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Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Climate change deniers have grasped that markets can't fix the climate (Guardian)

The refusal to accept global warming is driven by corporate interests and the fear of what it will cost to try to stop it, says Seumas Milne. 

2. We're letting Putin win in the Ukraine (Daily Telegraph)

Ukrainians have been betrayed by the failure of a weak and divided west to stand up to the Kremlin, says Edward Lucas.

3. Alex Salmond and co are acting like spoilt children (Guardian)

The inadequacy of the SNP's engagement with serious issues like currency and Europe suggests they suspect the game is up, writes Martin Kettle. 

4. The US has bullied our banks into handing over a billion dollars (Daily Telegraph)

Quietly and without notice, Britain has surrendered control over its trade with Iran, writes Peter Oborne.

5. The drug we ignore that kills thousands (Independent)

We need to address the lack of funding for dealing with alcohol compared with other drugs, says Owen Jones.

6. Labour is impatient for an NHS disaster (Times)

Jeremy Hunt hasn’t got money to throw around but he will urge voters to look at Wales and realise it could be worse, writes Tim Montgomerie.

7. Washington rues the Abe it wished for (Financial Times)

The US fears that Japan’s departure from postwar pacifism will provoke Beijing, writes David Pilling. 

8. David Cameron and Tony Abbott are proving there’s life without spin (Daily Telegraph)

Both here and Down Under, the public are quite happy to hear less from their PMs, writes Sue Cameron. 

9. Canadian air freshens fusty Britain (Financial Times)

A non-Briton as head of the BoE accentuates the openness of the economy, says Patrick Jenkins.

10. Danish hypocrisy over animal welfare takes the biscuit (Times)

"Animal rights before religion" might be easier to accept if Denmark didn’t have such an intensive livestock industry, writes Peter Franklin. 

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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era