The grudges now dividing the United States have taken the schism of He versus Her, in reference to President Donald Trump and his erstwhile electoral rival Hillary Clinton respectively. There’s no more Us and Them, amid an atmosphere charged with incitement, revenge, and threats and exclusion. Gone is the American tradition of respecting the presidency through refraining from criticizing the president when he is on foreign trips, in affirmation of unity. Instead, the media and intelligence community are relentlessly assailing the man who has antagonized them, in an attempt to bring down Donald Trump by any means necessary. America’s foreign policy bearing has been lost in the mazes of investigations, leaks, and speculations regarding alleged suspicious ties between Donald Trump and his men in the White House on the one hand, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin henchmen. Their goal is to establish Trump’s involvement in deals with Putin during the elections, including a Russian interference in the vote to prop up Donald Trump and breach US national security through the presidency.
If these accusations were to be proven, Donald Trump’s presidency would collapse, either with his impeachment or forced resignation. But until the investigations take their course, while the media tribunals deepen America’s schisms, the question will not whether or not Trump will remain in power, but whether he will manage or not to govern amid a determination in the media and the intelligence community to paralyze him and bog him down. Moreover, what kind of relations will the United States have with Russia, Europe, and the Middle East if the efforts of the so-called Deep State succeed in trying his hands and disarming his presidency? In other words, the Trump administration’s foreign relations cannot be steered in a traditional manner, but require extreme skills to navigate between the merciless waves. In turn, other countries, friendly or otherwise, are mired in uncertainty over relations with the US, watching with keen interest the fate of official investigations and the bickering between the presidency, the media, and the intelligence community. So what are the implications of this extraordinary situation?
The United States will not collapse, no matter the wishes of its adversaries, and no matter the divisions brought about by Trump’s presidency. Donald Trump will not prove to be America’s Boris Yeltsin, as the vengeful Russians who enthusiastically supported him perhaps wished him to be. America’s configuration will not allow it. If it’s true that Russia has intervened in US elections to secure its interests through a Trump victory, then what has happened since the elections has shaken that weak notion, because the US is not a dictatorship and because accountability is enshrined in the constitution. Therefore, the US experience has proven the that those who assumed the interference in the elections entailed superpowers and grand machinations were wrong, because the alleged meddlers are facing a backlash and the opposite of what they had set out to achieve, supposedly.
Indeed, US-Russian relations, at best, remain hostage to the results of the investigations and the ensuing uncertainty. Worse still, the alleged meddling has tarnished Russia’s image in the minds of a majority of Americans, who are now antagonized against Russia. Putin himself has commented on this, accusing American parties of deliberately inciting the public opinion against Moscow.
What concerns many Americans are the implications of the domestic problems on America’s external appearance, undermining American prestige as the world’s preeminent power and her international influence. These Americans are angry about the conduct of the media and the intelligence community, without this meaning that they support Donald Trump. These Americans insist that America’s interests should be paramount, not the political divisions, and blame the presidency, the media, and the intelligence community for the crisis, and believe the Republican-dominated Congress will not allow the impeachment of the president. This segment is a major part of the American public, and wants all side to cease and desist.
Most American media have trounced professionalism and decided to politicize, no longer even pretending to be objective, instead officially joining one of the camps, the pro- and anti-Trump camps. True, Trump has antagonized the media with his narcissistic strategy aiming to marginalize and sideline his critics. However, this does not mean the media can abandon its professional duty, instead of sliding into campaign-waging. Every professional journalist has the right to hold power to account, but this privilege does not grant him the right to deviate from the norms of the professions no matter the justification.
For these reasons, there is resentment against the American media, and its determination to incite, without this meaning that there is no interest in accountability. This segment of the US public fears for US interests and international position. The intelligence services stand accused of leaking information at the expense of national security, and some Americans want them to stop.
On the other hand, this segment of the US public wants the president to stop being arbitrary and to show some self-control, and put an end to his vacillation between discipline shown by delegating tasks to members of his administration, and going out of bounds as evident for example from when the president shoves the prime minister of Montenegro during a meeting with NATO leaders. These Americans want the media to support the president and end its shenanigans, because the issue touches on national interests.
The self-styled liberal media has decided to tear down everything Trump achieved in his visit to Riyadh. The media decided to wage a campaign on Saudi Arabia which had arranged two summits with the US president, a Gulf-American and Arab-Islamic-American summit, in addition to the bilateral meeting with the Saudi king, to build a front against radical terrorism with broad and profound Islamic participation. The liberal media did not like the political discourse addressed at Iran in Riyadh, and turned against the summits and their participants, papering over all the advantages of the political and economic agreements to focus on the military deals and accuse Saudi Arabia of aiding terrorism.
The history of appeasement with Iran, and the media’s infatuation with Iran, date back to the tenure of former President Barack Obama. Perhaps this is why the media has decided to wear blindfold and side with Iran despite its alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its support for the militias and their atrocities, and despite Iran’s strategic alliance with Russia in Syria. It is truly odd because the media is attacking the president for seeking to mend ties with Russia, and for criticizing Iran’s policies of regional dominance.
A test lies in wait for the relationship between the Trump administration and Putin’s government, and the kind of media coverage that will take place of the event: By mid-June, the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, will establish a new anti-terror department at the UN Secretariat. Before all the clamoring about alleged suspicious ties between the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak, and associates of Donald Trump, diplomatic sources had indicated that the chairman of the planned department would be a Russian and would have the rank of undersecretary, with Kislyak being the prime candidate. It remains unknown how the media will handle this. In the event the Trump administration approves Kislyak for the post, there will be implications according to one ambassador, who asked not to be named. And if the administration vetoes Kislyak, then there will be problems that the secretary general probably did not anticipate.
Russia may insist on its candidate for the post or may choose to avoid confrontation and choose a subsistute, such as Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, previously a senior UN official. Either way, there will be implications for relations with the US and the UN.
There will be little clarity as long as the investigations will continue, however. For this reason, it would be premature to bet on any outcome. All ideas discussed in recent times are now on hold. All forecasting regarding accords on bilateral or regional issues are also pending these investigations, which now have spread to include people like Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who held meetings with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition to establish a back channel and discuss outstanding issues like Syria, reportedly. The dynamic has changed and will become more complex, amid the mystery surrounding the relations of the occupants of the White House and in light of the declining prestige of the US presidency in the world, undermining the work of the administration no matter the credentials of its members.
The state of US-European relations following Trump’s visit to Brussels indicates the European powers are now less certain about the NATO partnership, not necessarily because of Trump’s evasiveness on Article 5 regarding collective decent, as the media suggested. The main reason instead is the US president’s increased isolationism, which started with Obama’s leading from behind, and in light of Donald Trump’s apparent desire to relinquish the burden of US leadership without contribution by other allies to the cost.
On the one hand, one can say this is exactly what Putin wants for NATO: weak and without US leadership. On the other hand, the positions of Trump may push Germany, France, and others to take the lead in Europe and stand up to Putin, instead of hiding behind Trump. Eitherway, the geopolitical cards are being reshuffled, but they may end up empowering Europe to prevent any intervention and meddling in their affairs.
Most Gulf countries, meanwhile, desire excellent relations with the US, Europe, an Russia. Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular are moving along both the US and Russian tracks, from politics to the economy, security, and trade, regardless of the foreign and domestic politics of both powers. In other words, the policy of inducement so far trumps the policy of boycott, with a view to encourage Russia to use its influence with Iran to end its interference in Yemen and Syria, instead of antagonizing Russia on account of its alliance with Iran in Syria. As regards the US, Saudi and Emirati diplomacy has decided to invest in the Trump administration despite his domestic woes, and are rejecting warnings that they may be betting too much on Trump to the point of antagonizing the mighty US establishment’s media and intelligence wings. Perhaps they are right, but it is wise nonetheless not to underestimate the power of America’s ‘deep state’.