“With the exception of Putin, every world leader out there thinks that a Trump presidency would be a disaster,” foreign policy expert and Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
TheDCNF: What are your thoughts on Donald Trump from a foreign policy perspective?
IB: With the exception of Putin, every world leader out there thinks that a Trump presidency would be a disaster. That’s because the foreign policy that he is putting forward, this America First concept, is such a radical departure from the foreign policy establishment on both sides of the aisle over the past decades.
TheDCNF: What do you make of Trump campaign staffers having influenced the GOP foreign policy platform to exclude language explicitly calling for the U.S. to assist in arming Ukraine?
IB: The funny thing is that if you listen to what Trump has to say, and his foreign policy advisers, you realize that in many ways he’s a lot closer to Obama and a 21st century view of limitations on American power abroad, much more unilateralist than what you would expect from the establishment. Now of course, there are a lot of members of the Republican Party establishment that did not attend the RNC. That is particularly true of the foreign policy establishment, many of whom are full-on “Never Trump” signatories. It makes you wonder what a Trump foreign policy team would look like if he actually became president.
On Ukraine specifically, the fact is that Obama has been backing into working much more closely with the Russians on Syria. Now [that] the Brits have voted for Brexit, it looks like the European sanctions against Russia are probably going to erode in 2017 irrespective of who becomes the [U.S.] president. So I do think that there is a “deal” for a President Trump to do with Russia on effectively recognizing Crimean annexation as well as on Syria. To be clear, when you see Newt Gingrich come on air and say that, “Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg,” and we shouldn’t risk nuclear war over them, well you know, Estonia actually pays two percent of its GDP defense obligations as a NATO member and Estonia is very significantly threatened with a large Russian population internally. There have actually been border incursions into Estonia [from Russia] over the past year, actually grabbing border guards and bringing them back to Moscow, one of whom sits in jail today.
I think that American allies would really question the level of American commitment and they would hedge. The important point here is that there are other countries in the world, like China, that will take advantage of that, because they are writing checks internationally right now. And you saw even under President Obama that the Brits said no to American blandishments on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the U.K. decided they were going to join anyway, in fact join first, to show the Chinese what good friends they are. Certainly under a President Trump, that kind of hedging behavior from American allies all over the world is something you would see much more of.
TheDCNF: What would a President Clinton foreign policy look like based on Secretary Clinton’s time at the U.S. Department of State? And how does her record differ from what she is saying now on the campaign trail?
IB: Well the big shift on what she is saying now is her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), she was the architect of this [trade] deal [while she was Secretary of State] as part of the pivot to Asia. She now says that she opposes the deal as it is presently structured. Now, what she really means by that, is that in order to get her support for it in the Lame Duck [Session of Congress after November, before January], she would want to see some form of legislation that is attached to it that would help the losers from globalization. Which frankly, is an appropriate response.
There are other places that she’s got bigger problems — Libya would be one significant one. She strongly supported the Americans getting involved in the Libyan War after being pushed by the Arab League, by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in the Middle East and by the French and the Brits, but had no plan whatsoever for what to do afterwards. That country [Libya], is not only in freefall but it’s actually now the third [top] location for the Islamic State, which the Americans have no idea what to do about.
The “Russia Reset” was a disaster. She was advised by members of her team that [Russian Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev was the future of Russia. It was a mistake analytically, Medvedev is no more the future than the Turkish prime minister is in Turkey. And that of course led not only to a strong deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations, but also of the Russians effectively invading a sovereign state, which they still deny, and formally annexing a piece of it.
So, I think there are places that you can strongly criticize Hillary. There are places you can say that Hillary has done a pretty strong job on foreign policy, but one thing you have to realize, she has a significant amount of actual experience. She has a very strong, professional team around her, for Treasury [Department policy], for Defense [Department policy], for a national security adviser, for secretary of state. Pretty much every leader around the world that I talk to, including the Chinese who don’t like her, but they’re reasonably comfortable with her as a potential president and they certainly would prefer her to Trump.
TheDCNF: Would you say this is a foreign policy election year and that is what will decide this election? How the voters view America’s place in the world and how safe do they feel, especially in the wake of so many instances of lone wolf terrorism?
IB: I think the foreign policy is becoming more important, both candidates are certainly talking more about it. In part, it’s because Americans are increasingly unnerved by what they see as a global environment that looks very unsafe. I mean, the terrorist attacks that we’re seeing today, not only across Europe but now also in Orlando, in San Bernardino, are the largest we’ve seen since 9/11. The refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East, the worst the world has seen since World War II, we have a lot of countries with states of emergency these days, such as the extension in France, we’ve got Turkey, we’ve got Mali.
This isn’t coincidental, and so I think the Americans are trying to understand, “Well look, we spend $2 trillion on Iraq and Afghanistan, that didn’t work so well. We also had a War on Terror, that didn’t work so well.” So whether you look at Bush or Obama, you kind of say, these directions have not served the American people. I think there’s a frustration with it, I think it’s what’s clearly leading to the most viscerally negative that we’ve seen in our lifetimes, since the 1968 convention, we’ve seen nothing like what we’re seeing in 2016 and ultimately foreign policy is going to play a significant role. But it’s less about the big foreign policy issues, it’s more about unhappiness with where the country is, where our candidates are, and so as a consequence, voters are going to vote to reject things.
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