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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 5:48 AM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 6:19 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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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