Surfeit of summits amid global disorder and dismay

C. Uday Bhaskar
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Early June has been witness to what can best be described as a surfeit of global summits – the G-7 in Canada; the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) in China; and the “historic” Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore.

The preliminary assessment that can be inferred from Canada and Singapore is the bleak conclusion that in June 2018, the world has slipped into GDD – global disorder and dismay.

In an era flooded with images, the disarray in the G-7 in Canada was best captured in an image of the US President Donald Trump seated in a near defiant manner, staring at a standing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is perhaps seeking to persuade him and the Japanese Prime Minister Abe watching with an expression of weariness and resignation.

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Trump obduracy was in full play and the extent of the dismay among the other members of the G-7 became more evident when the US President arrived in Singapore.

En-route, aboard Air Force One, the US President decided to withdraw his endorsement of the G-7 joint communique – an unprecedented exigency – and furthermore, castigated his host, the Canadian President Justin Trudeau.

Invalid allegations and aspersions were cast on Canada and the Trump tweet fumed: “Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with US (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Tax Dairy from us at 270 percent. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!”

The geo-politics of East Asia are in a churn, post Singapore and both China and Russia will be differently impacted by these developments

C Uday Bhaskar

Tariff turf battle

Earlier President Trump had invoked the national security clause to impose higher tariffs on imports (for example, aluminum from Canada) and similar penalties were imposed on other allies / major trading partners.

These imprudent actions, devoid of economic and trade logic have caused enormous disarray and consternation among global leaders – both political and corporate. Has the G-7 unraveled and become the G-6? Politically – yes, though salvage operations are being contemplated to limit the wrecking-ball damage that Trump has unleashed.

The G-7 is at the heart of the post-World War II liberal international economic (LIEO) and over the last seven decades, this framework, while advancing and protecting US-led western primacy, has seen the consolidation of the democratic dispensation and the nurturing of free-trade and globalization.

ALSO READ: Merkel: G-7 summit with Trump was a ‘sobering’ experience

Paradoxically, emerging economies like China and India also benefited from this global structure and the US-led western alliance that includes Japan was seen as the core. That core is now in dire distress and a dismayed global community is trying to take stock of the implications of this tectonic lurch, wherein America with Trump at the helm is threatening to go it “alone.”

The disorder in GDD was on full display at Singapore, where again the images were extraordinary. US President Donald Trump and the North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un were engaged in what quips described as a “bromance” and the handshakes and patting each other’s back / shoulder suggested a long-lost camaraderie.

This was at complete variance with the vitriolic insults the two had traded at each other a few months ago and the final outcome was even more unexpected.

The US President certified that the North Korean leader could be trusted and hence in a policy move that could completely re-arrange the strategic framework in East Asia and beyond – the US and North Korea have agreed to “commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.”

De-facto nuclear power

In short, the DPRK has been recognized as a de-facto nuclear weapon power (much to the chagrin of US regional allies Japan and South Korea) till such time as it decides to renounce its WMD capability. To add to the disorder, in a surprise announcement, the US President declared that the US-ROK (Republic of Korea) military exercises would be scaled back.

In keeping with the mercurial Trump pronouncements, Seoul was not in the loop and Tokyo is still trying to internalize these disruptive developments. In summary, the geo-politics of East Asia are in a churn, post Singapore and both China and Russia will be differently impacted by these developments.

Juxtaposed between the G-7 and Singapore was a more sedate SCO summit in China which brought together the leaders of China, Russia and India along with four Central Asian states and Pakistan. While the focus was counter-terrorism and combating radical, religious extremism, the anomalous sub-text was the consensus that prevailed with the Chinese President extolling the virtues of globalization and free trade.

ALSO READ: The SCO and Middle East: Expanding stakes and new approaches

Without naming the US, President XI Jinping noted caustically: “We should reject selfish, short-sighted, narrow and closed-off policies. We must maintain the rules of the World Trade Organization, support the multilateral trade system and build an open global economy.”

When the Cold War ended in December 1991 and the US-led Western alliance had prevailed, there was a popular perception that a “new world order” had begun with liberal democracy and free-trade as its principal characteristics. This period was short-lived.

What has now unfolded in a messy (G-7 in Canada) and unpredictable manner (Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore) is the beginning of global disorder and dismay (GDD). The central feature of this is a petulant Trump-led US, that will in all likelihood morph from “America First” to “America Alone.”
Chitrapu Uday Bhaskar, a retired Commodore who served in the Indian Navy, is one of India's leading experts and outspoken critics on security and strategic affairs. Commodore Bhaskar is currently the Director of the Society for Policy Studies (SPS), an independent think-tank based in New Delhi, India. He has the rare distinction of being the head of three think tanks during his career - the earlier two being the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and the National Maritime Foundation (NMF). He is a columnist, editor, and contributor of numerous research-articles on nuclear and international security issues to reputed journals in India and abroad. Bhaskar has an abiding interest in the visual arts, film and theater. He tweets. @theUdayB.

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