Disgraceful though it is, the revelation that Donald Trump allegedly sought covert assistance for his re-election bid from Xi Jinping, his authoritarian alter ego in Beijing, should not surprise students of the Ukraine inquiry, Trump’s impeachment and the into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 campaign.
It has long been clear that this ever-unscrupulous US president is prepared to co-opt almost anyone, however objectionable, cut any deal, however shady, and tell any lie, however blatant, to win a second White House term.
Unabashed by John Bolton’s account of how he manipulated and subverted for his own ends, Trump will surely plan more of the same ahead of November’s election, which (with good reason) he is desperately afraid of losing.
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His former national security adviser’s book presents an established pattern of ongoing unethical, illegal and arguably treasonable behaviour abroad that echoes allegations of repeated law-breaking and obstruction at home.
An early example of Trump’s self-serving approach to international relations was his embarrassing Kim Jong-un.
Ignoring the experts (including Bolton), Trump figured his smarmy charm and deal-making hooey could persuade Kim to forsake nuclear weapons. Two summits and a mountain of blather later, Kim has banked his winnings from Trump’s diplomatic kerb-crawling, which include a raised profile and a slackening of the international sanctions regime, and resumed intimidation of South Korea. Last week, in a cry for help, he blew up a . Be warned: needy Kim and sinking Trump have a shared interest in fomenting an east Asia crisis this autumn.
Trump’s efforts to portray himself as a peacemaker deserving of a Nobel prize – and the undying gratitude of American voters – also presage imminent trouble in Israel-Palestine. His absurdly has been taken as a green light by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hard-right prime minister, to illegally annex large swathes of Palestinian land.
A land-grab could begin as soon as 1 July, if domestic critics can be placated and the Gulf Arabs squared away.
Most of all, Trump wants to identify Joe Biden, his Democrat rival, with the new enemy: Beijing
Trump hopes to impress Christian evangelical and Jewish-American voters by selling out the Palestinians. The prospective price is the destruction of an equitable, sensible, two-state solution and a new intifada.
On another Middle East front, Trump is rushing to finally bury the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose an . He insists Iran’s support for terrorism justifies further escalation. Trump wants to be able to tell voters he has “neutralised” Iran. In fact, his tactics have goaded Iran into reviving nuclear-related activities, given succour to the oppressive Saudi regime, and driven the region to the brink of war. A deliberate US military provocation in the coming months cannot be ruled out.
After wrecking western policy in Syria by peremptorily withdrawing US troops and handing strategic victory to Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Trump is intent on – so he can tell voters he ended America’s longest war.
Trump’s disastrous with the Taliban at Camp David was the low-point of this heinous saga of betrayal.
What of the sacrifices made by US and Nato troops since 2001? What of the horrendous suffering of the Afghan people and the tens of thousands who died believing America’s pledge to build a safer, more just society?
Draft-dodger Trump, who cowers in a bunker at the first sign of trouble, is oblivious. He fights for votes, not democracy. His well-documented hostility to Nato, the EU, Europeans, and multilateralism in general points to another likely autumn battle zone. Candidate Trump enjoys nothing more than denigrating America’s allies and the UN. A video conference last week between EU foreign ministers and Mike Pompeo, America’s top diplomat and chief bully-boy, dramatised the widening transatlantic gulf.
On Israel-Palestine, on Iran, on China, on the International Criminal Court (which Trump and Pompeo appear determined to destroy), on the World Health Organization and the pandemic, the two sides were worlds apart.
Trump’s new plan to and his fawning attitude to Putin increase suspicions that Europe’s interests will be expediently ignored, and its dilemmas purposefully aggravated, between now and November.
The main thrust of Trump’s re-election bid so far, however, centres on China and his all-out effort to for causing and covering up the pandemic, then triggering an economic meltdown. He wants to escape censure for his own incompetence. He wants Europe to take his side. Most of all, he wants to identify , his Democrat rival, with the new enemy: Beijing.
This scapegoating of China in order to beat Biden could get very nasty indeed. If Trump wants to pick a fight, there are any number of simmering flashpoints – trade, Taiwan, the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Huawei, human rights, (such as those against Australia this week) and now the Himalayas.
For Trump, a short, sharp conflict might serve his purposes very well. Unthinkable? Think again. This is the man who deployed the military to the Mexican border before the 2018 mid-term elections to repel an “invasion” of unarmed migrants. This is the man who sent troops to harry peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.
Does Trump see the contradiction in the claim that he tried to recruit China’s one day, then appointed him America’s new bogeyman the next? Does he care about the possible consequences, or what the world thinks, or what the constitution says?
No. All that matters is himself alone, winning.