Foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration
The stated aims of the foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration include 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". The foreign policy positions expressed by Trump during his presidential campaign changed frequently, making it "difficult to glean a political agenda, or even a set of clear, core policy values ahead of his presidency," according to observers. During his presidential inauguration speech, Trump said that during his presidency the U.S. would "not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow." He also stated that his administration would "seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world," and that he believed in the "right of all nations to put their own interests first."
During the 2016 United States presidential election 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 also repeatedly called for allied countries, including Germany, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, to compensate the United States for US military expenditure in their countries, 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 advisors continued this theme of transactional partnerships throughout the presidency, emphasizing their view that other countries need to increase their financial commitment to their own defense or compensate the United States for providing it.
Trump supported a robust national defense during the 2016 election campaign and in his first budget proposal as president in March 2017, 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 US State Department budget. He also requested an additional $30 billion for the US Defense Department for the remainder of fiscal year 2017.
As a presidential candidate, Trump emphasized a "get-tough" approach toward suspected 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 obtaining information from suspected 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 then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who opposed torture. Trump has continued the U.S.'s war against the Islamic State, including overseeing the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019. Trump also ordered the raid on Yakla, without any input from the State Department.
Upon taking office, Trump relied more on military personnel than previous administrations, and more on White House advisors rather than the State Department to advise him on international relations. He initially chose former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Tillerson did not have previous government or diplomatic experience, but due to ExxonMobil's international activities he had experience and contacts in many other countries, particularly Russia. In many cases Trump has given important foreign policy assignments to advisors within the White House, particularly former chief political strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Jared Kushner. Budget cuts and reliance on advisors led to media reports that the State Department has been noticeably "sidelined" during the administration. The State Department normally has two deputy secretaries of state and six undersecretaries, regarded as senior posts; by March 2017 no nominations had been submitted for any of those positions.
Trump has made a number of consequential foreign policy decisions throughout his presidency, including, his reversals and re-evaluations of the U.S.'s previously-established global commitments—such as his partial withdrawal of troops from some areas of Syria, and withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA, the INF Treaty, and UNESCO. He has proposed a replacement agreement for NAFTA, a travel ban from certain Muslim countries, increased sanctions on Iran, and sought direct, bilateral relations with North Korea among other, often unilateral, decisions. The Trump administration has attempted to use economic pressure to advance its foreign policy priorities.
An August 2017 Pew Research Poll found that 15 percent of all Americans, and 31 percent of Republicans, said they agreed with President Trump on "nearly all issues". By the closing months of 2017, a survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs think tank found that President Trump's most passionate supporters solidly supported his core views on foreign policy, but Republicans with less favorable views of the president are far less enthusiastic and their attitudes more closely match with the overall population.
Mark Kevin Lloyd, who began his role as the religious freedom adviser at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on 26 May 2020, has a history of making anti-Muslim statements. Several Muslim civil rights groups objected to his appointment. Lloyd had previously worked for the Trump campaign in Virginia.
On March 3, 2019, then-National Security Advisor John Bolton invoked the Monroe Doctrine in describing the Trump administration's policy in the Americas, saying "In this administration, we're not afraid to use the word Monroe Doctrine...It's been the objective of American presidents going back to [President] Ronald Reagan to have a completely democratic hemisphere."
In September 2019, following John Bolton's departure from the administration, President Trump claimed that Bolton's views were "not necessarily tougher" than his own: "in some cases, he thought it was too tough what we were doing". Trump claimed that his own views on Cuba and Venezuela were "far stronger" than Bolton's and stated that he was "holding me back". In May 2019, Trump offered a different view of Bolton: "I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing."
President Trump hosted President Macri in Washington, D.C. in April 2017. They met at the White House on April 27 to talk about trade. When the ARA San Juan submarine went missing on November 15, 2017 during a routine patrol in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina, President Trump offered the help of the United States to find the submarine.
The two countries re-approached with the victory of the right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. On the first official visit of the Brazilian president to the United States in March 2019, Trump announced Brazil as Major non-NATO ally. In May, the U.S. government, through Kimberly Breier, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, announced formal support for Brazil's entry into the OECD.
President 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.
On June 20, 2019, Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met and held "positive" talks at the White House on topics regarding ratifying the USMCA, the detentions of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and Canadian nationals Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, confronting China, and tariff negotiations. Trump called Trudeau a "friend" and, following Trudeau's trip, both Canadian and U.S. officials and media generally considered the talks constructive and helped thaw relations between the two allies, which had noticeably chilled in the early years of Trump's presidency.
During a summer 2017 meeting about immigration, Trump objected to receiving immigrants from Haiti, reportedly saying "they all have AIDS." The White House denied the report. During a meeting with congressional leaders on January 11, 2018, Trump complained about the number of immigrants from Haiti, saying "Why do we need more Haitians, take them out." He then referred to Haiti and El Salvador, as well as unspecified African nations, as "shithole countries", although specific facts and details about these remarks were disputed. Critiques have pointed out that the Trump administration's policies in the Caribbean have sought to deepen divisions within CARICOM and in order to strengthen the United States' ramped up economic and hybrid warfare targeting Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
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 Trump announced that he was cancelling the Obama administration's previous deals with Cuba, while also expressing hope that a new deal could be negotiated between Cuba and the United States.
In August 2019, Trump expressed interest in buying the territory of Greenland from the country Denmark. In reaction, Greenland's foreign ministry declared that the territory was not for sale. Citing Denmark's reluctance to discuss the purchase, days later Trump canceled a scheduled September trip to Copenhagen.
The Trump administration declared rare-earth minerals to be vital to national security. With Chinese companies investing in mining of Greenland's abundant resources, the U.S. signed in 2019 an agreement to fund an aerial survey of mineral resources in Gardar.
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.
According to a poll regarding the Trump Administration by the National Research Inc and The Polling Company more Americans agree that legal immigration is at the right levels but want illegal immigration curbed. The 1,201 that were polled believe that President Trump's focus on illegals has cut those crossing United States borders without approval. It has been reported that the appeal of President Trump's anti-NAFTA messages has been dominant among working-class white families in the United States.
Polls also show 5 percent of Mexicans trust President Trump's decisions and role in international affairs. The survey by the Pew Research Center said 93 percent of Mexicans had "no confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing regarding world affairs." The president's decision for a wall along the Mexican border had a proposed 2018 budget that included a request for $1.6 billion to begin construction. A November 2017 Quinnipiac University Poll found that 64% of voters oppose building the wall and data showed only 33% supported the idea.
Funding for the border wall remained a divisive topic well into 2019, with a partial government shutdown beginning in December 2018 after Trump refused to sign a budget bill that didn't have appropriated funding for the border wall.
Over the course of the civil unrest in Nicaragua that started in April 2018, the Trump administration has placed numerous sanctions and condemnations against President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista Government for human rights abuses. The first set of sanctions took place in early July 2018 when under Magnitsky, three top Sandinista officials had their visas revoked. More sanctions and condemnations rolled in after U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton named Nicaragua as part of a troika of tyranny, including on November 27, 2018 when President Trump issued an executive order targeting the First Lady and Vice President of Nicaragua and her aide Néstor Moncada Lau, and later on December 20, 2018 when President Trump signed then-Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) into law. On April 17, 2019, shortly before the one-year anniversary of the unrest, the Trump Administration announced sanctions on the Nicaraguan bank BANCORP and on Laureano Ortega Murillo, who is one of President Ortega's sons. After Evo Morales' resignation in Bolivia, Trump issued a statement in reaction that the Ortega Regime and Venezuela's Maduro Regime, both of which he views as illegitimate, should be warned. Many have taken this statement to be threats of coup d'etats against both Nicaragua and Venezuela.
President Trump hosted President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in February 2017 to discuss issues in Latin America. Trump has expressed gratitude for Peru's close relations with the United States in protecting interests in Latin America, such as sanctions against Venezuela and corruption probes. Kuczynski brought up a minor purchase of military equipment from the United States for Peru.
Kuczynski later recalled that Trump privately mentioned to Kuczynski that "You don't look a day over 90." Kuczynski was 79 at the time.
In August 2017, following months of protests in Venezuela against President Nicolás Maduro and the election of a Constituent Assembly which consolidated Maduro's power, the Trump administration described the Venezuelan government as a "dictatorship". President Trump further stated on August 11, 2017, days after the Constituent National Assembly was sworn in, that "Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying" and that the United States had "many options for Venezuela", including a possible "military option". At the time, Trump's advisers, including then-United States National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, strongly recommended to President Trump to not pursue a military option in Venezuela, explaining that Latin American governments were against foreign intervention in the region, though Trump raised some questions about the option. However, when meeting with Latin American leaders during the seventy-second session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump discussed possible United States military intervention in Venezuela, to which they all denied the offer.
Following these discussions, the Trump administration instead pursued targeted sanctions against officials within the Venezuelan government.
On January 23, 2019, during the Venezuelan presidential crisis, Venezuela broke ties with the United States following Trump's announcement of recognizing Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, as the interim President of Venezuela. On February 18, 2019 Trump warned members of Venezuela's military to renounce loyalty to Nicolás Maduro. The U.S. continued to show support for Juan Guaidó during the attempted April 30 uprising.
Venezuela is one of the three countries condemned in John Bolton's "Troika of Tyranny" speech in Miami. Trump has also issued a warning to Maduro - along with Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua - following the downfall of Evo Morales in Bolivia.
This section needs to be updated.September 2019)(
On August 21, 2017, President Trump stated that he wanted to expand the American presence in Afghanistan, without giving details on how. Trump did not formulate any deadlines or specific purposes to be met, only stating that a U.S. withdrawal was no option now because it would play into the hands of terrorists and put at risk the safety of the U.S. and its allies. Trump did say that presently 20 U.S.-designated terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, this statement contradicted the official U.S. government list, which only lists 13 such organizations there, according to The Washington Post. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid condemned Trump's speech: "It looks like America does not want to put an end to its longest war and instead of realizing the realities, is still arrogant on its might and force".
On September 19, 2017, the Trump administration deployed another 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. This added to the approximately 11,000 U.S. troops already serving in Afghanistan, bringing the total to at least 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country.
On February 29, 2020, the Trump administration signed a conditional peace agreement with the Taliban, which calls for the withdrawal of foreign troops in 14 months if the Taliban uphold the terms of the agreement. Trump said "it is time" to bring U.S. soldiers home from Afghanistan.
During the campaign Trump accused the People's Republic of China (PRC) 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 December 2, 2016, as president-elect, he accepted a congratulatory telephone call from President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) 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 the PRC, ROC, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. On January 23, 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 February 4, 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 February 9, Trump reaffirmed American commitment to the One-China policy in a telephone call with PRC 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.
The relations significantly deteriorated in 2018 and in 2019 when Trump launched a trade war against China, banned US companies from selling equipment to Huawei, increased visa restrictions on Chinese nationality students and scholars and designated China as a "currency manipulator".
On January 24, 2020, in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump tweeted that "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency." Trump later referred to the coronavirus as "Chinese virus". During an April 15 White House news conference, Trump said the U.S. government is trying to determine if the COVID-19 virus emanated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
By May 2020 relations had reached a new low as both sides were accusing the other of guilt for the worldwide coronavirus epidemic. Washington has mobilized a campaign of investigations, prosecutions and export restrictions. Beijing has stepped up military activities in the contested South China Sea, and launched denunciations of American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Chinese officials have publicly speculated that the American military deliberately unleashed the virus in China. American polls show the public has increasingly negative views of China.
On June 17, 2020, President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which authorizes the imposition of U.S. sanctions against Chinese government officials responsible for detention camps holding more than 1 million members of the country's Uyghur Muslim minority.
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". Trump and Modi met at the White House in June 2017, reaffirming the strong partnership between the two nations, especially in defense, maritime security and counterterrorism.
He has cited the relations as one of the most important in this century as he made a grand visit in February 2020 right before the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic. The visit coincided with anti-Muslim riots in New Delhi.
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 Shinzō 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 excursion. 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 that he did not want to get involved in any conflict between North and South Korea, an attitude which resulted in an editorial in the North Korean state media that hailed him as a "wise politician" and a "far-sighted presidential candidate" who could be good for North Korea. In the wake of the January 2016 North Korean nuclear test Trump advocated placing greater pressure on China to rein in its ally North Korea. During the campaign and the early months of his presidency, he said he hoped that China would help to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions and missile tests.
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.
In July 2017 North Korea tested two long-range missiles, identified by Western observers as intercontinental ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland. In August Trump significantly escalated his rhetoric against North Korea, saying that further provocation against the U.S. will be met with "fire and fury like the world has never seen." In response Kim threatened to direct its next missile test toward Guam. Trump doubled down on his "fire and fury" warning, saying that "maybe that statement wasn't tough enough" and adding that if North Korea took steps to attack Guam, "Things will happen to them like they never thought possible." North Korea continued its missile tests, and in late August the regime launched a ballistic missile which traveled over northern Japan before coming down in the Pacific Ocean. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if the United States were "forced to defend itself or its allies"; he repeated his recent nickname for Kim Jong-Un as "Rocket Man".
In March 2018 a South Korean delegation to the White House gave Trump a message from Kim, suggesting a meeting between Kim and Trump. The South Koreans said Kim was willing to talk about his nuclear and missile programs. Trump immediately accepted the invitation to meet "at a place and time to be determined." On May 10 it was announced that the meeting would take place on June 12 in Singapore. As a gesture of good will, Kim freed three U.S. citizens being held in North Korean prisons. However, as the time neared, North Korean officials failed to meet with their American counterparts to plan the meeting. On May 24 Trump called off the meeting, citing what he perceived as "tremendous anger and open hostility" in North Korea's most recent statement. A few days later planning for the meeting was resumed.
On June 12, 2018, after several rounds of preliminary staff-level meetings, Trump and Kim met at a hotel in Singapore. They talked one-on-one with only interpreters present, then had a working lunch along with staff and advisors. They signed a joint statement agreeing to new peaceful relations, security guarantees for North Korea, reaffirmation of North Korea's promise to work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, recovery of soldiers' remains, and follow-up negotiations between high-level officials. At a follow-up press conference, Trump announced that the U.S. will stop holding joint military exercises with South Korea, calling them "provocative".
A January 2019 American intelligence community assessment found that North Korea was unlikely to relinquish its nuclear arsenal, directly contradicting a core tenet of Trump's stated foreign policy.
In late February 2019, President Trump met with Chairman Kim Jong-un at a summit in Hanoi for talks. On February 28, the White House announced that the summit was called off after negotiations with the North Koreans failed to reach an agreement.
Following the 2019 G20 Osaka summit, Trump arranged for a meeting with Chairman Kim at the Korean Demilitarized Zone alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The one-day trilateral summit at the DMZ was held on June 30, in which Trump became the first U.S. president to set foot on North Korean soil while in office. Trump and Kim also pledged to jump-start negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program after talks collapsed during the February 2019 Hanoi summit.
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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. On July 2, 2019, State Department designated Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a separatist militant group that aims to separate Balochistan from Pakistan, as a terrorist organization.
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.
American relations with Germany have worsened under President Donald Trump, especially regarding trade and NATO.  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 ISIL-controlled territory. Trump and Pope Francis also discussed terrorism and the radicalization of young people.
The Trump administration's approach towards Viktor Orbán's "illiberal" right-wing government has been supportive, but, according to The Guardian, "ineffective" in advancing American interests.
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.. During his trip to Italy, Trump held a bilateral meeting with Pope Francis; and met Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Gentiloni was also hosted by Trump at the White House in April 2017, a few weeks before Trump took part in the 43rd G7 summit held in Italy. 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."
During the Trump administration, Poland and the United States continued to exhibit warm military, diplomatic, and economic bilateral relations. This was bolstered by the broadly shared neo-nationalist values between President Donald Trump and President of Poland Andrzej Duda along with Poland's desire for strengthened military ties with the United States in order to counter Russian influence in Europe, particularly following the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.
In July 2017, in his second foreign trip, President Donald Trump visited Poland where he met with the President 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 Marriott Hotel and from the Marriott 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.   
In June 2019, during a trip to the United States to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Poland's membership in NATO and the 30th anniversary of communism's downfall in the country, President Andrzej Duda visited the White House where he and President Trump signed a joint defense agreement to increase military cooperation. According to the agreement, which Trump called a "statement" on the relationship between the two countries, Poland will pay for an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to be stationed in Poland on a rotational basis. The force will be apportioned from the 52,000-strong contingent of U.S. forces in Germany and will include special operations troops, drones and other military hardware. In a separate deal, Poland ordered 32 F-35 fighter jets from the U.S.; Trump celebrated the agreement with two F-35 jets conducting flybys over the White House in a rare U.S. military display. Also on that day, Polish state-owned natural gas company PGNiG signed an agreement with U.S. company Venture Global LNG to buy 1.5 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas per year as part of an initiative to seek alternative supplies of gas other than Russia's Gazprom. The deal is seen as part of the Trump administration's "energy dominance" economic policy, in which the U.S. slashes domestic regulations on energy production to boost oil and gas exports to allies and trade partners, such as Poland, serving as an alternative to Russian gas pipelines.
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, Henry Kissinger, and Michael T. Flynn. 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."
As Trump's National Security Advisor, Michael T. Flynn was an important link in the connections between Putin and Trump in the "Ukraine peace plan", an unofficial plan "organized outside regular diplomatic channels....at the behest of top aides to President Putin". This plan, aimed at easing the sanctions imposed on Russia, progressed from Putin and his advisors to Ukrainian politician Andrey Artemenko, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, and Flynn, where he would have then presented it to Trump. The New York Times reported that Sater delivered the plan "in a sealed envelope" to Cohen, who then passed it on to Flynn in February 2017, just before his resignation.
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 the 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."
According to a poll conducted by the SSRS, approximately 70% of Americans find that the federal investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election in the US should be able to look into President Donald Trump's finances. 60% of those polled view this as a serious matter that should be fully investigated, and it was recorded that 38% view it as a way to discredit the Presidency of Donald Trump. In an approximate two-to-one margin, those polled disapprove of the way the President is dealing the Russian investigation.
On August 2, 2017, Trump signed into law the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which imposed new sanctions on Russia.
As president, Trump has continued to advocate for U.S.-Russia cooperation against the Islamic State terror organization. At his first direct meeting and encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he approved a collaborative plan for a limited cease-fire in the Syrian civil war.
Trump and Putin met in a summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018. The two leaders spoke one-on-one for two hours, with no aides or other people present except for two translators. There was no definite agenda, and no definite agreements were announced. After a joint press conference at the conclusion of the meeting, Trump drew harsh bipartisan criticism in the United States for appearing to side with Putin's denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, rather than accepting the findings of the United States intelligence community. Universally condemned by Democrats, his comments were also strongly criticized by many congressional Republicans and most media commentators, even those who normally support him.
On May 3, 2019, President Trump held an hour and a half-long phone call with President Putin from the White House. The Russian Embassy stated that the pair discussed "shared commitment to step up dialogue in various areas, including on issues of strategic stability." Trump called the conversation "positive" and tweeted there was "Tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia," and later relayed to reporters Putin's assurances that Russia isn't seeking to "get involved" with the ongoing 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis, despite Trump's national security advisors saying otherwise. They also discussed North Korean missile activity, with Putin briefing Trump on the April 25 meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump and Putin agreed on the importance of denuclearization and normalization of relations on the Korean peninsula. The Mueller Report, a report on the results of a domestic U.S. investigation into Russian contacts between President Trump's 2016 election campaign, was also discussed.
During the 2019 G7 summit in France, President Trump unilaterally advocated for Russia's membership to G7 to be reinstated and said he intended to invite Vladimir Putin to the 2020 G7 summit, set to be held in the U.S. Trump also shifted some blame for Russia's 2014 Crimea annexation to his predecessor President Barack Obama, saying Obama "was pure and simply outsmarted." "It could have been stopped...but President Obama was unable to stop it, and it’s too bad," he added.
Trump said the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, owned by Russia's Gazprom, could turn Germany into a "hostage of Russia". Businesses involved in the Nord Stream 2 have been sanctioned by the Trump administration with the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 on December 20, 2019.
On June 26, 2020, the New York Times reported that Russian military intelligence had paid bounties to Taliban soldiers who killed Americans. President Donald Trump and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said that Trump had not been briefed on the intelligence. National security adviser Robert O'Brien said that Trump's "career CIA briefer decided not to brief him because it was unverified intelligence." Twenty-two American servicemembers had died in Afghanistan in 2019; the newspaper did not say in which deaths Russia was implicated. The National Security Agency (NSA) has "strongly dissented" from the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency assessments that the bounty plot is credible and real. On July 1, 2020, following media reports of Taliban participation in an alleged Russian bounty program to target U.S. troops, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of a National Defense Authorization Act amendment to restrict President Trump's ability to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Speaking to the Yalta European Strategy conference in September 2015, Trump criticized Germany and other European countries for not doing enough to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, saying, Ukrainians are "not being treated right." However 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 Crimea as Russian territory. In February 2017 Trump explained that Crimea was taken by Russia by force and asked whether Obama was too soft on Russia.
Since at least May 2019, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has been pushing for Volodymyr Zelensky, the newly elected president of Ukraine, to investigate the oil company Burisma, whose board of directors includes Joe Biden’s son Hunter, as well as to check if there were any irregularities in the Ukrainian investigation of Paul Manafort. He said such investigations would be beneficial to his client, Trump, and that his efforts had Trump's full support. Giuliani met with Ukrainian officials to press this case in June 2019 and August 2019. Meanwhile, the White House put a hold on the distribution of $250 million worth of military aid to Ukraine which Congress had authorized. On September 11 the administration said it had released the money, even as Congress was contemplating bills to force its release. In September 2019, as reports surfaced of a whistleblower complaint against Trump that may have involved Ukraine, Giuliani conceded he had been pressing the Ukrainian government to investigate the Biden connection. In a later tweet he seemed to confirm reports that Trump had withheld the military assistance funds for Ukraine as a way of forcing them to carry out the investigations. He said, "The reality is that the President of the United States, whoever he is, has every right to tell the president of another country you better straighten out the corruption in your country if you want me to give you a lot of money. If you're so damn corrupt that you can't investigate allegations -- our money is going to get squandered."
Trump himself spoke to Zelensky by phone on July 25, 2019, and according to The Wall Street Journal he urged Zelensky "about eight times" to work with Giuliani and investigate Biden's son. On September 25, the administration released the White House's five-page, declassified memorandum of the July 25 phone call, which shows Trump repeatedly pressing Zelensky to work with Giuliani and U.S. Attorney General Willian Barr on investigations into the Bidens as well as the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike.
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 U.S. National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster.
In November 2017, Trump re-tweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by a leader of the British far-right party Britain First. Theresa May's spokesperson condemned Trump, saying "The British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far-right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents — decency, tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the President to have done this." Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called Trump "abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our country".
On July 7, weeks after President Trump's state visit to the UK, leaked diplomatic cables revealed candid and unflattering assessments UK Ambassador Kim Darroch made regarding Trump and his administration since 2017, including calling Trump's presidency "diplomatically clumsy and inept" and stating that the president "radiates insecurity," along with suggesting that unproven claims of Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner being indebted "to shady Russian moneymen" could "not be ruled out". Trump subsequently tweeted that Darroch was "not liked or well thought of within the US" and that "we will no longer deal with him" and showed dismay at Prime Minister Theresa May's support of Darroch amidst the diplomatic row. On July 10, Darroch tendered his resignation, writing that "the current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like". A spokesman for the prime minister said that it was an ambassador's job to provide "an honest and unvarnished view" of the U.S. administration.
Middle East and North 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."
After the late January missile tests by Iran, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 Iranian individuals and entities on February 3, which it said were "initial steps", with Trump's then-National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn adding that ″the days of turning a blind eye to Iran's hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.″
The 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.
On May 18, 2018, Trump announced the United States withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. He called the agreement "a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made" and added, "it didn't bring calm, it didn't bring peace, and it never will."
Contradicting the administration's previous statements, a January 2019 U.S. intelligence community assessment concluded that Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons.
On April 8, 2019, the Trump administration imposed economic and travel sanctions on the IRGC and organizations, companies and individuals affiliated with it. Hossein Salami was one of the individuals listed.
On May 20, 2019, amid a period of high tensions with Iran, Trump said: "We have no indication that anything's happened or will happen" in Iran. On May 24, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared an "emergency" over Iran, allowing for the U.S. to sell around $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, without any congressional review, in the "national security interest of the United States". On May 28, the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran was abiding by the main terms of the Iran nuclear deal, although questions were raised on how many advanced centrifuges Iran was allowed to have, as that was only loosely defined in the deal.
On 7 June 2019, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran's petrochemical industry for financially supporting the IRGC.
On 24 June 2019, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on eight senior commanders of the navy, aerospace and ground forces components of IRGC.
On September 20, 2019 as part of its counter-terrorism authority. Trump issued Executive Order 13224 where the Office of Foreign Assets Control under the Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), the National Development Fund of Iran (NDF) and Etemad Tejarate Pars Co., Iranian company that was used to transfer money to the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics.
In October 2019, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iranian construction sector, claiming it has links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it regards as a foreign terrorist organization. The US State Department also identified four “strategic materials” being used in connection with military, nuclear, or ballistic missile programs, making trade in them subject to sanctions. However, the department extended nuclear-cooperation waivers on Iran's civil nuclear program, renewing them for 90 days.
On November 4, 2019, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on the core inner circle of advisers to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The new sanctions included one of his sons, Mojtaba Khamenei, the newly appointed head of Iran's judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, the supreme leader's chief of staff, Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, and others. The Trump administration also issued $20 million to a reward for information about a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran 12 years ago.
In January 2020, President Trump ordered the killing of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, which was accomplished on January 3 in an airstrike on Baghdad International Airport. (At an evangelical-influenced political rally in Miami later that day featuring the granddaughter of Billy Graham, Trump told the crowd that God is "on our side.") President Trump later announced the death of Iranian Major General Soleimani at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida in his address to the nation stating "at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him".  Iran threatened retaliation, and Trump, in return, threatened to bomb 52 "very high level & important" sites in Iran (one for each American hostage taken in the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis), including those of cultural importance, an act which many international legal experts have noted would constitute a war crime under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Iraq, Syria, and the Islamic State
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly advocated that the United States should "take the oil" from Iraq as "spoils of war", a decision which would require another invasion and occupation of the country. Trump's statements caused criticism and controversy, as most legal experts agreed that the action would be an illegal war crime under the Geneva Conventions and because many believed that it would increase support for Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East. Trump defended his statements by claiming that they would recoup the cost of U.S. military expenditure in Iraq and prevent Iraqi oil infrastructure from falling under ISIL control. 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". Axios reported in 2018 that, as president, Trump had twice brought the issue up with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, causing consternation among Trump's advisers. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is reported to have told Trump "We can't do this and you shouldn't talk about it. Because talking about it is just bad ... It's bad for America's reputation, it'll spook allies, it scares everybody," while Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis publicly stated that the United States did not intend "to seize anybody's oil."
In January 2017, President Trump issued an executive order banning the entry of all Iraqi citizens, as well as citizens of six other countries. After sharp criticism, public protests, and lawsuits against the executive order, Trump relaxed the travel restrictions somewhat and dropped Iraq from the list of non-entry countries in March 2017.
On October 9, 2019, Turkey launched an offensive into northern Syria against the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria after Trump unilaterally shifted his personal support from the Syrian Kurds to Turkey.
In November 2019, Trump approved a mission for U.S. troops to secure the oil fields in eastern Syria. Later that month, Trump said that the remaining American troops in Syria were there "only for the oil", and that the U.S. was "keeping the oil" (seizing oil without local government permission would be a war crime of pillage).
Responses to chemical weapons in Syria
On April 7, 2017, Trump ordered the United States Navy to launch cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base in response to the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. The missile attack had wide international support and was highly praised by the majority of Republicans as well as Democratic senators. The move drew criticism from Russia, whom 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 deliberately avoided striking areas of the base used by Russia. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized the strike as "good news for terrorists".
In response to the Douma chemical attack in Syria, in April 2018, Trump announced missile strikes against the Assad regime targeting alleged chemical weapons compounds; the strikes were carried out along with the United Kingdom and France.
Announcing troop withdrawal from Syria in December 2018, Trump stated on Twitter that defeating ISIL was "my only reason" for a military presence in Syria, seemingly disregarding the previous missions to respond to Assad's use of chemical weapons.
Responses to the Islamic State
During the campaign
In June 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 and that he would "bomb the hell" out of Iraqi oil fields controlled by ISIL.
After formally announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, Trump's first interview was with Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor the following day. He suggested a hands-off approach to the Syrian Civil War: "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 on November 10, 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."
In the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks committed by ISIL, Trump reiterated his position on ISIL, as he had stated the day before the attack that he would "bomb the shit out of 'em" and that he would "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 that, to combat ISIL, "I would find you a proper general. I would find a Patton or a MacArthur. I would hit them so hard your head would spin." Trump said in an interview with Anderson Cooper the day of the Paris attacks: "There is no Iraq. Their leaders are corrupt." In the March 11, 2016 CNN Republican presidential debate, he said he would send ground troops to fight ISIL, saying: "We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS."
In a 2015 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." Critics noted that 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."
During his presidential campaign, Trump 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 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. Some U.S. military officials openly rebuked Trump's comments, saying that "it is nearly impossible to move tens of thousands of troops into position without alerting the enemy" and asserting that it was vital to warn civilians of impending military action.
The Trump administration
With the arrival of the Trump administration, a change in policy was instituted regarding the disclosure of troop levels abroad as well as the timing of any additional deployments to the Middle East, following through on his campaign promises to utilize the "element of surprise." By April 2017, according to the LA Times, there had been two non-disclosed troop deployments in the month of March: a deployment of 400 U.S. Marines to northern Syria and 300 U.S. Army paratroopers to the area around Mosul, Iraq. By April 2, 2017, the U.S. troop level, or "force management level" — the number of full-time troops deployed, was around 5,200 in Iraq and 500 in Syria, with about 1,000 more troops there on a temporary basis.
The Syria deployment put more conventional U.S. troops on the front that, until then, had primarily used special operations units. The 400 Marines were part of the 11th MEU from the Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. They manned an artillery battery whilst additional infantrymen from the unit provided security and resupplies were handled by part of the expeditionary force's combat logistics element.
In August 2017, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett H. McGurk stated that the Trump administration had "dramatically accelerated" the U.S.–led campaign against ISIL, citing estimates that almost one-third of the territory taken from ISIL "has been won in the last six months." McGurk favorably cited "steps President Trump has taken, including delegating decision–making authority from the White House to commanders in the field."
Some right-wing populist media figures who supported Trump during the election criticized his apparent policy reversal on the Middle East after the increased anti-ISIL commitment. Ann Coulter stated that Trump "campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast" arguing that it was one of the reasons many voted for him.
Withdrawal from Syria and ISIL insurgency
On December 11, 2018, anti-ISIL envoy Brett McGurk indicated in a press briefing that the war against ISIL in Syria was not over, stating, "It would be reckless if we were just to say, well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now.” On December 17, 2018, James Jeffrey, the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement, stated in an address to the Atlantic Council that the United States would remain in Syria "a very long time."
On December 19, Trump, declaring "we have won against ISIS," unilaterally announced a "total" withdrawal of the 2,000-2,500 U.S. troops in Syria. The announcement was made on Twitter and the decision was apparently made without prior consultation with Congress, military commanders and civilian advisors. Although no timetable was provided at the time, press secretary Sarah Sanders indicated that the withdrawal had been ordered to begin. The Pentagon and State Department tried to change Trump's mind on the decision, with several of his congressional and political allies expressing concerns about the sudden move, specifically that it would "hand control of the region" to Russia and Iran, and "abandon" America's Kurdish allies. Brian Kilmeade of the Fox & Friends news program, which Trump himself often watches, sharply criticized Trump's decision as "totally irresponsible," adding "nobody thinks ISIS is defeated" and that the president had "blindsided" the Pentagon and State Department.
Immediately after Trump's announcement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis unsuccessfully tried persuading Trump to reconsider, then informed the president on December 20 he would resign from his post. Mattis asked to continue in his position through February to continue defending "the Department's interests" at Congressional and NATO meetings while Trump selected a successor. Two days later, McGurk announced he was also exiting as a consequence of Trump's decision. (McGurk had previously said he would leave in February, but as the result of the Syria withdrawal and Mattis' departure, he moved his own departure earlier to December 31.)  In response, President Trump wrote that he did not know McGurk and questioned if McGurk was a "grandstander".
On December 23, Trump announced on Twitter that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would become Acting Secretary of Defense effective January 1, thereby replacing Mattis two months' earlier than Mattis' requested resignation date. On December 30 Senator Lindsey Graham, a known Congressional confidant of the president that hours after the announcement of a withdrawal said it was "a stain on the honor of the United States," said that while he agrees that it's possible to reduce the American footprint in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, the US must keep troops in Syria to ensure ISIL can't regroup and that he and a group of generals will urge the President to reconsider his withdrawal plans during a luncheon later that day. One week after his announcement, Trump asserted he would not approve any extension of the American deployment in Syria. On January 6, 2019, national security advisor John Bolton added conditions to the pullout, announcing America would remain in Syria until ISIL is eradicated and until Turkey guarantees it would not strike America's Kurdish allies.
On February 22, 2019, the administration stated that instead of the initially announced "total" pullout, 400 residual U.S. troops would remain in Syria indefinitely post-withdrawal to serve as a contingency force. About 200 of those would be a part of a larger multinational "observer force". These several hundred troops may be in various parts of the country. Press secretary Sarah Sanders initially characterized the troops as "peacekeepers", although a senior administration official later disputed that label as the term technically implied restricted rules of engagement. The shift from a total to a partial withdrawal came after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford strongly vouched for it as French and British allies declined to remain in Syria unless America did. After the announcement, The New York Times quoted officials as describing a "surreal atmosphere" at the Pentagon among military leaders overseeing Syrian policy. A bipartisan group of members of Congress wrote Trump a letter on February 22 endorsing a "small American stabilizing force" in Syria. Trump responded by writing directly on the letter, "I agree 100%. ALL is being done."
On February 28, while speaking to troops at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska during a refueling stop from Hanoi, Trump asserted that the Islamic State had lost "100 percent" of its territory that it once controlled in Syria. The assertion was technically erroneous as the Syrian Democratic Forces's final battle against ISIL was still ongoing, and the terror group still held virtual territory in the Syrian Desert. Trump had been eager to announce ISIL's defeat since late 2018 due to the SDF's multi-year campaign, which deprived the jihadists of swathes of territory, culminating into a final assault, akin to Tora Bora in 2001. ISIL continued to hold the town of Al-Baghuz Fawqani, where, on March 4, the U.S.-backed battle there resulted in the surrender of 500 people, including some ISIL fighters.
On March 22, 2019, in response to developments in the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, where ISIL had put up stubborn resistance to U.S.-backed forces there, Trump showed reporters two maps comparing the extents of the Islamic State's occupation of Syria and Iraq, stating “Here’s ISIS on Election Day. Here’s ISIS right now." The "election day" map was actually from 2014, when the occupation was at its peak, and just as the U.S.-led coalition had begun pushing back against ISIL. The battle concluded on March 23, the next day, with the U.S.-backed SDF militia's victory over ISIL. Trump administration officials and allies cautiously hailed the territorial collapse of the extremist group in Syria while stressing the need to keep a presence in Syria to keep up pressure and to stop a territorial resurgence of the terror group that retained global reach and offshoots in various countries.
From 2011, a reward of $10 million was offered for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by the US State Department, increasing to $25 million in 2017, for information or intelligence on his whereabouts to enable capture, dead or alive. On October 27, 2019, he killed himself and two children by detonating a suicide vest during the Barisha raid conducted by the US Delta Force in Syria's northwestern Idlib Province, according to a statement by President Trump.
In October 2019, Trump ordered the Pentagon to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria to allow Turkey to conduct a planned military operation against Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which had been supporting the U.S. against ISIL since 2014. The sudden announcement on the night of October 6 came after a Trump telephone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. U.S. troops reportedly began withdrawing from northern Syria on October 7.
Similar to their reaction to Trump's initial December 2018 withdrawal announcement, Pentagon officials claimed they were "completely blindsided" by the order and drew concerns about the apparent sudden reneging of the U.S.'s alliance with the Syrian Kurds. The withdrawal was harshly criticized by Congress members of both parties, including Republicans who usually defend Trump. Senator Lindsey Graham called the decision "shortsighted and irresponsible" and threatened to introduce a Senate resolution opposing the pullout. Senator Mitch McConnell said "A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime." Trump defended his withdrawal order, stating that the Kurdish-Turkish conflict "has nothing to do with us" and described the situation as "strategically brilliant" for the U.S.
Trump expounded on his opinion of the Kurds while defending his decision to withdraw American troops, arguing that the U.S.'s commitment to them is overblown and stating that they "didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy as an example". Trump continued that "Alliances are very easy. But our alliances have taken advantage of us" and decried the Kurds as "no angels". According to media fact checking, Trump made false or misleading statements while defending his decision-making, such as suggesting that the Kurdish PKK—which Turkey, the EU, the UK, Canada and other nations regard as a terrorist group—"is probably worse at terror and more of a terrorist threat in many ways than ISIS"; according to The New York Times, in 2018, ISIL conducted more than six times more attacks and more than 15 times more killings than the PKK, while the PKK's recorded attacks throughout its history are less than half of ISIL's, despite the PKK having existed for six times longer. Amidst the U.S. withdrawal, he observed that the Kurds "are much safer right now", although Turkey had stated it had killed 150 Kurdish fighters by October 16, while the Kurds stated that almost 200,000 of their people had been displaced by the offensive at that point. Trump also falsely accused the Kurds of having deliberately released ISIL militants from prisons.
On October 13, Trump ordered that the remaining ~1,000 U.S. troops in northern Syria also be withdrawn, but the al-Tanf base in southeastern Syria would remain garrisoned. By November 2019, it had been announced that U.S. troops would remain in eastern Syria to work alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces in securing oil and gas fields against ISIL attacks. Trump approved and supported the mission, lauding that the U.S. "has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey."
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
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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. On May 22, 2017, Trump was the first U.S. president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, during his first foreign trip, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, the Vatican, and Belgium. On December 6, 2017, Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite objections from Palestinian leaders. Trump added that he would initiate the process of establishing a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
Trump has previously said that he would not take sides in any Israeli-Palestinian agreement in order to be a neutral negotiator in the peace talks, although he also added that he was "totally pro-Israel." In December 2015, Trump told the Associated Press that an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord would depend very much upon Israel, remarking: "I have a real question as to whether or not both sides want to" come to a peace accord. "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."
Trump has vowed that as president he will veto a United Nations-imposed Israel-Palestine peace agreement, stating: "When I'm president, believe me, I will veto any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on the Jewish state. It will be vetoed 100 percent." He added that "The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable."
Trump has criticized the Palestinian National Authority for the absence of peace, saying: "the Palestinian Authority has to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. …[and they] have to stop the terror, stop the attacks, stop the teaching of hatred... They have to stop the teaching of children to aspire to grow up as terrorists, which is a real problem. Of course, the recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is also a major sticking point, with the current Palestinian leadership repeatedly refusing to meet that basic condition."
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.
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."
Trump has threatened Turkey with economic sanctions over its detention of the evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson. On August 1, 2018, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior ministers.
In October 2019, Trump ordered the Pentagon to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria as to allow Turkey to conduct an operation against Kurdish fighters. Kurdish fighters have helped the U.S. against ISIS. Pentagon officials stated that they were "completely blindsided" and "shocked" by the order.
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (July 2019)
The Trump administration has been accused of generally ignoring Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa. By October 2017, senior diplomatic positions relating to the continent were still vacant, including Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa. U.S. military operations in the region continued, but there were no clear statement of objectives or guidance for the Africa Command at the time, headed by General Thomas Waldhauser. Alan Patterson would later serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa from December 2017 to October 2018 and Tibor P. Nagy would become Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs on July 23, 2018.
During a summer 2017 meeting about immigration, Trump reportedly said that Nigerians, once they came to the United States, would never "go back to their huts". The White House strongly denied the claim. In a meeting with congressional leaders on January 11, 2018, Trump asked during a discussion of immigration from Africa why America would want people from "all these shithole countries", suggesting that it would be better to receive immigrants from countries like Norway. The comment was condemned as racist by many foreign leaders and a UN spokesman. The African Union said it was "alarmed" by the comment, which "flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice." African ambassadors in Washington planned to meet the following week to discuss a response. They expressed dismay that it took something like this to bring attention to Africa when the continent has so many other issues, such as famine and civil war, that Washington ignores.
On August 23, 2018, Trump publicly instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to investigate South African farm attacks, an instruction which was widely described in mainstream media as the administration advocating for an unfounded white genocide conspiracy theory. Trump had apparently gotten his information from a Tucker Carlson segment on Fox News. The media roundly berated the move, with New York magazine claiming Trump was attempting to "change the conversation — to one about “white genocide” in South Africa", Esquire reported that the "President of the United States is now openly promoting an international racist conspiracy theory as the official foreign policy of the United States". According to the SPLC, Trump had "tweeted out his intention to put the full force of the U.S. State Department behind a white nationalist conspiracy theory".
Causing "angry reaction in South Africa", many politicians responded critically including former US Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard, RSA Deputy President David Mabuza and Julius Malema MP, who responded to Trump, declaring "there is no white genocide in South Africa", and that the US President's intervention into their ongoing land reform issues "only made them more determined... to expropriate our land without compensation". Trump had previously caused controversy around the topic as a presidential candidate in 2016, when he republished content from a social media account named "WhiteGenocideTM".
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 Priebus 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 his 2016 election 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 regarded this assertion as incorrect, emphasizing that though 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 and that, in fact, the U.S. government initially approved of the EU's creation.
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, 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." Media fact-checkers observed that, while most members of the alliance indeed had yet to reach the 2 percent target for their national defense spending in 2017, technically they are not in arrears and they "do not owe anything" to the United States or to NATO.
In early April 2019, during a trip to the U.S. to hail NATO's 70th anniversary, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg affirmed that the NATO alliance remained "strong" and downplayed the severity of the disputes and uncertainties that emerged during the Trump administration. On April 2, Stoltenberg and Trump had a positive meeting at the White House, where Trump praised NATO for increased defense spending. Trump said he and Stoltenberg are "both committed to ensuring that NATO can address the full range of threats facing the alliance today." During a speech to Congress on April 3, Stoltenberg acknowledged that "there are differences," noting disputes over trade, energy, climate change policy, the Iran nuclear agreement and burden sharing among NATO allies – all issues raised by Trump. Noting that NATO members are on track to increase defense spending by up to $100 billion, Stoltenberg said that "this has been the clear message from President Trump and this message is having a real impact."
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 argued that Trump's protectionist views have roots in the Whig Party program of the 1830s. He noted that many Americans were sympathetic to these views, while saying this was nonetheless not a good justification to adopt them. 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).
A January 2019 intelligence community assessment concluded that Trump's trade policies and unilateralism had "damaged" traditional alliances and induced foreign partners to seek new relationships.
NAFTA and USMCA
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.
In September 2018, the United States, Mexico, and Canada reached an agreement to replace NAFTA with the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). NAFTA will remain in force, pending the ratification of the USMCA.
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 2016 campaign, Trump opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the Obama administration had negotiated, calling it "insanity. That deal should not be supported and it should not be allowed to happen." He said the US was "giving away" concessions to China. Days after taking office, on January 23, 2017, Trump withdrew from the proposed deal, citing the need to protect American workers from competition by workers in low-wage countries. The international trade agreement never took effect.
World Trade Organization
During the 2016 campaign, Trump called the World Trade Organization (WTO) a "disaster". He said that if U.S. companies moved their manufacturing operations abroad, he would place tariffs of 15–35% on these products when they were sold to U.S. consumers. When informed that this 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 [of the WTO]."
In 2020, the United States remains an active WTO member.
Open Skies Treaty
In May 2020, Trump said he intended to withdraw the US from "Open Skies," a 2002 treaty between three dozen countries that aims to promote military transparency. Under the treaty, participants are allowed to perform reconnaissance flights to gather information about each other's military activities. The European Union said it hopes the US will not withdraw. In explaining his position, Trump alleged that Russia had violated the terms of the treaty; Russia denied doing so.
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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.
However, there seems to be uptick in relations after Imran Khan has come to power
Speaking of Imran Khan in a bilateral summit, Trump said ,"I’ve heard they’ve made great progress. And under this leader — he’s a great leader — I think he wants to make great progress because there’s no solution the other way. The other way is only going to lead to death and chaos and poverty. It’s all it’s going to lead to. I mean, he understands it. Your Prime Minister understands it."
- Daniel W. Drezner (2019) Economic Statecraft in the Age of Trump, The Washington Quarterly, 42:3, 7-24.
- Robert Jervis, Francis J. Gavin, Joshua Rovner, and Diane Labrosse (eds.). 2018. Chaos in the Liberal Order: The Trump Presidency and International Politics in the Twenty-First Century. Columbia University Press.
- Sreeram S. Chaulia (2019) Trumped: Emerging Powers in a Post-American World, Bloomsbury
- Van Jackson. 2018. On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War. Cambridge University Press.
- Presidency of Donald Trump
- Foreign policy of Donald Trump
- Donald Trump on social media
- Trump tariffs
- List of presidential trips made by Donald Trump
Notes and references
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- Lewis, Sophie (August 16, 2019). ""Not for sale": Danish officials unanimously reject Trump's interest in buying Greenland". CBS News. Retrieved August 17, 2019.
- Karni, Annie (August 20, 2019). "President Trump Cancels Trip to Denmark After Greenland Spat" – via NYTimes.com.
- Greenland Is Not For Sale. But It Has Rare Earth Minerals America Wants
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- Donald Trump emphasizes plans to build 'real' wall at Mexico border, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News, August 19, 2015
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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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