Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2018

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast

Sun editorial:

Trump’s treatment of U.S. allies calls into question his loyalties

President Donald Trump is putting a nation first, all right.

The problem is, that nation is Russia.

That’s become screamingly obvious due to Trump’s behavior before, during and after the G-7 summit, a meeting he attended only begrudgingly and then disrupted with a string of erratic and undiplomatic actions.

Chief among them was his divisive and completely senseless suggestion of letting Russia back into the group. Russia had been included in the group only for strategic reasons — its gross domestic product is far less than that of the G-7 nations — and it was justifiably ousted after it invaded Ukraine.

Then came Trump’s unhinged Twitter comments after his departure, which deepened the wounds he’d created during the meeting.

Vladimir Putin couldn’t have orchestrated a better outcome.

In fact, it was so perfect that it’s almost impossible to believe Putin and the Russians weren’t involved. How can anyone continue to question whether Trump, at the very least, is serving Russia’s interests? Trump not only is using U.S. political and economic strength on behalf of Russia — it’s unbelievable we’re saying that — but his saber-rattling on trade agreements and ugly comments about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau threaten to ignite a full-bore trade war and destabilize the West economically and politically.

Should that happen, it would be a parade-worthy occasion for the Russians after years of using cyber ops and other covert actions to create chaos.

There’s simply no defense for Trump’s behavior. His attacks on other nations’ “ridiculous and unacceptable” tariffs are either the result of gross ignorance or intentional malice, but either way, they’re baseless. Although there are examples to the contrary, the majority of tariffs imposed by G-7 members on U.S. goods and services are actually low. For the European Union, for example, the average is just 3 percent.

Predictably, Trump’s tantrums sparked immediate backlash, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the EU would implement countermeasures against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum after Trump withdrew support for a G-7 communique.

It remains to be seen what other dominoes may fall and how the U.S. will be affected, but what’s crystal clear after the meeting is that Trump wrecked the nation’s perception as a reliable and well-intentioned trading partner. Further repercussions are inevitable. That’s what happens during trade skirmishes, which often produce unexpected consequences and — as any respectable economist will tell you — yield no winners.

Meanwhile, Russia can sit back and let Trump do its work of undermining the West and breaking the alliance.

How Republican Party leaders can allow this to continue is mind-boggling, but by now it’s clear that they’ve abdicated their responsibility to hold Trump accountable and provide a check to the power of the presidency.

Heading into this fall’s elections, voters need to remember who’s working in their interests, and who’s serving Russia’s objectives.