By Leonardo Manzari
The continuous provocations of Mr Trump towards China, Iran and lately Turkey, are too much focused and punctual to be just the sign of an irresponsible behaviour of the “bad boy” of the White House.
Not by case, the US President is trying, on the other hand, to keep a sustainable relation with Russia (most probably successfully, assumed the “ideological” opposition of US public opinion towards it), notwithstanding the investigations about the role of the Russian intelligence’s actions during the elections of 2016.
In fact Russia is not a threat from the industrial point of view for the US, and trade sanctions against Russia appear to most Europeans, like just a NATO tool to keep the temptation of closer and closer economic co-operation, as distant as possible.
From the point of view of a nationalist and protectionist r from Obama’s presidency is letting him feel like locked in a trap. Especially if we look at the US trade balance.
The Chinese expansion, financed by a spectacular industrial growth and allowed by a proper governance at State level, has also been possible because of the weak and divided positions of many countries towards import of goods&services, quite often “non compliant” with local standards. With the subsequent trade surplus of China and its strong position on US Treasury Bonds and the US Public Debt.
In the Middle East, the signature of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, has only partially compensated a largely unsuccessful season of international relations in the Region, during Mrs Clinton’s office. And a marginal/indirect role of US in the Sirian War.
Mr Trump, who is feeling strong thanks to the economic growth, fostered by former President Obama’s policies, is well aware that now it is too late to re-negotiate such consolidated international positions and that the shortest way to recover (at least partially) from the “minus” of the trade balance is to focus on the Oil&Gas issue.
This means making everything possible to avoid that Russia, but especially Iran increase exploitation of their Oil&Gas production and relevant exports.
US production in fact, because of the hydraulic fracturing process of extraction, is competitive only starting from a unit price of US 40-50/barrel……
The financial difficulties created to Iran through sanctions are fostering internal dissense towards the regime, notwithstanding the efforts of Rouhani, to keep a fragile political equilibrium like a moderate position within international and multilateral organizations/sessions.
In the same way, for the Turkish economy, stressed by the prolonged need to finance “war operations” (printing money for financing war budget and relevant increase of inflation) like the welcoming of refugees, the loss of incomes arriving from tourism, import of inflation towards higher oil prices (Turkey is importing all needed oil and thus is re-focusing on coal and investing in its first nuclear power station, with Russian technology) etc., the increased customs tariffs on steel and aluminium exports towards US are particularly painful.
Mr Trump is indirectly stirring up the internal oppositions in Turkey and Iran, but is also aware that such large countries, with strong national identity would find very difficult to look for a “safe port” in Mr Putin’s Russian ally. At least for historical reasons and the rooted feeling of large part of their populations.
In practice he is gambling on the political and economic isolation of the two main “industrial platforms” of the region, putting them under financial pressure and forcing them to accept his unilateral conditions on the political agenda.
But, if Mr Erdogan – whose internal consensus is due to its excellent performance as Mayor of Istanbul and the fantastic economic performance of the country (especially the less developed regions of Anatolia) in the latest 15 years – is far from feeling alone, Mr Rouhani has only a fragile support of the EU, and has also to face the conservative positions of the “State-inside-State” Pasdaran (who strongly contributed to win the Syrian war against Isis).
Finally at this time, while Mr Trump’s action seems to be focused on creating an international chaos, where US may re-position its international role, economically and politically, the practical results seem to be:
-compacting, as never before, the leaderships of Russia with Turkey and Iran. Gathering Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia under the same political and economic umbrella is appearing as a weak way for US to counterbalance such a potential coalition;
-opening new financial markets to the Chinese superpower;
-and (!!!!!) producing an unprecedented official position of the EU in contrast with the US, as for the opportunity to keep and increase economic relations with Iran.
Therefore the final question is whether the US President has properly calculated:
-if this hard approach to quickly re-gain an international leadership is worth the risk of a much larger war in the Middle East;
-the costs of the loss of US international credibility for next decades (and the subsequent isolation?).