“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown great resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe.”

“We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”                                                 

­— John McCain (R.)’s Final Address, August 27, 2018


Both on the campaign trail in 2016 and in 2020, President Trump failed to provide America a detailed domestic and foreign policy. For the first time in 160 years, the Republican Party did not formulate a new party platform at its 2020 Convention, but used the one from 2016. What does the GOP stand for in 2020? In a word, “Trump,” who wings it on his own. Biden, on the other hand, has 46 detailed policy papers, including one on virus control.

Instead of utilizing diplomacy, Mr. Trump plays the “blame game” and has relied on the tactics of a bully in threatening other world leaders like Kim Jong Un of North Korea, the Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran, and telling Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, that he was “bad news.” In fact, Mr. Trump threatened Marie Yovanovitch, his own ambassador to Ukraine, before she was ordered to “take the next flight back to the U.S.” (See “The dereliction of diplomacy,” The Economist, August 15th, 2020, p. 53).    

Is it really in the best interest of the U.S. to dismantle the international order in the West by calling NATO obsolete, and angering the top leaders in the European Union, like Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, for her immigration policy such as allowing a million Syrian refugees to stay in Germany? Is not the EU and NATO the extension of U.S. political and military power and thus the first line of defense against Russian aggression? Should we pull our troops from Germany (when we’ve been there since WWII), in order to counteract Russia’s desire to permanently occupy the Crimea and have Belarus in its sight as its next target?

When it comes to China, two things must be kept in mind. First, Trump’s foreign policy emphasizes economic concerns as we see in the trade wars started by Trump, who considers himself a great deal-maker. These trade wars are hurting the pocketbooks of our own citizens and sanctions never work, but only create enmity and animosity with other nations. 

Hence, the question arises why is China and every Muslim country from Morocco to Indonesia under some type of U.S. sanction? Does this bring about good will in these countries, particularly in this age of globalization? In short, does this Make America Great Again?

Second, Trump’s attitude toward China and other Middle Eastern countries may be characterized as blatant racism. For example, does Trump build good relations with China when he speaks of “Kung-Flu,” to describe Covid-19 and blames China for bringing about Covid-19? Does not the ideology of white supremacists make up the immigration policy of the Trump administration when he gave President Xi “his blessing to continue building camps for Uighur Muslims, which John Bolton likened to concentration camps.” (See “Trump Put Re-Election Above Nation’s Interests, Bolton Says,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2020).  

Moreover, is it legal for the president of the U.S. to ask a foreign power for help in winning an election? Before the Osaka G20 summit in 2019, Trump asked Xi Jinping for China’s help in winning the 2020 presidential election. Trump told Xi that he could help U.S. farmers by buying wheat and soybeans so that Trump would win a second term. (See John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020, p. 301).    

Remember this: China is no Snow White. In 2013, China under Xi has in seven contested places in the South China Sea constructed antiship missiles systems and air-defense systems. Yet in 2015, President Xi promised at a news conference held at the White House that these artificial islands would not be equipped with weaponry. 

According to some pundits, China doesn’t aim to disrupt the current world order as does Putin who wants to control international politics. As China’s defense white paper of 2019 shows, China simply wants keep its “territorial integrity” and “internal stability.” President Trump has it correct based on international law, when he allows our Navy to navigate the East and South China Sea, though China resents this action on our part. (See Richard Haas, “A Cold War With China Would Be A Mistake,” Wall Street Journal, May 9-10, 2020). 

Geopolitics remains a complex problem and I’m a neophyte in this area. It can’t be treated in an 800-word article. Hence in future articles I will comment on the foreign policy of President Trump in regard to Russia, Iran, North Korea and other nations.


Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus- Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.

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