What has been happening for the past few weeks and months is having an extraordinary impact on the global public opinion. The actions of President Donald Trump, who took office in January 2017, are causing surprise and generating waves of criticism or approval. Whether we are talking about the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris global warming agreement or from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, the international public opinion is divided in what concerns the effect of such decisions on the health of the international system of states.
When D. Trump’s actions focused on institutions deemed the backbone of the global order, as happened recently with the G7 (‘The Group of Seven Industrialised States,’ formerly the G8 but Russia was excluded after the occupation of Crimea), everything finally seemed clearer. Namely, the following question was raised decisively and openly: could D. Trump be seeking to thoroughly change the global order that was instituted after the Cold War but whose foundations were cut out at the end of the Second World War? It is true that many experts or politicians have suspected this intention on the part of the U.S. President ever since his presidential campaign.
It is also true that very many believed that his demolishing actions would be delayed, their consequences would be absorbed either through strategies of hindrance in implementation or by influencing their initiator through the launch of sharp criticism, even mass protests – the likes of the #resist movement – or judicial procedures (the Russian collusion case probed for almost two years now, which creates visible discomfort for Trump). It was all for naught. The latest actions reveal a veritable and coherent “Trump global strategy.” Either through the publication of confidential details from various global leadership summits, or even through the decisions taken, such signs ease the deciphering of such a strategy. For instance, it is now known, through the revelations made by eyewitnesses, that President Trump considers NATO to be an institution just as “bad” as the NAFTA agreement – which he states he will modify in the sense he wants, the alternative being its denunciation –, that Russia (President V. Putin) must return to G7, that Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea have a justification (all inhabitants speak Russian, among other things), that he ordered the study of the possibility of withdrawing the American troops from Germany (35,000 soldiers) and their deployment to Poland, that he encouraged French President E. Macron to leave the EU, launching the promise of a much more favourable American-French bilateral trade agreement (what the UK is trying to obtain through Brexit and subsequent actions?!?), that he “sees” German Chancellor Merkel as a kind of “ringleader” in the international system etc.
Not to mention the fact that his references about the UN, one of the main institutions for the management of the systemic order, are similarly negative and not at all optimistic for its future; and the actions carried out in the trade domain – a kind of preparation for a systemic ‘trade war’ and a return to traditional protectionism (opposed to globalisation) – merge with negative references about the WTO, the institution responsible in the last decades for global economic growth through free trade coordinated by precise rules. A meeting with Russian President V. Putin, whose outlook seemed distant, has been recently scheduled for July 15 in Helsinki, immediately after the NATO summit in Brussels. It was a piece of news that could only put the Euroatlantic leadership on its guard. At least, according to some opinions, it seems this historic meeting between the two leaders is not meant to repeat Yalta 1945, as Carl Bildt says: “Rumors of Yalta having been considered are in all probability not correct.” So, the issue of dividing the world into spheres of influence – as the meeting of the Big Three (Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill) at Yalta in February 1945 is known for, as a myth – will not be tackled. After this tweet, the Swedish diplomat wrote an article suggestively titled ‘Why Europe is very nervous about a Trump-Putin summit,’ in which he drew the following conclusion: “Hopefully, a summit between the president of Russia and the president of the United States will aim to defend the interest and the values of the West. But, these days, who knows? Europe is surely nervous.” Europe’s nervousness is justified, if we consider the things outlined above. Trump is an opponent of the EU, European stability relies on the observance of the Final Helsinki Act of 1975, reconfirmed through the OSCE Charter – gravely disregarded by Russia through the annexation of Crimea –, and NATO is Europe’s strategic link with the U.S. for a stable and suitable balance of power on the Old Continent. Will this continental balance of power change in Helsinki in 2018? Therefore, European chancelleries are nervous. Europe is being discussed without Europe being present.
Hence, what seemed somewhat unthinkable two years ago, because it required a rigorously and logically applied plan in such a vast undertaking – without showing obvious signs of existence – is taking on an ever clearer and coherent shape, and at an ever faster pace lately (days, weeks), before our astonished eyes. The current global order is breaking apart, its guardians (institutions, politicians of great span from across the West, the public opinion) being drugged by the boldness of some measures undertaken by U.S. President Donald Trump and incapable of proper reaction. A global order we have grown accustomed to since the end of the Cold War, in 1990-1991, when the agreements between the two poles of the post-World War II confrontation (U.S. and Russia) made possible the refining of the inherited global order, and Pax Americana was victorious through the unexpected implosion of the USSR.
Why this collapse of the post-Cold War order is taking place will be a topic of debate for a long time to come. It does not date back at all to D. Trump taking office in 2017, since great unexpected developments have occurred: the seizure of the only superpower in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; its massive and rapid fall into debt further to the profit of a China that is spectacular in economic development and global power growth; Russia’s growing assertiveness as its ceaseless demand – for over a decade (since the war in Georgia in 2008) – for the rethinking of the global structure of power (at least at the level of the Euroatlantic structure) was not being satisfied. And experts and politicians have constantly analysed these systemic distortions that imperatively call for systemic re-analysis and re-organisation.
Last week, the phenomenon of disintegration of the current global order has become somewhat clearer at the level of the global public opinion. There will be maybe clearer signs concerning the “Trump plan” for the rearrangement of the international order, we will know more about the future of NATO and the EU. For the time being it is a nervous wait, full of uncertainty and scepticism.