What Will America’s Military Relations Look Like With President Trump?


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President Elect Donald Trump
Photo Credit: 
Gage Skidmore at https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/8567828196

It’s done, it’s over. Donald Trump will shortly be setting aside his famed last name for the title Mr. President, and he’ll be ditching his digs at the Trump Tower in Manhattan for the apartments in the White House. Trump’s election victory took many by surprise, but abroad, foreign leaders have been quick to line up and congratulate him.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has already congratulated Trump publicly, stating that it is time for Russia and the United States to restore and revive their relationship. Russia has been under heavy sanctions ever since it invaded the Crimea, and became entangled with separatist movements in Ukraine. These sanctions have sent Russia’s economy into a deep recession, and Putin is now hoping that Trump’s ascension to the White House will pave the wave for restored relations.

Will Trump drop the sanctions against Russia? That remains to be seen, but if so, Russia will likely have to give up some concessions in exchange. Russia is also deeply entangled in the war in Syria, and Trump has made it clear that knocking off the Islamic State needs to be a priority. Russia could be a very useful ally against the Islamic State, given their strong presence in Syria already.

Given Trump’s admiration for Putin, it’s likely that relations will be stored to some extent, and that Russia will receive some type of relief. Trump has also hinted in the past that he would recognize Russia’s claim to the Crimea, although he has generally tiptoed around the subject.

The Philippines Gravitates Back Towards America

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has also reached out to Trump to congratulate him. Duterte has previously lobbed personal insults at outgoing President Obama, and has claimed that the Philippines will begin to wind down its relationship with the United States, realigning itself with Russia and China instead.

Now, it appears that Duterte will try to patch up relationships with the United States once Trump comes into office. Trump, however, has been critical of Duterte in the past, claiming that the leader had shown a “lack of respect” for the United States.

Still, Duterte is often considered a sort of “Trump of the East.” A brash loudmouth, Duterte has raised eyebrows across the world with his bombastic and off the cuff talk. Duterte’s swear words, personal insults, and huge claims, if anything, make Trump’s often unfiltered talk seem mild by comparison.

Will Trump welcome Duterte back into the fold, and will the two get along? Most likely, Trump won’t be as critical of Duterte’s questionable human rights record. Under the Filipino President, vigilante groups have taken to the streets, often executing those accused of drug dealing. Trump, likewise, has called for a firmer police presence, although obviously hasn’t called for vigilante justice.

Trump, NATO, South Korea, & Japan

Trump has called for many of America’s traditional allies to step up efforts to defend themselves, rather than having to rely on American military might. For decades now the United States has been glad to provide considerable support via an extensive military presence in allied countries. Major military bases have been established in Japan, much of Western Europe, and South Korea, among many others.

Now, Trump wants to see allies step up efforts to defend themselves, and has even suggested that Japan and others develop their own nukes. Trump has also argued that countries like South Korea pay the United States “practically nothing” even though nearly 30,000 American troops are buffering against always aggressive North Korea.

At least in South Korea’s case, the South Korea does pay for a considerable chunk of the tab. In 2014, South Korea paid $866.66 million dollars to the United States to maintain its presence in the country. Japan, for its part, actually contributed $2 billion dollars in 2012 to support the American military presence (support is offered annually, those are the most recent numbers I saw).

When it comes to NATO, however, many countries do appear to be failing to meet their commitments by not spending the required 2% of their GDP on defense. NATO members do contribute their fair share of funds to the NATO organization itself, but overall, the United States does seem to be contributing far more than most of the other members.

Will Trump abandon long held alliances? Probably not, but he may press NATO, South Korea, and Japan to contribute more, or else reduce American support. More than likely, with world leaders already reeling from Trump’s stunning victory, Trump will be able to squeeze concessions without too much effort. Whether or not America’s allies give enough to appease Mr. President, remains to be seen.

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