Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America has been handed down numerous formidable foreign policy challenges ranging from areas in the Middle East throughout East Asia. Trump had even tweeted that “THE WORK BEGINS!” on January 23, despite any of his top foreign policy positions, at the time, yet to be filled (Trump). According to the White House website, Trump will implement an “American first foreign policy focused on American interests and American national security” (Spicer). The White House strategy will focus on “peace through strength,” made possible in part by chasing “the highest level of military readiness” (Spicer).
One potential challenge posed to U.S. interest by the emerging foreign policy of the Trump administration is the issue of Russia. The U.S.-Russian relationship is at its lowest point since the Cold War (Fishel). President Trump has stated a closer association with Russian President Vladimir Putin would be an advantage to the United States (Fishel).
But the majority of his administration has “maintained that Russia needs to be confronted for its aggression, including for its annexation of Crimea and military incursions into Eastern Ukraine, hacking during the 2016 presidential election, backing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and Russia’s brutal aerial bombing campaign to assist his efforts” (Fishel). Unparalleled Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee also enhances the colossal “security threat posed to critical components of the U.S. government, infrastructure, defense technology, and many other government operations that rely heavily on cyber technology” (Fishel).
On the White House Website, it was publicized that it “will make it a priority to develop defensive and offensive cyber capabilities at our U.S. Cyber Command, and recruit the best and brightest Americans to serve in this crucial area” (Fishel). Russia’s military intervention in Syria has efficiently set up a proxy war with the U.S. and the rebel forces it backs. The U.S. has held Russia responsible for its “subsequent breakdown of cease-fire negotiations and the devastating siege of Aleppo, Syria” (Fishel). Finally, “Putin’s war in Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea has sparked fears that he’s seeking to reclaim Soviet-era borders and eventually could bait the NATO alliance into a military conflict” (Fishel).
Trump’s latest remarks on Russia have so far confronted the conventional wisdom of either party and has drawn criticism from both sides. Trump hasn’t convicted the Russian hacks into the U.S. election process and has said he “would be looking at the possibility of lifting sanctions against Russia tied to its illegal military annexation of Crimea, which the U.S. government has refused to accept” (Fishel). He openly questioned the intelligence community’s calculation that Russia hacked the DNC, compared them to Nazis and held them responsible for releasing false information about his ties to Russia (Fishel). Rather than stand against a potential restoration of Soviet expansionism, critics say Trump seems to be accepting it. He has labeled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), considered the first line of defense against Russian expansionism, as “obsolete, while also suggesting he may not honor the organization’s most sacred covenant of mutual defense” (Fishel). In addition to saying the U.S. would profit from a friendlier association with Putin, Trump has also admired him on Twitter, calling him “very smart” for deciding not to react when President Obama kicked out Russian intelligence offers in retort to the election hack (Trump).
During this past September, North Korea administered its biggest ever nuclear test, discharging a bomb that has been perceived to be able to “yield to the equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT” (Fishel). Making this the country’s second nuclear test this year and their fifth since 2006. Now more than ever the United States in extremely alarmed, that North Korea is more near to their goal of “miniaturizing a nuclear weapon that can be placed on long-range missiles a move that could destabilize the region and the world” (Fishel). Differing from Iran, the U.S has been unable to negotiate an agreement regarding nuclear issues (Fishel). Taking into account, that 3 of the five nuclear tests in North Korea have taken place under Kim Jong-un’s rule, it is clear that the dictator is fearless of the overpowering economic sanctions imposed by foreign nations (Fishel). Even though China’s foreign Ministry has reprimanded the North Korean Tests and urged “international dialogue, recent tensions between the United States and China over the South China Sea could congeal Chinese support for taking a more aggressive approach to the North Korean regime” (Fishel).
This past January, after North Korea stated that they were close to firing off nuclear weapons that could reach the United States, Donald Trump tweeted that “it won’t happen,” which could be interpreted as a possible “redline” for the Trump administration (Fishel). In May of 2017 Trump stated that we could potentially be open to the idea of allowing North Korea’s neighbors, including United States allies South Korea and Japan, to obtain their own nuclear resources. This is a move that would successfully “nuclearize the entire region and negate the cost as justification for stationing United States troops in the region” (Fishel). Trump at the same time has stated that “We cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world” (Trump).
What Trump’s administration means for US Interests
The Trump Administration will test the durability of some of America’s longstanding alliances but may create opportunities for new cooperation with others. Trump has expressed that he wanted to improve the United States relationship with Russia, more specifically he wants a closer relationship with Putin (Tucker). Improvement in the U.S.-Russia relationship could alleviate the risk of an escalation in tensions between Iran and the United States. Russia is hopeful for the Trump administration will be friendlier toward them and will “weaken or even diminish sanctions that were previously imposed on them after the annexation of Crimea in 2014” (Tucker). These sanctions being lifted would allow for President Putin to pronounce himself a winner in the stand-off with the Western powers before the presidential election in 2018 (Tucker). Authorities in Ukraine fear that more cordial relationship between the U.S.-Russia will “undermine U.S. support for their reform process” (Tucker). Since the Maidan revolution in 2014, the U.S has been a “committed ally helping finance the new government guaranteeing its international bonds and supporting the IMF program in Ukraine” (Tucker).
North Korea prohibited the U.N. Security Council’s declaration on its latest “ballistic missile launch and claimed its tests are in self-defense” (News). These tests made by North Korea have been unanimously condemned by the Security Council. They stated that these launches are a “grave violation of international law” (News). China, one of North Koreas only allies, and main lifeline, also signed onto that statement (News). This enhances another level of ambiguity to the region that is still trying to get a read on the new unpredictable U.S. president. These new missiles are more stable and allow for a less advanced warning (News). “This achievement on part of North Korea is a dangerous advancement toward the pursuit of a nuclear weapon and is a big first test for President Trump” (News). “Obviously, North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly” Trump tweeted (Trump).
“China and the United States have fundamentally different approaches to dealing with North Korea,” said Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing (News). “China believes we have to gradually encourage North Korea to liberalize its economy to open up to the international community” (News). Ninety percent of North Korea’s trade is with China, leading Western officials indict Beijing of upholding the neighboring dictatorship (News). But China said, “It’s doing its part by signing on to stringent U.N. sanctions” (News). In March the United States and South Korea held their “annual large-scale military drills, which was largely seen by North Korea as a direct threat to their security” (News). North Korea has stated that this could seriously undermine peace and security in the region (News). These drills could also potentially close the door on any “potential direct engagement with the United States and push North Korea to test an even larger more powerful missile” (News). But to reassure us all Trump tweets “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S with its allies will! U.S.A.” (Trump).
Since Donald Trump has taken office, things have been less then dull, especially regarding his foreign policy. Sure his order to suspend visas for citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries was explosive, however, it is not a central issue in U.S. foreign policy (Friedman). Deepening questions have been brought up in regards to Trump’s foreign policy. And the real question is if he actually has intentions of downgrading NATO, shift relations with Russia, confront China, and take a significant stand against Iran. A foreign policy is not made by hostile phones calls nor threatening tweets.
Fishel, Justin. “7 Major Foreign Policy Challenges Facing President Donald Trump.”ABC News. ABC News Network, 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. <http://abcnews.go.com/International/major-foreign-policy-challenges-facing-president-elect-donald/story?id=43416486>.
Friedman, George. “Trump’s Conventional Foreign Policy.” RealClearWorld. Geopolitical Features, 9 Feb. 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017. <http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2017/02/09/trumps_conventional_foreign_policy_112210.html>.
News, CBS. “What North Korea Missile Launch Means for U.S.-China Relations.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/north-korea-missile-launch-china-president-trump-us-un-sanctions/>.
Schneider, Ondrej. “The Trump Effect: Global Implications of the Next U.S. President.”The Trump Effect: Global Implications of the Next U.S. President | The Institute of International Finance. Institute of International Finance, 8 Dec. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <https://www.iif.com/publication/research-note/trump-effect-global-implications-next-us-president>.
Spicer, Sean. “Remarks by President Trump in Strategy and Policy Forum.” The White House. The United States Government, 03 Feb. 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/03/remarks-president-trump-strategy-and-policy-forum>.
Trump, Donald J. “Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump).” Twitter. Twitter, 09 Apr. 2017. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump>.
Tucker, Joshua. “Here’s How Trump’s Election Will Affect U.S.-Russian Relations.”The Washington Post. WP Company, 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/11/10/heres-how-trumps-election-will-affect-u-s-russian-relations/?utm_term=.292988d2b2b8>.