Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened to withhold “billions” of dollars of US aid from countries which vote in favor of a United Nations resolution rejecting United States' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “Let them vote against us,” the president said.
“We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he went on. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”
And vote against America they did, with more than 128 defying Trump today and voting in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 35 members abstained, and nine voted against.
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, had previously written to the majority of the member states warning them that she will be “taking names” of countries that vote for the resolution. “As you consider your vote, I encourage you to know the president and the US take this vote personally," she said.
“The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us.”
Haley also tweeted that: “At the UN we’re always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve helped to target us. On Thurs there’ll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.”
Trump and Haley's aggressive rhetoric was mostly indicative of extreme naiveté about the current global attitude towards the US. Contrary to their perception of the world being America's playground, the rising superpowers in Asia, the EU and Russia have leveled the playing field considerably. While the US economy is still huge, by many standards China's is bigger and the combined economic power of the EU is even vaster. The African continent is growing in might, and Arab countries still have huge oil reserves that make them a real force on the global scene. Trump and his team of fourth rate political hacks appear to believe that the US can still dictate terms to the international community with no pushback -- a terrifyingly ignorant notion that will have dramatically negative consequences in the coming years. Trump genuinely seems to believe that after pulling the US out of the world's largest environmental agreement then setting the Middle East peace process ablaze, the rest of the world would sit back and say nothing.
The fact that Russia managed to pull off an extraordinary coup by interfering with the US election and paying no political or economic price for it has shown that America under Trump's leadership is a paper tiger, a bully who picks on the weak and behaves like a petulant child when it doesn't get its way.
Trump's threats to UN member states were simply not taken seriously -- a sign that the US is no longer top dog and losing relevance by the week. Trump may make good on his promise to cut funding, and when that fails to ensure smaller countries keep inline, the president will be forced to go to new levels to get the respect he feels he deserves. The problem is that every other superpower on the planet believes Trump's election is nothing more than a giant opportunity to usurp the US as the dominant player, and will be waiting eagerly to fill in the giant leadership void.