Wed, Sep 04, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Trump’s affinity for populists baffles experts

The US president’s approach to foreign policy, from defending Vladimir Putin to supporting Jair Bolsonaro after he rejected aid, has experts sounding alarms

By Sabrina Siddiqui  /  The Guardian, WASHINGTON

Illustration: Mountain People

Days after US President Donald Trump returned from another contentious encounter with his fellow G7 world leaders, a Kremlin-backed TV channel painted a derisive picture of his overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Likening the US president’s staunch defense of his Russian counterpart to a tortuous love affair, the channel aired a mash-up in which Trump’s speeches were pieced together to form the lyrics of Senorita — a summer ballad performed by the US pop stars Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello.

“I love it when you call me Senorita, I wish I could pretend I didn’t need ya,” Trump appeared to say. “Ooh, I should be running, ooh, you keep me coming for ya.”

The segment included images of Putin playing the piano, the pair in sync, much to the chagrin of the EU and members of the US Congress.

Trump’s affinity for Putin and other autocrats has long drawn criticism for upending the norms of US foreign policy and alienating traditional allies, but his pro-Russia posture in Biarritz, France, left former diplomats and national security experts baffled and sounding fresh alarms.

“Trump represents an American foreign policy tradition that we haven’t seen empowered in the presidency since before World War II,” said Daniel Fried, US assistant secretary of state for Europe from 2005 to 2009.

“The last time this kind of thinking was powerful in the United States, it was in the content of the isolationist movement ... the belief that our getting involved in European security was not in America’s interests,” he said. “It’s a cynical view that power is the only measure for success, and I happen to think it’s a dangerous view, because it undervalues the free world.”

Trump signaled his intent to advocate on Putin’s behalf prior to departing for the G7 summit, publicly reiterating his view that Russia should be reinstated to the gathering of the world’s leading industrialized economies.

It was ejected in 2014, as punishment for the annexation of Crimea.

Trump insisted that the Kremlin should have a seat at the table and attributed Russian aggression in eastern Europe to the failures of former US president Barack Obama.

Other leaders, with the exception of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, vehemently objected to Trump’s demands.

Within days of his return to Washington, Trump made another move that seemed likely to please Putin: Officials said that the White House was considering blocking US$250 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

That would put Trump at odds with the Pentagon, which designated the funds to help counter pro-Russian separatists backed by the Kremlin.

“Trump’s deference to Putin remains one of Washington’s greatest mysteries,” said Julianne Smith, a former deputy national security adviser to former US vice president Joe Biden. “No one knows for sure whether it’s just Trump’s admiration for Putin’s authoritarian rule or it’s the fact that Trump owes Putin something.”

“Either way, Trump’s refusal to speak ill of Putin or Russia’s aggression in its neighborhood and beyond is eroding US leadership and the transatlantic alliance,” she added.

A two-year investigation led by former special counsel Robert Mueller examined Trump’s ties to Russia, but found insufficient evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy.

However, Mueller did find numerous instances of coordination and disclosed that Trump pursued a business deal in Moscow that could have earned him hundreds of millions of US dollars.

This story has been viewed 2595 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top