A Biden Win or Trump President Again: What difference will it make to the World?

A Trump presidency promises upheaval in Europe and at home, turmoil in Ukraine, a possible invitation to China to attack Taiwan, and disruption of global trade and supply chains.

By Anil Madan

When Donald Trump was elected President, one of his first shots was at the NATO alliance. He questioned the very need for its existence, questioned America’s commitment to defend Europe, criticized NATO members for not paying their fair share of the costs associated with the alliance, and spoke of putting America first. Europeans, dismayed by such talk, saw it for what it really seemed to convey: putting Putin first.

Upon his inauguration, one of President Biden’s first priorities was to patch relations with NATO countries and the EU writ large. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine brought home the urgency of keeping NATO together as a cohesive defensive alliance as well as a consortium with the economic clout to hold Putin in check.

Notwithstanding early support from the US and NATO countries for Ukraine, shortly after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, I predicted that Russia having failed to overrun that country, would engage in a war of attrition, and that this did not bode well for Ukraine. I foresaw a time when western support for Ukraine would falter at least as far as the EU and European members of NATO were concerned, but that American aid was likely to continue.

Well, despite protestations and grumblings from Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Prime Minister, about providing further aid for Ukraine, a $54 billion (€50 billion) funding package passed last week. However, I was wrong in my confidence about unwavering American support for Ukraine.

After the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, President Biden had sought to put together a package combining aid for Israel as well as Ukraine, and some humanitarian supplies to Gazans. Extreme right-wing Republican members of the US House of Representatives balked at providing aid for Ukraine. At first, they tried to stall passage of a funding package on border enforcement. But when the Biden administration agreed in principle to that deal, the Republican legislators who had clamored for border enforcement suddenly did not want to pass the bill. What happened? Well, Trump happened. He asked the House Republican members who are firmly in his camp and known as the MAGA Republicans to scuttle the bill. The ostensible reason is that he wants to run on Biden’s failure to enforce US immigration laws and stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the country as a winning campaign issue.

Sinister truth

The truth may be more sinister. Trump continues to have a strange fascination with Putin and a desire to kill funding for Ukraine. Last month, he urged House Republicans to condition aid for Ukraine on a commitment from the Biden administration to cooperate with investigations into alleged crimes by his son, Hunter, and the Biden family in general. As people around the world know, Trump is a moving target. He has boasted that he would bring about a ceasefire in Ukraine and end the war within 24 hours but has offered no details of his supposed “secret” plan.

Harking back to a 2019 telephone call during which Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to assist in finding emails of the US Democratic National Committee which he claimed without proof, were in Ukraine, and as well to assist in an investigation of Hunter Biden, readers will remember that call formed the basis of the first impeachment trial of Trump.The former president may be on some sort of vendetta here.

The stark difference between the approaches of Biden and Trump toward NATO, Ukraine, and Russia, are only part of the risk profile that the US presidential election of 2024 presents for Europe and the world. Whereas Biden has sought to strengthen NATO and America’s alliance with its European friends, Trump still seeks to destroy NATO and indeed, the backbone of the rules-based order that these allies have so long promoted and nurtured.

No American president has damaged his own country as much as Donald Trump. His four-year term as President was bad enough, culminating as it did with the insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and his petulant recusant refusal to attend the inauguration of his successor, a time-honored tradition in a country that has prided itself on a peaceful transition of power every time a new President is elected.

Now, it seems that the EU overcame the objections of the lone authoritarian, Viktor Orban. America may not so easily overcome the authoritarian tendencies of a Donald Trump. The power of the American presidency is formidable as major policy decisions can be made by one person.

As the US Senate struggles to put together a bill that will ensure funding for both Israel and Ukraine, the MAGA Republicans in the House continue to play games. The consequences for Taiwan’s security could be disastrous. Trump appears willing to risk all this even before being back in the White House for a second term. What will he do if he is indeed reelected? Trump continues to propagate the myth that President Xi is a “friend” of his and a person with whom he gets along well. The truth is that President Xi has his own agenda, and that is no surprise. That agenda does not include being a friend of Donald Trump.

The former president has made it clear that he abhors war and does not want American troops stationed around the world. He had his Secretary of State sign an agreement with the Taliban for American troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. That task fell to his successor. Quite frankly, the Biden administration botched the withdrawal, but what will Trump do with respect to American troops stationed around the world? Will he usher in a new era of American isolationism and withdraw more troops? Will he abandon the Pacific and the South China Sea to Beijing?

Trump’s attempt to destroy America’s Democracy entered a new chapter when, after Biden’s inauguration, he refused to show the gracious acceptance of election results that Richard Nixon, and Al Gore had mustered after their bitter electoral defeats in 1960 and 2000. No, Trump persisted in the BIG LIE that he was the real winner and that the election had been stolen from him.

A delusional autocrat

All of this may be risible to the world, as it is to most Americans save a subset of MAGA Republicans or, as I like to call them, the MAGA Maggots. But there is a serious side to Trump’s quest for a second term as America’s President and Commander in Chief of its armed forces. No, it’s not the danger of his starting a nuclear war, he seems to have a genuine abhorrence for that, but rather, the prospect of a second Trump presidency is grave cause for concern in terms of the geopolitical order, America’s alliances with other nations, and for the world economy writ large.

Aside from the fragmenting of NATO, abandoning Ukraine, and risking Taiwan, Trump also promises to upend global trade. He has promised to uproot and deport millions of undocumented immigrants even if they have been in the US for years. It is one thing to enforce immigration laws, but just imagine the impact on services in the US, on GDP, and the potential impact of an inflow of millions into Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Or consider that he plans to impose a universal baseline tariff on most imported goods. In 2022, the US imported $3.2 trillion worth of goods. A 10% tariff would impose minimum cost of $320 billion, a 15% tariff, $480 billion on American consumers. When one considers that a large share of imports are incorporated into the supply chain and marked up on resale, the impact could be as much as $1 trillion or almost 5% of GDP.

Getting back to NATO, whereas Trump wants to gut that alliance and pull American troops back from Europe, he intends to send US troops into Mexico to contend with drug cartels. Whereas his constitutional authority for this is questionable and Mexico’s consent not likely, in some senses Trump’s suggestions are those of a delusional autocrat with no sense of limits on his power.

And what of Israel? Trump is still smarting from what he claims was an alleged betrayal by Netanyahu when the US took out the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. Will Trump continue America’s support of Israel, or will he cut off aid to spite Netanyahu?

Whether one agrees or disagrees with America’s foreign policy and the way in which it conducts its relations with other countries, there has been a consistency over many decades. This is largely because underlying each new administration is the bureaucracy that stitches together the guts of the policies that endure. Trump threatens to gut what he calls the Deep State. One can only imagine the turmoil and ensuing turbulence this would cause.

In short, a Trump presidency promises upheaval in Europe and at home, turmoil in Ukraine, a possible invitation to China to attack Taiwan, and disruption of global trade and supply chains.


Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 9 February 2024

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