The unstoppable decline of US after four years of Trump
By Julio Cesar Rivas, Rosa Jimenez and Jesus Centeno
File photo taken Oct. 24, 2020, showing President Donald Trump holding a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin. EFE-EPA/Kamil Krzaczynski/File
By Julio Cesar Rivas, Rosa Jimenez and Jesus Centeno
Toronto/Brussels/Beijing, Oct 26 (efe-epa).- The consensus in North America, Asia and Europe is that after four years of Donald Trump's presidency, the decline of the United States is unstoppable, that four more years of the erratic and irascible Republican in the White House will accelerate the trend and that a victory by Joe Biden in the Nov. presidential vote will not be able to return things to their state before 2016.
More than ever in history, the entire world has the US election fixed in its sights, and for good reason: history, Trump's reelection or a Biden win all will result in significant changes that will have fundamentally different effects worldwide.
Perhaps the most longlasting consequence will be in the realm of geopolitics, currently dominated by the growing rivalry between the US and China, a confrontation that the European Union, Russia and the rest of the world have viewed as spectators over the past four years without much ability to affect events.
In talks with EFE, international relations experts in Asia, Europe and North America agreed that after four years of Trump at the US helm, the world scenario and the balance of forces has changed irreversibly.
And the clock cannot be turned back much, no matter what happens at the polls on Nov. 3. But there will be certain differences depending on the election result.
In North America and Europe, a second Trump term - they say - would be a disaster with unimaginable consequences.
In China, a victory by the unpredictable business mogul who injected himself into politics would not be seen so negatively by the Communist Party leadership, which would interpret it in Napoleonic terms: When your enemy makes a bad move, it's best not to stop him.
"A second Trump term would result in China and Russia gaining strength and containing these two countries will be more difficult," Jack Cunningham, the history director and program coordinator for the Bill Graham Center for Contemporary International History at the University of Toronto, told EFE.
Cunningham has no doubts about it. Everything bad about the Trump presidency from the international point of view, and the list is as long as that of his personal failings, would worsen in a second term, although it would be for one simple reason: "He wouldn't have to worry about winning reelection. There would be nothing to moderate him."
The history expert is not alone in his prediction. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, David O'Sullivan, an advisor at the European Policy Center based in Brussels, told EFE that Trump's reelection "would create a big crisis in trans-Atlantic relations and also in multilateralism."
O'Sullivan said that those who will suffer most during a second Trump term will not be the main US adversaries (China and Russia) but rather Europe.
"Clearly he doesn't believe in multilateralism. We would be in a much more transactional world in which the influence of the most powerful and biggest bullies would prevail. That would require significant adjustments on the European side," he said.
Not only Europe would suffer hardships with a Trump on steroids after a reelection victory. The great majority of other countries that need a framework of international stability to prosper would wind up losers.
Drew Fagan, a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in Toronto, said that Trump's style of international relations, which he summarized as "undermining the global architecture and confronting friends while flirting with traditional US adversaries, has shaken the rest of the world."
"Who knows what a second Trump mandate would mean," the Canadian expert said with concern.
One of the principal victims of a Trump reelection would be a key institution for Europe, NATO.
Jacob Kirkegaard, a fellow specializing in the US with the German Marshall Fund, told EFE that "if Trump is reelected, it's important to understand that that means the US is a fundamentally different country that probably would leave NATO."
"Or at least NATO would be irrelevant because Trump is not a person who would honor to any significant degree Article 5," he added, referring to the commitment of members of the military alliance to aid other members if they are attacked.
Cunningham agreed with Kirkegaard that NATO "would suffer a real crisis" with four more years of the multimillionaire holding the reins of power in the US.
If North American and European experts are afraid that Trump will remain in the White House after the Nov. 3 election, in Beijing the attitude is more relaxed.
Researcher Tong Zhao, with the Carnegie-Tsinghua Global Policy Center, said clearly to EFE why a Biden defeat would not be a nightmare come true.
"China would prefer Trump. Not because Trump causes less damage to China, but because the damage he does to the US is much greater. With Trump, the US has accelerated its decline in terms of international influence, reputation and soft power," Tong said.
In other words, Beijing would have a clear path for expanding its influence even more.
Spanish expert Xulio Rios, the director of the China Policy Observatory, offered another perspective in coming to a similar conclusion.
Rios said that a Trump victory would mean "a very complicated scenario for China. But probably not as bad for Chinese President Xi Jinping, since it would allow him to entrench himself in power by labeling any critics as 'antipatriotic.'"
Logic would dictate that if a Trump win is not bad for China, his defeat would a worse result for Beijing. But it seems that the Chinese regime will win regardless of who occupies the White House for the next four years: the 77-year-old Biden or the 74-year-old Trump.
"An administration headed by candidate Joe Biden would seek to stabilize the bilateral relationship and the regime would stop feeling attacked or threatened. I have a dilemma here," Tong said.
If the Chinese have any qualms about a Biden win, Rios summarized it by explaining that the Democrat would try to return "to the pre-Trump path, which would push away the specter of the Cold War and would also make China's seduction of Europe more difficult."
Although no North American or European government wants to admit it, champagne is already being chilled in anticipation of a Biden win.
But the experts are also expressing caution. Canada's Fagan said that "there are many people in the Canadian government who are asking themselves to what degree what has happened over the past four years is the result of an erratic president or of subterranean currents in US society."
In Brussels, O'Sullivan adopts the same kind of caution. "We have to be realists. (With a Biden victory) we're not going to return to the days at the end of the 20th century when we had such a close connection with the US. But I do believe that we'll have the opportunity to rebuild a significant trans-Atlantic relationship."
Stefani Weiss, an expert in governance and foreign policy as well as security with the European Union's Bertelsmann Foundation studies center, mentioned the same idea, saying: "If there's a Biden administration, it will change much more in tone and style than in real substance."
Returning to North America, Cunningham said that with Biden in the Oval Office after the election, "the clock will not be turned back to 2016" in international relations terms.
"It's going to be somewhat different. The question is how dramatic the change is going to be and whether the change will be something to which multilateral institutions will be able to adapt," he said.