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It has been a harrowing year for opponents of Donald Trump as the US president has sought to recast American politics, one tweet at a time. But spare a thought too for America’s allies. Countries that over the past seven decades or so came to rely on US protection and leadership are now finding that friendship only goes so far.
In an opinion piece Gideon Rachman looks in particular at Britain, Japan and Australia. All three are long-time allies of the US and pride themselves on their close relationships with Washington. Indeed, their leaders — Theresa May, Shinzo Abe and Malcolm Turnbull — were among the first to make contact with Mr Trump after his surprise election win last year.
Yet, they all have now run into trouble thanks to the US president. The UK prime minister has been embarrassed by the president’s retweeting of anti-Muslim videos from a far-right group in Britain. Her Japanese counterpart has seen the US withdraw turn its back on a regional trade alliance that was at the heart of Tokyo’s economic and security policies. And the Australian premier’s first call to the White House ended in a row.
The three countries have all chosen to grin and bear it, for now. Their options are limited and, besides, the president does not seem unduly concerned about the views of the UK, Japan and Australia. But, as Gideon, notes the long term damage could be considerable: “If those alliances are allowed to crumble, America’s global power would crumble with them.”
Brexit realism: In the past those campaigning for Britain to leave the EU were distinguished by their anger over any apparent concession to Brussels. Now, writes Janan Ganesh, the Brexiters are distinguished by their relative lack of anger as the government of Theresa May makes one concession after another to the EU over the terms of Britain’s departure from the bloc. The reason for this lies in the reality check delivered by the Brexit process.
Debt fears: Is China’s economy growing too fast for its — and the world’s — good? A large number of economists certainly seem to think so. In particular they worry about the levels of debt-to-gross domestic product. They should not, argues Chen Zhao, who says that such measures offer only a narrow snapshot of an economy and provides almost no information on a country’s ability to sustain its debt. In fact China is sitting on vast assets.
Body parts: If you thought that the concept of 3D printing of plastics was revolutionary, brace your self for “bioprinting”. Anjana Ahuja writes about the possibilities opened up by a new invention — functional living ink, or flink — which could include the ability to “print” organs.
Nuclear trust: The recent identification an unexpected concentration of nuclear-related material over Khazkhstan was worrying enough. The efforts by the local authorities to suppress the news even worse, writes Nick Butler. Secrecy is the enemy of trust, and no part of the energy system is more vulnerable to both secrecy and mistrust than nuclear.
Best of the rest
Ireland, the EU is playing you like a fiddle — Brendan O’Neill, Spectator
I'm a millennial who bucked the trend and bought my own house. Now I seriously regret it — Amy Lavelle, Independent
Artificial Intelligence Still Isn't a Game Changer — Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg
To Stop North Korea, Act Like Israel — Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, NY Times
Let the minority rule! — Rainer Hank, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German)
What you’ve been saying
Foreign policy failures cast deeper shadow over the chancellor— Letter from Istvan Dobozi, former world economist, World Bank
“Sir, your editorial, “ A grand coalition is not in Germany’s interest”, is right in suggesting that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership has been gravely weakened. However, among the various several political scenarios she is facing, the editorial left out an important one: resignation.”
“The goal of Republican fiscal policy since the 1980s has been to privatize and concentrate economic wealth while socializing the cost of military buildups and vastly expensive wars in the Greater Middle East. This is an imperial strategy right out of ancient Rome. It is hard not to believe that the eventual counter-reaction will be tidal.”
EU’s demographics help pull in African migrants— letter from Guy Wroble, Denver, CO, US
“Sir, Curiously absent from the EU’s concern about population growth in Africa “pushing” millions of Africans to migrate to the EU (“ Africa ‘Marshall Plan’ urged to cut migration”, November 28) is the “pull” caused by the EU’s own demographics. The number of children per woman in the EU is, on average, 1.9. This is below a population replacement level of 2.1. This means that, unless supported by immigration, the EU’s working population is destined to fall. This will have a significant impact on the EU’s economic prospects.”
The Big Read
The Big Read: Changing the rules: what comes after a Putin election victory? While the president is expected to be re-elected, the March vote is prompting a debate about his future.