Donald Trump has a problem – he’s virtually alone. It isn’t just that he strays significantly from his own party’s orthodoxy on major foreign policy questions. His conundrum is that even his own cabinet choices very often depart from the Trumpist canon, a fact that may undermine his ability to actually implement his foreign policy vision.
That vision, in my view, involves unpacking the post-WWII international order and updating it to focus on what Trump believes is the twin dangers to US interests: radical Islamic terrorism, as he puts it, and socioeconomic “carnage” on the domestic front. In order to do that, such institutions as NATO – founded when the old Soviet Union was America’s main adversary on the world stage – must be retooled, or, if necessary, abandoned, in favor of new alliances and structures designed to meet new threats. In Trump’s view, we are stuck in the past, fighting yesterday’s wars while our allies drain our resources and our real enemies go about their business undisturbed.
In terms of specifics, what this translates into is a rapprochement with Russia, which will be recruited into a US-led “anti-terrorist” coalition designed, first of all, to fight and destroy ISIS, and perhaps also to contain China short of war.
In an interview with the Times of London and the German newspaper Bild, Trump indicated that he envisions a grand bargain with Vladimir Putin: an end to US sanctions and our aggressive military stance in Europe in exchange for major mutual cuts in our respective nuclear arsenals, perhaps coupled with a Russian guarantee that their “near abroad” is safe from Moscow’s designs. Furthermore, Russia would be transformed from an adversary into a partner in our endless “war on terrorism,” with Trump essentially farming out much of the work involved in subduing and eliminating the ISIS “Caliphate” to Putin and Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. This would eliminate the need for US troops on the ground, reducing our role to air support and perhaps the injection of Special Forces to carry out limited tasks.
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