President Donald Trump is set to unveil a national security plan Monday that reflects the most inward-focused vision of American foreign policy in recent memory – with a heavy emphasis on economic strength and defending U.S. borders.
At the same time, the official document presents relatively conventional views at odds with Trump’s own positions—including praise for the role of diplomacy and warnings about Russia’s malign intentions.
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The strategy “is wildly inconsistent with Trump administration behavior,” said Kori Schake, a former State Department official now at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution who is familiar with portions of the document.
A draft excerpt of the document, formally known as the National Security Strategy, sternly declares that Russia, along with China, “challenge[s] American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”
It also warns against the belief that “engagement with rivals” will turn them into “benign actors and trustworthy partners.” That is likely a veiled repudiation of President Barack Obama’s outreach to Iran, though it also echoes the critique of foreign policy insiders concerned about Trump’s frequent vows to befriend Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is unusual for a president to deliver a speech about the document, which is required by Congress but usually of interest mainly to specialists. Senior Trump officials said on Sunday they couldn’t recall a president producing a national security strategy in his first year or unveiling it with a national address.
The document could offer a clearer vision to foreign governments unsure of Trump’s intentions and confounded by conflicting signals from his administration on issues from negotiating with North Korea to trade with China.
Although the strategy paper was largely assembled by Trump White House and cabinet officials, a senior administration official said that it “illustrates how invested in it [Trump] is and how well he thinks it accurately reflects his priorities and what he’s trying to do on the world stage.”
Trump has struggled in his first year to show tangible foreign policy successes. He has failed to halt North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs; seen his effort to repair relations with Moscow thwarted by Congress; and declined to follow through on threats to upend Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Trump’s defenders say he has restored an image of strength abroad with tough talk and calls for more defense spending, and revitalized ties with allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Trump’s speech is likely to stress the role of economics in what he calls his “America First” foreign policy, a phrase echoed by the security vision. In the same way Trump is hoping to sell passage this week of a comprehensive tax reform law as another boost to the U.S. economy, the president is looking to link his foreign policy to the country’s soaring stock market and GDP growth.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters Sunday night ahead of the president’s speech and the new report’s release noted that Defense Secretary James Mattis had recently said that gross domestic product is “the strongest weapon” Trump has.
“The strategy affirms the belief that America’s economic security is national security,” the official added. “You’ll really see a major focus on that. That’s why we’ll talk about in the document what it means for American workers and American companies. Why we’ll demand fair and reciprocal economic relationships around the world.”
Stressing America’s domestic identity and security, the plan declares that the government’s “fundamental responsibility is to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life,” adding that “[s]trengthening control over our borders and immigration system is central to national security, economic prosperity, and the rule of law.”
One of Trump’s senior aides said during the media briefing that the new national security report reflects “an unprecedented focus on homeland security and the border” compared to the strategies released by past Democratic or Republican administrations. “Not that they weren’t mentioned in the past,” the senior official said. “But they were never mentioned in nearly as much detail or emphasis as they are now.”
Yet in some cases the document seems at odds with Trump’s record to date. His State Department has been targeted for a cut of roughly 30 percent and is dealing with a raft of unfilled ambassadorships and other key diplomatic posts. But the new strategy says the U.S. “must upgrade our diplomatic capabilities to compete in the current environment.”
And while members of Congress and foreign diplomats have condemned Trump for undermining democratic norms and showing little regard for human rights issues, the strategy declares that “America’s commitment to liberty, democracy, and the rule of law serves as an inspiration for those living under tyranny.”
Those contrasts, and the non-binding nature of the document, leave Trump critics skeptical that it is worth taking seriously.
“The NSS isn’t a strong enough document to constrain the president’s actions, therefore I don’t expect it will shape behavior, either of the administration or other countries toward us,” said Schake, who co-edited a book with Mattis last year.
Addressing both Russia and China, Trump’s national security strategy takes a tough view on both by lumping them into a category of countries his administration has dubbed “revisionist powers” who have been “seeking to change the status quo” of international relations.
“Most people would argue that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Georgia, those activities sought to change the status quo in Europe and generally in not a positive direction nor a peaceful direction,” said the senior Trump administration official. “That’s what revisionism means. We don’t use it that often.”
On China, Trump plans to label the country a “strategic competitor” because of its use of political, economic, military and information efforts not seen elsewhere in the world. It’s a carefully-crafted approach that takes into account the fact the U.S. still needs Beijing’s help to deal with North Korea.
“We know that we need China, to work with them, and we’ve continued to work with them on the DPRK problem,” the senior administration official said. “It’s not mutually exclusive. We’re working together to cooperate and at the same time that competition exists as well.”
Hours before his officials previewed the strategy paper branding Russia a subversive rival, Trump spoke by phone with Putin, who thanked his American counterpart for sharing CIA intelligence that averted planned bombings in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.
“It was a great example of cooperation where there was a shared interest,” said another Trump senior administration official who participated in the press briefing.
“We’ve still seen a lot of areas where our interests either don’t align or directly conflict,” the senior administration official added. “We’re certainly better off than we were several months ago when both the secretary of State and the president remarked that the relationship seemed to be at a low point.”
Asked whether the report would specifically mention U.S. election security, his aides replied in general terms with only a glancing reference to Putin’s government, which U.S. intelligence officials have concluded interfered in the 2016 election—a finding Trump has repeatedly questioned.
“We talk about how our adversaries, especially for the past few years used information warfare, political warfare. China, Russia, jihadist terrorists have used the web to great effect,” one of the senior administration officials replied, adding that the document calls for protecting “the resilience of our democracy.”
In one sharp break from international consensus, Trump’s document does not present climate change as a national security issue. Obama’s last national security strategy, compiled in 2015, mentioned climate change more than a dozen times.
But Trump’s aides said his security strategy on the climate issue is instead premised off the same themes he outlined last June in abandoning the Paris climate accord that was negotiated in 2015 by 195 countries, including the United States.
Trump’s vision on the issue now says, “U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests.”
Source Article from https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/18/trump-foreign-policy-security-302242