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.

Confirmed Cases: 50300

Reported Deaths: 2748
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11920692
Lake5432248
Elkhart347058
Allen2902133
St. Joseph205169
Hamilton1665101
Cass16449
Hendricks1446100
Johnson1325118
Porter80238
Tippecanoe7599
Clark68144
Vanderburgh6816
Madison67264
LaPorte60527
Howard59458
Bartholomew59345
Kosciusko5704
Marshall5308
Noble50128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4783
Boone47444
Delaware46952
Hancock46036
Shelby43525
Floyd40444
Morgan33631
Monroe32928
Grant30926
Dubois2976
Henry29717
Montgomery29720
Clinton2893
White26810
Decatur25532
Dearborn25423
Lawrence25225
Vigo2478
Warrick24329
Harrison21722
Greene19332
Miami1922
Jennings17912
Putnam1728
DeKalb1674
Scott1639
Wayne1536
Daviess15017
Perry1459
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1332
Franklin1278
Ripley1277
Wabash1152
Carroll1132
Gibson1132
Fayette1057
Whitley1045
Newton10010
Starke983
Huntington932
Randolph794
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington681
Knox670
Clay665
Pulaski661
Rush613
Posey550
Owen521
Benton510
Spencer501
Adams491
Sullivan471
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Tipton321
Switzerland300
Martin240
Parke230
Ohio220
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 62856

Reported Deaths: 3032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11433443
Cuyahoga8786393
Hamilton6563207
Lucas2889305
Marion274039
Montgomery237835
Summit2299209
Pickaway221641
Mahoning1907239
Butler176747
Columbiana135060
Stark1196114
Lorain109769
Trumbull103277
Warren94525
Clark79310
Delaware67515
Fairfield64317
Tuscarawas60110
Lake57022
Belmont56722
Medina56632
Licking56012
Miami50331
Portage48759
Wood47451
Clermont4537
Ashtabula44544
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3635
Allen34841
Greene3229
Mercer29510
Erie26722
Holmes2575
Darke25326
Huron2382
Madison2139
Ottawa16624
Sandusky15715
Washington14420
Coshocton1413
Ross1393
Crawford1385
Putnam13415
Hardin12312
Morrow1211
Athens1111
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1052
Muskingum961
Union931
Monroe8917
Hancock851
Lawrence820
Preble821
Hocking809
Clinton791
Guernsey793
Shelby744
Williams742
Logan681
Fulton660
Scioto650
Carroll643
Ashland632
Wyandot625
Brown601
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland491
Van Wert451
Perry411
Seneca402
Henry330
Paulding280
Jackson270
Pike270
Adams251
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble130
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan120
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
67° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Decatur
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Van Wert
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 68°
Breezy, Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events