Vernuccio’s View: Foreign Affairs in 2020 Campaign

President Trump has had a distinctly different set of foreign policies towards Russia, China, Iran and North Korea than his predecessors.  Those nations, more accustomed to administrations that do not place a greater emphasis on U.S. national security in return for the ability to portray a more voter-friendly picture of global relations, are anxious to return to a more standard White House.

Russia will continue its drive to stay ahead of the U.S. in nuclear arms, a position it achieved thanks to the prior “New Start” arms  deals.

North Korea will veer away from compromising on its nuclear program any further in the hope of a getting a new occupant in the White House who will be less militant on sanctions and less willing to fund a U.S. military that will be sufficiently capable of a kinetic solution.

Iran and the terrorists it sponsors had the benefit of eight years of the Obama presidency which, bizarrely and still inexplicably, did all that it could to portray a less aggressive stance towards  the Mullah-led,  deeply anti-U.S. and anti-Israel regime. After suffering through Trump’s stringent sanctions, it will vigorously do everything possible to get just about anyone else back in office.

China will do all that it can to increase tensions in Asia and the Pacific. 

More importantly, from a domestic American perspective, Beijing will refuse to compromise in trade talks, and will engage in actions that cause pain to U.S. consumers, farmers, and others. This is a particularly frustrating problem for Washington. China’s outrageous practices of intellectual property theft, technological espionage, marketplace dumping, and barriers to U.S. goods seriously damage America’s economy. 

If the issue was appropriately settled, the American economy and in particular U.S. blue collar workers would gain tremendously. The problem can be resolved if Washington takes firm action such as the Trump Administration’s tariffs, because China needs America far more than America needs China. 

But the temporary pain this may cause In the U.S. will be seized upon by the media to vote for more accommodating elected officials.  The internal fight will be particularly tough. Far more than Moscow ever did, Beijing has mastered internal U.S. politics.

Foreign Affairs review noted that “In the last decade, the Chinese government has committed to boosting its appeal abroad. Beijing has been developing an international media network and establishing cultural study centers around the world. While debate abounds over whether promoting China’s traditions, values, language, and culture can win it more friends, vast funds are backing programs to enhance the country’s image.”

Diplomat article notes that “in 2014, President Xi Jinping said,’We should increase China’s soft power, give a good Chinese narrative, and better communicate China’s message to the world.’ One of Xi’s signature policies, the ‘Chinese Dream,’ has been proposed as a kind of corollary or alternative to the American Dream. This is all part of a ‘charm offensive’ that will only accelerate in years to come, especially in light of the events at the recent 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.”

Beijing built great sway on university campuses through it’s “Confucius Institutes,” in Hollywood through its purchases of media companies, and in both parties through quiet deals which enrich individual politicians. Joe Biden’s vigorous attempts to downplay China’s danger following his son’s billion dollar deal with that nation is a prime example.

Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang clearly understand that any of the candidates currently seeking the Democrat nomination to oppose Trump would return to the Obama Administration’s practice of sharply cutting the Pentagon’s budget, an outcome they are only too eager to have occur.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride until November of 2020.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.