Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs."
At a time when the Turkish lira went on a monumental slide downward against the U.S. dollar, US President Donald Trump authorized a doubling of tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum on Friday, hiking import costs for Turkish steel by 50 percent, and 20 percent on aluminum. This follows a move by the U.S. Treasury Department to freeze the assets of Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in the United States in connection to the detention of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson is accused of aiding in the plot to overthrow Turkey's President in the failed coup in 2016. These moves now beg the question: If the United States can be so ruthless towards a NATO ally, Turkey, what about other countries? Is the United States a trustworthy and responsible member of the international community?
This is not the first time such a question has surfaced. Following last year's G7 summit in Italy, the disappointment expressed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel was palpable. "The times in which we can completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over," said Merkel. "I've experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands."
While some might pin this unreliability on the policies of current President Donald Trump, history has shown that the U.S. has a track record of being a fair-weather ally. The Kurdish minority in northern Iraq is all too aware of this. As early as the 1970s, the Kurds began an insurgency against the Baghdad regime, earning promises at the time for assistance from the United States. But the U.S. ultimately abandoned the Kurds, leaving thousands dead and tens-of-thousands more as refugees in other countries.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is known for his indifference, has been quoted as saying at the time that "foreign policy should not be confused with missionary work." So what is the US foreign policy? "America First" may be the clearest and most straightforward answer.
"America First" is a philosophy which allows the current leader of the United States to push the leaders of other countries out of his way as he steps to the front of the pack to have his photo taken. It's also a policy which he believes gives the United States the right to abandon its responsibilities on the international stage. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated by 12 countries over the course of many years, became mothballed on just the fourth day of Donald Trump's presidency after Trump announced his plans to withdraw the United States from the pact. In order to control climate change, the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which has been painstakingly negotiated by major players around world, has also been abandoned by the US government. Despite being one of the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide, Trump has surmised that the Paris Agreement would hamper the development of the US economy.
In July 2015, the United States, along with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, along with Germany, sat down with Iran to try to curtail the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Following painstaking talks, the P5+1 eventually worked out an agreement to limit Iran's ability to create a nuclear weapon. Trump, a critic of anything connected to his predecessor Barack Obama, decided to act on his campaign rhetoric - against the wishes of many of his policy advisors - and withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. The United States has also withdrawn from international organizations such as UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council. Can a country that would abandon its international commitments and refuse to assume international responsibility at any time be worthy of respect and trust?