President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled in the most concrete terms to date his “America First” foreign policy, blasting the actions of previous administrations on immigration, the Iran nuclear deal and trade pacts, among others.
His new policy casts China and Russia as elevated global competitors and vows to protect US interests over those of the larger global community.
Spelling out his National Security Strategy, Trump declared a new era of American foreign engagement had been ushered in by his election.
“You embraced new leadership and very new strategies and also a glorious new hope,” Trump said Monday afternoon.
Past presidents “forgot whose voices they were to respect and whose interests they were supposed to defend,” Trump said.
Both Russia and China are described as “revisionist powers” who “want to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests” in the strategy document.
Toward China, Trump adopts a combative stance that challenges Beijing’s unfair economic practices and its attempts to exert control over islands and waterways in the South China Sea.
And he paints Russia as a destabilizing force intent on returning to Cold War-era spheres of influence that could divide western allies.
Previous presidents didn’t deliver speech
The doctrine envisages a world in constant rivalry for economic and security influence. At the same time, Trump downplayed global agreements signed during past administrations meant to bring the world’s nations into better agreement on issues like trade and climate change.
Congress requires the President to deliver a National Security Strategy that outlines the guiding principles of the administration’s foreign policy. Trump’s two immediate predecessors did not present their strategies in person, opting instead to present them in writing to lawmakers and the public.
Trump determined that a major address would help underscore the document’s adherence to his campaign promises of protecting American interests, aides said. They hoped the speech would help provide coherence to a foreign policy that’s been viewed as confused by some lawmakers and foreign governments.
National security aides to Trump began preparing the strategy statement shortly after he entered office, and drew from his public speeches during the campaign and as President to craft the 48-page document. Trump formally endorsed it during a meeting with cabinet members last week.
Many of the strategy’s central tenets are familiar aspects of Trump’s political agenda, including his insistence that trade with other countries be fair and reciprocal. But other aspects of the strategy seem discordant with Trump’s own insistence that ties with Russia be improved.
While the President’s strategy doesn’t directly address Russian attempts to influence the US presidential election last year, it does make reference more broadly to attempts by Moscow to interfere in democratic contests.
“Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data,” the document reads. “The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life.”