During the 2016 campaign, Candidate Donald Trump liked to talk tough. He often criticized President Obama, specifically mentioning the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, the “Red Line” in Syria, the Iran deal, etc. There were some disappointing components of the Obama foreign policy; however, Obama campaigned on what he believed and governed accordingly. Trump took office and instantly imposed an incoherent, inconsistent, and chaotic foreign and national security policies. After almost three years as President, things have gotten worse in all regards with no clear policy emanating from the White House. Official U.S. policy consists of whatever Trump Tweets in the middle of the night while experiencing whatever rage, insecurity, or whim is then affecting his cognitive ability. This is incredibly dangerous and results in action against the interests of the nation.
Trump has repeatedly proven himself to be under the spell of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Put aside the reasons, some of which we know and some we will hopefully soon learn. Trump often praises Putin and appears to most to be doing Putin’s bidding. Trump, along with his confederate, Senate Majority Leader Moscow Mitch McConnell, has for three years openly excused uncontroverted Russian interference in the 2016 election, condoned Russian interference in U.S. and allied elections, and outright prevents the U.S. from improving and safeguarding our elections systems. There is only one possible basis for this unforgivable transgression and that is to encourage, if not facilitate, continued Russian efforts to destabilize our country and freedom. Trump has repeatedly and unconscionably accepted Putin’s “denial” over the combined, absolute concurrence of 17 national security agencies. We know that Russia continues to interfere, and we know that Trump and McConnell openly welcome it.
It is important to remember the somewhat now iconic picture of Trump conducting a private meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian Foreign Minister and Russian Ambassador. There was no administration staff or American media allowed, just Russians, thus begging the question as to what was discussed. The public learned that Trump revealed classified intelligence to his Russian guests that threatened our intelligence abilities as well as that of our allies. This act so horrified U.S. intelligence agencies that they soon thereafter implemented a dangerous mission to secretly extract a U.S. intelligence asset out of Moscow because they feared Trump would reveal his existence and identity to Russia! President Trump’s Helsinki Summit with Putin made our country less safe. Again, Trump did not allow any U.S. personnel in the room for the hours long meeting in order to facilitate secret discussions. Trump required his interpreter to immediately destroy her notes as soon as the meeting ended, preventing any disclosure. Trump likely used the repeated, unprecedented secrecy in these sessions to sell out our national interests and again shared sensitive information and acquiesced to Russian aggression. He attacks and weakens NATO while defending and propping up Putin. The implications of a U.S. President so cozy with our adversary that he jeopardizes our own security are unfathomable.
The candidate who spoke tough on Ukraine sold them out. Then it got worse. Trump told Ukraine that he was withholding a critical military aid package upon which Ukraine is depending to counter Russian aggression. Trump is holding the package hostage, attempting to force Ukraine to formally and publicly investigate a matter involving dealings with Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Truth does not matter; Trump wants to use this wild conspiracy, which was widely debunked in large part because the timeline makes the matter virtually impossible, just to smear Biden. In a new low, Trump wants to force a foreign country to insert itself into our election, to intercede on his behalf, to violate election law as well as ethics, and tying it all to a key military aid package they desperately need.
During Trump’s Presidency, China has continued its long-term program of increasing its influence around the world. Trump has allowed China to gain influence while he allows U.S. influence to wane, directly threatening our role in the modern geopolitical world. China exploits crucial minerals and resources. Most importantly, China is fabricating islands in the South China Sea in order to justify what are bogus territorial claims under international maritime law. If successful, China will completely control key shipping lanes and supply lines in direct contrast with U.S. economic and security imperatives. Trump chose a needless, painful trade war with China, but eschewed the advantages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that could have addressed the trade, currency, intellectual property theft, and other issues with China. The threat from China has grown during the Trump administration, yet Trump is enthralled with Chinese premier Xi, who has claimed power for life, and seeks to entertain Xi at Mar-a-Lago to ingratiate himself to him.
Trump recklessly crashed through decades of deliberate policy towards North Korea. Trump immediately, without consideration, conceded a major victory to Kim Jong Un, a brutal dictator who routinely threatens the U.S. and our allies, without a single concession. Trump met with Kim twice in person for so-called summits followed by Trump’s impromptu walk across the DMZ along the North/South Korea border. All three meetings were colossal failures by any measure; even worse Trump forsook the memories of thousands of American. Korean, and allied soldiers who gave their loves fighting for freedom on the peninsula. Trump claims they “fell in love” and exchange very nice letters. While Trump sent letters, Kim sent missiles. Kim’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs have demonstrably expanded throughout Trump’s presidency, yet Trump continues to reward North Korea and continues to make the U.S. and our allies less safe. He just loves his dictators.
Trump also did not match his campaign rhetoric on Syria. With no prior staffing or discussion to generate a new policy, Trump abruptly announced an immediate withdrawal of U.S. personnel from Syria. He did this on the heels of a phone call with Turkish leader Erdogan, another of the authoritarians around the world that Trump admires. Trump ceded Syria to Putin, allowing Russia back in the Middle East after decades of the U.S. effectively keeping them out. Erdogan and Putin had surreptitiously agreed to cooperate so as Putin gained a foothold and Erdogan would be able to exterminate the Kurds, loyal U.S. allies. This rash move was the last straw for Secretary of Defense Mattis, who resigned in protest.
The country recently learned, by late night Tweet, that Trump was cancelling what had been a clandestine meeting at Camp David with the Afghan government and Taliban leaders. Apparently, this was another rash Trump endeavor that had been hastily thrown together merely days before. Once revealed, there was an outcry of opposition, especially from military and veterans’ groups who thought inviting the Taliban to Camp David was an affront to the sacrifices made by our military. As with Kim Jong Un, it was wrong to meet directly with the Taliban prior to an actual framework and preliminary agreement. It similarly provided them with a big victory with nothing for the U.S. Trump had failed to coordinate this move with the Afghan government or more importantly with our own negotiating team led by Ambassador Khalilzad. While we must employ diplomacy as a tool of national power, it must be done properly. This meeting, if it had occurred, would have been a huge mistake and yet another Trump failure. While the country was commemorating the atrocities of 9/11, Trump would be posing, smiling at Camp David with the Taliban who were responsible. The visual would have been devastating. Trump fired National Security Advisor Bolton because Bolton dared tell the President this was wrong.
It is easy to get frustrated with the slow pace of policy and the tedious nature of our bureaucracy. However, the practices and procedures involving national security and foreign policy exist for a reason. They have been vetted and verified for many years. Security and foreign policies involve highly complex issues that simply cannot be administered by rash Tweets or text messages. Policy, to include high level meetings between leaders, result from the dedicated, hard work of career experts in these areas. Their collective experience and wisdom include the historical memory of things have been tried before, successfully and not. They will likely spot unintended consequences that could threaten or stifle negotiations. They must be allowed to do their job to support all initiatives. Trump claims he knows better than the career public servants. Trump is willfully ignorant. He has never studied an iota of foreign or security policies. He refuses the daily briefings every other President received because he is unable to understand and learn the various policies. He wants one thing – photo opportunities to play out his reality TV persona. He cares not about policy or national security and cares nothing about the damage he is causing out country around the world. President Trump is the biggest security threat we face.