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One of Trump’s key campaign promises was to make deals with any actors who appear to share American interests, regardless of whether they share or act in accordance with traditional US values. The obvious example is Russia. In Syria Putin has prolonged fighting to ensure Russia’s place at the negotiating table, restoring her prestige. As Putin sees it, by defeating Islamic terrorism together Russia and America would effectively repeat Yalta, forging a new world order, with Eurasia as a 19th-century-style Russian sphere of influence. It remains unclear what Trump might be willing to concede and whether his transactionalism is a precursor to an effective division of the world. Certainly, it remains unclear how a trade war with China would foster their co-operation in dealing with North Korea.

This line of fuzzy thinking has also been applied to US allies. Trump has taken Obama’s critique further, suggesting that allies should “pay up” or be cut loose. This is important because it reduces allies to being no more strategically important than other states, with a strictly conditional relationship. Trump expressed this most aggressively in his inaugural address:“[The US has] subsidised the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.” Again, this represents an inversion of previous foreign policy logic, suggesting that America’s alliances have weakened her.

With the possible exception of Nato, where he has softened his tone in response to pleas from Theresa May, Trump has expressed disdain for multilateral institutions such as the European Union. It would not be necessary for Trump to take any formal action to wreck Nato. If he merely repeats, as president, the suggestion that the United States might not defend states in Central and Eastern Europe that are threatened by Russia, it will send them scrambling to make other arrangements, including their own deals with Moscow.

Trump promises to bolster American military preponderance in conventional and nuclear forces. His stated purpose, in keeping with the Jacksonian tradition, has been deterrence rather than military adventurism or bolstering US alliances. He is an outspoken critic of regime change. He wants a strong military to eradicate terrorism and then to ensure isolation. In other words, the faults of the Obama doctrine have not registered with Trump. The notion that American exceptionalism and US leadership are intertwined has been abandoned. Most troubling is the abandonment of the sense that US leadership is as much to do with the defence of values as with raw power.

The most worrying aspect of Trump’s worldview is that he  believes America gets a poor deal from the liberal international order. Trump’s logic falls apart in supporting the international order’s disintegration. This is where analogies between Brexit and Trump are mistaken. There is at least a plausible case for arguing that Europe did impinge on British sovereignty, but the strongest criticism of the international order, at least from the Left, has always been that it was created in America’s image and to her benefit. Most presidents have seen the investment in international alliances and institutions as modest and certainly worthwhile to prevent the emergence of major wars.

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