Dennis Kucinich on climate and Syria: Trump is a 'transitional figure'

By Molly Anders 25 November 2016

Dennis Kucinich, former U.S. congressman of Ohio. Photo by: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA

As U.S. President-elect Donald Trump appears to soften his pledge to back out of the Paris climate agreement, ex-Democratic presidential candidate and former Rep. Dennis Kucinich told Devex Trump “cannot morally or logically ignore” the impacts of climate change.

The Paris agreement, ratified by the U.S. in September — aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintain the global increase in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — interferes with many aspects of Trump’s platform, including his pledge to rejuvenate domestic industries such as coal mining.

“We have an obligation to support the United Nations, we have an obligation to support treaties like the Paris climate agreement,” Kucinich told Devex in an interview on the sidelines of the Rising Global Peace Forum last week in Coventry, England.

“While others may be backing away from the world community, this is the time that we need to go out and reaffirm our [responsibility],” he said. “That will be a big issue and I intend to make it one.”

Kucinich, who left office in 2013, now runs a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., focusing on capacity building for global social, economic, health, agricultural and ecological organizations.

Among his concerns about aid under Trump, Kucinich also voiced his worry that his administration will further blur the lines between military and humanitarian aid, particularly in civilian packed warzones such as eastern Aleppo in Syria.

“When we do extend our energies all over the world it should be with food, shelter, clothing, education, we should never do it with arms. I’m totally opposed to the U.S. being involved in arms trade, giving away or selling arms, and we cannot mistake interventionism for engagement,” he said.

Trump has hinted in previous remarks at facilitating a closer relationship with Russia, which continues to carry out brutal air campaigns against Syrian rebels, and plays a large role in arming and assisting Syrian government military forces in shelling of civilian-crowded areas. While a closer U.S.-Russia relationship may bode poorly for civilians trapped in Aleppo, Kucinich acknowledged that greater cooperation and communication between the two nations could offer some advantages for peace efforts.

“Just as a general principle it’s good for leaders to get along, and sometimes leaders get along until they really get to know each other, we’ll see how this plays out,” Kucinich said.

He added that better communication could even improve prospects for peace in Syria, which he said were hindered by the current dynamic between Russia and the U.S. Kucinich pointed to the recent peace agreement brought about in part by Russia and U.S. players and which he said broke down due to poor communication between the powers and elements of the U.S. side  “who did not want cooperation with Russia,” he said.

“I mean, these undercurrents have to be looked at,” he said.

While Kucinich is troubled by Trump’s campaign rhetoric and early cabinet picks — namely the floated possibility of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state — he said he “views Donald Trump as a transitional figure” in the U.S. political narrative.

“America will go through a period here of reassessment, and it’s not altogether bad,” he told Devex.

“There’s a great deal of concern around the world because of the rhetoric during the campaign, which was out of control, and may reflect a worldview that is not particularly evolved, but we’ll see,” he said.

Stay tuned to Devex for more news and analysis of what the Trump administration will mean for global development. Read more coverage here and subscribe to The Development Newswire.

About the author

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Molly Andersmollyanders_dev

Molly is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in London, she covers U.K. foreign aid and trends in international development. She draws on her experience covering aid legislation and the USAID implementer community in Washington, D.C., as well as her time as a Fulbright Fellow and development practitioner in the Middle East to develop stories with insider analysis.


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