All is far from rosy on foreign policy front, despite claims of Donald Trump
- Optimism on matters from the trade war with China to talks with North Korea is not to be sneered at, but a reasonable dose of reality is necessary given the uncertainties the current occupier of the White House has created
The United States’ foreign policy is in good shape, President Donald Trump boasted during his state-of-the-union speech. He said a fairer trade deal was being negotiated with China, and North Korea and Islamic State (IS) were no longer threats; there would soon be peace in Afghanistan and American troops could go home; Iran and Russia had been put in their place over disregard for nuclear pacts, and democracy was about to be restored to Venezuela. The annual speech is often used by US leaders to paint a favourable picture of their efforts. Optimism is not to be sneered at, but a reasonable dose of reality is necessary given the uncertainties and dangers that the incumbent’s administration has created.
There was high regard from Trump for President Xi Jinping and the blame for the US trade imbalance with China was put squarely on American leaders and representatives “for allowing this travesty to happen”. China could not be faulted for taking advantage, but the negotiations to end the trade war had to reverse “decades of calamitous trade policies”. His argument that China intentionally targeted US industries and jobs has always been flawed. The outcome has to amicably reflect the interests of both nations.
Vietnam was announced as the venue for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on February 27 and 28, although no specific location was given. Trump suggested the nations may well now be at war had he not brought the two together in Singapore last year, but the reality is that in the absence of concrete progress, the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles still remain a threat to the US and region. IS is also far from neutralised, its thousands of fighters having been scattered around the world due to the loss of its territory.
A withdrawal of American troops from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Afghanistan, should a deal with the Taliban be sealed, is not a reflection of stability having been restored. Trump’s abandonment last year of the international nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposition of sanctions and, in recent days, withdrawal from a weapons pact with Russia, have similarly raised the spectre of proliferation and, in the case of the latter, an arms race. His backing of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared president Juan Guaido does not constitute an end to the country’s economic turmoil; it could hasten the risk of a civil war.
Trump’s rosy outlook could well come true, but much has to be done before victory can be declared. Walking away from the multilateralism that has fared the world so well has caused uncertainty and posed risks and dangers. He should be working with other nations, not tearing apart agreements and ignoring decades of American foreign policy.