If there's one nation in the world that is a beacon for human rights, it's the United States. It's no wonder that authoritarian leaders from around the world with questionable human rights records have a strained relationship with the United States. Now, it seems these types of leaders have a new ally in the White House, and that's President Trump.
President Trump displayed his willingness to "meet and greet" notorious authoritarian leaders last weekend when he extended an invitation to Rodrigo Duterte, the infamous President of the Philippines, and Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand.
Thailand and Philippines enjoy diplomatic treaties with the United States. However, the two countries have a tense relationship with the United States due to the brutal war against drugs led by both country leaders.
For example, Duterte's anti-drug campaign already resulted in more than 7,000 deaths since he took office in June 2016. This sparked an outrage among a few Democratic lawmakers and human rights experts.
Trump commented that Rodrigo Duterte is very popular in the Philippines. He also mentioned that the President has a high approval rating in said country.
Another authoritarian leader that Trump wants to meet is Kim Jong-un, North Korea's Supreme Leader. According to Trump, he would be "honored" to have a sit down with the Korean leader to talk about the nuclear weapons program of the country. However, Trump did mention that he only wants to meet if certain conditions are met.
Kim Jong-un is suspected of operating secretive prison camps that instill forced labor, starvation, and torture. To this day, there is no such thing as free speech in North Korea. Also, the country has threatened to attack neighboring countries with nuclear weapons.
Trump commented on Kim Jong-un's situation, saying that the Supreme Leader assumed power at a very young age. He further complimented the leader for being a "smart cookie" as Kim Jong-un was able to stay in power despite attempts of a power takeover by his uncle and other leaders within the country.
The White House recently defended the extended invitation to the Filipino President by stating that it is just a "meeting" and not a "thank you." The White House also stated that they are trying to prevent the Philippines from completely pivoting away from the United States.
However, Trump's recent outreach to Chan-o-cha and Duterte was not the first time he displayed an affinity for authoritarian leaders. While some experts are saying that Trump is playing his own strategic game to befriend leaders from other authoritarian countries to improve interests of the US, some experts are claiming that this may not be so.
They are saying that Trump may not have a strategy, but it's just a case of a "Birds of a feather flock together." It's clear that Trump has authoritarian tendencies, and it's only natural for him to like other authoritarian leaders. With Trump's erratic behavior, it's hard to know which is which. Only time will tell if Trump has a long-term strategy, or it's just what feels natural for him.