BY SHASHI MALLA
United States: Trump Against the World
Thanks to US President Donald J. Trump, world politics has become extremely unstable, perhaps not at any time more so than since the end of the harrowing Cold War, after the implosion and collapse of the Communist Soviet Union and the shattering of the dreadful Berlin Wall — symbolically separating the peoples living under autocratic, dictatorial Communism and a centrally directed economy, and those enjoying liberal, democratic values and a social market economy. Since then and until the end of the Barack Obama presidency, the world did have its ups and downs, but there was no world shattering incidents.
The ascendency of Trump has fundamentally changed not only US domestic politics, but also – most unfortunately – how international relations among states are conducted. In the domestic arena, Trump has virtually poisoned everything in his path, and then projected this into the international domain. He can be designated as the ‘world pariah par excellence’.
There is growing disgust with Trump as a person, and disillusionment with his foreign policy. The dramatic departure of Andy McKean from the GOP (subsequently joining the Democrats), a regular Republican for close a half century, a Republican officeholder for 35 years, and the longest serving Republican currently in the Iowa legislature, should be an eye-opener for Americans. He chose to follow the dictates of his conscience, and as a true patriot, put country before party.
He put into words what millions of Americans now think about Trump: “It is just a matter of time before our country pays a heavy price for President Trump’s reckless spending and shortsighted financial policies; his erratic, destabilizing foreign policy; and his disdain and disregard for environmental concerns.”
McKean describes Trump as completely lacking in decency and character: “Trump sets a poor example for the nation and our children. He delivers personal insults, often in a crude and juvenile fashion to those who disagree with him and is a bully…In addition, he frequently disregards the truth and displays a willingness to ridicule or marginalize people for their appearance, ethnicity, and disability.”
The New York Times revelations regarding his tax transcripts between 1985 and 1994 show that he was burdened with enormous debt that topped US $ Dollar 1 billion. It also demonstrated that his business acumen was at best questionable, at worst fake…as were his vast profits. The so-called self-made man Trump presented in his book “The Art of the Deal” was pure fiction![The Atlantic]
Existential Threat through Climate Change
The worst thing that President Trump did was to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.
According to the latest conclusions of 455 international experts and contributing authors from 50 countries in a new UN report on biodiversity and ecosystem, up to 1 million species of plants and animals are now threatened with extinction, some within decades, including 40% percent of all amphibians, 33% percent of marine mammals, and another 33% percent of shark, shark relatives and reef forming corals.
Other devastating results of ‘human endeavour’ are the 10-fold increase in plastic pollution since 1980, and there are 400 million tons of heavy metals, toxic sludge and fertilizer runoff poured into the world’s waters each year.
Then there is the doubling of greenhouse gas emissions since 1980; the growth of industrial fishing now extending to 55% percent of the world’s oceans, and the 85% percent loss of the wetlands since the dawn of the industrial era, and the 70% percent increase in invasive species in 21 countries.
The co-chair of the panel that produced the report said: “Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing…The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed.”
Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist and conservationist, said: “Today’s U.N. Report provides a stark warning – we humans are threatening all life on Planet Earthwith extinction: up to 1 million plant and animal species are at risk and many may disappear within decades.”
But Donald Trump and his government are least bothered – after all climate change is just a hoax. But just for the record: our Communist government in the ‘Federal, Democratic Himalayan Republic’ of Nepal with a two-thirds majority in parliament is also doing nothing for the environment.
Trump beats War Drums towards Iran
According to the Agence France Press (AFP), the United States has now deployed an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Persian Gulf. The USS Arlington transports marines, amphibious vehicles, conventional landing craft and rotary aircraft. The Pentagon announced that these will bolster the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier group and B-52 bomber squadron already in the ‘war zone’. Washington claims that so-called intelligence reports suggested Iran was planning some sort of attack in the region.
US President Trump’s national security adviser (NSA), John Bolton, an extreme hawk since George W. Bush’s times, threatened that the belligerent deployment aimed to send a ‘clear and unmistakable’ message to Iran about any attack against the US or its partners in the region. He was alluding to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and their proxy war in Yemen.
On the Iranian side there were absolutely no signs of preparations for an armed conflict. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council spokesman KeyvanKhosravi brushed off the beating of the drums of war in a serene and unruffled manner: “Bolton’s statement is a clumsy use of an out-of-date event for psychological warfare”. Not only that, Trump and his administration was whipping up war fever for domestic consumption. After all, the 2020 elections are fully upon the country. Trump wants to demonstrate how much of a versatile military commander-in-chief, and at the same time also a perspicacious statesman he is. Amid the rising tensions – of his own making – Trump said he was open to talks with the Iranian leadership: “I would like to see them call me” [!]…We don’t want them to have nuclear weapons – not much to ask.” If so, why did he withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in the first place, which was designed to do just that? Not only that, he has added insult to injury by slapping unjust sanctions on Iran.
According to Newsweek Trump now “did not dismiss the potential for a war between the United States and Iran…amid soaring tensions escalated by reports of recent, unclaimed attacks [probably by rogue elements] against commercial tankers [of Saudi Arabia off the coast of Al Fujayrah emirate, UAE in the Gulf of Oman] near the world’s busiest oil chokepoint [ Strait of Hormuz].
Trump’s Trade War with China
Trump has also weaponized economic sanctions in the ongoing trade war with China.
The latest trade war talks between China and the United States in Washington ended without a deal last Friday, but Beijing’s top negotiator Vice-Premier Liu He described the meetings as “candid and constructive”. The two sides have agreed to meet again in Beijing. He claimed that the negotiations had not broken down and was “cautiously optimistic”.
Liu dismissed allegations that China had reneged on earlier promises and commitments. In order for the trade deal to happen several issues had to be resolved:
China believes tariffs are the starting point of the bilateral trade dispute. These tariffs must all be eliminated.
In Argentina last December, President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump had agreed that China would buy more goods from the US. There is now a difference of opinion on what had actually been agreed.
The issues were serious, but could be resolved in a cooperative and respectful manner. But China could not make concessions on matters of principle.
The latest talks in Washington came just hours after Trump made good on his threat to increase tariffs on US $ Dollar 200 billion worth of Chinese imports. He justified the move by saying China had delayed the process of reaching a trade agreement by backtracking on commitments it had made during months of negotiations. China, of course, opposed the stupendous tariff hike and would “have to respond”.
Trump has also ordered the start of a process to impose new duties on another US $ Dollar 300 billion worth of Chinese goods. China retaliated by raising tariffs on US $ Dollar 60 billion worth of US items. These will principally affect American consumers and farmers.
Economic problems still remained between the US and China. These included forced technology transfers, intellectual property protection and state-sponsored enterprise. Vice-premier Liu has stressed that both sides must show restraint, and it was vital that they did not overreact.
At the same time, the vice-premier emphasized the resilience of China’s economy. He showed China’s combative side: “China firmly opposes the trade war, but is fully prepared for it and will deal with the matter rationally.” Chinese state media also took a defiant stance. The People’s Daily , the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commented: “China requires that all tariffs be eliminated to restore normal bilateral trade.” (quoted in South China Morning Post )
Trump has met more than his match in the US-China trade war.
Turkey: Erdogan’s attack on Electoral Democracy
Millions of Turks cast their votes nationwide on March 31 in local elections to choose mayors, city council members, and other officials for the next five years. President RecepTayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the mayoral elections in the capital Ankara and Izmir, and also in the economic, cultural and political metropole Istanbul (here by a slight margin) to the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Erdogan could not take the defeat in Istanbul lying down and demanded a re-run. Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) acceded to the objection by seven votes in favour and four against, and announced a re-election on June 23. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party claimed that there were “irregularities and Corruption” behind the opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) slim win.
The CHP’s EkremImamoglu, who was confirmed and inaugurated as Istanbul’s mayor in April, called the decision “treacherous”. CHP deputy chair OnursalAdiguzel said the re-run showed it was “illegal to win against the AK Party” [!] and tweeted that the decision was “plain dictatorship”, and that the “system that overrules the will of the people and disregards the law is neither democratic nor legitimate.” It has also sparked widespread protests in the city. The electoral body has been roundly condemned. The European Parliament commented that this would end the credibility of democratic elections in Turkey.
President Erdogan had said that “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.” But winning back the country’s economic powerhouse is a strategy rife with risks, according to Mark Lowen, the BBC’s Turkey correspondent. The economy is in recession, and the country’s economic woes lost Istanbul in the first place. Erdogan’s party is also deeply divided on this very issue. EkremImamogluis a rising star and gaining in popularity beyond his base, and may, in fact, increase the margin of victory in the second round.
In the ongoing marathon Indian General Elections, Modi’s Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be losing ground and has already started negotiations over a post-election alliance even before polling ends on May 19 and votes counted on May 23.
The president of the main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi said: “Narendra Modi used hatred [against Muslims, Dalits and minorities], we used love. And I think love is going to win.”
Narendra Modi made a complete fool of himself by contending in a weekend television interview that he had ordered air strikes on Pakistan in February because cloud cover would stop radar detection of Indian fighter jets [in fact radar works very well even with clouds] by Pakistan.
Modi’s boastful, lying and arrogant attitude was on full display when he also claimed that he had sent digital pictures as an email attachment in the late 1980s. Actually, this was not possible until 1992.
As an Indian academic tweeted: “The joke is not on Modi…[but] on the educated elite/middle class supporters of Modi who have made idiocy and ignorance ‘fashionable’ “
The writer can be reached at: email@example.com