Washington, NATO, USA, Syria, POTUS, China, Russia
Politics is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.George Orwell

Under normal circumstances, the prevalent news regarding NATO should have been the addition of Montenegro as its 29th member state. However, it was slighted; eclipsed by Mr. Trump’s U-turn regarding his views on the relevance of NATO in the 21st century. During his campaign trail, after his election, and notoriously during and after his fabled meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump has repeatedly ridiculed the military alliance. His articulation has ranged from calling it among other things, “obsolete”. Most recently in his reportage on NATO, he publicly criticized the validity and the relevance of the military alliance as well as the individual members’ economic responsibilities towards the bloc stating, “They aren’t paying what they should”.

This is a brief introduction of what Mr. Trump’s stance has been with respect to the global diplomacy, whereas domestically Donald Trump’s campaign was regularly in the spotlight for claims that have been called irresponsible and eccentric for a person occupying the office of POTUS. One of the most important claims that even many staunch old-time Republicans had to condemn and criticize was the Muslim travel ban. In the aftermath of San Bernardino attack, Mr. Trump proposed the framework against the Muslims, and appealed to mark them as extremists. Mr. Donald Trump indeed did try to bring such a ban into place, twice, failing on both occasions in a show of defiance from the US judicial system.

The Obamacare debacle was a feast for many who’ve been calling Trump and his term as a laughing stock. Many of his critics have derided him and his administration for being unable and incapable of dealing with some of the most important issues he raised in his campaign trail. The Affordable Care Act is still intact, largely due to Republic incompetence in coming up with a sustainable alternative, something which featured heavily in Trump’s election rhetoric. Then there is the Mexican wall; dumping all the illegal immigrants; prosecuting Hillary Clinton; reinstating torture methods on terrorism convicts in US custody; declaring China as a currency manipulator, the list keeps piling on. It was due to this display of preposterously underwhelming statesmanship that his ardent supporters such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos publicly berated Trump and his policies.

The starkest display of reversal, however, was his reciprocal stance on NATO. Trump now views it as, contrary to his previous statements, “not obsolete”. One wonders, justifiably, what exactly has changed? It set alarm bells tolling all around Europe when Trump made his commitment towards negotiating with Russia a top priority. He was at the time the leading Republican nominee, and the general assumption was that the classic liberal, European ally, Hillary Clinton would be the next POTUS. His election not only shocked millions of Americans domestically but also posed a headache for the US’s European allies, many of whom are reliant on the US constant support in terms of knowledge, technology and much more. There was an air of despair around Europe. Trump’s pro-Russia statements coupled with right-wing populist movements popping up across the board; all of whom expressed an interest in working with Putin rather than choosing the familiar route of antagonizing him. Marine Le Pen, expressed exactly the same thoughts while meeting with Putin at the Kremlin. Though matter of fact is that Le Pen just lost the recent elections.

Perhaps this is where the answer lies to explain Trump’s sudden shift with respect to NATO. His antics and failure to deliver promptly on his promises have made his relative infant government subject to intense scrutiny from not just the liberal factions but also conservative and libertarian cliques. These are the groups who have previously expressed steadfast support for his policies after his inauguration. There has been the stigma, even before the elections of Trump being nothing more or less than Putin’s puppet having been installed in the White House as a result of Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Elections. A man with the ego as fragile as Trump being labelled a “lackey” is nothing short of an attack on his capability to lead. Something that has been regularly brought up. This may also be the reason for his reversal on China, clearly now favoring a closer working relationship. It was quite evident through his warm reception of Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, at a time when an armada has been authorized by the US to enter Korean waters.

The allure of proving himself as his own boss might prove a great motivational factor to trigger a reaction from a man who takes pride in the assertion of him being a great leader. Though China has unusually been on board with the implementation of additional sanctions against North Korea, its trade with the communist neighbor still continues. It has been well established that any serious shake up in that trade would essentially cripple Kim Jong-un’s regime. It remains to be seen just how effective does this meeting between the two presidents turns out to be, especially with North Korea responding in strong language regarding the US recent strikes against Syria. While the relationship with Russia remains anyone’s guess, even after the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s meeting with Vladimir Putin. It is expected that the two countries will indeed enter into talks at some stage, with particular emphasis on the emerging situation in Syria. The US is insistent on planning for the period following the liberation of Mosul. Moreover, in a renewed show of support, NATO would be expected to fill in the responsibility to train the Iraqi authorities appropriately.

Only time and history will tell whether Donald Trump’s name enters the list of political witticisms. Although on current form, he looks on course to join the ranks of Richard Nixon and Warren G. Harding, leaving behind a legacy subject to immense ridicule.

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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