Diplomacy in the age of Trump

When dealing with foreign leaders, there is an established protocol. While I know there are times when discussion will get heated, and national interests are bound to conflict, common courtesy demands that you treat foreign dignitaries with a certain amount of respect.

The Washington Post posted a story that claims that on Sunday the 29th of January 2017, US President Donald Trump spoke vociferously to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, boasted of his election victory and inauguration crowd, was ignorant of the specifics of the plan to relocate refugees from Nauru and Manus Island and claimed that ‘this was the worst call by far’ of those he made to foreign leaders that day before ending the call early.

This isn’t the way to treat a foreign leader.

This was a private phone call so I do support Mr Turnbull’s decision to keep the exact contents of the call to himself. That said, I do believe that Mr Turnbull should be more open about where we as a nation stand with the US. Especially after this tweet.

This isn’t the way to treat a foreign leader.

This tweet came out mere hours after the Washington Post story, applying further pressure on Mr Turnbull to speak publicly about the phone call and whether the deal was still going to happen. Mr Turnbull says it will, but what else can he say? President Trump told him personally, confirmed to the public by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, that the deal was going forward. As far as we know, Mr Turnbull doesn’t have information to the contrary.

Mistreating foreign leaders is deplorable. Especially when it is a staunch ally like Australia. Australia has followed the US into numerous wars and conflicts since 1941, we allow them to conduct drone operations, spy on people and base troops on our soil. Australia is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance. Australia is not a lukewarm or fair weather ally of the United States.  We are willing to follow the US in seemingly every way.

This isn’t the way to treat a foreign leader.

And this isn’t Mr Trump’s first protocol gaffe with a foreign leader. Rumours abound over the phone call he had with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. In a call dated the 27th of January 2017, Mr Trump allegedly told President Nieto ‘You have a bunch of bad hombres down there’, that the US military is not scared of them and ‘I just might send them down to take care of it.’. This on top of the plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

This isn’t the way to treat a foreign leader.

Mr Trump won the election and has been sworn in as President of the United States, the so called leader of the free world. This gives him a lot of latitude in his dealings with internal and external actors. He has been bombastic in his dealings with the Democrats, Islam, and anyone else who he sees as holding back the United States. The manner of his victory in both the Republican primaries and the general election has reinforced the internal idea he has that he can continue to say and do what he wants, when he wants.

But this isn’t the way you treat foreign leaders. It just isn’t. Dislike them, want them destroyed or humbled or brought to heel, but please treat them with the respect that they have earned as the leader of their nation.