Will Trump’s Doctrine Disrupt or Embolden Rising Powers’ Role in Creating a New International Order?

Since Trump’s inauguration on the 20th January 2017 a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability has increasingly pervaded the post 1945 international order. Trump’s “populist doctrine” may either raise a spirited beacon of hope for US domestic, foreign and defence policies along realpolitik line or rather create a despair feeding into what may turn to be a chaotic imbalanced international order. Equally important is the issue of addressing “Rising Powers” perspectives, interests and roles in contributing to the efforts of International Relations in response to Trump’s evolving controversial doctrine.

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Characterizing the main tenets of Trump’s  doctrine will address a mixture of interactive critical themes focusing more on internal demands whilst restraining as much as possible “global costly interventionist orientations” : (1) Calling for “America First” and making “America Great again” is conceived as part of Trump’s prime psychological instincts , attitudes and prejudices mostly carrying contradictory connotations and implications, (2) Promoting “Nationalist-Populist” largely isolationist tendencies applied essentially to the economic sphere of interest aimed at satisfying Trump’s supporters’ economic demands. Furthermore his eco-business approach centres on delivering a knock down effect to countries conceived as taking advantage of “American lavish hospitality” a matter which seems increasingly controversial. Accordingly his attack on globalization enshrined in “Western values of liberalism” terms comes in parallel lines to strengthening realpolitik with a dose of “authoritarianism” disturbing thus the prevalent international order. (3) Highlighting “Global Crusade against radical Islam” going so far as to launch an anti Islamist warfare to eradicate extremist terrorists [primarily ISIS]. Admittedly a welcoming notion “if truly translated into practice” without being confused with Islamic genuine values. (4) A likely Realpolitik strategic approach crystallised in the form of marrying hard power (military/security – economic – business) and to a lesser extent soft power (essentially diplomatic synergized with social media) to serve US interests along a “business – DEAL conception”, or failing that adversely leading into “provocative or hostile acts” that may sore relations with rivals or even allies destabilizing an international order without replacing it with a viable new one.

Hence, it is essential to interpret diverse vantage points of interests concerning prominent rising powers “Russia and China who will increasingly use their effective capabilities to re-balance US dominant power within the new international system. What have given stoke to Trump’s forceful approach in security and foreign policy is partly due to boosting US’s army–high – tech security capability to the tune of spending $596 billion a year [2016] “three times on its military than all other NATO countries”. The irony is that Trump has conceived NATO as an “obsolete security institution” in need of revamping a matter refuted by other NATO allies who consider this prominent security institution as an essential bulwark to defend Western – Europe security against external threats (ex. global terrorism). Admittedly though NATO since its inception to the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 was targeting Russia as a cold war salient Rising Power, things changed however in the post-Cold-War era as the scope of security operations took a global dimension consistently projecting security and humanitarian missions along the lines of executing inter-dependent functions: [peace enforcing, peace keeping, peace-building].

According to Sven Biscop’s celebrated article entitled “Rising Power, Rising Europe and the future NATO”, the global reach of NATO “epitomized by the operation in Afghanistan , where since 2003 NATO has led the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), … to forge relations with a whole range of countries , far beyond its traditional Euro-Atlantic focus-including the Rising Powers”. What seems essential to realize is that Trump’s new security doctrine asserted mixed controversial messages which may adversely affect American inter-relationship not just with NATO, but with other multilateral global and regional institutions and groupings (UN, European Union, the MENA, and Asian –Pacific community) with serious consequences difficult to fathom or assess in an in- depth manner for US allies and rivals.

As an example Trump-Putin bilateral relations may either take an aspired upbeat turn or may progress at a relatively slow pace depending on the eagerness of both states to resolve host of serious crises (Ukraine, Crimean, Syria, and on the Israeli – Palestinian front, Iranian nuclear deal ) etc. Clearly , the current important signs of Trump’s administration easing economic sanctions on Russia have not yet materialized though one can appreciate that a new happy story may emerge in the near future due to the much propagated  “special relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin”.  In the meantime, it is equally difficult to speculate the shape and direction a new American-Chinese relations may take under Trump administration. Thus, on the economic-trade field, despite Trump’s adverse rhetoric it is expected that futuristic business will not be greatly affected if a new deal were to be formulated on the basis of relatively “win-win basis” rather engaging in futile trade war with the second largest economy.

Photo illustration by Slate

In the meantime ironically, one of the earlier salient Trump’s executive orders centred on the abrogation of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) laying the ground for China’s new projected embolden role to fill the US void in which Obama’s administration has struggled to encounter. Admittedly, the prospect of raising the bar of US-China overall relations to a fruitful level will depend on the ramifications of settling other salient security and geo-political issues (ex. the South China Sea dispute, one China policy, and human rights). Furthermore, Trump’s recent executive orders on renegotiating NAFTA but more seriously the “temporary banning” of Muslims refugees to enter the US on the pretext of affiliation to radical extremists has created a perplexing tense global environment which can slide further into a deterioration of US relations with various “Rising Powers”.

Hence, emboldening Rising Powers’ roles in creating a new sustainable international order becomes increasingly an essential task for vigorously confronting new global challenges. Without such a positive outlook it seems highly difficult to create a coherent secure, stable and prosperous international order.

Ahmad Shikara

Member of the faculty at the EmiratesCenter for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi since 2000. There he works in the Training Department and in Human Resources. He recently published on the ramifications of Iraqi elections. In the past he conducted extensive research at the ECSSR and has conducted graduate and faculty seminars focusing on the effect of resource scarcity on the Arabian Gulf and the United States. Dr. Shikara, and before joining the ECSSR, served on the Political Science Department at the United Arab Emirates University (1980-1994), as an honorary professor at the Institute of Developing Economies in Japan (1994) and as a research fellow in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand (1996-2000).

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