C. Raja MohanDirector of Carnegie India
U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate change accord underlines that the United States has become a major variable in international politics. Seen together with Trump’s decision to walk out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and his questioning of long-standing U.S. military alliances, the decision on the Paris accord casts a big shadow over the United States’ credibility as an interlocutor and reliability as a partner. Meanwhile, the damage to the international order is likely to be deep and possibly irreversible.
There is no escaping the fact that the United States is deeply divided over America’s globalism and the question of whether the burdens of the country’s international leadership are worth bearing. All major actors in the international system must inevitably come to terms with the volatility in America’s external orientation induced by the turmoil in its domestic politics.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a considerable domestic political risk in changing India’s past positions and working with former U.S. president Barack Obama to produce the Paris accord. Modi will find it ironic that Trump pointed a finger at India as he announced his decision to walk out of the Paris agreement.
Shi ZhiqinResident scholar at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement does not mean that U.S. leadership in global affairs is coming to an end. On many global issues, U.S. leadership is not wavering. Besides, this is not the first time a U.S. president has overlooked climate change. George W. Bush wasn’t exactly forward looking on this issue when he was in office, having abandoned the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. Trump believes that complying with the Paris agreement will have an impact on all aspects of U.S. interests, especially economic interests. This also highlights Trump’s focus on the America First doctrine.
China remains committed to actively participating in efforts to combat climate change. In the past decades of reform and opening up, China has neglected protecting the environment while developing its economy. Therefore, Beijing is now more aggressive in safeguarding the environment than in the past, having made its stance clear by ratifying the Paris agreement.
While Beijing can only express regret at Trump’s action, China will forge ahead with its commitments and cooperate with Europe. In recent years, China has also been advocating enhanced corporation on global governance. Efforts in this area are not limited to a few major countries. The current reality requires active participation from all nations.
Dmitri TreninDirector of the Carnegie Moscow Center
The short answer is a clear no. The United States remains the global leader in a number of domains, from conventional military power to finance to advanced technology, and will hold that position for the foreseeable future. What is changing in U.S. foreign policy is the method of engagement with the rest of the world. The history of U.S. foreign policy has seen both periods of superactivism and times of consolidation. After former president George W. Bush took the United States to fight two wars in the Muslim world, his successor, Barack Obama, adopted a policy of retrenchment.
President Donald Trump’s view of the U.S. national interest is clearly different from the liberal orthodoxy. He is seeking to enhance U.S. influence in the world by leaning hard on both opponents and allies, rather than by consulting and cajoling them. This causes consternation and irritation among U.S. allies, used as they are to following U.S. leadership over the last three quarters of a century.
However, it is unlikely that these allies will form an opposition to Washington. Rather, as in the Bush years, they will opt for waiting out Trump while staying close to the domestic opposition to him. Since there is no one in the Western world ready or willing to step forward as a new leader, the notion of the death of U.S. leadership in the West is premature.
Tomáš ValášekDirector of Carnegie Europe
U.S. President Donald Trump did not just part ways with Europe on climate change; he also painted the continent as the source of America’s problems. That will reverberate far beyond climate change. In fact, given that 37 U.S. states with 80 percent of America’s population have adopted some form of renewable standards, the impact on the environment could be dwarfed by the collateral damage on U.S. standing in the world.
Expect anti-Americanism in Europe to bloom. I fear overreaction on the European side. The United States will find it far more difficult from now on to secure more troops for Afghanistan or more money for defense. That is bound to weaken both sides eventually. But grandstanding to the United States, even if self-defeating, will become politically too attractive for many to resist.
The task before European governments and institutions now is to distinguish between those issues—such as the deterrence of Russia—where U.S. assistance remains essential and those—such as climate change—where the United States has become a hindrance. European leaders will need to build alternative coalitions to advance issues in the latter basket, and take the risk with their own voters to seek transatlantic solutions to the former. This is going to be difficult.
Pierre VimontSenior fellow at Carnegie Europe
From the French viewpoint, yesterday’s wake-up call is welcome. It all boils down to a simple conclusion: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was right, and French President Emmanuel Macron, by being too confident in his ability to make U.S. President Donald Trump change his mind, was not. But the new young French president is a quick learner. He sees all too well now that Europeans cannot expect much serious or constructive leadership from the Trump administration.
That means Europe has no choice but to take its future into its own hands. Waiting for Washington’s decisions does not make much sense as long as Trump sticks to his domestic priorities. This new reality opens the door to deeper relationships with nations Europe was hesitant to engage too quickly, like China, India, or even Russia. And these enhanced partnerships will encompass a broad scope of areas from trade and investment to security, migration, and, naturally, climate change.
As Macron hinted in his statement yesterday, Trump’s move will also stir a new type of relationship with the United States, based on revived networking with representatives from across civil society. In the end, this could well be the best way of rekindling U.S. leadership.
Maha YahyaDirector of the Carnegie Middle East Center
U.S. President Donald Trump may have pulled out of the Paris climate deal under the pretext of protecting U.S. workers, but he has sold out the future prosperity of their children in the process. Perhaps CNN best captured the moment with the headline “Trump to planet: Drop dead.”
To Trump, the world is not a community of nations but a collection of colliding interests, and U.S. leadership is not an opportunity but a burden. In withdrawing from the pact, he not only displays complete irresponsibility for the world but is also ceding America’s economic advantages in clean energy. That undermines the United States’ geopolitical standing as a world leader and opens the door for China and others to step up to the role. Withdrawal from the deal has augmented the sense of global uncertainty and transformed the United States from a world leader into an unpredictable force of instability.
This action may be viewed as an invitation for other countries to follow suit. For Middle Eastern oil-rich countries whose economies depend on fossil fuels, withdrawal from a binding agreement to use cleaner and more costly technologies is welcome news. Trump’s move also places voluntary agendas such as the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals and their funding mechanisms at great risk.