‘They say they think it’s Russia, I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia’. That was Donald Trump, the leader of the free world, standing next to Vladimir Putin and openly denying his own country’s intelligence on Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election. My first column for the Broad explained that the infamous Trump administration was, to quote, a farce, not a tragedy. Whilst valid at the time, US President Donald Trump’s summit with his Russian counterpart has proven beyond doubt that the White House incumbent has put the liberal world order in serious jeopardy.
The press conference was a stunning exhibition of Trump’s unhealthy fascination with Putin and his wilful negligence of the breaches of international and American law the Russian administration has committed. In the same week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian military officials for a coordinated cyberattack on the DNC, he chose to side with the alleged perpetrator rather than trust the findings of his own intelligence agencies. After a disastrous NATO summit that included threats from the President against the alliance itself, his behaviour in Helsinki is an embarrassment to the United States.
However, it is not surprising. Anyone who has dealt with Trump knows that he shares the opinion of the last person he spoke with, and Putin has indeed dealt with the Trump. In the canon of world leaders, Donald Trump is the insecure new kid on the block to Putin’s cool cousin who does what he likes, which the President deeply admires. The last week in international politics may be one for the history books – the week where America stopped doing what she is expected to do, and started doing what she likes. Since the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, much of the American policy establishment have, under their breath, started implying that the US no longer wants to be the global architect of a unipolar world order. Obama acted on it without saying it. Trump is shouting it from the rooftops. Clearly that means letting the Russian President getting away with murder. As Senator John McCain said of the incident, ‘No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant’.
Bad news for House Republicans like McCain, worse news for Europe. After weeks of dirt-slinging against European leaders, Trump has effectively just taken the slowly dying Euro-American relationship off life support. The European elite, as always moving at the speed of molasses, are starting to ask themselves whether the American cavalry will be coming over the next hill when trouble’s afoot. The big question here, on Putin’s mind as much as Merkel’s, is whether they’ll be able to fill in the hole America leaves in the Western power structure. With the Anglopshere seemingly scattered to the winds, and EU convulsed in a battle against itself, I spy a void. If the leader of the free world won’t stand up for the American world order, who will?