New Delhi: Is Donald Trump composed of two men or perhaps three, a deviant manifestation of multiple-personality disorder? The United States president leaves you grotesquely puzzled with shenanigans on Russia and murky payoffs to women while simultaneously handling Chinese, Iranian and European Union trade issues and sanctions with passionate Americanism rarely encountered in his recent predecessors. What’s the explanation for this? Indeed, is there any? How is the balance of the bad and good sides holding up? How severe is the danger of the bad side leading Donald Trump to grief? How does the grief, if grief it be, play out for the United States and the rest of the world?

The news from Washington has spread like wildfire that Trump is reeling from the double disaster of two of his key aides falling prey to the investigations of Robert Mueller in the case of Vladimir Putin’s Russia influencing the presidential election of 2016 in favour of the incumbent. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was indicted on charges of bank and tax fraud and will be locked away for years. His links to the former East Bloc with shadowy trails to Russia could net Trump for Mueller. On the same day as Manafort’s indictment, Trump’s fixer lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to almost the same charges brought against Manafort, in addition to admitting to routing slush payments to two women on behalf of the US president. Cohen has also turned approver and fear has gripped the White House that he could lead prosecutors close to the truth of Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia to snatch the election from Hillary Clinton. The impeachment of Trump is still months away should it ever get there, but impeachment speculations, swirling as strongly as they are now, usually erode an administration’s resolve and functional capacity. With any other Major Power, it would not matter as much, but the United States is the world’s lone superpower. The ups and downs of the US president have a mirror effect on the rest of the world. So how does it look for the world going forward, and how does it appear for America as well?

The happiest with Donald Trump’s travails would be China whose economy is approaching a meltdown state with Trump’s trade war. Presidents preceding Trump huffed and puffed about Chinese mercantilism without taking dramatic and effective countermeasures. Trump did the unthinkable, slapping Chinese imports with tariffs, whose size and scale grow daily. The trade war has left Xi Jinping’s autocracy infirm and threatens the social contract with the Tiananmen Square movement leaders privileging economic growth over democracy. China’s expansion in the South China Sea and its expansive Belt and Road Initiative face sudden jeopardy. Unless Xi gets a quick reprieve from Donald Trump which seems unlikely, his future as the supremo of China looks clouded. China would be glad for Trump to weaken but it is unlikely the United States will quit hounding China even should he go. A Democratic president would find it difficult to change the course on China especially with its flagrant violations of fair trade tenets and intellectual property, aggression on neighbours, territorial grab, and so forth.

Iran is a mixed bag. America’s impending sanctions are a long needed corrective for the ill-advised toppling of Saddam Hussein by the George Bush administration that unexpectedly empowered Iran and produced disastrous consequences for the Middle East. Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, has stressed America is not looking at regime change but a definite change in the regime’s behaviour implicitly towards America and towards Iran’s neighbours. The remarkable thing about Donald Trump is that he is not trigger happy like, say, George Bush. He prefers to use America’s economic might to bring adversaries to heel and he has picked targets not without justice. Iran would also wish Trump’s impeachment but America is unlikely to backtrack from Trump’s sanctions even should he leave. Iran’s economic crisis stoked by Trump has lead to masses of Iranians questioning Iran’s foreign interventions and domestic policies and the churn could hurt the ayatollahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. If Iran becomes more democratic and less revolutionary, it would eminently suit US interests. So Trump’s departure would not necessarily benefit Iran.

Russia, on the other hand, is in unambiguous trouble. If Trump is indicted on Russian meddling, future administrations, Democratic or Republican, won’t spare Vladimir Putin’s autocratic rule. It would mark the beginning of the second Cold War. With Trump gone, Western Europe would have no trouble aligning with the United States against Russia. This would entail some settlement of EU-US trade differences which are anyhow close to resolution. As a trade bloc, the US-EU combine would demolish China’s superiority. Being pragmatists, the Chinese will show the white flag early in the enlarged trade war. But China has treaded on too many toes too long to escape lightly. East Asia and India would be pleased with China’s containment. Donald Trump, whether he stays or goes, is likely to leave the West stronger against depredations of Russia and China. Obituaries about the West are being prematurely written. Ironically, Donald Trump would end up reinforcing the world order in ways he probably did not intend. This would be of a piece with his own inexplicably split personality.