Meeting between Friends

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When the British decided to support the Brexit and turn their back on the European project on June 23rd 2016, Donald Trump saw his protectionist project backed at the most convenient time during his election campaign. In the midst of the euphoria, the first anti-establishment candidate in the recent American history predicted that other European countries would follow in the wake of the United Kingdom. In his view, we were witnessing the process of disintegration of the European Union. Identical feelings he shares with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump may have confused his own desire with reality, but four and a half months after, when arriving at the White House, the United States President turned the traditional North American foreign policy by gradually trying to unravel the main transatlantic ties. Pure continuity of what was proposed in the campaign. First, it was the punch at the NATO table: he questioned its current meaning and demanded the Allies to fulfil their obligation to contribute 2% of their GDP to military spending. Until there is nothing unusual, and he even might be right about it.

The US’ neo-nationalism, fuelled by the extremist digital journal Breitbart News, owned by Trump’s adviser and man of his trust, Stephen Bannon, has backed the European populist options which could have helped put the established order upside down, supporting the populists French Marine Le Pen and the Dutch Geert Wilders. Like his friend Putin, who has even supported them economically.

Then came the shelve negotiations for the free trade agreement between the US and the EU, which happened in an almost natural way. Finally, with the output of Climate Paris Agreement, Trump ratified the withdrawal of any multinational collaboration. The Paris agreement, or COP21, was signed in December 2015 after decades of negotiations. Technically it is not a binding treaty, precisely because of the closed opposition of the US government (among others) to be enforced: according to the agreement the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions are established by each country independently. Under the signed stipulations only the process of leaving the agreement could start in November 2019 and the process includes a year of delay, so the exit will not be effective before 2020.

Trump has sought from the outset, to replace the major transnational agreements in which the USA participates, through bilateral agreements, with the aim of reaping the greatest benefit to each of them. He has already chased it with Theresa May, and even proposed it to Merkel, who rejected it, which earned her some odd expletive.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will hold a bilateral meeting this week during the G-20 summit in Hamburg. Finally, the friends will see each other face to face. The moment had to come: They seem to share many interests and have many things in common. There will be plenty of time for conversation and discussion. They never have meet before and between them flows an unusual electricity, almost a mutual fascination.

An encounter that in any other case would enter into the diplomatic normality, but the meeting among the two-alpha-male of world politics, acquires disturbing airs. The face-to-face with Putin has been discouraged by the Trump’ advisors. The powerful military sector of the White House distrusts openly of Russia. And the intelligence services consider without any doubt that the Kremlin is a hostile enemy who orchestrated a smear campaign against Hillary Clinton during the past presidential election. An intervention intended to favour Trump’s interest, which feeds up until now a great scandal in Washington: the Russian plot. Trump, euphoric, showed already that weakness, telling the Russian foreign minister about some secret terrorism’ information during his visit to the White house in May. The slip has not been forgotten, and the White House fears the thorny Russian scandal.

The neuralgic point of this meeting for President Trump should be Syria and the fight against Daesh’s terrorism. He hopes to make some progress there. The Russian seeks a stable dialogue and insisting that the US sanctions against Russia must be withdrawn, including those imposed by Obama for electoral interference. It’s not something Trump could promise after the Senate’s nearly unanimous decision to armour them. But there is no doubt that Putin would have access to a leader who has publicly expressed his admiration towards him. A leader, who in the middle of the election campaign, asked to Putin for continuing to check his rival’s mails. In Hamburg, face to face, they might amusingly remember it.

For the time being, it seems like the wishes about the European target are not being achieved, even though Trump has succeeded in convincing a most of his voters that the EU is something negative for the US interests. Behind the anti-European aspirations of US President Donald Trump, who is defying decades of alliance and faithful collaboration arising from the status quo after World War II, the strategy and ideology have always been present: the president wants to run the country as a company, and for this he applies the same yardstick in politics as in the culmination of good business: weakening and dividing, and then winning. The same view as his friend Putin.

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