Trump’s recent meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki has generated outrage in the US and around the World. Since the summit, observers have been speculating as to what exactly Donald Trump is hoping to accomplish. There seems to be only one possibility: Trump is trying to dismantle the Western led world order established immediately following the Second World War, commonly known as the Western Alliance. Trump might consider the Alliance a burden for the US, however a fractured Western Alliance could cause catastrophe to US interests and instability around the world.
By way of explanation, the Western alliance, founded after World War Two, has kept peace around the globe for the past seven decades. With powerful military, political, and economic cooperation the Western Alliance has ushered the world into a new age of prosperity and peace, while also creating the perfect environment for democratic governments to rise. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, known as NATO, is the most visible manifestation of the Western Alliance and the most significant military pact in human history. Founded in anticipation of conflict with the Soviet Bloc, all member states of NATO are required to provide military support if another member state is attacked by an external party. The Western Alliance has directly contributed to the stability of the world, and if it were to crumble, peace would die out with it, and chaos will surely ensue.
Trump is infamous for his outward appreciation of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, his administration’s close ties with Russia, and his pro-Russia stance. He is currently under federal investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, to determine if there was any collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign. First of all, this paints a terrible image for Trump because it is well known that Russia did in fact interfere during the election in Trump’s favor. Being a president that Russia wants in power sends a terrible message to both Americans and American allies alike.
Second of all, if allegations of collusion are true, this would mean that Trump actively manipulated and bypassed the democratic system, which would look terrible in the eyes of the American public. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Trump’s first secretary of state Rex Tillerson, both have suspicious and deep ties with Russia, having business dealings with Russian-backed authorities in Kiev and Moscow. Furthermore, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and Attorney general Jeff Sessions, both met with Russian officials numerous times during Trump’s campaign. Not only is this further evidence that Trump colluded with Russia, it also heightens the fear that Trump does in fact want a closer relationship with Putin.
Even after the collapse of the USSR, the Western Alliance continues to be at odds with its successor – the Russian Federation. It will not please any member of the Western Alliance to see America bonding closer with Russia in the face of Russian human rights violations, flaunting of international law, and deliberate violence against its neighbors.
Trump’s falling-out with allied leaders started before he was even elected. As a candidate, he promised to get the US economy back on its feet during his campaign, which he plans to accomplish by raising tariffs against both friend and foe. On June 1, 2018 Trump imposed tariffs on European, Canadian, and Mexican steel and aluminum. These are America’s closest allies and the tariffs will have an impact not just on them, but on the US economy as well. For America’s allies these tariffs serve as a double blow; not only do these tariffs damage their economies, but they are also an insult from their once trustworthy and reliable political and economic partner.
Trump is also currently entangled in an all-out trade war with China, which he started by imposing tariffs on $34 billion dollars worth of Chinese imports. As China looks to retaliate, Trump has even threatened to impose even more tariffs that would affect $450 billion dollars worth of Chinese goods. The aggressive stance Trump has taken in dealing with China certainly isn’t what America’s allies are looking for in the leader of the Free World, further deepening the rift between them.
Considering his childish treatment of non-allies, you would think that Trump would at least play nice with his friends to gain some support, but he does the exact opposite. Bickering and disagreeing with any and every allied leader he can find, from Trudeau to Merkel, he has managed to upset all of them. Recently at the G7 summit, he even left before the summit ended, but not before leaving all of his allies fuming and in outrage, which is best depicted by the now infamous “Trump G7 photo”.
However, Trump’s biggest shock for his allies came during the latest NATO summit, as he threatened to pull the US out of NATO if NATO member states didn’t raise military spending. This is a huge issue for the Western Alliance, as NATO is considered as the embodiment of the Western order. In other words, if the US leaves NATO, the Western Alliance is doomed to fail. It also shows that Trump doesn’t recognize the importance of NATO as former US presidents have, and by threatening to leave it, he indicates just how little he cares about it and 70 years of American-led international cooperation.
Trump is known to be different from his predecessors, and this characteristic can best be seen when Trump goes back on deals and agreements made by previous US presidents. On June 1, 2017 Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, a historical agreement to combat global climate change. He also ditched the Iran nuclear deal this May, which was signed by many of America’s major allies. Not only does backing out of deals make Trump look extremely untrustworthy, it also shows how much Trump disagrees with many of the ideals shared by American allies and previous American administrations. Trump’s flippant and devil-may-care attitude towards abandoning signed deals is costing the president his already fleeting credibility, and soon none of his allies will heed anything he says or any deal he signs.
The largest problem Trump presents for America’s allies is that he is abandoning American ideals that were held sacred and looked up to since the end of World War Two. America, once a nation that aspired to equal opportunity for everyone around the world, now bars their gates to people from Muslim countries. Written atop the Statue of Liberty, the New Colossus reads:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
However on the Mexican border, ICE detains and separates families who are looking for a better future in the once “Land of the Free”. For America’s allies, the once great nation that is the United States of America has degenerated into a country where white supremacists are not only tolerated but their opinions treated as equally worthy of discussion as those of men who believe in justice, equality, and freedom.
As Trump continues to befriend Putin, push his allies away, and stray further away from American ideals, the once proud Western Alliance that has protected the world from global violence and war continues to crumble. And the final victor from this won’t be America as Trump thinks, but Putin, who shall gain the most. However, America and its allies aren’t necessarily doomed – in two years the citizens of the United States of America will have another chance to rewrite and undo the damages Trump has caused. Hopefully they will make the right choice this time.