WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is plunging deeper and deeper into the cold depths of foreign policy issues from the Middle East to Asia.
He appears highly uncertain what to do about North Korea, despite colorful quotes about inflicting “fire and fury” on North Korea, and he’s in danger of totally turning off any real support that he might have hoped to get from China and Russia.
In the Middle East, his problems are different but equally pronounced. He’s alienated a number of countries in the region by threatening to cut off aid to those voting in the U.N. General Assembly for a resolution calling for the United States to retract his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
It’s hard to know where Trump is in worse trouble, but he’s definitely getting on the wrong side of China’s President Xi Jinping with a lengthy foreign policy declaration castigating China for just about everything from unfair trade practices to regional expansionism.
In his statement of national security strategy, Trump declared his purpose during his campaign for president last year is to “make America great again,” but the speech deepened rifts with rival powers.
His sharp criticism of China inspired rebukes from Chinese officials, who denounced him for reverting to the hard-line confrontational policies of the Cold War when the late Mao Zedong was China’s leader.
It seems all the more odd that Trump should alienate Xi after he’s courted him on a number of occasions, hosting him at his estate at Mar-a-Lago, then seeing him most recently for what appeared as highly cordial talks in Beijing.
Stranger still, Trump accused Russia along with China with attempting to undermine America’s global role as a military power as well as the U.S. economy.
Trump’s declaration of “security strategy” would appear to mark a reversal of the warming of U.S. relations with China and Russia, but it’s difficult to discern exactly what Trump is thinking.
In fact, Trump’s chats with Russia's Vladamir Putin have seemed so good-natured that James Clapper, former U.S. director of national intelligence, has famously remarked, Putin, as a former KGB operative, knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with the president.
There is no doubt Russia, under Putin’s orders, has been attempting to subvert the United States, doing whatever it could to bring about Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.
If Trump’s “security strategy” is any guide, however, he may not be so pro-Russian as suspected. Rather, he wants to counter what he sees as the potential of China and Russia, acting together or separately, to destroy American prestige and power.
Not since the end of the Cold War have the lines appeared so sharply drawn with much of the confrontation focusing on what to do about North Korea.
Trump’s problems in the Middle East are worsening at exactly the same time. His decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem does make sense from one point of view. The fact is, the Israeli government is in Jerusalem. It’s standard practice for embassies to be in the capitals of countries.
From the public relations and diplomatic viewpoint, however, the U.S. decision has alienated Arab and Islamic forces throughout the Middle East. It deepens the antagonism with Iran,
The net result of Trump’s “security strategy” is to risk isolating the United States from much of the world, including America’s European allies.
In an atmosphere of rising tensions, especially surrounding the Korean peninsula, Trump is daring America’s adversaries to stand up against him.