Over the past many years, we’ve seen a lot of stress and strain put on institutions and alliances that have helped create stability for so many western nations. Frankly a lot of that strain has been brought about by a certain American President, his distain for those institutions, his attacks against them and his attempts to weaken them. It’s been a big problem for so many NATO, G7 and G20 nations to deal with, and has left many wondering how to move forward.
As the their closest neighbour and biggest trading partner, we in Canada are particularly sensitive to this dynamic and our leaders have been forced to ask themselves difficult questions about how to deal with this. These institutions have been in place to help our collective societies in times of crisis and need, to help protect each other and assure our mutual well beings. So you’d think that in a moment of global crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic, this would be a time when we’d see these bonds be stronger and that cooperation grow. But a couple of stories that have come out in the past couple of days are really putting that assumption up for serious questions, and raising serious concerns. The first story came from France yesterday, one that was shocking on its face:
For those who don’t speak French, here is what the story basically says. Recently a region in France had bought a bunch of personal protective equipment (PPE) from China, paid for it in full, and as it was on the tarmac at the airport to be sent to France for delivery. But then the story took an unexpected turn, as the United States swooped in out of nowhere, bought it out from under them with a big cash bid to the supplier, and that plane that was on the tarmac ready to go went to the United States instead.
Let that sink in for a moment folks; one of the United States longest allies, going back to their Revolutionary War to get freedom from England, was trying to buy equipment to keep their people safe. And instead of respecting their order, the time they took to prepare for it, ordering ahead and doing their due diligence (unlike the Trump administration), they decided to treat this like “Lord of the Flies” and take it from them. And that’s what they did to an ally folks. An ally!!! This story is so crazy compared to normal standards that the French paper that printed it actually had to print a statement to point out that “No, this isn’t an April Fools Joke, it’s real”. Now you might be thinking that if this was an isolated incident and that we here in Canada shouldn’t need to worry about that, another big story from the Journal de Montreal is making the rounds in Quebec and it bears an eerie similarity:
In this story, a company in Montreal ordered 10,000 N95 masks from a company in China, to supply local hospitals in Montreal. On Sunday, the first delivery of some of these masks arrived from Hong Kong at DHL’s centre in Saint-Lambert, assumedly to then to be delivered to local hospitals. But then suddenly and seemingly without explanation, that delivery was then redirected to DHL’s site in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sound familiar people? What the Holy Hell is going on here? Is our closest neighbour, military ally and trading partner swooping in and basically stealing desperately needed protective medical equipment from us in the most desperate moment? It looks that way for sure, as it looks like the Trump administration, after trying to ignore the problem away, is now acting like George Costanza at an ill-fated birthday party.
It’s in these moments of crisis that the true strength of our alliances is tested and are proved. As a student of history, I can’t think of an example like those two from France and Quebec, where a close ally basically snaked their other ally in a brazen attempt to save themselves to the exclusion of all else. That might be the worst example this “America First” attitude that we’ve seen over the past four years, at the worst possible time. I hope and pray we don’t see any more examples like those going ahead, but something tells me those are just going to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this global crisis.
I keep pointing to when this is all over, when we start to move ahead, how we’ll move ahead and how we’ll remember those who acted poorly. These are the kinds of actions from a supposed ally that will force many western governments to question the stability and wisdom of their alliances with the United States. We hope that after the November election there will be a new administration to be deal with, one that actually values their allies, but we can’t assume that will be the case. In the meantime, you have to know that so many western nations are looking at those two stories above and are wondering if they will be the next nation to be pushed aside, like George did the elderly and children alike, as the Trump administration tries to safe itself. We’d prefer to be confident in those alliances that have helped us so much for generations but because Trump’s actions, those are now legitimate questions that we are forced to ask.