Editors note: This global perspectives roundup is a new feature of the Council of Councils initiative, gathering opinions from global experts on major international developments. In this edition, Council of Councils members offer their perspectives on the impact of President-Elect Trump on global cooperation and some advice for the incoming administration. Additional pieces will be added in the coming days.
MICHAEL FULLILOVE, LOWY INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY (AUSTRALIA)
The election of Donald Trump is a sobering moment for those concerned with the state of the global order. Many of the president-elect’s long-held views run counter to the principles that underpin the order.
First, he seems sympathetic to isolationism. Previous American presidents saw the advantages of global leadership; Trump is apparently oblivious to them.
Second, Trump appears to be allergic to alliances. He is skeptical of an alliance network that helps Washington project its influence and states that the United States is being ripped off by its allies.
Third, he has something of an affinity for strongmen. He and Russian President Vladimir Putin have expressed their mutual admiration. He may take a liking to Chinese President Xi Jinping, another big man who likes deference.
Finally, Trump derides free trade agreements and has weakened the domestic case for trade. The Trans-Pacific Partnership may be finished.
The most important things the new president could do for global cooperation, therefore, would be to affirm that he appreciates the value the United States derives from the liberal international order and promise that he will continue with a policy of global engagement.
This is equally the case in Australia’s own region. For seven decades, the U.S. forward presence in the Asia-Pacific—U.S. servicemen and servicewomen stationed in Japan and South Korea, as well as the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet—has underpinned regional stability there.
With these formidable assets, the United States has mostly kept a lid on interstate friction and maintained an open regional order in which successive Asian countries have grown prosperous. This role is more important than ever in the context of a rising China.
Trump should signal that he will continue the United States’ leading role in Asia.
DANIEL GROS AND STEVEN BLOCKMANS, CENTRE FOR EUROPEAN POLICY STUDIES (BELGIUM)
Donald Trump’s victory is sending shockwaves through Europe. Under President Trump, U.S. domestic and foreign policies will likely become more volatile and less predictable. For years Trump has consistently espoused that the United States is cheated by the free riding of its so-called strategic partners. Under Trump, a U.S. retreat from the rest of the world is to be expected, and guarantees that have underpinned more than seventy years of the postwar global order are evaporating. Trump’s election will affect Europe, particularly in the fields of trade, security, and values.
On the economic side, Europe has more to lose than the United States from an attack the Trump administration will likely mount on the global trading system. Europe is more exposed to global trade than the United States, and European jobs would be threatened if the United States unilaterally imposes high tariffs and, consequently, emerging markets go into recession. Talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) may continue at the technical level, but an ambitious agreement is no longer possible. A narrow free trade agreement would, however, facilitate ratification on the European side.
Critical questions for European security include whether Trump will stand by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and whether he will strike a grand bargain with Russia over spheres of influence in Europe. Trump is expected to cut U.S. contribution to NATO from 45 percent to 37 percent and insist that Europeans raise their contributions to make up the difference. This will likely lead to increased defense spending in many European countries and bolster ambitions by some member states, led by Germany, to expand the EU’s strategic autonomy through more permanently structured defense cooperation.
Any U.S. strategic overtures toward Russia will likely embolden Putin’s revanchism toward Russia’s “near abroad”—Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Poland and the Baltic states will demand clarity from the president-elect on his allegiances. Russlandversteher, or supporters of Russia, like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, will welcome renewed U.S. engagement with Russia. This will undermine the fragile intra-EU cohesion on sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.
Since Trump is not expected to devote a lot of headspace to quarreling Europeans, the EU will have to do more on its own and also proactively engage with the United States whenever it needs U.S. influence to protect European interests and attain common EU-U.S. objectives.
However, populist factions across Europe will be emboldened and must now be taken seriously as potential governing parties. Given these parties’ euroskeptic tendencies, the EU will have a harder time making the advances in integration it needs to demonstrate its own importance. A catch-22 thus lies before the European Union: populist parties will not allow for its advancement, but they will seek to renationalize policies by claiming that the
EU is impotent and irrelevant.
JOHANNES THIMM, GERMAN INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AND SECURITY AFFAIRS (GERMANY)
The election has shown quite clearly that the half of the electorate who voted for Trump is indifferent to world public opinion, and so my hopes that President-Elect Donald Trump will heed outside advice are quite modest. At this point, giving advice to Trump on how to advance global cooperation may be a bit ambitious. A better approach could be to list some of the actions that he should avoid in order not to undermine global cooperation.
The Trump administration should not:
contemplate the first use of nuclear weapons or encourage nuclear proliferation;
undermine the rules of the World Trade Organization or start a trade war with China;
question the U.S. commitment to the collective defense of NATO allies;
tear up the Paris Agreement on climate change;
build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico or deport all undocumented immigrants currently in the United States;
bring back waterboarding, kill the family members of purported terrorists, or authorize other actions that would constitute war crimes under U.S. or international law;
praise dictators and authoritarian rulers for being “strong leaders,” or
try to “make America great again” by going it alone in international affairs.
Trump has, on occasion, displayed the ability to make pragmatic decisions. In his victory speech, the president-elect changed his tone from the divisive rhetoric of the campaign to a more conciliatory and inclusive message. It would reassure many of those abroad if he likewise adjusted the way he talks about international politics.
AMOS YADLIN, INSTITUTE FOR NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES (ISRAEL)
The Trump administration will present a great deal of uncertainty due to the president-elect’s unorthodox style and rhetoric, and because we do not yet know who he plans to nominate for cabinet positions. However, the early days of the Trump presidency also present the Israeli government a valuable opportunity to restore its understanding with the U.S. government and deepen the special relationship between the two countries. Three potential arenas for improved U.S.-Israeli cooperation based on convergent interests are Syria, Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Trump has the opportunity in Syria to correct the two major policy failures of the Obama administration that have allowed hundreds of thousands of Syrians to be killed by the Iran-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad and caused long-standing traditional U.S. alliances to deteriorate. With Israel’s support, the United States should take action to defend civilian populations from the Assad regime’s brutality and ramp up support for moderate opposition forces. The United States would then shatter the morally unacceptable paradigm of “Assad or the Islamic State” by providing an alternative. This would end the regime’s massacres; reassure U.S. allies including Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia of the United States’ conviction to support them in containing Iran; and diminish the threat of terrorism posed by the Islamic State.
Second, U.S. and Israeli efforts to cope with threats posed by Iran would be more effective if they were more closely coordinated. It is unlikely that Trump will abolish the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but it is essential to seek a common strategy to mitigate the risks of Iranian proliferation and regional subversion. One option would be to draft an agreement between the United States and Israel parallel to the JCPOA in which the United States pledges to never permit Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. Ultimately, a detailed parallel agreement would serve the interests of the United States, Israel, and the pragmatic Arab states in preventing nuclear proliferation and promoting regional stability.
Third, while the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was a point of contention between the Obama and Netanyahu governments, it appears that a Trump administration will lean more in Israel’s direction, as per the statement his advisors released last week. Empowered by the support of a new U.S. administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should promote new paradigms and initiatives. Before doing so, however, Netanyahu should reach an understanding with Trump on restricting settlement growth, similar to the agreement struck between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush, to restart peace negotiations and demonstrate that Israel is not the spoiler of the peace process. As a result, the prime minister would silence critics who claim that Israel is not serious about peace and disabuse the Palestinians of the notion that they do not need to compromise on their demands.
If Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas proves a willing partner for negotiations, Israel should attempt bilateral, regional, interim, and other approaches to advance the peace process or, at the very least, improve the situation on the ground and keep the two-state solution alive. If he does not, the U.S. government should make it clear to the Palestinians stalling and derailing peace negotiations will not work in their favor.
IGOR YURGENS, INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENT (RUSSIA)
From early December 2015 through election day, Russia’s political leadership has supported Donald Trump with the disclaimer, “We will work with any leader the American people elect.”
That gives Russian President Vladimir Putin an opportunity to start discussions with the new U.S. president on improved relations earlier than would have been possible with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, given the difficult history of their personal relations.
Putin, in his congratulatory cable to Trump, expressed the hope that they will “work [together] to restore Russian-American relations from their state of crisis, and also to address pressing international issues and search for effective responses to challenges concerning global security.”
The need to take some steps forward on cooperation is pressing for the Russian side. The depressing effect of economic sanctions as a result of the annexation of Crimea, difficult Syrian crisis, and the stumbling blocks of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation all present more potential problems for Russia than the United States. But their negative effects for the American people and the world at large cannot be underestimated.
The list of important issues that could be resolved by mutual concept is impressive. It includes cooperation in the Arctic, space exploration, climate change, food security, and conflicts in the Middle East. Russia is not the Soviet Union, but its potential contributions to solving these global problems is not negligible.
The Trump administration will likely include both hawks and doves who are outspoken on Russia-related issues. Russia hopes that a balanced approach will prevail. Even if it is not a high priority in the divided United States, reasonable people on the Russian side will be ready to work for new détente.
SOOK JONG LEE, EAST ASIA INSTITUTE (SOUTH KOREA)
Countries in the Asia-Pacific are anxious to see how the Trump administration will form its policy toward the region. During his campaign, President-Elect Donald Trump did not support conventional commitments to the security of the United States’ Asian allies. His isolationist policies, if made into reality, will greatly affect a region where the U.S-led hub-and-spoke alliance system has maintained stability and peace for decades. Of particular concern is the possibility that right-wing voices in Japan and South Korea, which have called for nuclear armament or more self-reliant defenses, will be amplified if faith in U.S defense commitments begins to waver. A rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or free trade renegotiations with South Korea would also bode ill for the region’s already troubled economic growth. A rollback of the Obama administration’s strategy of rebalancing to Asia would leave a vacuum China is likely to fill. Most Asian countries do not want to lose the region’s most effective balancer against an assertive China.
The nuclear threat posed by North Korea will require immediate policy responses from the Trump administration. Two decades of failed denuclearization efforts have led to new proposals, such as a military strike or, on the other extreme, unconditional negotiations that would aim to freeze nuclear and missile tests in order to open the path to peace treaty talks. It is uncertain which Trump will pursue. A rekindling of diplomatic efforts is highly preferable to a dramatic military solution, but the worst scenario would be one in which Trump neglects to act. If the United States sits idly by, there will be no time left to reverse North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Trump must focus on innovative policies to push North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to see that nuclear weapons possession undermines his survival rather than guarantees it. This path will only be possible if the Trump administration consults with and takes joint action with South Korea.
The Trump administration needs to reaffirm the role played by the United States in global governance. The isolationist sentiment and sharp social rifts revealed by the presidential campaign have left many in the world doubting whether the United States has the domestic support it needs to maintain a leading role in global affairs, but there remains hope that the new administration proves these doubts to be ill-founded.
XENIA WICKETT, CHATHAM HOUSE (UNITED KINGDOM)
Donald Trump’s success in the U.S. presidential election is reverberating in capitals around the world. Even though officials in Berlin, London, and Paris, among others, knew that a Trump administration was a possibility and, in many cases, have contemplated its implications for weeks, the reality has nonetheless come as a shock.
The greatest challenge for the world’s foreign and cabinet offices now is to bring to their citizens some certainty regarding the intentions of a president-elect who has promoted unpredictability in foreign policy and made frequently contradictory campaign promises.
The most important step that Trump can take in the coming weeks and months will be to bring clarity to his foreign policy platform, offer details on his plans for its implementation, and announce his cabinet nominees.
Trump must reassure allies that the United States will remain active and engaged in global affairs. He will need to make clear to potential adversaries that his election will not give them free rein and that long-standing agreements will be maintained. More broadly, Trump needs to make clear to the world that the United States is not going to withdraw from global governance institutions and will continue to work in partnership with others to ensure global stability and security.
This election has raised significant questions about the appeal of the Western ideal and Western democracy; if a Trump presidency is what that looks like, many are suggesting they don’t want it. Western ideals and U.S. soft power can be an extraordinarily influential force for good in the world; Western institutions have provided a stabilizing architecture for decades. The decline of such appeal would be hugely destabilizing and a major loss for the West.
With Europe currently transfixed by internal challenges such as managing Brexit and ensuring the survival of the euro, global leadership is unlikely to be forthcoming from this region. If the United States also chooses to no longer lead, the West as we know it will swiftly become irrelevant, allowing others to fill the gap.