Sunday, April 21, 2024
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The Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy Leadership



The Republican contest on Super Tuesday, anticlimactic as it was, was a pivotal day for American foreign policy. Yes, domestic issues were the major concern of primary voters, but the two candidates presented competing visions of America’s future role on the global stage.

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, has long reflected a blend of “traditional” conservative principles, assertive diplomacy, and a commitment to advancing American interests on the global stage through a neo-liberal approach. Though there is a shared skepticism of international institutions, Donald Trump’s approach, by contrast, is characterized by a mix of nationalist rhetoric and a transactional approach to diplomacy.

But it is Trump’s strategy that will be the most effective when it comes to reshaping traditional alliances and prioritizing American interests, especially when it comes to the future of NATO.

NATO stands as a cornerstone of global security, fostering collective defense and stability among member states. If deterrence fails, NATO is the only blunt force capable of stopping Russian aggression in Europe. As the war continues in Ukraine, there is a growing need for bold leadership and to ensure the alliance’s continued effectiveness. Despite his seemingly adversarial relationship with NATO during his tenure as President, Trump possesses the necessary track record. In large part due to his aggressive stance on member spending, he kept our allies honest about their collective defense spending. He can do that again.

Trump’s unwavering commitment to bolstering defense spending among NATO allies has already yielded significant results. Trump constantly pressured member states to meet their financial obligations, calling for a fairer contribution of the burden –  2% of each country’s defense spending. His outspoken criticism of Europe’s reliance on the United States for military protection compelled allies to increase their defense budgets, contributing billions of dollars to strengthen the alliance’s collective capabilities.

President Trump never engaged in policy decisions that could be misconstrued as appeasement. For example, Trump’s meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were an unorthodox tactic used to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. This facilitated diplomatic dialogue between the two countries and resulted in the cessation of nuclear and missile tests for a period of time. Though detractors will point to the lack of longer-term success, appeasing the dictator it was not.

There are, of course, other examples: his opposition to the NORD Stream 2 pipeline; his resistance to Turkey’s plan to acquire Russian military assets; his advocacy for higher defense spending domestically; and his support for strengthening the alliance’s readiness and military presence on Europe’s eastern border. These policies weren’t about appeasing others; they enhanced American security.

Actions carry more weight than social media messages.

A blunt and assertive approach to diplomacy can also inject a new sense of urgency into NATO’s decision-making processes. By challenging norms and bureaucratic inertia, a staple of old European institutions, Trump could push for more streamlined and efficient outcomes.

Moreover, his willingness to engage in direct dialogue with adversaries could open up new avenues for diplomacy and conflict resolution. While critics may question the efficacy of his approach, Trump’s track record of engaging with anyone demonstrates unconventional diplomacy. By leveraging his negotiation skills and personal rapport with world leaders, on all sides, Trump could actually facilitate constructive dialogue where others have failed to do so.

Yes, there are challenges and criticisms associated with Trump’s leadership style. His tendency towards unpredictability and unilateral decision-making has raised concerns in more traditional foreign policy spheres, where experts are quick to point out that his approach can undermine trust and cooperation within the alliance and with other historical allies.

However, the merits of Trump’s impact on foreign policy should not be discounted solely based on tweets and stump speeches, but rather evaluated on past policy. By harnessing his unique vision and leveraging his “out-of-the-box” diplomatic prowess, NATO can navigate complex geopolitical conflicts with fresh approaches.

The former president’s leadership style is polarizing. But, in today’s world, there is a compelling case to be made for his “Trumpian” contributions to strengthening our relationships with allies and changing the world for the better. How we get there is in “the art of the deal.”

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.