23:08 GMT +324 March 2017
    US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017

    Two Months in Office: The Old, New and Borrowed in Trump's Foreign Policy

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    Two months after his inauguration, Donald Trump's policies toward Russia, Europe and the fight against Daesh remain mostly in the beginning stages. The White House "has largely failed to deliver on its pledges" to defeat terrorist groups in the Middle East and establish a working relationship with Moscow, Grigory Dubovitsky wrote for RIA Novosti.

    The Trump team has condensed its foreign policy doctrine into several short paragraphs. The succinct document pledges to focus on American interests and US national security using a peace-through-strength approach and diplomacy to build a "more peaceful and more prosperous" world in which the rejuvenated United States would become "stronger and more respected."

    The strategy mentions two specific issues which require Washington's immediate attention, namely international terrorism and military buildup. President Trump has repeatedly named fighting against groups like Daesh and al-Qaeda a high priority, saying that an efficient counterterrorism strategy could entail working with other stakeholders to conduct military operations, cut funding to terrorists and expand intelligence sharing.

    Russia has been named as a possible partner in these efforts, something Moscow has always been open to. Yet cooperation between the US-led coalition and the Russian Armed Forces has been relatively limited, while tough rhetoric towards Moscow from some senior members of the Trump administration has not contributed to improving relations which went into a deep freeze following the 2014 foreign-sponsored coup in Ukraine.

    Suspended détente between Russia and the United States

    "Certain hopes on a rapprochement [between Russia and the United States] have been placed on a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump which is unlikely to take place prior to the G20 summit in Hamburg scheduled for early July. There are no specific agreements in this respect at the moment," Dubovitsky said. "Analysts are guided by the fact that the first phone call of the two leaders following Trump's inauguration was quite positive. However, there have been no new signals indicating that Washington is committed to developing relations with Moscow."

    More worryingly, the White House appears to have readjusted its stance on Ukraine and Crimea, bringing it closer to that of the Obama administration. In mid-February, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that Trump expected Russia to return the Black Sea peninsula to Kiev. These comments came after US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley reaffirmed that Washington did not intend to lift anti-Russian sanctions unless Crimea's status was reverted.

    America's domestic affairs have also been a factor in determining Trumps foreign policy. 

    "Some in the United States have been engaged in looking for 'the Russian trace' with regard to the [2016 presidential] election and what Trump described as 'a witch hunt' with respect to the members of his team ostensibly linked to Russia. Michael T. Flynn, Trump's first national security advisor, was forced to resign because of that," the analyst explained. "In these circumstances it would have been hard to count on a swift and constructive cooperation between the two countries on several pressing issues. Moscow has largely been sympathetic towards the new administration due to these challenges. However, it has expressed certain disappointment with regard to anti-Russian rhetoric emanating from Washington."

    'No visible changes' in anti-Daesh fight

    Donald Trump has been critical of the Obama administration's approach to dealing with Daesh and international terrorism. The White House has promised to devise an efficient strategy to destroy the brutal group still capable of wreaking havoc in the Middle East and beyond, but has not unveiled its details yet.

    "There are still no visible changes" in this area, Dubovitsky said. "When it comes to activities in the Middle East, the new administration has only made two decisions. For the first time in years the US special forces carried out a ground operation against al-Qaeda in Yemen. One US soldier was killed and three other injured in the raid which also claimed the lives of local civilians. Nevertheless, Washington still claims that the operation was successful since they managed to obtain intelligence data and eliminate several al-Qaeda leaders."

    The analyst also mentioned that the US administration decided to deploy additional 400 US troops to Syria. These forces are meant to help liberate Raqqa, the de facto capital of Daesh's caliphate. Dubovitsky maintained that this decision "essentially served as a continuation of Barack Obama's cautious strategy" since the former US president was largely opposed to ground operations in the Middle East, but "was still forced to deploy special operations troops to Iraq and Syria."

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on March 18, 2017 in Beijing, China
    © REUTERS/ Lintao Zhang/POOL
    In addition, the new administration has been unable to settle the differences between its allies in Syria, the Kurds and the Turks.

    Dubovitsky pointed out that Trump "has been more preoccupied with resolving domestic issues" in the United States.

    Trump "has also encountered substantial resistance from lawmakers and the judicial branch. For instance, both executive orders which banned entry to citizens of several countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa were blocked by the courts," the analyst said. "Under these circumstances it is hard to expect that Trump will soon be able to achieve a breakthrough and resolve years-long challenges which the US faces."

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    US-Russia relations, counterterrorism, US foreign policy, Syrian conflict, Syrian crisis, Daesh, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Crimea, Middle East, United States, Russia
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    • John Twining
      The only plausible explanation I've been able to determine for Trump's quite shocking adoption of the Obama-era position on Crimea, is that CIA and DoS have quietly convinced Trump that he cannot treat Crimea's UDI and return to Russia as acceptable without opening the floodgates to extremely embarrassing questions and damaging investigations on issues concerning the events in Kiev which preceded and led to Crimea's Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

      The CIA and DoS no doubt would do anything to forfend against questions such as: Who was really behind the coup in Kiev? Were CIA and DoS agents in Kiev before and during the coup? What talks were held between DoS and Kiev opposition before, during and after the coup? What were Kiev's intentions regarding Crimea immediately after the coup, and were benefits planned for Washington, such as promising Sevastopol to Washington for use as a US military base?

      Hence much effort was probably expended on convincing Trump that Pandora's box must at all costs remain closed, and he should take the safe way out instead. And so the old bogus "Russia annexed Crimea" narrative has survived, ensuring that CIA and DoS reputations remain unsullied, for the time being.
    • avatar
      armorin reply toJohn Twining(Show commentHide comment)
      John Twining, it was not QUITE a U.D.I..... :) but a referendum which showed that, overwhelmingly, Crimeans, preferred to be with Russia, the Mother....
      Slav unity: Important.
    • John Twiningin reply toarmor(Show commentHide comment)
      armor, So you're a qualified expert in international law and have all the details of the official transition of Crimea at your disposal? I have no law qualifications, so perhaps you'll have to take up that issue with fully briefed professionals on both sides.
      Gee, I definitely remember during his campaign Trump musing about "why can't Israel pay for its own defense?" It was such a legitimate question.

      It was one of several refreshing statements on foreign affairs and war - virtually never heard from American politicians - which convinced me he was what America and the world needed for a while, even though I couldn't disagree more with the majority of his views.

      Other early and encouraging statements included a suggestion to leave Syria for the Russians to end the terror and a complaint at Obama’s having the entire Mideast in flames. There was also an early promise of the United States being out of the nation-overturning business.

      Well, now we see and hear something different on virtually every subject.

      Military budget is to grow like it has cancer. Threats to Iran. Threats to North Korea. Provocative behavior towards China. Israel can have and do whatever it pleases. The good old thugs at CIA can just decide for themselves who it is they want to kill. Troops sent into Syria against the will of its government. Bombing in Yemen. No respite in Europe vis-a-vis Russia. New weapons in fact going to Europe.

      Just a genuinely sickening picture in total.

      The man is functioning just as we might have expected Hillary to function in almost every area of military activity and international affairs, the most important areas for reclaiming a free and decent society.

      Complete deference to the military/ security/ corporate establishment with continued whining about the press and making an international laughing stock of American migrant and refugee policies.

      And on top of it all, he has done next to nothing real on serious budget cuts and job creation.

      He really has proven a colossal failure at quite an early stage.
    • avatar
      armorin reply toJohn Twining(Show commentHide comment)
      John Twining, I hasten to write that I am no international lawyer and will always submit to those who are more knowledgeable. In passing, you are the first one to us the word 'UDI' on Sputnik and I happen to know quite well another country where the first UDI occurred. But we won't quarrel for a word. Keep well.
    • Alan Reid
      Trump is going to have to LEAD or RESIGN. Time is getting short. The dark state is still moving the board under the peices and Trump is going to have to do something about it or look like a wimp. He is going to have to choose what his path is going to be. Many persons are worried about the recent path flow Trump has shown. If Trump can't accept the fact of Crimea voting to join another country he might be a failure in a lot of other areas.
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