EVEN a cursory glance at the last one-month will corroborate the fact that the American foreign policy, under Donald Trump, is fast re-defining its priorities and direction. In simple words, President Trump is embracing old enemies as new friends, while alienating old friends as new detractors – creating a different kind of isolation. At the start of May, Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the Iran nuclear deal, making not only his detractors to unleash a barrage of criticism but also pushed his closest buddy Benjamin Netanyahu into a panic mode. Netanyahu, for obvious reasons, has restrained himself from openly criticizing Trump’s decision but he is globe-trotting frantically to convince other European signatories – and guarantors – to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, which he thinks is very crucial in keeping Iran’s nuclear proliferation under check and control.
Netanyahu believes that once out of the chains of such international nuclear deal which has many signatory guarantors, Iran will again be motivated to embark upon its nuclear ambitions unbridled – creating direct threat to Israel. But Trump is not ready to listen to this version of Netanyahu and he is bent upon pushing for his impulsive agenda in the realm of Foreign Policy. In fact Netanyahu has tried directly and indirectly to influence Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, but still he is cautious enough not to appear too much pushy on this matter, therefore, he is relying on the Western capitals to support him and convince Trump to re-evaluate his stance on Iran’s nuclear proliferation programme. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is a kind of anti-climax of his personal relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu who was in a state of ecstasy when Trump decided to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the face of intense objections from all corners of the globe. So, Trump – true to his adventurous profile – has been “successful” in creating unnecessary strain on his near-to-ideal relationship with Netanyahu.
This new-found unilateralism in Trump’s Foreign Policy was further blatantly displayed at this month’s G-7 summit in Quebec, Canada, where he practically converted the G-7 meeting into a “G-6+1 Summit”, while he kept on trying to lobby for the reconstitution of G-8 Group by pushing for the readmission of Russia into its folds. So in order to win the closeness of Vladimir Putin, he practically tried to repel the chronic and trusted US allies to the other side of the divide. The acrimony between him and other counterparts at the G-7 summit, particularly with Justin Trudeau, over the Tariffs issue has practically catapulted the American foreign policy into the direction of isolation in the global power structure. At the G-7 Summit, he pushed the traditional American allies away, while, by advocating for re-admission of Moscow into the G-7 club, he won the sympathies of Vladimir Putin, with whom he is planning to meet in Vienna next month.
Then he rushed to Singapore to shake hands and share a lunch table – and a photo session – with his favourite “Little Rocket Man” to re-coronate him as a “Very Talented” – in exchange for a written commitment for de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula. President Trump, it seems, is miscalculating the bitterness he created among the traditional US allies – like Canada, France and Germany – at the G-7 gathering, which is far too acidic to eclipse the sweet fragrance of the Singapore episode and it will haunt his Foreign Policy in the coming days. Ever since taking charge of the White House, President Donald Trump has been exhibiting his fondness for the dictators and autocrats like Russian President Putin, Philippines’s President Rodrigo Duterte – and North Korean Kim Jong-un with whom he has developed a “special bond” recently. His personal liking and tendency to favour the autocrats and totalitarians has strongly influenced the pitch of his Foreign Policy to a large extent. His management style profusely exudes the autocratic tendencies and it does not come as a surprise to see Donald Trump to slant towards the like-minded autocrats.
The roller coaster diplomacy being executed by Trump is seriously challenging the stability of existing global power equation. “What is terrifying about Trump is that he seems to prefer dictators to our democratic allies everywhere… He prefers the company of strongmen and, as long as they praise him, does not care how leaders treat their own people – including how they treat people risking their lives to model their countries on ours (or at least on what they thought was ours),” is how Thomas L. Friedman, wrote in his recent column in The New York Times. In less than 18 months at the helm of affairs in the Oval Office, Donald Trump has effectively put the American Foreign Policy on the track of erosion and debilitation and Washington is fast losing its stature as the nucleus of global peace and stability. The new-found unilateralism of Donald Trump is taking its toll on Washington’s global clout and pushing it more and more towards isolation.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Karachi.