Trump’s performance at the G7 can only be considered a disaster. Trump showed up with a list of grievances for U.S allies and asked for the reinstatement of the Russian Federation, which was ejected for its invasion of Ukraine.
Like a petulant child, Trump demanded trade concessions, singling out Canada for punishment for Trudeau’s refusal to bow to his demands on tariffs. He refused to sign on the joint communique and then referred to Trudeau as “meek” and “dishonest”.
Trump ended his tantrum by announcing that he had “instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!“ A clear reference to his earlier threats against the German automobile industry.
Trump’s blow up at the G7 puts the international order in a very precarious position. The post-war western and international order was built around the protection of democracy and free trade in the mutual interest of the free world.
Historically, the United States has insisted on an end to abusive colonial economic practices and protectionism that gave empires like Britain and France monopolies on overseas markets; the British control over India’s textile industry is the most well-known example.
America insisted on freedom of navigation so that commerce could flow from every corner of the world. America had long seen tariffs and imperialism as barriers to its own economic power and growth. American capitalism thrived on opening new markets for American goods and allowing America’s advanced industrial economy to compete on equal terms with other great powers.
The United States would not stand for a world order where strong nations could claim parts of another by force. During the Suez crisis, the United States even threatened Britain and France with sanctions and the liquidation of British currency reserves and an end to IMF assistance.
The fabled China market is the archetype. From the beginning of the 20th century, the United States sought to open up the Chinese market by freeing it from colonial domination. The thinking went that if American manufacturers could sell something as simple as a toothpick to every one of China’s 400 million inhabitants the economic opportunity would be immense and a boon to America’s advanced industrial economy.
Throughout the past 100 years, the idea of expanding markets, combined with Wilson’s internationalism has laid the groundwork for American foreign policy. America’s rise to military and economic dominance after World War Two and the Cold War cemented America’s global hegemony and a global order based sovereignty, free trade and equality (in theory).
If Trump continues to spurn this legacy, American hegemony will end. The relationships that underpin this order are based on mutual benefit for all involved; not imperialism of old Europe or Trump’s ring-kissing gangster capitalism.
If the economic basis of the American alliance system falls apart the military alliances will crumble soon after. In the Clausewitzian sense, trade and war are on the same continuum of politics. Placing tariffs on another nation is an act of aggression just like placing troops on the border.
If this aggression continues, Trump will drive allies to seek accommodation elsewhere. One could imagine a scenario where Canada, Mexico, and the Eurozone enter a joint trade agreement rather than continue to engage with a belligerent United States over NAFTA.
One could also see the breakdown in trade relationships interfering with American military commitments. If an alternative exists, why would any self-respecting nation allow a nation hostile to their prosperity to base troops in their territory?
I cannot foresee NATO falling apart overnight as no alternative exists for securing Europe exists, or will exist in the near future. Germany, France, and Britain’s militaries are not capable of handling a full-scale war without the United States and even smaller operations like the one in Mali are reliant on American logistical assistance.
At the same time, the path forward in the East is far from certain. Shino Abe has long been suspected of harboring militarist tendencies. The remilitarization of Japan and the scrapping of the peace constitution would profoundly change Japan’s relationship with the United States, which has guaranteed Japanese security since it’s surrender in 1945.
At the same time, China is seeking accommodation from the current world order and the expansion of its economic influence across the Eurasian landmass via it’s “belt and road” initiative. The People’s Republic also has its sights set on Africa, challenging American dominance across the Eastern Hemisphere.
This is the situation we now find ourselves in. The world order that America sacrificed thousands of lives and trillions of dollars to build is now under threat by a reactionary imbecile who now heads the executive branch.
With no clear guidance coming from Washington the world order is likely to deteriorate further. No nation or group of nations has the capacity to lead to the world like the United States and it is unclear whether the world order can be pieced back together when Trump leaves office.
Currently, our only hope is for the U.S Congress to halt Trump’s economic and geopolitical rampage by restaining his ability to impose tariffs and speak out against his idiotic bashing of American allies. But even with millions of dollars from billionaires and business interests, getting Congress to do anything is going to be quite a feat, especially given how spineless they have been in the face of Trump.