The events that in the most recent months have characterized the strong protests in the United States against the government and against the police forces, have brought back a situation that we already knew. We had known it when President Obama was the President of the United States, and certainly that situation has worsened under President Trump. This is true despite the fact that the reasons for the protests behind the terrible killing of a young African American by the police were partly built by those who were willing to exacerbate their effects, instead of leaving to the peaceful protest and the judges the solution to the dramatic crisis – and that would have perhaps been more appropriate instead.
It is clear that this affair fits into a framework characterised by the electoral campaign for the United States Presidency: a very advanced campaign, in which somebody took the opportunity of the massive street protests against the police and the government to support the reduction, or even the total cut, in funds for the police forces. This is totally wrong, and in fact both President Trump and the Democratic candidate Biden have rightly reacted in a negative way. One thing is the absolute respect for the rights of any person who is under custody, controlled, or arrested, and another thing is to take away from the police forces, who are at the service of honest citizens, the funding necessary to them in order to be able to properly carry out their tasks.
During this period there were also considerable repercussions due to the explosion of COVID-19, in particular in some States inside the United States of America, with reactions that were at first undervalued by the President of the United States, while at a later stage showed a conflict with the experts, in particular Dr Fauci, who had always warned about the need for more stringent preventive measures; finally President Trump himself had to admit first that, without the precautionary measures, things could only get worse, and this implied avoiding the gatherings due to the election campaign. In the election campaign he risks paying the price of the worsening crisis and the dramatic increase in deaths for COVID-19 in the United States of America.
Beyond the opposition to the President, beyond the total contrast with every initiative of the Administration – no one today can say whether the democratic candidate Biden will succeed in finding a proposal that allows the United States of America not only to overcome the terrible phase of COVID-19, but also to improve the economic performance and the gross domestic product of the country. According to the data released by the Trump Administration, in the recent months the US economy would not be in free fall, but it would show signs of recovery, unlike the rest of the world. As we all know, when it is time of voting, Americans look very carefully at the economic conditions and at the prospects of economic recovery of their country.
The election campaign is obviously still a long one, the candidates’ positions are known. We do not know whether Mr Biden has already chosen the Vice-president – man or woman – he will put as the ticket next to him, but it is clear that due to COVID-19 and the attempts to implement strong preventive actions to reduce the spread of the virus, the main commitment in the United States must be to maintain a social peace that unfortunately has never existed in the recent years. Social peace is needed for the weakest categories, those who have paid the most for the tragic recession caused by Coronavirus, and it is also needed for those categories – I think the African Americans – who have seen the barbaric killing by a policeman, of a boy who probably deserved to be stopped by the police, but not in that way and never with those consequences. Actually this incited the most extreme part of the African American community to an action that has gone beyond the right protest against this unjustifiable police violence, in this case and in other cases as well, because such situations have unfortunately repeated several times in the recent weeks.
It is clear that the African American community lacks a great figure of charismatic and respected leader: there is no Martin Luther King of the 2000s, but I absolutely hope, for America’s sake, that we know how to avoid profiting of every opportunity to incite rather than calm down and meet what are – in many cases – the sacrosanct protests of the normal people. First of all, it is the Trump Administration which must avoid that. However, the protests of the people cannot be transformed into the devastation of the roads, of the squares, of the shops, of the offices – as unfortunately we have recently seen in many American cities.
This is the situation we are living in, where America’s role in the world has clearly changed a great deal. We Westerners, we Europeans, feel that the role of America as intervening, seeking stabilization in the critical areas of the world, has been greatly reduced. Today, more than ever on the international stage, we need an agreement in principle between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on how to deal with the main issues of foreign policy crisis: from the Middle East to Iran, North Africa, and Libya, to name but a few.
By Franco Frattini, President of the Institute for Eurasian Studies, former Foreign Minister of Italy