The G7 summit concluded in Biarritz, France this week and with it a lot more questions than answers arose. It became clear that Europe would have to solve complex challenges like how they will manage China and Russia by themselves without the help or guidance of the United States.
President Trump has gone against a line that the United States has maintained since at least the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt whereby the United States was to confront strongmen and authoritarianism in Europe head-on, checking it before it spreads.
The political mess that Europe currently finds itself in can be largely attributed to a Europe battered by years of economic recession and stagnation, an overflow of refugees, and demographic changes outpacing changes of thought.
However, a key element of this mess is that the United States under the Obama administration allowed Vladimir Putin to seize the Crimea with minimal consequences.
The Russians also for years meddled in Eastern European elections that the United States did nothing about, and when the Russians turned their sights on the 2016 Presidential Elections in the United States the American response was again, radio silence. Since then we have seen the far-right with a steady advance enter mainstream political dialogue on the old continent.
The countries of: Hungary, Italy, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, have seen a level of far-right populists either entering power or being on the cusp of power, and a rise in right-wing nationalism not seen in Europe since World War II.
President Donald J. Trump looked out of sorts, uncomfortable, unbelonging, and uninterested standing with the other G7 leaders during a time of maximum danger for democracy in Europe, a planet that is imploding thanks to the prolonged devastating effects of human activity and carelessness, and the rise of right-wing populism.
The United States and its democratic leadership are sorely needed as they haven’t been in decades. Yet we are nowhere to be found. Vladimir Putin is never criticized by President Trump, similarly, President Trump showers North Korean madman Kim Jong-un with praise. It’s no longer a funny joke to read the president’s tweets of unhinged, scrambled thoughts.
In the third year of his term, we are seeing the very real consequences of what the world looks like when United States goes AWOL on the serious questions of the day and the picture isn’t pretty.
Recommended reading for the president: “Leadership: In Turbulent Times” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.