Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments are at TheNation.com.) Whatever else one may think about Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, Cohen argues, his foreign policy views expressed, however elliptically, in a Washington Post interview this week should be welcomed, especially in light of terrorist attacks on Brussels, for their challenge to the bipartisan neocon/liberal principles and practices that have guided Washington policymaking since the 1990s—with disastrous results.
That policymaking has included the premise that the United States is the sole, indispensable superpower with a right to intervene wherever it so decides by military means and regime changes, and by using NATO (“coalitions of the willing”) as its own United Nations and rule-maker. In recent years, from Iraq and Libya to Ukraine and Syria, the results have been international instability, wars (both proxy and civil), growing terrorism, failed “nation building,” mounting refugee crises, and a new Cold War with Russia.
Trump proposes instead diplomacy (“deals”) toward forming partnerships, including with Russia; rethinking the rightful mission of NATO; Europe taking political and financial responsibility for its own crises, as in Ukraine; and a smaller American military footprint in the world. In effect, a less missionary and militarized American national-security policy. Cohen suggests that Trump may be calling on an older Republican foreign policy tradition. And that he is emerging as a realist in two respects: In reality, the world is no longer unipolar, pivoting around Washington; and the United States must share and balance power with other great powers, from Europe to Russia and China.