Donald Trump was skeptical of the EU’s prospects and expressed confidence that Europeans would soon sort out their identity just as the British had done in the Brexit referendum. He is certain that the people’s interests should prevail, while governments must revise their immigration policies that are doing irreparable harm to European economies. Otherwise other EU members will follow the British example.
The messianic idea has always been a fixture of US foreign policy ideology based on the notion that the US is the “city upon a hill” and its manifest destiny is to be the leader of the free world. In the second half of the 20th century, American exceptionalism was largely associated with the project to spread US-style democracy.
In the 1990s, following the breakup of the USSR, America’s main, if not only, geopolitical rival in the Cold War, many political scientists assumed that liberal democratic ideas would continue their triumphal march across the planet and a conflict-free period would begin in international relations, since democracies do not go to war against each other.
By the late 1990s, this concept was transformed into the idea of a US-led unipolar world, but it was not destined to materialize. The protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan made it clear that the United States cannot handle this responsibility or guarantee peace in the world. More than that, it became the epicenter of an unprecedented financial and economic crisis that sent shock waves throughout the world in the closing days of George W. Bush’s second term in office. But even at the height of economic disasters, the US military and political leaders never gave up the messianic idea.
Without renouncing the US leadership in the world, Barack Obama, like the majority of American politicians, did recognize that the United States should be “first among equals,” with account taken of globalization processes and the emerging multipolar system of international relations. Interestingly, the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2025 published just before Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 was the first to state the existence of a multipolar world at so high an official level.
In his farewell address, outgoing President Obama sent this message to his successor: “…We cannot withdraw from big global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, and women's rights, and LGBT rights. No matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that’s part of defending America. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression.” He added: “Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world – unless we give up what we stand for – and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.” In this way, President Obama presented his vision of the messianic idea, reaffirmed America’s commitment to democracy, and warned Donald Trump against trying to renege on these ideals.
As we sum up the Obama presidency, it must be acknowledged that its results are extremely mixed. The conflicts in the Middle East were compounded by the Arab Spring. It is no longer Al-Qaeda but ISIS, an organization banned in the Russian Federation, that is the source of the radical Islamic terrorist threat. The financial crisis was cut short and all economic indices returned to growth. Nevertheless, the conservative part of the US political establishment is deeply divided in their approaches to the outgoing administration’s fiscal policy. The presidential anti-crisis plan was strongly resisted in the Republican camp, with arch-conservative Republicans forming the Tea Party movement in response.
Right now, the public focus is on US foreign policy prospects during the Trump presidency. It is clear that the foreign policy strategy will be markedly revised and there is no doubt that it will become more resolute and extremely active. But it will retain an element of unpredictability characteristic of Donald Trump’s behavior.
The new president will have to govern his country in a new environment. Indicatively, the NIC Global Trends 2035 that was published last week predicts a transformation of the democratic idea.
More specifically, the report says that democracy can no longer be taken for granted. What governments do will conform less and less to public expectations. Technological development is boosting the global impact of individuals and small groups seeking to achieve political goals. The potential for conflict is growing but military interstate conflicts are less likely than the use of non-military instruments.
It is this detail that Donald Trump emphasized in his recent interview with The Times. He was skeptical of the EU’s prospects and expressed confidence that Europeans would soon sort out their identity just as the British had done in the Brexit referendum. He is certain that the people’s interests should prevail, while governments must revise their immigration policies that are doing irreparable harm to European economies. Otherwise other EU members will follow the British example.