Former US President Donald Trump’s win in the Iowa caucuses, on January 15, 2024, is an important first step towards his nomination as the Republican Presidential candidate. Vivek Ramaswamy an Indian origin entrepreneur who seems to have views similar to Trump, on key foreign policy and economic issues, has pulled out of the presidential race and endorsed Trump. The former US President on his part has said that Ramaswamy would be “.. working with us for a long time”. There is growing support for Ramaswamy as Trump’s running mate.
Reactions to Trump’s victory
US Vice President Kamala Harris while commenting on the possibility of a Trump victory in the US Presidential election later this year said: “I am scared as heck, which is why I’m traveling our country… we should all be scared.” During his address after winning the Iowa caucuses, Trump said he would attempt to “straighten out the world” if he wins the 2024 US Presidential elections.
It is not just politicians and commentators within the US, but even international leaders who have begun to look at the possible global implications of a Trump presidency.
Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau who did not share a cordial rapport with Trump due to differences on the latter’s trade policies said that another Trump Presidency would not augur well for Canada. It is not just Trudeau, but several other US allies who were uncomfortable with Trudeau’s stance on economic and security issues.
Differences between Trudeau and Trump were restricted not just to trade issues, but also the fact that Canada had failed to fulfil its economic obligation — of allocating two percent of its GDP towards defence spending — vis-à-vis North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Apprehensions in Europe
Trump’s return would have significant implications for Europe since EU member states would be required to step up in terms of defence support to Ukraine. While Germany is second to the US in terms of providing defence support to the US – Berlin has provided assistance to the tune of $18 billion – France, Italy and Spain are lagging behind.
It would be pertinent to point out, that Trump had significant differences with erstwhile German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President Macron regarding their defence spending – which was below 2% of their GDP. The French President when asked about a potential Trump presidency said that France would deal with whichever leader Americans chose but also highlighted the fact that EU needed to reduce its dependence upon the US, given the latter’s compelling geopolitical challenges. Said Macron:
“The United States is an important ally… It’s a democracy that’s going through a crisis in which it itself is the first priority and the second priority is China’s power. All of us Europeans need to be lucid about that.”
Trump who shares close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin has already stated that he would ensure that the Russia-Ukraine ends in 24 hours. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has mocked Trump’s remarks.
If one were to look at the Middle East, while Trump was lauded for the Abraham accords which resulted in normalisation of ties between Israel and Arab states – UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan — the landscape of the Middle East has witnessed significant changes. The first is the Israel-Palestine conflict. The tensions which began in October 2023, have resulted in the loss of over 25,000 Palestinian lives (over 60,000 Palestinians have got injured). On the Israeli side there have been over 1,000 casualties. While several countries have called for reducing tensions, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has once again criticised the idea of a Palestinian state.
Second, ties between Gulf states – especially UAE and Saudi Arabia — and Iran have improved significantly over the past two years. The China brokered Saudi-Iran deal — signed in 2023 — is a strong reiteration of the same.
Third, China’s influence in the Middle East has increased both economically and strategically. While Biden’s initial cold shouldering of Saudi Arabia has been cited as one of the key reasons for Riyadh moving closer to Beijing. It is important to bear in mind, that US pull out from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)/Iran nuclear deal led to Iran moving significantly closer to China. Trump on his part has been saying that the US withdrawal from the Iran deal, and US sanctions had led to Iran being economically squeezed and Tehran was unable to provide support to Hamas and Hezbollah.
Regarding China, Biden has also followed a tough policy especially regarding economic sanctions, but he has kept the doors open for engagement on important global issues. Donald Trump while calling his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as “great” pointed to the drop in China’s stock markets after the announcement of Trump’s Iowa win.
There is no doubt, that Trump’s approach towards key foreign policy issues has strong support at home, but serious geopolitical issues require a far more nuanced approach. While there may be merit in the argument that US interventionism overseas should be calibrated, an excessively isolationist US does not send the right signals abroad. If Trump were to take over as President in 2024 his task is clearly cut out and the global geopolitical landscape is even more complex, than it was during his previous tenure.
[Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons]
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi based analyst interested in Punjab-Punjab linkages as well as Partition Studies. Maini co-authored ‘Humanity Amidst Insanity: Hope During and After the Indo-Pak Partition’ (New Delhi: UBSPD, 2008) with Tahir Malik and Ali Farooq Malik. He can be reached at [email protected].