By Fatemeh Mohammadipour

U.S. will not leave NATO: Boston professor

September 11, 2018 - 11:48

President Donald Trump has done a lot of questionable action since he was in office, including issues within the United States - changing members of the cabinet, advisers and dismissal of director - and issues outside the United States, including the systematic withdrawal of international treaties and economic and political tensions with its former allies.

A reporter at Tehran Times newspaper recently interviewed Geoffrey Carliner, Professor of the University of Boston.

Following is the complete text of the interview with Professor Geoffrey Carliner:

Q: Nowadays we are witnessing great gaps and differences among G7 member states while SCO member states are moving forward more convergence. Some believe that the orders and the regimes created after World War II are declining and because of this reason the U.S. is not going to pay the costs of regimes like NATO, WTO and different free trade treaties like NAFTA.  What do you think of this? Why the U.S. is not ready to pay the costs of the regimes and orders as before?

A: President Trump has shown hostility to leaders of several U.S. allies and disdain for NATO, but support for a continued strong NATO is almost universal among his advisors, Republican and Democratic politicians, and American voters.  That does not mean there is no criticism of NATO allies.  Past U.S. presidents, including Obama and Bush, have demanded that other NATO members increase their military spending to 2% of GDP, and sometimes pressured them to join U.S. military activities, for instance in Iraq in 2003.  But is inconceivable that the U.S. would leave NATO or seriously decrease its commitment to defending European allies.  

Trump would like to weaken the WTO, NAFTA, and other U.S. trade agreements, and some but not all of his advisors, some politicians, and many but not most American voters probably agree.  American consumers, many American workers, and many American companies have benefitted from greater international trade over the past 25 years, but some American workers and a few companies have been hurt by trade, especially with developing countries like Mexico and China.  So there is considerable opposition in the U.S. to current trade agreements.  It is hard to predict the outcome of current trade disputes.  Probably not a full trade war, perhaps some symbolic gestures like an EU promise to buy more U.S. soy beans or natural gas (in 5-10 years after LNG terminals are built) or Chinese promises to buy more U.S. airplanes, perhaps reductions or eliminations of specific EU and Chinese tariffs on imports from the U.S., perhaps minor revisions in some of NAFTA’s rules.  Such symbolic gestures may be enough for Trump to claim victory in these disputes, even though their effect on U.S. trade will be small.

Q: While the U.S. president Donald Trump attended the NATO and G7 summits with an aggressive approach toward Washington’s allies, he is trying to improve relation with North Korea and Russia with a reconciling approach. Why?

A: It is hard to explain Trump’s behavior toward Putin.  Perhaps it is because of Russian interference in the 2016 election, which contributed to Trump’s victory.  Perhaps it is due to something else in the past that has not become public.  Trump’s warmth to Putin certainly shocks many Americans, including not only Democrats but also many Republican politicians.   

Trump also admires dictators.  He intensely dislikes being attacked by the press in the U.S., and envies the pomp of military parades and the public praise that dictators demand from their people.  Trump also would like more power than he has in the U.S. political system and envies dictators their much greater power.  This envy and admiration by Trump probably explains some of the warmth in his relationships with Putin and Kim Jong Un.  

In addition, Trump is eager to reach an agreement with Kim on nuclear weapons that he could claim as a major foreign policy achievement.  Trump would like to go down in history as a peace maker and even has dreams of winning a Nobel Peace Prize.  It seems very unlikely that North Korea will agree to an agreement that is as strict as the one Iran signed, but even a much weaker deal would allow Trump to make claims of victory that his supporters in the U.S. would believe.  There is a lesson here for Iran.  Symbolic gestures are very important for Trump, and showing that he is better than Obama is even more important.  If Iran’s leaders met with him and agreed to small but symbolic changes in the nuclear deal, Trump could claim that he had negotiated a better deal than Obama, and then might remove U.S. sanctions.  What do Iran’s leaders lose by meeting with Trump?  

Finally, Trump enjoys acting in opposite ways from previous American leaders.  If Obama and previous American presidents were hostile to Putin and friendly to leaders of U.S. allies, Trump likes to do the opposite.  

Q: International community is experiencing a new area in which while the U.S. is retreating from the old orders and regimes, China is trying to impose its own orders and regimes by reviewing ancient Silk Road project. To what extent the developments in the Middle East especially in Syria are affected by international systems structure which is changing?

A: In the long run, China’s economic and political power in the world will continue to grow and it will use its power to further its national interests, including in the Middle East.  In the short run, however, it is hard to see how increasing Chinese power will affect events in Syria or other Middle Eastern countries.  China will not follow U.S. sanctions against Iran, will continue to buy Iranian oil, and perhaps make investments in Iran, but it will not be a major player in the Middle East for quite a while.  

Q: Reacting to President Trump’s remarks calling EU as the U.S. foe, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council asked Trump and Putin not to disturb world order. Do you think that Trump and Putin are going to create a new world order? If your answer is yes, how will the new polarization be in the new order?

A: Trump and Putin are not powerful enough to create a new world order.  Although there is support in the U.S. for better relations with Russia, there is almost no support for leaving NATO and joining in an alliance with Russia.  Opposition to a new world order with Russia would be overwhelming.