Now that the dust has settled on the 2016 US presidential election, pundits, academics and the media are all trying to decipher the meaning and consequences of Donald J. Trump’s victory. Frankly, experts and observers have had an easier time speculating on the domestic fallout of President-elect Trump, given that he’s put forward a greater interest in, and been more specific about, the domestic political and economic policies of the United States. Indeed, his two main campaign slogans were “Make America Great Again” and “America First,” both of which were interpreted by his base of support as Trump’s willingness to prioritize domestic issues and policies over foreign ones.
In fact, it was this lack of emphasis and specificity on foreign affairs during the lengthy campaign season that left analysts and academics, and importantly also world leaders and diplomats, puzzled and troubled by a Trump White House. So many in America and around the world have been used to a fairly predictable – although not always popular – US foreign policy, from both Democratic and Republican presidents. As a successful businessman with zero political experience, and a tendency to make brazen and random statements, Trump has upended the conventional wisdom of what global audiences should expect from the United States, particularly on issues such as global leadership, free trade, counterterrorism, the status of international institutions such as NATO and so on.
That said, if we look closely enough, Trump’s foreign policy began to take shape prior to his Jan. 20 inauguration. He does have a set of foreign policy priorities that he’s enunciated on the campaign trail, in debates and in position papers. He drafted his foreign policy and defense teams. He opened dialogue with a number of foreign leaders. Based on the combination of those elements, we can begin to sketch the contours of Trump’s foreign policy and, in the parlance of “The Donald” himself, envisage the “big league” winners and losers from it. Let us explore them.
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