One thing became clear about U.S. President Donald Trump during his first 19 days in power: he’s no diplomat.
First he went on an executive order signing binge and then he decided to pick a diplomatic fight with some of the United States’ closest allies, namely Mexico and Australia.
President Trump did not have the patience to wait until all his cabinet was in place before he started issuing executive orders, and one of his worst decisions has been acting without a Secretary of State.
Concentrating strictly on U.S. relations with Mexico, Trump did not consult with still (as far as I know) U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, who is a fine professional diplomat and who would have surely given him an objective appraisal of the situation with the Mexican government.
Now it turns out that the Mexican government is not having any official contact with Washington through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, and the reality is that newly appointed U.S. State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson, also a greenhorn like Trump in diplomatic terms, will take his time to appoint a new ambassador to Mexico. Clearly, the thought of Roberta Jacobson being confirmed in the post does not cross anyone’s mind in Mexico.
President Enrique Peña Nieto is relying on Foreign Relations Secretary (SRE) Luis Videgaray for a direct contact with the White House through the relationship Videgaray established with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. In fact, Videgaray seems to have his new office not in Mexico City, but somewhere near Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC. In fact, on Wednesday he traveled north to deal directly with already approved Trump cabinet appointees.
But Mexico’s Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said he spoke to new Homeland Security Secretary John Francis Kelly with whom Osorio said agreed on a basic fact: “The United States is as basic to Mexico as Mexico is to the United States.”
In fact, Kelly, a retired U.S. Marines General, proved to have a lot more diplomatic tact than The Donald, as he immediately struck a long term relationship with Osorio Chong. Over the phone he even went public stating that Mexico is an unalienable partner to the United States and said nice things about Mexicans.
Another sign that the advent of Trump’s “Twitter diplomacy” may be coming to an end is the fact that Mexico’s Defense and Navy secretaries General Salvador Cienfuegos and Admiral Francisco Soberón had a joint phone chat last Tuesday with new U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and the subject — beyond the welcome to our military club niceties — pleaded to improve cooperation between the two nations on military matters.
In fact, the Mexican officials announced that there will be an April personal trilateral meeting that will include officials from Canada. The objective of the gathering of the top North American brass will be “to seek cooperation opportunities” to keep terrorism out of the region and to enhance new tactics on the combat against organized crime and drug trafficking as well as the new threat, cybercrime.
General Mattis pleaded publicly to “continue strengthening bilateral relations on defense.”
Please allow me to underline that these new bilateral relations are between the top government officials of our two nations and they are being carried out without a diplomatic representation as SRE Secretary Videgaray is busy appeasing Trump and organizing the more than 50 Mexican consulates in the United States to help those undocumented Mexican workers who are going to be deported in the near future.
What is of utmost importance is that the Mexico-U.S. bilateral relationship is reaching its limit after the Trump insult tsunami muddied the waters on both sides of the border in order to please, as he put it, “the people who voted for me.”
Let’s hope he’s pleased them sufficiently.
In all this, the outstanding fact is that Trump’s Homeland and Defense appointee generals Kelly and Mattis more than soldiers are diplomats who understand that unlike the rest of the world, the geographical positioning of the United States and Mexico is here to stay and making the most of it is imminent for the wellbeing of both nations.
Are you listening to your appointees, Donaldo?