Reading Trump’s foreign policy road map

Reading Trump’s foreign policy road map

The US President Donald Trump has been maneuvering with no concrete strategy, but only concrete desires and aspirations he wants to realize no matter what.

Despite that, the shape of US foreign policy is starting to emerge, following more than 100 days of Trump’s uneasy presidency.

A few days ago Trump held a meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The talks were held behind the closed doors with no access for the press.

The main topic on the table was the safety, or “de-escalation” zones in Syria, now considered practically the last resort in attempting a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

Russia welcomes any US effort contributing to establish the safety zones in Syria, especially in terms of monitoring. However, air space in the zones will be closed to jets of international coalition headed by the US. This measure reveals mistrust, and does not bode well for the wider peace process in Syria.

In July, Trump and his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin are expected to meet on the sidelines of G-20, in what would be the first meeting of the two presidents. This will likely predetermine further developments, not only in Syria, but in bilateral ties in general and that may have a serious impact on the global climate. What can be expected is a kind of bargain, imposed by Washington, determining whether Russia is “with us, or against us.”

Another important meeting is the Arab Islamic American Summit that will kick off in Riyadh this weekend. Trump and King Salman are expected to be joined by leaders from across the Islamic world. They are set to discuss a range of issues, including counter-terrorist activities, Syria, the Arab-Israeli peace settlement, and how to halt Iranian expansionism in the region. For the US president the issue of the Iranian threat is becoming the key instrument in reunification of the Islamic world.

It looks like the US president is indeed going to “Make America Great Again,” partly by breaking with his predecessor’s relative isolationism, through active involvement in international processes. 

Maria Dubovikova

One vision is that the so called “axis of evil” — as described by former US President George W. Bush — is to be replaced with an axis of regional US allies.

Such an axis could counter Iran and make Tehran’s allies — Russia, Syria and China — think twice, or at least to restrain their actions. Trump will insist on Russia abandoning Tehran and choosing “the right side of history.” There is a strong argument to push Moscow to compromise on Iran and to adjust its regional policy. However, Moscow will hardly listen to it.

Another significant moment for better understanding US foreign policy is that Trump’s first foreign trip since taking office will be to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. This is significant as it suggests he is attempting to create an image of leader who builds bridges and peace between religions.

It looks like Trump is indeed going to “Make America Great Again,” partly by breaking with former President Barack Obama’s relative isolationism, through active involvement in international processes.

Trump will resort to symbolic gestures and nonverbal messages quite often, such as those suggested by his first foreign trip as president. Such performances are likely to become the guiding lines for analysts trying to get inside Trump’s mind.

• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). She can be reached on Twitter: @politblogme.

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