BY M.R. JOSSE
KATHMANDU: According to J. Bradford Delong, a Western commentator, America under President Donald Trump is a “loser.” He maintains, categorically, that “it is already clear that the American century ended on November 8, 2016” when Trump was sworn in as US president.
At that precise moment, he brashly concludes, the “United States ceased to be the world’s leading superpower – the flawed but ultimately well-meaning guarantor of peace, prosperity, and human rights around the world.”
Though there are hordes in the US and elsewhere who would readily endorse that severe judgment, they are matched by multitudes who take a less extreme view of Trump’s proclivities and policies, both in the domestic as well as foreign/security policy domains.
Indeed, while the results of November’s mid-term elections will indicate which way the political wind is actually blowing half-way into Trump’s first term in office, there are copious signs that, irritating and baffling as Trump projects himself to be, he is plainly dominating the world scene and will perhaps continue to do so, at least until the next presidential elections in 2020.
As per an AFP news item, a “barrage of nationwide protests” will greet Trump during a journey to the UK, where he lands after a two-day NATO summit in Brussels.” Notably, the tour will take him largely away from London where thousands are likely to pour into the streets signaling that his “message of hate and division is not welcome” in Britain.
Nevertheless, Trump will be received by the British Queen, have talks with Prime Minister Teresa May at her Checker’s residence, and be hosted at a formal reception by the American ambassador to the UK – before heading off for golf in Scotland.
It may also be noted that although this will not be a ‘state visit’, one is informed via BBC, that such a ceremonial one has not been ruled out in the future. It may be salutary, in any case, to remind oneself that the US president is far too important a personage to be ignored by foreign governments, not least by one so patently linked to America by the indissoluble, celebrated bonds of a “special relationship.”
The American president should make waves in Britain for other reasons as well – not least, since his sojourn in England and Scotland will precede his July 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where key, perhaps even strategic, decisions affecting global peace will be taken.
Although Trump’s continued demand that NATO members increase their military spending will not be greeted by exuberant Cossack revelry in Red Square – so, too, for his affirmation last year, of NATO’s mutual defence clause – it should help mitigate charges by critics alleging that Trump is wantonly conciliatory towards Russia, despite Crimea and other manifestations of anti-West aggressiveness by the Kremlin.
The world will, of course, carefully monitor the first direct, formal apex talks between the United States and Russia. Arguably, the strategic import of parleys between the two most heavily armed nuclear-weapons powers in the world would be plainly manifest at any time.
That they will take place when Russia-China cooperation flourishes at an “unprecedented level” – to quote Putin at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Qingdao – clearly injects it more than ordinary significance.
Today, against the backdrop of what is being labeled as the tit-for-tat, US-China trade war and the more recently reported consolidation of a joint Russia and Chinese stance vis-à-vis US tariffs and sanctions, the Trump-Putin summit acquires even more centrality.
After all, it does not require tons of grey matter in one’s cranium to conclude that, were the prevailing power equilibrium in the strategic America-China-Russia triangle to be knocked off kilter, a harsh, perhaps unpredictable, geopolitical competition between the US on the one hand and China and Russia on the other would be unleashed.
Its impact would be experienced globally, and in a variety of ways and intensity, including even in such backwaters as Nepal.
Finally, on the subject under review here, what must also be taken cognizance of is that Russia is becoming an increasingly important, if still a behind-the-scenes, player on the North Korean denuclearization question – a prime foreign/security policy objective for Trump, as has been made more than glaringly obvious.
In short, rather than take sides of the love/hate Trump debate that now flourishes as a parlor game the world over, it may be more productive to take cool, objective cognizance of actual events and realities on the ground.
As indicated, Trump’s America might still irritate, even baffle but it clearly dominates world affairs, one way or other. That simple verity of international relations is best not ignored.
VIEW FROM BEIJING
With regard to our own neck of the woods, yours faithfully wishes to draw readers’ attention to the June 28, 2018 issue of Beijing Review whose main story in the World section was devoted to the “Candid, Cordial Talks” – as “Xi Jinping meets with Kim Jong Un again in Beijing”.
That story, in question, was “an edited excerpt of Xinhua News Agency reports on their (Xi-Kim) talks”.
What was revealing was not so much the extensive reportage and a colour photograph therein of the warm welcome ceremony for Kim by Xi but the fact that it contrasted with images that were published/transmitted by the media here on a similar, but subdued, ceremony between Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli (who like Kim arrived Beijing on June 19) and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
More than that was the fact that the Beijing Review issue did not contain a single line or photograph of Oli’s “official” six day visit to China – one that began on the very same day as North Korean leader Kim arrived in Beijing!
I leave it to readers to make of that lapse – willful or accidental what you may.