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Trump voices admiration and envy of Kim Jong Un, underscoring his respect for autocrats

Noah Bierman and Eli Stokols, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

In a speech this week, Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, framed the new world order in stark terms, stating that Europeans must now act "as a conscious counterweight" to the U.S. in certain situations.

"The world order we were used to -- it no longer exists," he said.

Canada's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, also raised eyebrows with a speech in Washington on Wednesday, rebuking Trump without naming him and vowing that her country would fight for democratic values.

"Facts matter. Truth matters. Competence and honesty among elected leaders and in our public service matter," she said. "Canada, for one, is going to stand up in defense of that system. We will not escalate, and we will not back down."

The president's disregard for traditional allies and the 70-year-old global democratic order has been all the more jarring to world leaders and foreign policy experts for being juxtaposed with Trump's praise for autocrats, a behavior not previously seen from an American president.

This week, Trump was caught on camera in a North Korean propaganda video saluting one of Kim's generals at the Singapore summit, despite his past criticisms of Obama for shows of respect to the likes of the Japanese emperor.

His remarks on Friday extolling Kim's gun-barrel grip on power ratcheted up similar laudatory comments since Tuesday's summit. At the same time, Trump again excused Putin's 2014 annexation of Crimea, blaming Obama.

"Putin didn't respect President Obama," Trump said. "President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn't respect President Obama, didn't respect our country, and didn't respect Ukraine."

Trump's main evidence for Obama's weakness was his predecessor's failure to uphold a so-called red line against Syria's use of chemical weapons in its civil war. Trump's two missile attacks against the Assad regime in Syria, for using such weapons, have stood out as rare instances in which he has cited human rights as grounds for action. Trump spoke of "beautiful babies" killed by lethal sarin gas.

Early in his presidency, Trump initially declined to express a clear commitment to NATO's Article Five clause, under which an attack on a member state is considered an attack on all. Burns, who was the U.S. ambassador to NATO during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, recalls Canadian officials calling him immediately to offer their support, in keeping with Article Five.

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