President Trump is becoming a tactical maestro in world affairs, securing America’s role as a superpower with thoroughly unconventional foreign and national security policies.
The first part of President Trump’s strategy is relatively straightforward — rebuilding America’s military capabilities to ensure that we maintain a technological edge over our rivals — overcoming the atrophy permitted by President Obama.
Military modernization, however, is never simple. While America has a bigger defense budget than Russia and China, a big chunk is spent on wages, ammunition, and the maintenance of American forces abroad.
That creates a deceptive illusion — Moscow and Beijing spend far less on defense overall, but can devote a larger share of those resources towards developing advanced military capabilities. Many peace-loving politicians fall into the trap of opposing increased defense spending that’s vital for military modernization because they believe our current budget is sufficient for all of America’s needs.
Thankfully, President Trump understands that national security can’t be treated with continued complacency — even during times of peace. Since his first day in the White House, the president has advocated for improved ways to invest in America’s strategic development to underwrite his “Peace through Strength” agenda, like that of President Ronald Reagan.
In a clear message to America’s adversaries, for instance, President Trump announced his Space Force initiative — an entirely new branch of the military designed to address strategic challenges in, to, through, and from space to U.S. security interests and systems — notably already posed by Russia and China.
President Trump also recognized the deficiencies of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that Russia has violated for many years without any substantive U.S. response, and announced our withdrawal from the pact unless Russia shortly corrects its deficiencies. Moreover, since it was not a party to that arms control agreement, China for the past 30 years has been free to develop INF systems without any limitation — creating a situation that must now be countered.
Strategic military development alone, however, may not be enough to stop our adversaries’ ascent through the global hierarchy. President Trump’s foreign policy employs his ability to use economic pressure as a tool of geopolitical coercion — his “Art of the Deal” applied for our foreign policy and national security interests.
Make no mistake — this too is easier said than done.
While countries like Russia and China often use state-owned corporations to their political advantage, affecting our free market economy is limited by Washington’s inability to play puppeteer with private firms. America simply doesn’t have its own version of Gazprom, a state-owned Russian gas giant that is frequently used by Vladimir Putin to bully other countries — including our European allies — into submission.
Thus, President Trump’s trade policies seek to revolutionize how Americans think of conventional diplomacy.
By implementing a set of targeted counter-tariffs on China, for instance, President Trump has severely hampered Beijing’s development, putting its economy under severe pressure. As a direct result, China’s GDP growth recently fell to its lowest point in 28 years, creating what appears to be more favorable trade negotiations with our greatest economic adversary.
By reinventing America’s trade policy, President Trump has successfully found a geopolitical application to what was traditionally viewed as a tool for protecting domestic industries.
Meanwhile, he has also used sanctions much more effectively than his predecessors, applying America’s economic might as leverage against our rivals.
Whereas Barack Obama gave the Iranian government billions of dollars in handouts, for instance, President Trump has re-imposed and tightened sanctions on the authoritarian regime, putting a significant squeeze on the Iranian economy.
President Trump’s approach to foreign policy may not be conventional, but that’s also what has made him so effective. Hopefully, as we witness his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, we will see the maestro conduct another masterpiece.
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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