'The world has watched in horror': Ex-Australian prime minister torches Trump's coronavirus response

'The world has watched in horror': Ex-Australian prime minister torches Trump's coronavirus response
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (right) meets with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (left) in the Pentagon on March 25, 2009. Under discussion is a range of security issues of mutual interest to both nations. Among those participating in the talks is Australian Ambassador to the United States Dennis Richardson (2nd from right). DoD photo by R. D. Ward.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd published an incisive piece in Foreign Affairs on Wednesday dissecting the international consequences of COVID-19 and the effects it will have on the globe's great power struggle between the United States and China.


He argued that, despite some expectations that China is weathering the crisis's domestic risks well, the Communist Party will certainly be damaged by the fallout at home. But he saved him most devastating and whithering critiques for the United States, the Trump administration, and Trump himself in particular. His remarks offer a useful glimpse into how the world perceives the American handling of the crisis.

Rudd deemed the Trump adminsitration's management of the crisis as "chaotic," saying that it "has left an indelible impression around the world of a country incapable of handling its own crises, let alone anybody else's." And it is cementing the internal divisions in the country, which he believes add "a further constraint on U.S. global leadership."

His remarks about Trump, in particular, are blistering:

The world has watched in horror as an American president acts not as the leader of the free world but as a quack apothecary recommending unproven “treatments.” It has seen what “America First” means in practice: don’t look to the United States for help in a genuine global crisis, because it can’t even look after itself. Once there was the United States of the Berlin airlift. Now there is the image of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crippled by the virus, reports of the administration trying to take exclusive control of a vaccine being developed in Germany, and federal intervention to stop the commercial sale of personal protective equipment to Canada. The world has been turned on its head.

If Trump is re-elected, he wrote, it "will mean greater decoupling and possibly attempted containment, driven by Trump’s base and widespread national anger over the origins of the virus, although this strategy will be rendered incoherent at times by the president’s personal interventions." China's leadership, he argued, would prefer this outcome because "it sees value in his tendency to fracture traditional alliances, to withdraw from multilateral leadership, and episodically to derail the United States’ China strategy."

And it's not just the coronavirus that has revealed these failings. Russ argued that the weakening of the United States' global position was happening before the pandemic:

Prior to the current crisis, the postwar liberal international order was already beginning to fragment. The United States’ military and economic power, the geopolitical fulcrum on which the order rested, was being challenged by China, first regionally and more recently, globally. The Trump administration was adding to the order’s problems by weakening the U.S. alliance structure (which in conventional strategic logic would have been central to maintaining a balance of power against Beijing) and systematically delegitimizing multilateral institutions (effectively creating a political and diplomatic vacuum for China to fill). The result has been an increasingly dysfunctional and chaotic world.

He warns that we're at serious of a new cold war. But to avoid it, the United States and China both need to change track and adopt a conciliatory posture to avoid an impending confrontation.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.