Fareed: Trump's flip-flopping bad for US

Fareed Zakaria says President Trump is creating a reputation for the US as erratic, unpredictable, unreliable and fundamentally hostile to the global order.

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 7:01 AM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 7:19 AM

Europe's political establishment will have all eyes Monday on the meeting in Washington DC between Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and US President Donald Trump.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron -- no big fans of the US administration -- are bound to hold their breath in fear that Italy might lend Trump a hand in further destabilizing the European Union, already torn by contrasts between member states and facing a deadlock in its integration process.

And they do have cause for concern. Conte is turning out to be Trump's main supporter and ally in Europe.

Trump will exploit his bilateral session with Conte to reaffirm the special bond with Italy in the eyes of Merkel and Macron, who have so far had a bumpy relationship with Trump. Likewise, Conte will be keen to show off to his EU partners the VIP welcome he will get at the White House, and cash in on it.

Though it is highly unlikely that Conte will openly call for lifting sanctions on Russia, he will show himself more supportive to ending them after the European Council approved a six-month extension in June.

Conte will be keen to reassure Trump behind closed doors that Italy backs the US strategy on the Russian front.

Rome's new populist government -- led by the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement and the Lega party -- is pushing for new ties with Russia. Lega leader and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini wants to convince EU partners to lift sanctions on Moscow by the end of this year and readmit Russia back into the exclusive G8 club.

Salvini considers European sanctions imposed on Russia after its annexation of Crimea as useless and counterproductive, having dealt a heavy blow to Russia-EU trade volumes and particularly to made-in-Italy exports. He actually defends Putin's incursion, arguing that the annexation referendum that took place in Crimea was legitimate.

Rome believes that Russia remains a strategic partner of the EU and NATO, and that Moscow plays a fundamental role in the resolution of international crises and in the global fight against terrorism. Italy thus seeks greater influence on the EU stage to build pro-Russia consensus, though it is aware of leading a one-nation crusade.

But the "special feeling" between Conte and Trump goes beyond specific goals. Trump, not very popular on the other side of the Atlantic, is aware that Italy's populists are his only friends in Europe and might be tempted to exploit Italy's role on the European stage to try to weaken the anti-US Paris-Berlin axis.

Italy, after all, is a founding member of the EU and the third largest economy in the eurozone, which makes it among the top stakeholders of the EU club alongside Germany and France. Italy has the power to halt the EU integration process and the approval of specific new directives.

Rome now looks up to Trump as a model in pursuing a radical break from the past, and is following in his footsteps. The populist government aims to review all free-trade agreements between Europe and other countries that jeopardize European products and jobs.

Back in 2016 Trump's election was hailed by Italy's populists as the "new wind of change" that could overhaul the Old Continent by triggering a revolution. Lega leader Salvini eyes both Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as allies in a potential future "triumvirate" against the Paris-Berlin squad.

It is no mystery that for the first time since the end of the Second World War the US does not want a strong Europe. Likewise, for the first time, Rome has a government that aims to dismantle all European treaties by taking a step backward, rather than forward, in the big European project, and it is constantly sending out mixed messages on a possible euro exit.

If Trump wants to be a thorn in the side of Paris and Berlin, he has found the right man. Conte could be willing to play that role for the benefit of Italy. He can exploit his "friendship" with Trump as a sort of "scarecrow" to put pressure on his strict European partners unwilling to change Europe's rusty mechanism.

It would be a win-win partnership for both Italy and the US.

Even if the Washington meeting turns out to be just theatrics of populist rhetoric, common intents and reciprocal praise, it is set to further irritate Germany and France and widen the rift between European allies at a delicate moment when Europe faces its deepest identity crisis.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
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Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
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Madison17492385
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Warrick10737178
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Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
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Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
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Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1390015

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1541781574
Cuyahoga1361632341
Hamilton989691326
Montgomery681371161
Summit569981051
Lucas51769869
Butler48139663
Stark42350983
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Fairfield20789223
Greene20667275
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Richland16749236
Portage16442231
Wood15973209
Allen14405261
Miami14063261
Muskingum12976155
Wayne12234244
Columbiana12046242
Tuscarawas11248271
Marion10935150
Pickaway10642129
Scioto10585127
Erie9888171
Ross9648177
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Ashtabula8509187
Geauga8272156
Belmont8262188
Jefferson7736175
Huron7566131
Union743951
Washington7396126
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Sandusky6984135
Darke6884137
Knox6839122
Seneca6533137
Ashland6078115
Auglaize596888
Shelby5845104
Brown578272
Mercer565890
Crawford5591117
Defiance5579101
Madison552171
Highland550982
Fulton543583
Clinton535781
Logan520587
Preble5123111
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Adams371575
Hardin367570
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Henry331869
Van Wert321471
Hocking312370
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Carroll267052
Paulding247443
Meigs223042
Monroe193149
Noble174442
Morgan170329
Harrison161741
Vinton141919
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