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Trump’s foreign policy sets off alarm bells

Trump’s foreign policy sets off alarm bells

THURSDAY, December 15, 2016
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Choice of oilman as secretary of state signals ‘pivot’ towards Russia and Saudi Arabia  

In an era when old consensus “facts” are fast falling victim to a battle of opinions, the incoming president of the United States has become nothing short of a political weapon of mass destruction. With every tweet fired off, Donald Trump risks tearing the delicate web of international relations spun over the past 70 years. The onetime king of reality TV now has the whole world as an audience, and so far he’s taken every opportunity to underline his “star” power. The diplomatic grandstanding culminated last week when Trump appeared to torpedo America’s longstanding accession to Beijing’s “One-China” policy over Taiwan.     
 His decision this week to anoint oil CEO Rex Tillerson as his future Secretary of State caused further diplomatic ripples. Having satisfied decorum by inviting a slew of capable candidates for interviews at Trump Tower, the president-elect plumped for the oilman with the well-lubricated connections to crude-exporting countries. Growing evidence suggests that the United States under Trump will pivot towards Russia and Saudi Arabia. Asian giants like China, Japan and India will remain important to Washington – but only to the extent that they fall in line with US foreign policy.
But Trump has reason to be wary of Russia, whose leader Vladimir Putin is not bound by the niceties of American culture. Putin does what he says and prefers action to talk. So it was an astute move on Trump’s part to employ a leading oil executive who has been praised by Russia to do his talking for him. 
Meanwhile relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have been frayed by ongoing wars in the Middle East and also the Iran nuclear crisis. The new US administration is set to mend those fences by curbing the rising influence of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.
Trump is using Tillerman to do the job for him because he can connect the dots. As his successful campaign demonstrated, the incoming president is highly skilled in manipulating opinions. The question now is whether he can use those same powers of persuasion to successfully negotiate the international arena.
On January 20, when Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, the destiny of his country as an international power will be transformed. Nobody can predict the results. One thing is clear, though: Trump will seek to direct global affairs through his force of personality. His self-declared mission is to create a new world order, one in which “America is Great” again. To meet that end he will cut deals that first and foremost benefit his country.
Unlike other modern American presidents, who have set out to maintain healthy relations with all major powers, Trump will pick and choose on a daily basis. Small countries, whether rich or poor, will likely find it difficult to gain any traction in the slippery arena of Trump’s foreign policy. As such they will need to stick together, especially in Asia. 
So far, the president-elect has fired plenty of barbs at China and Japan but held fire on Southeast Asia, where America sacrificed hundreds of thousands of its troops during the Indochina War.
If Trump as president confirms our worst fears, then the only remedy available is to convince the American people that they were the victims of fraud during last month’s election. Only they can put things right if “America First” threatens to become America Last.