Daily US Times: Russia and China have effectively re-aligned the coming world order in this past week on US President Donald Trump’s watch. They didn’t do it together, but both took advantage of unpredictability and uncertainty that Trump has helped create.
It’s far from clear that the next US President will be able to roll back the consequences of this week, which leave both Xi Jinping in Beijing and Presidents Vladimir Putin in Moscow a more decisively in control of their own countries and more able to act assertively.
In other words, Trump has made an indelible mark on the world order — and it may not be for the good. It is no coincidence that Xi and Putin have cemented their grip on cherished goals, as the clock runs down on Trump’s first, and possibly only, term in office.
In a referendum in the past week on constitutional revisions, Putin has effectively been made President for life, as Xi has moved equally ruthlessly, taking control of Hong Kong through a new national security law, while telling US allies Australia, the UK and Canada to keep out of China’s internal affairs.
Both seem to be of the view the US has neither the consistency nor the will to put up resistance. Indeed, Trump’s White House gave evidence of exactly that this week, floundering for a coherent response to allegations Russia paid the Taliban to kill US forces in Afghanistan, though Russia and the Taliban have both denied the claims.
“President Trump is a world-class negotiator who has consistently furthered America’s interests on the world stage,” said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews.
Former senior US officials thought Trump “delusional” about his ability to bend other leaders to his agenda, believing he could “either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will.
This week, David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post that Putin “is in the payback business. He believes the United States destroyed his former country, the Soviet Union. He likes the United States to feel pain.”
The Russian leader now has plenty of years for more payback.
Whether it’s Xi’s decision to violate and chip away at the Hong Kong agreement signed with the UK in 1984 or Putin’s payback, both leaders appear to see opportunities.
Three years ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dropped into the Oval Office the day after President Trump fired FBI director James Comey, who was overseeing the investigation into allegations of Russian election meddling.
An official Russian photographer caught the bonhomie, as Trump told his visitors: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job.”
Trump met Putin two months later — alone — on the margins of the G20 summit. The White House claimed the meeting as a success, highlighting a new ceasefire deal in Syria. The Russians cynically used the deal to freeze the conflict, allowing the Assad regime backed by Russia to pick off rebel-held areas one-by-one.
Trump could have ripped up the deal, protested, forged a new US policy on Syria that would have crimped Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East. Instead, he bought the lie.
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, recalls in his new book “The Room Where It Happened” Trump’s 2018 meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
Trump’s decisions are helping both China and Russia to change the world order by their own..
He writes “Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with.”
Xi’s experience with President Trump has been different. Tangled in a trade war, he has had to calculate Trump’s real intent: on money, human rights issues, such as the Hong Kong or Uighurs and simply stopping the rise of the world’s next superpower.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly berated by Trump in phone calls this week, appeared to reject Trump’s China tactics, saying “only together can the 27 EU member countries have enough weight to achieve ambitious deals with China.”
While Trump has been applauded for confronting China on its trade policies, intellectual property theft and commercial espionage, his tactics face heavy criticism.
The new National Security Law for Hong Kong, promulgated in Beijing this week and immediately enforced on the territory’s streets, is a game-changer. According to the UK, it breaks the 1984 joint Sino-British declaration of one country-two system.