmings. The Democrats look lost. Former values are under daily attack by a Ponzi-scheme president hooked on undetermined spite. This ignorant man may well bring the US down, out of pathological unpredictability. No doubt countries are looking for the exit from the Trump- made panic room. Europeans and Asians are now actively considering alternative routes since they find the former trusted highway no longer desirable. The qualitative and quantitative colossal trade agreement between Japan and the European Union is a "marker" in this respect.

The Helsinki meeting was a good gauge to measure how things have changed in the last two years. Putin rules the waves and basks in his post-World Cup glory. The images of Crimea and Ukraine made room for Moscow as a place of fun, sophisticated staging and beautiful people. Trump's America by contrast is all about fury, immigration made into hell and friends scorned. The press conference after the summit showed again Trump's descent into unconditional denial of facts. Putin, who could afford to look benign, must have relished this moment of American descent into slavish sycophantic unction.

For the Europeans there are few good choices left.  While it is difficult to remain stoic or committed to the defunct FDR or JFK-type of grand Western alliance, they have to find both a way to stick  to their "difference" with the US while not getting trapped in Putin's strategy (aided by Trump's disregard for legitimacy or history).  It is absolutely imperative to reject any form of European "Finlandization" or to let this American's histrionics get in the way of sober assessment. NATO remains a strategic added-value for both the Americans and the Europeans. Putin will continue to test and tease the Alliance as a whole, but also ad rem in the Baltic states. Every deterrent must be used to show resolve against the Russian Machiavelli. Trump is too superficial and too lazy to think in conceptual terms. Nevertheless he is certainly tempted by the (vague) inductive idea of some World Directorate together with Putin and President Xi Jinping. Europe must remain alert and speed up its forward-looking outreach to third parties (India, Japan, Brazil, Africa).  Europe is the benign alternative to a fundamentally non-enlightened governance, be it by stealth. Only a proactive form of European diplomacy can achieve both the enhanced continuity of NATO and an alternative to the rise of a non-liberal world order.

Trump is an unreliable player.  His nefarious gut instincts cannot be brought under control. He can even count on the servile or willing support of some in the more unsuspected corners. Nevertheless Europe can deflect some of his "punches" by occupying political, cultural, trade, military territories before he makes his own impetuous advances. One should not underestimate the allure of a Western model embracing pluralism and rejecting ostracism. To make the choice simple:  pick one of the alternatives...  Trump's Access Hollywood tape ("locker room talk") or the EU's Hymn to Joy (thank you Beethoven) and see who will salute.

No comments:

Post a Comment