New Delhi: Trying to figure how Donald Trump is remaking the world order is pointless. He is remaking nothing. He is not destroying the world order either but he has no patience to make it work. Instead, he is focussed on something which is regressive but which he feels is creative and essential, which is making America great again. He is endeavouring to colour the United States with narrow nationalism to sell his idea of America First. He will fail with taking America backwards but he will damage America’s place in the world and the world itself to an extent. This piece is concerned with what is worth saving from Donald Trump’s waywardness or at least what is to be made of what’s left.

There’s lots of talk of the end of the West after Donald Trump brought arrogance and divisiveness to the recent G-7 summit. A widely circulated photograph aptly captures the substance of the summit. Trump is at the centre of the snap looking glum and truculent while the other G-7 leaders are gathered around him in various poses of challenging his one-upmanship. The European Union is proceeding with tariff retaliations for US imposts on European steel and aluminium. Will Trump blink? Unlikely. His eyes are firmly on re-election and nobody could seriously deny that the United States needs economic and industrial reinvention to fend off the Chinese challenge. Europe requires accepting the reality that the United States market will no longer be freely accessible. It will have to desperately hunt for other markets and the UK and the Continent are better off together. Which means Brexit is a complete horror to proceed with any longer. West European unity has never been more needed.

Where Donald Trump cannot be faulted at all is in challenging the trade imbalance with China, which totalled in excess of $ 375 billion in 2017. China’s Major Power status and growing belligerence in the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean are a direct consequence of its unbounded economic might. Having seen enough US presidents who were concerned with the deficit and Chinese currency manipulations but baulked from confrontation, China thought Donald Trump would go the same way. Trump is an old man in a hurry. In his own rotten way, he is trying to make history. He is dead serious about making America great. Unless his health fails or he is impeached or not re-elected, he will take China to the cleaners. This is wholly welcome.

There is an opportunity for the United States and Western Europe to jointly target China. This would of course require Europe’s prior concession that Trump has a point about America First. If the concession is followed with European NATO states clearing membership dues in full and willingly accepting their burden of collective security, the Western alliance could be saved. Trump might feel adequately vindicated to make reciprocal trade concessions to Europe. But Trump and the United States apart, the European Union should move independently to hammer China for a closed market. There is a sound geopolitical reason for this which may have escaped European analysis. China has emerged as a major backer of Russia which poses a direct threat to Western Europe. Russia has annexed Crimea, established its suzerainty over eastern Ukraine, and has so terrified Norway that it plans to double its deployment of US marines, who will take up positions on the frontier facing Russia along the Barents Sea. Western Europe has to contain China’s unstoppable rise if it has to contain Russia even partially.

To be continued...