Carnegie Mellon University

The Trump Turn: Shaping the Next Decade of American Foreign Policy by Richard Grenell

October 28, 2020

The Trump Turn: Shaping the Next Decade of American Foreign Policy

By Richard Grenell

Bill Brink

The goal of American foreign policy in the decade ahead will be the creation of a world order in which the United States achieves intensive economic growth and technological innovation, to the degree that its national defense and primacy within the order are assured. The task for American diplomacy will be to tend this system by enforcing a global balance of power, and to persuade others that cooperation with US objectives is the best guarantee of their independence and prosperity.

To reach this outcome, the United States must focus on four key aims: (1) improve America’s position within the global system by reshaping it on terms more favorable to US interests and values; (2) form new alliances and deterrence capabilities and better mobilize established ones; (3) outcompete America’s adversaries in scientific and technological innovation; and (4) provide the world with economic and security goods that no other power is able or willing to deliver.

These aims will make it difficult to accurately define the United States of 2020 using the traditional great power categories of revisionist or status quo. Typically, a status quo power engages in competition, conflict, and compromise only to perpetuate the existing order, such as Great Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries, or the United States in the First Gulf War. A revisionist power, such as Napoleonic France, rejects the order’s basic architecture and seeks to overturn it. By remaking the current system to better reflect US national interests, and attempting to reach a fundamentally different and better future, the United States will likely embrace certain limited qualities of both a revisionist and a status quo power. 

This ambition does not require the United States to renounce all prior objectives. Certain longstanding goals of American foreign policy remain. The United States still aspires to leadership and prosperity under the conditions of a rules-based multipolar system and expects other powers to compete within this system without attempting to challenge or destroy it. The United States seeks to persuade other powers to support US strategic goals with as little interference from Washington as possible. The United States strives to champion human rights, and to serve as a beacon of freedom and democracy. And the United States pursues consensus and cooperation as a condition of global stability.

But in other significant ways, the United States is parting with its recent past. A number of changes in the international environment in recent decades raised doubts about whether America’s performance under the previous system could sustain its position in the longer run. President Trump’s guiding principle is that it could not, and that the United States must go beyond the continued provision of conventional post-Cold War goods in a world that has profoundly changed. Whether the coronavirus pandemic alters the course of history or simply accelerates changes already underway, its biggest consequence will be the emergence of a different world order. 

A US Foreign Policy of Equilibrium

A balance of power creates a regional or global order in which an equilibrium of power is sufficient to prevent hostile states from achieving unilateral domination or chaos. Devoid as it is of moral absolutes, the balance of power as a concept often provokes fear of conflict. While some credit the balance of power for the century of relative peace in the European state system after the Napoleonic Wars, for example, others blame it for the catastrophic logic of power relationships that led to World War I.

In truth, there is nothing timeless about the balance of power as a strategic goal of US foreign policy. It proved necessary during World War II, when the United States partnered with the Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany. It was less advisable during some parts of the Cold War, when the United States provided backing to regimes in Latin America and the Middle East it would come to regret. It was squarely not in the US national interest after the fall of the Soviet Union, when no serious anti-American coalition emerged to counter it. 

But the balance of power should not have fallen as far out of favor as it did at the end of the Cold War. Interpreting that event as a permanent moral triumph rather than a strategic victory, NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner could claim in 1990 that Europe either “lapses back into the old power politics and balance of power diplomacy of past centuries or it moves ahead along the road leading to a new order of peace and freedom.” In 1992, the Pentagon eliminated all references to the balance of power from its Defense Planning Guidance, declaring instead, “It is not in our interest or those of the other democracies to return to earlier periods in which multiple military powers balanced one another off in what passed for security structures, while regional, or even global peace hung in the balance.”

This revaluation of the balance of power as a categorical enemy of progress and peace led to an era of foreign policy blunders. To take one stark example, economic sanctions and the counterweight of a neighboring power helped keep the revolutionary regime in Tehran from upsetting the Middle Eastern balance for nearly three decades. In 2003, the United States removed the Iraqi counterweight, and in 2015, removed the limits on Iran’s financial resources. Only then could Iran unilaterally threaten the oil supply in the Persian Gulf, and gain control of foreign capitals from Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut and Sanaa. By tipping the delicate Middle Eastern balance in favor of a revisionist state, the United States condemned itself to continual involvement in the region. 

In 2017, the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy reintroduced the balance of power as a core objective of US foreign policy. The purpose of this objective in our time is to protect the Eurasian equilibrium from hostile powers like China, Russia, and Iran. The motivation is that a Eurasian balance favors the core US national interests of economic growth and national defense. The Trump administration does not see the balance of power as an end in itself, but as the best guarantee of geopolitical stability on which prosperity and safety at home depend. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the instability of the current balance of forces, in which a hostile power has amassed sufficient power to threaten the equilibrium. 

Maintaining the Eurasian Balance of Power

There are two main ways the United States enforces a balance of power in key regional theaters and in the world as a whole. The first is to ensure the largest number of actors possible. A wide array of existing formal and informal alliances is America’s greatest asset. Major allies like NATO and the European Union (EU) in Europe; Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt in the Middle East; and Australia, Japan, and South Korea in the Pacific help ensure that hostile powers such as China, Russia, and Iran cannot unilaterally upset the balance of power in Eurasia or the Indo-Pacific. Power realities have changed, however, since many of these relationships were first formed. In 1958, for example, Italy had a bigger defense budget than India, and the Benelux economy was larger than China’s. Global bodies like the United Nations (UN) arguably played a constructive if limited role, and served as force multipliers for US power. But the relative decline of some traditional US allies, and the decay of the UN and other corrupt institutions, are being offset by deepening cooperation with newer allies. That is partly why the United States is pursuing ever-closer ties with India, Vietnam, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Eurasian powers. 

Shifts in the Eurasian balance are also being offset by making additional US contributions to its alliances contingent on increased activity. One example is President Trump’s rigorous expectation that NATO members meet the 2014 Wales Summit Pledge of two percent defense spending (as a share of member’s national economies). Another is the diplomatic effort to convince Japan, South Korea, and India to play more active and confident global roles. Both policies have come in for a strange species of criticism, in which it is argued that American and global security would benefit more from keeping nations that share US interests in a position of perpetual dependency. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. To bolster the independent political and military power of one’s allies is not to question their value, but the best way to ensure their continued freedom. The balance of power is merely the strategic expression of a pluralistic order—of the independence and strength of the largest number of countries possible. 

The second means by which the United States enforces a global balance is by locking in its own position of leadership (America First). Again, there are two ways the United States accomplishes this. One is by maintaining the competitive edge in growth and innovation—not only in goods, services, finance, energy, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and computing power, but eventually, in transportation and infrastructure. The other is by legislative and institutional reform. Here especially, the Trump administration has reset the agenda. Intellectual property enforcement, tax and finance reform, deregulatory policies, the rebalance of trade, and the repatriation of the US industrial base from abroad are all aimed at resetting the disadvantages US companies faced globally, and American workers faced at home. By exposing America’s overreliance on faraway countries for the production of critical goods, the pandemic has vindicated these reforms, and will hasten the onshoring of supply chains for automobiles, pharmaceuticals, technology equipment, and other basic goods to Mexico, Canada, and the United States.

The United States has pursued many of these policies in coordination with allies, such as new types of investment screening and export controls with the European Union, and infrastructure finance with Japan and India. Other parts are done on the supranational level. The Trump administration’s approach to the appellate body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is one step in reversing a key weakness of the global system, whereby the United States voluntarily constrained itself with rules and regulations its adversaries were free to break.

That the United States was destined to decline under such conditions remains one of the key foreign policy insights of President Trump, and drives his administration’s focus on the most powerful rule-breaker within the system, and thus the biggest challenge to the balance of power.

Meeting the Challenge of China

American diplomacy is currently forced to maintain two somewhat opposed concepts with regard to China: (1) Chinese power rests on precarious foundations, and (2) China’s desire to become the unchallenged hegemon of Eurasia is not farfetched. This seeming contradiction is explained by the logic of China’s primary national project, the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Belt and Road Initiative is not “China’s Marshall Plan,” as some have suggested. It is China’s drive to gain unrestricted access to Eurasia’s markets, technology, energy resources, and supply chains. There are at least two reasons Beijing believes this project is not just desirable, but necessary. First, China believes it has the power to remake the US-led Eurasian order according to Chinese preferences, with all the revisions that would entail to the system’s hierarchy, expectations, enforcement mechanisms, and incentive structures.

Second, Beijing has reason to fear the future course of its own economic power. For all its miraculous growth, the Chinese economy still lags behind Kazakhstan in per capita GDP. The Global Innovation Index pegs China behind Ireland in technological innovation. China also faces massive bubbles in manufacturing, infrastructure, and real estate which Beijing has tried but failed to confront. President Xi has channeled Mao by calling on his country to “prepare” for “great struggles,” and wealthy Chinese are taking risks to move their money overseas. These are not indicators of a smooth economic future.

If the internal structure of Chinese politics were different, even a large financial shock would not necessarily pose an existential threat. All advanced economies have faced repeated setbacks on the road to prosperity. The economic history of the United States in the 19th-century, for example, is in many ways a catalogue of recessions caused by panics following bank failures. But for an authoritarian system like China’s, a sharply falling economy might pose a perceived threat to the legitimacy of the Communist Party or President Xi’s rule. A successful Belt and Road—which would theoretically allow Beijing to mobilize Eurasia’s resources in the event of a Chinese crash—is partly an insurance policy for the Chinese regime. 

The Belt and Road Initiative is also designed to put the US-led system in a kind of straitjacket. If it finds a way to reverse its current slowdown, China will continue to overtake the United States by several metrics, and to impose its own understanding of status, privilege, and obedience on the world system. On the other hand, if China’s economic slowdown deepens as the pandemic continues, a crash would threaten the post-2008 investment and growth models on which much of the developed world’s recovery depends. A Chinese financial shock could also heighten the chance of a military confrontation over Taiwan or the South China Sea, which the Communist Party might find necessary in order to augment its legitimacy.

The United States cannot simply hope or expect that Chinese power will fade of its own accord. Despite its various bubbles and shortcomings, China has quickly become the global leader in payments, online retail, and infrastructure like high-speed rail. The quality and appeal of its consumer electronics are improving. It has a plausible chance of extracting the greatest military and political rewards from artificial intelligence and quantum computing. China has and will always have an enormous internal market and a competent, hard-working labor force. Its sheer scale, and the authoritarian structure of its political system, virtually guarantee a competitive edge in the movement of people and goods. 

What’s more, China’s leadership knows its long-term objectives are served by limiting the appearance of total revolutionary activity. This is a point often missed by observers who point to a supposed paradox at the heart of Chinese conduct. These observers frequently cite, on the one hand, China’s import restrictions, investment barriers, forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft, espionage, and state-owned enterprise subsidies; and on the other hand, Beijing’s faithful participation in global institutions like the UN Security Council, the WTO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. Depending on the observer, either the former or the latter activity is stressed as the “version” of China which ought to matter more to American policy planning. 

In truth, these seemingly contradictory activities are not separate paths, nor are they two sides of China, one good and the other bad. In 2020, China’s point of maximum advantage is as chief rule-breaker within a rules-based system. Witness the number of Americans and Europeans at pains to cite Beijing’s support for Security Council resolutions, funding of UN peacekeeping operations, cooperation with the IMF and WTO, and President Xi’s appeals to “common values” and a “community of common destiny,” even as China enforces ideological conformity abroad and holds one million ethnic Uyghurs in concentration camps.

All this makes America’s competition with China very different from its rivalry in the Cold War. Unlike the Soviet Union, China is not predestined to collapse. China’s competitive capabilities are not limited to parity in weapons only. If the Belt and Road Initiative succeeds, China could potentially grow indeterminately without even having to outcompete American innovation. Washington’s concern is not the continued growth of Chinese power per se, but the relegation of US power from Eurasia at which Chinese power is aimed. 

America cannot hope to prevent China’s ambitions by merely reaffirming the status quo ante, as several members of the US foreign policy establishment continue to argue. Instead, the United States is confronting China on the terms of its own ambition: To reduce American influence over the world system. 

Balancing Power in Europe and Asia

Under different circumstances, the United States would likely seek to balance Chinese power by forging closer ties with China’s most powerful neighbor. Unfortunately, the most logical counterweight to Beijing is also the most implausible. As long as Vladimir Putin presides in Moscow, Russia will not develop the economic strength to balance China, nor is it likely to choose a path—no matter the net gains to Russian national power—that would also benefit US interests. In fact, despite Russia’s historical inclination to remain an independent pole between Europe and Asia, Russia has felt compelled by circumstances to form an alliance of convenience with China. From Africa to the Arctic, gas pipelines to military exercises, Beijing and Moscow are collaborating along a number of strategic dimensions aimed at diminishing US power.

Past attempts to convert, humiliate, or reset relations with Russia did not prevent this outcome, nor will they work in the decade ahead. Russia is running out of ways to demonstrate that it has no interest in simply adopting Western liberal values. Attempts to demean its international status will only push it closer to Beijing. The decision to form a better US-Russian relationship ultimately lies with the Kremlin. With regard to bilateral relations, the United States can simply make clear that it desires a better, more sustainable relationship.

In the meantime, US policy cannot counter every single instance of Chinese-Russian cooperation, which can be expected to continue in some form or another for the foreseeable future. America’s priorities are Europe and China and Russia’s near abroad, the areas of maximum vulnerability where the realization of Chinese-Russian objectives would pose the biggest threat to the balance of power. 

The first, and most significant, US priority in balancing Chinese and Russian power is Europe. Americans and Europeans alike have difficulty accepting the fact that China and Russia consider Europe an economic and political playground (to say nothing of a potential dependency), not a significant pole of Western power. China and Russia’s opportunity lies in the relative disunity of the European Union, and in the persistence of the “convergence myth” across much of Western Europe.

Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of European disunity. The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, ceding dominance of the German gas market to Moscow, has shown Berlin’s willingness to ignore EU consensus on energy and Ukraine policy. In NATO, less than one-third of members currently meet their agreed-upon defense contributions. Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, has split the EU between members that see it as trustworthy enough (especially at a good price) and those who don’t. Each of these disputes have come in the wake of unresolved crises over monetary policy, refugees, and secession movements. Despite growing European awareness of the threat posed by China, each of these disputes has persisted throughout the pandemic. 

Underlying some of these challenges is a continued faith in “convergence,” the post-1989 theory that integration and cooperation eventually convert all states into liberal democracies and market economies. Despite Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, assassinations of political opponents in England and Germany, and its contributions to genocide in Syria, the hope seems to persist in Berlin and Paris that deeper cooperation with Moscow might moderate its behavior. The same goes for China, where the philosophy of Deng Xiaoping’s “peaceful rise” has been shed in favor of an authoritarian surveillance state with technological power unknown under any past system of European communism.

If one thread connected my time as US Ambassador to Germany, it was the effort to convince America’s European allies that their current position is untenable. I spent much of my time in Berlin helping coordinate responses to Chinese and Russian espionage, technology theft, political interference, violations of sovereignty, threats to freedom of speech, and attempts to purge historical facts. It is clear that the Kremlin and the Chinese Communist Party will not eventually converge with the values and interests of Western Europe. Expecting them to will only make it more likely that the two hostile powers will succeed in further marginalizing Western power from the Eurasian balance. 

The primary US interest in Europe is precisely the opposite. In fact, America’s Europe policy can be described as the fortification of European independence and power. In other words, Europe should be innately more Western facing than it is now. In order to help the United States protect it, the Trump administration is encouraging Europe to become a political and military player with the willingness to project power across Eurasia. It is no accident that the United States has sought to shore up the countries in Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe where the convergence myth is weakest, or never existed at all.

The other area of focus for the United States’ balance-of-power strategy is among China and Russia’s smaller neighbors. For most of history, US political, military, and economic power have been absent from large parts of Central and South Asia. The United States is expanding the range of countries where its assistance, investment, expertise, and diplomacy can help the people and governments of these regions achieve a future no other country can offer. Contemporary Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, and the EU itself are examples of what persistent US engagement can provide. Supporting Central and South Asian states with the aspiration to break out of dependency has become a core pillar of US policy. Here, too, the balance of power is simply another term for the strength and independence of a large number of small and medium sized countries.

Achieving this balance in Asia will be different from the kind of order and alliance building Americans grew accustomed to in the twentieth century. It is likely that America’s own ideological preferences will have less influence. The financial, technological, and security goods it provides to help non-Western countries achieve their unique national aspirations will have more appeal than abstract moralizing or the example of its own constitutional model. (During my eight years in the Bush administration, for example, we relied heavily on the persuasive power of moral arguments. I do not recall a single Chinese or Russian official who was moved by them.) Even if a US-led coalition in Asia eventually becomes more integrated and institutionalized than it is now, values like liberalism and westernization will not be the glue that keeps it together. 

The sooner Americans can face this reality, the better. A naïve belief in the universalization of Western liberal values blinded previous US administrations to the regional dynamics and internal complexities of non-Western societies. In the Middle East, nation-building fantasies of rapid growth and democratization led US foreign policy to failure. That mistake is not being repeated in the Indo-Pacific. In the Middle East, the United States is correcting those mistakes by reorienting US policy back toward a balance of power supported by a wide array of actors, aimed at preventing Iran’s drive for unilateral domination. Critics of the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, or its posture toward Turkey, would do well to consider this fact.

Seizing Opportunities, Overcoming Challenges

Every administration proclaims a doctrine. But what does it take to achieve the new foreign policy goals identified by the Trump administration, and does the United States have the resources, determination, and foresight to do it? 

The United States embarks on this strategy with a number of advantages built up over generations. The most important is its aforementioned network of multilateral, bilateral, and informal alliances that keep the United States included in the big strategic questions facing key regional theaters and help shape a consensus in support of US objectives.

America’s deterrence capabilities similarly help tilt the balance of the system in its favor. US leadership in finance, technology, and energy enables a greater use of means short of war, such as sanctions on Iran and Russia, and technology export restrictions on Chinese firms. US forward deployments across Eurasia serve not only as reassurance to allies, but as warnings to adversaries. 

The United States also boasts a range of internal strengths and resources on which its foreign policy ultimately depends. America has the world’s leading innovation hub and financial sector, a profoundly stable constitutional system, and remains a magnet for global talent. Its ethnic, cultural, and religious makeup—more varied than any other Western country—allow it to comfortably straddle liberalism, democracy, and markets with faith, tradition, and nationalism, allowing it to weather the world’s political and ideological upheavals. And the American Dream continues to inspire millions, as the brave American flag-waving protestors in Hong Kong demonstrated at the end of 2019.

At the same time, Americans must be clear-eyed about the obstacles they face in their ability to reshape an international system more favorable to US interests.

The first set of challenges are built into the success of any US-led system. The emphasis American society puts on economic growth, technological progress, the rule of law, and pluralism virtually guarantees the rise of dissatisfied powers.

For American voters and policy makers, that means they can never look forward to the “end of history,” or to the global system settling into some sort of final form. The goal posts will always shift. American achievements in communications and weapons technology, for example, inadvertently narrowed its historic advantage of geographic isolation between two oceans. The development of blockchain-powered digital currency is forcing the United States to reevaluate the foundations of its hegemony in global finance. If India, as the US hopes, achieves Chinese-levels of economic growth, Delhi’s eventual demands on the global system may prove no less significant than Beijing’s. Generations of Americans, therefore, must remain on guard. The emergence of challenges to the United States is intrinsic to its own achievements.

The second set of challenges have emerged within American society itself, which the stewards of US foreign policy virtually ignored until they were brought to the fore by President Trump. 

After the Cold War, successive US administrations pursued world order-building without sufficiently grounding it in the interests of the US electorate. At the same time Washington chased boundless globalization, wages stagnated, cities hollowed out, and innovation slowed. The resulting devastation to various US industries, occupations, classes, and regions created widespread distrust of America’s governing class. That distrust was compounded by two ruinously expensive and unsuccessful wars. A disadvantaged and suspicious electorate, previously more cohesive and optimistic, was offered only further erosion.

From government bureaucracies to legacy media outlets and elite universities, outmoded public and private institutions in America have blocked the innovation necessary to revitalize American society. Their complacency was and is often supported by an elite class equally dug-in and impervious to change, causing institutional decay in many instances more advanced than in the “Old World” of Europe.

This combination of institutional inertia, confusion, and resistance is a force to be reckoned with, but it is not the most formidable set of challenges American society has ever faced. Previous generations have overcome a wider array of obstacles of still greater intensity. Yet without reversing many of these trends, no foreign policy—no matter how brilliant or lucky—will sustain the public support a democratic great power like the United States requires.

Fortunately, there are signs that reversal is already under way. A mostly bipartisan consensus has formed around the Trump administration’s policy approaches to China, burden sharing, energy, and military restraint, all of which are likely to guide Republicans and Democrats in the decade ahead. The pandemic has also accelerated a new consensus on trade. If differences remain on tariffs and bilateral negotiations, there is nevertheless a new cross-party drive to balance globalization orthodoxy with the interests of Americans workers. This, in turn, will narrow the gap between the public’s perception of US foreign policy goals, and that of the ruling class. 

America’s allies have also shown signs of renewal. Military spending within NATO has increased by $140 billion since 2016. US defense cooperation has deepened with the Baltic and Visegrád states, and strategic reconsiderations of defense potential are occurring in Tokyo and Berlin. A desire to reengage with the world system from the position of national strength has emerged in India and Great Britain. Despite the challenge of China, the East Asian economic miracle continues to benefit America’s strategic interests. 

As the United States draws strength from its alliances, its adversaries have reason to worry. Trade negotiations, tariffs, and export controls had already exposed the fragility of China’s technological strength. Now the pandemic has clarified Beijing’s aspiration to world domination, and depleted its soft power across Europe and Africa. The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the re-imposition of sanctions contracted Iran’s economy by ten percent, and the demonstration of US intelligence and strike capabilities have limited the Iranian regime’s escalatory options. The plummet in global energy prices—first caused by US fracking, then by the pandemic and a Saudi-Russian price war—has deprived the Kremlin of resources to expand military operations in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya. Unlike the United States, all three hostile powers suffer from an extreme dearth of actual allies, as neither Beijing, nor Moscow, nor Tehran offer their respective regions much beyond domination, exploitation, violence, and obedience.

Recovering the National Interest 

Tying this all together is a development no less significant to the future of the global system than the rise of China. Since 2017, the United States has recovered the national interest as the lode star of its foreign policy. In the wake of the last few decades, this is no small event.

What is common sense in most other societies, the national interest has always been a difficult concept for a people as idealistic as Americans, who have long been intoxicated by their own version of the convergence myth: That the arc of history bends towards justice. In a foreign policy context, the arc of history is meant to bend toward liberal democracy and market economics, regardless of the diverse national histories, traditions, and values of other societies.

At least dating back to the Woodrow Wilson administration, Americans had grown attached to the idea that the core objective of US foreign policy is to make every corner of the world safe for democracy. For Wilson’s ideological descendants, disagreements were mainly had over how to achieve the same goal—that is, over whether the United States should administer progress by actively intervening, or by simply getting out of the way. Even if the desirability of the goal was absolute, its soundness as a credible policy objective was seldom challenged.

This type of missionary foreign policy was destined for national and international instability. It carried the flawed assumption that all foreign societies must eventually reflect some version of the Western or American model. And it made the equally dangerous mistake of not constraining the objectives of US foreign policy with the country’s social, political, and military limitations. 

As obvious as they may appear in the political climate of 2020, these seemingly basic conceptual errors were all but baked into the strategic thinking of America’s governing class, leading presidents as different as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama to make the same core mistakes. These leaders believed that the increase in the number of democracies in the world was inevitable and irreversible, and that this trend eliminated the need for old concepts like the national interest, geopolitical competition, and the balance of power. Thus US foreign policy almost depended for its coherence on unenforceable global accords, illusory transitions to democracy, and illusive “wars of ideas,” regardless of whether they had a clear understanding of the threats the United States faced or the outcomes it could realistically achieve.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the United States has shaken off its peculiar expectations of history. Nation-building, international protocols, and the absolutist promotion of Western-style democracy are no longer independent, standalone objectives of American foreign policy. Starting with domestic growth, innovation, and defense as its ultimate purposes, the Trump administration’s foreign policy has aimed instead to reshape a more stable and favorable global system. The core tenets of this foreign policy will likely guide the United States not only through the current pandemic, but also in the years to come.

Richard Grenell is currently the Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia-Kosovo Peace Negotiations and a Senior Fellow in the Institute of Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University. He has previously served as US Ambassador to Germany, Acting Director of National Intelligence, and US spokesperson at the United Nations.