Sullivan will speak on the major questions facing U.S. foreign policy as we head into the second year of the Trump administration. What did "America First" mean for the United States' traditional global leadership role in 2017, as well as America's role in the Asia-Pacific region, and what will it mean going forward? Which crises and challenges will produce decision points in 2018? What are the major debates unfolding within the administration? And how will domestic politics, in a midterm election year, influence foreign policy decision making? Sullivan will examine how Trump is testing long-held assumptions -- and how America's institutions are pushing back.Event coverage
On 15 January 2018, Mr. Jake Sullivan, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Brady-Johnson Distinguished Practitioner in Strategy at Yale University and Ms. Angela Mancini, Partner at Control Risks, were part of a panel discussion at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. The discussion, America and Asia: Where will Trump take US foreign policy in 2018? was chaired by LKYSPP Associate Professor in Practice, Mr. James Crabtree.
The panel discussed the influence President Donald Trump has had on US foreign policy in 2017. Deviating from past administrations, the president has questioned the value of alliances with long-standing partners like Japan and the European Union, favoured bilateral over multilateral engagements, downplayed values like democracy and human rights, and above all, repeatedly emphasised his belief in “America First”.
The panel contested the view that the “America First” agenda was an isolationist strategy, arguing instead that it represented Washington’s shift towards prioritising self-interest and away from its previous role as a global problem-solver or shaper-of-rules. It was a “zero-sum” view of what US foreign policy was designed to achieve.
Despite the substantial departures from previous administrations, the panel agreed that none of the changes were fundamentally disruptive and that US foreign policy had, essentially, remained fairly consistent. Notwithstanding his aggressive rhetoric, President Trump had faced major constraints from both inside and outside the American political system that effectively prevented him from introducing more dramatic changes.
However, the panel remained cognizant of the foreign policy challenges facing the US in 2018. These included the North Korean nuclear threat, disagreements over trade issues with China, the South China Sea disputes, as well as the Iran nuclear deal. With the Trump administration facing increasing domestic pressure over the Mueller investigation and midterm elections this year, the president might look towards scoring political points by forcefully seeking a resolution over one of these issues. Things could escalate quickly and have far-reaching consequences.