US President Donald Trump won the election last year by capitalising on the feeling of nationalism. His "Make America Great Again" slogan was seen as a move towards protectionism whereby the US would give up its adventures abroad and focus more on the domestic betterment.
In an age when a lot of countries are preferring the 'nation first' approach, Trump's views didn't seem illogical. After suffering from the fallouts of military misadventures abroad, America's retreating tendencies were understandable and Trump made full use of that to gain people's faith.
But what the president, perhaps the most controversial in the history of the US, did on Thursday, August 10, has shattered the self-esteem the Americans thought they were regaining under his leadership.
In a bizarre move, Trump thanked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for ousting 755 diplomatic officials from the US Embassy in Moscow as retaliation against the US Congress's imposition of sanctions on it as a penalty for Russia's alleged interference in the US polls last year.
Though other American leaders condemned the act, the chief executive said it helped his country by reducing its expenses to run the machinery of diplomats in Russia. "We'll save a lot of money," Trump said.
Even if Trump had joked, the joke hurts America's image
We don't really know if the US president was joking but even if he was joking, such joke did his country's self-respect tremendous harm.
Trump's actions to make a difference from the unwritten laws of statecraft could leave the US badly bruised in years to come. The US president perhaps made the remark to avenge his 'loss' to the Congress which recently passed the sanctions on Russia with an overwhelming majority. Trump did not like the development and signed the sanctions with hesitation. He perhaps also made the statement to win back the trust of the Russians who said after the imposition of the sanctions that hopes for good relations between the two countries were lost.
Trump is more a businessman than a statesman and might find commercial interests more significant to serve when it comes to Russia [we must not forget the close links his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has with Putin] but he is dangerously forgetting the fact that he is the highest political leader of the most powerful country on this planet. He has to abide by certain rules even if thinks otherwise personally.
Trump's own detente?
Trump, who had once defended the Kremlin asking whether the US itself was "so innocent", let his own country down by his latest remark. Towards the end of the Cold War, the US and the former USSR had initiated a process of detente to cool down things. Trump's action is a sort of personal detente which cared little for America's own interests.
Trump's bizarre act does US interests no favour
By thanking Putin, Trump not only alienated his own administration but also gave approval to Russia's efforts to undermine his own idea of ushering in an era of good relation with Moscow. The cutting down of the diplomatic staff by such a large number will give a body blow to the American diplomatic mission in Russia which is a significant tool in serving Washington's national interests on the rival's soil.
Trump's "fire and fury" remark against North Korea earlier this week had earned him a lot of applause from his administration as many felt it was Trump's reiteration of America's "hyperpower". With a day or two, Trump's new statement punctured the balloon of that hyperpower, leaving his officials demoralised.
For the current day America, Trump is an embarrassment. Nobody knows what he knows and his ignorance exposes the country to more shame and danger.
Can America be great again this way?