America’s Flagging World Status
How low can you go? This week US authorities took the petty step of pulling down Russian Federation flags from diplomatic properties in Washington DC and San Francisco. But the action speaks volumes about how the United States’ international image is flagging to unprecedented lows.
This was at the same time that the US announced it was withdrawing from UNESCO — the international education and cultural organization — on the grounds that it was allegedly biased against American ally Israel.
Well, if we all had that attitude, there probably wouldn’t be a multilateral body or international law left standing.
It was also the same week when President Trump gave notice that the US wasdisavowing the multinational nuclear accord agreed back in 2015 with Iran. Just another international accord piled on top of several others that Trump has already repudiated during his first year in the White House.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharovacondemned the removal of flags from diplomatic properties as “a desecration” of Russia’s state symbol. She said the move constituted “a hostile act”.The Russian properties — which are reportedly still under contractural lease — were forcibly seized last month by US authorities. Russian diplomatic staff have been expelled and private consular archives have reportedly been tampered with by American officials. Washington justified the violation of consular rights as part of its claims that Russia interfered in the US presidential elections last year.
Paradoxically, and illogically, the US authorities are infringing Russia’s sovereign rights while at the same time President Trump has repeatedly dismissed media claims of Russian electoral interference as “a hoax”. With such a flagrant contradiction, how can anyone take US authorities seriously anymore?
The so-called “Russia-gate” scandal is threadbare in credibility with no evidence ever presented by the Americans to substantiate claims that Russian state hackers somehow tried to influence US voters. The latest twist in the Russia-gate yarn is that Russia tried to subvert voting intentions through Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and even online games like Pokemon. Frivolous is hardly the word. More like insanity.
On the back of these fantastic — not to say ludicrous — allegations, the US authorities have confiscated at least five Russian diplomatic properties. This is a violation of international law, codified under the Vienna Convention, which supposedly guarantees all nations the sovereign right to diplomatic immunity.
Now the US authorities have gone an extra step this week by removing Russian state flags from Moscow’s diplomatic buildings in Washington and San Francisco. It’s insult upon injury.
As the Russian foreign ministry points out, the properties in question — while seized by the US — are still entitled to diplomatic protection. Thus the forcible removal of flags is yet another transgression of Russia’s sovereignty on US soil.
But should we be surprised? The demise of America’s international image has been on an irreversible downward slide over the past two decades, primarily from its record of launching illegal wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the United States’ international reputation has plummeted off a cliff-edge. Previously, American governments would at least pretend to abide by multilateral rules; now under Trump, it behaves like a spoilt brat, unilaterally ripping up any obligation that is deemed to be “not fair”.Washington’s logic is the same as a petulant child who throws the toys out of its play pen in a huff over some perceived slight.
Trump has been described by critics as a child trapped inside a 70-year-old man’s body. He is perfectly suited to the role of Whinger-in-Chief, leading his nation to international embarrassment and isolation.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, protested to his American counterpart, Rex Tillerson, that the latest slur against his country’s honor was “unacceptable“. Such an insulting move as removing the Russian flags this week never even happened during the heyday of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union.
It’s unlikely Tillerson will be able to remedy the situation even if he wanted to. That’s because the US government seems to be in such disarray. Tillerson reportedly even called his boss in the White House “a moron” after Trump petulantly demanded Pentagon chiefs to increase the US nuclear arsenal 10-fold.
The chatter in Washington is that the Trump administration is imploding from in-fighting, and from a lack of staff respect for Trump in particular. White House aides sayTrump is behaving like “a pressure cooker” — lashing out at everybody and everything that displeases him.
There was a time when the US could at least plausibly claim to be the leader of the world. Now, it’s evidently a disgrace and a fearful laughing stock, even among its European allies. Trump’s disavowal of the international nuclear deal with Iran is perhaps the clearest sign yet of how the US has lost any credibility, trust or principle.
The desecration of Russia’s flags may seem a small, petty action. But the lack of respect for another nation speaks volumes about how America under Trump has become a unilateral and totally unscrupulous basket-case.Ironically, Trump has lately been exalting the sacredness of the American flag. He’s been raging against American footballers protesting police racial violence against African-American citizens by taking a knee during the national anthem. Trump slammed the players with expletive words for “dishonoring our flag, country and military”.
That’s pretty rich coming from someone like Trump who is accused of dodging military service during the Vietnam War — thanks to his daddy being a multi-millionaire property magnate. So much for respecting flag and country!
But here’s the thing: if a national flag is such a hallowed emblem, as the Trump administration claims with regard to its own, then the same principle applies to the flags of other nations.
Patently, the lack of respect for Russia’s national flag shows there is nothing principled in today’s American authorities.
International agreements, like laws, borders, diplomatic rights and sovereignty are things that the US government feels entitled to disregard, discard and stamp all over.
The views expressed in this article are sole…