Has Trump Announced a Major Shift in US foreign policy?

During his first ‘Thank You’ rally in Cincinnati, Trump said the US will ‘stop looking to topple regimes’

Trump’s foreign policy was often characterized as a great mystery. With the name of the next US Secretary of State still not announced, US foreign policy under the Trump administration remains uncharted territory.

During campaign, Trump has repeatedly stated his opposition to the current US foreign policy, criticizing the Obama administration on the Iran deal, while expressing the will seek better relations with Russia.

Can US/Russia relations be restored?

Since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis and the Russian intervention in Syria, relations between the US and Russia are on their lowest point since the Cold War era. On several occasions, there was open hostility between Washington and Moscow.

Hillary Clinton advocated a tough stance on Russia, and has openly accused the Kremlin of meddling in the US election, something that Russia has vehemently denied. From the perspective of US/Russia relations, Trump’s election is a major chance to relax the tensions and resume the all-important cooperation between the two powers in Syria.

The US and Russia are both key players on the global stage and their influence is vital for securing a lasting peace in Syria, as well as the rest of the Middle East.

Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin said,

During my recent telephone conversation with Mr. Donald Trump, our opinions coincided that the current, unsatisfactory state of Russia-US relations, undoubtedly must be straightened out. As I already have said, our country is prepared to go down our part of that road.

After his election victory on November 8, Trump hinted that he will adopt a different stance towards Russia and that there is a possibility of renewed US/Russia cooperation in Syria. Trump has also publicly vowed to intensify the fight against ISIS, an impossible task without the help of Russia.

Syrian Realignment

Trump’s statements regarding Syria drew heavy criticism from his opponents. Unlike the most other US politicians who have been calling for a regime change in Damascus, and repeated that ‘Assad must go’ Trump frequently questioned the US foreign policy in Syria and its support for so called ‘moderate rebels’.

During the second presidential debate, Trump said,

I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS.

And in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump expressed his doubts regarding the US support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria,

Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.

Regardless of what Trump had said during the campaign, we should remain cautious. It remains unknown whether Trump’s criticism of US foreign policy was a genuine political conviction, or simply a strategy to undermine the credibility of his Democratic opponent, and the Democratic establishment in general.

Encouraging Signals

While the course of US foreign policy under the Trump administration will remain an enigma in the near future, the President-elect has reaffirmed his previous positions and announced a new approach to foreign policy.

During a ‘Thank You’ rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, Trump adopted a radically different foreign policy rhetoric,

We will destroy ISIS. At the same time, we will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks,

“Our goal is stability, not chaos because we wanna rebuild our country. It’s time.

Regardless of our opinion about Trump, his election represents a new chance to achieve a more balanced approach to US foreign policy.