Published 5th April 2024

Trump wants to change the world from the White House

Here's what he's said he'd do in a second term

Barbara Miller and Brad Ryan | Australian Broadcasting Corporation | April 5, 2024

From ending the war in Ukraine in a day, to encouraging Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members that don’t pay the bills, Donald Trump’s public proclamations on the foreign policy he’d pursue have alarmed allies.

If he were to win back the White House, he could become a player in two major conflicts, in Ukraine and Gaza.

So what would his approach in those theatres be, as well as to the US’s relationship with China?

Would he honour the AUKUS deal under which Australia is set to acquire nuclear-powered submarines?

And could he and would he make good on the veiled threat to try to oust Australia’s US ambassador Kevin Rudd over his previous criticisms of the former president?

Trump is now the presumptive Republican nominee for the November presidential election. Barring some major upset, he’ll be confirmed at the party’s convention in July.

What he has said so far about his foreign policy goals is typically characterised by bombast and contradictions, but it matters because there’s now a very real chance he could return to the role of commander-in-chief.

We previously looked at how Trump 2.0 could play out on the domestic front. Now, through his own words, we examine Trump’s plans for the international stage.

Trump’s starting point on many of the world’s most seemingly intractable problems is that things would have been different under his leadership.

More than a year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine he told CNN the war “would never have happened” if he had been president.

“All those dead people, both Russian and Ukrainian … they wouldn’t be dead today,” he said.

And he pledged: “I will have that war settled in one day, 24 hours.”

Trump hasn’t spelled out exactly how he’d go about that, but he is arguably already having an impact on the war in Ukraine.

At his behest, his America First allies in congress are blocking the passage of $US60 billion ($91 billion) of US security assistance to Ukraine, which Trump has called “an endless flow of American treasure”.

Trump’s suggestion that any money flowing to Kyiv should be in the form of a loan is now gaining some traction.

“We should loan them the money so that if they do make it … they’re against tremendous odds, but if they make it, they pay us back,”he told a campaign rally in Ohio last month.

He called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “one of the greatest salesmen in history”.

“Every time he comes to the country, he walks away with $50 or $60 billion.”

Trump could also try to persuade the Russian and Ukrainian leaders to strike some kind of deal.

“I would get him [Putin] into a room, I’d get Zelenskyy into a room, then I’d bring them together and I’d have a deal worked out,” he told NBC.

Emma Doyle, a former White House principal deputy chief of staff in Trump’s administration, says he “tends to really believe if you can get everyone in one room, you can start hashing things out”.

“He does see himself as a unique deal maker.”

But Russia expert Brian Taylor, from New York’s Syracuse University, says even if the two leaders agreed to sit down at the negotiating table, it was hard to imagine Zelenskyy ever signing off on ceding Russian-occupied land.

“It’s a territory as large as Switzerland and Austria combined, so I don’t think any Ukrainian politician would agree to that and stay in power.”

Despite persistent rocky relations between their two countries over issues ranging from human rights to spy balloons, Trump has no issue praising China’s president, Xi Jinping.

“I like President Xi a lot,” Trump told Fox News this week. “He was a very good friend of mine during my term.”

In fact, Trump’s previous term in office began with a trade war with China, resulting in the estimated loss of almost 300,000 American jobs. Trump slapped tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods, and Biden has kept them in place.

“I want China to do great,” Trump said in this week’s Fox interview. But when asked about a report he was considering a new flat 60 per cent tariff on all Chinese imports, Trump said: “No, I would say maybe it’s going to be more than that.”

He insisted, “It’s not a trade war.”But it shows Trump wants to continue to be, and be seen as, a tough protectionist when it comes to China.

A report from Washington’s Brookings think tank says whether Trump wins the election or not, “America’s economic policy toward China will likely grow tighter, rather than looser”.

But Trump would aim for a more full-scale “decoupling” of the two countries’ economies, the report says.

“Trump would favour broad-based decoupling and would be willing to tolerate high costs in pursuit of such a goal, whereas Biden likely would focus on targeted de-risking in areas of the economy that have national security or human rights nexuses.”

Joe Hockey watched US-China relations go downhill as Australia’s ambassador to the US during the trade war that marked Trump’s first term.

“Whether it’s Biden or Trump, I see relations [with China] continuing to deteriorate,” he says.

“That’s going to remain a significant challenge for Australia. We have to navigate that really carefully.”

Taiwan remains a major point of contention in the relationship. US officials have warned China could invade Taiwan by 2027, and while the US does not formally support Taiwan’s independence, it considers it a “key US partner in the Indo-Pacific” and provides it with military support.

Neither Trump nor Biden have explicitly said they would send troops to defend Taiwan if it were invaded.

When asked on Fox, Trump said: “I won’t tell you now because that would really jeopardise my negotiating ability with China.”

Read the full article at

Photo credit: ABC News

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