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Roving Periscope: Worried, the West prepares for Trump’s return to WH!

Roving Periscope: Worried, the West prepares for Trump’s return to WH!

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: In the first indication ever that Donald Trump may, after all, return to the White House after the November 2024 presidential elections, the allies of the USA are now preparing to ‘meet the situation.’

Germany is waging a charm offensive inside the Republican Party. Japan is lining up its own Trump whisperer. Mexican government officials are talking to Camp Trump. And Australia is busy making laws to help Trump-proof its US defense ties, the media reported on Thursday.

Everywhere, US allies are taking steps to defend or advance their interests in the event former President Donald Trump returns to power in the November elections, an even chance based on recent opinion polls in swing states.

They want to avoid the cold slap that Trump’s “America First” policies dealt them last time around in 2020, which included trade wars, a shakeup of security alliances, an immigration crackdown, and the withdrawal from a global climate accord.

Some foreign leaders reportedly contacted Trump directly despite the risk of irking his election rival, Democratic President Joe Biden. Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Muhammed Bin Salman (MBS) recently phoned Trump, while Hungary’s PM and Poland’s President met him in person in recent weeks.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron also held talks with Trump this month at his Florida resort. He told reporters in Washington afterward that his meeting was a private dinner where they discussed Ukraine, the Israel-Gaza war, and the future of NATO.

The former US President discussed security issues with each of the European leaders, including a proposal by Polish President Andrzej Duda that NATO members spend at least 3 percent of gross domestic product on defense, as against 2 percent now.

Trump adviser Brian Hughes said: “Meetings and calls from world leaders reflect the recognition of what we already know here at home. Joe Biden is weak, and when Trump is sworn in as the 47th President of the United States, the world will be more secure and America will be more prosperous.”

Germany has been building bridges with Trump’s Republican base at a state level, reminding party officials that it invests heavily in US industry.

In Mexico, government officials have been meeting people close to Trump on issues including migration and the trafficking of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, into the United States, both issues where Mexico could face more U.S. pressure under another Trump administration.

Trump has said he would order the Pentagon “to make appropriate use of special forces” to attack cartel leadership and infrastructure, which would be unlikely to get the blessing of the Mexican government. Mexico holds its presidential election in June.

And in a sign of how much personal relationships matter under Trump, Mexico’s ruling party is considering alternative candidates to appoint as the next foreign minister depending on whether Trump or Biden looks most likely to win.

To bolster its diplomatic engagement with the Trump camp, Japan is preparing to deploy Sunao Takao, a Harvard-educated interpreter who helped former prime minister Shinzo Abe bond with Trump over games of golf. Another ex-prime minister of Japan, Taro Aso, met Trump in New York on Tuesday.

Britain’s Labour Party, now in opposition but a strong favorite to win elections expected by year-end, may have a steeper hill to climb to reach a good relationship with the Trump administration.

The Biden administration has agreed to help Australia take its first step toward developing a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines by selling Canberra three to five Virginia-class attack submarines. Australia, too, is trying to cozy up to Trump.

A low-key way for U.S. allies to influence Trump is via lobbyists, especially if they want to be discreet.

A former South Korean government official, now based in Washington, said the Biden administration was watching foreign governments closely and that Seoul preferred to understand Trump’s thinking via lobbying firms in a “stealthy manner.”

Some US allies are using lobbyists linked to Trump, including Ballard Partners, run by Brian Ballard, a Florida lobbyist who is sought out for his close links to Trump.

Ballard’s clients include Japan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the firm and U.S. disclosure filings. It declined to name others.

“Many members of our firm have been longtime allies of the former president,” said Justin Sayfie, a partner with Ballard.


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