President Donald Trump meets in Helsinki, Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin for a historic summit today. The fact that a US president is meeting with the Russian leader at all is an accomplishment in itself given post-Cold War relations between the two countries. Some believe that establishing a level plane of negotiation with Putin confers undue legitimacy to Putin, given the poisonous state of politics in Russia. Others believe that it is a chance to ease tensions between the countries and encourage the reopening of dialogue between them.
Elias Atienza believes that when it comes to foreign policy, not all that President Trump has done has been negative, but the clumsy tactics that have been used to get to solutions don't look great:
• “I will not lie. I’m conflicted about Trump’s foreign policy. For one, though his foreign policy has led us down some dangerous paths, it has had its successes. ISIS is less of a threat to the U.S. and is no longer the boogeyman it once was during the Obama presidency. And though this came primarily as a continuation of the Obama strategy, there were a few changes in the rules of engagement which gave American commanders more leeway when it came to driving out the terrorists from their strongholds.”
• “If there’s one word to sum up Trump’s foreign policy, it is this: contradictory. He has turned the world on its head in some positive ways, but for the most part, he has continued the interventionist policies of his predecessors while also dragging us into an economic slugfest with our allies and China. There are two more years of this presidency and so far, it does not look good.”
Matthew Magann believes that foreign policy should not be treated as a pawn to gain domestic approval, especially when the stakes are so high:
• “The Trump administration lacks any coherent foreign policy vision, preferring to throw out policy haphazardly as a means of building support. Of course, a number of America’s foreign Service officers, State Department experts and others still work to maintain our global standing, and for that they deserve immense praise. At the highest level, though, foreign policy has become a mere tool to build domestic support for the administration.”
• “Today, with the rise of China, Russia’s increasing belligerence and a rapidly escalating Saudi-Iranian conflict that threatens to engulf the Middle East, America can hardly afford to surrender its mantle of global leadership. These years mark a significant challenge to the post-Cold War international order, yet under the current administration America is not there to defend itself or its values. President Trump campaigned on the false notion that other countries were “laughing at us” for America’s ineptness. That statement was clearly false at the time, but today it may just ring true.”
The Bottom Line:
Despite his recent high profile meetings, Trump’s encounters on the world stage have done little to show that he is the leader he says he is. As he travels abroad his visits have been met with massive protests. World leaders have been quoted saying that he arrives to meetings late and underinformed. While a new perspective on foreign policy could have been refreshing and maybe even exactly what the United States needs, the last few months have seen increased turmoil among international powers as Trump cozies up to dictatorships and offends the allies of the United States. Trump may consider himself an expert in the art of the deal, but he has much to learn about the art of diplomacy.