The US emerged from World War II as a superpower aiming to shape the globe in its own image. America’s alliance with European powers sought to prevent another catastrophic conflict by founding institutions dedicated to defending democracy, human rights and free markets across the world.
Even before assuming the presidency, Donald Trump was shaking confidence in these grand designs.
“It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities,” presidential candidate Trump crowed to his supporters a month before they voted him into office.
Since his election, Trump has followed through on his promise to distance the US from global pacts it helped forge. He’s withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change, ignored NAFTA and the World Trade Organization by launching trade wars on allies and even called into question the role of NATO.
US allies decry Trump as hammering at the braces of the Western alliance and emboldening Russia and China to lead aggressive military expansions.
Still, the President’s backers call his decisions good ‘America first’ policy.
As the United Nations embarks on its 73rd session, we asked several CNN journalists how they see world order under President Trump.
Nima Elbagir, senior international correspondent, London
America’s loss of the moral high ground and unwillingness to engage has resulted in a contagion of authoritarian overreach around the globe.
There is a sense that the once self-styled “world’s policeman” has neither the will nor the moral authority and we are living with the consequences of that.
Nic Robertson, international diplomatic editor, London
President Trump is an accelerant in the changing world order. Liberal Democracies are under pressure from their own electorates. Voters are uneasy with the growing gap between rich and poor, so populists like Trump are surfing the anger to power.
The trouble for Trump is he lacks experience in re-righting the imbalance. His moves threaten to throw world order even more off-kilter at America’s expense and its enemies gain.
Trump is making change happen faster, and that in itself is dangerous.
Paula Newton, international correspondent, Canada
In his 1989 essay, “The End of History?” Francis Fukuyama declared that liberal democracy and globalization had triumphed. Whatever the limitations of his daring prophecy, the financial crisis dawned in 2008 and gave us ‘the end of economics’. The theoretical bedrock of globalization crumbled.
The world order of 2018 is still reeling from the aftershocks. Citizens are yet to be convinced that liberalized trade is what’s best for their future. Global trade will be a testing ground if the multilateral world order is to ever prevail.
Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent, London
Across much of the Western world, we are seeing the liberal, democratic world order that evolved from the ashes of the great world wars being called into question. A growing chorus of populist voices is pushing for a more strident, authoritarian, tribal approach to governance.
President Trump is not the cause but certainly the most visible symptom of this shift. And there can be no question of the profound impact that his presidency has had so far. Relationships and alliances that were seen as ironclad, such as NATO, have been undermined. And movements that were once considered to be on the fringe, such as far right groups, have been emboldened.
Matt Rivers, international correspondent, Beijing
NATO has not broken up. The US still honors its defense treaty commitments in Asia. Russia and Iran remain adversaries, and trade tensions with China, while increasing, are nothing new. The UN is still funded, and the Security Council remains deadlocked on issues like Syria.
Donald Trump is the kind of leader who could wield outsized American influence to forever change the international world order. But he hasn’t done it yet. To prove fundamental change, you need fundamental proof.
Ivan Watson, senior international correspondent, Hong Kong
President Trump claims the US is a victim of the “world order,” a system initially created by the US out of the destruction of World War II. This is effectively a postmodern empire that has helped guarantee American dominance in trade, travel and warfare around the globe for 75 years. It is far from perfect or fair.
Part of what has made this world order function for US interests is that many states, ranging from Australia and Japan to Belgium and the UK, have voluntarily agreed to play by rules written and promoted by Washington.