No country stands to lose more than the United States if Donald Trump is elected president, simply because Trump is entirely unprepared and unqualified for directing foreign policy.
The biggest winners of a Trump presidency would be Russia, China, the Philippines, and Iran, which all seem to be trending toward an odd axis of anti-American, regional influence, with which Trump’s brainless foreign policy ideas will embolden to further oppose American interests.
Both Russia and China, especially, are looking to expand their political spheres of influence, and Trump’s foreign policy would abandon the coalitional containment efforts of the Obama Administration in Europe and Asia, respectively.
Regarding Russia, Trump has promised to alienate our NATO and European Union allies by turning America’s military cooperation into more of a mercenary business scheme, in which America will only aid our allies if they pay us more money.
“We always have to be prepared to walk,” Trump said this summer about extracting greater cash incentives to continue stationing US troops in bases in allied nations as varied as Japan, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
Trump seems to misunderstand why America has so many bases around the world in the first place. The US does not, in fact, station troops all around the world just to be altruistically nice to friendly nations, but because American foreign policy has traditionally seen a bold, forward-deployed military apparatus—particularly against our former nemesis, the Soviet Union—as an advantageous way to promote national and strategic interests. Sometimes our military bases even cause anti-American friction with our allies because our troops commit crimes in their host nations without facing any foreign judicial punishments on account of protections in US status of forces agreements. This foreign-political friction supports the idea of the US cutting back in the number of our military bases around the world, but it does not support Trump’s rationale that the reason the US should scale back is because host nations are taking advantage of us monetarily.
Despite the fact that Trump was alive for the entirety of the Cold War, his skim foreign policy ideas suggest that he did not pay much attention to it throughout his adult life. Does he not remember that the Korean War never technically ended, and that US troops are deployed in South Korea and Japan for that reason? Does he not remember why NATO exists in the first place? It seems so, as Trump has all but promised that he will look the other way if Vladimir Putin calls America’s bluff on our Article 5 commitment to mutual defense in Eastern Europe.
Another worrying development is that Vladimir Putin’s government has worked to influence our election in order to aid the Trump campaign. Even more troubling, Russian oligarchs have considerable financial leverage over Trump’s businesses. Donald Trump Jr. is on record saying that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” a statement he made at a real estate conference in 2008. Donald Trump has since claimed that he has “nothing to do with Russia,” but unless his son was lying Donald is probably a liar. Trump’s Russian dealings certainly suggest he could compromise US foreign policy, especially coupled with his apathy regarding the sovereignty of America’s Baltic allies.
Meanwhile, regarding China, Trump has threatened a trade war against the Asian power, which would do a lot of damage to both internationally dominant economies. This would dramatically raise prices on all kinds of consumer goods in America, which would probably do a lot of damage to Trump’s approval rating and erase what political capital Trump has regarding the economy. The reality is that, in a globalized world, a national economy cannot be run as petulantly as Trump has run the trust-funded Trump company he inherited.
On foreign policy—if Trump’s statements throughout his campaign are suggestive of what his actual policies will be in a Trump presidency—Trump would likely ignore our Asian allies with the same cavalier attitude with which he has proposed ignoring our European allies. This would embolden China to exert more influence in Asia, and prompt traditional US allies to suck up to China in the absence of American leadership. This is not good for American national interests in containing China.
Two other winners of a Trump election would be the Philippines and Iran. Both countries are ideologically moving toward Russian and Chinese interests in their respective spheres of influence, so much that a relatively ragtag, anti-American axis between Russia, China, Iran and the Philippines is slowly emerging. Will Trump have the US join them by reversing US efforts to prevent and contain the instability that these nations are currently causing?
Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has recently pledged a “separation” between the Philippines and the US, and has shelved Philippine opposition to China’s control of the South China Sea. Despite Duterte’s politically-forced walk back of his anti-American rhetoric, he has firmly pledged alignment with China. Given that Trump has claimed to respect historical dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, and Bashar al-Assad, he would likely respect the increasingly dictatorial Duterte. Dictators always respect other dictators. But again, Duterte is choosing China over America in terms of allegiance, despite decades of US-Philippine cooperation. This is not in America’s interest.
Regarding Iran, Trump has pledged to rip up the Iran Deal on his first day in office, which would likely prompt a quick resumption of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran is increasingly allying itself with Russia in Middle Eastern affairs, and even with China in Syria, so Trump’s promise to further provoke anti-American sentiment in the heart of Shia Islam will not advance American interests in the Middle East.
Consequently, Trump’s refusal to honor the Iran Deal—which offered economic collateral for the shelving of Iranian nuclear ambitions—while simultaneously opposing Iran’s growing (and inevitable) regional influence, will likely spiral US-Iranian relations into war since America cannot both shun Iran and hope that Iran does what we want anyway. How committed is Trump to his opposition of Iran?
Even more troubling, the US will not exactly be on the morally-righteous side of any Iranian-American conflict since Trump will have guided the US into breaking all its recently-signed promises with Iran.
All in all, Trump is fool who will ruin America’s standing and reputation globally simply because he doesn’t know much about international relations. Neither does he seem to understand, nor remember, the history he has lived through in his seven decades.
Foreign policy, fundamentally, cannot and should not be run like a business because ideological consistency and long-term planning should not be dependent on how much profit America can extract from its allies. Such corporate motives will only weaken our global partnerships and embolden America’s international rivals.