Trump has got a point on NATO, Russia and climate change

by Julian Glassford

Winston Churchill is widely regarded as the greatest Briton in history. Here was a larger than life, notoriously brash and uncompromising Western leader, and one who allied himself with a Russian tyrant. 70 years on, and the political mainstream finds itself consumed with juxtaposed vexation. The source of all this consternation: a similarly bold and irrepressible, if relatively uncultured, rabble-rousing “Russophile”.

Granted, Donald Trump is no Churchill, but rather than jumping the gun in mourning the presumed death of American exceptionalism and Pax Americana, perhaps we ought to take the opportunity to pause, contemplate, and culture our concerns.

The cry that “democracy has lost its champion” smacks of selective amnesia regarding a string of less than illustrious foreign adventures from Vietnam to Iraq. It is also as if certain commentators skipped classes on the role of European ‘soft power’ and complex interdependence. It should be clear to any learned, objective analyst that increased stability and human flourishing has in many instances occurred not because, but in spite, of US-led interventions and initiatives.

Clearly, there is much to be said for the exercise of high minded influence by major players on the world stage – no-one wants to see a return to the dark days of American isolationism – but beware the false dichotomy. Notwithstanding the solipsistic antics of a certain “dangerous vulgarian” i.e. widely condemned neo-mercantile Trumponomics and discriminatory migration policy, a United States of Anarchy is not a realistic prospect.

Precarious as the present international order may be, it is unwise to presuppose that an unfiltered US President – or British foreign secretary, for that matter – will send the house of cards crashing down; that is, so long as the UN Security Council remains united in their opposition to nuclear proliferation, and the East-West arms-race in prospect confined to peaceful competition.

On pertinent fiscal policy, why should the US Treasury spend 5 per cent of GDP on defence (e.g. compared to the UK’s 2 per cent), in continuing to prop up NATO? The alliance was established in order to deter/repel Soviet aggressors that have long since ceased to exist – except, that is, in the skittish imagination of certain over-caffeinated Pentagon militarists and conspiratorial CIA types.

Trump’s administration-in-waiting is quite right to signal its intent to avoid sabre rattling with Russia, as if provocation were the best form of ‘defence’. Evidently, there exists a need to (sometimes firmly) encourage international colleagues to lead responsibly, but no nation/collective is compelled to adopt an antagonistic posture in any event. The Russian bear has been backed into a corner; further prodding could prove extremely unwise.

On China, before he’d even taken the oath, Donald Trump had succeeded in stirring up greater interest and controversy than Barack Obama managed during 8 years in office! Again, the response of the media appears somewhat conflicted: in recent years, Western leaders have repeatedly come under fire for their mute criticism of Chinese oppression and regional encroachment. Trump may have clumsily stumbled into Taiwanese controversy, but Chinese protestation over one democratically elected leader picking up the phone to another speaks to the retrograde normalisation of totalitarian repression as much as it does to political naivety.

On climate change accords, what binding, material commitments did the 2016 Paris Agreement exact upon developing nations? Ask interlocutors this and their answers tend to betray an optimistic, if ill informed and tragically flawed, presumption. Plainly, the USA’s (narrow) interests are not well served by remaining signatory to environmental deals that stop short of imposing meaningful limits on developing nations, whose total CO­2 emissions by now far outweigh those of the developed world incidentally.

The Republicans campaigned on an “America first”, pro-industrial revival, climate change sceptic ticket. In the above context, to revisit green agreements would thus be entirely consistent with their mandate – even if those of us concerned for the environment would prefer the next US administration not to rock the boat.

Until detractors comprehensively address legitimate questions posed by articles such as this, most sensible observers would be well advised to reserve judgement, sit tight, and see how things develop. In a world of sore loser sniping and virtue signalling, ‘post-truth’ anti-democratic protestation, ‘Project Fear’ alarmism, and (related) buyers’ remorse, it’s all too easy to get sucked into the politics of doom and gloom. To do so now would be premature.

An epochal shift in international affairs may well be just around the corner. But the degree to which the land of the free and the home of the brave suddenly recoils from global leadership, and the extent to which others step up and fill the void, remains to be seen. We must have faith in modern democratic institutions and the power of diplomacy, and hope that common sense, human decency, and long-view strategic interests will prevail.

Whatever the case, the displacement of status quo ‘suits’ by populists in 2016 offers, if nothing else, a timely reminder that history will judge the leaders of tomorrow not by method, nor even values, but by results.

Julian Glassford is a UK-based multidisciplinary researcher and social entrepreneur.

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10 Responses to “Trump has got a point on NATO, Russia and climate change”

  1. Hi Julian,

    Arguing against the fashionable point of view is no bad thing, but I don’t agree.

    You said: “The Russian bear has been backed into a corner; further prodding could prove extremely unwise.”

    You write as if Obama was the aggressor. He imposed sanctions on Russia for the breaking of international law, in the invasion of part of Ukraine. Apart from that, how had he prodded the Russian bear?

    Have a read of CNN’s piece “Report suggests Russia, Syria deliberately targeted civilian areas of Aleppo”.

    If I were a resident of Aleppo, or for that matter, Ukraine, Georgia, or the Baltic States, I wouldn’t regard Russia as the victim here.

    Rather, Putin has filled the power vacuum left by Obama, and is using indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas to advance his influence in a part of the Middle East that has no border with Russia.

  2. Anon says:

    The ‘establishment’ are clinging on to straws here.

    They seem to believe that Trump and Brexit are temporary aberrations – they are not; this is just the beginning.

    The UK’s democracy has been trashed – that that position has coincided with our EU membership is a matter of conjecture.

    The people are not looking to the likes of Farage and Trump with any sense of affection, but are using them to break up the cosy cabals that have insinuated themselves into our democracy; they really do want to “drain the swamp”.

    And, whatever happened to Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) Why does nobody refer to the original term. Or is it because CO2 is seen for what it has always been – a life-giving harmless gas.

    This is not “displacement” by populists, we are not going to turn back.

    We are sick of the lies.

  3. John P Reid says:

    Well Said

  4. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Donald Trump had a point back in 1987……..

  5. The problem is that so many people are obsessed with ludicrous nonsense ( “he’s going to lock up LGBT people” , “he’s going to deport all the muslims” , etc) that nobody’s paying attention to the real news in the background. Personally, I suspect the whole thing is actually a deliberate and calculated media strategy. That many serious journalists are getting caught up in it is itself deeply worrying

    My cartoon take on it:

  6. Tafia says:

    Personally if I were Trump I would read the riot act to NATO and give them two choices – make the under-payers meet their obligationwithin 2 years or we (the US) will walk away and set about building a replacement defence pact.

    The under-payers have no intention of meeting their obligation because they believe NATO will do nothing about it in turn because the USA ‘will always be there to pick up the pieces’. In such a scenario only an ultimatum and then kicking the chair out from under them is the only answer.

    Always remeber, the US is more than capable of taking Russia on on it’s own and flatening it with ease. Their kit is rubbish and the quality of their soldiers is dire. It’s no skin off the US’s nose if Russia overruns Europe.

  7. Julian Glassford says:

    George Kendall: Obama is just one man (consider the rhetoric/actions of US officials more generally), and sanctions are only part of the ratcheting up of pressure. Contrast this and the outrage over events in Syria – understanding that both flashpoints are irrefutably linked in a number of important ways to Western interference – with responses e.g. to Israeli occupation and the handling of the Israel–Gaza conflict.

    With respect, we’ve surely moved beyond conceiving of major international players as simply being victims/aggressors, and winners/losers. This is the age of globalism and transnational special interests, hypernomalisation and perception management, and proxy, asymmetric, and false flag/informational warfare.

  8. Julian Glassford says:

    Calvin Graham: Serious journalists are no match for the apparatus of determined super-rich special interests. 2016 was a timely reminder of this: a year that barely any MSM organisation has come out of with journalistic integrity intact, even our dearly beloved Auntie Beeb.

    Your cartoon commentary hits the nail on the head, a la Curtis’ Hypernormalisation and my own somewhat related commentaries: certain above-mentioned “cabals” are highly focused on trying to control the narrative, only, in the Digital Information Age, the harder they push it the more free thinkers dig their heels in:

  9. Julian Glassford says:

    Tafia: If the US walks away from NATO then the established order could disintegrate, leaving the rest of the West looking rather exposed. Instead, the US should encourage allies to pull their weight, reduce its own military expenditure regardless, and engage other world powers in serious disarmament talks

    It won’t do this, however, so long as the buck stops with the military industrial complex and certain overseas interests; Trump is no doubt aware he’s made himself enough of a target as it is, without inviting the same fate as the one that befell poor JFK

  10. Tafia says:

    If the US walks away from NATO then the established order could disintegrate

    The established order is disintegrating anyway. All established orders always do. Trouble only happens when established orders resist it.

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