UW News

November 17, 2016

Trump and foreign policy: UW Jackson School faculty speak out

What will the ramifications of a Donald Trump presidency be on United States foreign policy and its place in the world?

Several faculty members in the University of Washington Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies reviewed their areas of expertise — China, Russia, Europe, the Middle East and immigration — in light of this new geopolitical reality. Their comments are below.

These faculty members also will participate in a public panel discussion, “Trump and the World” at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28, in Room 210 of Kane Hall. You can learn more online.

U.S.-China relations uncertain; promised tariffs could spark trade war

By David Bachman, Henry M. Jackson Professor of International Studies

Donald Trump’s election creates great uncertainty in U.S.-China relations.  If he follows through on campaign statements, and imposes 45 percent tariffs on Chinese imports to the U.S., it will be met with Chinese retaliation and a trade war. This will affect Boeing, Costco and the ports of Seattle and Tacoma from a local perspective.

Trump also promises a military buildup and expanded defense spending, but no clear strategy has been provided. People said to be his Asia/China advisers are taking a very harsh line toward China, yet Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping seem to have had a cordial phone conversation. The likely result of all this is pressure and confrontation on trade and cyber issues and splits between incoming administration officials about China policy. Human rights will not figure prominently in Trump’s administration.

Syrian catastrophe breeds nationalism, danger of “major clashes”

By Reşat Kasaba, Jackson School director, Stanley D. Golub Chair of International Studies

A liberal, democratic and internationalist order was built in the west in the aftermath of the Second World War under the leadership of the United States. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of the European Union as a united economic and political unit appeared to be major accomplishments of the rise of such an order. It seems, however, that this order failed to protect those who did not have the skills or the resources to benefit from it.

It became increasingly clear also that the U.S. and the EU were powerless in the face of the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. The instinct to insulate the west from the effects of such conflicts and the anger of those who were marginalized are combining to create a powerful wave of extreme nationalism and xenophobia in country after country. Trump’s victory is the latest example of this trend.

Effective and inclusive policies will have to be put in place to protect, retrain and integrate those who are cast aside by globalization. Only with such policies can liberal internationalism regain its upper hand.

Otherwise, liberalism will find itself pushed further away from power for a very long time. In its place a world consisting of mutually antagonistic and competitive states will arise.  Such a scenario will eventually lead to major clashes that will be catastrophic for humanity.

Deportations could extract tragic cost

By Kathie Friedman, associate professor

If president-elect Donald Trump imprisons or deports up to 3 million undocumented immigrants, as he has pledged to do upon taking office, he will be busting up hardworking, taxpaying families.

If he kills DACA (Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals), an executive action that provides temporary work permits and relief from deportation to about 800,000 young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children and who grew up American, he will be shattering the futures of our students.

Instead, the majority of Americans want to see the government provide a path to legalization, and are pledging to protect and provide sanctuary for our neighbors and friends.

Clean foreign policy slate, but U.S., Russia may yet clash

By Scott Radnitz, associate professor, director of Ellison Center for Russia, East European and Central Asian States

Trump is as close to a clean slate on foreign policy as one can imagine a new U.S. president could be. Perhaps the area on which Trump shed the most light in his thinking is Russia. Trump and Putin were unusually complimentary of one another during the election, and we can presume Trump will seek some kind of accommodation with Russia on issues like Ukraine and sanctions.

However, the Kremlin should be careful what it wishes for. Trump will find it hard to radically reorient U.S. foreign policy and sever longstanding commitments to American allies. At some point, U.S. and Russian interests may openly diverge, and Putin and Trump could engage in a clash of Alpha males for dominance in the relationship. Needless to say, this could lead to disaster for both countries.

Europeans worry over NATO defense, unraveling of relations with west

By Sabine Lang, associate professor, director of the Center for West European Studies

November 9 holds special meaning for Europeans, and Germans in particular. On November 9, 1938, Nazi gangs started a coordinated wave of deadly anti-Jewish attacks across Germany and Austria. On November 9, 1989, the Wall fell in Berlin and ushered in the end of the Cold War.

Now, after November 9, 2016, Europeans worry that they witness the unraveling of transatlantic relations and “the end of the West,” as a large tabloid put it. They hear President-elect Trump question the NATO defense shield over Europe. They see U.S. commitment to the Paris climate agreement vanish. And democratic parties fear that “Trumpism” will bolster rightwing populist sentiments across Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel employed memorable language on November 9, 2016: “Germany and America are bound by common values — democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments.”


For more information, contact Monique Thormann, Jackson School director of communications, at 206-685-0578 or thormann@uw.edu.