Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Foreign Policy

President-elect Trump pick of Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, as his National Security Advisor panicked those who had grown comfortable with the Susan Rice school of foreign policy.  Whereas Ms. Rice is a career bureaucrat, Flynn 33 years in the US Army.  Uniforms tend to make bureaucrats and diplomats nervous especially given Flynn's statement that the US was less safe in 2014 than it was prior to 9/11.

Now it appear James "Mad Dog" Mattis, a retired Marine Corps 4-star, will be the next Secretary of Defense.  Should Mattis be appointed, Mr. Trump's cabinet will be one of the most hawkish in many years.  This may be by design as a way of "draining the swamp" of career bureaucrats but it also might signal a different approach to foreign policy that will be much more decisive than the Obama doctrine.

On the surface it seems that Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are getting along famously.  Yet Russia has deployed its nuclear capable Iskander missiles Kalinigrad, Russia placing the missiles within range of targets in Poland and NATO.  The missile deployment is in retaliation for NATO troop deployments (including 4,000 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division).  The move has been met with hostility by Moscow, however it remains to be seen if Mr. Putin will have the same reaction once Mr. Trump takes office.

Mr. Putin has said he is ready for a re-set of US-Russian relations.  Under the Obama Administration, relations deteriorated even though Mr. Obama and his advisors were decidedly un-hawkish.  The question is, will Mr. Putin continues to reach out to the US with a very hawkish Trump Administration?  If the answer is "yes", then the recasting of US-Russia relations will have major impacts on other US alliances.

We may be seeing a clue already.  Mr. Trump has used his favorite policy weapon, Twitter, to get under Prime Minister May's skin.  He has publicly called on her to appoint Nigel Farage,  his friend and major campaign supporter, to be appointed as UK ambassador to the US.  Ms. May is highly irritated as these types of things are not done publicly, furthermore having a US president dictate to a UK prime minister just isn't done.

However, May is under increasing pressure to make Brexit happen and she has yet to take action making her vulnerable.  The current UK ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch, is seen by many in the UK as a European Union lackey and career politician, so Mr. Trump may yet get his way.  Should he, it will risk chilling relations with the US greatest ally at a time when the world is drastically reshaping (in no small way thanks to Mr. Trump himself).

We are going into unchartered waters with a new US President who has never held office and will treat foreign policy matters more like business deals.  The US and Russia could conceivably forge an alliance going forward to deal with terrorism in the Middle East, leaving out Europe and UK for the first time since World War II.  Unlike Europe, Russia can offer oil to the fossil-fuel dependent US to help counter-act any effects their Middle East interventions might have on oil prices.

Far-fetched?  Perhaps no more so than some New York business tycoon with bad hair becoming President of the United States.

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