President of the United States, Donald Trump, and First Lady Melania Trump, paid an official visit to the UK on Thursday and Friday last week. The initial invitation by Prime Minister Theresa May was for a state visit, which involved pomp and ceremony. But after it became clear that Trump would be greeted with widespread public hostility, the invitation was downgraded to an official visit. Still, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were honoured with military parades, a lavish dinner and tea with the Queen, and greeted with widespread protests all over the UK.
One form of protest was the raising of a gigantic balloon of a baby resembling Trump, in diapers. The theory of the protestors is that normal criticism does not bother Trump and he reacts to it with abuse and insults. But ridiculing him is said to jar his gargantuan ego and is believed to be highly effective. The video of the Trump Baby Blimp can be viewed here: https://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2018/jul/13/the-moment-trump-baby-blimp-lifts-off-video
The invitation to visit to the UK was intended to build support for a trade agreement between the UK and the US after Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit). This is expected to lead to loss of trading privileges with the European Union, the UK’s largest trading partner. Prime Minister May’s recent proposals for a soft Brexit, which is a common rule book for goods and services, referred to as a ‘soft’ Brexit, has resulted in resignations from the government and opposition from some backbench MPs, who are demanding a ‘hard’ Brexit. May’s compromise was necessary because the EU has rejected all prior proposals. More turmoil is expected to follow if May is forced to accept some form of free movement of people. Immigration from Europe is seen as the main reason for the vote in favour of Brexit. If this happens, and the Labour Party does not support the proposals, as appears likely, May’s wobbling government could fall, or she could be ousted as Prime Minister.
President Trump paved the way for his visit to the UK with a bombshell interview to the Sun newspaper, published on Friday morning. He said that Prime Minister May did not follow his advice in negotiating with the EU and that the failure to do so will result in a UK-US trade agreement being impossible. President Trump had been apparently advocating a ‘hard’ Brexit – a complete break between the UK and EU. He further said that Boris Johnson, the leading Brexit advocate, who craves Theresa May’s job, and had just resigned as Foreign Secretary, was a brilliant man, a friend of his, and would make an excellent prime minister. Speculation spread across Europe and the United States as to the reason for Trump’s gross insult to his host, Theresa May, by his unprecedented, undiplomatic and uncharitable intervention in the UK’s domestic affairs. Forced to explain his comments, he blamed the Sun for propagating ‘fake news’ by not publishing his praise for Prime Minister May.
Trump was visiting the UK after attending a NATO meeting in Brussels. After accusing NATO members of failing to pay their fair share of contribution, he harangued Germany for subsidising Russia to the tune of billions of dollars by helping to finance a pipeline from Russia to Europe to supply gas to Germany. By purchasing 70 percent of its energy supplies from Russia, he suggested that Germany had made itself dependent on Russia, the country NATO was established to protect Europe against. As soon as the NATO summit was over, President Trump held a press conference, declared victory, said that NATO will now spend “at levels they never thought before.” He said that $33B more, possibly $40B more, will be spent. “The additional amount of money they’re willing to put up has been amazing…They really stepped up their commitment.” All lies! Germany gets 9 percent of its energy supplies from Russia. And immediately after the press conference, President Macron of France said that all NATO had done was to confirm, as previously decided, that it will spend 2 percent of its GDP by 2024.
President Trump now proceeds to Helsinki to a heavily criticised one on one meeting with President Putin on Monday. In suspiciously timed indictments, 12 alleged Russian intelligence agents have been indicted with hacking into the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. The US press, Democratic Party supporters and commentators have called for the meeting to be cancelled due to Russia’s interference in US elections. They believe that Putin has something over Trump, who will be ‘outsmarted’ by Putin, or that he will make unwarranted concessions.
No grand strategy or design appears to motivate President Trump in his baffling strategy of tearing down, then seeking, unsuccessfully, to put things back together. He is clearly a ‘loose cannon’, saying anything that comes to his mind, whether true of false, but usually false, to justify his long held prejudicial beliefs on immigrants, immigration, NATO and the world role and responsibilities of the US. They come thick and fast and before journalists can catch up, another set of fiction is unleashed. Let’s hope that US prestige can recover from this most unusual of US Presidents.