The month of May has been a real rollercoaster, with shocking terrorist attacks on innocent people in Britain, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as in France and Germany. Wars continue to fester in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa, with thousands killed, including women and children. In Yemen, a whole country verges on starvation, with reports of a child dying of hunger every ten minutes.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump continues to cause consternation with his humiliating obsequiousness to the leaders of Saudi Arabia (hey, he won a huge arms deal worth $US110 billion!), even though the Saudis have been pouring money into spreading their fundamentalist version of Islam, in large part responsible for the upsurge in Islamist terrorism.
Trump’s lectures to the European Union and NATO leaders astonished his European allies, and damaged the international architecture of governance based on liberal democratic principles. Where money is to be made, Trump is prepared to embrace tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia, and cosy up to Russia.
It was not a foregone conclusion that Trump would decide to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, and there were voices in his inner circle arguing for him not to do so, notably his daughter Ivanka.
Trump meets the Pope
Trump’s hastily arranged visit to Pope Francis offered a glimmer of hope that the US president might endorse the Paris agreement after all, even though this would break a campaign promise. Especially in his 2015 social encyclical Laudato Sí: on Care for our Common Home, Francis had warned about the ‘catastrophic’ consequences of climate change, particularly in its effect on poor countries. The encyclical was based on the very strong scientific consensus about the impact of global warming, and the Pope added his moral weight to appeals for urgent and decisive action to reduce greenhouse emissions.
The meeting of Francis with Trump and his family was reportedly ‘cordial’, and the Pope gave Trump copies of his recent writings, including Laudato Sí and his World Day of Peace Statement for 2017, which he said he had personally enscribed for Trump. Trump said he would read them. Hopefully, he will, though he is unlikely to be impressed by the Pope’s views on climate change, not to mention his stringent critique of the failures and growing inequality of neoliberal capitalism and its so-called free market.
On 1 June, Trump announced that the US would begin the process of withdrawing from the Paris agreement. This met with widespread dismay internationally and in the USA itself. Critics pointed out that this was a further retreat from the US’s global responsibilities, and left a vacuum in global governance that others were keen to fill, particularly China.
On the positive side, France elected the pro-EU former finance minister and banker, Emmanuel Macron as President. This may help stop the slide to nationalist and populist politics in parts of Europe.