Deciphering US nonchalance in the G20 Summit

Deciphering US nonchalance in the G20 Summit

The Guardian ran the headline “G19”. Numerous reputable and well established papers across the world, international and domestic, swiftly followed the cue. The Independent, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and nearly every reputable news resource took a similar rhetoric. In the preceding presidencies, such a public relations disaster would have caused an uproar of great magnitude in the White House but this is not a normal presidency. This is Donald John Trump’s era, where he has single handedly managed to call into question the integrity of every single main stream media source take for example the CNN and MSNBC.

Despite the barrage of press, both prior and subsequent to his trip to Hamburg, Donald Trump carried out the agenda he might have had from the onset of his trip to the G20 Summit. It has been dubbed “G19” because despite some rather memorable moments such as Trump’s enthusiastic exchange with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, there was a run in of awkward proportions with Angela Merkel followed by unprecedented protests organized by leftist organizations with a specific anti-Trump motive.

Unlike his previous foreign visit centering around the Middle East and European allies, hoping he would mend broken bridges, this time Trump looked more emphatic in what he expected from these allies. What he wanted was to put on display for the world to see where the US would gravitate under his leadership, and he should get full marks for expounding it vivaciously. When a clip of him being ignored by the Polish first lady went viral, the Polish president quickly tweeted, “Let’s FIGHT FAKE NEWS” while also reiterating how it is part of the Polish custom for the wives to greet each other first than the males. In a clear show of empathy, Trump retweeted with his own caption, “We’ll fight with you”. Another such instance occurred when Trump and Putin sat down for their first one on one since the November elections. When the journalists were brought in, Putin quipped by asking “Are these the ones bothering you” signaling towards the American journalists, to which Trump rather compassionately replied, “Yes, they’re the ones”. The meeting went on with the two global political titans exchanging smiles, having frequent hand over mouth chit chats and topping it off with a vicarious handshake.

Trump has demonstrated time and again that he is more comfortable dealing with leaders hailing from traditionally authoritarian and nationalist backgrounds such as Saudi Arabia, China, Poland and of course Russia, than he is with the Eurocentric Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

This theme is not altogether an unknown one, Trump has demonstrated time and again that he is more comfortable dealing with leaders hailing from traditionally authoritarian and nationalist backgrounds such as Saudi Arabia, China, Poland and of course Russia, than he is with the Eurocentric Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. As a statesman, he is not opted for the usual cloak and dagger approach towards filtering out his allies and those he deems worthy of reprisal. Germany and most of the traditional US allies in NATO and the European Union have publicly stated their mixed emotions about having to deal with a man as unpredictable as Donald Trump. Before his election, the general consensus was that even if elected, President Donald Trump would find it an incredibly herculean task to carry out the promises that candidate Donald Trump is making, and yet he has seemingly followed up on most of his promises. When the cameras were still clicking and the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto sat down to discuss issues concerning US – Mexican relations in recent times, the dreaded question came up, a reporter asked “Do you still expect Mexico to pay for the wall?”, Trump’s reply in his now signature emotionless retort was “Absolutely”. The Mexican President’s silence and the wrinkles on his forehead in the immediate moments after Trump’s reply spoke volumes.

The Paris Accords from which Trump announced the departure of the US represents the divisions between how differently those in Brussels and Washington view themselves economically moving forward. Trump and most of his voters share a tremendous amount of vitriol towards the Accords, which according to them places a cap on what the US can and cannot do while doling out favorable deals to greater contributors to pollution e.g. China and India. The topic was a major part of the discussions at the G20, the only problem was that Donald Trump was not there. He left midway of the Summit. And herein comes the “G19” rhetoric. European states have begun to entertain the idea of a world where they can no longer rely on the mighty US to be their “through thick and thin” ally. The priorities of the US seem destined to be focused on domestic issues rather than global ones, at least for the next four years.

Trump and most of his voters share a tremendous amount of vitriol towards the Accords, which according to them places a cap on what the US can and cannot do while doling out favorable deals to greater contributors to pollution e.g. China and India.

From how things are shaping up, it may as well be “G19” versus “G1”. Trump, seemingly quite satisfied with the idea of resisting nations which he feels are pushing their burden on the US. After all, it is the same rhetoric that got him into the Oval Office in the first place. It might just keep him there for the next four years or who knows, maybe even eight.

Ousama Khurshid Khan
Ousama Khurshid Khan is currently working as Senior Research Associate in CSCR. He is an MPhil Scholar at NDU Islamabad. He has previously served in NDU’s research think tank ISSRA in 2015. His area of interest is Defence studies and foreign policy of United States, and he writes on regional contemporary issues. He can be reached at osamakhurshidkhan@gmail.com
ok@cscr.pk and he tweets @Sam1992sam.

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