The Guardian seems to be pinning Trump’s behaviour on his support for nationalism over supranational institutions. But is it really that simple? Trump accepted the state visit and took time out of his schedule to do it. Humiliating May and praising (or, more likely, negatively affecting) Boris Johnson will not- by themselves- affect the EU.
There’s only four reasons why Trump chose this strategy:
- He’s trying to divide Britain (by setting BoJo against May and dividing the public over Brexit)
- He’s trying to separate Britain from the EU (by encouraging a hard Brexit and/or discouraging trade or close relationships with the EU)
- He is trying to divide the EU (different EU countries may be pro or against hard Brexit or exclusive UK-US ties)
- He’s simply unable to control what comes out of his mouth/ he did it for the lulz.
It’s tempting to think of Trump as a big baby who can’t, or won’t, control his behaviour. Or to put it more mildly, that this is his “personal aggressive negotiating style”. But it’s dangerous to underestimate one’s allies- or enemies. So let’s go with the assumption that Trump is deploying a strategy. A strategy is a means to an end. So what’s his end?
Trump supports Boris Johnson- and looks like him- because they are closely related. They are secret half-brothers plotting together, or were separated at birth and now hear the inexorable call of DNA to DNA across the great Atlantic divide. Or they were separated and placed in different countries by a parent, secret society or malevolent power, and raised to one day control the western world. Trump’s end goal is that he and Boris Johnson will rule the UK & US as brothers in arms. But first, Trump needs to drastically weaken the EU, ICC, ECtHR and NATO. Then there will be no limits on his power. Ultimately Trump hopes to reunite the US & UK as a dictatorship with himself as life president.
Where is a shred of evidence, you ask, peering behind the sofa cushions for an elusive crumb of logic. Well, read on.
Trump’s hard Brexit blackmail
What Trump says and what he says later are often two very different things. He said May was doing a bad job then said she was doing a “terrific” job at the Chequers press conference just a few hours later. His body language and verbalisations “I’d rather have [May] as my friend than as my enemy” and domineering behaviour (repeatedly pushing his “suggestion”) suggest he treats May as a potential threat. Or dislikes her for some reason. Or wants to dominate the UK.He said he wanted a trade agreement then said it was difficult to reach one (interesting body language between him and May there, too). I believe they did fundamentally disagree.
So, what do we have from the press conference? We have these implications:
- Trump and May disagreed
- Trump initially was prepared to make a trade agreement, then found he couldn’t
- Trump feels May is his enemy and/or has a domineering attitude towards the UK
What does it all mean?
I believe that why they disagreed was because Trump was “blackmailing” May- ‘hard Brexit or no trade deal’. This deduction is based on his Sun interview. It’s literally the frickin’ headline.
This ‘blackmail’ was the “suggestion” that Trump and May were referring to. In his Sun interview, made before he arrived in Britain, Trump said he’d already told May not to implement a soft Brexit. This proves he is perennially telling May what to do regarding Brexit. It’s hardly outwith the realms of possibility that, having made a public ‘blackmail’ Brexit statement in the Sun, Trump repeated this demand at Chequers to May’s face. So if I’m right then that means he’s pushing the UK away from the EU. Away from the EU to the US? Or just trying to take down supranational systems altogether?
Trump’s view of international organisations
If we look at Trump’s threat to quit NATO, his ultimatum, allegations against Germany being controlled by Russia, and general mayhem at the NATO summit, it’s obvious that Trump was if anything more domineering towards NATO. He wants to weaken NATO because once he’s weakened it, other NATO members will stop believing it’s useful, contribute less and less, and continue the destruction process themselves until NATO either ceases to exist or is too weak to stop Trump. Trump’s disdain for supranational systems means he probably has disdain for the International Criminal Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and all similar institutions. But perhaps he’ll leave some of them alone- because they’re not powerful enough to affect his plans.
Trump’s plans for Britain’s leadership
Trump has won on Brexit. (He worked with Nigel Farage, the cause of Brexit. Who’s to say he didn’t know Farage before Farage went to America, and encouraged him to make Brexit happen?)). All he needs now is a hard Brexit, a divided, weak EU and NATO, and a UK that has close relationships only with America. Then he’ll have an easier job of slowly creating his Trumptatorship without fear of other countries joining forces to help his citizens.
Trump has referred to America as “the colonies” and said it’s good for the colonies to talk to Britain. He told May that US-UK relations are “the highest level of special”. He also maintained that having a British mother endears the UK to him.
But he repeatedly criticised May and Britain’s current situation. Trump also described Boris Johnson- who just resigned in protest against May- as a “friend” and publicly considered visiting him while in the UK, as well as saying Johnson would be a great Prime Minister.
This attitude appears contradictory until you realise that Trump doesn’t want May as PM, but he does place importance on Britain. He is domineering towards Britain not because he wants to weaken it, but because he wants to affect it, change it, and ultimately rule it through Boris Johnson.
This may not be a short-term plan. Trump might not be hoping for May’s resignation or the next General Election. Instead, Trump may be planning for years ahead and his promotion of Johnson is an attempt to give those dissatisfied with May a figure to rally around and eventually elevate. A divided Britain is not enough if the disaffected have no leadership figure. By setting up Johnson as May’s opposition, Trump is trying to provide such a figure. Though former Trump strategist Steve Bannon has suggested- just a day after Trump tapped BoJo- that now is Johnson’s moment to challenge May for the leadership. So perhaps this is a short term plan, or simply more leader-figure-providing in fulfilment of a long term plan.
Boris Johnson would (according to Trump’s plans) work together with Trump to cement the UK-US relationship until they effectively become one entity, thus America could be said to be “the colonies” once more. With the UK on side and international organisations weakened, the Trumptatorship would be secure. Perhaps for the rest of Trump’s life.