Who runs our world? Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are perhaps its most powerful individuals, even if the three are not the world’s joint rulers.
Evidence steadily seems to accumulate of Trump’s ties, going back several years, to Russia’s black economy. Real estate deals have been the route. Trump’s personal closeness to Putin was telecast to the world on 16 July, from their joint press conference in Helsinki.
The two differ over Iran and Syria. While Trump wants the Tehran and Damascus regimes to go, Putin has backed the regimes. In Damascus, he has supported Assad with military aircraft and soldiers, but Trump and Putin have avoided a direct US-Russia confrontation in Syria.
As for China, while Trump has launched an economic war with it, Xi and Putin seem to enjoy an understanding.
China relies on imports by the US. Its citizens have invested heavily in American real estate and corporations, and in US bonds. Trump therefore holds some strong cards.
Most countries including Iran do their global trade in US dollars, placing another powerful card in Trump’s hands.
Working through his national security advisor, the ardent hawk John Bolton, Trump has already caused serious damage to the Iranian economy. Threatened by the US, huge European companies trading with Iran have submitted to Trump’s orders.
Thus Joe Kaeser, chief executive of Germany’s Siemens, has conceded that the company ‘would stop all new deals in Iran’.
Attacking European governments unhappy with his Iran policy, Trump has asked them to learn obedience from their business companies.
He has also declared that all who buy Iranian oil, including China, Japan and India, will have to cease doing so from November.
Politically defensive at home, Trump is trying to impose his will on the world while claiming that he prefers a non-interventionist America.
Whether or not he obtains short-term victories, Trump may be going against history’s trend, which is towards power-sharing, not towards domination by one, two or three powers.
A whole bunch of influential countries hate domination, or at least their people do. To name ten of them in alphabetical order, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey all possess large economies, talented populations, and geo-strategic importance.
Then there are the European countries that historically have influenced the whole world: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the Scandinavian nations, and Spain, to name some, again in alphabetical order.
Not to mention the immense lands, rich in resources and talent, of Australia and Canada.
Moreover, a decent percentage of skill and talent in North America and Europe is provided by men and women originating in many of the countries listed above, or in China.
The idea that a couple of questionable billionaires holding office in the US or Russia should tell the whole world how to behave is, to put it mildly, preposterous.
Yet absurd things have happened in history. To prevent or shorten the sway of ugly policies, individuals across the world have to come together.
The coming together of citizens is more important than of governments, for some of the influential countries I have named possess governments that are unimpressive or worse.
Any initiative, humble or large, that brings diverse people together in freedom and mutual respect is a step for a better world. And a blow against a global oligarchy.