Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Up Jumped Spring!




Sunny Spring weather has me re-examining what direction to take with this forum, as I'm tired of all the gloom Donald Trump brings.  I can try to make light of it, as I often do, but that only marginally relieves the depressing feeling one gets from all things Trump.

For the most part, Europeans have shrugged off Trump.  I was in Sweden last week for a conference on acoustical materials, and the Donald hardly registered a blip in talk over the dinner table.  That seems to be the general mood over here, treating Trump as America's problem, as long as he doesn't go to war.  Talk of tariffs have come and gone.  It's not like there is any great demand for Harleys or even Levi's jeans these days.  Sweden's Husqvarna is the hot new bike, and it seems women are mostly into leggings these days.

It seems that Trump has accomplished his goal of isolating the US from the rest of the world.  Macron is one of the few European leaders that still seems keen to engage with Trump, hoping to open him up to a broader global view, while the others have pretty much decided to ride out the remainder of his term with the hope Americans will come to their senses in 2020.

Europe has its own problems with growing nationalism, especially in Eastern Europe.  Jean-Claude Juncker simply refers to Hungary's strongman, Viktor Orban, as the Dictator.  Things have gotten a little dicey in Poland and the Czech Republic as well.  Even here in Lithuania we are having to deal with a Parliament headed by the Farmers and Green Party that seems to want the country to return its agrarian roots, claiming they are "harvesting change."  Yet, all these countries seem to be leaning in the favor of Russia these days rather than the EU, which is very odd given their history.

Norwegian producers tried to imagine what it would be like if their country was occupied by Russia, but the show is much more subtle than its title implies.  There are worries Russia is infiltrating the political process with its dark money and clandestine web activities, but most countries feel relatively confident they can withstand the cyber threats of Russian operatives.  After all, France and the Netherlands both survived right wing putsches last year.  Germany suffered a little more damage but not enough to turn over the Parliament, as has been the case in Poland and Lithuania.

I suppose this has a lot to do with most Europeans, particularly Western Europeans, feeling relative security with their social safety net.  Eastern Europeans have much weaker social services, so they are easier targets for nationalists and EU skeptics.  Trump tried to stir the pot last year and again this year with his tweets, but they pretty much went for naught, making him look more a fool than anything else.

Europe has become resigned to the fact Britain is leaving the Union and no longer seems so deeply troubled buy it as they were last year.  There is no more talk of Scottish secession, as it to seems to have accepted Brexit as fait accompli.  Of course that means I will have to soon start paying customs on the products I buy through amazon.co.uk, which means I will probably have to start looking at France and Germany as my amazon outlets. 

It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Trump gets in Britain.  He continues to try to stir the pot when it comes to bitter feelings over the terms Theresa May is trying negotiate over Brexit, like sharing far-right websites, which earned him a rebuke from May and even Nigel Farage, who has been a big critic of May throughout the process.  Playing Mr. Brexit no longer carried much weight over here.  There was no wave of exits as previously imagined.  The EU has stood firm.

Maybe I should be less concerned with Trump myself?  It no longer seems that he is that relevant on a world stage.  The Paris Climate Agreement still exists.  The TPP still exists.  Britain will maintain a close relationship with the EU, not wanting to lose its largest trading partner.  Life goes on with or without Trump.  Hopefully, in less than three years time he will be out of office and we can restore a sense of normalcy in American politics again.  In the meantime, I will enjoy this great spring weather!


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