Trump and Putin’s big whimper doesn’t deserve tar and feathers
Donald Trump finally had the rare pleasure of holding a press conference alongside a very consequential world leader who likes his foreign policies and rooted for him to become US President.
That is about all the rope that Russia’s Vladimir Putin granted him today at their extraordinary summit meeting in Helsinki.
Yet, Trump does not deserve the tar and feathers being thrown at him by many lawmakers and journalists in the US, including accusations of being bested by Putin or “surrendering” to him.
The fact, however unpalatable to the flamethrowers in the US, is that others in the world do think that the American President should meet the Russian President regularly.
Billions of people want them to reduce miscalculations and enmity because they are capable of turning the entire earth – and certainly all of Europe — into nuclear wasteland.
As for most people in Europe, they do not like either Trump or Putin.
Some Americans try to demonize Putin by suggesting that he wields imminent threat to all of Europe because of Russian encroachment in Ukraine and other gluttony.
But most Europeans do not expect Putin to start a new World War by invading the Baltic countries, Poland or any other NATO member. That is why they are slow to permit expansion of their defense budgets like Trump demands.
They fear that Putin and Russians could turn into real enemies if they see Europeans arming more fiercely to the teeth and falling more deeply under Washington’s military control like satellite nations.
An emotional rift is settling between Trump’s American voters and most Europeans. It has nothing to do with Putin and everything to do with the reluctant realization that America’s “shining city on the hill” is a king without clothes whose nakedness Europeans refused to acknowledge but was signaled ever since earlier administrations started looking eastwards.
Now, the baby in diapers over London sums up the loss of hope and trust in Trump’s and his America’s leadership of the so-called Free World.
In turn, Putin is disparaged because of his chip-on-the-shoulder paranoia that Europeans would like to stick needles into him because he is an authoritarian and a hard-nosed manipulator of the divisions fidgeting below their veneers of unity.
A loud sigh of resignation reverberated across Europe following Trump’s extroverted disdain of America’s longtime NATO allies with the military power and skill sets required to fight wars, including France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Britain, Holland, Sweden and Denmark.
Even vulnerable countries like Poland and the Baltic states may change tack and decide that sticking together with other Europeans may be a safer option to relying on Trump to stop the Russian bear from slavering over them.
None of the Europeans can individually or collectively win an all-out war against Russia so they will do whatever they can to keep Trump and subsequent US presidents on their side.
But the Trump-Putin encounter put another nail in the coffin of transatlantic trust that previously grew more from the heart and shared ideals and must now be rebuilt as mercantile and transactional deals born of bean counting.
Today, Trump’s heart seemed to be more with Putin than with Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s Theresa May and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
Nothing useful is known about Trump and Putin’s private meeting but the press conference was not reassuring.
Putin dropped a few hints about substantive issues discussed but Trump stuck to his well-known accusations and lamentations about Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt” and the perfidy of mainstream American media.
Both men confirmed their emotional distance from European citizens and misunderstanding of the drivers of European politics.
Yesterday’s YouGov poll in Germany found that 64 percent of respondents think Trump is a bigger danger to world security than Putin, and 56 percent think that Putin is more competent than Trump.
A YouGov poll earlier in July found that 51 percent of French respondents preferred Putin to 36 percent for Trump.
But the crux of the rift between American and European voters is reflected in a new Emnid organization poll for Bild newspaper which asked German respondents to rank the political issues they considered important.
Trump’s priority of more defense spending came in last with 16 percent. Only 38 percent thought Trump’s other bugbear of limiting immigration is important despite its major impacts on recent elections in Germany, France, Britain, Italy and other countries.
Significantly, the issues that worry Germans most are low pensions and poverty in old age, providing equal opportunities in education by keeping costs low, and improving public health care systems.
These have also been central issues in most European national and local elections in recent years.
Such issues are not high in the sights of American political and media thought leaders as they hyperventilate about Trump, Mueller and Putin. Europeans have other more nuts and bolts worries.