On Tuesday the United States will elect a new President. The Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked a victory by Donald Trump as literally one of the top 10 threats facing the world. Trump has repeated, over and over, that he wants to “make America safe again.” And yet, due to his ignorance about international affairs and his questionable motives, his foreign policy actually poses an extreme menace to the U.S. and the world. Trump’s foreign policy, much like his domestic one, is hostile and confrontational, and it’s already backfiring against the U.S.
For instance, regarding his statements against ISIS, Trump has declared on several occasions that he plans to annihilate the terrorists. He would, as he said back in 2015, “bomb the shit out of them.” But Trump has given us no idea as to how he would achieve that, other than saying how much more he knows about ISIS than our top military commanders, despite the fact that virtually all of them have debunked the myth that ISIS can be defeated by a bombing operation, no matter how massive. He may have appealed to his base of supporters in showing off his false macho image, but if his aim was to scare ISIS, he achieved the exact opposite. His rhetoric has become a powerful recruitment tool for terrorists who use his statements to reinforce their anti-America propaganda. And terrorists are not the only ones harboring resentment. Trump managed to upset Mexicans, too, by declaring that those arriving in the U.S. are “drug dealers, criminals, and rapists,” not to mention his idea to build a “big, big wall” and make Mexico pay for it. And then there are the moderate Muslims worldwide, whom Trump would screen before they enter the U.S. based on their religion and their country of origin, denying them entry if they somehow fail his test of ideological purity. His plan is blatantly unconstitutional and counter-productive, not to mention far-fetched, since Trump gave us no idea of the criteria he would use to assess the danger posed by someone from a Muslin country arriving in America.
And while Trump is busy making new enemies, he is not cherishing or showing respect for America’s friends, either. For example, NATO has been one of his favorite targets for a long time; Trump is upset that several NATO nations are short on their dues payments. It is true that only four out of 28 NATO members currently are up to date on their dues to support the organization and that the U.S. provides more than its share. But the goal of NATO is to maintain the security of the Western World, not to make sure every country pays its dues! Yet Trump wants to make U.S. support of these countries conditional on their financial support. In a nutshell, he hints that if a state has not paid and it is under attack, the US will refuse to support it. Not only is this is against Article 5 of the NATO treaty, it is truly absurd and would pose an immediate threat to its members. In the medium-long term, it would signify a loss of American influence and prestige in the international context. America’s leadership in the world is based to a large extent on its role in supporting its allies; remove that function, and many countries would have little interest in following America’s guidance. What Trump also seems to forget is that the U.S. benefits as much as the other NATO states from the stability the organization provides. If the U.S. were to focus its foreign policy on who pays up rather than on maintaining peace and security, it would be a real blow to the equilibrium that has been sustained since the end of WWII, and it would be highly detrimental to everyone, America included.
And then there are Trump’s ties with Russia. It is not only about the fawning compliments he paid to Putin, or the alarming statement that Putin will never invade Ukraine, while he did so already more than two years ago! It is Trump’s proposal to have NATO move its focus from Russia to terrorism, and Putin can only be applauding that. Without NATO to watch over Russia’s expansionist tendency toward its neighbors, Putin will jeopardize the independence of former Soviet Republics, either directly, like in Ukraine, or indirectly, by rigging elections and installing friendly governments. And this will not be a problem confined to Europe and Russia’s borders only; it will jeopardize U.S. security, too. It’s quite obvious to everyone, except for Trump, apparently, that empowering America’s rivals will pose a grave danger to the U.S. and our allies.
A similar issue applies to Trump’s statements about nuclear weapons. Among the reasons the U.S. decided to take Japan and South Korea under its nuclear umbrella, for example, were to ensure a ceiling to worldwide nuclear proliferation while protecting them from the danger North Korea and China have posed throughout the years, as well as to maintain American influence in Asia. Now Trump wants both countries to defend themselves, which, given the regional context, implies they will develop their own nuclear weapons. He’s even suggested that it would be okay for these countries to have nuclear weapons. While the U.S. will, maybe, save some money in foreign security in the short term, it will lose its prestige and influence with two important allies at a time when North Korea is growing increasingly hostile to the U.S. Worst of all, it will spread nuclear weapons when the universal goal since the Cold War has been to limit them. In the long run, such a strategy would surely cost far more than the meager amount Trump is looking to save.
Another threat of Trump’s foreign policy will come from the re-ignition of tensions with Iran. Relations have been on edge all these years, but thanks to President Obama’s recent diplomatic efforts, these dangers have been kept under control. Now Trump declares he wants to withdraw the nuclear deal with Iran, to negotiate a new one. There are two possible outcomes if he does so. Either Iran will continue with its nuclear programs in secret, or it will completely withdraw from the treaty and openly restart their nuclear development. But there is no evidence whatsoever that Iran will agree to re-open negotiations. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already warned that if the U.S. tears the agreement apart, “[Iran] will light it on fire.” Neither scenario is positive for the U.S., and neither would enhance America’s safety or the regional stability in the Middle East. Breaking the deal with Iran would just be a dangerous lose-lose situation for the U.S.
In trying to present himself as a strong man, Trump would put America in danger and break the fragile international equilibrium created during the last decade. Yet how effective a negotiator is he? His trip to Mexico this summer was supposed to show how he would strong-arm President Nieto into paying for “The Wall”, yet he failed miserably; Trump choked and didn’t even raise the subject with the Mexican President, even as Trump bragged upon his return that “Mexico will pay for the wall!” Imagine how he would do in head to head negotiations with Putin, a former KGB head who cleverly manipulates every situation he is in.
It is clear that Trump’s foreign policy will not make anyone safer, once again showing how cannot be trusted. His foreign policy is a mix of open confrontation without a real plan toward terrorists; blatant racism against whomever is different, be it Mexicans or Muslims; dangerous disregard for our allies; shortsighted plans in the Middle East and Asia; and dubious liaisons with Russia, which will likely catapult the U.S. into one of the most chaotic and dangerous eras in our recent history. In short, a Trump foreign policy would create an extreme hazard for the United States and the world.
Lucia Conti has a Masters in International Relations and Iwrites mostly about European and American politics. Her blog is irarherblog.com