By Barbara Slavin
President Donald Trump.
The words, I must admit, stick in my throat and prospect of him as commander in chief for the next four years is frightening.
The people of the United States have narrowly voted for a man who campaigned on a platform of xenophobia and isolationism, who says he will put “America first” but is likely to harm U.S. national interests and those of our closest allies.
In his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, Trump was conciliatory. He called for Americans to “come together as one united people” and promised that the United States would “get along with other nations willing to get along with us.”
But his election casts doubt on decades of U.S. engagement with the world and raises questions among our allies – and our adversaries – about whether they can count on us to fulfill our treaty obligations.
Around the world, autocrats exulted.
Russia, which interfered in the U.S. election campaign by allegedly hacking embarrassing emails from the Democratic Party and giving them to Wikileaks, openly supported Trump. President Vladimir Putin tellingly used a telegram to congratulate Trump on Wednesday, saying he hoped “for cooperation in ending a crisis in Russian-American relations.”
That crisis was caused by Russian aggression in the Ukraine and support for the murderous regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – policies that Moscow will likely continue.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi – the first Arab leader to congratulate Trump – must assume that he will no longer have to worry about U.S. criticism over his abysmal human rights record since seizing power in a 2013 coup. Ditto Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who survived a coup attempt last summer and has been using that as an excuse to purge government, media and academia of any opposition to his dictatorial rule.
In Iran, hardliners, who have already taken encouragement from the dispiriting and often vulgar nature of the U.S. campaign, will now benefit from facing an American version of their own populist president, the disastrous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If the landmark nuclear deal reached with Iran by the Barack Obama administration falls apart, it is now more likely to be because of Washington than Iran, especially given the fact that Republicans – who opposed the accord — will continue to control both houses of Congress.
Iran is apt to turn more toward Russia and China, disappointing those who saw the nuclear agreement as a chance to liberalize society and pivot toward the West. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who faces his own re-election campaign next year, could be in jeopardy.
Eastern European countries will wonder if NATO will come to their defense in the face of new Russian aggression. If there is an American “reset” with Russia, it could come at their expense.
Extreme nationalists and xenophobes in Western Europe, already heartened by Brexit, are also celebrating Trump’s victory. New restrictions on immigration are probable in Europe, as well as in the United States, and the misery of 65 million refugees will persist, spawning hopelessness and new generations of terrorists.
Freer trade is now a dim prospect. Trump campaigned against new trade agreements with both Europe and Asia. Ironically, the beneficiary is likely to be China, which Trump inveighed against during the campaign.
Stock markets around the world tanked, then rebounded, in the wake of the U.S. election and some economists were already predicting a new recession. Trump’s plans for massive tax cuts and infrastructure spending promise to explode the U.S. deficit, raise interest rates and undermine the dollar as a global reserve currency.
In domestic terms, Trump will have an opportunity to fill at least one – and probably more – seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, the only body that will remain as a check to his ambitions. Lists of possible Trump cabinet secretaries that are circulating do not inspire confidence.
If there is any hope in this bleak picture, it is that Trump – who has never held elected office — will not carry out his promises or will at least modify them. Given that he lied constantly during his campaign, there is at least the prospect that he also lied about what he would do in office.
This analyst has usually been an optimist. But this morning it is raining in Washington and there is no sunshine in sight.