SIEGEL: When self interest meets foreign policy

Trump’s foreign policy is dangerous to America’s interests

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Trump puts our foreign policy objectives and the West at risk every day with his shoddy and dangerous administration.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Early this month, London hosted the 2019 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit, a meeting of the Western Coalition’s leaders and figures. Heads of state from all over the world, including the United States, met to discuss the future of the Cold War-era alliance on its 70th anniversary. The alliance has been fending off multiple threats, including Russia, terrorism and the Trump administration throughout its existance. 

During his tenure in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump has attacked NATO at almost every opportunity. In 2017, he criticized NATO as “obsolete” while praising Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. To him, organizations like NATO and the European Union were formed to conspire against the United States. NATO, which was once an invaluable ally of the United States during the Cold War and during its multiple invasions of the Middle East, is now a consistent target of Trump’s rage. This indicates that Trump’s most dangerous foreign policy objective is alienating our closest allies.

For the past three years, Trump has been calling for the United States to cut its NATO funding and decrease its commitment to the alliance. He claims other nations are taking advantage of the United States and that the United States takes on the “burden” of other countries. Statistics show otherwise. While the United States has provided the largest share of NATO’s budget at 22 percent, Germany paid approximately 15 percent while France and the UK each contributed about 10.5 percent. Furthermore, American contributions to NATO are expected to fall to 16 percent. 

American contributions to NATO total less than $550 million of its $2.5 billion budget, a drop in the bucket compared to America’s $649 billion defense budget. Apparently, America’s greatest alliance is not worth maintaining. Leaders from NATO’s member states have recognized the threat that Trump poses to the coalition. French President Emmanuel Macron explained that Trump is leading NATO towards “brain death,” a remark Trump did not very much appreciate. Trump responded to the comments by calling them “nasty” and “very disrespectful.”

This month’s NATO summit was the perfect example of the effects of Trump’s random foreign policy and the degradation of our alliances. NATO has been our most valued source of international support through the years, holding up a wall against Soviet invasion and supporting American efforts against terrorism and threats to democracy. 

Trump isn’t simply personally attacking our greatest allies. He puts our foreign policy objectives and the West at risk every day with his shoddy and dangerous administration. First, he has run his campaign and government based on pure xenophobia. He has fostered the implementation of racist immigration policy. One of his senior policy advisors, Stephen Miller, is a far-right and white nationalist who ran his immigration policy. He has pushed away Mexican leaders by criticizing their government and making racist comments towards the Latinx community and Mexico. 

There are, unfortunately, far worse consequences to his ineptitude. Trump has all but destroyed the State Department. Mike Pompeo, current Secretary of State, leads Trump’s crusade against the Foreign Service. The State Department has seen a drastic decrease in the number of Foreign Service personnel. In Trump’s first year in office, there was a decrease of 11.9 percent in foreign affairs officials and a 6.3 percent decrease in civilian personnel. Similarly, Trump’s 2018 budget proposal included a plan to cut State Department funding from $53 billion to just $39 billion. While this goes on in secret, his steady and public stream of attacks on career diplomats involved in the impeachment process demonstrates his distaste for our diplomatic servicepeople. 

Nothing is more indicative of this shift away from steady foreign policy and State Department policy than the recently concluded impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives. Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who served as Ambassador to Ukraine, was attacked and assailed by Trump  before her ousting as ambassador and during her testimony to Congress. In fact, she was removed from her post because she was reportedly uncomfortable with Trump using his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani as the point-person for American diplomacy in Ukraine. She was especially uncomfortable with the alliance between Giuliani and Yuriy Lutsenko, who was described as having “a long history of wielding the law in his personal political battles.” 

Trump, instead of using experienced career diplomats to conduct reasonable foreign policy, is using his trusted allies. His personal lawyers are handed the responsibility of operating diplomatic backchannels at the expense of America. His point-man in European diplomacy, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, was handed his post as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union after giving one million dollars to the Trump Inaugural Committee. Trump hands the responsibility of our foreign policy to these people, endangering our interests at home and abroad. 

Unfortunately, Trump himself seems the worst of anyone at following through on key American foreign policy objectives. Trump, who is apprehensive of our allies and attacks the liberal world order, changes the entire scope of our foreign policy on a whim. For example, he withdrew American forces from the northern Syrian border with Turkey in a concession made to Turkish President Erdogan on a phone call.  

The next president, whoever it may be, will have the tall task of reestablishing America’s position as a major superpower and as a nation capable of leading others. For decades, our shared values with other Western countries protected the reign of freedom and liberty. Trump doesn’t share those values, and it shows with the decline of our alliances. We need to elect someone who can show the world once more that we have the ability to lead. 

Jeremy Siegel is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

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