Are we being Trumped?

President Donald Trump is certainly a controversial figure, to put it mildly. Possibly the most polarising American president in recorded history, he is as contentious outside of the United States borders as he is within.

It’s not surprising that non Americans would have a strong view on Trump. The United States is arguably the only superpower remaining in the modern world. Everything America does has an effect on other countries, whether those countries are allies or enemies.

The people of the Baltic States and Finland have always taken a keen interest in the relationship between their countries and the United States. America has long had a strategic interest in the region, going all the way back to the 1917 Finnish Declaration of Independence. (The United States was among the first country to recognise that declaration). The countries also have mutual interests in defence. The Baltic States are active members of NATO, while Finland actively cooperates with NATO through the Partnership for Peace and its membership of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.

But what does the election of Donald Trump mean for the people of those countries?

When you look closer however, the situation is a lot more worrying.

At first, it seems that nothing much has changed. Back in August, Trump and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland held a joint press conference. Trump made sure to say that “the U.S.-Finnish partnership is rooted in our shared interests and common values” and praised Finland as an ally.

When you look closer however, the situation is a lot more worrying.

As is so often the case in the region, much of this concern comes down to the policies and actions of Russia. The Baltic states in particular are very nervous of possible Russian activity in the future. And this is not a misplaced fear. In historical terms, the Baltic states have not been independent for very long. And this is what makes them vulnerable.

And Russia are not calming people’s nerves. With their annexation of Crimea and the clandestine war in Eastern Ukraine, it is clear that Russia’s aims in the region make them a potential threat.

Traditionally, Finland and the Baltic states have relied on their close relationship with NATO to protect them from these kinds of threats. But signs from Trump are not good on this. His relationship with Putin is unusually close and he has previously stated he won’t necessarily defend countries in the region from Russian aggression.

There is also a big question around his character and his approach to diplomacy. His method of dealing with North Korea has largely come down to bluster and threats. Tensions have been escalated like never before.

And there’s also the effect on internal politics to consider. It is a statement of fact to say that Trump’s ascendancy has emboldened the far right, both within the US and without.

Trump is no friend of the people.

So what are the people of the Baltic regions and Finland to do? It is clear that NATO is not any kind of guarantee of their freedom from Russian aggression. It is vital that other options are looked at. An obvious answer would be for the countries of the region to
set up their own more localised defence organisation between the countries involved.

While America might not approve, Trump has made it very clear that those who have placed all their faith in NATO are naïve at best. In essence, this would require taking Finland’s long standing policy of neutrality and extending it further, encouraging the relevant countries to work first and foremost with their neighbours.

Trump is no friend of the people. To ally yourselves to him too closely is a grave mistake. This is especially the case when you take future relations with the United States into consideration. Trump is incredibly unpopular at home. To be seen as ’Trump’s Men’ can only be negative when the Presidental chair is filled by someone else.

But what this illustrates most of all is the need for the people of Finland and the Baltic states to take responsibility for their own well-being and their own safety. Relying on another government, even one the size of the United States, has been shown conclusively to be no replacement for self determination.


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