'America First' approach will outlive Trump: Harper
Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper believes U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy will outlast the president’s tenure and the onus is on Canada to make adjustments.
In speaking at a Five Eyes panel discussion in London, U.K., Harper said the “rapid, unorthodox, populous political change” will be part of the American fabric after Trump leaves office.
“Whether Donald Trump succeeds or not as president, ultimately, I do think that the realignment, or the change of approach that he is bringing, is to some degree, in my judgement, bound to outlast his presidency,” Harper told spectators on Wednesday.
“Other leaders may do it very differently, may do it in ways that are less unorthodox or unpredictable, but in fact are likely to be more systematic and more deliberate in this kind of approach.”
The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance that includes Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Harper, who is writing a book on growing populism in the world, says while some may worry about Trump’s change in approach, the other Five Eyes nations should be looking at how they can adapt to this policy, because a relationship with the United States is critical.
“The truth of the matter is when it comes to security…prosperity and value systems, there really is no other alternative in the world for us, but a strong partnership with the United States of America,” Harper said.
“We may be frustrated with elements of the Trump administration policy, but we should not think for a second that there is not a disproportionate benefit to us.”
Harper didn’t offer any suggestions on how Canada should adapt, however.
For the past several weeks, trade tensions between the United States and Canada have escalated to the point where both sides have taken steps to impose stiff tariffs against each other and Canadians have been encouraged to shop for Canadian products.
While Harper believes “America First” is here to stay in some capacity, he thinks it would be a mistake for the U.S. to abandon ties with other Five Eyes nations. He mentioned the importance of Australia and New Zealand when it comes to their connection with Asia and Canada’s connection to Francophone nations as reasons the U.S. should retain ties.
“I think it would be a mistake for the United States to believe that it doesn’t need partners around the world,” he said. “The idea that you are just going to pursue your best interests by simply acting unilaterally or without regard even to your closest allies, that would be a very big mistake over a long period of time.”
Harper concerned by cyber threats
During the discussion, Harper also talked about terrorism and cybersecurity, where he said while Islamic terrorism continues to be a day-to-day threat, cyber threats pose the most danger to the Five Eyes nations.
When it comes to cyber threats, Harper said while Russia has been at the forefront lately, he doesn’t anticipate Russian cybersecurity to be a long-term issue.
“We could survive the Soviet Union in that era, in the Cold War, we’re going to survive a pygmy version of that under Vladimir Putin,” he said.
On the other hand, Harper believes China is much larger cyber threat, in part because a lot of countries use Chinese hardware and software systems for government operations.
Moving forward, Harper said he hopes the Five Eyes will work together to come up with similar cybersecurity infrastructure, rather than each nation having a different set of safeguards.
“When I was (in government), we were all building our own defense capabilities,” he said. “We were not actually relying on each other at all in that area.”