A provision banning citizens from seven Muslim countries from entering the US finally blocked by a federal judge, cuts affecting the US refugee program, the rapprochement with Russia accompanied by colder relations with the European Union, the appointment of a new judge at the Supreme Court. These are just some of the many decisions taken by President-elect Donald Trump just a few days after being sworn into office, many of which sparked off controversial reactions. We asked Micheal Genovese, expert in White House Studies, Director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Los Angeles’ Marymount University to help us understand the scope and impact of these provisions in Europe and in the United States.
How do you view the first steps of the administration headed by Donald Trump?
Trump is fulfilling the promises made to his voters. Since he took office he kept an extremely active pace. In fact, he signed one presidential decree after the other, galvanising the enthusiasm of his supporters, namely right-wing America.
Such activism is bound to continue until the surveys register popular support. As soon as that support wanes he will be abandoned by a consistent number of Republicans, and that’s when he will start facing serious problems.
Certain signs have already emerged. Republican senator John McCain distanced himself from Trump’s contentious phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Trump said he wouldn’t welcome one thousand refugees being held in an Australian detention centre, branding them as potential terrorists, Ed.’s note)
The “Muslim ban”, the ban to people from seven Muslim Countries from entering the United States, blocked by the Federal Judge of Washington State, is dividing the United States. Do you consider it useful in terms of security?
Not at all; in fact I consider it useless and harmful. It’s useless because none of the terrorists that attacked the US came from the seven Countries involved, while other Countries, unaffected by the restrictive measures, such as Saudi Arabia, are not mentioned in the ban. The ban is harmful also because it backlashes in terms of the U.S.’ external image. As a result, groups that are hostile to us in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, have yet another reason to indoctrinate their followers against us.
Do you believe that this drastic approach will be sustainable in the long term?
I think that Trump views himself as a special leader, capable of transforming the Country. He sees himself as a ground-breaking force, and having appointed Steve Bannon as his advisor, a staunch representative of the American right-wing suggesting his next moves, has resulted in polarising, razor-edge decisions. However, some adjustments along the way were ushered in after the confirmation of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, as in the case of the relations with Russia. Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, is well aware of Putin’s insidiousness.
With regards to Russia, it would appear Trump and Putin are on idyllic terms.
That harmony is only apparent. There can exist better personal dynamics between two presidents, but the truth is that
The United States and Russia have diametrically opposed interests.
Consider the situation in Ukraine, for example, where Russia continues causing difficulties to NATO. Putin has every interest in weakening the European Union, which would never tackle that scenario without US leadership. Putin’s plans are starkly different from ours also in the Middle East. For example, he defended and supported President Bashar al-Assad, which we had pledged to remove. Not to mention the question of computer hacking, experienced during the vote, which Trumps seeks to minimize to dispel any doubts on the legitimacy of his electoral victory.
To what extent does the European Union influence Trump administration’s foreign policy?
Europe doesn’t seem to count much in Trump’s decisions. It’s strange when our historical allies are alarmed, and it’s even more bizarre when our sworn enemies are gloating. We leave a clear field in Europe and in the Middle East. Russia and China are more than happy to take our place. We share economic interests and fundamental values with Europe.
Trump’s negative remarks about Brussels and about a leader like Angela Merkel go against our interests and our very identity.
At domestic level Trump appointed also Neil Gorsuch, a conservative judge, to the Supreme Court to replace late judge Antonin Scalia… That was an excellent choice. Gorsuch is a steadfast conservative, of great calibre. The democrats will oppose his confirmation in line of principle; but in any case on that front it was a wise decision.