World How Trump's fascination with "strong men" influenced American diplomacy
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demilitarized zone Handshake with Kim-Jong-Un, pat on the back of Rodrigo Duterte, exchange of courtesies with Putin or Erdogan: Donald Trump cultivates an ambiguous relationship of fascination with several authoritarian heads of state around the world, at the risk of confusing American diplomacy.
June 2019: the image goes around the planet, Donald Trump, all smiles, exchanges a few words alongside the North Korean leader Kim-Jong-Un, during a historic meeting in the "demilitarized" zone at the border of the two Koreas.
Presidents hate to look sick. Trump has never needed to appear strong more.
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The insults of the first months at the White House towards the leader of Pyongyang have gradually given way to sweet words and an assumed complicity.
And Kim-Jong-Un is not the only ruler Donald Trump strokes in the direction of the hair, preferring to regularly criticize his traditional allies, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron or Angela Merkel in the lead.
"American diplomacy has itself put itself in difficulty with the divisive figure, fascinated by the authoritarian regimes that are Trump. The international image of the United States is considerably degraded with its allies.", Underlines Patrick Chevallereau, emeritus member of the British think-tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
At the same time, Recep Tayip Erdogan is presented as "a friend", the intelligence and leadership of Vladimir Poutine are regularly greeted and even Xi Jinping was entitled to his share of compliments.
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"Trump has always been fascinated by the exercise of power. He is envious of the way these strong leaders govern. He is psychologically terrified of weakness," Peter Trumbore, professor of political science at the AFP, told AFP. Oakland University in Michigan.
- "The power of force" -
"He sees leaders like Erdogan or Orban who use democratic institutions to transform their states into authoritarian regimes + soft +, that's what he wants to do too", adds t- he.
"In that admiration there is a part of psychology - he was brought up like that - but also of envy. Authoritarian leaders do not have to bother with painful things like opposition parties or a Congress which refuses to follow your decisions ", abounds the former American diplomat Brooks Spector, now editor in chief of the Daily Maverick, in South Africa.
A fascination that is not recent: in an interview given to Playboy magazine in 1990, Donald Trump was already criticizing the "not firm enough hand" of Gorbachev, then in full opening of the USSR.
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President Trump’s campaign is shaped by, and aimed at, an audience largely existing on Twitter.If you do not recognize the name “Bruce Ohr,” that’s not because you are inadequately informed — he does not really have a claim to fame. Bruce Ohr, who was a former associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, is best known for meeting with former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, author of the “Steele dossier.” (That’s the document that alleged Trump was under the influence of Russian intelligence services, who had supposedly also compiled blackmail material on him.
He barely concealed his admiration for the Chinese government's "power of force" during the murderous crackdown on students in Tiananmen a year earlier.
If this admiration for authority is rooted in President Trump's temper, it also finds a certain logic at the political level.
"It is poster diplomacy. Is its aim to have a diplomatic result or rather to show his electorate that he is a strong president on the outside?" Asks Maud. Quessard, specialist in the United States, at the Strategic Research Institute of the Military School in Paris.
- Mixed results -
"Trump is not a multilateralist, for sure. But I'm not sure he really has an ideology. His own personality is at the heart of everything. He is at the heart of everything. everything and from this position of a strong man, we are necessarily less for consultation ", adds Patrick Chevallereau.
"This is one of the subjects on which Trump is constant. As early as the 1980s, when he was already thinking of the White House, he was explaining how the United States was being robbed by its economic partners," recalls Peter Trumbore.
But at the diplomatic level, the results of this strategy since his arrival at the White House remain mixed.
"The hugs and hugs with Kim-Jong-Un had no real impact. As for China, it is stronger and more influential than four years ago," points out Brooks Spector.
"Trump thinks he's an extraordinary negotiator, but diplomatic advances come through years of preparation. If you want a deal with North Korea, you have to lay political foundations, prepare the ground with diplomats and in the end meet your counterpart. None of this has happened! "said Charles Kupchan, who teaches international affairs at Georgetown University in Washington.
And it is not his infection with the coronavirus, from which he has now recovered, which will soften the temper of Donald Trump: "I feel all powerful" he launched upon his return to the countryside, in Florida, the last week.
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