At the culmination of the 2016 presidential campaign we saw a President Donald Trump that was very critical of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and China. Now, we see a very different Donald Trump, a Trump that has realized the complexity of international relationships and he has saw that the decisions he makes moves market; and that his actions and decisions often come with waves of unpredictable outcomes, good or bad.
One could argue that the mix up of his cabinet, with the declining influence of Stephen Bannon, also is a sign of his revelation about how the world is not so easy to manipulate.
On NATO, Trump found the organization obsolete, as reported by the New York Times Trump described NATO on January 26, 2017, “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. I said it was obsolete. Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago.” Trump has been a vocal critic of NATO throughout his whole campaign, he found that it was an outdated alliance made for the Cold War and Trump exclaimed that NATO was disproportionately funded by the US.
Perhaps he just needed a situation in which the alliance with NATO would be useful, because at a news conference, as a reported by the New York Times, on April 12, 2017 Trump described NATO as, “I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”
Trump now does not find NATO obsolete, a policy reversal from his earlier campaign. However, what could have caused this sudden switch is the Syrian Civil War. After the events in which the Syrian government was accused of dropping chemical weapons on rebel held towns, and Russia continually stood by the government in denying the attack, Trump had to take President Vladimir Putin off his pedestal.
As the US policy shifted our nation to the other side of the Syrian Civil War debate (I am referring to the argument over whether to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power in a post-civil War Syria.) Trump had to look for an ally that would be more reliable than a former adversary. Thus, Trump saw that NATO was still necessary to the world, and that it was not just a money vacuum that had grown obsolete at the culmination of Cold War, but a valiant military arm designed to put forward the interests of Western countries and their values throughout the world.
Tump, ever since he started campaigning to become President of the United States, had been a vocal critic of China and their economic practices. As the New York Times reports, on April 2, 2017 Trump described China’s economic practices, “When you talk about currency manipulation, when you talk about devaluations, they are world champions.”
Trump has long talked of China’s currency manipulation, and not so long ago when Trump first came into Office he talked of not upholding the one China policy. However, something changed between now and the beginning of April.
As reported by the New York Times, on April 12, 2017 Trump had a complete about -face in regards to China just ten days after he criticized them, he then claimed, “They’re [China] are not currency manipulators.” The North Korean problem that US has grappled with for many years, is responsible for this policy reversal. Prospects of North Korea having the ability to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead have become more and more of a reality in recent weeks.
Although North Korea is far off from developing a missile that could reach the mainland United States, it is evident that North Korea has the capabilities of hitting key US allies in the region such as Japan or South Korea. At any rate because of the growing danger North Korea poses to the area Trump has aligned himself with China to work together in coaxing North Korea to stand down. However necessary this alliance becomes it shows that Trump was too quick to make enemies his first one hundred days in office, talking a big game but ultimately not understanding the way of the world.
Trump has had a policy reversal on two key issues he campaigned on: China and NATO. The about-face shows the growing maturity in Trump as he struggles to understand the complex relationships of an international system. To the relief of the American people, Stephen Bannon has lost influence in the White House as well, for it is obvious that Trump is starting to see Bannon as radical and unrealistic.
It is no coincidence that Trump has struggled learning the presidency, he has come from a background that is non-political so, with no experience in governing it would be hard to imagine being successful right from the start. However, for the time being, it is noticeable that Trump is growing more mature and moving past the learning curve.