Matt Stadlen is Leading Britain's Conversation
1 February 2017, 14:34
Think Donald Trump's domestic policies are shocking? Just wait 'til you see what his foreign policy holds in store, says David Mellor.
If you think you already know how bad a Trump Presidency is going to be, you actually don’t. So far it’s his domestic policy that’s under the spotlight. What about his foreign policy?
The real nightmare of Trump and his gang, overseas, began to be revealed yesterday, when the world finally woke up to the fact there is serious fighting once more in Eastern Ukraine.
Putin has unleashed his military again, believing he has nothing to fear from his mate Donald. And he’s probably right.
Trump talks airily about lifting sanctions against Russia, imposed because of Russian annexation of the Crimea. And before Trump has even had the chance to do so, Putin is on the march again.
What’s he got on Donald, to make him so confident that this is an American President he can take for granted, a supposed world leader who can be relied upon to do his bidding, and who Putin can treat with total contempt.
The central paradox of Trump’s foreign policy is that the country he should be slapping down, Russia, is the country he’s cosying up to. Whereas with China, it’s the other way around.
When I was talking to a senior Chinese official in London this week, he wryly observed that if China wanted to show its displeasure towards Trump, they never needed to reach for a weapon. They could just withdraw the Chinese trillions that shores up the American deficit. A deficit that will yawn even wider when Trump’s crazy economic policy unfolds, massively increase public spending, whilst at the same time cutting taxes.
But for China there are two sticking points; Taiwan, and the islets in the South China Sea.
On Taiwan, there is no logical reason why Trump shouldn’t talk to the President of Taiwan, as he would to any other national leader.
But Trump has to stand in the shoes of his predecessors. There has long been a "One China Policy" in Washington, where the polite fiction is observed that China and Taiwan are one country.
Trump has already caused consternation in Beijing by talking to the Taiwanese President. If he continues to do so, this threatens Beijing with a serious loss of face, for which there will be consequences.
There’s no political gain for Trump in upgrading relations with Taiwan. So why’s he doing it? Just to be provocative, I suspect. This is the kid in the fireworks factory with a box of matches. Always dangerous. Especially so if you happen to be President of the United States.
Turning to the South China Sea, again Trump inherits Obama’s weakness. The Chinese have been openly colonising small islands in the South China Sea, and militarising them, in order, potentially, to create an exclusion zone covering the whole area.
Obama should have acted, but he didn’t, and now all this is a fait accompli.
This policy shows China at its worst, and is also a provocation by them. But the consequences of trying to unravel it all now could be very serious.
But Trump’s Alice in Blunderland Secretary of State, oilman Rex Tillerson, a man with no foreign policy experience, appointed because he has spent years kissing Putin’s backside, in a little noticed statement last week, threatened to block Chinese access to the islands. How would he do that? Presumably by military force.
How crazy is that? Again there is no imperative for America to do this. It threatens to take the world closer to a global crisis than it has been since the showdown over the Cuban missiles more than 50 years ago.
That threat to world peace was resolved by President Kennedy, and the cool heads that surrounded him. But where are the cool heads around Trump?