Trump’s meeting with the North Korean dictator Kim (little rocket man) Jong-un is interesting and instructive.
Both benefit from considerable mileage acquired from their respective domestic audiences; Kim, because he legitimises and strengthens his position amongst the Pyongyang nomenklatura, and Trump gains traction from diverting the media away from pressing matters at home, if only in the short term. Of the two men alluded to, Trump is the real spanner in the works. Ignorant, foolhardy and in thrall to his own hubris, he represents a real danger to the democratic consensus. I would think that many allied leaders shudder at the thought of another American “leader” like him in the future, if we have one.
However, it is moot as to whether there are, truly, that many positives to be gained from this. Seasoned political commentators are already offering opinions that suggest longer-term zero-sum outcomes. For a number of experts, China is the main beneficiary; Trump’s decision to “suspend” joint US-South Korean military exercises caught Seoul off guard, as did his announcement that all American troops in the South will be repatriated at some point, whenever that means. Moreover, there also dark mutterings inside the Washington beltway of a steady erosion of US hegemony, a steady state of affairs that has endured since the end of World War II.
This is by no means guaranteed, however; as Paul Kennedy predicted in his meaty tome “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”, the US would be eclipsed by Japan before the end of the 20th century.
This clearly did not happen and may not for some time relevant to China, but we now note that conditions have radically changed since the end of a relatively short unipolar world.
Apart from China, the other principal beneficiary is Vladimir Putin. Busy fostering closer ties with Beijing, Russia’s insidious undermining of the Western alliance in Europe and westwards is by now well documented, and ongoing since the far-right victories in Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and arguably gaining momentum in currently the biggest Eastern European prize of all, Poland.
It is therefore entirely logical that Russia’s influence will extend towards Asia, as it has already in the Middle East as well.
In that context it should be obvious that the Kremlin is intent on regaining great power status, after the humiliating defeat in the Cold War. As the old Chinese curse would put it, “may you live in interesting times”.