A second Trump presidency could mean many things for the world, but it would most certainly be worse for the US and the world than his first term.
The world seems to be at another inflection point as the United States (US) moves into election mode. The Opposition Republican party in the US Senate is blocking the Ukraine and Israel aid bill over demands that the Biden administration implement new border control measures in the US. The bill would provide US$ 64 billion in assistance to Ukraine and Israel.
Meanwhile a proposed EU package of 50 billion euros has yet to pass given the differences within the grouping over how to fund it. However, the money is still likely to come through. But the impression of uncertainty and reluctance cannot bode well for the future. This comes at a time when Ukraine is in dire straits. With its summer offensive having failed to make significant headway, it is now facing the revitalised Russian war machine which continues to grind on, paying little heed to the enormous casualties it is suffering.
The Opposition Republican party in the US Senate is blocking the Ukraine and Israel aid bill over demands that the Biden administration implement new border control measures in the US. The bill would provide US$ 64 billion in assistance to Ukraine and Israel.
What happens in Ukraine could have a significant bearing on the other side of the globe in Taiwan. China’s declarations that it could annex Taiwan by force have become salient in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A Western alliance fumbling in Ukraine could have reverberations in East Asia and persuade China that it could get away with a forcible annexation of Taiwan.
In January, the self-governing republic of Taiwan is facing a presidential elections. As of now, Lai Ching-te aka William Lai of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party is leading at the polls. Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT) is not far behind and has made it clear that he is for a policy of negotiation and compromise with China.
Lai, who is the deputy to the current President Tsai Ing-wen, intends to follow his predecessor’s policy of pushing Taiwan’s sovereignty and being a willing partner to the US in the pushback against China. This is a policy which has led to great friction between China and Taiwan, as well as China and the US.
In the November meeting between Xi and Biden, the Chinese leader urged the US to stop arming Taiwan and “support China’s peaceful reunification.” Although the US has no defence treaty with Taiwan, Biden has said several times that the US will defend Taiwan if it is attacked. Missteps in Ukraine could persuade the Taiwanese that the US is at best an unreliable guarantor of their status and compromise with China may be a better option.
A Western alliance fumbling in Ukraine could have reverberations in East Asia and persuade China that it could get away with a forcible annexation of Taiwan.
But the biggest challenge to the global system comes from the possible return of Donald Trump as president of the US. As of now, it is almost certain that Trump will be the nominee of the Republican Party in the next US Presidential elections. This could possibly lead to a situation where the US itself may change course in directions set by Trump in his first term.
On his very first day as president, he pulled the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and in his term of office, he rejected and undermined the pro-globalisation model of the global system and also decided that China was America’s most consequential rival. On his last days he attempted to stage a coup. Not all Trump policies were bad; they persuaded Europe and Japan to increase their defence expenditure and began the process of cutting of China’s access to US military-grade technology. For the better or for the worse, he shifted US policy in US foreign and domestic policies decisively as is evident from the fact that President Biden adopted many and built on them.
All recent global crises will feed into the coming US election campaign. Trump will accuse Biden of being weak and presiding over an American decline, beginning with Afghanistan, Ukraine, Gaza, and Taiwan. Trump’s own approaches to the ongoing crises could be chaotic and contrary, deepening the impression of US decline and weakening.
A second Trump presidency could mean many things, and most certainly be worse for the US and the world than his first term. Domestically, as Trump himself seems to be suggesting it could even mean a dictatorship at home. If the courts and media have not been able to check Trump’s excesses when he is out of power, there is little chance they will do so when he is president again. Despite the achievements of the Biden years, the national mood is of unhappiness with the political system and all-pervading pessimism.
In a worst-case scenario, a Trump presidency could have the US pull out of NATO, leaving Ukraine to fend for itself and Taiwan to work out its own arrangements with China. Allies and friends around the world would confront a world where the US would no longer guarantee their security. Trump’s plan to institute 10 per cent tariffs on all imports would end the open trading system the world is used to.
Countries that depend on US for security will be out on a limb. It will generate pressures on Japan and South Korea to cross the nuclear threshold. Depending on how its détente with Iran works, it could also push Riyadh in that direction. Russian success in Ukraine could shake the European order. Whether Berlin decides to cross the threshold will depend on France and the United Kingdom.
As for India, it would perhaps be less vulnerable to the shift as compared to allies who depend on US for their security. But it would nevertheless unsettle New Delhi which has carefully and assiduously built ties with the US upon which rest its larger world view and ambitions.
Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation
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Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...Read More +