As Donald Trump makes a shambles of the world -- reports claim that he will back out of the Paris Climate Agreement today -- the Europeans and the Asians are taking two different tacts. To the Europeans, Trump is simply an idiot. Jonathan Manthorpe writes:
For European leaders last week, however, extended exposure to Trump in person seems to have come as something of a shock. His ignorance about the nature of the NATO partnership is far more deep and impenetrable than anyone could have anticipated.
He pointedly refused to pledge support for the NATO guarantee of mutual defence — the very core of the alliance. What made his silence even more churlish was the occasion for it: the unveiling of a memorial to the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. — the only time that NATO’s all-for-one-and-one-for-all Article Five has been invoked.
He continued the insults by lecturing the NATO leaders about their supposed failure to contribute two per cent of their gross national product to the alliance’s budget. He clearly doesn’t know — or perhaps doesn’t care — that the two per cent is a target … for 2025.
The most publicly exasperated of the European leaders was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At a political rally on Sunday she told the crowd: “The times when we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
Merkel is now seen by many as the leading, dependable champion of North Atlantic civic values. Britain is casting itself off from the EU and will no longer be a player of influence, but Merkel does appear to have acquired a useful sidekick in the new French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Asians also believe Trump is an idiot. But he is a useful idiot -- because they understand that pumping up Trump's vanity will get them everywhere they want to go. And they want to go places:
For the moment, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Vietnam, Singapore and other traditional trade and defence partners in Asia don’t share the Europeans’ exasperation.
Japan’s Abe must take some of the credit for this. He rushed to New York soon after Trump’s election victory was announced in November and played court to the president-elect. It looked unseemly at the time, but it was a very smart move based on some shrewd analysis of Trump’s character.
All the criticisms Trump has aimed at Germany — trade imbalances, a lack of commitment to defence and a too-strong commitment to fighting global warming — can be levelled at Japan using the same mantras. But Trump has left Japan off his list of Twitter targets.
Obviously, Abe understands Trump’s vanity — and he understands that flattery will get him everywhere he wants to go with Trump.
The Asians know how to play a fool.