Naked Politics Blogger
It really is a scary thought that Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States. It almost seemed too good to be true that there existed a President, who for 8 years proved to be the one of the brightest and most inspiring in world history. Barack Obama really was a once in a lifetime politician. His command of public speaking was second to none and his charisma galvanised many. Running on a ticket that criticised almost every move of Obama’s over the past 8 years, blaming him for the injustices that working Americans have suffered, it is quite obvious Trump is not a fan of his predecessor’s work. Trump and the Republican leadership of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have made it clear they will seek to undo every major policy introduced under Obama. Domestically this is worrying for millions, on the foreign policy side things will turn just as ugly.
Whilst US Presidents have always been constrained by congress on domestic politics, foreign policy is where they enjoy more freedom. Obama struggled to pin down a legacy that he will be remembered for on the world stage. He was never a major interventionist in world conflicts, but sought diplomacy and alternative methods to put pressure on those who threaten democracy and freedom and has always been at the forefront when doing so. Obama’s departure from office symbolises a shift in America’s world role, combined with the nationalist stance Trump has displayed throughout his campaign.
In his inaugural address, Trump criticised previous administrations, having “defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own. And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas.” He declared he would be putting “America first” from now on. America has been the de facto protector of freedom and democracy around the globe for many, but Trump’s words signal an end to this role. What’s more, Trump’s admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin has been made more than evident throughout his campaign, contradicting the stance Obama has been taking in overseeing deteriorating relations with his Russian counterpart. This should worry European nations immensely. Trump has made it clear he is open to ending sanctions that were placed on Russia following their support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Immediately cosying up to Russia with his continuous compliments of Putin and showing no concern for their actions in Ukraine is an indication of the relationship we will see develop throughout Trump’s presidency.
Without condemnation of their actions, Russia is being given a free hand to pursue an aggressive foreign policy wherever and however they please. The world’s strongest and most democratic superpower of the past century will essentially turn a blind eye. As worrying as this is, the solution is simple. It is up to nations themselves to provide for their own security. If the impetus wasn’t there before, it is now. America is no longer there, waiting by the phone to answer an emergency call for help. States must rely on their own militaries, first and foremost, to protect themselves. Trump’s disregard for an “obsolete” NATOjust adds fuel to fire. Created to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, NATO now acts as a protector of its members to any form of aggression from possible foes, most obviously Russia. With Trump’s criticism, it immediately throws into question his commitment to protect member states.
There is no forcing Trump to alter his views, but it is simply time for NATO states to pull their weight. Granted, smaller nations simply cannot afford a defence budget to compete with Russian aggression, but the likes of Britain, France and Germany along with NATO’s other members can put up a strong stand. There should be no price on national security. Britain must invest following its recent cuts to military spending and Germany must get real on the threat a Trump-friendly Russia poses to the continent and bulk up their forces. For too long these states have relied heavily on the US as their muscly friend to deter any bullies.
Protection of their borders from the likes of Russia is not the only issue Trump has brought about. He has made no secret of his disgust with the Iran nuclear deal, agreed under Obama’s leadership, with the likes of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seeing an opportunity for its undoing. A nuclear Iran is not ideal and the deal made was the best outcome we could ask for. Using military force to destroy their nuclear capability would cause all sorts of headaches, but a diplomatic approach prevailed, why ruin that? The arduous months of negotiations do not have to be in vain. Once again the onus should be on the likes of Britain, France and Germany as the pillars of the west to protect the deal and ensure its longevity. There remain advocates of its existence in congress, so opposition in the US will remain for Trump, but the three Europeans must remain firm and prove their worth in the face of Trump’s recent rhetoric.
Whilst protection from a superpower with the strength of America is nice and something no one wants to lose, here lies an opportunity for the old powers to regain power and influence they once held. The west is much more than just the United States of America. Liberal democracy and freedom of speech existed long before America rose up as champion of such values and it is high time other nations stood up and showed the importance of them. Whether the likes of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, Poland and the rest of Europe is ready or not to provide their own security, they have no choice. To deter Russia, to have a say in how the world order exists and how the balance of power rests, they simply must do more. Europe is the world’s wealthiest and most powerful continent, no longer can it rely on others to back it up and nor should its nations be running at the heels of a superpower. Europe is a superpower in its own right and it is about time it proved it.