On January 20, Donald J. Trump took oath as the President of America. In his four months of presidency, Trump has braved both criticism and ridicule and gone ahead and executed a whole lot as far his promises on domestic policies are concerned.
One would assume that the 120-odd days he’s spent at the White House so far would be enough for him to get a hang of what he is in for. He would now know that bombarding criticism on the establishment and bearing it are two very different things.
While Trump-haters have left no stone unturned to censure and make fun of the man who few would have thought would make it to the top position two years ago, his criticism is not entirely misplaced.
A close look at his tenure so far reveals that the US President has made several U-turns on international issues that he felt strongly about. Questions are bound to rise on his changed in and the reasons that led him to it.
In my earlier article on the US presidential elections, I had written that ‘America’s foreign policy is controlled by pentagon and CIA’. The President may change but the foreign policy doesn’t.
This is what appears to be happening with Trump Administration too.
Here is a look at Trump’s change in stand on 4 major issues in the past four months:
Trump’s current line on China is completely opposite to what Trump mentioned during his poll speeches. The Trump administration has officially declined to brand China a currency manipulator.
Here is Trump's recent tweet where he categorically declines to call China a currency manipulator.
Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
Ironically, Trump’s stand now is in complete reversal of what he felt on China in this regard earlier. Here is the older tweet.
China's currency manipulation is one of our nation's greatest sovereign threats. The yuan has appreciated 40% against our dollar since 2005.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2012
The case of NATO marks a dramatic reversal of stand by the Trump administration. On the campaign trail, Trump had called NATO ‘obsolete’, a stand he has completely reversed now. Sample this to put things into perspective.
In a joint interview with the Times of London and the German publication Bild in January this year, Trump restated his doubts about NATO. "I said a long time ago that NATO had problems," he said.
"Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two the countries weren't paying what they're supposed to be paying," he said, adding that this was unfair to the United States.
That was January. Cut to the present and this is what he said after a meeting with NATO chief.
According to the LA Times, President Trump embraced the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a "bulwark of international peace and security" after a White House meeting with the alliance's chief, reversing a skeptical earlier stance.
"I said it was obsolete. It is no longer obsolete," Trump said during a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, adding that the alliance was increasing cooperation to stem terror attacks, among other steps.
Having rid NATO of the obsolete tag, US has now gone on to increase the presence of its troops in East European countries like Poland. The troops are part of the largest U.S. deployment to Europe since the Cold War. And the plan is to spread across Eastern Europe, covering Baltic nations.
The troops were deployed to defend Eastern Europe against a resurgent Russia that U.S. President Trump wanted to befriend. Trump was hard on China during his poll campaign and chose to be unusually soft on Russia, even going to the extent of praising Putin.
However, his stance on Russia has now taken a complete U-turn with the US President signalling an all-time low in ties between the two countries.
Tensions escalated after a chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 80 people, including women and children. The US blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Russia, for the attack. Assad maintained that his regime was not responsible, and Putin suggested that the attack was a "false flag" designed to frame Assad.
Trump later had this to say.
Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2017
What’s clear from his tweet is the right time is not now.
Attacking Syrian Air base with 59 tomahawk missiles is another one of Trump’s famous U-turns. The US President, who took no exceptions in targeting the erstwhile US government over its attacks on Syria, went ahead and dropped the ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ in retaliation.
Congratulations to our great military men and women for representing the United States, and the world, so well in the Syria attack.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2017
We should stay the hell out of Syria, the "rebels" are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2013
Same Old, same old?
So far, Donald Trump appears to be taking forward the same foreign policies that Barak Obama did. Mending ways with China means there will be major intervention by US in South China Sea where the eastern superpower is flexing his muscles, regardless of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea dismissing China’s claims of "historic title" in the South China Sea. The presence of NATO in Eastern Europe and the Syrian conflict is likely to keep the relation between US-Russia stressed.
North Korea and Iran are the biggest concerns for the American security establishment at this point and the US sees no wrong in seeking Chinese help to check North Korea, which has nuclear arsenal in his kitty and is a threat to world peace thanks to its fanatic ruler Kim Jong Un. China is North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner, and main source of food, arms, and energy, making it potentially easier to arm-twist the troubled neighbour.
Russia, on the other hand, is messing with American interests in Syria, Iran and Eastern Europe. Iran and Russia are Assad’s major allies in the Syrian conflict and Russia supplying S-300 missile system to Iran has instigated a bitterness in US-Russia relations.
“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining US interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel,” US secretary of state Rex Tillerson recently said.
It’s clear that Trump’s poll rhetoric on Russia or China were purely his personal views and that it has nothing to do with US foreign policy or Trump’s ability to make any shift in it.