It is clear that the Trump-Putin meeting has just established the foundations for a new world order, entirely guided by the pragmatic interests of big powers and executed with the gangster-like mastery of a proud and gritty Old West cowboy.
This is more like a theatrical scenario of a western movie, rather than foreign policy. And not only Albania, but all Albanians as a nation blindly faithful to American interests in the region, will lose out and will be further weakened by Trump’s new global type of politics, just as they did in 1945 at the Yalta Conference.
Trump is an anti-conventional president, highly controversial, flamboyant, instinctive and imposing. Through his spontaneous and unpredictable statements he is surpassing the imagination of most international relations analysts and is leaving major politicians of the western alliance constantly gobsmacked.
Within a week on European soil, Trump caused an earthquake at the NATO summit by threatening to pull out the USA from the strongest military alliance in the world, commented that between NATO, the UK and Putin, the latter might be the easiest meeting, offended the British prime minister Theresa May at her own home turf by saying that her Brexit plan would not work while suggesting that the freshly resigned former foreign secretary Boris Johnson would make an excellent prime minister, as well as breaking at least two royal protocols during his meeting with Queen Elizabeth. And as if all these were not enough, a day before the Helsinki summit with Russian President Putin, he calls the European Union a foe of the United States.
Needless to go into further details of Trump’s global tales, it is now clear that the American President feels more comfortable with Kim Jong-un and Putin than with his western allies of Canada, Germany, France, UK and the Brussels technocrats, whom we ‘love’ so much around this Albanian corner of ours.
Trump plays politics as if it were a boxing arena of business, where there are no partners, only competitors. In such boxing arena, human rights and western democratic values belong only on paper. Just as a rough business beast, the new American President does not believe in alliances but favours a harsh trade war with one sided gains.
To be fair, Trump has stayed faithful to his sincere electoral slogan of ‘America First’, where pure commercial interests prevail above any international rights.
In this context, the post-war world order which was a fully American driven imitative and built upon and alliance of western nations ready to spread democracy as a governing standard across the world – has fallen!
This is actually not bad for the commercial and political entourage of the Trump family. Trump is rightly and ruthlessly serving the pragmatic interests of the United States by positioning his country not as a democratic power with the responsibility to spread democracy and prosperity across the planet, but as the toughest guy in the neighborhood, as a ‘gangster’ whom you should not even think of pestering in the future.
This is precisely why his popularity is soaring in the US. Average American voters, especially across the inner Bible belt, despite the indisputable global role of their country during the past 70 years, do not get the world, nor the good it brings the American economy and its global strength.
Locked within this isolationist mindset, Trump believes that the shaking of UN, EU and NATO foundations will position Washington ahead of other countries, while increasing his popularity at home. And he is right, because he acts through the logic of a naturally rough businessman who only thinks of his profit, not of the product he trades in the market.
It was alongside such terms that the Trump-Putin meeting took place – as two tough guys of respective rivalry neighbourhoods who shook each-other’s hands in order to protect their own commercial interests. This summit which benefited Russia more than the US, has angered numerous congressmen and senators in DC, some of whom has qualified the meeting as shameful, disgraceful and treacherous.
In fact, the content of the meeting and the new ‘love affair’ between Trump and Putin suggests that this summit resembles that of a second Yalta, decisive on the new world order which would seal the fates f many nations for a considerable amount of time.
The Trump-Putin summit reconfirmed the will of both countries to negotiate pragmatically purely on commercial terms, as two worthy global competitors and as the world’s largest undisputed nuclear powers.
And seen from the optical lens of such commercial and nuclear negotiations, exactly like the first Yalta Conference (which is ironically located in Crimea), Albania and Albanians as a nation will be further marginalized and ignored, if they fail to pursue a pragmatic agenda of building something for themselves.
It is crystal clear that the United States have lost interest in the Balkans, by delegating responsibility to pursue US political and diplomatic affairs in the region to ambassadorial level. In fact, the American approach towards Albania started to change after the Bush junior presidency, when Albania changed status on State Department drawers from a strategic regional ally to a candidate country for EU membership. Then the new priority of American foreign policy towards the small Balkan country during the Obama years was to support Albania’s EU integration – which de-facto meant a gradual withdrawal of the US from the region.
The fact that the Trump-Putin meeting comes immediately after the expression of harsh antagonistic notes by the US towards the EU, means bad news for Albania, for Kosovo and for all Albanians who wish to integrate into a ‘problematic’ entity for the US, such as the European Union.
And as if all this was not enough, political and commercial exchanges between Trump and Putin, where both will give up something to gain elsewhere, might result into a definitive departure of the USA from the Balkans, a region which is far from strategic economic interests of both powers, despite the Balkan legendary tales we keep telling each other. Such scenario is more painful for Albanians than any other nation in South East Europe, as they are indisputably the most pro-American people in the old continent.
This is why in this new global context, Albanians as a demographically diminishing people and highly provincial in every meaning of the word, must start thinking of their own pragmatic economic interests with the aim of redefining the alliances of the future. This includes strengthening links with that part of the American political spectrum which gets the region and its importance to American influence in Europe, despite the momentary Trump flamboyance and disinterest.
Now that the European Union has made it clear to us that they do not have much time for the Balkans, and after numerous scandals of drunk and fun loving European technocrats who keep telling us that our countries have a ‘perspective’, Albania’s foreign policy must start to build bilateral strategic alliances in order to respond to investing needs in the country, the potentials of which are not lacking. Serbia has been applying such strategy for years now, and with much success.
The primary challenge of Albanian foreign policy today remains the distancing from integration fairy tales and the orientation of our own national interests purely towards investing interests which generate employment and prosperity for those few millions left around our provincial corner of the world. Said simply in Bill Clinton’s words “It’s the Economy Stupid”.
Otherwise the Albanian nation will drown in the river of endless Balkan epos or will end up changing diapers at some old peoples’ home in Germany…
About the Author
Ralf Gjoni is the former Spokesperson of the Albanian Foreign Ministry, former Foreign Policy Adviser to the Speaker of the Albanian Parliament as well as a regular political commentator and contributor regionally on foreign policy and regional affairs. Mr. Gjoni benefits from an extensive international experience and insight knowledge having worked in the Public Affairs & PR industry since 2000 in the US, UK and the Balkans.
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