We cannot afford to have illusions about Trump

by David Hannay | 09.11.2016

Pretty well everything that Donald Trump said in the course of his campaign about foreign and external economic policy has been contrary to the policies of our own government and to Britain’s national interests. He may not be as good as his word but we should have no illusions.

Trump has expressed lack of commitment towards NATO, which inevitably weakens the deterrent capacity of the Alliance. He seeks a cosy relationship with Vladimir Putin, who regards and treats NATO as his adversary and who has ridden roughshod over the post-Cold War settlement in Europe by seizing Crimea and meddling in Ukraine.

He has spoken about Islam and Muslims in terms which can only help Islamic State and Al Qaeda to recruit more terrorists. He has suggested that Japan and South Korea could defend themselves by acquiring nuclear weapons, which would destroy the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. He has said he would junk the agreement between Iran and the P 5 + 1 (the UN Security Council permanent members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – plus Germany), which could well lead to another war in the Middle East.

He has said he would apply substantial tariffs to Chinese exports which would in all likelihood set off a trade war and drive a coach and horses through World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. He intends to pursue protectionist trade policies and to back out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He is unlikely to be enthusiastic about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

That is quite a list for the leader of a country which has for more than 70 years been our closest ally. Of course, none of this may happen. He may surround himself with experienced foreign policy advisers (of whom the Republicans have plenty – but most of them distanced themselves from his campaign and denounced his policies). He might take their advice, although he showed no sign of taking advice during the campaign. He may discipline his thin-skinned, narcissistic tendencies. Or he may not. In the most benign circumstances it will be some considerable time before we can be sure that President Trump is a different proposition from Candidate Trump. And during that time uncertainty, which breeds instability, will reign.

So we should have no illusions. We and many other countries are in for a rough ride, with a serious risk of dangerous misjudgements made and crises mishandled. The drift towards a new world disorder, of which there have already been plenty of precursor signs, could accelerate.

What will this country’s best response be in these circumstances? Clearly we should not simply assume the worst before we have some idea of how a President Trump is going to behave in office. But we will surely need to make common cause with other like-minded countries in defence of the rules-based international order wherever it may be challenged – in NATO, at the UN, in the WTO. And who will those like-minded countries most likely be? First and foremost, our fellow members of the EU who are also, most of them, the European members of NATO. But there will be others too: Japan and South Korea, the countries of South and South East Asia, the members of the Commonwealth and many countries in Africa and Latin America, all of whom believe in freer trade and international rules.

Making common cause must in no circumstances mean trying to form an anti- American alliance. That would not work and it would be fundamentally against our interests. The object should rather be to influence US policies, both their foreign policy and their trade policy, with a view to shifting it towards the common ground which has assured our security and prosperity for so many decades. It would be ironic if we were to find ourselves working more closely with the rest of Europe than we have ever done before. But then, as someone once wisely observed, “interest never lies “.

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Edited by Michael Prest

Tags: Categories: Articles, Security

One Response to “We cannot afford to have illusions about Trump”

  • A man who doesn’t support NATO or the principle of mutual support amongst its members. A man who says that Paris and parts of London have lost their identity. A man who is all slogans, all mouth and no details or nuance. And then you have the folk who say that the US is the only global power. All this takes us back to Eisenhower who sold Old Europe down the river over Suez. It was then that Adenauer told the French that it was time to build the new Europe. Let us not start dismantling that new Europe at precisely the time when Europe may no longer depend on the good will of the US, or when the US President may no longer care about the risk of a growing Putin incursion on the borders of Europe. At a time of global uncertainty, Europeans are stronger together, and they need to stay together. That means a willingness on both sides to compromise – ours, but also theirs. The EU needs to move on and reform. It needs to accept that freedom of movement is not a scared cow but a principle that needs to adjust in practice with changing times to accommodate the transition from a homogeneous union of six member states to a heterogeeneous larger union of disparate states. The aim now should be for fair movement of labour. Yet, it is precisely those who demand some outdated absolute freedom of movement who reject sharing the burden of third country migration. They need to recognise that movement is not some sort of cost-free promenade but is itself a form of migration. Let them all come to the table and discuss. Or we shall all be the losers at a time of growing uncertainty.