A nice change of pace in the world of U.S. politics would include a week in which President Trump doesn't behave like a petulant toddler who doesn't get his way. Alas, it didn't happen, even with a subject as far off the radar as Greenland.
Late last week, reports began to circulate that Trump showed an interest in purchasing Greenland. The reasons were never all that clear, whether it was for historical purposes ("My Greenland purchase was bigger than Jefferson's purchase of Louisiana!"), a means of containing China, or a wacky real estate venture.
Naturally, the idea consumed an entire news cycle after the White House confirmed the reports. Speculation, jokes, and memes soon followed, and most people thought the issue, that Trump said was not on "the front burner," would go away.
Not so fast.
Greenland is a semi-autonomous Danish territory, and when told of the news about Trump, Denmark's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, called the idea "absurd". "Thankfully, the time where you buy and sell other countries and populations is over,” she added. “Let's leave it there. Jokes aside, we will, of course, love to have an even closer strategic relationship with the United States."
Sounds reasonable. So how did the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, the commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces respond? By cancelling his trip to Denmark.
In what can only be described as a bizarre response, Trump tweeted the following:
So the issue wasn't on the front burner, but he cancelled a meeting with a long-time ally because Denmark refused to discuss a deal for Greenland? It's difficult to imagine the mindset of a person who behaves that way.
This whole scenario reveals the riskiness of running the country "like a business," particularly when that person worked in the world of real estate where deals are almost always transactional. Trump cancelled a meeting because he couldn't close on a real estate deal. But this is not Bravo's Million Dollar Listing: New York, where the brokers walk away from deals without harming possible future business opportunities with the same party. Diplomatic relations with our allies are a long-term endeavour which demands a little more thought.
It's more, however than just a short-term, transactional strategy, if one wants to call it that, but also a proverbial kick to the face of a long-term United States ally. Denmark is not just a NATO member; it's one of the founding members. It was through the NATO alliance that the US gained the opportunity to have a military base located in Greenland. Snubbing Denmark over a floated land purchase non-deal comes off as infantile.
What makes it worse is watching Trump send out lovey-dovey tweets about North Korea's maniacal leader, Kim Jong-un. Trump didn't have an issue with Kim engaging in short-range missile tests, despite possible UN violations. In fact, Trump said it didn't matter because it wasn't part of the agreement he had with Kim coming out of their Singapore summit.
Trump also lobbied for Russia to return to the G-7, making it the G-8 once again. He said at the time, "I guess President Obama, because [Vladimir] Putin outsmarted him, he thought it wasn't a good thing to have Russia in." Needless to say, that accusation is complete fiction. Russia got booted from the G-8 because Putin ordered the military to invade and annex Crimea. As former ambassador Nicholas Burns pointed out, by doing so, Russia "crossed the brightest red line in global politics." Extending a helping hand to Russia is a sign of weakness, not strength.
The transactional nature of Trump's approach to politics and foreign policy continues unabated and with poor results. It might have been a strategy that worked during his campaign to gain votes, but it doesn't work in the world of presidential leadership. That is particularly true when it comes to foreign policy. Kim Jong-un will not get "charmed" by Trump into doing what he wants. Vladimir Putin will not stop attempting to wreak havoc in our elections because Trump is nice to him. Snubbing our allies is not a recipe for long-term success either.
It's a lesson the president should have learned early on, but either he won't try, or he doesn't care. Either way, he's leaving a mess in his wake that will take years to clean up.
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