Saturday, January 05, 2019

The Trump Republican’s Dangerous Shift towards the Far Right



As rumored among experts and the media, the Trump administration is reshuffling the cabinet after the midterm election, through firing adults like White house Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in order to remove hurdles to keep the election pledges. President Donald Trump declared to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, though terrorists are still formidable for local troops, and geopolitical power vacuums after that is critically concerned (“Mattis resigns after clash with Trump over troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan”; Washington Post; December 20, 2018). In addition to this, Trump adheres to the budget to the wall on the Mexican border too obstinately, which has led to the clash with the Congress and subsequent government shutdown inevitable (“The Latest: Democrats refuse to fund Trump’s “immoral” wall”; AP News; December 9, 2018). Clearly, the administration is shifting towards the far right. Everything goes as William Kristol said that Trump only wanted to occupy the Republican Party with his loyalists, and did not care about moderates who lost the seat in the midterm election (@BillKristol; Twitter; November 7, 2018 and @BillKristol; Twitter; November 12, 2018).

It is not the administration and the Congress that matters. The shift to the far right could change the Republican base, which would provoke further shift to xenophobic populism. A warning flash emerged in the semiannual CNBC millionaire survey in the last November. According to this poll, the rich are losing trust in Trump, including those of Republicans. Their population may not be large, but they are politically active in voting in the election and donating to campaigns (“Wealthy Republicans lose faith in Trump, as nearly 40% say they wouldn’t vote to re-elect him: CNBC survey”; CNBC News; December 23, 2018). The rich worry governmental dysfunction (“The biggest risk to millionaire wealth is Washington: Survey”; CNBC News; December 17, 2018). That is understandable, because political and national security risks are market risks. Trump’s poor handling of domestic and international politics can provoke them to break away from Republicans, which could enhance the far right furthermore within the party.

Such “Corrosion of Conservatism” implies that the Trump far right more caustic than the Democrat left. I would like to mention the following reasons for this. Firstly, even Democrat leftists like Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi are more willing to abide by bipartisan foreign policy common sense than Trump, as they have long and responsible congressional careers. Secondly, Trump adheres to unrealistic election pledges so obstinately as seen in the latest government shutdown over the wall on the Mexican border. Also, he defies everything in college textbooks of policy making as shown in his trade wars and alliance breaking. Thirdly, Trump’s leadership style is quite like that of corruptional Third World dictators, as he demands mafia-like personal loyalty to his staff. That could jeopardize American democracy. After all, no other politicians, regardless of partisanship and ideology, have such aberrant temperament.

The fourth reason is the most critical, and it has global implications. That is Vladimir Putin’s sponsorship of the far right in Europe, and the Trump phenomenon is a ripple effect of it. People focus on domestic aspects that give rise to him, but we cannot dismiss the worldwide crisis of democracy. As we know, Russia has been intervening Eastern Europe to restore Soviet era geopolitical influence there. Putin’s Russia goes furthermore into major powers in Western Europe. The most devastating one is Russian interference in the Brexit vote, which is deeply interconnected with the Trump case. At the end of the last year, the British National Crime Agency started to investigate an anti-EU businessman Aaron Banks, on suspicion of financing Leave.EU’s campaign in the EU referendum to help Russian troll on the web (“UK National Crime Agency Starts Investigation Into Eurosceptic Businessman Aaron Banks”; EU Today; November 1, 2018). More importantly, the High Court of England and Wales told the media that Brexit might be illegal and invalid, if the case was guilty (“Brexit: High Court to rule if referendum vote ‘void’ as early as Christmas after Arron Banks investigation”: Independent; 24 November, 2018). Just before Christmas, it was revealed that Banks talked with Cambridge Analytica whose notorious ties with Russia and the Trump campaign team are frequently mentioned, to help micro-targeting of British voters by Leave.EU (“Revealed: Arron Banks Brexit campaign's 'secret' meetings with Cambridge Analytica”; 19 December, 2018; openDemocracy UK). In addition to Britain, Putin demonstrated his support for Marine Le Pen in the 2017 presidential election in France. Also, pro-Russian French nationalists Fabrice Sorlin and Xavier Moreau joined the recent Gilets Jaunes riot (“"Russian World" supporters fly "DPR" flag at yellow vest protest in Paris”; UNIAN News; 8 December, 2018).

Quite conspicuously, Russian politicians and media cheered Trump’s decision to fire Mattis over Syria and Afghanistan. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Upper House of the Russian Parliament, said that “the departure of James Mattis is a positive signal for Russia, since Mattis was far more hawkish on Russia and China than Donald Trump” (“Russia Gloats: ‘Trump Is Ours Again’”; Daily Beast; December 21, 2018). But such geopolitics is not the ultimate reason why Putin and right wing populists in Europe and America are so friendly with each other. Western far rights see strength, traditionalism, and nationalism in Putin’s personality and leadership. More importantly, they share common values such as fighting against Islamic extremism, protesting global economic integration, and reverting secularization of the society. After 2012 when Putin was reelected for the president, he launched anti-LGBT campaigns, which has won high esteem among Western social conservatives (“Putin and the Populists”; Atlantic; January 6, 2017). With this synergy of geopolitics and far right values, Russia can shatter the moral ground of liberal democracy. Even China finds this job too big for herself, despite her ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, and formidably growing economy.

The far right coalition led by an antagonistic dictator like Putin is so devastating that we have to keep a closer watch on them rather than the left, just as Winston Churchill made up his mind to fight against Adolf Hitler rather than Joseph Stalin. Some pundits comment that even the superpower is not omnipotent, and we should embrace popular anxiety, plight, and hopelessness in the global economy and a divided nation, that has led to the Trump presidency. Certainly, we should analyze the reason why he won the election unexpectedly, and make every effort to resolve those problems that has enabled such a demagogue. However, we should never embrace nor sympathize with Trumpism that destabilizes the world day by day. Still, there is some hope in the Republican Party. Newly-elected Senator Mitt Romney is expected to assume a key role to boost anti-Trump Republicans, and to lead them. Also, Senator Marco Rubio advances bipartisan politics (“Rubio Encourages Bipartisanship in Policymaking”; Hoya; October 5, 2018). Meanwhile, there is no doubt that the Democrat left is less caustic than the Trump Republican, but they are also problematic both domestically and globally. Max Boot comments foreign policy of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as the following. Though they are more respectful to multilateral cooperation than Trump, they do not share bipartisan understanding of the American liberal world order with foreign policy establishments. Since Warren argues that free trade benefits global big businesses at the expense of American workers, and Sanders insists on the pullout of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, rather than fulfilling the role of the world policeman, Boot calls them Trump of the left. Moreover, both of them do not show their ideas how to manage the threat of authoritarian powers like China and Russia (“The Democrats need a new foreign policy — one that doesn’t sound like Trumpism of the left”; Washington Post; December 26, 2018).

In view of such a strong presence of isolationists in both parties, Republican internationalists and Democrat moderates should align each other. Our real enemy is much bigger than a fat mad man named Donald Trump. The ultimate threat to us is alt-right ideology, which could persist even if Trump himself were forced to resign by impeachment or some scandal. This monster is immortal, and neither a knife stab nor a gun shot can exterminate it. Also, we should act beyond observing and analyzing what happens in America. We are not in a position to interfere illegitimately in American politics like hacking as Putin’s Russia did. However, pundits from American allies, notably, from Europe and Japan, can talk directly to American voters to promote understanding of allies’ contribution to American security, and the fallacy of America First. They do not have to criticize Trump specifically. Such campaigns should be in close coordination with bipartisan internationalists and moderates. This role is more suitable for private pundits rather than government officials. I believe this is a legitimate intervention in American politics. We should not just wait and see, but act!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Enigma of Financial Source and Procurement System for Russia’s Military Power

A growing number of experts say that Russia is a great power in decline, while China is challenging American hegemony. In terms of the GDP and defense spending, Russia is not a rival to the United States, and even to China. In 2018, Russia is ranked the 11th in the GDP, which is just below that of Canada, according to the IMF. As Canada pursues a cost-efficient defense policy, it may appear Russia is overspending on the military. Above all, I wonder whether Russian threat is destined to fall so easily and rapidly as wishfully understood among some experts, particularly among the Japanese, who are craving for a geopolitical counterbalance to China. There is no doubt that China will grow more and more formidable, but that does not belittle Russia. The Putin administration is launching ambitious military projects one after another, for example, advanced avionics fighter jets like Su-35 and Mig-35, stealth fighters and bombers like Su-57 and PAK-DA, and advanced sensor tanks like T-14. In addition to these conventional weapons, Putin’s Russia is rearming new generation nuclear weapons, such as RSM-56 Bulava SLBM, 9K720 Iscandar SRBM, and recently announced 9M729 cruise missile which is Putin's notorious deal breaker of the INF treaty. Actually, many of these weapon systems have already been deployed. Moreover, Russia is engaged in a war and a skirmish in Syria and Ukraine. Can Putin finance these grandiose military projects, without sufficient funding resource? It appears that President Vladimir Putin makes impossible possible.


Putin's INF deal breaker, 9M729 or SSC-8 cruise missile


This is a question that I have been wondering for years, but I have found a clue in an article by Anders Åslund of the Atlantic Council (“It’s time to go after Vladimir Putin’s money in the West”; Washington Post; March 29, 2018). He is a former Swedish diplomat, and served as an economic advisor to Russia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan during the 1990s. According to Åslund, financial secrecy in the West enables anonymous investment by Russians, and that helps Putin and his fellows to manage their assets to maintain their power in Russia, and possibly, to assist national defense projects including asymmetric warfare as well. I would say. Let me tell it briefly. Putin and his inner circle, particularly the siloviki, accumulate a huge amount of wealth through controlling the secret police and big state companies. They raise money by extorting private businesses, manipulating commodity and stock prices, and so forth. They transfer those assets to the West, since the rule of law and investment secrecy protects them. Despite repeated Western sanctions and the Magnitsky Act, Putin and his fellows find loopholes of these regulations for their money laundering. Most of their investments go to the United States and Britain. According to the US Treasury, $300 billion was laundered in 2015, but financial secrecy hinders detailed investigation of it. In the UK, though the Cameron cabinet was about to launch a disclosure of these investments, they stepped down after the EU referendum. The May cabinet is not keenly aware of this problem, despite the Salisbury spy poisoning.

However, May’s poor attention to the Russian money was severely criticized by the Labour and the Liberal Democratic parties this March, as Russian investors are buying up luxurious properties in London. Some of them are near the Ministry of Defence, purchased by First Deputy Prime Minister-then Igor Shuvalov (“Russian elite must reveal how they paid for UK property, say MPs”; Guardian; 17 March, 2018). Furthermore, the Henry Jackson Society has released a report saying that nearly half of the Russians in London are associated with Kremlin spies, this November (“Half of the Russians in London are spies, claims new report”; Daily Telegraph; 5 November, 2018). In view of the threat of anonymous investment in America and Europe, the Abe administration needs to take cautious approaches in economic cooperation with Russia. Otherwise, Japan could fall into a loophole of Western sanctions against Russia, and could help asset management of Putin’s inner circle for fund raising to strengthen their domestic power base, to boost asymmetric and conventional warfare capability, and to found Kremlin’s overseas spy network. In other words, Tokyo could replace New York and London. Above all, Western sanctions on Russia will not be sufficiently effective, without being able to follow the money.

In addition to anonymous overseas investments, we need to review the nature of Russian capitalism which enables Putin to explore more defense friendly economy than the West. Here again, I would like to mention Åslund’s another article (“Russia’s Neo-Feudal Capitalism”; Project Syndicate; April 27, 2017). Under Putin’s rule, Russian businesses are renationalized, and crony capitalism is prevailing. The share of the state sector in the Russian GDP grew from 30% in 2005 to 70% in 2015. Nationalized companies are supposed to give priority to public interests. But in reality, those companies are managed by Putin’s inner circle, and they procure materials and sell assets out of the market price. The problem is not just crony capitalism. Nominally, Russian defense expenditure is the 4th largest, following the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia, which is roughly 1/9 of American spending (“TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE, 2017”; SIPRI Fact Sheet; May, 2018). However, in a crony capitalism of Putin’s silovik fellows, the defense industry can enjoy exorbitant privileges for their business. Quite interestingly, Russian weapons are much cheaper than comparable ones of the West, and even those of China. For example, the unit cost is $150 million for American F-22, $89.2-115.5 million for F-35, $102.4 million for UK-led Eurofighter Typhoon, and $78.3-89.9 million for French Rafale, but it is only $50 million for Russian Su-57, and $40–65 million for Su-35. Meanwhile, China’s J-20 costs $100-$120 million, and J-31 costs $70 million. The R&D spending on Russian weapons can be manipulated much lower than those of the West.

Of course, we have to bear in mind that we have often over evaluated Russian weapons, as shown in the case of the defection of Viktor Belenko in 1976, when Western experts learned that formidable MiG-25 was fast but not so capable as they had thought before. In any case, it is impossible in a fair market economy to manufacture any weapon to rival the most advanced American one so inexpensively, even though it is slightly less advanced. From this point of view, we should rather assume that Russian military power is beyond nominal defense expenditure. Also, we need to reconsider her balance of power with China. In the Far East, China overwhelms Russia in population and the GDP, but when it comes to a Eurasian scale strategy such as the Belt and Road Initiative, China is no senior partner to Russia as shown in her poor handling of the Uyghur problem. Also, it is likely that Putin assumes his defense projects are economically sustainable. Remember that he gave up on the Soviet Union quite early, when Western experts hardly thought of the collapse of the Eurasian superpower. This suggests that Putin is keenly aware of the balance between military power rivalry and economic sustainability. In any case, it is vital to make an appropriate assessment of the Russian power. So many things, regarding Russian fund raising and defense procurement systems, are unknown. Otherwise, any policy, including sanctions on Russia, will not be sufficiently effective.

Monday, November 19, 2018

After the Midterm Election, Russia and the Far Right Are Crucial

So many people evaluate the results of the last US midterm election in so many ways. Trump’s Republican won in the Senate, but lost in the House. It is quite difficult to tell which side actually won, with all things considered. Also, it is too premature to foretell political trends in the 2020 presidential election, simply based on the results. The media applaud the rise of female and minority seats in both Houses. But for the immediate issue is, how will the Congress check Trumpism that scares innumerable people in the United States and abroad. I would like to talk about hope and despair of post-election American politics from the following key words, that is, policy professionalism, human rights, Russia, and the far right. For this objective, I would like to focus on noteworthy winners and losers in this election, rather than arithmetic analysis of partisan rivalry.

On the hopeful side, I would like to mention Democrat Congressman Tom Malinowski of New Jersey’s 7th district, who was the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Before joining the Department of State, he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and worked for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and some think tanks including the Ford Foundation. He served both the Clinton and the Obama administrations as a diplomat. During the Bush era, he was the Washington Director for Human Rights Watch, where he campaigned for democratic reforms in Myanmar, women’s rights in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, and civilian protection in Syria. As his brilliant career shows, he is a renowned policy making professional on human rights. Though he is deeply associated with the Democratic Party, he received bipartisan congratulations from former senior diplomats when he was elected, such as Bush’s Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns and Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Powers.

Human rights have been a core agenda in US foreign policy, but current President Donald Trump is quite dismissive of this issue, as typically seen his lukewarm attitude in the Khashoggi case by Saudi Arabia. From the beginning, his appointment of Rex Tillerson to the Secretary of State was controversial. Though Tillerson was regarded as one of the adults of the team to mitigate Trump’s America First, his credential was severely questioned at the Senate hearing, as it turned out that he had little interest and insufficient knowledge in critical human rights issues such as women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, R2P in Syria, and so forth.

Remarkably, Malinowski is an immigrant from Poland. He moved to the United States at the age of six when his mother married a liberal journalist Blair Clark. Everything of his background is an antithesis of Trump’s barbaric anti-intellectualism, narrow-sighted nationalism, cold-blooded cruelty, and rancid vulgarity. Malinowski may not be a dazzling star like Beto O’Rouke, but his knowledge, experience, and trust from the State Department colleagues will be of great help to rebuild American foreign policy on human rights ever since Trump was inaugurated.

Another hopeful incident is the loss of Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in California’s 48th district. This is not just a single seat, because he is notorious for close ties with Putin’s Russia and European far right including former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, former Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, and Hungarian President Viktor Orbán. Among them, Farage and Orbán resonate with Vladimir Putin’s anti-globalism and anti-liberal democracy initiatives to turn Europe into a nationalist and traditionalist sphere, which is completely at odds with the ideal of the EU and NATO. Rohrabacher was pro-Russia from an early stage, and has been sacrificing American national interests to advance his alt-right agenda. During the Russo-Georgian war, he blamed Georgia for provoking Russia. More importantly, he tried to delegitimize the Magnitsky Act at the House hearing, while Putin’s legal advisor Natalia Vesernitskaya met Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner for the FBI suspected collusion at the Trump Tower. Regarding the Russia probe, he even blamed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not closing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.


The Axis of the Far Right: Rohrabacher and Putin


Besides Russia, Rohrabacher remarked something questionable for his credential as a US congressman, regarding terrorism and human rights. He praised ISIS for attacking the Iranian majlis, which killed 17 civilians in 2017. That raised bitter criticism from Human Rights Watch and the National Iranian American Council. In addition, Rohrabacher expressed his gratitude for the support from a far right firebrand Charles Johnson, who openly denies the holocaust. As a Congressman, Rohrabacher was a steadfast anti-communist and a notable hawk against America's enemy like China and Iran, throughout his 30 year career. However, his close association with Putin and European far right, and his dismissive attitude to human rights are incompatible with American values, though he assumes himself a Reagan conservative. Actually, he is one of typical Trump Republicans, and that is the vital reason why his defeat in California’s 48th district is so important for the Never Trump side in this election.

On the other hand, not everything is hopeful. A despairing result is the reelection of a white nationalist Congressman Steve King in Iowa’s 4th district ("GOP Rep. Steve King, accused of racism, wins re-election in Iowa"; CNBC News; 7 November, 2018). Like Rohrabacher, King is an alt-right firebrand. This October, his House Republican colleagues led by Speaker Paul Ryan denounced him vehemently, because he endorsed a far right candidate Faith Goldy in the mayoral election of Toronto. She is a Canadian mini-Trump, as she admires American white supremacist Richard Spencer, and featured by neo-Nazi journal, the Daily Stormer ("Rep. Steve King’s endorsement of white nationalist mayoral candidate in Canada draws rebuke from conservative news outlet"; Washington Post; October 18, 2018). King is in close contacts with European far right, and praises Putin generous, simply because he did not murder Gary Kasparov, though the former world chess champion was forced to leave for the United States ("Steve King: Putin Allows Freedom of Dissent Because He Hasn’t Murdered Garry Kasparov in New York Yet"; Alternet; February 5, 2017).

Above all, alt-right influence still remains in the Republican Party and the Congress, though Democrats won in the House. In view of this, William Kristol warns repeatedly that Trump will grow more radical and divisive after the midterm election, and reshuffle his cabinet to appoint more loyalist members. Mentioning Johnathan Last’s article in the Weekly Standard on November 9, Kristol comments that Trump Republicans are Maoist-minded, thus, they are more interested in controlling their own party, rather than strategic rivalry with China or Russia. Though they kept the majority in the Senate, they lost in the House. This does not boost their legislative capability. But according to Last, Trump Republicans are not fighting against liberals, but traditional Republicans. In view of Trump’s word and deeds, his analysis seems to be somewhat plausible. Trump demands personal loyalty to himself from the staff. Also, Trump said he won the midterm election. If this is about intra-party conflicts, it makes sense. Trump Republicans do not care, even if Democrats defeat anti-Trump Republicans, from this point of view.

Last assesses the election results that Republicans have become radical, while Democrats more centrist. Far right populists are strongly associated with Putin’s Russia. They are disdainful to human rights and the rule of law. From this point of view, the focal issue is the Russia probe, and how will Democrats and “sane” Republicans protect Mueller from Trump’s abuse of power. Actually, Trump Republicans are obsessed with the seizure of power so much as Last says that they would find any means to obstruct the investigation, and even to disinform the public as Putin does. Anti-intellectualism among populist extremists would enhance these tendencies. That could erode policy professionalism in the Congress. Since Democrats won in the House, Obama care is no longer the top issue. It is the Russia probe that critically matters, and Trump opponents should defend the due process of investigation by all means.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Book Review: “Trumpocracy” by David Frum

The Trump administration is in a mess as shown in too many scandals and leaks. Some muckraking books are published, and draw extensive public attention. People talk about Trump’s gossips and idiosyncratic personality, but that is not so much helpful to understand current politics in the United States. Every day, Donald Trump annoys people across the United States and around the world with his smellingly vulgar words and deeds. It is quite difficult to see why so many voters were fascinated with Trump’s anti-globalism and anti-intellectualism like rebellious teenagers. Evidently, defiance to the orthodox political economy is destined to end in catastrophe. Nevertheless, Trump has a staunch base that still wants to bet on him. Some pro-Trump foreign opinion leaders argue that people need to be more respectful to innumerable American voters who endorse him with a great expectation to manage the nation in rapid transition. But we have to be critical to the political impact of Trump’s incivility, ignorance, corruption, and leadership style.

David Frum, the author of this book, was a speech writer for ex-President George W. Bush, and currently a senior editor of the Atlantic. Frum is a well known conservative pundit, and therefore, his criticism to Trump is not a liberal propaganda. We have to remember that so many conservative intellectuals have left from the party of Trump. This is why his analyses are extremely valuable. “Trumpocracy” focuses on the power of the Trump politics, not his personality, that is, how he gained it, how he has used it, and why his abuse of it is not checked effectively. Also, this book focuses on voters who empower and support him, rather than Trump himself. This approach is a back to the basics of political science.




To begin with, it is necessary to understand pre-existing conditions that have given rise to Trump. Since the enemy had disappeared shortly after the Cold War era, policy focuses have shifted from national security to domestic economy, such as stagnant growth in those days and the financial crises since 2008. As a consequence, ideological, cultural, and class feud within the nation has become intensified. In a grassroots psychology like this, fake news grew increasingly influential, as typically seen in the Obama birther dispute. Trump has seized this opportunity. Frum points out that Trump did not surge suddenly in 2016. In his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, he rose to the top in April. He exploited grassroots anger by appealing conspiracy in Obama’s birther case. This was the prototype of Trump’s nasty disinformation campaign in 2016 that defamed his opponents severely. From this point of view, experts underestimated the threat that he has posed to liberal democracies throughout the world.

Having shown the premise of the argument, Frum explores how Trump acquired power, and who helped him. At the beginning, there were enablers or core supporters who gave rise to Trump in the Republican primary. It is their anger and grief that drove him to emerge as the front runner in the Republican race. Grassroots conservatives are infatuated with Trump so much that they do not care ideological integrity, but they are increasingly dismayed with cultural and economic insecurity through globalization. In addition to such loser mindsets, they are in “information ghettos”, thus they are easily driven by Trump’s propagandas. Starkly in contrast, Frum points out that these Republican voters were not impressed with “The New American Century” that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio advocated. As the Trump momentum grew, Republicans who were reluctant to accept him convinced themselves that Trump was the only alternative to Hillary Clinton. Those appeasers were willing to propagate fake news about Trump’s opponent such as Clinton was responsible for the rise of ISIS, and so forth. Quite interestingly, anti-élite biases kept working class women from voting for her. In their view, gender equality that Clinton represents is only for white collars, and totally irrelevant for them. Grassroots conservatives as typically seen in the Tea Party, do not adhere to market orthodoxy, but they object to welfare preference based on political correctness that Democrats give. In other words, Trump’s base is inclined to tribalism, and strongly against diversity.

In addition to the above political mechanisms, this book sheds light on how Trump used dirty techniques to turn conservative media into his propaganda platform. Quite interestingly, Fox News, which is one Trump’s favorite media now, was firmly anti-Trump at the early stage of the primary. Notably Megyn Kelly questioned Trump’s groundless claim that Mexico sent criminals to the United States. Quite surprisingly, Trump complained about her continually in CNN interviews. Both TV stations were in completely the opposite positions from those today. As is always the case, Trump retaliated Kelly through releasing gossips to defame her. As a result, alt-right anchorman Tucker Carlson has replaced her. We have to notice Trump’s hijack of conservative media, because this is a precursor of his mafia styled conquest of the Republican Party. Frum points out that Trump exploits fear and anxiety to dominate the Republican Party as he always does. While Trump is unpopular, his primary opponent within the party Paul Ryan is no less unpopular because he is a fiscal austerity doctrinaire. Paradoxically, this has made Trump more powerful than Congressional Republicans. Particularly, House Republicans desperately want Trump to sign their bills, before their majority expires after the midterm election. Driven by such worries, they defend Trump so loyally as his base, when he faces charges from the Russia probe to sexual harassments.

The nature of governance is also a critical issue that Frum discusses in this book. During the primary, Republican rivals likened Trump to a Latin American caudillo. Trump’s business is notoriously untransparent, as shown in his information closure on his tax return. Also, he spends public money for his travel to his golf courses like Mar-a-Lago, and even did public election funds for hush money payment for women whom he had affairs. As long as people assume it imperative to abide by the morals and social norms, politicians behave accordingly.However, if people tolerate unethical conducts by politicians, corruption prevails throughout the nation, they assume their misconducts are forgiven, which finally leads the whole nation to embrace autocracy and kleptocracy. Frum explores furthermore, how these aspects cast dark shadows on Trump’s handling of his staff. Trump demands loyalty and flattery to dominate his team, but he does not give rewards. He is notorious for firing his staff impatiently. Therefore, those who joined his administration with lofty motivations will be betrayed ultimately, as Eliot Cohen said during the transition period, because they are forced to make excuses for Trump’s sporadic remarks. Typically, when Trump mocked American obligation to Article V at the NATO summit in May 2017, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster was forced to defend his president that he did not say so.

The corrosive nature of Trump supporters and the current administration has overturned my preoccupation that conservatives are supposed to be more moralist, while liberals were tolerant to social heresies like LGBTs. Frum mentions furthermore, that rigged election system reinforces these aspects. It is frequently pointed out that Hillary Clinton failed to win black voter support. This book mentions that Republicans exploited midterm election victories in 2012 at national and local level, actually. They made new election rules to keep minorities away from voting, such as restrictions to early voting. As a result, black voting turned downwards in 2016. During the campaign, Trump blamed everything against him “rigged”. But in reality, the American political system has given disproportionate and dubious favor to his base. It seems to me that Republicans were traumatized with their repetitive loss to Barack Obama so much that they were desperately in need of retaking the White House, by fair mean or foul.

This book narrates and analyses sullen political landscapes of current America. More seriously, Frum comments that Trump’s antipathy to the "deep state" could strengthen it paradoxically, and alienate democratic governance. Ever since Trump’s inauguration, political analysts, both in the United States and overseas, talk about the control of Trump through the adults in the team. Also, American policy experts insist that federal institutions such as governmental bureaucracy, military organizations, intelligence agencies, etc, would stop Trump by all means, if he were to overturn everything. Actually, national security establishment rectified Trump’s appalling remarks at the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, such as his trust to Putin rather than American intelligence agencies, and an agreement to send former ambassador Michael McFaul to Russian intelligence inquiry. However, Frum raises a critical concern that the military would edge Trump out of the command structure without being noticed, if they saw him unfit to the president. He worries furthermore, that such a move would make national security agencies uncontrollable for any president, and they would alienate a Democrat president in the future like this way.

I would say that the above situation is quite similar to Japan in the 1930s, when people lost trust in the Taisho democracy, and subsequent coup d'état attempts led to military rule. Are things in current America so desperate? According to Frum, there is a hope. The Trump phenomenon sheds light on social inequality from globalization and popular resentment that was dismissed by élites. However, it has turned out that his lie politics faces a nationwide resist. Also, his affinity to Russia has awakened the political left, which turned them more conscious of national security. Finally, I would like to mention Frum’s advice on how to manage Trump’s politics of profanity. When he attended a Politico conference in Pasadena, California, one panelist said, “We can’t stop Trump by going soft. If we want to stop him, we have to imitate him.” In reply, Frum said “But if you imitate him, you won’t stop him. You’ll only replace him.” He is right, but that is quite difficult to do, because Trump’s rancid vulgarity provokes our anger at him. We have to be patient and rational. This book overwhelms the reader with numerous political interactions explained in detail. I would firmly recommend “Trumpocracy” for a textbook of Trump politics, as Frum presents cool-headed and persuasive analysis.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Trump’s Deadly Appeasement to Putin in Helsinki


Confident Putin and nervous Trump at the press conference.


It has turned out that American foreign policy pundits and intelligence community were right to raise critical concerns with the Helsinki summit, since President Donald Trump’s election team is suspected of collusion with the Kremlin during the presidential campaign in 2016. As expected, Trump spurred criticism from the media and national security experts at the joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. As the full text of this communique says, both sides did not give details about what was discussed on critical security issues like Crimea and Syria, but just mentioned mutual disagreements over these issues (“Read the full transcript of the Helsinki press conference”; Vox; July 17, 2018). Therefore, it is not clear whether Trump admitted Putin’s annexation of Crimea, or left Syria to Russia. It is interpreted that Trump had no intention of pushing Putin hard over legality of the annexation of Crimea and humanitarian treatment of refugees in Syria (“Putin didn’t have to push the Kremlin’s narrative. Trump did it for him.”; Brookings Institution; July 20, 2018). Meanwhile, Trump made a controversial and naïve remark that Russia had not intervened in the election because Putin said so. Not only did Trump say that he trusted Putin more than American intelligence agencies, but also tell that he would admit the Russian intelligence agency to inquire Americans and allied nationals whom the Kremlin saw unfavorably, in return for the Mueller investigation of 12 Russian spies (“Trump Says He Lay Down the Law in His Latest Account of His Meeting With Putin”; New York Times; July 18, 2018).

Those whom Putin demanded Trump to get summoned by the Russian authority include former Ambassador Michael McFaul for his anti-Putin diplomatic activities according to the Kremlin, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele who wrote the Trump dossier that reports Trump’s deep contacts with Russia and his dishonorable behavior, and a London-based businessman Bill Browder whom Putin charges for illegal transfer of $1.5 billion out of Russia to donate $400 million for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Quite importantly, Browder lobbied for the Magnitsky Act to impose sanctions on Russia for human rights abuse (“White House says Trump to discuss allowing Russia to question US citizens”; Hill; July 18, 2018). Obviously, it is contradictory to Trump’s obsession with national sovereignty, if he hands American and allied citizens over Putin upon his request. Particularly, Putin’s demand to have McFaul interrogated is outrageous, because the United States keeps out of the International Criminal Court to protect her diplomats from adversaries (Twitter; Richard Haass; July 19, 2018). More importantly, Trump’s imprudent deal with Putin infringes on the diplomatic immunity of the Viena Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It appears that Trump was ceding American sovereignty to Putin, in order to take his personal revenge on an Obama official like McFaul and those who acted against him like Steele and Browder. Trump himself thought a rapprochement with Russia would boost his popularity among voters, but to the contrary, he faced vehement bipartisan criticism from the Congress, and even his cabinet members, including Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Chief of Staff John Kelly at the White House, and also, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, raised critical concerns with Trump’s deal with Putin (“Pence, Bolton, Kelly confronted Trump in Oval Office about Russia comments”; Chicago Tribune; July 21, 2018).

Actually, foreign policy pundits are dismayed with Trump’s rapprochement with Putin, whether liberal or conservative. It is utterly wrong to believe that those who are obsessed with the Russian interference in American politics are liberals, as they want to defame Trump. Though the current Republican Party has become so nationalist and isolationist as to be called the Party of Putin, instead of Reagan and Lincoln, responsible pundits do not share such narrow-sighted partisanship among grassroots conservatives. James Fallows of the Atlantic Journal comments that he was shocked to see the President prioritize Russian interests, and questions whether Republicans are loyal to the party or the country (“This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans”; Atlantic; July 18, 2018). Former Bush Administration Speech Writer David Frum is critically concerned whether the US government hears anything about the deal with Putin, and even Trump really understands the implication of the deal or not if it really exists (“The Worst Security Risk in U.S. History”; Atlantic; July 19, 2018). Max Boot criticizes more harshly that Trump’s deal with Putin is an act of hostility to the American public, and argues that the media play the vital role to shed light on his intolerable treason (“We just watched a U.S. president acting on behalf of a hostile power”; Washington Post; July 16, 2018). It is extremely deplorable that so many self-styled conservatives are indulged in Trump. According to Fox News, Trump’s job approval rate is 88% among Republicans (Twitter; Fox News; July 24). McFaul and Browder, whom Putin asked Trump to admit Russian officials to investigate, comments that such an overdraft shows how much the Kremlin is imperiled with the Magnitsky Act in their interviews (“Deeply disappointed”: Michael McFaul opens up about threat of being turned over to Putin by Trump”; Salon; July 20, 2018). Whether Trump understands such backgrounds and basics of diplomatic interactions or not, it seems to me that he is obsessed with repealing Obama era achievements and retaliating those who helps the Mueller investigation directly or indirectly.

Above all, it is quite odd that Trump met Putin without accompanying any officials other than the interpreter. It is the common sense of homo sapiens that a droop and fat real estate agent is no match to a fit and muscular former KGB élite. Only Team America can match or outperform Team Russia. Then, why did he want to talk to Putin face-to-face? Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, says this negotiation style comes from is Trump’s businessman experience. He sees personal relationship very important in diplomacy. Rather than bureaucratically arranged meetings, Trump prefers ad hoc sessions so that he can set the agenda more freely with his counterpart. However, a meeting without a formal document of accord is too risky, as it defines no obligations to do something, and eventually leads to mutual distrust over the implementation of the deal. When both sides disagree over something, there is no way to reexamine the content of the deal. Trump is too reckless, and could fall into an easy dupe to crafty autocrats like Putin and Kim Jong-un (“Summing up the Trump Summits”; Project Syndicate; July 25, 2018). Also, further consideration is necessary, as Trump is suspected of the collusion with Russia. Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post and the London School of Economics points out that Russia and Anglo-American rightwing shared information via Cambridge Analytica, whose commitment to the Kremlin’s election interference to boost Trump drew media attention. An expert on Russia and Eastern Europe, she explains how the above mentioned axis of evil was formed through this consulting firm which was closely tied with alt-right Breitbart News. Cambridge Analytica obtained personal data of 87 million Facebook users illegally from Alexandr Kogan of Cambridge University, in order to help the campaign for Trump, the Brexit movement, and even for Senator Ted Cruz. It is suspected that the Russian Internet Research Agency shared election data with the Trump campaign team to target specific voters, in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica. For example, they urged Trump supporters to rise through sending anti-immigration messages, and discouraged black voters from voting through sending distorted information. There is every reason to assume that the Cambridge data helped their illicit manipulation (“Did Putin share stolen election data with Trump?”; Washington Post; July 20, 2018).

The Helsinki summit reveals more problems other than Trump’s loyalty to the nation and the lack of understandings in diplomatic interactions. When the Trump administration was launched, Washington politics watchers said that “adults in the room” would manage the President’s temperament and unpredictability. Since then, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster were replaced by more loyalist and nationalist Mike Pompeo and John Bolton respectively. Even though they are closer to Trump, they had little influence to stop his poorly prepared and dangerous one-on-one diplomacy with Putin and Kim. In addition, Trump sidelines Secretary of Defense James Mattis these days, and explores more leverage on military affairs by himself (“Trump is reportedly turning on Mattis and taking US military matters into his own hands”; Business Insider; July 25, 2018). Also, Chief of Staff John Kelly is rumored to be in a tense relationship with the President, though he told the media that he would stay in the office until Trump’s term completes (“John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, says he will stay in role through 2020”; PBS; July 31. 2018). If cabinet members cannot stop the President, are there any hidden agreements with Putin? That would be extremely dangerous. Donald Trump’s base may not care critical flaws that he has shown after the Helsinki summit, but it is the burden of enlightened people to grill them persistently, and we should not go along with vulgar populism.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Will the Trump-Putin Summit Destroy the World Order?



The top leader meeting of the United States and Russia could change the strategic landscape of great power rivalries, particularly in Europe and the Middle East. The summit of the fat man and the muscle man in Helsinki on July 16 is far more important than the summit of the fat man and the fat man in Singapore, since the latter was just a negotiation to manage a specific nuclear threat of North Korea. In addition, this summit is held when 12 Russian spies are indicted for the interference in the US presidential election in 2016 ("U.S. accuses Russian spies of 2016 election hacking as summit looms" Reuters; July 14, 2018). Prior to the Helsinki summit and the preceding NATO summit, President Donald Trump spurred criticism as he remarked that he would pull out the US troops from Germany, and might recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. This is a complete denial of the Western alliance and the rule of law in international politics. Furthermore, Stephen Walt points out that Trump does not understand that Europe would be in nationalist rivalries like the prewar era without NATO and the EU, and both multilateral security regimes save US defense spending (“The EU and NATO and Trump — Oh My!”; Foreign Policy—Voice; July 2, 2018). US security officials are making every effort to calm down anxieties among European allies (“Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany is not being discussed, U.S. ambassador to NATO says”; Washington Post; July 5, 2018 and “Pentagon: White House did not request plan to withdraw Germany troops”; Washington Examiner; June 29, 2018). As to Crimea, National Security Advisor John Bolton failed to assure that Trump would not recognize Putin’s unlawful seizure, when he appeared “Face the Nation” of CBS News on July 1 (Twitter; Richard N. Haass; July 2, 2018). More problematically, Trump will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin without accompanying any staff (Twitter; Richard N. Haass; July 4, 2018).

Trump and Putin share common mindsets as they favor strongman leadership and disdain the alliance (“Trump hopes he and Putin will get along. Russia Experts worry they will”; Washington Post; July 29, 2018). Therefore, experts are critically concerned with Trump’s appeasement to Putin over the election meddling and Syria. Meanwhile, Trump wants a ceasefire in southwestern Syria with between Jordan and Russian-backed Assad regime. Therefore, he willing to make a compromise with Russia, though American officials are alert to another chemical attack by Assad (“Trump is kowtowing to the Kremlin again. Why?”; Washington Post; June28, 2018). Among American allies, Britain and Ukraine are in bitter conflicts with Russia over the Salisbury poisoning and Kremlin proxy activities from Crimea to Donbass, respectively. Thus, both nations critically concerned with a possible fatal deal in Helsinki (“First Trump-Putin summit has Cold War backdrop, U.S. allies nervous”; Reuters: June 28, 2018). The most critical problem is that Trump is meeting Putin without appreciating the significance of the alliance to US diplomacy. Former Ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland comments that throughout the postwar era, American presidents have met Soviet or Russian leaders with solid support of European allies, but Trump is weakening this position as he does not understand that NATO gives leverages to US diplomacy with Russia. Furthermore, she argues that the Russian public want improved economy through sanction relief by the West, rather than successful military missions in Syria and Crimea to satisfy their patriotism. That is to say, America is in a stronger position than Russia for diplomatic interactions. However, she is seriously concerned that Trump is too willing to make compromises with Russia over Crimea and the election interference, which would ultimately reinvigorate Putin (“In Two Summits, a Moment of Truth for Trump”; New York Times; July 6, 2018).

But the problem is much deeper than Trump himself, because the Republican Party has fallen into an easy prey of Putin's manipulation. Formerly, Republicans were to more hardliner to the Kremlin, and they were alarmed when the Bill Clinton administration decided to incorporate Boris Yeltsin's Russia into the G8. But current Republicans give priority to partisanship rather than national security as typically seen in the case of Russian hacking to Hillary Clinton's e-mail. In an atmosphere like this, Trump sidelines foreign policy establishment efforts for long term alliance building, and pursues diplomacy for his business interests. That is his deal-oriented diplomacy for his personal victory (“The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki”; Economist; July 5, 2018). Regarding such corrosion of the Republican Party, Jamie Kirchick of the Brookings Institution presents further analyses, who could have been a Republican foreign policy maker under Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Therefore, the following criticism to Trump's Republican is by no means Democrat progressive perspectives. The most fatal problem of the Clinton e-mail affair was that the majority of Republicans acquired stolen e-mails from Russia to defame her during the campaign. We should not dismiss that current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was actively and knowingly involved in this denigration that was plotted by Putin and WikiLeaks. Only a handful of them such as John McCain, Marco Rubio, and so forth, rejected to help Putin's manipulation. Actually, the rise of pro-Russian mindsets was seen among American conservatives before Trump, particularly on social issues like anti-LGBT movements. Also, both Putin and Trump supporters mock worldwide Me Too Movements. Dismayed with political correctness and globalization, Republicans today become enamored of Putin's illiberal and anti-Western values through his KGB experience. Their America First is in complete resonance with Putin's vision of the world, because they are skeptical to multilateral security organizations like NATO and the EU, which sustain the liberal world order. This is the vital reason why Republicans put the party before the country today. The Party of Reagan has fallen into the Party of Putin in this way ("How the GOP Became the Party of Putin"; Politico: July 18, 2017).

Finally, I would like to mention possible implications of the Helsinki meeting beyond Europe and the Middle East. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed their hope that the summit would be of some help to resolve global challenges ("Trump-Putin Summit: China says meeting should help solve global problems"; CGTN; June 29, 2018). Meanwhile, India regards Trump's disengagement from Eurasia as a new opportunity to strengthen her leverages throughout the continent, while Europe worries about the huge vacuum of power in consequence of it ("Raja Mandala: Trump, Putin and future of the West"; Indian Express; July 3, 2018). In the face of growing Chinese and North Korean threats, the US-Japanese appears to work well, despite Trump's controversial remarks. However, we have to keep in mind that his outrageous election pledges are real, not bluff, as shown in global trade wars and his yells and cusses at the last NATO summit. The vital problem is his fundamental thinking about America’s role in the world and her alliance network. As in Europe, Trump remarked withdrawal of the US troop from South Korea, which provoked anxieties among East Asian nations including Japan. Those gaffs show that American allies are liabilities from his business acumen perspectives. In addition, Trump's conciliatory approaches to the Kremlin's deeds over the intrusion of Crimea and Donbass in Ukraine, the poisoning of a former Russian spy and British citizens in Salisbury, and election meddling in Europe and America, simply gives green lights to Putin's infringement of the rule of law in international politics. That makes American commitments to the Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea doubtful. Also, it undermines the Japanese appeal against Joseph Stalin’s unlawful seizure of the South Kuril islands. There are too many concerns with the Trump-Putin summit.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Can Macron Represent Moral Universality of the West?



At the end of this April, leaders from Japan, France, and Germany visited the White House one by one. Among them, President Emmanuel Macron of France gave an outstanding impression to the American and the global public over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, because he addressed a message to remind the core value of American leadership of the world in his speech at the Congress, against the background of anti-globalization populism. Actually, Macron has not had a nasty confrontation with Trump, unlike Merkel. Nor has he taken seemingly favor-asking attitudes to Trump, unlike Abe. Instead, he sent a clear and strong message that Western democratic values and multiculturalism were the anchors of world peace and prosperity. It appeared that Macron is the real President of the United States, rather than Trump. His handling of Trump is well-balanced, and his visions are forward-looking. But can Macron take moral leadership in a world of increasingly intensified geopolitical rivalries in an era of populist nationalism?

To begin with, let me talk about the speech. Though Macron did not criticize Trump by name, he differentiated his position on global policy from that of the White House. He mentioned wide ranges of policy issues from the Iran nuclear deal to the Paris accord on climate change, and most importantly, he stressed America’s role as the leader of multilateral diplomacy that has been the anchor of the liberal world order. He received bipartisan applause as Democrats anticipated him to persuade Trump to embrace globalism, and Republicans respected French contribution to American military operations (“How Macron distanced himself from Trump’s policies in his address to Congress”; PBS News Hour; April 28,2018). Macron refuted America First through the following steps. The underlying assumption of his speech was that global challenges which Western democracies faced were so critical and complex that isolationism and nationalism could inflict a fatal blow on the liberal world order. In order to rebuild this situation into a 21st century world order, he argued that we should tame excessively inhumane globalization, explore low carbon economy furthermore, and promote democracy (“Emmanuel Macron and the Franco-American Ties That Bind”; CFR Blog; April 26, 2018). That is to say, Macron spoke on behalf of Western moral universality that any American president was supposed to do. This is the foremost reason why American pundits such as Anne Applebaum paid the highest compliment to his speech. Having invited Trump to the Bastille Day, Macron succeeded in cajoling him. He even embraced Trump’s dominance gesture to brush dandruff off his shoulder. However, once he delivered an address, he articulated that he denied Trump’s views of the world, such as anti-globalism, anti-environmentalism, and most importantly, Lindburgh styled nationalism and isolationism. Both Europeans and Americans applauded Macron, even though Trump was coaxed too much to understand the real intention of the speech. Trump may not change America First from climate change to the JCPOA and trade, but Macron delivered a message to save the trans-Atlantic alliance from virulent effects of Trumpism (“Macron embraces Trump - and then elegantly knifes him in the back”; Washington Post; April 25, 2018).

But if we were to make an adequate assessment of Macron’s leadership potential in international politics today, we need to understand his foreign policy directions. Despite the impressive address at the Hill, François Heisbourg, Chairman at the Institute for International Security Studies and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, regards Macron as a neorealist who dares to make a deal with notorious autocrats like Donald Trump, along with Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Recep Erdoğan of Turkey, and Abdel el-Sisi of Egypt. Anyway, Trump does not seem to care Macron’s political values, and just exhibited bromance with him, without making compromises on the JCPOA and climate change. Meanwhile, Macron tried to act as a connecting bridge between America and Europe, particularly mitigating bitter relations between Trump and Merkel (“Macron to put 'Trump whisperer' skills to test on state visit”; Guardian; April 23, 2018). For an overview of Macron’s foreign policy, let me mention the IFRI (Institut français des relations internationals) report, “Macron Diplomat: A New French Foreign Policy?” (“Macron, an I. Quelle politique étrangère ?” in French), which was published this April. This paper discusses a broad range of multilateral issues like climate change, migration, and terrorism, and also, French strategic interests like the digital industry. At the beginning of this report, two premises are mentioned. First, Macron is firmly committed to European integration, as he insisted this more steadfastly than any other candidates during the last presidential election. But paradoxically, his victory does not mitigate the rise of rightwing populism in Europe. The AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) won 94 seats in the German federal election in September last year, for the first time in history, and the Euroskeptic coalition claimed victory in the Italian general election in March this year. Second, in response to the deteriorating strategic environment, France leads European defense cooperation to pursue strategic autonomy from Trump’s America, and to manage more multipolar and less multilateralist world as increasingly assertive Russia and China challenge the current world order. In the short term, Iran and Syria are critical. Besides Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran’s ballistic missiles and terrorist sponsorship still pose grave threats in the region. Also, repeated use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime requires prudent humanitarian intervention in Syria. From these points of view, I focus on the following issues in the IFRI paper: French foreign relations with Germany, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, and most critically, Trump’s America.

In view of Brexit and Trump’s America First, the Franco-German axis has become more important than ever. However, France and Germany do not necessarily act on common causes. Along with those divergences, the decline of Merkel's leadership since the German federal election last September has slowed down European integration led by France and Germany. While Macron urges further integration, the German Budestag is reluctant to cede the national sovereignty to Brussels. Also, Germany is stricter on fiscal austerity of the Eurozone. Regarding European defense cooperation, France wants to make it a strong and cost-effective partnership for defense policy, while Germany wants to make it more inclusive one for regional integration. Actually, Germany is not so much interested in European defense autonomy as France is. Also, we should not dismiss that Macron’s penchant for defense cooperation comes from Gaullist tradition, despite his globalist reputation. Considering this, Germany remains more Atlanticist, despite Merkel’s icy relation and Macron’s “bromance” with Trump. In addition, France and Germany have different priority in military operations outside the Euro-Atlantic area. The Franco-German axis needs to overcome these strategic gaps. Regarding European security, the relationship with Russia is another key issue. Despite Macron’s firm determination to promote democracy and reject election intervention, French-Russian economic ties are strong in foreign investment, aerospace, civil aviation, and energy. Politically, Macron pursues pragmatic relations with Russia in the De Gaulle and the Mitterand eras, but Putin wants to weaken Western predominance, which is completely at odds with Macron’s aspiration to strengthen Western democracies. Notably, there are some hurdles between both countries, such as the spy poisoning in the UK, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and security around Ukraine. The IFRI paper shows us that Macron needs to overcome so many problems in relations with France's most vital friend and foe in Europe.

To be a real global leader, Macron’s France needs to increase security and economic presence beyond Europe and the Francophonie, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. In the Middle East, Macron keeps an eye on business opportunity in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE for their globalization reform, and in Egypt for her success in curbing terrorism. France is promoting infrastructure and civil aviation sales in this region. Furthermore, During the GCC crisis in 2016, Macron even sold arms to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, while exporting them to isolated Qatar as well. But this sort of omnidirectional and economy-oriented diplomacy is critically challenged by Iran that still tests ballistic missiles and sponsors proxies, and Syria that uses chemical weapons against civilians. As to Turkey, Macron makes a compromise to soften his criticism over human rights abuse, as he needs Erdoğan’s cooperation in Syria. Meanwhile, in Asia, France insists on rule based multilateralism on key regional issues such as the nuclear problem of North Korea and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The most vital partner and adversary in this region is China. At the beginning of this year, he visited this country to impress the French leadership in Sino-European relations. On one hand, Macron explores reciprocal economic partnership in the Belt and Road initiative, but on the other hand, he leads a European initiative to watch Chinese investments that could jeopardize the security of Europe. Japan, Australia, and India are security partners to France as she joins the “free and open” Indo-Pacific initiative launched by Japan and endorsed by the United States. Still, Macron’s visit to Japan is anticipated to clarify his policy in Asia. In both the Middle East and Asia, the IFRI paper tells us that Macron gives priority to economic diplomacy with major regional powers, but his capitalist-realist approaches needs to be balanced with national survival and moral considerations in relations with some autocracies like Turkey and China.

In a world as mentioned above, how will Macron manage relations with Trump’s America? Currently, Merkel’s leadership is weakening in Germany, and Britain has failed to boost the special relationship with the United States when Theresa May succeeded the Cameron administration, following the Brexit vote. This is an unprecedented opportunity for Macron’s France to act on behalf of Europe in trans-Atlantic relations. However, Trump has no intention to return to the Paris Accord and the JCPOA, no matter how hard Macron tries to persuade him. Also, he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster to appoint more nationalist Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. The IFRI paper even thinks of the worst scenario that Trump would be reelected in 2020, as the research team assumes that Democrats are not strong enough, Republican opponents are virtually nonexistent, and the impeachment is not likely to come so soon. If such trends were to continue, America would fall into a bête noire in the global community further and further, as typically seen in the G7 Charlevoix.

Considering the overview of the French foreign policy direction in a world of growing great power competition, I would like to talk about ongoing diplomatic challenges and Macron’s job performance. Above all, domestic stability is a prerequisite for global leadership. A failure to manage labor protests against his deregulation of employment (“Left-wing protesters say 'enough' to Macron's French reforms”; Reuters; May 6, 2018) could make him another Merkel. At the moment, Middle East crises, notably Iran and Syria are critical. Regarding the Iran nuclear deal, Trump’s abrupt withdrawal gives an opportunity for Russia to have more leverage in the Middle East, and the E3 should fill the vacuum. Also, the EU can fall into America’s sanction target, as Trump is willing to punish Iran unilaterally (“Iran nuclear deal set to test Macron-Trump ‘bromance’ on historic visit”; France 24; April 23, 2018). Though Trump’s deal breaking is severely criticized at home, he is firmly determined to repeal Obama era achievements. While Macron makes every effort to keep the JCPOA, he needs to strike a delicate balance to avoid a fatal clash with the United States. Some experts worry that Trump would pursue a regime change in Iran to charm pro-Israeli evangelicals for the midterm election. But I am skeptical of it, because Trump is obsessed with cost performance so much that he has been reluctant to get involved Middle East affairs as shown in his criticism to the Iraq War. Bolton may endorse that idea, but he is not a real neocon, and thus, he is not clearly determined to install democracy in Iran.

Meanwhile, Europe is making use of perception gaps with the United States over the nuclear deal. While the E3 tries to keep the JCPOA, they use American pressure to contain Iran’s ballistic missile program and terrorist sponsorship in the region. However, the E3 explores to implement these measures through rearranging geopolitical balance of regional stakeholders and working with the UN Security Council, as opposed to Trump’s favorite go-it-alone approaches (“America Is More Than Trump. Europe Should Defend the Iran Deal without Burning Bridges to the US”; IFRI; May 2018). As to Syria, Macron barely managed to persuade Trump not to pull out troops prematurely, but American Middle East strategy swings incoherently between post-Iraq War disengagement and counterterrorism engagement. Macron’s advice to Trump was effective to compromise domestic noninterventionism of his base and anti-terrorism strategy of national security circles in America, when the repetitive chemical attack by Assad raised humanitarian concerns (“Macron Tries to Nudge Trump on Syria Policy”; New Turkey; May 1, 2018). However, neither Macron nor Trump has a long-term strategy in Syria. In both cases, it is difficult to implement French Middle East policy without giving consideration to American foreign and domestic politics, even though Macron wins more moral support than Trump in the global community.

The vital point is that France is just the 6th most powerful country in the “Best Countries 2017” ranking of the US News & World Report (“RANKED: The 23 most powerful nations on earth”; Business Insider; March 15, 2017), and therefore, Macron needs democratic partners in Europe and Asia for global leadership. In Europe, the severest problem is deteriorating trans-Atlantic relations. In addition to disagreements over the JCPOA, the trade war intensifies tensions between Europe and America, as the Trump administration treats the EU like state-capitalist China. More problematically, trans-Atlantic communication has dwindled substantially under the current administration (“Can the U. S. -Europe Alliance Survive Trump?”; Foreign Policy; May 18, 2018). Actually, as French Ambassador to the UN François Delattre comments, the United States often acted unilaterally before Trump, and therefore, Europeans assume that American isolationism will continue to be dominant. Consequently, Europe explores autonomous collective defense and united diplomacy (“RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945-2018”; Foreign Policy; May 11, 2018). But the problem is political instability in Germany. In addition to the weakening leadership of Merkel, Germany is less enthusiastic to the common defense and more inclined to Atlanticism than France, despite a harsh personal feud with Trump.

Therefore, post-Brexit partnership with Britain is a vital issue, particularly in defense. British defense officials are keenly interested in Macron’s initiative for the European Intervention Force (“UK ‘very keen’ to support European intervention force”; UK Defence Journal; May 8, 2018). In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine news paper this June, Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington commented that the United Kingdom and the European Union needed strong defense ties, and a complete divorce would simply benefit Russia (“UK seeks 'closest possible' security pact with EU after Brexit – minister”; Reuters; June 16, 2018). Actually, only a few countries are enthusiastic with Macron’s coalition of the willing. Particularly, Germany is reluctant to join overseas activities outside Europe, as shown in Mali and Syria. Therefore, Britain is the vital partner (“Emmanuel Macron’s coalition of the willing”; Politico EU; May 2,2018). From this point of view, it is quite odd that Britain is excluded from the FCAS (Future Combat Air System) fighter project (“Airbus and Dassault Launch a New FCAS—without BAE”; AINonline; April 25, 2018) and the Galileo satellite plan (Ashley Fox MEP; Twitter; 14 June, 2018). British defense contractors such as BAE systems and Rolls Royce have provided high tech components for American weapon systems like fighter, bombers, war ships, and so forth for decades. The EU defense projects deadly need British technology, if they were to rival against the United States, Russia, and China, in terms of the quality of weapons and competitiveness in world arms export. Macron has to take a leadership to arrange the UK-EU defense cooperation more consistent.

In the Asia Pacific, Japan is the key country to strengthen Macron’s global leadership and define his Asia policy, though China is by far the largest trade and investment orientation. While China is more inclined to geopolitics to edge out American influence to found a Sino-tributary system in her neighborhood, Japan launches the Indo-Pacific security initiative, which is based on equal partnership and burden sharing in accordance with the capability of each stakeholder. Most importantly, Japan poses no threat to Western allies, and her investment in France creates more jobs than Chinese investment does. As to trade, France’s deficit with China is five times as large as that with Japan. In other words, economic relations with China is not so lucrative as commonly thought (“The Missing Piece in Macron's Asia Vision: Japan; Diplomat”; May 18,2018). On the other hand, as the G7 Charlevoix was called “G6+1” (“Trump turns the G-7 into the G-6 vs. G-1”; Washington Post; June 10, 2018), Trump has isolated America from major Western democracies, and it has become an imperative for both France and Japan to defend the liberal world order from his vandalism. Particularly, both nations share common security and economic interests in the Indo-Pacific initiative, but the overview of this is not clear yet. Though Macron has met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at multilateral meetings like the G7, bilateral talks are necessary to define and strengthen mutual cooperation in this region, since France is a Pacific nation to have overseas territories like New Caledonia and Polynesia. Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Taro Kono agreed that both leaders would meet in Paris in July, on the occasion of Japanese cultural events there and the Bastille Day (“Abe plans July visit to France as Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono requests reciprocal trip by Macron”; Japan Times; April 23, 2018).

As noted above, France herself is not strong enough as a single actor, and thus, Macron needs democratic partners to take leadership to reboot the liberal world order. Also, it is necessary to take a delicately balanced approach to Trump’s America, that is, not to appease his high handed demand, but to avoid the fatal clash with the superpower. Bu we must remember that the total economic scale of the G6 is bigger than that of the G1. However, there are some problems that undermine the solidarity of the G6. Besides the erosion Merkel’s leadership in German domestic politics, the Franco-German discrepancies on defense are bigger than commonly understood, as stated in the IFRI paper. What matters is not just postwar pacifism and geopolitics. Like Japan, Germany is not in a good position to uphold the moral universality confidently, and to join global law enforcement operations, because people are repentant of misconducts during World War II. Japan is a more passive pacifist, and she has not even reformed the constitution yet, though her security environment in the neighborhood is turning worse. From this point of view, post-Brexit policy coordination with Britain is critical, as shown in the cases of the JCPOA and free trade. Prime Minister Theresa May is on the tightrope to balance Europhile and Europhobe within the Conservative Party. A successful Brexit deal is essential for both sides. Today, America is in paranoia populism that people see themselves victims infested by foreign economic competitors, allies, and immigrants. As long as they are infected with the virulent effect of Trump, the world needs a coalition to represent Western idealism led by a visionary leader. Macron’s globalist idealism that was addressed at the Hill was so impressive. But it remains to be seen whether such moral universality is compatible with neorealist, capitalist-realist, and Gaullist aspects of his foreign policy.