Yesterday, as he announced the United States' withdrawal from the historic Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump appeared particularly eager to deride the perceived exploitation of America in past international negotiations.
"We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won't be."
No, Mr. President, no one is laughing today. Following Trump's stunning announcement to abandon the climate change accords, world leaders were virtually unanimous in criticizing the decision. Most spoke in the customary, measured tones of diplomacy. British Prime Minister Theresa May was "disappointed," while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the reversal "extremely regrettable." But newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron took another tack, concluding his remarks on the withdrawal with a call (in English) to "make our planet great again," a not-so-subtle parody of Donald Trump's campaign slogan.
Of course, American presidents are accustomed to mockery and cheeky contempt. Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, made headlines in 2006 when he called then-President George W. Bush "the Devil" during a UN speech. President Obama, too, attracted considerable, low-brow ridicule while in office, particularly from Russia. Yet America expects this sort of behavior from her enemies, not her friends.
The United States' allies have recently become bolder in their rejection of the current administration. In addition to Macron, Nordic leaders apparently trolled Trump during a photo opportunity earlier this week. This flippant form of diplomacy suggests that even as the world distances itself from Trump's America, it is somehow also behaving more like it.
But more importantly, the substance of these condemnations may signal a momentous shift in international politics. On Sunday, Angela Merkel called on Europe to "take our fate into our own hands" in one of the most pointed rebukes of the current U.S. administration. The Chancellor's words suggest a momentous turn for Europe and a new calculus for diplomats around the world. Simply put, no one is counting on the United States anymore. Italy, Germany, and France have already stated that they would not renegotiate the Paris Agreement per Donald Trump's request. The newfound determination may be encouraging, but a climate pact without Washington is no joke.
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