London: Donald Trump’s America is challenging the international order that brought peace, stability and prosperity after World War II, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said.
On Wednesday in London, Bishop made a speech that was occasionally frankly critical of the tactics, policies and strategies of our closest ally, the United States.
She declined to directly criticise the US President himself, insisting that as Australia’s Foreign Minister she should wait to see if his "unorthodox" approach to international relations might bear fruit in practice.
And she said it would be inappropriate to comment on Trump’s meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki this week, as she was "yet to absorb the impact" of his claim to have misspoken when he said he preferred to believe Putin over the evidence of his intelligence chiefs that Russia was deliberately interfering in Western democracies.
She said she would "make my views known" at a meeting next week with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Bishop said she did not believe Russia should be rewarded for its recent conduct in Syria, Ukraine and elswhere, and she would continue urge the US not to do so.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gave some pointed remarks about the US during a speech at London’s Chatham House.
She said, if she had met with Putin, she would have directly confronted him over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
And she was sceptical that Trump’s meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un really represented progress, saying we have “been down this road before”. She suspected the rogue state’s interpretation of what “denuclearisation” meant was very different to the US’s.
In a significant speech at London’s Chatham House, Bishop said the international rules-based order put together after the chaos of World War II "is facing its greatest test as it is challenged and strained on multiple fronts".
Bishop said she would reserve her judgement on Trump’s stance on Russia until she meets with US Secretary Mike Pompeo.
This crisis poses a bigger threat than even the Cold War, she said. And the US under Trump was playing a key role in one of the biggest challenges to the old order, she said.
"Our closest ally and the world’s most powerful nation is being seen as less predictable and less committed to the international order it pioneered."
"[There is an] increasing tendency for nations to take a one-sided, unilateral approach to some of their international interests, including economic interests.
"The US is now favouring a more disruptive, often unilateral foreign trade policy that has hardened anxiety about its commitment to the rules-based order that it established, protected and guaranteed."
Bishop cited the US's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear treaty, the Paris climate change agreement and the UN’s Human Rights Council, as well as its decision to raise trade tariffs and quotas, as evidence of the US’s changing international role.
She said the US should instead address its grievances on trade through the World Trade Organisation that it had helped establish.
She cautiously supported Trump’s challenge to NATO to raise defence spending, but said it was only a point worth making "as long as it leads to a stronger and more robust alliance" – and she did not say whether she thought it had.
“Some nations that have gained significant benefit from the [international order put in place after the WWII] are now challenging it, and we need to remind them of its importance," Bishop said.
She warned some of Trump’s policies were a manifestation of trends that began in previous administrations, such as the concern that other countries must share more of the burden in maintaining peace and security in the world.
US allies needed to acknowledge this and step up, she said.
Other challenges behind the current crisis were states such as Russia, Iran and North Korea openly defying international rules and norms, Bishop said.
Russia’s suspected use of military-grade chemical Novichok for an assassination, and its shielding the Assad regime in Syria, were part of a "familiar pattern", she said.
"Unable to meet the economic and political expectations of their citizens, these states seek to harness nationalism to create a narrative reflecting a siege mentality, where they are beset by external enemies and must stand against them."
Adam Ward, deputy director of Chatham House, said it was clear that "the conventions and some of the certainties of the international order of recent decades are being eroded… by the Trump administration’s apparent departure from the more classic principles of US leadership".
The US was becoming more "transactional and qualified" in its support for the international order, and those wanting to reverse this course "have their work cut out for them", Ward said.
On North Korea, Bishop said “we have been down this road before” and North Korea had a long history of promising many things and never delivering.
“We certainly appreciate the President’s unorthodox approach… but the promise that President Trump extracted from Kim Jong-un may not be what the US believes.”
Speaking to journalists after the speech and Q&A, Bishop said Trump “has a view of diplomatic relations that involves building close one-on-one personal ties.
"If this leads to much better outcomes in terms of regional and global stability and security then it’s been a good thing to do."
She said it was “not for me to run a commentary” on the actions of the President or any other leader, but to focus on the outcomes and judge if they are in Australia’s national interest.
Asked if the Helsinki meeting had risked undermining international security by emboldening an aggressive Kremlin, Bishop replied she would “make my views known in my discussion with [Pompeo]”.
On Thursday, Bishop will meet new UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who replaced Boris Johnson when he resigned over Brexit.
Asked about Trump’s comment that Johnson would make a great prime minister, Bishop smiled and replied: "I’m sure Boris will continue to make a contribution to public life".
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