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What a Second Trump Term Meant for the World



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His first comments on foreign policy in the 1980s were critics of Japan but he altered his long-standing hostility in his first term before his starting date mainly because of his friendship with Shinzo Abe, which the then prime minister carefully maintained.

Substantially, he will double down on his instincts and lean into ideas he had before becoming president. He could put NATO in absolute neo-nuclear retaliation by refusing to defend Germany, France and other selected countries under the Mutual Defense Clause. He could unilaterally adopt this decision without the approval of Congress as it just involves altering a presidential interpretation of the purposefully vague NATO founding treaty.

In his first term, he has already tried to withdraw troops from South Korea. But he could make it happen in his second by signing a peace agreement with North Korea. His first comments on foreign policy in the 1980s were criticisms of Japan, but he modified his longstanding hostility in his first term before his start date mainly because of his friendship with Shinzo Abe, which the then prime minister carefully maintained. With Abe out of the picture, Trump could return to japanese attacks and rethinking the alliance with Japan itself. Both of these measures could weaken the American competitiveness with China.

The second part of the pincer movement — how the rest of the world will react — is also important in a second term. After the 2016 election, America’s allies and opponents took a deep breath. They did not know if Trump’s win was a temporary failure or a permanent change — in fact, this is the top question that most foreign governments have had about the United States over the last four years, because it is so important to their future. Before the Coronavirus hit the USA, most of the foreign officials I talked with tended to think that Trump would win a second term. Now, as almost all the others, they see him as the underdog. If he wins again, friends and enemies alike will accept that the postwar period of American leadership has come to a definitive end. The effect of different countries will vary. Some allies could negotiate deals with China and Russia. A small number might seek an independent nuclear deterrent. All plan for a world with less cooperation.

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The coronavirus makes things worse. Many now generally accept that the ordinary life will not return until a reliable vaccin is developed and widely distributed. The global economy is still poised to rocket the brink, struck by the virus and rivalry between the United States and China. Cooperation, particularly between the United States and Europe, has slowed down. Priority of the Trump Administration is to signal its goodwill to his base of “America First” instead of to form an international coalition to tackle shared problems. In a second term under Trump, foreign countries can expect no coordination on the global economic recovery, development of a vaccine, the rehabilitation of international institutions or assistance for those that were destabilized by the crisis. The openness in terms of travel and trade will not return what had to be normal before coronavirus Every nation will have to feed for itself. The EU and a handful of other democracies might try to keep the multilateral order alive, but it will become a relic, which will largely remain irrelevant to world events.

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