At a top annual international security meeting this weekend, Trump's win–and uncertainty about how he'll handle Russia, Syria, and various international threats–loomed large.”>
The Halifax International Security Conference is one of the first opportunities for world leaders to huddle and exchange views on the American election. The shock results and the ambiguity of what Trump would do with his unexpected ascendency to power meant the persisting mood of the worlds diplomats, academics, and politicians is one of utter uncertainty.
Many of the attendees reflect a pro-NATO, bipartisan Western order that has held together since the end of World War II, and they gathered for one of the calendars most important national-security seminars. The hundreds who met in Halifaxthe experts, the experienced, the policy veteransmight have been rejected by Trump during his campaign as so-called globalists or the elite.
But now many of them will be called on by their nations to fix the worlds challenges: the mass slaughter of civilians in Syria by Russian and Assad regime forces-out; the reemergence of nationalism; and the dangers of various cyberthreats.
Trump would have been a punchline when the annual Halifax summit gathered together last yearthe serious money was on Jeb or Marco Rubio or Hillary. But the predictions and premises of these diplomats, pastors, and heads of state were shattered two weeks ago when Trump defied expectations to become the president-elect of the United Statesand in turn, sent shudders down the spine of the leaders gathered here.
The shadow of Trump cut through every issue, as legislators like former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean intermingled with a crowd that featured National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers, retired Gen. John Allen, and former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee Lillian Neville-Jones.
Theres a whole series of threats to our stability. What the election of Donald Trump will mean for that stability is of course the newly-emergent central topic of every deliberation, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons told The Daily Beast.
Trump is no longer a gag to them, but instead a cause for profound alarmespecially his pronouncements on the NATO alliance, his talk of torturing captives, and his willingness to improve Americas relationship with Russia.
The Trump anxiety is most profound in countries with economies in Eastern Europe who are terrified that Trumps will usher in an era of Russian predominance and a resultant decline in their freedoms and independence.
From my conversations with them, theyre very nervous. There have been mixed messages, plainly, and theyre continuing to get enormous pressure from Putin and the Russian propaganda machine, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast. We dont truly know exactly what President Trump will do. Some of it depends on who his selection for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense are.
In the hallways of the Halifax Westin, officials from countries like Ukraine and Estonia hustled from satisfying to fulfilling to take the temperature of American support in this new age of Trump. Trumps election has ushered in a moment of uncertainty for Americas friends. Will he withdraw from Asia? How will he address the Iran nuclear bargain? Will he recognize the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea?
There is a strong concern among many in Congress about any endeavor by Trump to dramatically change our policies towards Russia, particularly with regard to distinguishing[ Putins] illegal occupation or his intervention in Syria on behalf of the members of Assad, Coons added.
The conference, which is sponsored in part by NATO, was especially focused on what Trumps election would mean for an alliance which has existed for virtually 70 years. During the campaign, Trump had suggested that the United States might want to distance itself from the organizationa major red flag for the diplomats and politicians assembled here.
I guess NATO may be obsolete, Trump said in a March interview, adding that he would certainly look at get rid of it.
But the conferences participants are staying optimistic at what they see as positive developments by Trump since Election Day. In fact, as the conference was underway, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller announced that Trump and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had spoken by phone.