The USA has many friends and many foes, as does the Russian Federation. The perceptions about these nuclear armed powers is mainly determined by their leaders. President Trump, supposedly the leader of the 'free world" and President Putin, the autocratic former KGB operative strong man who rules with an iron fist. Their recent Helsinki summit does little to reassure people, friends or enemies, of whom of these two to believe or trust.
Putin highlighted this saying. 'As to who is to be believed and who is not to be believed, you can trust no one. Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me, or I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America, and I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation.' So where does it leave the rest of us. Putin with his long history of authoritarian oppression of any opposition; from punk rock band 'Pussy Riot', to chess player Garry Kasparov, and Alexei Navalny, his gaoled outspoken political rival; his interference around the globe from Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, the MH17 bombing and UK poisonings, is a self admitted untrustworthy person.
Trump with is dissembling lies, his rabid tweets, callous indifference to suffering, flouting of law, abuse of NATO and other allies, escalation of trade wars and misguided choices in meeting North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un and President Putin is certainly a person who is difficult to trust. Both of these men ignore and trash the international rules-based laws.
In the last century, after the World War 2, the USA assumed the role of 'policeman of the world'. The bulwark against the perceived threat of totalitarianism predominantly from the USSR and China. In the process the US has been at war somewhere ever since from Korea, Central & South America, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and many other smaller nations. The US has become the bully of the world. The USSR and China unsurprisingly chose to support the opposition in many of these illegal wars. This has alienated many well meaning and fair minded people around the planet. The opposition to the increased militarism of the US threw many into the arms of the Soviets or the Chinese.
Australia, with the longstanding ANZUS Treaty, has long been beholden to US Foreign Policy; following the US into Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Australian politicians, have fawned over US Presidents, resolutely heralding the US as the beacon of democracy and freedom. The longer time goes on the more we realise that 'democracy and freedom' are covers for the rampant capitalism, the Eisenhower named 'military industrial complex' that drives the US. But Australia is slow to react and is now caught between our long term but possibly diminishing ally in the USA and our largest trading partner, the geographically strategic China.
Australia which has had its eye off the ball in the South Pacific for many years, further distresses the small island nations of the South Pacific by pursuing policies that don't mitigate against climate change and rising sea levels. China through soft diplomacy, aid funding and now the Belt & Road Initiative has been winning friends in the South Pacific. There is much complication and confusion amongst all this. Australia leases the Darwin Port to China, angering the US while simultaneously US Marines are on rotation through Darwin. The US encourages its allies and other SE Asian nations to protest about the Chinese expansion and 'militarisation' of the South China or Eastern Sea; challenging Australia Navy to become involved via 'freedom of navigation' exercises. The Chinese assist Vanuatu to build a large harbour on Espiritu Santo to encourage cruise tourism, and the US believes is a quasi military base for the Chinese Navy. The Philippines, don't want the former colonial power, the USA to retain bases and forces there any longer. The French, facing an independence movement in New Caledonia, insist that they retain a presence in the South Pacific.
Amidst all of this the Trump-led US is ramping up the rhetoric, throwing jingoistic threats with increased bellicosity, particularly towards China. Deeply aware of its fading place as the world's largest economy, the US is bristling with aggression on the international front, partly to assuage all those armaments manufactures and military bases back home, whose support and votes they depend on. The US policy of 'containment' of China is increasingly seen as aggressive. However trade wars and arms races are supposedly good for US capitalism.
It is salutary to realise that much of the power and wealth of the US came, not through the much touted political system of democracy, freedom and capitalism, but through the abundant natural resources that have existed in that country since time immemorial.
The question remains 'who do you trust?' in these most contentious of times. I don't trust any of them.