Donald Trump remains as an “intruder” in the White House, and his days are numbered (recounts or not). He’s playing golf, making threats, preparing lawsuits and, going back to his worst habits, has fired the head of the Pentagon. And while the Americans who voted for Biden are still celebrating in the streets, and understandably so, in the same places the hard core of the right is also protesting and crying fraud.
But what is happening in the world with regard to this anomalous presidential election, given that, as many have said, the presidential elections of the United States are the same as the presidential elections for the entire world, decisive for the orientations and strategies of every country and every international forum? In short, how can Trump “ignore the world” that has recognized Biden?
That was the question the Washington Post asked on Monday. But was Trump, the subversive populist from Manhattan, really just an “intruder” for a world that, on the other hand, for the most part—and we’re not talking just about the populist leaders who know they can leave him behind—participated, grew bored with and accepted his leadership, including by silence?
From this point of view, together with the reactions that were givens, there are statements that are far from uniform, and often unexpected. The two great “enemy” countries, Russia and China, which have experienced the isolationist but economically aggressive “America First” strategy directly, are notably waiting on the sidelines, if not for the inauguration in January, at least for some more official announcement. Because that strategy that has done so much damage to the globalized world has actually brought advantages to the U.S. economy.
Wall Street, which is now toasting Trump’s defeat just as it toasted his victory four years ago, knows quite a bit about this.
Accordingly, a reaction was expected—but not one so immediate and unambiguous—from the countries of the European Union, which, each for themselves but en bloc, all congratulated Joe Biden; a block of united intent for which Angela Merkel certainly played a direct role. Here and there, it did have a more or less obvious tone of coming from those who felt themselves “orphaned” of NATO’s presence, all blissfully unaware that the EU has no actual foreign policy and will continue to delegate it to NATO.
But what was certainly unexpected was the message of congratulations to Biden from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who owes all his political fortune to the White House intruder. Without Trump’s support for the unilateral strategy of breaking European unity with Brexit, also interpreted as Atlantic exclusivism in relaunching the historical relationship between the two nations, Johnson wouldn’t have accomplished anything. This clear contradiction puts everything into play again, as well as the credibility of a Brexit that has never actually been accomplished yet.
As for NATO, the joy was evident in the words of Jamie Shea, now in charge of political planning for the Atlantic Alliance. (She was the ineffable spokesperson who defined the massacres of civilians caused by the aerial bombardments on the former Yugoslavia in 1999 as “collateral damage.”) “Everything is ready” to re-launch the role of the Alliance with Biden: a new and more aggressive enlargement of NATO toward the East, heavy involvement in the new “orange” crises, and above all in Ukraine. This is problematic and compromising for Biden himself, who for a long time supported the ambiguous Maidan Square protests with right-wing connections.
Of course, the joy coming from NATO was to be expected. The alliance is suffering a crisis of role and identity. In some places it’s already in tatters, such as in Turkey, where it has practically blown apart. Erdogan is an Atlantic bulwark but in full Ottoman revival mode and doing what he wants; however, the Sultan, Europe’s interlocutor on the matters of Libya and migrants, is disliked by Biden, who, when he was Obama’s VP, noticed his bilateralism with ISIS in the scenario of the tragedy in Syria, for whose destabilization the United States (and others) has actively worked. Then, he left the rubble over to Putin—a decision made by Obama at the fireside talks in the Oval Office at the end of 2015—and to the forces that remained to fight ISIS, which was hardly defeated: the Kurds—abandoned by everyone—the Iranians and Hezbollah, considered “terrorists.”
Another substantial ambiguity concerns Afghanistan, where the NATO and US intervention, always supported by a bipartisan vote, has been going on for 19 years, with dramatic results in terms of civilian victims. Another factor is the political solutions to the conflict, with Trump having started a peace agreement process with the Taliban, who unsurprisingly declared themselves in favor of his re-election.
What was truly unexpected was the chameleon-like attitude of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who almost immediately recognized Joe Biden’s victory. Certainly, he can afford to get on the bandwagon of the winner, strengthened by the statements of the new American president, who will not question the decision taken by Trump to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing it as the capital of Israel, in contempt of the historic UN resolutions.
But now Biden is facing a turning point in the form of the “Abrahamic Agreement,” the greatest Arab support for Israel ever assembled, on the backs of the Palestinians, who are being wiped out as a people and as an issue—for which neither the EU nor the pre-Trump U.S. have ever found a real solution. It is a pact that has at its core the economic and military role of Saudi Arabia.
This consideration is important, because there are two agendas that Biden is likely to re-address positively, to ensure the needed continuity with Obama’s policies: that of Cuba, after the latter’s historic visit in Havana in 2016—while certainly not that of Venezuela—and that of Iran’s civil nuclear power, legitimized by the historic “5+1” agreement of July 2015 with Obama as protagonist, but which was ripped up by Trump.
So, how will Biden reopen the agreement with Iran (if he ever wants to, as President Rohani is asking him), and at the same time preserve the agreements that are boosting the strategic role of Saudi Arabia in the area, the sworn enemy of Tehran?
The deep faults produced by the “intruder” are innumerable, but while Trump was playing with the destinies of the world, many—too many—were shutting up, bearing with it or taking advantage of the situation. It’s not enough to have a rest and declare ourselves winners. It’s not just the pandemic that is spreading. “Our” wars, with the ruins they leave behind and the human desperation of those who flee them, all remain before our eyes.
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