How they see us: America’s declining global leadership
Donald Trump has now proved that he has “neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world,” said Chris Uhlmann in ABC.net.au (Australia). At the G-20 summit in Hamburg last week, where the world’s leading nations came together to reaffirm their mutual commitments to free trade and combating climate change, Trump was the surly outsider, eschewing both causes. He failed even to mention the one issue the other leaders would have backed him on: condemning North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile test. The American president clearly has no convictions. He “craves power because it burnishes his celebrity,” and he “barks out bile in 140 characters” instead of promoting democracy and what used to be American values. He shunned U.S. allies and drooled all over Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump has now ceded global leadership to China and Russia, “two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.”
It could have been worse, said Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany). Trump didn’t storm out of any meetings in a fit of pique, and the G-20 managed to issue a final statement that upheld free trade, albeit with a caveat about the importance of national interests. Sure, Trump may be naïve in his approach to Putin, but probably no more so than was George W. Bush, who claimed to have a rapport with the Russian president. At least Trump got Putin to agree to “a partial armistice” in Syria. At this point, the world’s expectations of Trump are low. Europe has resigned itself to looking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for reliable leadership.
Trump himself considered his visit a success, said Marc Pitzke in Der Spiegel (Germany). His take can be summed up by that ridiculous video he tweeted, a mashup of “theatrical, content-free scenes and gestures” showing him with other world leaders. It was a bit of propaganda “aimed only at his nationalistic, conservative base.” They don’t know or care that Trump is making the U.S. isolated, shunned, and even pitied.
Americans may actually believe what Trump said in his apocalyptic speech in Warsaw, ahead of the G-20 summit, said Walter Shapiro in The Guardian (U.K.). Trump railed against Islamist extremists, using racist dog whistles like “Western values” and “civilization,” which are code for white and Christian. He seems to “revel in the concept of a holy war.” The word missing from Trump’s speech was “democracy,” said Jaroslaw Kurski in Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland). In the “dark days of Communism, America’s message to Poland was always freedom and democracy, the rule of law, and independent media.” Now that our increasingly authoritarian right-wing government has put all those pillars of freedom once again under assault, we turned in vain to the American leader to remind us what to aim for. Trump failed us, as his America is failing the world. ■