Fortress ‘merka

If Trump truly implements his ideas, the US will become inward looking

In an interview with the New York Times last week, he suggested that as President he would not necessarily stand by the security guarantees the US provides for members of the Nato Alliance. Asked whether he would extend that to the small Baltic States if Russia attacked them, he said he would make that decision only after reviewing whether those states “have fulfilled their obligations to us”. There is only one obligation they owe the US under Nato and it is the same one that all alliance members, including the US, have accepted: to regard an attack on any one of them as an attack on them all.

Possibly Trump is not aware of that. He has not been well versed on the detail of many of the issues he has raised. But his precise meaning is less important than the instincts he reveals. No previous presidential candidate, especially from the Republican Party, would have left any doubt of his commitment to Nato partners. The slightest doubt where countries on the borders of Russia are concerned can only encourage the sort of adventurism Vladimir Putin has already displayed in Georgia, Crimea and the Eastern Ukraine, and put the Baltic States at greater risk.

Trump must be aware of that much. His prevarication on the Nato commitment appears deliberate and it is not an isolated remark; earlier this year he suggested the US role in the alliance should be scaled back and last week the Washington Post reported the Trump campaign had worked to soften the language of an American commitment to Ukraine, which is not in Nato but would like to be. Trump may just be ultra-cautious and keeping all his options open if he is in power next year, but there is reason to think he would bring a radical change in America’s foreign engagements.

He seems to regard foreign security commitments with much the same distaste he has for trade deals. He sees them as weighted against the US and thinks one way to “make America great again” is to withdraw from them if they do not serve a very narrow view of America’s needs. He is playing to the isolationist instinct that has always been a popular force in American politics, as it is in most countries. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was grounded in the same impulse. Brexit and the Trump campaign are being widely interpreted as a retreat from globalisation.

Well duh.  The rhetoric about putting up walls, the restriction of free movement of people, and the USA’s withdrawal as the world’s self-appointed police force are all indicating a 180 degree turn.

The side effect of this may not be as bad as people fear.  Interventionist policies, be they economic or strategic haven’t resulted in a lot of successes for the United States since the Second World War.  The voters are thoroughly sick of having governments send their young and brave to godforsaken places to die only to be hated for doing so.

It would certainly be interesting to see what the rest of the world would do once the US withdraws from all theatres and ties up it’s navy.


– NZ Herald

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