Should we care? With a new unpredictable American Administration, allies of the US are being tested. Where does New Zealand rank? Can we use that to our advantage?

Should we care? With a new unpredictable American Administration, allies of the US are being tested. Where does New Zealand rank? Can we use that to our advantage?

US politics are in turmoil with the election of a new President who is capricious and unpredictable.

Who is a US friend or foe depends on his mood on the day, as the Australian prime minister found out this week.

Or perhaps it depends on the weird world view of his special counsel Steven Brannon, a Svengali-type character who has key first-touch influence over the President.

Who knows.

But the US system is one of checks and balances. The courts, and the Congress share power with the President. Real power.

That system is valuable in times like this when an unstable situation exists in the White House.

The public trashing of the Australians has shaken many people in Canberra, and Washington. It will have been a concern in Wellington as well.

So where do we now stand on the 'friendship scale' with the United States? We won't be important to them; we probably never were, but our influence there might rise if their usual allies start dropping away.

Members of Congress of both parties will help shape the new relationship, but now Republicans have the upper hand.

A recent YouGov poll might help us understand where we stand in the pecking order.

Surprisingly, we were quite high. We were 8th in their informal ranking of allies in 2014. Democrats controlled the White House, and they ranked us 13th.

Now an unstable Republican controls the White House and drives their foreign policy and trade policy directions.

In 2017, we still rank 8th overall, but the Republicans rate us the 8th most important ally.

That is 5 places better than the Democrats gave us - even though they have downgraded us since 2014, when they ranked us 5th most important.

But we haven't been tested yet by Trump and his odd bunch of policy advisers. Their positions have yet to settle down.

Being as high as 8th means we have a lot to lose.

It is a different question about whether we should care about what they think. We have made a diplomatic career out of being independent. Apparently that has given us bipartisan respect on both sides of the isle in Congress.

In a test, that could change fast. But it may well work to our advantage.

But the US will always be important to New Zealand.

Trump has dumped the TPP, and signaled he wants a new bilateral trade arrangement. With allies falling away, or growing frustrated or sceptical fast, maybe we are not in as weak a position as we think.

Remember our trade relationship is a long distance one. From an American view-point, we are a 'suburb' of Australia, who are a 'province' of China, who is the real supplier to the American middle class which drives the world economy.

So, ranking high in their thinking as a 'friend' is something our diplomats and trade negotiators can work with.

Below, is a ranking of the survey responses for all places American respondents were asked to rate in terms of 'important allies'.

  In 2017   In 2014
  Everyone Democrats Republicans   Everyone Democrats Republicans
  Rank Rank Rank   Rank Rank Rank
Canada 1st 2nd 2nd   2nd 2nd 3rd
Britain 2nd 1st 3rd   1st 1st 1st
Australia 3rd 4th 1st   3rd 3rd 4th
France 4th 3rd 9th   20th 5th 28th
Ireland 5th 9th 6th   11th 10th 13th
Italy 6th 5th 4th   23rd 12th 24th
Germany 7th 8th 12th   7th 8th 17th
New Zealand 8th 10th 8th   8th 13th 5th
Sweden 9th 6th 10th   4th 7th 7th
Norway 10th 11th 13th   13th 17th 6th
Switzerland 11th 7th 7th   14th 4th 20th
Netherlands 12th 12th 14th   16th 14th 12th
Denmark 13th 16th 11th   5th 6th 8th
Finland 14th 18th 16th   15th 18th 15th
Spain 15th 14th 15th   19th 9th 26th
Israel 16th 28th 5th   6th 20th 2nd

Australia might be who Republicans currently think of as their #1 ally, but their President shows alarming disrepect for that view.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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"Nimble and independent" I think it might have worked for the tiny mammals during the age of the dinosaurs

New Zealand should not show weakness or uncertainty, we should be secure and confident in who we are. Bullies have a 6th sense for detecting insecurities and exploiting them. The US under Trump is going into bully mode -this is not good for us or them or the world. Hopefully we can ride it out.

Heather du Plessis-Allan writes a good article explaining we should be careful because Trump is not a fool. To think he is may be comforting but the reality is much more disturbing.

I must admit i was surprised that his immigration bill affected 100k people in the first few weeks. Thats a red rag to many in the USA who fear they will be taken over by a Muslim invasion and have their values destroyed.
Immigration is forcing many in the west to vote on a single issue ,something in the past perhaps only the greens did on any scale.
I see it in my friends here, mostly right wing people changing there voting pattern because they have become anti immigration and considering Winston if no one else turns up.

So what's new? The US has a new bully for President. I guess what's new is that the new guy doesn't pretend otherwise; whereas the last two were appalling bullies and murderers pretending to be nice guys.

The highest accolade any country can have from the US is membership of the Five Eyes intelligence network. Security issues come first.

In non- pc terms - does that mean we are engaged in cyber warfare, and if so - against whom and for what purpose?

I think it means that we do well to toady up to whoever carries the biggest stick.

We don't know but we can guess. Likely spying, interception, counter intelligence, cyber warfare, datacentres with a lot of sensitive information. It's also likely we are processing a lot of data to analysis intelligence. Let's not forget that the SAS is deployed and their activities aren't being reported by our media. There may be other military units deployed for specialist purposes.

Our military alliance with the US is close and active. Who knows what the purpose is and when it comes to intelligence operations it's best not to tip your enemy off as to what you know.

Who is the enemy? Europe feels existentially threatened on all fronts.

The European presidents and prime ministers were scheduled to deal with migration from North Africa as a threat to the bloc's stability.

But instead, their summit was dominated by the issue of US President Donald Trump and the shared perception that the new occupant of the White House poses an urgent challenge to the EU. Read more


Israel has dropped precipitously in the ranking list , over the last 3 years ...

... and that does surprise me , because I thought Donald Trump would be consulting them on how to abuse your neighbours , and then to construct an ugly great concrete wall to keep them out ... on that , the Israelis are leading the world ...


Curious isn't it how people who were so shockingly treated in WW2, can, a few years later go on and treat the Palestinians in a very similar manner with excuses that are about as spurious.

To understand that shift, you need to look at the demographic change. Original Israel had a migrant surge from Western Europe and North America. They set a tone of vigilance but tolerance (Arab members still make up a significant block in their Parliament).

But they also allowed all Jewish people to migrate in. Seemed reasonable in the circumstance. But that has seen intolerant Eastern European attitudes arrive in very large numbers. Those attitudes are now the power base of Bibby. It mirrows and preceded the influence of the combination of the social regressives + the lower-educated working class that is dominating Western democratic discourse these days.

The original creators of Israel are probably as equally shocked as you.

One has to review the history of the state of Israel in order to understand its current actions. In 1948, the newly created state (created under the 1947 UN-adopted plan) had to deal with an invasion by the Arabs on the very next day after the declaration of Israel’s formation! The state of Palestine was never formed, instead they attacked Israel immediately and have done so many times since then. Heck, even to-date Iran, Hamas and the likes do not recognize Israel’s right to exist! So, what do you do when you are surrounded by deadly enemies whose only intention is to “drive the Jews into the sea”? – You fight for your existence and augment your territory as much as you can to make it better defendable and push your enemies as farther as possible...
The Israeli – Arab conflict is not as simple as some might think.

That is absolutely right, the Jewish immigrants (between the mid 1920's and mid 1940's) peacefully co-occupied the land. Of course Palestine also had a significant indigenous Jewish population that had lived there right back to the time when Judaism was born. They also cohabited very peacefully.
Perhaps it would be useful for us all to see the historical background.

The problem really started back in the early- 1915-1917 with a bunch of manoeuvres born out of Britain

1 1915 McMahon - Hussein correspondence in which Britain was proposing a group of pan Arabian states under the leadership of King Hussein and his sons if they revolted and ousted the Otterman empire

2 1916 Sykes - Picot agreement in which Britain promised France a Zone of influence stretching from Syria to Northern Iraq

3 1917 The Balfour declaration contained in his correspondence to Lord Rothschild, in which he promised that the British government would do it's best to "... establish in Palestine a national home for the Jewish people..."

Moving forward to 1921 Churchill tried to give effect to this plan at a meeting in Cairo and largely succeeded.
However he was not successful in gaining the agreement of the Palestinians (not surprising really) The written submissions of the Palestinians contained some rather unpleasant descriptions of the Jews and their behaviour, that the Balfour declaration should be torn up and that the Jews should hop it. So never did they agree to be occupied. However that was barely relevant because Hussein and his mates did not like the Palestinians and suspected that they were sympathetic to the Otterman Empire. So Britain ruled Palestine and gave effect to the Balfour Declaration.
As you say things went bad in the 40's and 50's when Jews flooded into Palestine from a war torn world. They revolted and threw out the British, then set off down the path of moving the Palestinians off their land and all the violence and inhumanity that accompanied it.
Viewed in this light pretty much all the Palestinian resistance is no more than what would be expected from a nation that has been occupied by a hostile force that it never agreed to. No other nation would be any different, UK, USA, China, Russia ..... How would we respond?

Indeed it is very heartening to see that many Jews are appalled by what Israel are doing. One only has to reflect on the fact that both the foreign minister and prime minister at the time when our government promoted the UN resolution condemning Israel's behaviour, are both Jewish. For this they are both very brave and should be very proud.

Jewish history and their ownership of Jerusalem goes back at least 3000 years.
The Jews have had occupiers in their land from the Babylonian, Persian, Roman empires etc through history.
The Arab claim on Israeli land and Jerusalem only appears from 600-1000 AD.
Since Israels reestablishment in 1948 they have been attacked several times by their neighbouring countries, many of whom have their mission statement to destroy the Jews and push Israel into the sea.
1948 War of Independence
1956 Sinai War
1967 Six Day War
1973 Yom Kippur War
Israel is the nation that was attacked first in these wars. However they won against each attack.
They are the only successful democracy in the entire Middle East.
The so-called Palestinians belong in Jordan and other countries, and are being used as refugee proxies by their Arab sponsors who deny them citizenship.
Most Arabs get a better deal and living in Israel than any Arab country.
However, the world sentiment is turning against Israel, and it is likely they will be on their own shortly.
The entire terrorism problem worldwide really is centred on anti-semitism and of course anti-Israeli sentiment.
The West is a target of the current terrorism due to its perceived support of Israel.
I wonder how NZ would organise itself with 12 or more hostile nation enemies all along our borders?

"attacked first" you might wasnt to check your facts re the 6 Day War.??

Perhaps you should. Syria was shelling Israel well before Israel destroyed the Egyptian airforce on the ground, while several Arab countries were amassing troops and hardware to, in their own words, "to wipe Israel off the map".
Israel was effectively defending its right to exist.

Many in Britain never forgave them for this:

and the USA was very pro Arab during the Reagan years with Weinberger and Rumsfeld very anti Israel. Using Ex-Im loans to fund pipelines in Iraq and a large chemical plant capable of producing nerve gas.

The King David Hotel bombing had a very big impact on my father's generation, he said he never really trusted Jewish people after that. It was seen as a massive betrayal by those who had fought in WW2, particularly the officer class. I only knew about it as my Aunt was a sister at the hospital. It seems to have been rather airbrushed from history.

It carried on into many British government institutions. Balfour made promises to the Jews he never really intended to keep

It also another example of immigration gone wrong. Northern Ireland being another one.

East Europeans may be part of the problem D.C. but only part. Much of the settlement programme with it's pernicious intent is driven by USA nutcase fundmentalist jewish religious groups and the vast amounts of money they pump in. (acknowledging most Jews are not of that description.)

We should continue to play a straight ball with everyone, without trying to overly curry favour with anyone. Being over friendly or dependant with the flavour of the month can be dangerous, particularly with bullies like the USA and Chinese regimes. Bullies only like sycophants who they can exploit, things can change quickly, Bullies can throw their toys out of the the cot at any time and suddenly you can loose all the security and trade that you thought that you had. Best to spread our interests as widely as possible.

“US politics are in turmoil with the election of a new President who is capricious and unpredictable”.

I do get surprised when people call Trump “unpredictable”. – Unlike many (most?) politicians who quickly drop their pre-election promises as soon as they get elected, Trump has been consistently acting exactly as he promised during his campaign, be it the Mexican wall, or Islamic terrorists, or Obamacare, or any other of his main ambitions that his proponents voted him for.

“Who is a US friend or foe depends on his mood on the day, as the Australian prime minister found out this week”

Disagree again. Trump has taken (as he promised) a no-nonsense approach when it comes to considering any international “deals”. The illegal would-be immigrants currently imprisoned by Australia are yet another example: why should Trump (the US) want to take them?!

“So where do we now stand on the 'friendship scale' with the United States?”

What a naive question! What "friendship"? – There’s no friendship when it comes to international politics, there’s just interests (economical, financial, geopolitical, etc.) that every country has and pursues, and interests pursued by any two countries may or may not be the same in any given situation and at any given point in time. Some people might consider such a viewpoint as too direct and “cynical”, but it’s the truth, and Trump happens to prefer to dump the political correctness and the falseness and hypocrisy that come with it, and calls things what they are. He’ll do “deals” with NZ (and any other country, for that matter) if he can clearly see what’s in it for the country that he represents.

You give Trump more credit than he deserves, "dumping political correctness, falseness and hypocrisy and calling things as they are, as you state above, is not what I see happening in the US. There is an a relentless twitter storm of false facts from him, every night, from the size of his inauguration crowd to the shortcomings of whoever has annoyed him. The hypocrisy is owned by apologists (admirers) like you who think this crap a good thing in a leader of a sovereign state.
You say he has a no nonsense approach to doing deals, yes that is true. But lets break that down a bit more. He has been involved in Real Estate for a few decades in New York and elsewhere, on the Eastern seaboard. New Yorkers hate him to the point that an overwhelming majority (87%) did not vote for him in 2016. Simply because most New Yorkers know someone directly or indirectly who was screwed over by Trump financially in business deals supplying one of his companies over the years.
Trump is a "malignant narcissist" which means he can only get the pleasure of a job "well done" by either subjugation, causing visible pain or suffering or destruction of his opponents, competitors or employees. A "win-win" deal making strategy does not exist in his conceptual framework, any more than expecting a tiger could became a vegetarian. It has to be "win-lose" that is: Trump wins, (x) loses; x will be Muslims, Democrats, scientists, women, Mexicans, Chinese, and other non Americans for the moment. But no one and no group is excluded as soon as the narcissistic supply is no longer provided to him. You saw an example of this with Turnbull and the Aussies (the strongest US allies since the 1940's). Just wait and see how Trump responds to what is likely to be said by Pope Francis over the next few weeks for another example.
So the question I have is: what possible good can come, for the US (and other countries) having a President like Trump in the White House, knowing what we know as to how he runs his business ventures -stiffing his suppliers, using bankruptcy to avoid paying anyone then not paying taxes?
Or alternatively, knowing of his poor moral character; would you want him as a spouse? as your employer? or as your business partner? You would have to have rocks in your head to even consider any business deal with one of his companies.
You have a dangerously cynical review of what international politics should be, I would suggest throwing away the Ayn Rand books.

Sadly, all of that will fall on deaf ears, blind eyes, as blatantly obvious as it is.

"So the question I have is: what possible good can come, for the US (and other countries) having a President like Trump in the White House"

Some good is already coming from Trump.
1) For the first time in a very long time, the opposition are now actually standing up for something.
2) People have become engaged in Politics. Maybe next time they will vote based on careful consideration of policies, rather than sit there and let the status Quo continue.
3) He has shown that a politician can do what he said he would (It may not be right, moral, or even ok. But he is doing what he said)
4) Previous policies that have been untouchable, are now being discussed. Case in point Immigration.
5) Journalism is now being questioned.
6) facts are being checked
7) the people are being listened too, and yes they are getting power back. They are finally rallying, co-operating, and discussing.
8) the US may finally look at their 300 year old voting system, and come up with something a bit more representational of the United populace, rather than the individual states.
9) Other countries can learn the lessons above, without needing to vote in some extremist narcissist.
10) Russia and USA seem to be co-operating. Historically that is a good thing for the human race.

Sometimes you need short term pain for long term gain. Trump seems to be fulfilling that need in society.

Unbelievable that Mexico does not rank. But perhaps not surprising given the absence of any push back against Trump's wrong-headed aggression.

First rule of geopolitics: make sure you are on good terms with your neighbours. Encourage their development. And certainly don't do your best to hasten their decline into a failed state.

Don't overate Trumps phone call with Turnbull. So he said it's a 'dumb deal'. Well it is a dumb deal for the USA and exactly contrary to what what Trump stands for, what he said it stands for, and what americans voted for when they elected him.
Nothing unpredictable about this and certainly not capricious.

Trump's call with Turnbull shows how little, if any, diplomatic skills and sense of appropriate timing Turnbull has. Trump ordered a temporary stop on all refugees and many Muslim countries passport holders, even for those with a valid visa. How smart is it then to ask Trump - a couple of days after that order - to accept hundreds and hundreds of illegals currently imprisoned in Australia?! - Not smart at all, rather dumb I'd say.

Those illegals, are not imprisoned in Australia

They are currently "resident" (for want of a better word) on Manus Island (PNG) and Nauru

I use the word "resident" because they are free to return to their country of origin if they so choose. They will never be settled in Australia

I accept your correction, TO.
My point (about Turnbull's diplomatic dexterity level) still stands.
By the way, NZ's initiative / role with the UN resolution 2334 (last year) is another example of a dumb diplomatic miscalculation.

Oh, come on, KH

We should be careful what fights if any we wish to pick with Mr Trump, especially based on a supposed moral high ground. Immigration is not an area we should want to have "open doors" beyond what reasonably works for us. I'm sure we are happy to take low single digit thousands of "refugees", but that is relatively token given the scale of economic refugees there are and will be in the world. Meanwhile the Sunni Islamic leadership, perpetrated out of Saudi Arabia in particular, does have a shocking record of war mongering and terrorism over the last 50 years. And yet it has not been clear that the Wahabbist/Salafist leaders have disowned or advocated against this culture of brutal killing. So although Trump's travel ban has been poorly implemented and explained, there is a case that the west, led by the US, should make a much stronger statement to those Sunni leaders that they either need to clearly dissociate from endless brutality and violence, or they will not be all that welcome at the world table. Trump, in an admittedly clumsy way, is making that statement.
It's an aside but it seems to me the Shia Muslims have initiated far less of the terrorism or wars in the region, although they respond aggressively if challenged. Quite why the US is silent on Saudi, but goes after Iran, remains unclear to me. I suspect the Israelis are calling those shots somehow.

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