Donald Trump’s plan for the world stage? Terrify America’s allies into respecting us again.
“Many of the countries in our world have been absolutely abusing us and taking advantage of us,” he said during a press conference in Bismarck, North Dakota on Thursday. “If they’re rattled in a friendly way, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.” Trump’s remarks were in response to comments made by President Obama during the G7 summit in Japan, that world leaders were “rattled” by Trump’s rhetoric.
“They’re rattled by him and for good reason,” Obama said during a press conference at the summit. “Because a lot of the proposals that he’s made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what is required to keep America safe.”
The newly-crowned Republican presidential nominee’s contradictory foreign policy platform has consisted of reversing the postwar world order, promoting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and starting a trade war with China in order to somehow balance out America’s trade deficit.
Of America’s allies, many of whom are members of NATO, Trump said during his foreign policy speech last month at the Center for the National Interest, “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense – and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.” It’s understandable that countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea, and many others would feel threatened by his rhetoric: Their postwar economic strength rested in large part upon a guarantee of security by the United States.
Trump simultaneously agreed and disagreed with the idea that South Korea, Japan, and even Saudi Arabia should by allowed build nuclear weapons during an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper:
TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself, we have…
COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?
TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.
COOPER: You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?
TRUMP: No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.
Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.
COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?
TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen, anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.
Now, wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons? And they do have them. They absolutely have them. They can’t — they have no carrier system yet but they will very soon. Wouldn’t you rather have Japan, perhaps, they’re over there, they’re very close, they’re very fearful of North Korea, and we’re supposed to protect.
Trump’s avoiding the question at hand — he switches to discussing Japan when asked about Saudi Arabia — is one piece in a mountain of evidence that he hasn’t seriously considered the realities constraining his worldview, nor discussed shortcomings in his diplomatic or historical knowledge with any experts.
The same appears to be the case with Trump’s oft-repeated line that he will make China pay for stealing American jobs by instituting a 45 percent tariff on all Chinese goods entering the country. “I don’t mind trade wars when we’re losing $58 billion a year,” said Trump, even though having a trade deficit isn’t an inherently bad thing, as all countries have trade surpluses with certain trading partners and deficits with others. While only rough predictions are available on the consequences of a large-scale trade war, the consensus among economists is that the U.S. would fail to generate millions of jobs and would face reduced economic activity, if not an outright recession.
There’s nothing “friendly” about threatening key trading partners and allies.