Foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration
The foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration includes a focus on security, by fighting terrorists abroad and strengthening border defenses and immigration controls; an expansion of the U.S. military; an "America First" approach to trade; and diplomacy whereby "old enemies become friends". It is inspired by foreign policy positions expressed by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. However, during the campaign his stated positions changed frequently, so that it was "difficult to glean a political agenda, or even a set of clear, core policy values ahead of his presidency."
During the campaign, Trump promised he would provide presidential leadership with strong diplomacy to restore respect for the United States around the world. He supported a robust national defense. In his first budget proposal as president, Trump proposed a $54 billion (10%) increase in defense spending, to a total of $639 billion for fiscal year 2018. He said the increase would be needed to fight terrorism, improve troop readiness, and build new ships and planes and would be paid for by deep cuts to other agencies, including a 28% cut from the State Department budget. He also requested an additional $30 billion for the Defense Department for the remainder of fiscal year 2017.
During the campaign, Trump "repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms," with the nation's "roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies' borders" being "quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States." He repeatedly called for allied countries, including Germany, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, to pay the United States for helping protect their nations, and suggested that his willingness to defend a country might depend on how much that country was willing to "pay us to save them." Trump and his team continued that theme as president, emphasizing their view that other countries need to increase their financial commitment to their own defense or compensate the United States for providing it.
Candidate Trump emphasized a get-tough approach toward terrorists. He called for the resumption of waterboarding "and much worse". He repeatedly expressed support for the use of torture by the U.S. for the purpose of trying to get information from terrorists, and said the law should be changed to allow waterboarding and other forms of torture. However, after his election Trump stated that he would defer to the views of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who opposes waterboarding and torture. In an early campaign interview, Trump stated "You have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. ... When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families." When pressed on what "take out" meant, Trump said the United States should "wipe out their homes" and "where they came from."
After becoming president, Trump relied on his White House advisors rather than the State Department to advise him on international relations. As Secretary of State he chose Rex Tillerson, formerly CEO of ExxonMobil. Tillerson did not have previous government or diplomatic experience, but due to ExxonMobil's international activities he had experience with and contacts in many other countries, particularly Russia. The State Department normally has two deputy secretaries of state and six undersecretaries; as of March 2017 no nominations had been submitted for any of those senior positions. In many cases Trump has given important foreign policy assignments to advisors within the White House, particularly chief political strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior advisor Jared Kushner. Trump has made important decisions, such as a proposed travel ban from certain countries and a counter-terrorism strike in Yemen, without any input from the State Department. In March Trump proposed a budget that cut the State Department's funding by 28%. All of this has led to reports that the State Department has been "sidelined".
- 1 Americas
- 2 Asia
- 3 Europe
- 4 Middle East and Africa
- 5 Oceania
- 6 International Organizations
- 7 Trade policy
- 8 Nuclear policy
- 9 Notes and references
Trump met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February 2017 at the White House. Trudeau was the third world leader that Trump hosted since his election as president, after the United Kingdom's Theresa May and Japan's Shinzo Abe. At the meeting Trump claimed that he viewed the United States' relationship with Canada as being different from its relationship with Mexico, and said he only foresaw minor adjustments to the Canadian side of NAFTA. At the meeting Trump and Trudeau also discussed increased cooperation at the Canada–United States border, combating opioid abuse, clean energy, and establishing a joint council to promote women in business.
In April 2017 the Trump administration took action on the longstanding Canada–United States softwood lumber dispute, raising the possibility of a trade war. Following Trump's comment that Canada's lumber trade practices are unfair, the Commerce Department announced plans to impose a retroactive duty of 30-40% on Canadian wood shipments to the United States. Canada's minister for trade said, “Canada will not be deterred and will vigorously defend our industry.” The Canadian dollar fell to a 14-month low on the announcement.
During the campaign, Trump expressed his opposition to the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba achieved in July 2015. Trump said that he would only restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba if the Cuban regime met his demands to restore political freedoms and free political prisoners. This represented a shift from his position expressed in September 2015 when he said that the opening with Cuba was "fine. But we should have made a better deal." Trump also said that he opposed the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows any Cuban who reaches U.S. soil to remain in the country legally and apply for residency.
On June 16, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was cancelling the Obama administrations deals with Cuba, while also expressing that a new deal could be negotiated between Cuba and United States.
During the campaign
During the campaign Trump emphasized U.S. border security and illegal immigration as signature issues. He stated, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. .... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. Their rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." He also talked about drugs and infectious diseases "pouring across the border".
In campaign speeches Trump repeatedly pledged to build a wall along the U.S.'s southern border, saying that Mexico would pay for its construction through increased border-crossing fees and NAFTA tariffs. Trump said his proposed wall would be "a real wall. Not a toy wall like we have now." After a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on August 31, 2016, Trump said that they "didn't discuss" who would pay for the border wall. Nieto contradicted that later that day, saying that he at the start of the meeting "made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall". Later that day, Trump reiterated his position that Mexico will pay to build an "impenetrable" wall on the Southern border.
Trump also vowed to impose tariffs — in the range of 15 to 35 percent — on companies that move their operations to Mexico. He specifically criticized the Ford Motor Co., Carrier Corporation, and Mondelez International. And he condemned the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying that if elected president, "We will either renegotiate it, or we will break it."
The Trump Administration
Trump's rhetoric as a candidate and as president "cranked up the tension in US-Mexico relations to a high not seen in decades". On January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order calling for "immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border". He also reiterated that Mexico will eventually pay for the wall. Mexican President Peña Nieto had been scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House on January 31. However, on January 26 Peña Nieto called off the visit, not citing a reason. The two leaders spoke by telephone on January 27. In statements afterward they acknowledged their differences on the issue and said they intend to work them out, as well as other issues such as security and trade.
During the campaign, Trump initially stated that the United States "made a terrible mistake getting involved [in Afghanistan] in the first place." But later that month he reversed his position, saying that the War in Afghanistan was necessary and that he supported keeping a limited number of troops there.
China and Taiwan
During the campaign Trump accused the People's Republic of China of currency manipulation. He pledged to carry out "swift, robust and unequivocal" action against Chinese piracy, counterfeit American goods, and theft of U.S. trade secrets and intellectual property. He also condemned China's "illegal export subsidies and lax labor and environmental standards." In January 2016, Trump proposed a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States to give "American workers a level playing field." He dismissed possible Chinese reactions, such as sales of U.S. bonds or instituting a trade war, as unlikely and unimportant.
On 2 December 2016, as president-elect, he accepted a congratulatory telephone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen. That was the first such contact with Taiwan by a U.S. president-elect or president since 1979 and provoked the People's Republic of China to lodge a diplomatic protest ("stern representations"). Trump suggested he didn't feel bound by America's traditional 'one China' policy but considered it open to negotiation.
At his confirmation hearing in January 2017, Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson expressed strong opposition to the Chinese practice since 2014 of building artificial islands in the South China Sea as a way of claiming sovereignty over it, saying China should be blocked from accessing the islands. Portions of the South China Sea are claimed as territorial waters by multiple nations including China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Phililppines. On 23 January 2017, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said "It's a question of if [the Spratly Islands ] are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we're going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country."
On 4 February, on a visit to Japan, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis reaffirmed Washington's commitment under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan to defending Japan, including the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by China.
On 9 February, Trump reaffirmed American commitment to the One-China policy in a telephone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The call was described as cordial and as "putting an end to the extended chill" in the relationship between the two countries.
During the campaign Trump spoke favorably of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed a desire for a closer alliance with India. He told a campaign rally of Indian-Americans that under his administration, relations with India would be "the best ever".
During the campaign Trump accused Japan of unfair trade practices, "taking our jobs", and of currency manipulation. He suggested Japan should pay the U.S. for its military presence in Japan, and at one point suggested that Japan should develop nuclear weapons to defend itself against North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with President-elect Trump at Trump Tower shortly after his election – the first foreign leader to do so. He said Trump was "a leader in whom I can have confidence". However, after the meeting Trump continued to complain about Japan's currency and its auto industry.
During a visit to Japan in January 2017, Defense Secretary Mattis reaffirmed that the U.S. was committed to the defense of Japan.
In February 2017 Abe met with Trump in Washington, followed by a Florida golf jaunt. Trump promised to strengthen ties between the two nations and said the U.S. is committed to the security of Japan, saying that the alliance between the two countries is "the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Pacific region".
During the campaign Trump said that he would be willing to meet North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, whom he described as a "maniac" who also deserves credit for being able to overcome his rivals in order to succeed his father. He indicated he did not want get involved in any conflict between North and South Korea, an attitude which resulted in an editorial in North Korean state media hailing him as a "wise politician" and "far-sighted presidential candidate" who could be good for North Korea. Trump advocated placing greater pressure on China to rein in its ally North Korea in the wake of the January 2016 North Korean nuclear test,
Tension between the two countries increased in April 2017. Speaking in advance of a visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping, President Trump told the Financial Times, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you." On April 8, 2017, the US Navy said the USS Carl Vinson strike group was sailing to the Western Pacific from Singapore, and two days later, President Trump told Fox Business: "We are sending an armada, very powerful" towards the Korean peninsula. His comment, and its apparent confirmation by Defense Department officials, "fueled a war frenzy at major newspapers and networks" and led to the North Korean government warning of a possible thermonuclear war. However, on April 18 the Pentagon clarified that the strike group had instead headed south for scheduled training exercises with the Australian navy but would be arriving at the Korean peninsula the following week. Meanwhile, on April 16 Vice President Mike Pence visited South Korea, viewed the Demilitarized Zone which separates North from South Korea, and warned that the U.S. "era of strategic patience" toward North Korea's nuclear and missile programs is over. He added that "all options are on the table." The same day the North Korean government launched a missile test, which failed but which Pence described as a provocation. Trump continued to express the hope that China would help to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
During the campaign, Trump said Pakistan is "the most dangerous country in the world" and should denuclearize. But according to the Pakistan government, in a cordial post-election telephone conversation with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Trump lavished praise on Pakistan and its "fantastic" people, said he would love to visit the country, and offered to help Pakistan solve any outstanding problems. After taking office, President Trump indicated that Pakistan will be among the countries whose citizens will have to go through an "extreme vetting" process before entering the United States.
U.S.-Philippines relations had taken a turn for the worse with the election of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in June 2016. Duterte expressed strong hostility toward then-President Obama and threatened to sever the long-standing ties between the two countries due to the latter's criticism on the issue of human rights in Duterte's policy on the War on Drugs. On December 2, 2016, President-elect Trump accepted a congratulatory call from Duterte. A statement from the Trump team said the two leaders “noted the long history of friendship and cooperation between the two nations, and agreed that the two governments would continue to work together closely on matters of shared interest and concern”. Duterte claimed afterward that Trump had praised Duterte's controversial "war on drugs" which has killed thousands of people without trial, and that Trump said the Philippines are "doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way.”
In their first telephone call, President Trump told French President François Hollande that he "loved France" and that there was "no more beautiful country than France". However, in his 2017 CPAC speech, President Trump said, "France is no longer France" due to terrorism. In response, President Hollande said allies should not criticize each other, and he invited him to visit Disneyland Paris.
In advance of the 2017 French presidential election Trump was reported to have expressed support for Marine Le Pen, calling her the "strongest candidate", although he did not explicitly endorse her. However, when meeting with newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron in Brussels in May 2017 he said to Macron "you were my guy", stating that media reports had been wrong.
During the campaign Trump was critical of German chancellor Angela Merkel and her handling of the European migrant crisis, saying "Everyone thought she was a really great leader and now she's turned out to be this catastrophic leader. And she’ll be out if they don’t have a revolution." In July 2016, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that he was concerned about what he sees as Trump's contradictory promises to "make America strong again" while simultaneously reducing involvement overseas. Steinmeier said that Trump's proposed policies "would be dangerous not only for the United States, but for Europe and the rest of the world as well".
After becoming president, Trump met with Merkel at the White House on March 17, 2017. The meeting was described as "awkward"; Trump failed to shake hands with Merkel for a photo op, and he made a joke about wiretapping which fell flat. The two "politely disagreed on everything from immigration to free trade and the value of seeking multinational agreements." The next day Trump tweeted, "Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!" He also tried to get Merkel to talk about bilateral trade issues, but she pointed out that EU members only negotiate as a unit.
In May 2017 at a meeting with European leaders in Brussels, Trump denounced Germany concerning the trade deficit as "bad, very bad", adding “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We will stop this.” He has threatened to impose a 35% tax on German car imports. A few days later Merkel suggested that Germany and Europe can no longer fully rely on the United States; and saying "we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands", also hinting to the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. However she underlined the importance of friendly relations with the United States, the United Kingdom as well as Russia.
On May 24, 2017, Pope Francis met with Trump in Vatican City where they discussed the contributions of Catholics to the United States and to the world. Trump and the Pope discussed issues of mutual concern including how religious communities can combat human suffering in crisis regions, such as Syria, Libya, and ISIS-controlled territory. Trump and Pope Francis also discussed terrorism and the radicalization of young people.
Italy was the first European country to be visited by President Trump. He went to Italy in May 2017, during his first presidential trip outside the U.S.A. During his trip to Italy, Trump had a bilateral meeting with Pope Francis; he also met Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni; Gentiloni was also hosted by Trump few weeks before in April at the White House. Trump has often stated that Italy is a "key ally of America in Europe and the Mediterranean Sea and a strategic partner in the War on Terrorism."
In July 2017 Donald Trump visited Poland. It was his second foreign trip. He met with the President of Poland Andrzej Duda. President Trump and President Duda then held a joint press conference in the Royal Castle, Warsaw. President Trump thanked the Polish people and President Duda for the warm welcome he received in Warsaw. In Warsaw's Krasinski Square Trump said, "Our freedom, our civilization and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture and memory... Poland is in our heart and Poland is in that fight." He also said: "Our strong alliance with Poland and NATO remains critical to deterring conflict and ensuring that war between great powers never again ravages Europe, and that the world will be a safer and better place. America is committed to maintaining peace and security in Central and Eastern Europe". Trump says the U.S. stands firmly behind NATO's Article 5, which says an attack against one member is attack against all. Trump described Poland as a long-time U.S. ally that is "an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization." He also attended in the Three Seas Initiative summit 2017 in Warsaw. People on the Krasinski Square greeted the President Trump, chanting repeatedly "Donald Trump" and "USA". Thousands of Polish people greeted Trump on the route from the Royal Castle to the Marriot Hotel and from the Marriot to Warsaw Chopin Airport. Razem, a Polish left-wing political party, organized a protest against Trump. Protesters were dressed as handmaids from Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, as a symbol of women's rights being endangered both in Poland and the United States.   
During the campaign
Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly over a series of years. During the campaign his praise blossomed into what many observers termed a "bromance". In particular, Trump praised Putin as a "strong leader" and said that he expected to "get along very well" with Putin. Trump often described Putin as "a better leader" than Obama. Putin praised Trump as "a very bright and talented man, no doubt about that," and Trump claimed Putin called him a "genius," a mischaracterization based on an incorrect translation. When asked about allegations that Putin has killed journalists and political opponents, Trump brushed them off, implying that the United States has done the same thing.
During the campaign, Trump hinted that he would consider recognizing Crimea as Russian territory and lifting the sanctions on Russia that were imposed after Russia began military invention in an attempt to undermine the new, pro-Western Ukrainian government. He suggested that the "people of Crimea... would rather be with Russia. It has been suggested that these policies were influenced by advisors who were sympathetic to Russian influence in Ukraine, including Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Henry Kissinger. Manafort in particular was strongly connected to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian president of Ukraine who was deposed in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.
The Trump Administration
On February 6, 2017, talking to Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, Trump questioned the veracity of O'Reilly′s claim that ″within 24 hours of you on the phone with the Russian leader, the pro-Russian forces step[ed] up the violence in Ukraine″. He said he ″respected″ Putin and dismissed O'Reilly′s statement that Putin was a ″killer″, which prompted CNN to opine that Trump had "appeared to equate U.S. actions with the authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin."
On February 16, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Bonn, Germany; Tillerson told the press afterwards, "As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia to honor its commitment to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate the violence in Ukraine". Sergey Lavrov said thet meeting was productive, and added that Moscow was ready to work with Washington on all issues as soon as Donald Trump’s foreign policy team was fully formed. On the same day Secretary of Defense James Mattis, declared that the United States was not currently prepared to collaborate with Russia on military matters, including future anti-ISIL US operations.
Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News reported in June 2017 that during the early weeks of the Trump administration, State Department employees were told to develop proposals to lift the sanctions which had been imposed on Russia after its military incursions into Ukraine and its interference in the November election. No action or return would be expected from Russia in return for removing the sanctions. The proposals were dropped after resistance from State Department employees and a realization that such an action would look bad politically in light of the investigations into a Russia connection to the Trump campaign. A former State Department who retired in February said, "What was troubling about these stories is that suddenly I was hearing that we were preparing to rescind sanctions in exchange for, well, nothing."
Early in the campaign Trump opposed U.S. involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, describing Crimea as "Europe's problem;" in a rally in July 2016 he implied that such involvement could have led to World War III and criticized Germany and other European countries for not doing more to support Ukraine. Later in the campaign, however, he stated that he would consider recognizing recognizing Crimea as Russian territory.
During the campaign, Trump stated his support for British voters voting to leave the European Union In an interview with Piers Morgan in May 2016, Trump said that UK withdrawal would make no difference to a potential bilateral trade deal between the United Kingdom and the United States if he became president.
On January 27, 2017 Trump met with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the first foreign leader to visit him at the White House. In the meeting Trump reiterated his support for both countries' involvement in NATO.
In March 2017 White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeated a false claim from Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano claiming that the British GCHQ had wiretapped Trump Tower. This drew an angry response from the British, and eventually resulted in an apology from Spicer and the US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster.
Middle East and Africa
During the campaign, Trump described the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as a "fantastic guy," praising his handling of various political events in Egypt, such as a massive uprising in late June 2013 in Egypt against former President Mohamed Morsi, which was followed by Morsi being removed from office by el-Sisi on July 3, 2013. Trump said that there was a "good feeling between [them]". In April 2017, Trump welcomed el-Sisi to the White House, saying “We are very much behind President Sisi – he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation" and assuring el-Sisi that "you have a great ally in the US and in me." In contrast, Sisi was never invited to the White House during the Obama administration, which criticized post-Morsi authorities in Egypt, as well as Egypt's human rights record.
During the campaign Trump maintained that "Iran is now the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East and on the road to nuclear weapons." He opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or "Iran nuclear deal") that was negotiated with the United States, Iran, and five other world powers in 2015, calling it "terrible" and saying that the Obama administration negotiated the agreement "from desperation." At one point he said that despite opposing the content of the deal, he would attempt to enforce it rather than abrogate it. However, in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March 2016, Trump said that his "number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran."
The Trump administration boasted that Trump personally lobbied dozens of European officials against doing business with Iran during the May 2017 Brussels summit; this likely violated the terms of the JCPOA, which expressly states that the U.S. may not pursue "any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran." The Trump administration certified in July 2017 that Iran had upheld its end of the agreement.
Israel and Israeli–Palestinian conflict
During the campaign
Trump has been critical of the Obama administration's treatment of Israel, stating that "Israel has been totally mistreated."
Early in the campaign Trump said that an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord would depend very much upon Israel, saying "A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel's willing to sacrifice certain things." He also said that as a condition of peace, the Palestinian National Authority must recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and "stop the terror, stop the attacks, stop the teaching of hatred." At one point during the campaign, Trump said that he would not take sides in any Israeli-Palestinian agreement in order to be a neutral negotiator in the peace talks, but he also added that he was "totally pro-Israel."
During the campaign he broke with long-standing bipartisan U.S. policy that Israel should stop building additional Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a precursor to negotiations with the Palestinians, saying that the Israelis "have to keep going" and "I don't think there should be a pause."
Early in the campaign Trump refused to say whether he supports Israel's position that Jerusalem is its undivided capital. But he later said on multiple occasions that if elected president he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he described as the "eternal capital of the Jewish people." He repeated this pledge after a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2016
Candidate Trump promised AIPAC that as president he would veto any United Nations-imposed Israel-Palestine peace agreement. He added that "The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable."
The Trump Administration
In February 2017, President Trump said that he could live with either a two-state solution or a one-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This represented a break with the previous bipartisan foreign policy consensus of support for the two-state solution.
During the campaign, Trump called for Saudi Arabia to pay for the costs of American troops stationed there. He has argued that regional allies of the United States, such as Saudi Arabia should provide troops in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Trump said he would halt oil imports from Saudi Arabia unless the Saudi government provide ground troops to defeat ISIL.
In March 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved the resumption on the sale of guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, a move that had been halted late in the Obama administration because of criticisms of the Saudi government's approach to civilian casualties in the Yemeni Civil War.
Syrian Civil War, Iraq and ISIL
During the campaign, Trump's positions on defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have frequently changed throughout his presidential campaign. Trump has claimed that he would "bomb the hell" out of Iraqi oil fields controlled by ISIL. In the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks, which were committed by ISIL, Trump reiterated his statements about ISIL from November 12, 2015, when he stated he would "bomb the shit out of 'em" and said "I'd blow up the [oil] pipes, I'd blow up the refineries, and you know what, you'll get Exxon to come in there in two months... and I'd take the oil." Trump said in an interview with Anderson Cooper "There is no Iraq. Their leaders are corrupt." In 2015 when asked how he would deal with Iraq's condemnation of strikes on their oil fields, Trump replied that Iraq is a corrupt country that is not deserving of his respect. Trump said that to combat ISIL, "I would find you a proper general. I would find a Patton or a McArthur. I would hit them so hard your head would spin."
Trump's first post-announcement interview on June 17, 2015, was with Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor. One of several issues he highlighted was his proposed strategy in dealing with the Syrian Civil War. In the interview, Trump stated: "Iran and Russia are protecting Syria and it's sort of amazing that we're in there fighting ISIS in Syria so we're helping the head of Syria [Bashar al-Assad] who is not supposed to be our friend although he looks a lot better than some of our so-called friends." Instead of fighting ISIL in Syria, Trump suggested "maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS, let them fight and then you pick up the remnants."
In a Republican primary debate in November 2015, Trump said he "got to know [Vladimir Putin] very well because we were both on '60 Minutes', we were stable mates, we did well that night." Trump said he approved of the Russian military intervention in Syria, stating: "If Putin wants to knock the hell out of ISIS, I'm all for it 100 percent and I can't understand how anybody would be against that ... He's going in and we can go in and everybody should go in." During his speech at the Oklahoma State Fair, Trump accused his opponents of wanting to "start World War III over Syria."
When asked in the March 11, 2016 CNN Republican presidential debate if he would send ground troops to fight ISIL, Trump answered, "We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS."
In an interview, Trump stated "You have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. ... When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families." When pressed on what "take out" meant, Trump said the U.S. should "wipe out their homes" and "where they came from." The intentional targeting of non-combatants is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and other aspects of the international law of war. Jonathan Russell, head of policy for the anti-radicalization think tank Quilliam, warned that Trump's "anti-Muslim rhetoric" helps ISIL's narrative, saying "Trump will contribute to Islamist radicalization as his comments will make Muslims feel unwelcome in America. This grievance will fuel their identity crisis, which when combined are a potent combination for the vulnerability that ISIS is so adept at exploiting with their Islamist narrative."
During his presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly criticized the battle to liberate Mosul from ISIL control, saying that the United States is "not going to benefit" from dislodging ISIL from the Iraqi city. Trump has repeatedly asserted that U.S. and Iraqi military leaders should have used "the element of surprise" to attack Mosul rather than announcing plans beforehand. He also said that U.S. military planners were "a group of losers" for not doing so. U.S. military officials "strongly rebuked" Trump's comments, noting that "it is nearly impossible to move tens of thousands of troops into position without alerting the enemy" and that it was vital to warn civilians of impending military action.
During the campaign, he advocated that the United States should “take the oil” in Iraq as part of the “spoils of war” and to keep it out of the hands of ISIS. Trump reiterated his support for seizing other nations' oil after taking office as President. In January 2017, he said that the United States "should have kept the oil" after the Iraq invasion and "maybe we’ll have another chance".
On 7 April 2017, Trump ordered the United States Navy to launch cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base in response to the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. The response had wide international support and was highly praised by the majority of Republicans as well as Democratic senators, and many countries, however it drew criticism from Russia, who the United States had warned in advance about the attack. Although Russian anti-missile defenses such as S-300's failed to deter the missile attack, Russian forces suffered minimal damage, as the United States had intended to avoid striking areas of the base used by Russia. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the strike "good news for terrorists".
Many right-wing/leaning populist media figures who supported Trump during the election criticized Trump's reversal of policy towards war in Syria and the Middle East. Ann Coulter pointed out that Trump "campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast" and this was one of the reasons many voted for him.
During the campaign, Trump praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his handling of the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey When asked if Erdoğan was exploiting the coup attempt to purge his political enemies, Trump did not call for the Turkish leader to observe the rule of law, or offer other cautions for restraint. He said that the United States had to "fix our own mess" before trying to change the behavior of other countries.
Trump also stated during the campaign that he believed he could persuade Erdoğan to step up efforts against ISIL. When asked how he would solve the problem of Turkish attacks on Kurds who are fighting ISIL, Trump said "Meetings."
A report in the Washington Post on February 2, 2017 claimed that Trump berated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and hung up 35 minutes earlier than planned over a refugee resettlement deal that President Obama had made with Australia where the United States agreed to take 1,250 refugees from camps in Nauru and Manus Island. It was also claimed that Trump suggested Turnbull was attempting to export the next Boston bombers to the United States. Later that same day, Trump explained that although he respected Australia, they were "terribly taking advantage" of the United States. Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey met with Reince Preibus and Stephen Bannon the next day and Sean Spicer described the call as "cordial". Reuters described the call as "acrimonious" and the Washington Post said that it was Trump's "worst call by far" with a foreign leader. Notwithstanding the disagreement regarding the resettlement of the refugees Vice President Mike Pence, while on a visit to Australia in April 2017, stated the United States will abide by the deal. The decision was seen as a positive sign of commitment by the Australian Prime Minister.
During the campaign, Trump said of the European Union, "the reason that it got together was like a consortium so that it could compete with the United States." U.S. foreign-policy experts such as Strobe Talbott and Amie Kreppel noted that this was incorrect, pointing out that while the EU was established in part to rebuild the European economies after World War II, it was not created specifically to compete with the United States. In fact the United States sanctioned the EU's creation to foster peace, prevent another catastrophic war, and create a "strong European market to consume American-made goods to help fuel American economic growth."
During the campaign, Trump called for a "rethink" of American involvement in NATO, stating that the United States pays too much to ensure the security of allies, stating that "NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we're protecting Europe with NATO, but we're spending a lot of money". Later in the same interview, he stated that the U.S. should not "decrease its role" in NATO but rather should decrease U.S. spending in regards to the organization.
In a July 2016 interview, Candidate Trump "explicitly raised new questions about his commitment to automatically defend NATO allies," questioning whether he, as president, would automatically extend security guarantees to NATO members. Asked about a prospective Russia attack on NATO's Baltic members, Trump stated that he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us." This would represent a sharp break with U.S. foreign traditions.
As president, Trump said in a February 2017 speech that the United States strongly supports NATO, but continued to insist that NATO members aren't paying their fair share as part of the alliance. In May 2017 he visited the new NATO headquarters in Brussels to help dedicate a memorial there for the September 11, 2001 attacks. In his prepared remarks he prompted NATO to do more to fight terrorism and to add limiting immigration to its tasks. In the speech he did not explicitly reaffirm US commitment to Article V, which obligates all NATO members to respond to an attack against any one member. White House spokesperson Sean Spicer later reaffirmed America's commitment to joint defense. With regard to the alliance's enacted guideline that members should spend a minimum of 2 percent of their national GDP for defense by 2024, Trump said that "Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying for their defense". He also claimed that "many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years." While most members of the alliance have yet not reached the 2% target for their national defense spending, technically they are not in arrears and they do not owe anything to the United States or to NATO.
During the campaign, Trump criticized the United Nations, saying that it was weak, incompetent, and "not a friend of democracy... freedom... the United States... Israel". Upon taking office, Trump appointed Nikki Haley as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
When announcing his candidacy in June 2015, Trump said that his experience as a negotiator in private business would enhance his ability to negotiate better international trade deals as President. Trump identifies himself as a "free trader," but has been widely described as a "protectionist". Trump has described supporters of international trade as “blood suckers.”
Trump's views on trade have upended the traditional Republican policies favoring free trade. Binyamin Appelbaum, reporting for the New York Times, has summarized Trump's proposals as breaking with 200 years of economics orthodoxy. American economic writer Bruce Bartlett writes that Trump's protectionist views have roots in American history. Canadian writer Lawrence Solomon describes Trump's position on trade as similar to that as of pre-Reagan Republican presidents, such as Herbert Hoover (who signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act) and Richard Nixon (who ran on a protectionist platform).
During his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after becoming President, Trump stated that he viewed the Canadian situation different than Mexico, and only envisioned minor changes for Canada, with much larger ones for Mexico.
Trade with China
During the campaign, Trump proposed a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States to give "American workers a level playing field." According to an analysis by Capital Economics, Trump's proposed tariff may hurt U.S. consumers by driving U.S. retail price of Chinese made goods up 10 percent, because of few alternative suppliers in key product classes that China sells to the U.S. The goods trade deficit with China in 2015 was $367.2 billion. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported in December 2014 that "Growth in the U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated or displaced 3.2 million U.S. jobs, 2.4 million (three-fourths) of which were in manufacturing." EPI reported these losses were distributed across all 50 states.
Trump has pledged "swift, robust and unequivocal" action against Chinese piracy, counterfeit American goods, and theft of U.S. trade secrets and intellectual property; and has condemned China's "illegal export subsidies and lax labor and environmental standards." In a May 2016 campaign speech, Trump responded to concerns regarding a potential trade war with "We're losing $500 billion in trade with China. Who the hell cares if there's a trade war?"
Trade with Mexico
During the campaign, Trump vowed to impose tariffs — in the range of 15 to 35 percent — on companies that move their operations to Mexico. He specifically criticized the Ford Motor Co., Carrier Corporation, and Mondelez International.
After taking office, White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that Trump was considering imposing a 20% tariff on Mexican imports to the United States as one of several options that would pay for his proposed border wall. The Mexican government has stated that if unilateral tariffs were imposed on Mexico, it would consider retaliating by imposing tariffs on goods Mexico imports from the United States.
During the campaign, Trump opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying "The deal is insanity. That deal should not be supported and it should not be allowed to happen ... We are giving away what ultimately is going to be a back door for China." On January 23, 2017 Trump withdrew from the trade deal citing the need to protect American workers from competition by workers in low-wage countries.
World Trade Organization
Trump has called the World Trade Organization (WTO) a "disaster". When informed that tariffs in the range of 15 to 35 percent would be contrary to the rules of the WTO, he answered "even better. Then we're going to renegotiate or we're going to pull out."
During the campaign, Trump said that the U.S.'s control is getting weaker and that its nuclear arsenal is old and does not work.
When asked at March 2016 campaign town hall with MSNBC's Chris Matthews whether he would rule out the use of nuclear weapons, Trump answered that the option of using nuclear weapons should never be taken off the table.
During the campaign, Trump expressed support for South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia having nuclear weapons if they would be unwilling to pay the United States for security. He also deemed it inevitable, "It's going to happen anyway. It's only a question of time. They're going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely." Trump's tentative support for nuclear proliferation was in contradiction to decades of bipartisan U.S. consensus on the issue.
Pakistani nuclear arsenal
During the campaign, Trump was critical of Pakistan, comparing it to North Korea, calling it "probably the most dangerous country" in the world, and claiming that Pakistan's nuclear weapons posed a "serious problem." He has advocated improving relations with India as a supposed "check" to Pakistan. He has said that his government will fully cooperate with India in doing so.
Notes and references
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It's a very scary nuclear world. Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation. At the same time, you know, we’re a country that doesn’t have money....So, the bottom line is, I think that frankly, as long as North Korea's there, I think that Japan having a capability is something that maybe is going to happen whether we like it or not.
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I would rather have them not arm, but I’m not going to continue to lose this tremendous amount of money....And frankly, the case could be made, that let them protect themselves against North Korea. They’d probably wipe them out pretty quick.
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