Abstract. The think tanks of the United States of America play an important role in providing government with quality information and recommendations that form the basis of political decisions. Many American think tanks emphasize significant differences with previous President of the United States Barack Obama in their evaluation of President Donald Trump`s foreign policy, and also focus on the non-ideologized and isolationist approach in foreign affairs of the new Head of State. Most think tanks associate the future dramatic changes in foreign policy of the United States with the presidency of Donald Trump. Based on the analysis of studies and evaluation by the main American think tanks, the foreign policy priorities of the new U.S. administration were identified.
The foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration is primarily focused on American interests and national security. According to an expert from the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. foreign policy will be based on the principles of aversion to allied relations, support of authoritarianism and free trade, which are the ideas of President Trump. Analysts at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Brookings Institution criticize Trump's isolationist approach in international affairs, warning of its negative consequences. According to an expert of the Cato Institute, the top foreign policy officials from the U.S. Republican and Democratic parties do not share Trump's non- ideological position on international issues, and an analyst from the Council on Foreign Relations argues that unlike the President, they support cooperation with other countries and oppose authoritarianism. The Hoover Institution and the Brookings Institution emphasize the trade focus of the President's foreign policy.
U.S. foreign policy priorities
Identifying the Middle East as the highest regional priority for U.S. foreign policy is related to ensuring the national security of the country, where the main objective is to defeat the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant and other Islamic radical terrorist groups. The issuance of an order by President Trump to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States to draft a plan on defeating ISIS and temporarily banning the entrance of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries were both important decisions in this regard. Some experts believe that taking a harder line with ISIS will lead to intensification of the terrorist group`s activity, and also alienate Muslim allies from the United States. At the same time, the Syrian civil war is another major threat that the Trump administration has to address. According to information by the Bipartisan Policy Center, defeating ISIS is possible in the case of cooperation between U.S., Turkey, Russia and Syria even if it is for a short period of time. Analysts at RAND Corporation suggest the Trump administration should consider a broader counter-terrorism strategy, recommending participation in Syrian peace talks, preparation for the expansion of other terrorist organizations and the spread of violence to Syria`s neighbouring countries, and contribution to cooperation with countries with increased terrorist activity.
One of the priorities for the Trump administration is relations with Israel. The American leader sees Israel as one of the allies in the region. Regarding the issue of the moving of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the authorities announced the commencement of negotiations. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, confirmed that the U.S. government supports the policy of a "two state-solution", although previously, Trump questioned it. However, according to information by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, moving the embassy will indicate Trump's approval of Israel's claims to Jerusalem, which in turn could force Palestine and the Arab states to tighten their measures against Jerusalem.
Iran is one of the top priorities for the United States. The Trump administration will be more hostile towards Iran. According to forecasts by Stratfor analysts, the U.S. leaders will take a harder line against Iran this year, and relations between two countries will deteriorate. Similarly, according to information by Belfer Center for Science and International Relations, Washington will have a number of opportunities to harden its position against Tehran, including raising sanctions related to the Iranian ballistic missile program, requiring strengthening of the control and enforcement regime for Iran's nuclear facilities, and warning that measures up to and including military action could result in the case of Iran violatiing its agreements. President Trump has declared his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, and has also expressed his neutral point of view in this regard, approving its revision. However, according to information by Brookings Institution of 24 February 2017, Trump stressed the need for a more stringent verification of Iran's fulfillment of its obligations during a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister and the leader of Saudi Arabia .
Cooperation with Turkey is a priority for the U.S. government. Currently there are several obstacles to U.S.-Turkish relations, including collaboration of the U.S. with the Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units against ISIS, the extradition of Fethullah Gulend, different approaches of Washington and Ankara to the Syria conflict. According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the U.S. administration should take a transactional approach to Turkey, focusing both on common interests and mutual concessions.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies recommends that in regards to this region, the U.S. government should continue its strategic cooperation with the Arab countries, avoid the isolationist approach in relation to the Muslim population, and contribute to resolving the conflict in Syria.
Relations with the countries of Asia will be one of the priorities for the U.S. government. Experts from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs emphasize that the cooperation with Japan, China and South Korea is important for the United States, and they suggest that President Trump should maintain partnership with these countries. At the same time, in the context of the growing geopolitical dominance of Beijing, improving cooperation with Washington in the field of security is beneficial for the countries of Asia. According to information from Brookings Institution of 24 February 2017, President Trump said that he would follow the "One China" policy, which forms the basis of bilateral relations between Washington and Beijing, although earlier he claimed the opposite. Meanwhile, the experts of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argue that relations between two countries will be competing for 20 years, common interests will concern global issues, and considering the given circumstances, recommend the U.S. government to focus on preventing military conflict with China.
One of the priorities for the Trump administration is relations with countries in the European region. According to an expert from the Center for Transatlantic Relations, relations between the U.S. and Europe will change, given the possible demands of the U.S. authorities on their European allies to fulfil their financial obligations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the fullest. Nevertheless, the U.S. government intends to support NATO and strengthen cooperation with the alliance, which is confirmed by recent visits of top American political officials to Europe. In general, according to an analyst of the Center for Transatlantic Relations, the U.S. authorities need political and economic partnership with European countries, given the level of integration of economies and close cooperation of countries on international issues.
Russia is also a priority for the United States. The U.S. President intends to improve relations with Russia. Stratfor predicts that Trump's cabinet will be inclined to improve cooperation with Russia in 2017, in particular, on easing sanctions and cooperation on the Syrian issue, but at the same time intends to restrain Russia`s influence. Similarly, a statement made by the American President during an interview with British newspaper The Times on 15 January 2017 about his intention to offer Putin the lifting of sanctions in exchange for a reduction in the number of nuclear arsenal demonstrates Trump's readiness for rapprochement with Russia. In a telephone conversation on 28 January 2017, the Presidents of the United States and Russia also agreed to cooperate in the fight against ISIS in Syria. According to information from the Atlantic Council, the process of annulment of sanctions might become complicated, since according to the bill of senators "The Law on Counteraction to Russia's Military Actions of 2017", to lift sanctions, the President must file an application and notice to Congress where the Senate must approve the annulment. Analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies emphasize that cooperation between the U.S. and Russia can be constructive in matters of arms control and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, ensuring security in Europe, post-war reconstruction of Syria, but suggest the deals with Russia to be beneficial and safe for the United States.
It is as yet unclear what policy the U.S. government will pursue in Central Asia. An expert from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues that the region will not be a key priority for the Trump administration because the trade linkages between the United States and the countries of the region are small, and also there are no U.S. allies situated close to the Central Asian region. An analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States emphasizes the importance of the U.S. partnership with Central Asia, suggesting the U.S. administration should concentrate on military involvement in the region, cooperation with countries in the region in private sector development, education, health, and environmental areas.
Cooperation with Mexico is a priority for the United States. Currently the main stumbling block in U.S.-Mexican relations is an issue of the construction of the border wall, regarding which a positive decision was made by the U.S. authorities on 25 January 2017. This initiative was one of the key issues of the Trump Presidential campaign. An expert at the American Enterprise Institute emphasizes that the U.S. government has the right to ensure the security of its borders, but believes it is a big mistake to oblige Mexico to pay for it. According to information by the Center for American Progress, cooperation with Mexico is important and requires an appropriate constructive approach, and also recommends that the American administration addresses the issues of migration together with Mexico, including the joint construction of the border infrastructure, but not the wall.
Foreign trade is another high priority for the U.S. government. Through rigid and fair international trade agreements, the Trump administration plans to improve the economy and return millions of jobs. First of all, it concerns delivering on the Presidential promises regarding trade agreements. The U.S. authorities announced the beginning of negotiations with the heads of state of Mexico and Canada on the revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement and launching the process of withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. However, according to information from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the exit from the TPP is not beneficial to the United States, because it may cause a drop in U.S. exports. According to forecasts by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, withdrawal from the TPP may lead to weakening the U.S. allies and strengthening the U.S. opponents, whereas the liquidation of NAFTA can cause serious damage to Mexico, which could lead to an increase in the flow of migrants and drugs to the United States.
An analysis of the decisions made by the Trump administration, and the examination of the forecast and recommendations by American influential think tanks on foreign policy issues helped to identify the following important aspects.
Firstly, U.S. foreign policy is currently characterized by isolationism and promotion of the country's national interests, which may result in the country playing a reduced role in global affairs.
Secondly, the regional priority of the Middle East and primarily the fight against ISIS and other terrorist groups in U.S. foreign policy can be explained by the mandate to ensure national security of the country. Analysts believe that the U.S. administration should: avoid a robust policy towards ISIS; consider a broader counterterrorism strategy; cooperate with Turkey, Russia and Syria in the fight against terrorist organizations even for a short period of time; support strategic cooperation with Arab states in the region; avoid an isolationism policy in relation to the Muslim population; take part in Syrian peace talks and assist in resolving the Syrian crisis.
Thirdly, it is important for the U.S. government to maintain partnerships with Asian countries such as Japan, China and South Korea. Experts recommend the U.S. authorities to focus on avoiding a military conflict in their relations with China.
Fourthly, political and economic cooperation with countries in the European region, as well as strengthening relations with NATO are also priorities for the American government. Analysts believe that in relations with Russia, the U.S. should focus on cooperation in arms control and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, ensuring the security of Europe, postwar reconstruction of Syria.
Fifthly, one of the important elements of U.S. foreign policy is its relations with Mexico. Experts recommend that the U.S. government should cooperate with the Mexican authorities in matters of migration and joint construction of the border infrastructure, but avoid building a wall.
Finally, foreign trade is also of a high priority for the United States. Analysts believe that the United States should not withdraw from the Trans-Pacific partnership, as it could lead to a decline in U.S. exports, to weakening the allies and strengthening opponents, and the liquidation of NAFTA could eventually lead to an increase in migration and drugs flow to the United States.
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