There is no doubt that President Trump is a different kind of President from all the others that have preceded him. Much has been written about the fact that he is a businessman with no previous political experience and that in many ways he is an amateur who has not had to deal with this reality before. Here are some areas where he is changing previous positions and that he is learning about on the job:
- Russia. To say that Trump’s approach to Russia and to President Putin is a mystery to most people would be an understatement. Positive things he said about Putin during the campaign and rumors about his possible relationship with Putin are current topics of intense speculation, especially after the firing of Mike Flynn, his former choice for National Security Advisor over apparently illegal contact with Putin before Trump’s inauguration. But, Russia today is not the Soviet Union, it no longer has an ideology (communism) that requires it to “take over the world.” Further, all of Putin’s actions can be seen as a move to “Make Russia Great Again,” a mirror-image of Trump’s actions. So it is no wonder that Trump sees Putin as a potential ally. Also, Russia in no way represents an economic threat to the USA. However, since coming into office Trump has moderated his tone regarding Putin, particularly because the Europeans are scared of Russian forays into Ukraine and Syria.and because of its control of the oil supply to Europe. It may appear to Trump that a good deal can be made with Russia, by recognizing its control of Crimea and making a deal over Eastern Ukraine (letting them have some Russian autonomy) and Syria (letting him keep his port, but giving up Assad).
- China: During the campaign Trump identified China as the biggest threat to the USA, particularly in the economic sphere but also because of its territorial grab of the South China Sea. His friendly call with the President of Taiwan made the Chinese extremely nervous. But, since the inauguration Trrump has made friendly overtures to China, and has explicitly endorsed the “One China Policy,” that accepts Taiwan as a province of China. Trump has perhaps realized that China is now an integral part of the international capitalist system.
- Iran: Since taking office Trump’s approach to Iran has only hardened. He sees the Ayatollah’s regime as an enemy of the US, unlike Obama who believed he could deal with them. The recent Itanian ballistic missile tests in defiance of UN resolutions has set the US under Trump on a course of sanctions and strong opposition to Iran.
- North Korea: The recent firing of ballistic missiles from N., Korea towards Japan (and former testing of nuclear weapons), has been a deliberate provocation to test Pres. Trump. How he will react is unknown, but it may have been a strategic blunder by Kim Jong-Un.
- Israel: Pres. Trump believes in a simple foreign policy strategy, opposing enemies and supporting allies. Israel is the only stable, democratic ally that the US has in the Middle East and it makes sense for Trump to strongly support Israel in a time of chaos and war in the region. The Palestinians have never done anything for the US and in fact are virulently anti-American, so Trump is prepared to accept any pragmatic peace plan that will settle the dispute, not limited to the so-called “two-state solution.” In the face of Palestinian intransigence (they will never recognize Israel as the Jewish State) a mulitnational regional solution will appeal to both Israel and the US. This will see a historic turnaround by the Sunni Arab States that no longer see any threat from Israel, but rather fear the threat of Iranian and Islamic State expansionism.
- Mexico: Instead of allowing the export of US jobs and capital to Mexico, Trump will reverse the flow. Also, he will build a significant security barrier along the border to try to prevent the current wholesale flow of illegal migrants, drugs and criminals into the US. How he will pay for this barrier remains to be seen..
- NATO: During the campaign Trump made statements that were interpreted as anti-NATO. But, in time this has explicitly become an economic argument, that the US should not be supporting a disproportionate amount of the NATO budget. This message has been taken to the Europeans by Secty. of Defense James Mattis and we await to see what will be the outcome.
- UN: Pres. Trump has enunciated an anti-UN approach given the predominance of anti-American and anti-Israel institutional bias. Turning off the financial spigot should bring the UN to its proverbial knees. For the new UN Secty. Gen. Gutteras to warn Trump that there is “NO alternative to a two-state solution” in the Middle East, spouting the Islamic line, is unacceptable.
These are some comments on Trump’s initial adaptations to reality since becoming President. As time goes on we shall see how these approaches change. But, overall it can be concluded that Trump is a pragmatist searching for innovative solutions to achieve his overall goals.