With so many people asking about President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy stance and if he would be living up to all those promises he made on the campaign trail, his camp has realized it’s time to act.
Rumors have swirled about world leaders not knowing who to get in contact with on Trump’s transition team, and now it appears he’ll be doing his first big meeting.
Donald Trump sought to reassure nervous leaders around the globe with his most public foray into foreign policy since the election, welcoming Japan’s prime minister to Trump Tower on Thursday. On Capitol Hill, his incoming vice president aimed to project unity at home.
Trump had a face-to-face meeting late Thursday with Shinzo Abe, his first with a world leader since last week’s vote, after consulting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and sitting down with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a potential contender to lead the State Department.
In Washington, Vice President-elect Mike Pence huddled with Republican leaders in Congress. He then met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the newly elected leader of the Senate Democrats, seeking to convey respect as Democrats prepare for Republican rule of both chambers and the White House for the first time in a decade.
“We look forward to finding ways that we can find common ground and move the country forward,” Pence said outside Schumer’s Senate office.
In a separate gesture of reconciliation with establishment Republicans, Trump planned to meet with 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who lambasted Trump as a “con man” and a “fraud” in a stinging speech last March. Trump responded by repeatedly referring to Romney as a “loser.”
The two began mending fences after Trump’s victory when Romney called with congratulations. They are to meet this weekend, a transition official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss Trump’s schedule publicly. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said they were still “working on” the meeting.
Trump’s actions Thursday aimed to show leaders both in the U.S. and overseas that he could soften his rhetoric, offer pragmatism in the White House and reaffirm longstanding American alliances. Since his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton last week, Trump has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and nearly three dozen other world leaders by telephone. But Abe’s visit to Trump’s midtown Manhattan high-rise was his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader since the end of the campaign.
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, also visited the skyscraper and called Trump “a true friend of Israel.” He specifically cited as another “friend” Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, whose selection as a top White House adviser has created a backlash among Democrats. Bannon’s news website has peddled conspiracy theories, white nationalism and anti-Semitism.
“We look forward to working with the Trump administration, with all the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, in making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever,” Dermer said.
Trump, a reality television star, business mogul and political newcomer, also rolled out new teams that will interact with the State Department, Pentagon, Justice Department and other national security agencies. The move is part of the government transition before Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
One potential Cabinet member, Eva Moskowitz, said had taken herself out of the running to become education secretary. Moskowitz, a Democrat and advocate for charter schools, met with Trump this week, stoking speculation that she might inject a bit of bipartisanship in the new administration.
Moskowitz, who voted for Clinton, suggested there were “positive signs” that Trump might govern differently than he campaigned, but she wrote in a letter to parents that many of her students, who are overwhelmingly black and Latino, would feel that “they are the target of the hatred that drove Trump’s campaign.”
Conway said she expected initial announcements of Cabinet choices to come “before or right after Thanksgiving,” telling reporters Trump he was “loving” the transition. “He’s a transactional guy. He’s somebody who’s used to delivering results and producing.”
Trump’s transition team finally finished key paperwork clearing the way for the White House to start sharing information. Coordination had been on hold until Trump’s team submitted documents including a list of transition team members who will coordinate with specific federal agencies, plus the certification that they meet a code of conduct barring conflicts of interest.
White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said the minimum paperwork was finished Thursday, meaning agencies could start providing briefings and written materials to Trump’s team. Indeed, the departments of State, Defense and Justice say meetings are being set up.
Trump’s calendar has been packed with sit-downs.
During his meeting with Kissinger, who led the State Department under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the two discussed relations with China, Russia, Iran and the European Union. Other meetings have included Haley, the daughter of Indian-born parents, who would bring diversity to a Trump administration, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling.
As he left Trump Tower, Hensarling, who leads the House Financial Services Committee, said he and the president-elect had discussed tax and trade policies – and he left open the possibility of joining the administration.
“I stand ready to help the president in any capacity possible,” he said. “I’ve got a great position in public policy today. If he wants to talk to me obviously about serving somewhere else, we’ll look at serving somewhere else.”
Donald Trump’s Top 10 Foreign Policy Promises: Will He Be Able To Keep Them?
THAT MEXICO WALL
Trump pledged to build a wall along the southwest border — and make Mexico pay for it, possibly by withholding remittances that Mexicans in the U.S. send back home. But Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who met with Trump in August, has said flatly that Mexico won’t finance such a project.
In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Trump said the wall with Mexico was still part of his plan.
When asked if he would accept a fence, as has been discussed in the Republican-controlled Congress, Trump said, “For certain areas I would, but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate. I’m very good at this; it’s called construction.”
Trump also said in the interview that he would deport 2 million to 3 million people who are in the U.S. illegally and suspected of having criminal records. More than half are estimated to be Mexican, and sending so many back would create a logistical challenge for the U.S. and an economic and humanitarian crisis for Mexico.
Trump said he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem, breaking with a half-century of U.S. policy that says the future of Jerusalem must be decided in talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war. Last week, Trump adviser Walid Phares told the BBC that moving the embassy would happen under “consensus,” not right away.
Trump also has said he would support the continued existence of Israeli settlements built on land claimed as well by Palestinians, a reversal of bipartisan U.S. policy that considers the settlements illegal.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
Trump has repeatedly mocked and derided the nuclear deal the Obama administration negotiated with Iran and five other world powers.
In September 2015, Trump said he would “renegotiate” the agreement, which limits Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful activities in return for lifting crippling sanctions. In October, Trump said Iran “should write us a letter of thank you” for “the stupidest deal of all time.” Vice President-elect Mike Pence said the deal would be “ripped up” after consultation with U.S. allies.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said officials will explain the merits of the deal to Trump’s transition team, though any decision about sticking to the terms of the agreement would be up to the next administration.
U.S. TROOPS IN ASIA
Trump said in April that the United States spends too much on posting troops in Japan and South Korea. He said these nations should spend more on their own defense, including developing nuclear weapons, if necessary.
He threatened to withdraw troops if Japan and South Korea didn’t increase compensation for posting them there.
Withdrawing troops that have been stationed there for more than a half-century could create a power vacuum at a time when North Korea has been displaying aggressive behavior with nuclear and missile tests. And China has been asserting its might by building military facilities in areas of the South China Sea claimed by other Asian nations.
PARIS CLIMATE DEAL
Last December, the United States and nearly 200 other countries adopted the world’s first pact to limit emissions of gasses that nearly all scientists say are warming the planet. Trump — who has called climate change a “hoax” — has vowed to renegotiate the deal.
That won’t be easy. The Paris Agreement includes a section that makes it difficult for countries to withdraw once the pact takes force. That status was reached Nov. 4 — unusually fast by international standards, in part because of fears of a Trump presidency.
Legally, a country can withdraw three years after the agreement goes into force, and then it must wait a year for the withdrawal to go into effect. That means a formal withdrawal by the U.S. could not happen before 2020, at the end of Trump’s four-year term.
Under current rules, a country can stay in the Paris Agreement but simply ignore its obligations, a path Trump could take.
Trump has said he would reconsider the NATO alliance if other member countries don’t pay their share of common defense expenditures, 2% of gross domestic product. Only five countries — the United States, Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia and Poland — meet that benchmark.
During his campaign, Trump shocked Europe after vowing that he might not automatically come to the aid of NATO allies if they were attacked. Instead, he would first look at their contributions to the 28-nation alliance.
President Obama said Monday that he can reassure allies that his successor supports NATO. Trump has not responded to Obama’s latest comments.
Trump pledged during the campaign to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to revive U.S. manufacturing jobs that have fled to Mexico, where labor costs are much cheaper. During one debate, Trump called NAFTA “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country.”
If Trump decides he wants to renegotiate NAFTA, it won’t be simple, since both Canada and Mexico would have to agree to any changes.
Republican and Democratic supporters of NAFTA agree that the trade pact has produced some U.S. losers — those who lost their jobs because of increased competition from Canada and Mexico imports. Overall, however, NAFTA has been a net positive for the U.S. economy by increasing U.S. exports and jobs.
Former president George W. Bush said Tuesday that NAFTA has created millions of jobs, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Trump could withdraw the United States from NAFTA, the World Trade Organization and bilateral trade deals with other countries. But such a provocative step could invite retaliation in the form of import duties on U.S. goods. The result would be a global trade war that could trigger a worldwide recession.
RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
Candidate Trump expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. During NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief” forum on Sept. 14, Trump said, “Certainly in that system, he’s been a leader far more than our president has been a leader.”
Trump has promised to improve ties with Putin after a frosty relationship with the Obama administration, which imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 for annexing Ukraine’s Crimea province and aiding pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The U.S. also opposes Russia’s expanded military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in his bloody civil war against rebel groups. In addition, U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russia of hacking Democratic National Committee emails and providing them to WikiLeaks in an effort to interfere in the U.S. election.
Trump said in July that Russia “is not going into Ukraine,” although it had already annexed Crimea and has military assets in eastern Ukraine, according to the White House and NATO.
In a phone call Monday, Trump and Putin agreed that U.S.-Russian relations are in “extremely unsatisfactory” condition now. The two also discussed the need to join forces to combat international terrorism. Hours after the phone call, Russia launched a major military offensive in Syria on behalf of Assad, who President Obama wants to step aside because of brutality against his own people.
The Kremlin said Trump and Putin spoke about the need “to normalize ties and engage in constructive cooperation on a broad range of issues.” The Kremlin also pledged to build “dialogue with the new administration on the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other.”
COMBATING THE ISLAMIC STATE
Trump has declined to talk about his plans for defeating the Islamic State, saying he doesn’t want to tip off the enemy. But he has also said he will give his generals 30 days after he takes office to come up with a plan to soundly defeat the militant group.
In general, he has hinted at ramping up the war against the radical militant group, but avoid getting the United States into a Middle East quagmire. He has not advocated using large numbers of U.S. ground troops to do the fighting. “I’m going to bomb the s— out of them,” Trump said last year.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. military and its allies have made steady progress in pushing the Islamic State out of most of Iraq and are now moving in on Mosul — the last major Iraqi city in the militants’ hands. The coalition is also targeting the terror group’s headquarters in Syria.
As the Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria since its peak in 2014, the group has reverted to more traditional terror tactics around the world. Some “lone-wolf” attacks by Islamic State supporters have proven virtually impossible to stop, even as the group suffers losses on the battlefield.
ENDING SYRIAN WAR
Trump has hinted that he might cooperate with Assad and Russia to defeat the Islamic State in Syria. Currently, the United States is targeting the Islamic State but refuses to coordinate with Russia because of its support for Assad and attacks on U.S.-backed rebel groups.
Trump told The Wall Street Journal last week that he would withdraw support for Syrian rebels battling Assad and work with Russia to fight the Islamic State.
But after more than five years of civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced millions to flee their homes, the conflict in Syria shows no signs of ending. And the continued chaos provides a safe haven for terror groups such as the Islamic State.