When he threatens OPEC, Trump speaks to voters at home
US President Donald Trump is threatening OPEC members and, implicitly, Gulf countries with dire consequences if they do not work on reducing oil prices. Trump said a barrel of oil price is too high, like a merchant complaining about how the market’s mood is not suiting his business.
Yet oil prices are not falling and OPEC is not increasing production but is keeping supply levels steady in oil markets. Paradoxically, it’s going to be Trump’s speeches that open the door for further price hikes.
As the US president displays a severity and inflexibility that no other US president has shown, capitals around the world seem to be dealing with this man in Washington as though he were just a rambunctious chatterbox. The clatter of his invective is more reflective of petty domestic affairs and intended for internal consumption rather than related to conventions of international relations and of managing global resources.
During his election campaign for president, Trump had a merry go round with the Gulf, country by country. He rambled at length about his intentions to get his way with Kuwait’s resources, said he would go to Iraq and say “I want your oil” and dished out threats to this and that capital.
He promised Americans he would make Middle Eastern countries pay the same heavy price South-east Asian countries are paying for US protection. He attacked NATO, waving the possibility of withdrawing his country from the alliance. He showered EU members with criticism, ridicule and gratuitous provocations.
In his speeches on OPEC, Saudi Arabia or whatever other party that happened to be in his way, Trump has not actually been addressing those countries and entities, which clearly do not pay any attention to his noise. The target of Trump’s speeches is the American voter.
Trump is sowing the same seeds he planted during his 2016 presidential campaign in current electoral battlefields of the November midterm elections. His approach to harvesting votes is not based on appealing to voters versed in world affairs. He appeals to the imagination of voters who are sensitive to the images of the America defended by Superman, Rambo and company.
When Trump threatens OPEC, the clamour is meant for those who are listening in Chicago, Pennsylvania, Florida or Texas.
American journalist Justin Webb wrote in the Times of London that “the America that elected Trump still loves him. Well-heeled liberals must learn that the president did not win because he is nice or honest.”
If Trump was not elected because he was “nice or honest,” why should he change his style or character?
The US president goes from one pulpit to another using his talents in the service of the Republican Party ahead of the midterm elections.
In July, Trump accused Germany of becoming a “slave to Russia” and Germany observed a complete silence about the blunder. In Brussels, Trump gave a speech to NATO chastising NATO. The audience listened in sombre silence and then got up and left as if nothing had happened.
In sketches about Trump, he is often depicted deriding leaders of Mexico, Canada and North Korea or insulting South Korea, China and Japan. Only his buddy Russian President Vladimir Putin comes out unscathed because he’s Trump’s favourite. Their Helsinki meeting shall remain a mystery even to Washington’s agencies.
The Gulf countries do not have to get into an argument with America’s strongman. They know their region has always been part of US interests. So when Trump blesses the region with American protection, everybody knows that the United States is protecting what Washington has always considered vital to US strategic security.
Midterm elections in the United States will be over soon and Trump will cease his sales pitches and his vocal bargaining. He will return to the voters again when it’s time for the presidential elections. The entire world will be annoyed hearing his same old tunes and will abandon him to his futile exercises without honouring him with a debate or giving him the time of day.