EXCLUSIVE: Ukraine scandal shows Trump always puts personal agenda ahead of national interest, says US foreign policy expert
The American presidency under Donald Trump has been extraordinary. While it is a subject of great debate whether the businessman-turned-politician has served the Constitution well or worse, there is no denying the fact that the US has not seen normal days under him. The latest scandal alleging his links with Ukraine or the earlier accusations that the president had colluded with Russia that influenced the 2016 presidential elections show that even foreign policy has become closely knit with domestic political complexities under the current administration.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) spoke to Russell Lucas, associate professor of International Relations and Global Studies at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, on various issues pertaining to Trump’s foreign policy, over mail. An expert on US foreign policy who has penned the book ‘Institutions and the Politics of Survival in Jordan: Domestic Responses to External Challenges, 1988-2001’, Lucas believes Trump is no less adventurous when it comes to his foreign policy conduct and the president’s bid to showcase his “triumphs” in foreign policy will only impress his supporters.
Here are excerpts from the interview with Dr. Lucas:
MEAWW: Does the Ukraine issue put a big impact on American foreign policy under Donald Trump?
Dr. Lucas: I actually do not see that there will be much of a departure from the current foreign policies under President Trump. He has been putting his stamp on US foreign policy since he took office in ways that fit his vision of putting American interests first.' In practice, as exemplified by the current Ukraine scandal, this means putting his personal interests before traditional national foreign-policy goals.
MEAWW: Is there a chance of US-Russia relations getting affected because of the Ukraine scandal?
Dr. Lucas: While President Trump sees good relations between Russia and the US as being important, the scandal will only strengthen those in Congress and the public who see Russia and Trump’s relationship with Putin as problematic.
MEAWW: Trump is not a president who likes adventurism abroad. Do you think it helps or harms America's foreign policy tradition?
Dr. Lucas: I am not sure if I agree with the statement, if you mean adventurism as meaning the use of US military force, then President Trump has mainly continued military policies of the Obama and even the Bush administrations. President Trump has been adventurous in his embrace of populists and authoritarian leaders that traditionally the US had kept at arm’s length. He also has been adventurous in publicly criticizing allies that if the US had disagreements with they would have been expressed through diplomatic back channels.
MEAWW: Will foreign policy play a role in Trump's re-election bid in 2020?
Dr. Lucas: President Trump will try to showcase his apparent triumphs but that will probably only impress voters who already support him. The Democratic candidates all have tried to highlight their differences in foreign policies and political styles from Trump. However, foreign policy issues historically are less important to US voters than domestic issues.
MEAWW: How do you see Trump's foreign policy performance in countries like Iran and Afghanistan?
Dr. Lucas: In Afghanistan, he is not departing too far from how the US eventually extracted itself from Iraq. Eventually, the US military commitment there will end even if a stable Afghani government is not in place. With Iran, Trump has followed the advice of US neo-conservative hawks and the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia. While the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement left much to be desired, but with Trump pulling the US out of the agreement and then exerting ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran, the administration seems to be following a policy that has no endpoint other than that of wishful thinking while possibly leading to a military conflict the US is not prepared for in the Middle East.
MEAWW: Trump doesn't entertain hardliners in his foreign policy set up but at the same time he follows radical ways in conducting his foreign affairs. How do you see this unique pattern of the president's FP behavior?
Dr. Lucas: In the end, President Trump’s behavior – especially in foreign policy – centers on promoting the image of him as a great and brilliant leader. However, this self-congratulatory behavior eventually weakens the country as a whole.