As far as foreign affairs go, every president ends up with a very interesting and potential deadly in tray. When your country is one of the biggest military forces in the world and a bastion of freedom and democracy, every leader has had to struggle with the almost daily threats posed to democratic nations.
Donald Trump has quite a strange situation in that he seems determined to make enemies out of friends, decrying NATO as ‘obsolete’ and claiming that the UN is simply ‘just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.’ Neither statement has gone down well but like all things, Trump has flip-flopped on the issue. Now, as he prepares for his maiden speech in the UN, the world will be watching to see what the President has in store. Will he deliver a rousing cry in the name of unity and international co-operation? Or will this be an agonising and rather embarrassing repeat of the G20 summit, an example of America retreating from the stage and falling out of step with the rest of the world?
Foreign trips and speeches on global events aren’t necessarily Trump’s favourite topics although it largely depends on the subject matter. For the upcoming conference, a lot of it is safe territory for Trump, particularly the topic of North Korea which is expected to dominate proceedings. Having launched another missile over Japan and with growing fears that Kim Jong-Un has almost completed his goal of creating a nuclear arsenal, the question of how to handle it is on everyone’s minds. Condemning North Korea will be easy, but the manner in which it is done and the solutions Trump proposes remains to be seen. Options are limited, but the biggest worry is that Trump will take a swing at China which is ill-advised in the world’s biggest and most important forum.
Iran might also come up on the agenda and again, it’s safe territory for Trump the Republican. Obama’s nuclear deal, despite easing tensions and offering a new era of co-operation, is unpopular with many in the GOP. Rumours that Iran is breaching the terms of the deal have been seized on by Trump, but there is no evidence to back them up as yet. Trump taking a swing at Iran might please the GOP and Israel, fearful of their rival’s power, and claim that America shouldn’t be rewarding their enemies. Russia would not be the only country smiling ironically at that particular statement, but that’s another story…
Climate change, global security and the threat of terrorism presents an opportunity for Trump to really push his ‘America First’ ideas and may provide the clearest evidence of what other countries should expect from America. Trump’s whole political platform is based on putting American interests before international interests, something that doesn’t sit well with an international body of nations dedicated to international unity and cooperation. Past experience doesn’t offer many crumbs for comfort and many will be watching and listening carefully, more carefully than Trump will probably listen to the other speeches, I daresay.
For the moment, Trump has made it through without major incident. His first speech on reforms in the UN seems to be something where Donald Trump can actually sound like a President.
Nevertheless, the eyes of the world are watching and waiting to see what Donald Trump and the country he leads has to say on global politics and America’s place in them.