US POLITICS: ANALYSIS
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Donald Trump

In abrupt shift, Trump warms to China and Nato, sours on Russia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 10:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 10:55pm

After less than three months in office, US President Donald Trump has abruptly shifted his stance on an array of foreign policy issues from the US relationship with Russia and China to the value of the Nato alliance.

Trump, who ran for the White House on a pledge to shake up the status quo in Washington, repeatedly lashed out at China during the campaign, accusing Beijing of being a “grand champion” of ­currency manipulation.

Trump lobbies Nato allies to spend more on their own defence

Candidate Trump also dismissed the Nato military alliance as obsolete and said he hoped to build warmer ties with Russia.

But at a White House news conference and in a newspaper interview on Wednesday, he ­offered starkly different views on those issues, saying his relationship with Moscow was souring while ties with Beijing were ­improving. He also lavished praise on Nato , saying it was adapting to changing global threats.

“I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete,” Trump said at a press conference with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The reversals on Russia and Nato could reassure US allies in Europe who were rattled by Trump’s overtures towards Moscow during the campaign. But the president’s talk of “bonding” with President Xi Jinping (習近平) could sow confusion in Asia, where US allies fear a rising China.

Tillerson in Moscow as Putin gives blunt assessment of US relations

Six months ago, candidate Trump suggested he was eager for an alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Wednesday Trump said he had growing concerns about Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump said last September.

“We may be at an all-time low in terms of a relationship with Russia,”, said Trump who ordered the firing of US cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield last week to punish Assad for suspected use of poison gas in Syria’s civil war.

However, Trump yesterday expressed on Twitter optimism on ties with Moscow: “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!”

While criticising Russia on Wednesday, Trump said he and Xi bonded during the president’s visit to Florida.

The improving ties with Beijing were underscored when Trump told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he would not declare China a currency ­manipulator as he had pledged to do on his first day in office.

The evolving policy appears to reflect less of the influence of his campaign team and more the views of Defence Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, all of whom are wary of Russia.

The new tone comes as Trump has been trying to settle the palace intrigue inside the White House, where Bannon, former chief of the conservative Breitbart News organisation, has been at odds with the more ­mainstream Jared Kushner, the senior White House adviser who is Trump’s son-in-law