Mexico is the latest target, slapped with 5 percent tariffs on each and every export, gradually increasing to 25 percent until it stops the flow of Latin American migrants into the US, thus fulfilling one of President Donald Trump’s election promises. Most of those migrants aren’t even from Mexico.
On the other side of the world, India is reportedly about to be forced to face a choice: ditch the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems or face sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA, Washington’s go-to cooperation enforcement instrument).
Turkey is facing a similar ultimatum: abandon S-400s (something Ankara has repeatedly refused to do) or lose access to the F-35 fighter jet program. This threat was repeated on Thursday by Kathryn Wheelbarger, US acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Ankara has already invested some $1.25 billion into the super-expensive American fighter, but with a lot of its parts being made in Turkey, it’s still an open question who would be the bigger loser.
The entire European Union (28 member-states) could be facing punishment if it tries to trade with Iran using its non-dollar humanitarian mechanism to bypass the American embargo. Having worked hard on the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which has repeatedly been confirmed to be working, EU member states are not ready to ditch trade at Trump’s whim – and US Special Representative to Iran Brian Hook on Thursday reaffirmed the threat of CAATSA sanctions.
Cuba, the rediscovered scapegoat of the Trump administration’s newfound anti-socialist drive, is being called out for supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. On his Thursday visit to Canada, US Vice President Mike Pence said Ottawa must stop Havana’s “malign influence” on Caracas’ affairs – despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s meek objections that it could play a “positive role” in settling the crisis there.
That’s 32 countries bullied, threatened or sanctioned in one day (counting the 28 EU members). Years’ worth of gunboat diplomacy, packed into a busy few hours in Trump’s signature “my way or the highway” style.
Mentioning Iran (which was “almost certainly” behind a recent inept attack on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf), China (which dares to buy Iranian oil), Russia (which has “probably” restarted low-yield nuclear tests) and Venezuela (where the ouster of its elected president is the only result of long-awaited talks with the opposition that Washington will accept) – is almost an afterthought. There’s hardly a week passing without the Trump administration churning out half-a-dozen accusations and threats against one or all of those – and this week, the gears were grinding as hard as ever.
Here’s a visual aid: every nation the US has threatened this week, colored in on a map.
American influence, built up over decades, is undeniable: even its adversaries depend on the US dollar and are arguably at the mercy of its myriad military bases all over the globe. Trump and his hawkish inner circle have been more than willing to spend that credit by shouting at everyone to get in line.
In the worst-case scenario, he is dragging the world into devastating wars. In the best case, he is throwing that influence away, showing allies and rivals alike that an ugly divorce could be the only way out of this abusive relationship.