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Donald Trump's unpredictable foreign policy may destabilise world order

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:43 IST

On 2 December, president-elect Donald Trump did what most thought was a 'policy shift' for the United States of America. Trump made a phone call to Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen. China immediately opposed this saying, "China firmly opposes any official interaction or military contact between [the] U.S. and Taiwan".

Every new American president is introduced as the "leader of the free world" and commander in chief -- the chief defender of the global community of free-market, democratic countries. Trump seems to be changing that definition.

Increasingly, Americans have been worried that the country's foreign policy under Trump might be radically different than what it was under previous presidents. But what's feared most by everyone around the world is Trump emphasizing how America's interests will always come first. "I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America's interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone...all people and all other nations," Trump said in his victory speech on 9 November.

In a world like this, we are going to see the US foreign policy's goal become that of the advancement of American interests at every stage, even if any one of the previous allies are hurt in the process. NATO members, Japan, South Korea and other allies, are good friends for now -- but one year into Trump's presidency, and that might all change.

Trump has an ally in Putin, but even Russia will have to pay/help promote US objectives to get into their good books. China and other economic competitors will have to deal with a very different United States going forward. In fact, imports might be curbed and goods produced in America itself.

"No longer will US diplomats criticize the Erdogan regime in Turkey for its crackdown on journalists and the Kurds, so long as we can use the Incirlik air base for strikes against ISIS; no longer will the Baghdad regime be warned against mistreatment of the Sunnis in Mosul, so long as ISIS is driven out of the city; no longer will Uganda and Nigeria be criticized for jailing members of the LGBT community, so long as they assist us in other matters," Michael Klare wrote in The Nation.

By withdrawing NATO troops from the Russian border, Trump is essentially rebuilding the US-Kremlin relationship. As Dmitry Peskov told the Associated Press, the move will lead to "a kind of detente in Europe". US might just completely abandon the NATO alliance during Trump's term as president.

Trump, as president, thinks that the US can get ahead of the game and gain more power in the world order if it renegotiates everything. It may alienate some and may benefit some unexpected countries.

NATO may suffer, may be re-branded, the terms of the deal may even have to be renegotiated but other alliances, such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), may be strengthened merely by the fact that none of the countries wants to push aside the others for their own interests. BRICS works towards improving each nation's interests together. Something Trump will never understand.

First published: 9 December 2016, 12:00 IST