Trump Has Hastened a Profound Shift in Australia’s View of Its U.S. Alliance

Trump Has Hastened a Profound Shift in Australia’s View of Its U.S. Alliance
U.S. President Donald Trump meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aboard the USS Intrepid in New York, May 4, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

To understand the state of Australia’s relations with its closest ally, the United States, seven months into Donald Trump’s presidency, begin by putting aside the most dramatic and well-publicized event so far: the infamous January phone call between Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was an uncomfortable moment, and the awkwardness only deepened when the full transcript of the call leaked in early August.

But Trump and Turnbull later made up at a one-on-one meeting in New York, and the U.S. and Australia have agreed on the refugee resettlement deal that the two leaders argued about, so the phone call has no lasting ramifications for the relationship. Except, perhaps, for the way Turnbull ended it. The call was cut short by an exasperated Trump, who could not fathom why his predecessor, Barack Obama, had agreed to the refugee swap, which Trump later called a “dumb deal.” To placate Trump, Turnbull ended the call with an affirmation of loyalty: “You can count on me. I will be there again and again.”

In the circumstances of an unpleasant and argumentative phone call, this could be read as too fawning and submissive. Then again, maybe Turnbull cleverly played to Trump’s vanity in order to preserve the refugee deal that was so important to his own political fortunes in Australia. Trump may have hated the agreement, but at no point in the phone call or after did he repudiate it.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.