As I’ve been commenting on America’s decline in influence, and the shifting of the poles of global power and influence, its been interesting to watch how these perspectives have been independently cropping up elsewhere. Lately, one of the most recent of these is a piece published by former American congressman Ron Paul at the Ron Paul Institute:
Just two weeks after President Trump pulled the US from the Iran nuclear agreement, his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued 12 demands to Iran that could never be satisfied. Pompeo knew his demands would be impossible to meet. They were designed that way. Just like Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia in July, 1914, that led to the beginning of World War I. And just like the impossible demands made of Milosevic in 1999 and of Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003, and so many other times when Washington wanted war. These impossible demands are tools of war rather than steps toward peace.
Secretary Pompeo raged at Iran. The mainstream news media raged at Iran. Trump raged at Iran. But then a strange thing happened: nothing. The Iranians announced that they remained committed to diplomacy and would continue to uphold their end of the nuclear agreement if the Europeans and other partners were willing to do the same. Iranian and European officials then sought out contacts in defiance of Washington in hopes of preserving mutually-beneficial emerging commercial relations.
Washington responded to the European snub by threatening secondary sanctions on European companies that continued doing business with an Iran that had repeatedly been found in compliance with its end of the bargain. Any independent European relationship with Iran would be punished, Washington threatened. But then, again, very little happened.
Rather than jump on Washington’s bandwagon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made two trips to Russia in May seeking closer ties and a way forward on Iran.
Russia and China were named as our prime enemies in the latest National Security Strategy for the United States, but both countries stand to benefit from the unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran deal. When the French oil company Total got spooked by Washington threats and pulled out of Iran, a Chinese firm eagerly took its place.
It seems the world has grown tired of neocon threats from Washington. Ironically the “communist” Chinese seem to understand better than the US that in capitalism you do not threaten your customers. While the US is threatening and sanctioning and forbidding economic relations, its adversaries overseas are busy reaping the benefits of America’s real isolationism.
If President Trump’s canceled meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un remains canceled, North and South Korea have shown that they will continue with their peacemaking efforts. As if Washington was no longer relevant.
I’ve often spoken of the unintended consequences of our aggressive foreign policy. For example, President Bush’s invasion of Iraq only helped Iran – our “enemy” – become more dominant in the Middle East. But it seems new consequences are emerging, and for the neocons they must be very unintended: for all of its bellicosity, threats, demands, sanctions, and even bombs, the rest of the world is increasingly simply ignoring the demands of Washington and getting on with its own business.
While I am slightly surprised at this development, as a libertarian and a non-interventionist I welcome the growing irrelevance of Washington’s interventionists. We have a far better philosophy and we must work hard to promote it so that it can finally be tried after neocon failure becomes obvious to everyone. This is our big opportunity!
But America’s decline isn’t something that had to happen, at least not right now. What is happening right now can be directly traced to Donald Trump and the policies that he has pursued.
On his own, Trump is an anomaly. His staff and cabinet are like a revolving door. Having a job in his administration is not a secure thing, which in itself doesn’t have to be seen as a sign of inconsistency, but can lead to that conclusion when paired with other factors.
His ‘Twitter diplomacy’ is a novelty, and is regarded as unprofessional, and certainly can be perceived as not well-advised on numerous grounds, whether it is the giving away of his thought processes to giving the impression that he makes decisions on the spur of the moment without carefully considering them and proceeds to blurt them out on the internet, presumably for the attention.
And then, there are the repeated off the cuff comments from Trump and his staff which are oftentimes harmful of international relations, and a sign that Trump’s policies are not always well devised.
Trump threatens nations that he is supposed to be engaging in peace talks with, wavers on commitments to diplomatic talks, and even casually threatens, on numerous occasions, to unleash nuclear annihilation on their nation.
Trump goes about fanning the flames of war by arming dissident governments and militias, as may be viewed through the backing of the Kurds in Syria, regardless of the consequences for Syria and for relations with NATO allies, namely Turkey, and the arming of militants in the Ukraine, further stoking conflict in the war torn country.
He has no qualms about bombing other countries, as might be seen by the manner in which his first strike against Syria was conducted over dessert while at a resort. His second bombing on Syria was based on spurious information gathered from a tweet.
All of these things cast some doubt on the reliability of Trump as an individual and head of state, but isn’t necessarily something that might damage America’s influence on the global level. America’s international clout is enough to withstand issues like this.
After all, Bush and Obama did their fair share of meddling in other countries’ affairs and in waging wars, as noted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia, Syria, etc. But America still held its place in the world, almost unquestionably.
What is really doing damage to America’s position in the world, and the influence that it has traditionally held in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere is not Trump’s warmongering or his threats, or his inconsistent manner, no, it is the way that his foreign policy has been affecting so much of the globe.
Trump has violated numerous multilateral pacts with its allies, and other nations, including the TPP, the Paris Climate Accord, and the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement, as well as threatened NAFTA, and having threatened other members of NATO.
Against the advice of the international community, Trump fanned the flames of the conflict in Palestine by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State, in transferring the American embassy there from Tel Aviv.
He engaged in a negative stance towards Pakistan, withdrawing US foreign aid to the Middle Eastern Country, which has since become a part of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative.
Trump’s new defense posture considers both China, once again its biggest trade partner, and Russia, as adversaries. How else would such a move be received? Even some of Trump’s top military brass has been spouting rhetoric painting China as a threat, while warning congress to be prepared for a possible war with China. A similar outlook was enunciated relevant to Russia.
On the economic level, where Trump has done the most damage to present multilateral world order, Trump seems to have broken the camel’s back. Trump seemed not too concerned about the economic interests of countries that trade using American currency or using American banking systems, or happen to be trade partners, as apparently, his only mission at the Davos Economic Forum was to parrot his ‘America First’ foreign policy.
He notified the world at this forum, that his only real concern was America, that America gets the best end of the stick, the best position in all agreements, etc. He made it no secret there that he viewed the interests of the nations of the world as entirely dispensable, as long as America capitalizes on its own interests.
Towards this end, Trump’s aggressive trade policies have become manifest. He has levied tariffs on the nations of the world, mainly as regards to metals like aluminum and steel, and just about initiated a trade war with America’s largest trading partner, China.
China responded in kind in each case before a cease fire was negotiated over several days by Chinese diplomats visiting Washington. But Trump has since again levied more tariffs on China, this time worth only about $50 billion, but nonetheless a new economic provocation after just dialing back on what was escalating to a real trade row with his biggest trade partner.
But it was Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA that seems to have done the most damage, in one fell swoop. He sought to kill the deal with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program, a deal designed to aid non proliferation efforts in the region, a move which was condemned seemingly by the entire world.
In addition to withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, however, Trump has also called for regime change in Iran, using coded language, and his Secretary of State has imposed demands which have no real chance of being met in order to avoid adverse action from America, hence, Trump is still working for the destruction of the deal, as the European work as hard as they can to try to save it. Trump has, on these efforts, gone on to propose a coalition against Iran, mainly consisting of Israel and the Gulf States.
The move dealt a blow to Europe’s security, as well as the looming threats of economic sanctions on any country that does business with Iran. This meant threatening America’s partnership and alliances in Europe with sanctions for following through on a multilateral agreement that they had committed to, which unilateral action is perceived as a threat to the multilateral nature of the present world order. From this point, America’s down hill slide has become more like an avalanche.
The European Response
Nations around the world have increasingly condemned America’s foreign policies as of late, and denounced the unpredictability of not only the Trump administration, but of America’s role in global affairs. In words, we glean this from those of EU Chief Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker as he addressed the Flemish Regional Parliament in Brussels “At this point, we have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigour, and because of it, in the long term, influence.”
The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Frederica Mogherini, came out critical of Trump’s policy towards his allies just a matter of days after Juncker’s remarks and Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, saying
“It seems that screaming, shouting, insulting and bullying, systematically destroying and dismantling everything that is already in place, is the mood of our times. While the secret of change — and we need change — is to put all energies not in destroying the old, but rather in building the new. This impulse to destroy is not leading us anywhere good,” she added. “It is not solving any of our problems.”
Speaking at an EU summit in Bulgaria, EU Council President Donald Tusk remarked “We are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration. Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, some could even think, ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?’”
At a dinner with EU members, he elucidated these comments, saying “I have no doubt that in the new global game, Europe will either be one of the major players, or a pawn. This is the only real alternative. In order to be the subject and not the object of global politics, Europe must be united economically, politically and also militarily like never before. To put it simply: either we are together, or we will not be at all.
“But, frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of old illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.
“Europe must do everything in its power to protect – in spite of today’s mood – the transatlantic bond. But at the same time we must be prepared for those scenarios where we have to act on our own.”
“The [Iran] deal is good for European and global security, which is why we must maintain it.”
“The EU and US are friends and partners, therefore US tariffs cannot be justified on the basis of national security,” he said. “It is absurd to even think that the EU could be a threat to the US. We need to bring back reality in this discussion, which is not the case today.”
Europe, then, seems to be growing a bit of a backbone, as these statements by three important European officials are not all there is to the European Trump response. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have recently made similar comments.
Macron, before an audience in Aachen gathered for an awards ceremony, remarked “Other powers, just as sovereign as us, have decided not to respect their own word,” Macron added. “Should we renounce our own choice? … We must choose, speak with everybody to succeed in building our own sovereignty which, in this region, will be a guarantee of stability.”
“If we accept that other major powers, including allies… put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy, security for us, and sometimes even make us run the worst risks, then we are not more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion,” Macron said.
Merkel, at the same event, stated “It is no longer the case that the United States of America will simply protect us — Europe must take its fate in its own hands.”
In Münster, speaking to the Catholic Convention, she observed “If we always step away from multilateral agreements as soon as we don’t like something about them, that would be a bad message for the world. We want to strengthen multilateralism.”
Both Merkel and Macron went on to pursue meetings with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who had been the boogeyman of world politics up until Trump’s attempted destruction of the JCPOA, tariffs, and threats of sanctions. But Angela Merkel demonstrated that her regard for Washington’s sanctions was not what it used to be.
She went to Russia to help move along the North Stream 2 project, which Washington has since responded to with further threats of sanctions, not just to buck a deal between the Germans and Russians, but also in a bid to advance America’s own interests in the LNG market by attempting here to strong arm the Germans into purchasing their gas from America, which is openly a bad deal for the Germans.
On this point, Germany is looking to find a way to cooperate with Russia on the Ukraine issue, as well as the conflict in Syria. Germany’s Energy Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister have also made trips to Russia this month, all in a bid to seek further cooperation with Russia, primarily regarding the preservation of the JCPOA that Trump has tried so hard to kill.
Macron went on to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum as a guest of honor, with a goodwill gesture towards the Russians of economic cooperation deals worth around $15 billion. The Forum included many other heads of state and international investors, and a major topic of the forum was America’s foreign policy, its aggression, unreliability, unilateralism, etc.
On top of actions and words by Macron and Merkel, EU foreign ministers have gather together on two occasions in order to affirm their dedication to the Iran deal, in opposition to the will of Washington, and their defiance of American sanctions.
But these sorts of words and actions are not limited to Europe. Multiple other countries have condemned Trump’s policies, threatened to retaliate against Trump’s tariffs, and to ignore his sanctions against Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. But most of all, Trump’s move has been consolidating national interests into blocs of sorts which share common regional political, economic, security, and energy concerns.
Russia is weaning itself of any reliance on America by developing its own alternative to the SWIFT banking system and seeking to get away from the American dollar, which has already begun as Russia is already trading with some of its partners using national currencies. Russia is demonstrating the pole shift as might be seen by what has happened at the SPIEF, as well as new agreements signed by the EAEU with China and Iran.
China is developing its own markets, and its own Petroyuan as an alternative to the American Petrodollar, together with its international economic initiative which envisions economic cooperation and transit from Beijing to Europe. Venezuela is also looking to get around the Petrodollar by developing its Petro, a cryptocurrency with which to conduct oil transactions. Europe is also considering getting away from using the dollar in limited circumstances, namely, in conducting business with Iran, with the proposal being that the currency of use would be the Euro.
Trump is single handedly repolarizing the world’s balance of power, by destroying America’s influence while organizing the interests of just about everyone else in a manner that focuses on China and Russia, which is partly why one might wonder if the Russians had a hand in putting Trump in office [a fiction used by his political opposition, albeit], when one considers the way in which he is tearing down America’s hegemony.