There have been a great many odd things about the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, but one of the oddest is the vast distance that has opened up between the president and his own policies. Presidents never fully get their way on the entire range of foreign policy issues their administrations confront, although they do tend to get their way on the issues they care most about. But as I discuss in my new book, American Grand Strategy in the Age of Trump, this president’s core geopolitical beliefs and the foreign policy executed in his name have in several cases seemed 180 degrees apart.
The president clearly loathes NATO and believes that protecting the European allies is a fool’s errand, yet his administration has continued and even expanded efforts to reinforce deterrence along NATO’s eastern flank. He has repeatedly called for a new relationship with Russia, but his administration has now decided to sell lethal defensive weaponry to Ukraine, and is taking initial steps to develop a land-based, intermediate-range nuclear delivery system to counter Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.