The recently held Singapore meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump was supposed to offset the foreign policy gaffes that have characterised the Oval Office ever since the real estate tycoon stepped into the White House in the winter of 2017.
Showing no understanding of history or the complexity of international relations, Trump has insulted America’s allies, emboldened its adversaries, squandered its leadership role and confused the entire world. Prior to Trump’s accession, people knew of the trajectory of American foreign policy. Now, they are no longer sure.
Starting from antagonising Mexico and Canada, both neighbours who have had good relations with the US for decades, by seeking to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and by imposing tariffs on goods from these countries, which saw reciprocal measures by the two neighbours, to the growing irrelevance of US leadership in West Asia as can be seen in Iraq and Syria, the Trump doctrine has done lasting damage to US foreign policy credibility.
From pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations with its European partners to announcing his intent to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, from shocking its NATO allies by omitting from his May 2017 speech any reference to its Article 5 commitment to mutual defence and instead, scolding them for their refugee policies and humiliating them as NATO freeloaders to pulling out of the Iran nuclear del which effectively allows Tehran to walk away from its commitment to not develop nuclear weapons, Trump’s foreign policy diary are an omnibus of failures. His action on Iran has pleased no other country other than Israel.
The Europeans have openly voiced their intent to conduct business with Iran. The US-Europe relations have hit a new low. His recent comment at the G7 summit that the US paid “close to the entire cost of NATO” to help protect countries that “rip us off on trade” has not helped much. The pivot played by Vladimir Putin in Syria has seen NATO’s second largest partner Turkey cozying up to Moscow. With regime change out of question, the US are in a Catch 22 situation vis-à-vis its support for Kurdish guerrillas.
Under Trump, the US has achieved that feat. One wonders if his policy decisions stem from his own convictions or if they are geared to dismantle the legacy of Barack Obama
On one hand, Assad is strengthening his hand, aided by growing Iranian and Russian influence. On the other, Ankara, peeved at the US turning a blind eye towards its Kurdish problem, are holding talks with Moscow and Tehran to thrash out a political settlement in Syria. When did one hear last that a major power with boots and military assets on the ground of another country was not a part of the political solution to end the impasse in that very country?
Under Trump, the US has achieved that feat. One wonders if his policy decisions stem from his own convictions or if they are geared to dismantle the legacy of Barack Obama. He has re-imposed sanctions and travel restrictions on Cuba. At home, he has rescinded proposed controls on power-plant emissions, environmental regulations and backed repeal of some Obama-era controls on financial institutions. That way, the meeting with Kim was supposed to be that photo opportunity that would wash off all these faux pas at one go.
But, he has failed miserably. Kim can laugh his heart out in Pyongyang, having secured the guarantees of no further military exercises between Washington and Seoul. And the best part is that Kim has had to not make any concrete commitment to dismantle his nuclear arsenal and the delivery mechanisms. Trump can go to town, claiming he got the reclusive North Korean leader out of his land in order to bring lasting peace to the Korean peninsula but the truth is that it is yet another feather in Trump’s cap of foreign policy failures.