Last week's meeting between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel was -- to put it mildly -- awkward. Joseph Ingram writes:
Take a close look at the body language on display at that press conference. What we saw was not the courteous warmth typical of a first encounter between two world leaders with common interests and similar world views. Rather, we saw what looked like an encounter between a wiser, more confident, more mature leader and a petulant, scornful child. And no handshake. No doubt, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his erstwhile populist allies in France, Germany and Italy were heartened.
As Trump pursues his American First agenda, he diminishes his -- and his country's authority throughout the world:
Already we see the baton of global leadership being pulled from America’s grip. President Trump’s criticism of trade alliances, and his subsequent withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership, led Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to suggest that the partnership be resurrected — with China replacing the U.S. as the pact’s lynchpin. The Latin Americans are not far behind him.
There is a growing recognition out there that the Trump/Bannon world vision is one of tightly-controlled European nation states, which — along with Russia — could serve as a white Christian bulwark against Islam and the ‘invasion’ of those job-stealing non-white hordes arriving from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. In the minds of those now running the White House, the West should be dominated by strong Christian nations — the U.S. and Russia, through their respective spheres of influence — with South Asia dominated by an emerging Hindu-run India, and East Asia by China, tempered in its ambitions by an emboldened Japan.
Which means that Canada has to rethink its role in the world. And, as unnerving as that world is, Canada may have a new place in it:
Because of these developments, Canada — as the United States’ racially and religiously diverse neighbour to the north — finds itself today in a critical geo-strategic position, linked as it is (economically, culturally and militarily) with the U.S., while simultaneously reflecting many of the core liberal democratic values of today’s EU. And if Europe continues to reject alt-right populism, as it has in Austria and the Netherlands (and may well do in France and Italy), President Trump and the U.S. will find themselves even more isolated.
Canada needs to walk a very fine line here. It must balance its economic and security relationship with the United States (one which, in any case, needs to be diversified) with the interests of its partners in Europe, the Commonwealth and the Francophonie. To ensure the long-term survival of our liberal democracy and economic security, Canada must establish a more symmetrical balance — one guided not just by American economic imperatives but equally by the core progressive values it holds. Values like openness and transparency in the electoral process, ensuring the tools for economic success are widely available to all citizens, defending cultural tolerance and diversity and fighting climate change.
This is a pivotal moment. We will have to decide how to handle the pivot.