In so doing, he has recklessly withdrawn the United States from three of the five nuclear arms control agreements he inherited, the result of 70 years of painstaking work: (1) the Iran nuclear agreement, which slowed down that country’s drive to develop nuclear weapons; (2) the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, a centerpiece of European security since the Cold War; and (3) the Open Skies Treaty, which reduces the risk of war by allowing Russia and 31 western nations to conduct observation flights over each other’s territory. Moreover, Trump has also threatened to pull the U.S. out of the two remaining nuclear arms agreements—New Start, which limits U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons and is due to expire in February 2021 if not extended, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the U.S. has signed (observing a voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests) but not ratified. He will likely abandon these last two if, God-forbid, he is re-elected, thus leaving us and the planet in the incredibly dangerous position of being vulnerable to a Russian arms buildup and heightened nuclear threat.
Trump’s precipitate and unthinking dismissal of these critical agreements that made the world a much safer place is in addition to his equally imprudent bailouts from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Relief and Works Agency, and his multiple threats to pull out of NATO. Each one of these thoughtless moves harms America in ways both immediate and long-term. Ditching the TPP, for example, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, not only greatly disadvantaged U.S. businesses and workers, but also opened the door to China, paving the way for it to be the arbiter of Asian trade rules and the dominant Pacific power.
The damage Trump has done and continues to do to America’s position in the world is deadly serious and may not be able to be easily undone should Joe Biden become president next year. Our allies no longer trust America and, while they will likely be greatly relieved should an individual with an understanding of the global balance of power succeed Trump, are not likely to discount him as an anomaly. Their great fear is going to be that, if someone who knows and understands nothing could be elected president, then all bets are off regarding to whom this country might turn in the future. If a Trump intent on upending years of carefully constructed and complex alliances could come to power in 2016, why not someone equally awful in 2024 and beyond? Convincing our allies that we have returned to “normalcy” will not be easy or guaranteed.
Similarly, Trump’s predilection for cozying up to dictators, while reversible in the short term, does not mean that history cannot repeat itself down the road. Our allies know that and rightly fear that America could once again go off the rails and elect a clueless fool who has no comprehension of the importance of maintaining the delicate balance of global order and stability.
The task that Biden will confront, if elected, will not be as straightforward as the one Barack Obama inherited when he succeeded George W. Bush and was faced with rehabilitating American foreign policy after the Iraq misadventure. This time, it will be a much harder slog.
August 14, 2020