Trump, Turkiye and the trouble ahead

19 May 2023

Commentary
Edmund O'Sullivan
Former editor of MEED

Divisions buried during the Covid crisis have exploded since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and are helping remake a global order once seen to be permanently settled.

Inevitably, events in the US are pivotal. 

Despite turning 81 in six months, President Joe Biden declared at the end of April that he will run for re-election in 2024. Despite being found liable by a New York jury for sexual assault in May, Donald Trump, 77 in June, is tipped to be Biden’s opponent. 

And because of what happened in 2016, no one can be confident Trump won’t win again.

International affairs are rarely critical in US elections, but next year could be different. Trump is promising he will end the war in Ukraine and remake America’s foreign policy establishment. That prospect means there will be trouble ahead for everyone.

The stakes are rising with the passage of time, and so are the risks

Forecasts that Russia would be crippled economically and isolated internationally have been shown to be misplaced. In March, Saudi Arabia announced it planned to normalise relations with Iran, one of Russia’s supporters. In May, Syria – another Pariah in Washington – was readmitted into the Arab League. 

Brazil has rebuffed calls for it to aid Ukraine. China is trading with Russia and seeking to reduce its use of the dollar in its foreign trade. 

In Turkiye, Recep Erdogan is forecast to win the second-round run-off in the country’s presidential elections. This will dash hopes of a pliable leader in Ankara willing to comply with Washington’s wishes.

Unpredictable outcomes

The erosion of US economic dominance and rise of multipolarity seem unstoppable.

The immediate issue is events in Ukraine, where advanced weaponry supplied by Nato has been deployed, though it may not be decisive. 

The battle that will really matter this summer is taking place in the US. 

Most Americans think Biden is too old to stand again. Even Democrat voters are sceptical that Kamala Harris, his vice president, would improve their chances in 2024 if she should replace him. 

There isn’t another Democrat candidate who can match, let alone counter, Trump’s abiding popular appeal – though a conviction or ill health could prevent him running again.

It is too soon for anyone to be confident about what America’s leadership will look like in less than two years. The stakes are rising with the passage of time, and so are the risks.

Most Middle East nations are hedging their bets. They are anticipating – and who among us can be sure that they are wrong? – that neither Washington nor Moscow look like long-term winners, no matter who gets the most votes in next year’s race for the White House. 


Connect with Edmund O’Sullivan on Twitter

More from Edmund O’Sullivan:

A century of errors for the Middle East
The pros and cons of the biometrics boom
Learn from history or be doomed to repeat it
In memory of Abdullah Jonathan Wallace
Energy challenges cloud 2023 outlook
Wobbling technology teaches digital caution
Gulf stands to benefit from global turmoil
Europe’s plans will change world energy
Geopolitics takes over oil agenda


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Edmund O’Sullivan
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