Donald Trump has the pathological need to be obeyed. It usually happens to alpha males. In Germany he criticized Angela Merkel because she agreed with Russia to create a direct gas pipeline while the United States protects the country from a war with Moscow. He did not understand Merkel’s reasons. The Russian energy supply was also a shield against war. What was the point for Moscow to eliminate its first source of income in foreign currency?
In the United Kingdom, Trump scolded conservative Prime Minister Theresa May. He reproached her for ignoring his advice on how to handle Brexit, and threatened to bury the promised preferential trade deal with the United States. At the same time, he recommended former Minister Boris Johnson, a tough guy, as Prime Minister. Everybody knows that Trump is not fond of the European Union. If it depended on him, he would dissolve that union immediately. When, surprisingly, the United Kingdom voted to separate itself from the EU, Trump celebrated the decision by inviting the biggest defender of Brexit in the UK, Nigel Farage, to the White House.
Trump is not comfortable with NATO either. He asked the institution’s member nations to contribute 4% of GDP to defense, doubling the previously agreed amount. This percentage is greater than the one that the United States allocates (3.5%). With that exaction, he will destroy NATO. That’s what he wants. He will use the lack of compliance as an alibi to leave the alliance. Trump, obviously, is preparing the conditions to pack his bags and go away. He will abandon NATO as he did with the Trans-Pacific Association Agreement and perhaps he will do the same with the Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.
On the other hand, he is absolutely consistent with his campaign promises and with his beliefs. For a nationalist who is opposed to globalization such as Trump, NATO, the EU, the FTAs and free trade are meaningless. He feels that the allies are taking advantage of the United States. It seems to him that the United States does not have to be defending rich countries like Germany or England. He abhors the foreign aid that the US grants. And he is not alone in that way of thinking. A large percentage of American society believes the same. Until the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the majority of the population preferred to be neutral and not participate in the horrendous slaughterhouse of World War II. Even millions of Americans sympathized with Germany.
Franklin D. Roosevelt managed to impose a different point of view. The United States could not continue to protect itself from conflicts through isolation. It was what George Washington had recommended to his compatriots. Honest Georgewas wrong. That attitude had not served well Woodrow Wilson during World War I. By blood and fire the German submarines dragged the US to the war of 1914. Isolation didn’t serve Roosevelt either, as he discovered on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese pulverized a naval base in Hawaii.
It was at that point when the United States, faced with the impossibility of ignoring the rest of the international actors, decided to lead the nation’s natural allies. It was then that the notion of the Free World emerged, always practical, but sometimes inaccurate. The idea was to create defensive pacts that would serve to keep the enemies at bay, and the starting point was to avoid the nations’ financial disaster, because that was one of the causes of wars. Before the Cold War broke out, the Breton Woods Conference was the first step. There, the foundations of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the dollar as a global currency were laid down.
The Cold War began in 1945. Harry Truman was already president and he continued Roosevelt’s strategy. The US coordinated military and diplomatic defense with NATO, the Marshall Plan, the OAS, the UN, the TIAR and the rest of the instruments of combat. It cost the country a lot of money, but another world war would have cost considerably more. It was not a matter of kindness, or even an idealistic commitment to freedom. The ultimate purpose was to avoid another worldwide devastation that would inevitably affect the United States.
Truman and other eleven presidents, Republicans and Democrats, have maintained Roosevelt’s reasoning. Donald Trump is the one who has broken that strategy. Probably in a few years we will see the terrible consequences of his politics.
Published in Spanish by El Blog de Montaner on Saturday July 14th, 2018