Does Donald Trump have a real foreign policy?

It seems that if Donald Trump is consistent in something it is probably his more or less praising of authoritarian leaders like President Vladimir Putin. But does he have also a real foreign policy and what would his victory mean for the relations of the US with the world? Read few comments.

Mitchell Orenstein, Professor of Central and East European Politics , University of Pennsylvania, Associate, Center for European Studies, Harvard University

It is very sad that you have noticed our presidential candidate, Mr. Trump, and his foreign policy statements. He is slightly better than the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who did not know what “Aleppo” was and could not name a single world leader when asked. Trump has also exhibited some surprising gaps, such as when he guaranteed Russia would not go into Ukraine and had to be reminded that it already had. Needless to say, these elections are not being fought on foreign policy, but mainly on domestic issues such as free trade, jobs, the status of women in society, and other issues of daily concern to voters.

Trump’s enthusiasm for Vladimir Putin is genuine. He admires an autocratic leader and may seek to be a strong man if elected President of the United States. He could do a lot of damage to our democracy. It is possible he also admires Putin’s strength in foreign policy, such as invading smaller, less powerful neighboring countries. I wonder if this gives a clue about how he expects to make Mexico pay for the wall he plans to construct on its border. On the other hand, I suspect that Trump’s enthusiasm for Putin may not survive long if he were to have to deal with him longer term. Both of the last two U.S. presidents have started in office with a platform of dramatically improving relations with Russia and finished with relations at their lowest level since the Cold War. I suspect Trump may follow this pattern. The only question is whether he will give up something valuable, like NATO, before relations with Russia sour again.

Trump does not appear to have a very well-formed foreign policy. From what we can tell, however, his instincts are unilateralist and somewhat isolationist. Trump is not much of an institutions guy; he seems to dislike alliances and to prefer room for maneuver. His ultimate objective is to “make America great again,” but what that means in the foreign policy realm is unclear. Dominant in international politics, perhaps. But probably on the model of a great power America wheeling and dealing, not an America tied down by alliances or institutions which are costly to operate and have uncertain benefits. I guess I would expect a transactional, not necessarily strategic, approach going forward in combination with Trump hotels in every major foreign capital.

Jack Goldstone, Professor, Director, Center for Global Policy, George Mason University

Donald Trump does not have a foreign policy — indeed he doesn’t even have a team of experienced foreign policy advisors to develop one. What he has is a goal and a slogan — “Make America great again” — by which he seems to mean strong enough that no one will dare attack the US again. How that will be done he leaves unknown, except to try to keep out Muslims from countries with strong Jihadist movements. For US interests overseas, he seems profoundly uninterested in allies or foreign commitments, having said he might not defend NATO partners if they have not spent enough on their own defenses, and that he favors other countries (e.g. Japan) getting their own nuclear weapons rather than relying on the US nuclear umbrellas as a deterrent.

He admires Putin for accomplishing the things that Trump would like to accomplish in America — Putin has made Russia more influential and more feared, and Putin has gotten outcomes in Crimea and Syria that he wanted despite the opposition of the U.S. and Europe. Trump has reason to admire this, although if Trump succeeds in his goals, Russia could find it harder to achieve theirs. But at this moment it is impossible to know whether Trump would try to win respect by making the US more active around the world, or by being less active internationally and focusing on domestic security. Either outcome is possible, and might be driven by events. Both President Bush and President Obama came to office planning to focus on domestic policies. Then came 9/11 and Bush’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then ISIS and Obama’s inability to end the conflict in Afghanistan and difficulties in Libya and Syria. So no matter what Trump’s goals or intentions, foreign policy in recent years has usually been driven by responses to crises rather than a well-thought out strategic plan, no matter who was President. Given the range of uncertainties and conflicts in the world today — in the Middle East, South Asia, the Korean Peninsula, Africa and Latin America — that seems likely to continue.

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