The World According to Trump

Posted December 10, 2016 on 8:15 pm | In the category Human Rights, Iran, NATO, Russia, TRUMP, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

If the President elect of the U.S. has a world view it is a mystery. Similarly, if he has a strategic foreign policy strategy for the U.S. it too is a mystery. But there are clues that lead to thoughts of possible threats to world stability and, by extension, to American security.

Trump’s recent break from U.S.-China policy by accepting a call from the President of Taiwan was initially presented by much of the press as a faux pas. It was subsequently presented by the Trump camp as a clever, thought-out strategy to put pressure on China to bend to the will of the President elect. This theory is as realistic as his plan to have Mexico pay for America’s Great Wall. U.S. policy toward China was transformed in the Nixon years and clearly both countries have benefited from what was seen then as a seismic shift. Trump risks changing the nature of the relationship at a time when the U.S. has been focusing on developing stronger economic ties throughout Asia – the continent with the fastest growing economy.

During his campaign, Trump provided his view that NATO had become a too costly commitment for the U.S. and one that was unnecessarily confrontational to Russia. He has threatened to weaken America’s commitment to the NATO treaty that has served American and European vital interests for over 50 years, unless the European members step up their financial stake in NATO. While there may be a reasonable argument that Europe has not shouldered its share of the costs, (arguably true for some countries, not so for others) reducing America’s commitment to NATO would give a message to Russia that an invasion of the Baltic states could be a risk worth taking. As it did when invading Eastern Ukraine, Russia could argue that they are assisting ethnic Russians gain their freedom. It is curious that Turkey’s President Erdogan is the one NATO leader that Trump has reached out to with praise. He is the one NATO leader who is turning his country into a near dictatorship, with thousands summarily jailed, including hundreds of journalists who have been critical of him.

Trump has been highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal which has been supported by the members of the UN Security Council (incl. Russia and China), as well as America’s European allies. In criticizing the agreement Trump joins Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, several Republican Senators, right wing ideologues like John Bolton, and several major funders of GOP candidates, notably casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. While Trump has said he would walk away from the deal it is easier said than done, since our European allies and other treaty signatories would refuse to follow suit and American economic interests would likely suffer as other countries’ businesses take advantage of the U.S. reneging on the deal.

Trump has reached out with praise to the new President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who has become a human rights nightmare as he exhorts his countrymen to summarily execute anyone in the country suspected of being involved in drugs. This has led to thousands of killings – many simply murders – with no reference to a system of justice. In this case Trump is making a mockery of the U.S.’s historic commitment to human rights and systems of law. His behavior shrinks our stance in the world and begins to provide a nasty model for the application of quasi fascist behavior. See this NY Times piece for a taste of Duterte’s world:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html?action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article

Trump has not said much about Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East in general other than to criticize Obama for failing in everything he has done in that part of the world and claiming that he will defeat ISIS almost as soon as he is in office. The decisions his administration make in that region will affect millions long into the future and we are largely left to guess as to what he would actually do.

Trump has made it clear that he believes he has a special relationship with Russian President Putin and indeed he may. They share a capacity for bullying, a disregard for human rights, a sensitivity to criticism, a willingness to harass the press (in Putin’s case including murder and imprisonment) and an attraction to kleptocracy. He does not seem to worry about what Putin has done in the world – e.g. Syria, Ukraine, Georgia, Chechnya, etc. – and has been eager and able to participate in the Russian economy, an economy that could teach Wall Street a thing or two about cronyism.

There is currently much talk of giving Trump a chance before judging him. Since he was elected we have no choice but to give him his chance, but judging can begin anon. Look at his appointments, listen to his words, read his tweets and form a judgment. If he fools us and turns out to be realistic, thoughtful and intelligent then we can adapt our judgment. Looking at his appointments to date, his short list for Secretary of State, and his statements during and after the campaign, it seems unlikely we will find that necessary.

3 Comments

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  1. Agreed. Because our system gives us lesser-evil choices, we now have no option but accept to the chosen.
    There is one reassuring aspect to this otherwise abysmal situation. To me the pewter lining is that the surveillance state seems not as fully in charge of the country as one could rightly have feared by reading Snowden’s revelations of the massive domestic Stasi-like collection programs. If the watchers were truly vetting candidates then Trump would not be the pres-elect. Having said that, the CIA Report of Rooskie intervention looks suspiciously like soft-coup-ish power negotiation of the surveillance community with Trump. Also justifies anti-propaganda restrictions on free speech as passed by the Senate last week. We have to deal with Trump for 4 years but the surveillance state is here forever. We do have 1 choice for next time: come up with a system that is better fitted to today’s world. For starters maybe change the money limits, the never-ending campaign period and the binary joke of black or white in a world of grey.

    Comment by Kiwi on the Kanal — December 11, 2016 #

  2. Jeff’s otherwise careful and convincing piece with regards to the uncertainty of Trump’s real position regarding NATO omits discussion of one aspect of US problems that begin far from Europe: Canada, which reminds very wary, on-guard and suspicious of policies the US may contemplate over the next four years as it enters its isolationist phase, particularly with regard to trade. This seems to include not only Mexico and all off-shore trading partners, but also Canada, a real proble in such heavily integrated manufacturing sectors as auto manufacturing and lumber. And Canada has always been and remains a member of NATO (It is after all the largest country on the North Atlantic), and has just agreed to station 450 soldiers in Latvia and lead one of the four NATO forces in Eastern Europe created to face increasing Russian pressure on the Baltic countries, Poland and Ukraine. Prime Minister Trudeau has declared that Canada is “very proud” to be taking on a leading military role in NATO’s defence plans and that it is committed to strong support of NATO in the future

    Comment by Doug MacKenzie — January 11, 2017 #

  3. Doug raises a whole new issue on trade, which is at least as important as military issues. We’ll get to more of this soon, especially as it – or IF it – becomes clear just what Trump really wants to do. He has remained in campaign mode since the election tweeting away on any random thought (sic) that floats through the mist between his ears. Long term, if he starts a trade war there will be no winners – at least in this part of the world.

    A quick note: Doug and his brother Bob are very sensitive to Canada’s importance in the world and it is clear that Canada has been a reliable and important partner in NATO, and an important trade partner. Whether Trump knows this or cares remains in doubt.

    Comment by Jeff — January 20, 2017 #

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