I strive to post a blog every second Saturday. The next posting was due next week. However, so much is on Trump’s current itinerary that there is no way there will have been sufficient time for the outcomes of his momentous meetings to emerge and be given due consideration. This will, therefore be an abbreviated blog, which, being brought forward by a week, will allow me to take an additional week to get a grasp of the latest developments before I have gathered the confidence to comment on them.
It is now impossible to write a blog on global affairs without mentioning Donald Trump. Apparently, now unchained from his neo-con establishment minders, Trump’s iconoclasm and apparent unpredictability keeps the world’s politicians, economists and military planners in constant turmoil. If, as I do, I should wish to write about Russia’s Syrian policy, I feel forced to postpone it until after the impending Trump-Putin Helsinki summit, scheduled for the 16th of this month. To write about the future of NATO, as I wish to do, I have to wait until after the dust has settled on his current meeting with NATO leaders in Brussels. Trump is changing everything.
Trump, the mover, (and realist) has broken away from the so long-established, Committee on Foreign Relations developed, goal and strategy for achieving US global hegemony. Trump, the shaker, is in the process of undermining the basic assumptions on which the timorous political compradors of the Western alliance have built their fiefdoms. There is no denying that Trump is the man of the moment.
Though there remain many shrill voices (1) decrying his every move (for instance, try Googling ‘Alternet’ for a daily diatribe of opposition) with his recent and impending additional tax-cuts, Trump has mainly won the hearts and minds of the US corporate world and the USA’s economic elite. He can rely on them to ensure that the average American voter continues in suckered acceptance of the trickle-up economic policy of which his tax ‘reforms’ are an egregious manifestation and which will ultimately prove so much to the average voter’s disadvantage.
The Republican Party, once so ill-disposed to this upstart, are now behind him. He represents their sole hope of re-election. Their party, like the Democrats, has no figure even approaching Trump in status and voter recognition. At this stage, despite all the rage and anguish being expressed by the media, academia and the political power wonks, it appears highly probable that Trump will be re-elected for a second term – at the end of which the world may mightily have changed!
Should Trump survive the huge enmity he is arousing among those individuals and institutions, who have become dependent for both their incomes and their identity on the continuation of the East v. West confrontation, the sharp demarcation lines that now define it, may well become considerably blurred. What Gorbachev began with the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact, may well be completed by Trump, advertently or inadvertently, moving to dismantle NATO.
Unlike so many western commentators, I do not consider this a matter for undue concern. I have never been able to find any convincing evidence that European countries’ fear of Russian military aggression would continue to be justified should their foolish alliances with the Washington hawks be dismantled and they were no longer participants in the military threat being posed by Washington to the Russian homeland. A careful reading of the history around the onset of the Cold War at the end of WWII would confirm my argument.
Around half the US budget is allocated to militarised expenditures. The military, at 74%, rates as the most widely respected of all US institutions (in contrast, Congress rated at 11% and the media 20%) (2.) The military/industrial complex is the most influential lobby-group in the USA and any political leader wishing to gain, or retain power has to accommodate its sentiments. The military expenditure can be justified in two ways. Firstly it has been used to maintain the global reserve currency status of the US dollar, which in turn forces other nations, in effect, to lend the USA the wherewithal to support the enforcement machinery. Secondly, it provides huge employment and corporate profits within the domestic economy. Allied purchases of US manufactured arms and munitions further supplement the balance of payments and help to ease the USA’s now eye-watering deficit. Hence the encouragement of NATO members to increase their defence expenditure and the free-flow provision of munitions to dictators with dreams of military glory, such as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. However, all this expenditure of mind and money comes at a cost.
Firstly, expenditure on war preparations, which could instead be diverted to infrastructure and social development, represents a silly waste of a nation’s resources. Secondly, to justify this ludicrously disproportionate diversion of the nation’s wealth, there has to be a continuous propagation of unrealistic threat levels and insecurity among the population. This is fine when a bugaboo like international terrorism, which poses no existential threat to the nation, is raised as the target. However, it becomes much more problematical and does pose an existential risk when other nations, such as China and Russia, with equally retaliatory destructive capability, are posited as the enemy.
As a Trump watcher, I find myself in disagreement with the vast majority of commentators. He might be (is) an altogether unlovely person, but he is not an idiot when it comes to appreciating relative positions of power. He must be fully aware of the parlous state of the US economy. As stated in previous blogs, he has developed a world vision to match the crisis he sees looming. His ‘making America great again’ ideology allows him to justify drastic action in initiating trade wars, sanctioning potential economic competitors and seeking ways to cut superfluous overseas commitments to both allies and international institutions.
Most importantly, he can see that the days of the US dollar’s privileged position as the world’s sole reserve currency are inevitably numbered. As the foreigners stop funding US military expenditure, Trump will be forced to reduce it and divert the national effort into more nationally productive endeavour. Were he to attempt to avoid this necessity, Trump would have to reverse this fast accelerating trend away from the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency that has been instigated by the neo-cons with their too long abuse of their economic privilege and the overplaying of their hand. The current situation is not comparable to that when Libya and Iraq made the same breakaway attempt. Short of going to war with China and Russia, there is no remedial action that could now reverse the SCO’s and other nations’ movement away from the US dollar.
Trump is fully aware that such a war would cost the USA far more than the loss of ownership of the reserve currency. I recall a quote from Trump before his election on this subject, but cannot now find it among the overwhelming multiplicity of articles on Google, in which the neo-cons argue that they are the only ones fit to have a thumb on the button. However, this more recent speech, as quoted in the UK’s Independent, adds force to my argument. Trump will risk the hostility of the US and NATO establishments in order to reduce the danger of nuclear war with Russia or its allies.(3.) In so doing, he will give comfort to his Israeli friends and in return, one can expect some sort of deal in which the Russians are seen to work towards reducing the threat Iran poses to Israel.
Perhaps one day an angel will come to Trump in his sleep and persuade him that humanity needs saving from the threat of climate change as well as that of nuclear war! No doubt, the angel would have to explain just how much money was to be derived from such an endeavour. It would also have to convince him that climate change is the one existential danger facing America the Great, from which it will not be able to extract itself, except through giving maximum support to the international law and institutions, to the dismantling of which so much of his current policy is dedicated.