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Dangerous territory

Revelations during the ongoing impeachment hearings against US President Donald Trump highlight how unreliable—and unpredictable—American foreign policy has become in an era in which rightwing populism throws out logic and facts in favor of fringe conspiracy theories and meaningless slogans.

What we are learning in the hearings goes beyond Mr. Trump’s misadventures in the Ukraine, where he pressured a foreign ally to dig up dirt on his political rival. It casts doubt, as well, on the nature of the US relationship with other countries, including the Philippines.

So far, professional, career diplomats in the service of the US State Department have testified how Mr. Trump’s agents—including his personal lawyer—conspired to pressure the newly elected Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on his political rival, Vice President Joe Biden. The lever that Mr. Trump used was the withholding of US military assistance to the Ukrainians, who needed it to fight off a Russian invasion.

Mr. Trump’s efforts also included besmirching the reputation of a career US ambassador, whose service to her country has spanned over three decades, simply because Mr. Trump and his cohorts felt she stood in the way of their Ukranian machinations.

The basis of Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign in the Ukraine was a now-discredited conspiracy theory that it was the Ukranians, not the Russians, who meddled in the 2016 US election. Mr. Trump, who lost the popular vote but won the count in the US Electoral College, continues to bristle at the widely held view that his election victory was helped by Russians who mounted a massive online disinformation campaign on social media to destroy his rival Hilary Clinton, as well as Russian government hackers who electronically stole documents and emails from Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The calm testimony last week of former ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was both credible and chilling, showing how stated US foreign policy and practice can easily be subverted by presidential whim.

We have already seen how Mr. Trump precipitously pulled out American troops from Syria in October after a phone conversation with Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a move that enabled Turkey to invade the northern part of the country to the detriment of the Kurds, the US allies who battled the Islamic State.

Will other US allies such as the Philippines suffer a similar fate? It is dangerous territory that Mr. Trump is treading. Sadly, he is taking the rest of the world along with him.

Topics: United States , Donald Trump , Ukraine , Joe Biden , Marie Yovanovitch , Recep Tayyip Erdogan
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