The United States has scaled back its role on the world stage, taken actions that are undermining efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic and left the international community without a traditional global leader, according to experts, diplomats and analysts.
The US — usually at the head of the table helping to coordinate in global crises — has declined to take a seat at virtual international meetings convened by the World Health Organization and the European Union to coordinate work on potentially lifesaving vaccines. Former world leaders warn that the Trump administration risks alienating allies by politicizing the deadly pandemic with its push to punish China and have other nations choose sides.
The administration’s decision to halt funding for the WHO, the world body best positioned to coordinate the global response to the raging pandemic, has appalled global health officials. Then on Friday, the US blocked a vote on a UN Security Council resolution that called for a global ceasefire aimed at collectively assisting a planet devastated by the outbreak. The US has similarly blocked expressions of global unity at G7 and G20 meetings due to anger about China and the WHO.
And where US presidents have in the past offered a steadying voice, observers from the Asia Pacific to Europe expressed incredulity, amusement and sadness at President Donald Trump’s briefings on the virus, saying they are deeply damaging to the US image abroad.
At a time when nearly 4 million people worldwide have been infected with the virus, diplomats say many countries are yearning for the firm US leadership they’ve seen at historic moments and in prior epidemics, citing President Barack Obama’s response to Ebola and President George W. Bush’s work on HIV/AIDS.
Thomas Gomart, director of the Paris-based French Institute of International Relations, said that Europe was watching Trump’s response to the pandemic in amazement, calling his behavior “stranger than fiction.” “He provides for us a very mixed balance of amusement and a sadness, which is just not what is expected from a US president.”