Allies despair when Trump steps down from America's leadership role at a time of global crisis

Allies despair when Trump steps down from America's leadership role at a time of global crisis
Allies despair when Trump steps down from America's leadership role at a time of global crisis

The United States has reduced its role on the world stage, taken measures that undermine efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and has left the international community without a traditional world leader, according to experts, diplomats and analysts.

The United States, usually at the head of the table to help coordinate in global crises, has refused to take part in virtual international meetings convened by the World Health Organization and the European Union to coordinate work on vaccines that can save lives.

Former world leaders warn that the Trump administration risks alienating its allies by politicizing the deadly pandemic by trying to punish China and make other nations choose sides.

The administration's decision to suspend funding from WHO, the body best placed to coordinate the global response to the raging pandemic, has horrified global health officials.

On Friday, the United States blocked a vote on a UN Security Council resolution calling for a global ceasefire to collectively help a planet devastated by the epidemic. The United States wanted no reference to WHO in the text and rejected a compromise version that did not mention the organization directly, citing instead "specialized health agencies" of the United Nations, according to two diplomats familiar with the matter. process. .

The United States also blocked expressions of global unity at the G7 and G20 meetings because of anger at China and the WHO.

Disbelief and sadness

And where U.S. presidents in the past have offered a strong voice, Asia-Pacific observers in Europe have expressed disbelief, amusement and sadness during President Donald Trump's briefings on the virus , claiming that they seriously damage the American image. abroad.

U.S. officials backtrack, touting both the funds to fight Covid-19 and the work Trump is doing across the Group of Seven and bilaterally, conducting more than 50 calls with world leaders. But experts believe that funding without full global coordination can slow overall progress.

At a time when nearly 4 million people around the world have been infected with the virus, diplomats say that many countries aspire to the strong American leadership they have known in historic times and in previous epidemics, citing the President Barack Obama's response. Ebola and the work of President George W. Bush on HIV / AIDS.

"They want the United States to look more," said a European diplomat. "We know they do a lot with countries, including developing countries, bilaterally ... but many countries aspire to the decisive U.S. effort that we saw when the Berlin Wall came Many countries think this is one of those crucial moments in history and the United States has always been in the lead in these moments. "

Critics say the Trump administration's attention to the coronavirus has not only hampered the fight against the pandemic, but it has increased uncertainty, eroded respect for the United States, and raised fears that the international system would work more. effectively.

"The world is looking for global leadership. It is a global problem. It literally affects everyone on the planet. This is the time when the leaders of the superpowers are very constructively expected to help coordinate and to structure the response. " said Robert Yates, director of the Global Health Program at Chatham House, a group of British experts. "You would expect the United States to play a leadership role in trying to coordinate global efforts. It has been completely flawed."

Global health officials said Trump's decision to cut WHO funding for a pandemic was "absolutely impressive," added Yates. "It's worse than the lack of coordination, it seems almost destructive."

A senior State Department official told reporters on Tuesday that the president "has concerns" about the WHO, which Trump has accused of being biased in favor of China. The official repeatedly stressed that the United States "is the largest humanitarian and health donor in the world" and said that the United States "and President Trump are leading the global effort to fight this pandemic", in party through the US Presidency. of the G7.

But the mechanism for an international response led by the United States does not start this time, said Gayle Smith, president and CEO of the ONE nonprofit campaign.

In general, he noted, "we have not seen the type of summit, the urgency of meetings at the United Nations Security Council, the heads of state who meet to organize, to discover how we manage, for example, global supply chains. "

Missed meetings

"Everyone in the world is looking for the same goods. How can we ensure that the global economy stays where it should be?" asked Smith, a former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. And while she notes that the G7 and G20 have held virtual meetings, "I would love to see the United States go the extra mile to mobilize the world on many levels."

US officials say Trump has called periodic virtual meetings with G7 ministers to coordinate aid to other countries, but the White House has ignored international meetings to coordinate the search for a vaccine, leaving experts puzzled . WHO hosted meeting, while another meeting on Monday of more than 40 countries and various organizations raised $ 8 billion in pledges and promised that anyone who produces an effective vaccine will share it with the rest of the world first .

The absence of the United States was "very, very unfortunate," said Smith, not only "because the United States has always been a leader," but because the United States has a national interest to do. part of the group "who is trying to accelerate the development of vaccines." and therapeutic, because obviously we are going to need a vaccine here ... I think it would be prudent, and in our interest, to participate on the ground floor. "

Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Center for Health Policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said: "It is a very crazy and disturbing thing that [America] is going its own way and staying away. is the country with the greatest financing capacity, the greatest fundamental interest, the greatest R&D capacity. "

He noted that the Trump administration has started its own "speed of distortion" effort to develop a vaccine, highlighting the complex web of interests required to develop it, including manufacturing and testing issues. "I don't know if an individual effort is possible," he said.

Asked repeatedly on Tuesday about the absence of the United States at vaccination meetings, the State Department official underlined the amount of funds that the United States is providing for the fight against Covid. A day later, the State Department released a statement highlighting US funding. USA And its work with organizations like the Global Alliance on Vaccines and says the USA. USA They viewed the vaccine conferences as "complementary to our ongoing efforts".

He added that "as we move forward in this global fight against Covid-19, we are counting on our allies and partners to join the United States in asking the difficult questions that are needed from China, as well as from WHO ".

America's willingness to punish China has upset its allies, who see it as a White House political decision to isolate Trump from blame for America's uneven pandemic response in an election year, and as a stressful request for countries to choose sides.

"I'm afraid everything is political," said a German diplomat who discussed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's insistence that the information indicates that the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory, although 'he did not provide any evidence. "It is obvious that this is part of the campaign."

"Stranger than fiction"

A French diplomat said bluntly: "We cannot turn our back on China. It is an excellent partner. No one can. We must maintain an association".

Former British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke more directly about Allied concerns over the US campaign against China and warned in a Times opinion article that "it would be a mistake to let this become a loophole in international relations . "

The European diplomat said that several countries believe that "at the moment, the priority must be to overcome the global pandemic which requires a lot of cooperation ... China must be part of it and WHO must be involved ... Everything which can hurt the value of this effort makes people a little nervous. "

The behavior of the President of the United States also made some international observers a little nervous.

According to them and from

Thomas Gomart, director of the Paris-based French Institute for International Relations, said Europe was watching Trump's response to the pandemic in astonishment, calling his behavior "stranger than fiction".

"It gives us a very entertaining balance of fun and sadness, which is not what you would expect from an American president," said Gomart, an assessment shared by Spanish Javier del Pino, a prominent journalist.

"The way we looked at Trump was a lot of fun at first," said del Pino. "It's no longer funny."

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