The activity in other countries directly affects the United States, particularly when those countries are allies. Some events happening now presage likely actions which will affect future relations. It’s worth taking a look at them now, so as to be prepared.
On July 1, Israel is due to annex the West Bank. This move is purely political in nature – Israel has maintained military control of the area for fifty years, and has settlements there – but it is expected to be a destabilizing influence in the Middle East, with Jordan threatening a resumption of open hostilities over such a decision.
The political situation is complex, to a level that many books have been written on that specific topic. Because it incorporates the reactions of not merely different nations in the area but political factions within those nations, there are dozens of variables involved and Israel has always been hesitant to officially claim the territory as sovereign soil.
The Trump administration has believed it could produce a two-state solution despite a very shallow approach to the issue and even now is pressing for Israel to accept a partial annexation predicated on denying citizenship rights to the many anti-Israel Palestinians who live there. Israeli leaders agree that if they are going to get the political blowback for annexing the West Bank, they may as well commit to the action and fully annex it. This refutation of the Trump administration is likely to strain relations at a time when Trump is desperate for a success to tout during his re-election campaign. Expect a cooling of relations if and when the Israeli government follows through on its plans.
Meanwhile, Brexit is still happening… and Boris Johnson’s government is signalling that it expects to pursue a “no deal” strategy. Talks with the EU over trade have not stalled, but the UK in particular has become entrenched with its demands, even though the EU seems to be in a superior negotiating position.
While the deadline for any trade agreement between the EU and the UK is months away, the wording must be in place long before the deadlines in order to allow their respective bodies to schedule review and votes.
Failure to get a trade deal with the EU would force the UK to focus its attention on a handful of other large markets. Of those, two are of primary interest: the US and China. China has been taking aggressive moves to court many large nations, including the UK; meanwhile US/UK relations have grown strained, most recently over the UK refusal to exclude China from 5G technology applications and the rejection of Trump’s effort to include Putin in the G-7 talks.
The UK remains a key ally for the United States in world events. The relationship has been strained in recent decades… Blair was criticized domestically for being too much of a lackey to Bush; then Obama seemed dismissive of the UK leadership with incidents regarding presents of speeches and questions about a bust of Churchill. None of that compares to the split we have seen in recent years, where neither the UK leadership nor its general populace show strong personal ties to the Trump administration, and America’s flirtation with nationalism has damaged our reputation as a defender of human rights. This bodes poorly for American interests not just in the UK but worldwide, as the UK retains considerable influence across the globe.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the damage done by covid-19, even as Brazil has moved into the number 2 spot, behind the United States, for active cases worldwide. Yesterday the country reported another record high for daily deaths due to the illness: 1,262. Their official death toll is 31,199.
CNT/MDA polling showed that Bolsonaro’s popularity had risen to 47.8% in January, due mostly to a strong economy. Multiple corruption and morality scandals had damaged the perception of him as a person, but years of financial troubles and the hope of getting the country free of them had increased his support despite those personal issues. As of mid-May, his approval had dropped to 39.2%, based primarily on his handling of the covid-19 crisis.
His response seems to have been doubling down, insisting that it is effectively a flu, extending hydroxychloroquine availability to everyone and demanding local leadership open the country for full economic activity. As the death rate and caseload continue to rise dramatically, it is a reasonable assumption, absent active polling, to believe his popularity is continuing to drop.
The U.S. under Trump has aggressively pursued Brazil as a new ally. Should Bolsonaro’s failure tarnish perceptions of his policy choices, the United States is likely to reap no long-term reward for its continued courting of Brazil, because most of our actions have been centered around supporting Bolsonaro instead of the Brazilian people. This has negative long-term implications for our national interests in South America.