Donald Trump & U.S. Foreign Relations 2016

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27 December
UN just a club to have a good time, says Donald Trump
(The Australian) Days after the UN voted to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Donald Trump has questioned its effectiveness, saying it’s just a club for people to “have a good time”.
The president-elect tweeted yesterday the UN had “such great potential,” but it had become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
On Saturday, Mr Trump warned, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th,” referring to the day he takes office.

24 December
Uri Avnery: Don’t Send Him!
DONALD TRUMP has spat in my face.
Not only in my own face, but in the faces of at least half the Israeli population.
He has appointed a bankruptcy lawyer named David Friedman to the job of US ambassador in Israel.
FIRST OF all, it is bad practice to appoint an ambassador to a country with which he has a deep personal connection. You don’t send a Cuban-American Castro-hater to be the US ambassador in Havana. You don’t send Kuomintang Chinese from Taiwan to be US ambassador in Beijing.
True, it is not the first time an American Jew has been appointed ambassador to Israel. There have been two or three, who could just as well have served as Israeli ambassadors to Washington. But they were far less opinionated than this specimen.
An ambassador serves as the eyes and ears of the home country in a foreign state. Among his tasks is providing his superiors in the foreign office with reliable, unbiased information, on which to base policy. The ideal ambassador is a cool observer, with no strong feelings towards the country of his mission, neither positive nor negative.
This description of a diplomat is the exact opposite of this particular individual.

22 December
Sad that editors feel the need to label this ‘satirical’ – however, it may not be far from the truth!
Op-ed: What Now? (Satirical) Advice to Diplomats from an Ex-Ambassador
The diplomats should put down their bottles of antacids and relax. Their job has really become much easier. All they have to do is follow the rules of this new reality.
Rule one: Ignore the various government agencies, especially the State Department. They will all continue to beaver away and put out statements and position papers, but they no longer matter. They will be staffed by dispirited career bureaucrats overseen by clueless political appointees with no government experience. The only thing they will have in common is that they will have no impact on the policy process.
Congress will also no longer matter. The overwhelming mandate derived from coming in a distant second in the popular vote will allow the president-elect to have his way whatever it is. And congressmen are as spineless as those Republican luminaries who, a few weeks ago, were harshly critical of the man they are now sucking up to for a job. So, you can forget the checks-and-balances thing.
Trump Pressures Obama Over U.N. Resolution on Israeli Settlements
(NYT) President-elect Donald J. Trump publicly pressured President Obama on Thursday to veto a United Nations resolution critical of Israel, the newly elected leader’s most direct intervention in foreign policy during his transition to power. His words closely echoed the positions expressed by Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has welcomed Mr. Trump’s election as a breath of fresh air after years of clashes with Mr. Obama.
Egypt, one of Israel’s most reliable partners in the Middle East and a longtime United States ally, announced that it would put up the draft measure for a vote after extensive consultations with fellow Arab diplomats. The vote was scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m. But by mid-morning, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered his diplomats to pull the resolution.
… Mr. Trump’s ambassador-designate, David M. Friedman, has suggested that Israel annex the West Bank, has denounced the two-state solution … Mr. Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who has an apartment in Jerusalem, is also a major backer of settlements, serving as president of an American fund-raising group that supports a yeshiva in Beit El, a religious settlement deep in the West Bank. Mr. Trump and Mr. Friedman have also said they plan to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, something counter to longstanding bipartisan policy that could yield ire throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
The UN weighs in on Israeli settlements. The UN Security Council will vote on a draft resolution calling for Israel to stop settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The US will most likely use its veto, as it always has in the past to protect Israel—but abstaining would be a pointed parting shot by Barack Obama, who’s had a tense relationship with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

20 December
The Trump Doctrine: A Work in Progress
(Stratfor) Perhaps the greatest difference between the Obama and Trump foreign policies lies in what may be Trump’s biggest virtue: his unpredictability. Obama has been criticized as overly cautious in his foreign policy and thus too much of a known entity for U.S. adversaries. Trump, on the other hand, gives the impression that he is willing to throw caution to the wind and rely on instinct in shaping foreign policy. This matters immensely for U.S. allies and adversaries alike that have to be kept on their toes in developing their long-term strategy while avoiding the unexpected with the world’s superpower.

19 December
The Trump World Order
(Bloomberg) Trump isn’t yet president, so it’s early to be drawing conclusions. But concern is warranted. Trump rejects the status quo in America’s relations with the rest of the world, and seems to see global stability as a kind of national surrender.
[With respect to China] Trump is proposing to connect trade policy to an issue of great-power politics over which China may be willing to go to war. Stir things up to get better deals. (The implication that the U.S. will have nothing to say on Taiwan so long as Beijing gives Trump a trade deal he likes is disturbing in its own right.) This kind of thinking leads nowhere good.

18 December
White House faces exodus of foreign policy experts ahead of Trump’s arrival
An unusual number of the National Security Council’s more junior officials are looking to depart, due to concerns about incoming advisor Michael Flynn
(The Guardian) The White House is struggling to prevent a crippling exodus of foreign policy staffers eager to leave before the arrival of the Trump administration, according to current and former officials.
The top level officials in the National Security Council (NSC) are political appointees who have to submit resignations and leave in a normal transition. The rest of the 400 NSC staff are career civil servants on secondment from other departments. An unusual number of these more junior officials are now looking to depart.
It could be hard for NSC staffers “detailed” (seconded) from other departments to return to their former positions ahead of schedule. That would require the agreement of their managers and could harm long-term career prospects. Those that do leave however, will leave vacancies that are hard to fill. Their replacements would have to be drawn from career civil servants at other agencies, as the White House does not have the budget to fund the posts if they are filled by political appointees.

16 December
trump-and-david-friedmanDavid Remnick: Trump’s Daily Bankruptcy and the Ambassador to Israel
(The New Yorker) … let’s concentrate on the outrage of the day: the appointment of a bankruptcy lawyer named David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel. Friedman writes regularly for Arutz Sheva, a pro-settler Web site that is available in English. After reading these columns, you might reasonably conclude that, if Israel decided it was in its interest to annex the West Bank, Friedman would heartily approve and help raise the flag. Ideologically, Friedman is to the right of Benjamin Netanyahu. His rhetoric, his viewpoints, and his prejudices are in sync with settler leaders in the government, and in the settlements themselves.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has been a crucial adviser to the campaign and the transition, and he and his family have an intense interest in Israeli affairs. Their politics on the issue are distinctly right-wing. Kushner’s family foundation has, according to Israeli media reports, donated tens of thousands of dollars to West Bank institutions, despite the fact that the State Department has long regarded the settlements there as a barrier to peace in the region. In 2013, for instance, the Kushner family foundation gave twenty thousand dollars to the Beit El Yeshiva, a school in a particularly hard-right settlement. Friedman is the president of a foundation that raises money for institutions in Beit El.
Trump Chooses Settlements Supporter as Ambassador to Israel
David Friedman’s pick may signal major shift in U.S. policy
Nominee opposes two-state solution, backs Israeli settlements
J Street Vehemently Opposes Nomination of David Friedman as US Ambassador to Israel
He has publicly called President Barack Obama an anti-Semite. He has promoted the false and dangerous conspiracy theory that a Pakistani-Indian aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has labeled “liberal Jews” as “worse than kapos,” referring to Jews who collaborated with Nazis during the Holocaust, thereby hideously twisting the legacy of the Holocaust for use as a political weapon. His nomination is reckless, putting America’s reputation in the region and credibility around the world at risk.

15 December
Trump’s Secretary of State Pick May Help Direct Shift in U.S. Foreign Policy
Donald Trump laid out a wholesale rethinking of American foreign policy during his campaign.
(NBC) If confirmed by the Senate … Rex Tillerson … would have to implement that vision.
That work will likely include efforts to ease tensions between the U.S. and Russia, withdrawing from global agreements on climate change and Iran’s nuclear weapons program, limiting the number of refugees coming to America, and ending the American-backed push to force Syria’s Bashar Assad from power.
Russia
Trump says that America can have a less tense relationship with Russia. In a press conference in July, the businessman suggested he would consider both lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia and formally recognizing Russian control of Crimea. He could accomplish both through his executive authority.
Tillerson … in his role at Exxon, expressed skepticism about the sanctions against Russia.
China
During the campaign, Trump called for a more aggressive posture toward China, at least on economic issues. He frequently suggested he would rethink American trade with the world’s most populous nation, arguing current policy allows China to “rape our country” and threatening tariffs on Chinese-made goods imported to the U.S. … he would also reconsider the American “One China” policy that does not recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. China will also be influential in U.S. efforts, which Trump says he will continue, to prevent North Korea from further developing its nuclear weapons program.
The Middle East
Trump has said he broadly wants a pullback from U.S. engagement in the Middle East. In a interview last month with the Wall Street Journal, Trump suggested the U.S. should better hone (sic) in on fighting ISIS, rather than supporting rebel efforts to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia factors into his calculations given that nation’s support of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.
He wants to rethink the multi-national agreement on Iran’s nuclear weapons and generally be tougher with the Iranian regime. And he wants to have a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
One of Trump’s most specific promises during the campaign was changing how America talks about terrorism. … the president-elect insists that the U.S. must publicly say that ISIS and other groups are Islamic, making clear who the U.S. is fighting against.
Trump Feud Over Russia Intel Raises Deeper Concerns, Experts Say
President-elect Donald Trump’s ongoing feud with U.S. intelligence agencies over alleged hacking by Russia is unnerving outside national security experts, some of whom fear the frosty relationship could impact Trump’s ability to govern.
Of course Trump — who said in August the intelligence community’s performance has been “catastrophic” —wouldn’t be the first president to have a strained relationship with his own agencies. But what separates Trump, some experts say, is his unusually harsh public criticism of the intelligence community’s basic worth and and a lack of clarity on how he plans to gather facts if he refuses their counsel.

13 December
Netanyahu: Trump’s Idea to Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Is ‘Great’
(Haaretz) Prime minister’s comments during his visit to Azerbaijan come day after president-elect’s aide says moving the embassy is a ‘very big priority’ for Trump.
Moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem ‘very big priority’ for Trump, senior adviser says
Where does Donald Trump stand on Israel?
Jerusalem mayor and Kushner pal Barkat optimistic Trump will move embassy to Jerusalem
rex-tillersonRex Tillerson’s World: In His Own Words
Remarks by the nominee for secretary of state reveal a pragmatic executive whose views often appear to diverge from Donald Trump’s.
(The Atlantic) I read five years worth of speeches made by Tillerson on Exxon’s website, and comments elsewhere, and they reveal a pragmatic executive confident about the role of energy in the world, the benefits of deregulation as well as free trade, and the dangers posed by climate change and the best ways to tackle it. Many of these views appear to diverge from Trump’s positions. [e.g.]
TPP
In the years ahead, as the economy and energy landscape evolves worldwide, leaders in the United States and Asia will need to examine how their own policies can support international cooperation and energy trade. One of the most promising developments on this front is the ongoing effort for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Climate change
Exxon, under Tillerson, supported the Paris climate accord, from which Trump has said he wants to withdraw. Earlier this year, Tillerson said: “We share the view that the risks of climate change are serious and warrant thoughtful action.” Tillerson has made the case for a carbon tax “as the best policy of those being considered.”
Trump’s Team Differs on Foreign Policy Issues
Key members of national-security team have conflicting views on Iran, climate change and trade
President-elect Donald Trump has selected a national-security team whose members hold conflicting positions on some major foreign-policy issues, leaving open the question of how he will exert U.S. power on the world stage.
Mr. Trump’s core advisers differ on topics including climate change, trade, and the international nuclear deal with Iran. But there is an overarching similarity in their worldviews: that the time has come for a shift from the current U.S. approach to global affairs.
Mr. Trump already has demonstrated his intent to upend President Barack Obama’s approach to Russia and China by pursuing warmer ties with Moscow and a more confrontational posture toward Beijing. Mr. Obama has sought a closer relationship with China while aggressively taking on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his interventions in Ukraine and Syria. …
Mr. Trump also has signaled a willingness to change positions he took in the campaign on issues such as U.S. commitments to an international climate change agreement or the Iran nuclear deal.
“I don’t think there is a clear and coherent worldview yet,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former career diplomat and undersecretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, of Mr. Trump. “We have these emotions and opinions, but we don’t have a coherent governing strategy yet and he deserves some time to be able to put that together.”

Listen Closely: Donald Trump Proposes Big Mideast Strategy Shift
He signals a break from Obama and Bush: ‘We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments’
On their face, [his] statements suggest:
— An end to the effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for the effort to throw out Mr. Assad is nothing if not an effort to topple a regime.
— A partnership with Russia in the region, for Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly has demonstrated he is “willing to join in the effort” to defeat Islamic State in Syria.
— A warmer relationship with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, a strongman who has demonstrated an unmistakable ferocity in his own fight against Islamic extremism, while also being largely shunned by the Obama administration for shredding civil liberties in Egypt.
— A policy toward Iran that doubtless will be hostile and include an attempt to dissolve the Obama-negotiated deal on nuclear arms, but one that won’t include regime change in Tehran as an explicit goal.

5 December
(The Atlantic) Last week, president-elect Donald Trump placed an impromptu phone call to Taiwan’s president, breaking a decades-old U.S. policy of refusing to recognize the Taiwanese government. This week, the fallout continues, with one Chinese scholar, Shen Dingli, arguing that if Trump did something similar after taking office, Shen might recommend China’s breaking ties with the U.S. Here’s the full interview with Shen, and here are some reactions from readers—one of whom makes the case for why it might be time to for America to reconsider its political fiction of a non-relationship with Taiwan. That would come, however, at the cost of seriously angering China, whose key partnership with the U.S. is already precarious.

2 December
So, Why Can’t You Call Taiwan?
President-elect Donald Trump has committed a sharp breach of protocol—one that underscores just how weird some important protocols are.
(The Atlantic) Trump’s previous conversations might provide hints on whether foreign governments will take Trump seriously. As Uri Friedman wrote today, Trump’s conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already had repercussions. The Pakistani government put out a readout that read suspiciously like a near-verbatim transcript of Trump’s words, capturing the tone the president-elect uses. His promise to “play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems” might sound to an American who just observed the election as so much Trumpian space-filling, but it made headlines in Pakistan, where some interpreted it as a nod to Pakistan’s conflict with India in Kashmir. Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, told the Times it appeared Pakistani officials had taken Trump’s words too seriously.
China is perhaps a more sophisticated foreign-policy player than Pakistan; it’s certainly a more important one. But as Fallows points out, a China that sees Trump as buffoon probably isn’t good for American interests either.

1 December
A World of Trouble for Donald Trump
(NYT Editorial) That Donald Trump is having trouble choosing a secretary of state underscores concerns about his ability to manage the international challenges he will face in office — from the aggression of leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin to the Islamic State to strains among NATO allies.
At times, Mr. Trump’s campaign talk suggested new approaches; at other times, he offered a jumble of contradictory ideas. His mantra of “America first” implies a reduced American role overseas, but he has also advocated a tough posture toward adversaries. All of this creates an unsettling unpredictability that has already affected how governments and companies think and act. There is still little sign that Mr. Trump, who has declined daily briefings by the intelligence agencies, understands these threats and how to deal with them. …
Iran: Mr. Trump has vowed to tear up the 2015 deal under which Iran halted its most dangerous nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions. The agreement is working, as many of its critics in Congress and the Middle East acknowledge. Mr. Trump, however, has chosen a national security adviser and a C.I.A. director who are both adamantly opposed to the deal, regardless of the consequences of ending it.
Presidents have wide latitude to act unilaterally in foreign policy and command a powerful bully pulpit. Even so, Congress, career diplomats, interest groups, the media and foreign leaders can help shape, inform and stymie presidential intentions. The world has long relied on the United States to be the steady hand. The challenges will be more complex than Mr. Trump ever imagined. There is little reason to believe that he will provide strong leadership on these fronts, but every reason to hope that he does.

21 November
Long, fascinating, and at times scary. It also presupposes far more deep thinking than Donald Trump has exhibited to date publicly
Donald Trump’s New World Order
What a Kissinger-inspired strategy might look like.
By Niall Ferguson
(The American Interest) Kissinger’s recommendations to Trump may be summarized as follows:
Do not go all-out into a confrontation with China, whether on trade or the South China Sea. Rather, seek “comprehensive discussion” and aim to pursue that policy of dialogue and “co-evolution” recommended in World Order. Kissinger sees the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, quite regularly. When he says that Xi regards “confrontation as too dangerous” and thinks that “adversarial countries must become partners and cooperate on a win-win basis,” he speaks with authority. The questions the Chinese want to ask the new President, according to Kissinger, are these: “If we were you, we might try to suppress your rise. Do you seek to suppress us? If you do not, what will the world look like when we are both strong, as we expect to be?” Trump needs to have answers to these questions. The alternative, as Kissinger has said repeatedly, is for the United States and China to talk past each other until they stumble into 1914 in the Pacific, not to mention in cyberspace.
Given a weakened, traumatized, post-imperial Russia, the recognition Putin craves is that of “a great power, as an equal, and not as a supplicant in an American-designed system.” Kissinger’s message to Trump is well calibrated to appeal to his instincts: “It is not possible to bring Russia into the international system by conversion. It requires deal-making, but also understanding.” The central deal, Kissinger argues, would turn Ukraine into “a bridge between NATO and Russia rather than an outpost of either side,” like Finland or Austria in the Cold War, “free to conduct its own economic and political relationships, including with both Europe and Russia, but not party to any military or security alliance.” Such a non-aligned Ukraine would also need to be decentralized, increasing the autonomy of the contested eastern regions, where there has been intermittent conflict since separatist movements received Russian support in the wake of the Crimean annexation. The alternative to such a deal is that we may inadvertently over-use our financial and military superiority, turning a post-Putin Russia into a vast version of Yugoslavia, “wracked by conflict stretching from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok.”
Treat Brexit as an opportunity to steer the continental Europeans away from bureaucratic introspection and back to strategic responsibility. (“They’re talking about tactical matters while they’re in the process of giving up the essence of . . . what they’ve represented throughout history.”)
Make peace in Syria rather as we made peace in the former Yugoslavia nearly twenty years ago. Kissinger now recommends a “cantonization” of Syria similar to the federalization of Bosnia under the Washington and Dayton agreements, with an “off-ramp for Assad” lasting around a year, all under the “supervision” of the interested outside powers. Iran must be contained, much as the Soviet Union was in the Cold War, because it poses a similar threat, acting as both an imperial state and a revolutionary cause. But keep the Iran agreement because to abandon it now “would free Iran from more constraints than it would free the United States.” And finally take advantage of the new-found, albeit tacit, anti-Iranian and anti-ISIS alignment of the Arab states with Israel to achieve a new kind of Arab-sponsored peace deal that would “improve the lives of Palestinians to the greatest extent possible, perhaps including quasi-sovereignty . . . that is, de facto autonomy without a legalistic superstructure.”

9 November
Robert Fisk: The Middle East will present Donald Trump with a terrifying choice – and he won’t be able to handle it
What does Trump actually do when these lands present a “threat” to the West? Dust off his anti-Muslim hatreds? Call up his mate Vladimir? Ask for an atlas?
(The Independent) Trump’s Middle East is likely to be pretty much the same as Hillary’s Middle East might have been. Uncritical support for nuclear Israel and its chaotic prime minister, constant bombast about terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror (delete when you get tired of the word) and support for “moderates” – be they rebels (of the Syrian variety), presidents and kings (of the Sissi of Egypt/Abdullah of Jordan variety) and our friends (Saudis/Qataris/Kuwaitis).
But we will arm them. Be sure of this. The Gulf states will continue to gobble up US weapons/missiles/tanks/aircraft and Trump will visit these dusty monarchies and be treated like a king – which, I suppose, he would rather like to be – and he will assure Israel of America’s undying, constant, unquestioning support for the “only democracy in the Middle East”.
So I’ll hazard a cruel prediction. The Middle East will reach out and grab Donald Trump when he least expects it, that it will present him with a terrifying choice (war or peace) and that his administration – such as it is – will not be capable of dealing with it.

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