Diplomatic Immunity

Picture of Trump

Behind every international political interaction sits a team of diplomats, examining every word, every variance of tone and seeing to it that the incredibly intricate protocols surrounding international relationships are followed exactly.

Every telephone conference call between world leaders is a well-rehearsed production, with nothing left to chance – at least, they used to be.

So far in his fledgling career as the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump seems intent on unpicking years of diplomatic relationships as quickly as humanly possible, aided by an administration whose relationship to the truth has brought the term ‘alternative facts’ into the public consciousness.

On his second day in office, the US saw its largest political protest since the dark days of the Vietnam War with the Women’s March on Washington joined by hundreds of demonstrations not only in cities across the US but worldwide.

While the domestic pressure on Trump’s administration shows only signs of strengthening with every passing day it pales in comparison to the international view of the new US regime.

Crossed lines

With two short phone calls, President Trump gave a clear indication on how diplomacy will work during his term as President.

A poorly worded, threatening and at times rambling conference call to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto set the benchmark for diplomatic failings yet the alarm bells ringing across the world seem to have fallen silent at the White House as worse was yet to come.

Tense diplomatic relationships, harsh words and angry exchanges are nothing new in international politics.

Chinese and Russian delegates have made storming out of meetings and prematurely ending conference calls an art form; the difference is that it’s not usually allies that are subject to this treatment.

When a new president, not even a month into the job, hangs up during a telephone conference call with one of the country’s easiest maintained diplomatic allies the sense of foreboding for any future crisis is palpable.

If the next time a conference call is not going in President Trump’s favour it may not be a country as patient or reasonable as Australia on the other end of the call. Either Trump has been given free reign to conduct these conference calls unsupervised and unprepared or the team surrounding him are willing partners in this move towards isolationism; both scenarios are rightly worrying for the global community yet at least the former can be amended and improved upon, the latter is terrifying.

A loose cannon with a Rolodex

None of this erratic behaviour should be surprising, at no point in Trump’s election campaign was there any hint that his presidency would be conducted any differently to what is unfolding.

The expectation that the gravity of the Office would somehow alter the behaviour of a man who constantly exposed his frailty of character and inability to absorb or rise above even the slightest hint of criticism throughout the election cycle was beyond wishful thinking.

President Trump holds the ignominious title as the only President Elect to cause a diplomatic furore by his misjudged conference call to Taiwan – an act absolutely guaranteed to cause huge divisions with the Chinese state.

Many political analysts and commentators have remarked on the dangers of having a leader with such obvious shortcomings having access to the nuclear codes and his finger on ‘the red button’ yet it appears Trump’s access to a telephone and the contact details of world leaders is equally dangerous.

Protectionism and isolationism are already very difficult positions to meld with international diplomacy, when you add in unpredictability and populism it’s no exaggeration to say that global security is at its most precarious state in recent history.