With remarkable prescience, Josh Lederman of the Associated Press reported a mere three days after the inauguration of our nation's 45th president
“With the election of Donald Trump, the old world of the 20th century is finally over,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote in the Bild newspaper, reflecting a broader European lament about confused international leadership and increased disorder.
Signs already abounded when at the recent meeting in Brussels, President Trump notably failed to affirm American commitment to Article 5, which emphasizes "an atack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies." Refusing to acknowledge that the only time Article V has been invoked has been in support of the United States (after 9/11/01), the head of the world's leading economy moaned and groaned like a weak, bullied child, complaining about the size of the defense budgets of member nations.
European leaders were neither pleased nor amused. The de facto chief of NATO, Germany's Angela Merkel, received a standing ovation when a few days later she stated "This is what I experienced in the last few days. We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”
Thus with no formal declaration, Mrs. Merkel was thrust into the role as leader of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. Responding in part to the expected announcement by Trump on June 2 of US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, on June 1
According to a statement being prepared before an EU-China summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, the new alliance will say they are determined to “lead the energy transition” toward a low-carbon economy.
The EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete, told the Guardian: “The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy.”
Cañete continued: “No one should be left behind, but the EU and China have decided to move forward. Our successful cooperation on issues like emissions trading and clean technologies are bearing fruit. Now is the time to further strengthen these ties to keep the wheels turning for ambitious global climate action.”
This neatly, albeit disturbingly, fulfills Lederman's speculation on January 23 that
President Donald Trump’s pursuit of an “America first” foreign policy is raising questions about who, if anyone, will fill the void if the U.S. relinquishes its traditional global leadership role. China and Russia are among the aspirants for greater economic and military influence, while an ambivalent Germany could emerge as the West’s moral compass.
Given that mainland China and even Russia are typically not considered part of the "west," Germany has become much more than even a moral compass, an irony no one could even imagine 72 years ago.
It takes no imagination, however, to interpret the whine of Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt during the Administration's news conference of June 2 when he complained (at 1:40 of video)
The world applauded- the world applauded when we joined Paris. And you know why? I think they applauded because they knew it was going to put this country at an economic disadvantage. And the reason European leaders- going back to the question earlier- is I think they want us to stay in, is that they know it'll shackle our economy that we're leading the world in respect to our CO2 production.
Pruitt- who is said to be one of the two opponents of the pact in the Administration- clearly summarized a prime motive for Trump's action. The President name-checked cities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan (what- no Wisconsin?) but was also eager to give the middle finger to the rest of the world, It was only more convenient that it was the Paris Agreement, and the French have a reputation among a lot of Trump voters for those things they find most offensive in the modern world.
Additionally, Pruitt expresses that sense of grievance that runs through so much of Trump's statements and tweets. Whether he and the President really are silly enough to believe that the world's nations joined the Agreement to harm the USA, to "put this country at an economic disadvantage," is less important than its reinforcement as a theme in this presidency. Similarly, in Brussels, Trump moaned "this is not fair." Whatever he complains at any time of of being "not fair" is less important than assuaging a sense of grievance..
President Trump, Michael Grunwald notes, is "creating an international leadership vacuum" and "opening the door for China and Europe to take over the role of global leaders on climate change, and maybe the world’s other major problems."
The cooperation between the EU and China on global warming may presage leadership of Beijing on other major problems. But the interests of the free world cannot be met by China,which is not a free country, and which recognizes only its own interests, a view of nation reflected in Trump's "America First" mantra.
The torch of leadership, once alleged to be passed to a new generation, now must pass to a group dedicated to common interests, and to its leader. "We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands," Angela Merkel maintains. The two world wars of the last century notwithstanding, that torch now resides not in Washington, but in Berlin.