Americans go to the polls on Tuesday in elections that ordinarily should not have been of much interest to outsiders, but with President Donald Trump acting increasingly more erratically, irrationally and even dangerously, people around the world will be scrutinising the outcome for signs of any chink in his armour.

Trump is not on the ballot but midterm elections are generally regarded as a verdict on a sitting president. A poor showing by Trump’s Republican Party could be interpreted as a sign that his hold on power is weakening and that he could mercifully be a one-term president. However, a better-than-expected showing will galvanise and embolden reactionary forces both in the US and around the world. A frisson of unease and anxiety would descend on world capitals. Not only has Trump become an embarrassment to many of his compatriots, he’s left America’s traditional allies around the world tearing their hair out in utter frustration.

Every significant world leader except Vladimir Putin has been the target of Trump’s sharp and reckless tongue. He has not only imposed tariffs on China, but on traditional allies too. Allies such as Canada and the EU are accused of having taken advantage of what he terms the naiveté of past US administrations. With Trump, everything is about money, and everything has its price.

Nato, that sturdy postwar military alliance which stared down and saw off the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, has not escaped his caustic denunciations. The US cannot continue to pay for the defence of rich European countries, he says. Nato’s role during the Cold War is lost on him. Everything’s about money. Trump’s cross-examination of the military pact has left many countries in Europe feeling vulnerable to Russian aggression, especially the Baltic states. Putin’s daring annexation of Crimea, a part of Ukraine, under conditions which at the time were not conducive to his expansionist tendencies, has left many pondering what he could do now that there’s a more pliable occupant in the White House. And Trump’s efforts to tinker with or destabilise Nato seem to chime nicely with the agenda of Putin, who has never hidden the fact that his aim was to weaken and probably destroy it. He’s on record saying the collapse of the Soviet Union “was the biggest geopolitical tragedy of t...

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