In his latest attempt to answer the myriad questions about where his foreign policy stands, Republican front-runner Donald Trump gave a long foreign-policy speech blasting the previous policies of Bush and Obama/Clinton, laying out some of the same broad comments made in the past, reiterating his opposition to the Iraq War and insisting America must not go abroad looking for enemies, but ultimately raising new questions with some internally inconsistent statements and a reiteration of his desire to be “unpredictable” as a centerpiece of his policy.
In laying out his overall view, Trump vowed to “shake the rust off” America’s foreign policy, insisting America is going to get out of “the nation-building business” and become a powerful nation again, demanding the respect of allies and enemies alike.
While attacking “wasteful spending,” one of Trump’s first focuses in the speech was a call for major increases in military spending, lamenting the relatively few ships the navy currently has, while demanding an immediate move on the massive nuclear weapons modernization scheme,
Trump presented the battle to contain radical Islam in the terms of the Cold War, but also insisted NATO needs to shift away from its obsolete, Cold War mentality, to focus on shared challenges, including “migration” and “radical Islam,” while insisting he would be the one for force NATO members to spend 2% or more of their GDP on their militaries.
Despite spending so much of his speech laying out plans for more military spending, Trump went on to vow to “bring peace to the world,” insisting that “the power of weaponry is the single biggest problem we have in the world.”
Trump went on to declare the world “more dangerous now than it’s ever been,” while mocking President Obama for visits to Cuba and Saudi Arabia, in which foreign heads of state did not greet him at the airport, suggesting it showed a “lack of respect.”
Though he insisted his goal was not war, he also insisted he “will not hesitate to deploy military force,” saying America will “only fight to win,” and vowing “victory with a capital V,” presenting the adoption of 3D printing and artificial intelligence as big future steps.
On Russia, Trump sounded a more conciliatory tone, insisting he is open to talking with Russia about their mutual interests, though he presented more military buildup as a key to confronting China, saying they only respect strength.
Trump called for two separate summits, one for NATO members and one for Asian allies, with each focusing on demands for those nations to bear more of the cost of their respective defenses.
He also urged an end to the partisan divide on foreign policy, insisting politics must “end at the water’s edge,” and citing bipartisan efforts as the reason America won the Cold War. It remains to be seen, however, how he’ll be able to pull this off while advocating a more or less complete break from the policies of the past several administrations.
Trump championed his past opposition to the Iraq War, noting that ISIS came about as a result of that previous US occupation, and sought to assure that a Trump government wouldn’t be launching such attacks on a whim.
Ultimately, Trump’s speech sent more mixed messages, trying to fold in statements he’s made previously that proved popular, differentiating himself from other candidates by insisting “war and aggression will not be my first instinct,” while at the same time trying to “moderate” his image by talking up a big military spending, and an unhesitating war-fighting narrative that would square him more with traditional candidates.