Trump Needs a World Leader Buddy
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Tokyo — When Shinzo Abe tees off with Donald Trump this weekend at the president’s Florida retreat at Mar-a-Lago—the “winter White House,” as Trump’s ·aides call it—he won’t just be shooting the breeze with a fellow golfer. The Japanese prime minister is visiting the United States to reaffirm an enduring alliance that is critical to global stability, and to develop a working rapport with Trump despite the fear America’s new president has stoked in capitals all over the world. In short, Abe is coming to be Trump’s world leader buddy—and we need him to succeed.
The Japanese prime minister might not seem like the obvious choice of friends. But as the second longest serving and domestically most secure leader among the G-7 powers, Abe is now an elder global statesman. During his six years in power, Japan has gotten its swagger back after years of political volatility at home and shrinking ambitions abroad. To put it in Trump’s terms, Abe is a winner, and he’s respected around the globe. As a result, he can help Trump build bridges with some of the world leaders he’s known for years—tough, difficult men like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and India’s Nahendra Modi.
Trump or no Trump, Japan is a natural ally for the United States, and is eager to share more of the global burden for preserving the U.S.-led world order. Trump’s unorthodox rhetoric toward China has set U.S.-Chinese relations off to a tense, awkward start. Japan can help either calm the waters or have America’s back in a crisis, as the situation requires. And unlike European allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has made clear her distaste for Trump, Abe has instead chosen to agree to disagree with the new leader of the free world. If Trump’s policy is “America First,” Abe would be happy for Japan to be a close second.