There are some hopeful signs that the Trump administration will pursue more traditional national-security goals and stop hammering conservative allies.
President Obama’s foreign policy was notable for headline-grabbing deals with enemies such as Iran and Cuba, and the abandonment of dissidents there and elsewhere. But under the radar, his administration’s trademark was promoting progressive pet projects as new national-security priorities, and bullying “bitter clingers” who resisted them, even when they were treaty allies.
Following President Trump’s election there were hopes that all of this would be reversed, and indeed that happened to the first part in spectacular fashion.
Trump has demanded that Congress make far-reaching changes to the nuclear accord that his predecessor struck with Iran’s ruling mullahs, or he vows to scrap it. He also put limits on exchanges with Cuba’s communist dictators. Dissidents in Cuba and Iran once again feel that Washington has their back. From North Korea to Venezuela and Syria, the appeasement that characterized Obama’s policies has ended.
How is the second part going? There are some very hopeful signs that the administration will pursue more traditional national-security goals and stop hammering conservative allies, but a complete reversal of pushing progressivism on the world will be harder for structural reasons. To stop projects that promote same-sex marriage, street activism, abortion, climate extremism, etc. among allies will require reforms in aid programs that are still to materialize.
First the good news. Conservative governments such as those of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Polish president Andrzej Duda—the European Union’s two bêtes noires—can expect some relief from Obama-era diplomatic browbeating.
Signaling the change in tone, last week Vice President Pence tweeted that he had spoken by phone with Duda’s new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.
Another development has come in Central and Southeastern Europe: the resignation of Hoyt Brian Yee as deputy assistant secretary at the State Department’s European Bureau. Though a DAS, as they are known, doesn’t traditionally wield immense influence, the power vacuum that existed at State for much of 2017 left Yee to pursue policies that conservative leaders in those countries said were biased toward them.