President Donald J Trump’s decision to torpedo the Paris Climate Change Agreement is yet another manifestation of the US decision to walk away from the very world order that it constructed and benefited from in the last 70 years.
It comes on the heels of a marked shift in America’s attitude towards
NATO — the key alliance the US crafted and led since World War II —
believed to be a signal of the changed times.
Since World War II, the US national security doctrine emphasised the
importance of preventing the rise of any dominant regional player in
either Europe or East Asia. Through NATO, and its alliances with Japan
and South Korea, the US maintained its global primacy.
The US still claims to uphold NATO, but Trump’s boorish performance
at the NATO summit last month made it clear that things are not the
same. He not only berated his fellow NATO members for not spending
enough on their defence, but also pointedly refused to endorse its key
Article 5 committing the alliance to a common defense where an attack on
As for the East, the US secretary of defence, Jim Mattis, who was in
Asia to make a major policy address at the annual Shangrila Dialogue,
sought to reassure America’s Asian allies about his country’s
willingness to stand by them, but he has found himself having to defend
his president’s isolationist policies.
Trump’s criticism of NATO and his decision on the climate agreement
could not but cut the ground from under Mattis’ feet. This had, in any
case, been preceded by the American pull out from the Trans Pacific
Partnership which had been designed as the linchpin of the American
pivot to Asia.
Trump’s boorish performance at the NATO summit last month made it clear that things are not the same.
Mattis’ focus was on North Korea, because developments there directly
threaten the United States through its ICBMs. For the present, this
will reassure Japan and South Korea, but it certainly does not answer
all the issues that confront them.
True, on the eve of the Mattis visit, the US Navy conducted a patrol
past a reef claimed by China. But all Mattis had to say was the Chinese
activities in the South China Sea undermined regional stability. It is
no secret that the US is not willing to push China beyond a point
because it needs Beijing to deal with North Korea.
So Mattis said that not only was conflict with China “not inevitable”
but that “our countries can and do cooperate for mutual benefit.” This
could hardly have inspired the ASEAN which is, in any case, deeply split
As for Europe, its dilemma is palpable. On one side its
trans-Atlantic ties are foundering, and on the other, an increasing
assertive China is seeking a closer embrace through its One Belt One
In the process, Beijing is systematically wooing Central and Eastern
Europe, as well as seeking to enhance its investments in Europe. Already
this had led to a weak European response to its activities in the South
Where does India figure in all this?
New Delhi is going through the motions of pretending everything is
normal. Even though it boycotted the OBOR summit, it is readying to join
the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a military, political and
economic grouping run out of Beijing.
Perhaps one part of India is quite comfortable with the statist and
authoritarian model that the principals of the SCO — Russia and China —
But India can hardly be comfortable with the sight of the US, upon
which it has come to rely on unconscionably in the past decade, behaving
the way it is doing. Its embrace of Saudi Arabia and the very obvious
push to destabilise Iran are bad news for New Delhi.
There is nothing in Modi’s recent tour to Europe to suggest that
there are viable options there. India’s trade with Europe pales into
insignificance as compared to China. As for investments, China’s outward
and inward investment from Europe is orders of magnitude greater than
Besides, Europe is badly distracted by Brexit, dissonance with the US
and the repeated terror strikes by home-grown jihadists. A lot of hope
now rest on Modi’s meeting with the US president. Trump’s critique of
India’s climate change stand is not a happy augury. It would be a brave
man who will argue that the visit will go well.
If time-tested allies like Germany feel that the time has come for
them to think of going on without the US, there is little reassurance
for India which needs some means of balancing a China which is spilling
onto its neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean, and pursuing deep ties with
Iran to enhance its energy security and connectivity with Central Asia
Mail Today June 5,2017