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July 24, 2018

Trump will rule two terms and may build a "world state"

(This text was originally published in Japanese in the Japanese version of "Newsweek" on July 18th)
(as revised on July 25)

The US President Donald Trump has started to launch gamble-like risky diplomatic initiatives one after another, starting from secession from the nuclear agreement with Iran, the meeting with North Korea's Chairman Kim Jong-un, the remarkable tariff hike against China and the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump's manner is rough and simplistic: he determines foe and friend with the volume of trade deficit as the only criterion, turns everything, even alliances, into bargaining chips for economic gains, and disengages the US from "merely costly" involvement in conflicts abroad. This approach well resonates with the bulk of the masses in the US.

The Democrats are adamant in criticizing Trump, but so far are unable to present viable policy alternatives which are broad enough to attract wide strata of anti-Trump voters. Besides, they have not yet found a proper presidential candidate.

The conventional wisdom is that there is always a self-correcting mechanism at work for US policies that swing to the extreme. But this time Trump has ousted almost all of the staffs, who would dare to dissuade him from reckless steps. The Republicans in the Congress not only fail to restrain Trump but even ride on his bandwagon willingly for their own reelection; this is inevitable because 90% of the Republican supporters approve Trump . If things proceed this way, Trump may well be reelected, ruling the US for eight years altogether. But even by the end of his first term, Trump may have dramatically changed (or overturned) the world order.

The mainstays of the post-war global framework, such as the United Nations, NATO and other alliances, IMF and WTO, will lose efficacy, although they may still linger on formally. The G7 summit, having lost serious engagement by the US, will most probably cease to exist. The ideological confrontation between democracy and autocracy will become blurred, making the world look like the late 19th century Europe, in which nations changed their partners for reasons not of ideology but convenience. In those years today's friend easily became a foe tomorrow.

Now, ironically enough, the US-Russia relations will become the closest (or the least antagonistic) of all big power relations, because Russia is not a real threat for the US, Putin's Russia does not possess sufficient power for pre-meditated territorial expansion, nor can it become an economic menace to the US.

It is true that Russia keeps a large number of missiles with nuclear warheads, but the US is poised to boost its defense budget by 13% in 2018 (the increment alone is equivalent to the entire annual defense budget of Russia), and its lion's share will be spent for modernization of the nuclear arsenal and for fortification of the USA itself against nuclear attacks. As long as Russia is deterred in this way, it will not become a formidable enemy.

If the US and Russia get along in this way, Russia's dependence on China as a quasi
-ally against the US will diminish. However, China by then will most probably lose its economic stamina, being subdued by Trump's America, and become too weak to aspire for hegemony in the Eurasian continent. Therefore, even if China and Russia colluded, it would no longer have its erstwhile nuisance power vis-à-vis the US.

The Sino-US relations will remain the most confrontational. If the economic clash develops into an armed conflict around Taiwan or elsewhere, Japan will face a severe dilemma. If she goes too far in siding with the US, then it may incur a pre-emptive armed attack by China on the main islands of Japan, but if Japan does not help the US, then she will get a political reprisal from the US.

However, no matter what may happen, Trump will not withdraw the American troops from Japan. The bases in Japan are invaluable bridgeheads for the US armed forces in East Asia, which provide Trump with an important underpinning for his "deals" with China. On top of that these bases were garnered through the sacrifice of American soldiers during the Pacific War (by one estimate as many as 160 thousand troops perished2), and the bases are supported by hefty subsidies in the form of cost sharing by the Japanese government (about 1.7 billion dollars annually).

As Russia ceases to be regarded as a serious threat, NATO will lose its meaning. However, Europe, with Germany and France as her core, will continue to play a major role in the world, though her power will not be on a par with the US.

Therefore, Trump's US will be able to impose its will all over the world. If any country or company goes against US policies and interests, the US administration can simply prohibit their transaction with American banks, effectively depriving them of the possibility to conduct international trade. If a foreign company breaks US laws abroad, the US can block that company's business in the US. Thus any company, for which the US market is vital, is forced to abide by the US laws even in third countries.

All this would mean that by 2025, when Trump will finish his second term, he may
have accomplished an effective unification of the whole world with the US as the global government.
Even today the US is a smaller "world" with multi-ethnic composition of its population. It would only take broadening the basis a little; for the Americans it would not be so unnatural.

If the world becomes more peaceful and prosperous under American hegemony, it would be acceptable for many. Anyway, the world should part with the strange practice of dividing itself into many "states", which tend to fight with one another. However, it is not to be welcomed, if the fruits of the world unification are monopolized by the people, who happen to inhabit the geographical region called the United States of America. In the 18th century the British colony in North America held up the principle against its suzerain Great Britain, "No Taxation Without Representation". By the same token it may be time to dispatch Japanese representatives (who are able to speak English) to the US Congress and to have a "global electoral district" launched for the US presidential elections.

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