Tuesday, May 30, 2017

When Trump Plays Tic-Tac-Toe, Others Play Multidimensional Chess

Trump's isolationist and sulky international politics have repercussions which may not have popped into his mind:

Reflecting on the fraught new era of U.S. relations with Germany, and Europe at large, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on Sunday at a beer hall, and contended that her continent-mates “really must take our fate into our own hands.”
Those jitters about already weakening transatlantic alliances were surely heightened as President Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning and accused Germany of maintaining a trade imbalance and under-contributing to NATO. Trump has also suggested that he might withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on combating climate change, which Merkel has championed.
Merkel on Tuesday reiterated her sense that Europe must seek new alliances, telling reporters in Berlin, “The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days.”
The reference to the "past few days" is a reference to Trump, but not only to Trump.  It's also a reference to the American voters' most recent choice and the lessons the Europeans are learning from that in the longer-run:  Americans are unpredictable, easy to manipulate and willing to elect a megalomaniac, narcissist and ignorant president.

Americans are not alone in apparently preferring megalomaniac dictators as both history, especially German history,  and recent elections in countries such as Russia and Turkey tell us.  But while Putin and Erdogan understand the games they are playing, I doubt that Trump does.

For instance, when Merkel states that Europe can no longer count on the US, what are the alternatives she might have in mind?  More nuclear weapons development in Europe?  Closer cooperation with some of the rising super-powers?

Whatever they are, the consequences to most of the world and to the US are unlikely to be positive.  Besides, the increased uncertainty and unpredictability of international politics is a risk on its own.