It was just yesterday at this blog that I wrote about the questions that many allies are having to ask right now about our relationships with the United States and their response to Covid-19. I pointed to two stories where the Trump Administration had seemingly snaked NATO and G-7 allies over personal protective equipment, taking “America First” to a disturbing new level. It was galling, striking and the kind of thing we’ve never seen in our living memory, an ally throwing us under the bus to try to save themselves.
As I stated yesterday, “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.” When I wrote those words, I did so in the hope that we’d be able to hold off on the wondering for a while, that we wouldn’t see another violation of our relationship like that anytime soon. Well it turns out I was being a bit naïve, as we didn’t make it another twenty-four hours as this unnerving story came out this morning:
Okay folks, this is an escalation in this behaviour by the Trump Administration that goes way beyond ugly. Yesterday we saw examples of them simply trying to take vital equipment out from under allies like us, which was bad enough. But this is another step further. This was Trump trying to force 3M to deny Canada and Latin American countries access to this product. It’s one thing to try to hoard for yourself, which is a selfish behaviour. But it’s something totally different to take the next step to try to actively deny your neighbours access to medical equipment necessary to save lives.
That’s cruel, immoral, repugnant behaviour that is so far beneath what you’d typically expect from an American President, but given their behaviour, this seems to be on brand for this administration. But thankfully for us, it seems that 3M isn’t taking this lying down and are telling the Trump Administration where they can stuff their order, with a statement released that speaks a lot of truth:
It’s amazing the moment that we’re in when it’s falling to a corporate leader like 3M to teach an American President lessons on humanity and the consequences that naturally come from such ghoulish behaviour. As 3M states in their statement, there are “significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America.” Yeah, that should go without saying that denying your neighbours lifesaving medical equipment in a global pandemic would have major humanitarian fall out, but here we are, with 3M having to explicitly say it.
On top of that, 3M points to another practical point about this demand by the Trump Administration. They stated that “ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same.” I want to say “Well D’uh!” to that obviously statement, but the point continues to be that when it comes to the actions of this administration, the obvious needs to be continually stated.
And finally 3M pointed out that “if that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease.” Bingo folks, that’s on the mark. The fact is that because of how our global economy has been constructed over the past decades, if you force countries to retaliate in kind to this kind of anti-social behaviour, you can’t make enough of the product to serve your own needs. It’s the ultimate example of cutting off your nose to spite your face, and just makes it even harder to serve your own needs. But hey, that doesn’t seem to matter to Trump and his team.
We keep saying, and it bears repeating, that we all have long memories and after we get through all of this, we will remember this crappy behaviour. By taking this to a whole new low today, the Trump Administration is assuring that important allies and neighbours will remember clearly where the United States stood when we needed to support each other. It’s one thing to try to look out for your own people in a time of crisis, but it’s something completely different to actively go out of your way to try to stop your allies from helping themselves in that pursuit. That will have reverberations going forward and I have a strong feeling the US will not like that when they come calling on us for help. We will remember this all, that’s one of the few guarantees we have in these hard days.