Some of the world’s most powerful political figures will meet in Angela Merkel’s backyard, including Donald Trump – arbiter of not one but two of the hottest hot potatoes in world politics right now.
First, there’s the President’s complete ambivalence to climate change – confirmed by the US withdrawing from the Paris climate deal, and secondly there is the growing tension between America and North Korea, who have been firing missiles into unchartered water like confetti recently.
The Prime Minister will be expected to take Trump to task on both of those matters and any other arising, and with Brexit talks looming she will need to present a steely approach that shows he is not a politician to be trifled with.
How well will the UK’s ‘special’ relationship with the US survive this meeting of minds?
Storm Clouds Are Brewing
To label Donald Trump a climate change denier would be a bit extreme, but his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement confirms a man who will not be moved when it comes to his own perception of the world.
The official line is that he was not satisfied with the terms of the arrangement, stating that American businesses and workers would be disadvantaged by the deal, although those observers with decent medium-term memory will remember the rather ‘interesting’ views Trump shared far prior to his ascension to the White House.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 6 November 2012
In the White House, Trump called the Paris deal an attempt to ‘hobble, disadvantage and impoverish the US’, rather than a simple attempt to reverse the man-made damage caused to the planet.
“In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord… but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States,” Trump continued.
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. I promised I would exit or re-negotiate any deal which fails to serve America’s interests. Many trade deals will soon be under re-negotiation.”
So good luck to Theresa May and the other G20 leaders in talking some sense into a man not made for turning. In fairness, May has confirmed she will tackle the subject head on with Trump and his aides, asserting her disappointment in America’s withdrawal. Whether her words have any affect is open to debate.
Kim Jong-Un has been a naughty boy again. Another long-range missile test carried out on Tuesday has put the wind up the Western world, and Trump – in another feat of peacocking – has already denounced the perceived threat.
The US retaliated by firing their own rockets into the Sea of Japan by way of bravado, and the fear of direct confrontation is unlikely to subside any time soon.
The wider concern is that both China and Russia – both in attendance at G20 – strongly oppose military sanctions against North Korea, and how those two world behemoths will get involved in the matter remains to be seen. It is another curveball for May to negotiate in what is set to be a tempestuous Summit.
Her early response to the threat has been tight-lipped and democratic, as you might expect. “Our focus is on working with the US and international community on how we can increase pressure and find a peaceful solution to the ongoing threat North Korea poses to international security,” she said.
“We will continue to play a central role at the UN – supporting resolutions on sanctions that will limit North Korea’s ability to pursue its nuclear weapons programme.”
Let’s hope the softly, softly approach works…it’s hard to tell how Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop routine will pan out.
An Ill Wind Blows from Trump
Does the political world expect a full four-year term from Donald Trump in the White House? His handling of climate change matters and, mostly, North Korea will go a long way towards determining that.
The thought is that most in Congress would support military action against Kim Jong-Un if that is how the situation pans out, but how prepared the US would be for the most nuclear of wars is anybody’s guess.
Will Trump’s posturing be his ultimate downfall? His detractors will certainly be hoping so, and the fact that the bookmakers have priced him at just 4/5 to complete his first term in office is rather telling. He is just 21/20 to leave before 2020 – by force or by his own hand.