Dec 14th 2016

Trump’s Foreign Policy Under Tillerson And Bolton

by Daniel Wagner

 

Daniel Wagner is the founder and CEO of Country Risk Solutions and a widely published author on current affairs and risk management.

Daniel Wagner began his career at AIG in New York and subsequently spent five years as Guarantee Officer for the Asia Region at the World Bank Group's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency in Washington, D.C. After then serving as Regional Manager for Political Risks for Southeast Asia and Greater China for AIG in Singapore, Daniel moved to Manila, Philippines where he held several positions - including as Senior Guarantees and Syndications Specialist - for the Asian Development Bank's Office of Co-financing Operations. Prior to forming CRS he was Senior Vice President of Country Risk at GE Energy Financial Services. He also served as senior consultant for the African Development Bank on institutional investment.

Daniel Wagner is the author of seven books: The America-China Divide, China Vision, AI Supremacy, Virtual Terror, Global Risk Agility and Decision Making, Managing Country Risk, and Political Risk Insurance Guide. He has also published more than 700 articles on risk management and current affairs and is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post, Sunday Guardian, and The National Interest, among many others. (For a full listing of his publications  and media interviews please see www.countryrisksolutions.com).

Daniel Wagner holds master's degrees in International Relations from the University of Chicago and in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix. He received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from Richmond College in London.

Daniel Wagner can be reached at: daniel.wagner@countryrisksolutions.com.

With the presumed designation of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton as Deputy Secretary of State, Donald Trump will be sending a clear message to the world: the U.S. is open for business (presumably to the highest bidder), it will be carrying a big stick, there will be no speaking softly, and the operative word will be “bulldozer.” There will effectively be no subtlety, no negotiation, and no shades of grey: starting in January, it will be Trump’s way or the highway.

For those Trump voters who might have imagined that he would assemble a cabinet and team of advisors attuned to the needs of the blue-collar worker or man in the street, it should be becoming crystal clear by now that they have been hoodwinked. Instead, the Trump Administration is turning out to be the domain of big business, billionaires, and Goldman Sachs. How anyone could have imagined that a man who has never worked a blue-collar day in his life nor associated with ordinary people until his run for the presidency would be genuinely transformed into the champion of the working class always defied logic. Given that Trump has so far refused to personally divest himself of his business interests during his presidency, it is plain for all to see that he plans to enrich himself and his family on the backs of the American economy. Tillerson’s appointment would be consistent with that objective.

The very idea that Trump would propel Tillerson to the role of Secretary of State is a real slap in the face to the rest of the world. America’s presumed top diplomat-in-waiting has no experience in government, or outside of Exxon Mobil. He is best known for arranging a $500 billion deal with Russia’s Rosneft to jointly drill for oil in the Arctic and Siberia, until it was side tracked by the Obama Administration’s sanctions against Russia in return for the forced annexation of Crimea. Tillerson knows how to get a deal done, but there is no evidence — at all — that he has any of the skills ordinarily associated with a diplomat, such as tactfulness, sensitivity, discretion, finesse, judiciousness, or prudence. Perhaps that is the point — Trump did not want to put in place a Secretary of State with traditional skills of diplomacy, because, to him, the world is about extracting maximum advantage from one’s allies and opponents, not arriving at solutions where all parties’ needs are met.

By comparison, Bolton has good diplomatic credentials. Apart from his brief stint at the UN, Bolton was an Undersecretary of State, has held a number of other positions in government and at prestigious think tanks in Washington, and won praise for his work in establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative. However, some of his critics have alleged that Bolton has tried to spin intelligence to support his own political views. His bluntness has earned him a variety of governmental enemies, with Iran’s foreign ministry having called him “rude” and “undiplomatic,” and North Korea’s government having referred to him as “human scum.” This is not a particularly good place to start if one of the Trump Administration’s foreign policy objectives is to make progress with America’s most ardent foes. It would appear that his objective is exactly the opposite.

What is clear is that one of Trump’s near-term goals is to strengthen America’s relationship with Russia. Given that Tillerson is extremely close with Putin, his role in the government would certainly be a step in that direction. But Russia is an issue in which Tillerson and Bolton will surely butt heads. As a high-profile neocon, Bolton has a traditional view of Russia as ‘the enemy’. How the two will come to terms with that remains to be seen. While Bolton shares Trump’s view vis-à-vis Iran, North Korea and a variety of other foreign policy concerns, as a member of the failed Washington foreign policy elite that Trump so frequently and virulently opposed on the campaign trail, Bolton’s appointment is yet another fundamental contradiction that must leave Trump supporters scratching their heads.

Trump’s approach to creating a government, running the government, and crafting a foreign policy has all the makings of a business transaction in which he imagines that everyone else in the world can’t wait to ‘do business’ with America, and that the U.S. is the world’s first choice - for everything. That is obviously his world view, which, he believes, has been the key to his success, and is central to America’s future success. He, and America, are in for a rude awakening with this approach, however. Many of its allies — particularly in Europe — are already wondering if Trump’s America is worth being allied with, questioning basic tenets of American post-war foreign policy, and whether the U.S. can be depended upon to adhere to its historical and ‘binding’ security, aid, and other commitments. America’s enemies must already have come to the conclusion that, at least for the next four years, there is no point in even trying to negotiate with a U.S. president and administration that subscribes to a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ view of the world.

What seems clear is that the next four years are going to be a period of profound transformation - for America and the world. Trump is riding an alternative political wave already under way in countries such as the UK, the Philippines and Turkey. Rather than attempting to put a lid on the unraveling of the West’s post-war security and foreign policy architecture, Trump is intent on ensuring that it proceeds full throttle. America voted in a president who promised to be a change agent, and we are all now on an out of control roller coaster ride that will have previously unheard of twists, turns, and perils. With foreign policy being reduced to a series of business transactions, and with diplomacy now a function of who can shout the loudest and hurl the worst obscenity, anything is possible.




Daniel Wagner
 is Managing Director of Risk Solutions at Risk Cooperative, a Washington, D.C.-based specialty strategy, risk and capital management firm. He was previously CEO of Country Risk Solutions -- a cross-border risk advisory firm he founded -- and Senior Vice President of Country Risk at GE Energy Financial Services.

Daniel Wagner began his career at AIG in New York and subsequently spent five years as Guarantee Officer for the Asia Region at the World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency in Washington, D.C. During that time he was responsible for underwriting political risk insurance (PRI) for projects in a dozen Asian countries. After serving as Regional Manager for Political Risks for Southeast Asia and Greater China for AIG in Singapore, Daniel moved to Manila, Philippines where he was Guarantee and Risk Management Advisor, Political Risk Guarantee Specialist, and Senior Guarantees and Syndications Specialist for the Asian Development Bank’s Office of Co-financing Operations. Over the course of his career Daniel has also held senior positions in the PRI brokerage business in London, Dallas and Houston.

He has published more than 500 articles on risk management and current affairs and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, South China Morning Post and The National Interest, among many others. His editorials have been published in such notable newspapers as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Daniel is also the author of three books: "Political Risk Insurance Guide", "Managing Country Risk", and "Global Risk Agility and Decision Making" (co-authored with Risk Cooperative CEO, Dante Disparte).

He holds master’s degrees in International Relations from the University of Chicago and in International Management from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Phoenix. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Richmond College in London.

Daniel Wagner can be reached at: dwagner@riskcooperative.com or 1-203-570-1005.



 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 29th 2022
EXTRACTS "Ever since she became a prominent political figure 12 years ago, Truss has been a shapeshifter. She started as a Liberal Democrat before becoming a Conservative, and she voted to remain in the European Union before championing Brexit. As a minister, it is hard to think of anything she accomplished. She signed a few EU trade deals as Secretary of State for International Trade, but most of those were rollovers." --- "But if until recently it seemed that Truss was driven solely by political ambition, her government’s 'mini-budget' proposal sheds light on her deeper ideological affinities."
Sep 20th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russia’s focus on Ukraine and Putin’s choice to frame this as a civilisational struggle with the west has created opportunities for China to enhance its influence elsewhere – at Russia’s expense."
Sep 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: ”The Ukrainian army is making spectacular advances,” --- “…the European Union has fully mobilized to confront the energy crisis.” ---- “we are helping our partners in the Global South to handle the fallout from Russia’s brutal aggression and cynical weaponization of energy and food.” ---- “In short: the overall strategy is working. We must continue to support Ukraine, pressure Russia with sanctions, and help our global partners in a spirit of solidarity.”
Sep 8th 2022
EXTRACT: "In 1950, a team of sociologists, including the philosopher Theodor Adorno, conducted an empirical study, later published as The Authoritarian Personality, which ....... “If a potentially fascistic individual exists, what, precisely, is he like? What goes to make up antidemocratic thought? What are the organizing forces within the person?... what have been the determinants and what is the course of his development?”
Aug 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Russian aggression certainly poses a threat; but it is a familiar one that we know how to deal with. Rising temperatures, dry riverbeds, parched landscapes, falling crop yields, acute energy shortages, and disruptions to industrial production are something else."
Aug 25th 2022
EXTRACTS: "As the revolutionary founder of a new Chinese state, Mao emphasized ideology over development. For Deng and his successors, it was the opposite: De-emphasis of ideology was viewed as necessary to boost economic growth through market-based 'reform and opening up.' Then came Xi. Initially, there was hope that his so-called 'Third Plenum Reforms' of 2013 would usher in a new era of strong economic performance. But the new ideological campaigns carried out under the general rubric of Xi Jinping Thought, including a regulatory clampdown on once-dynamic Internet platform companies and associated restrictions on online gaming, music, and private tutoring, as well as a zero-COVID policy that has led to never-ending lockdowns, have all but dashed those hopes." ----- "With the upcoming 20th Party Congress likely to usher in an unprecedented third five-year term for Xi, there is good reason to believe that China’s growth sacrifice has only just begun."
Aug 23rd 2022
EXTRACTS: "Less widely noted, however, is that the prices of many commodities fell this summer. The price of oil decreased by about 30% between early June and mid-August. The politically sensitive price of gasoline in the United States fell by 20% over the same period, from $5 per gallon to $4 per gallon. The overall index fell 12%." ---- "There are two macroeconomic reasons to think that commodity prices in general will fall further. The level of economic activity is a self-evidently important determinant of demand for commodities and therefore of their prices. Less obviously, the real interest rate is another key factor. And the current outlook for both global growth and real interest rates suggests a downward path for commodity prices."
Aug 22nd 2022
EXTRACT: "How Trump planned to use the classified documents remains a question that investigators presumably have made a high priority. Depending on the answer and the resulting charges, if any, one thing is certain: Trump will play hardball, including by amplifying his claims of victimhood at the hands of the fictional Deep State, and denying any wrongdoing in purloining the documents. His lies and hyperbole, however, don’t preclude seeking a plea deal. In his previous tangles with the law, such as his Trump University scam, he agreed to compensate the victims (in that case $25 million) after his prevarications were exhausted."
Aug 21st 2022
"On one side, there is the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, for whom all but the most partisan Tory would struggle to count many successes during her lengthy cabinet career." ---- "Rishi Sunak, whose proposed policies appear more attuned to the imperative of tackling inflation and the hardship it is causing. But on the big issues of the past few years, Sunak has been wrong. He backed Brexit from the beginning, denies the damage it is doing, and enthusiastically supported Johnson’s bid for the premiership." ---- " Which of these two can offer honesty to the British people, who deserve to be treated like grown-ups? To paraphrase the US Democratic politician Adlai Stevenson, the average man and woman are better than average."
Aug 10th 2022
EXTRACT: "Central banks are thus locked in a “debt trap”: any attempt to normalize monetary policy will cause debt-servicing burdens to spike, leading to massive insolvencies, cascading financial crises, and fallout in the real economy. ---- With governments unable to reduce high debts and deficits by spending less or raising revenues, those that can borrow in their own currency will increasingly resort to the “inflation tax”: relying on unexpected price growth to wipe out long-term nominal liabilities at fixed rates."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACT: ".... the likelihood is that Biden, who spent his life as a senator, played a central behind-the-scenes role in turning Manchin around and keeping the Democratic Party Senators together on this pared-down version of Build Back Better. Biden’s legislative accomplishments, not to mention his administrative ones, will likely end up being very impressive for the first two years of his presidency. ------ In matters of climate, every ton of CO2 you don’t put into the atmosphere is a decrease in how hard life will be for our grandchildren. They will have reason to be grateful to President Biden and the Democratic Party if this bill becomes law."
Jul 29th 2022
EXTRACTS: "Right-wing media outlets including Fox News, One America News (OAN), Newsmax, and talk radio are grossly abusing the right to free speech and are causing profound, if not irreparable damage to our country at home and abroad. They have been engaged in these deliberate practices of spreading poisonous misinformation all in the name of free speech." ---- "A team at MIT, analyzing propaganda techniques in the news, underscores the use of logical fallacies – such as strawmen (the misrepresentation of the other’s position), red herrings (the provision of irrelevancies), false dichotomies (offering two alternatives as the only possibilities), and whataboutism (a diversionary tactic to avoid directly addressing an issue). ---- Whataboutism is worth considering more closely because it is becoming ubiquitous among Republicans – perhaps this is not surprising given that it is certainly Trump’s “favorite dodge.” It is one of the fundamental rules by which he operates: when you are criticized, say that someone else is worse. In an interview with Trump, Bill O’Reilly states the obvious fact that “Putin is a killer,” and who can forget Trump’s response: “There are a lot of killers. You got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” That is classic whataboutism. And it is also of course all over Fox News’ most popular line-up."
Jul 24th 2022
EXTRACTS: "For three hours, against the unequivocal advice of his counsel, friends, and family, Trump purposefully and steadfastly declined to give the mob he had summoned any signal to disperse, to exit the building peacefully, or to simply cease threatening the life of his vice president or other members of Congress." ------ "Trump is corrupt to the core, a traitor who deserves nothing but contempt and to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he remains a menace to this country and an existential threat to our democratic institutions."
Jul 21st 2022
EXTRACT: "For some countries, diasporas also are not new. Just ask the Russians. For three-quarters of a century, Stalin’s NKVD and its successor, the KGB, kept close tabs on expatriate Russians, constantly worrying about the threat they might pose. And now, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security service, the FSB, is continuing the tradition. According to recent FSB estimates, almost four million Russians left the country in the first three months of this year. Obviously, FSB statistics are hard to verify. But the sheer magnitude of this year’s departures is striking."
Jul 20th 2022
EXTRACTS: "We need leaders who will be honest about our problems in the short, medium, and long term. We are becoming poorer than our neighbors, with our per capita growth and productivity lagging behind theirs. We confront surging energy prices, soaring inflation, and public-sector strikes. Our fiscal deficit is uncomfortably high. Our influence is diminished. Far from recognizing these challenges, let alone proposing sensible solutions, the candidates to succeed Johnson are trying to win votes with reckless proposals like ever-larger tax cuts." ----- "There is one exception. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak refuses to abandon the notion that expenditure should bear some relationship to revenue. "
Jul 13th 2022
EXTRACT: "Looking ahead, five factors could make today’s energy crisis even worse. First, Putin has opened a second front in the conflict by cutting back on the contracted volumes of natural gas that Russia supplies to Europe. The goal is to prevent Europeans from storing enough supplies for next winter, and to drive prices higher, creating economic hardship and political discord. In his speech in June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin made his reasoning clear: “Social and economic problems worsening in Europe” will “split their societies” and “inevitably lead to populism … and a change of the elites in the short term.” ...... As it is, Germany is now anticipating the need for gas rationing, and its minister for economic affairs, Robert Habeck, warns of a “Lehman-style contagion” (referring to the 2008 financial crisis) if Europe cannot manage today’s energy-induced economic disruptions."
Jul 5th 2022
EXTRACT: "Fortunately, I am not alone in claiming that the survival of democracy in the US is gravely endangered. The American public has been aroused by the decision overturning Roe. But people need to recognize that decision for what it is: part of a carefully laid plan to turn the US into a repressive regime. We must do everything we can to prevent that. This fight ought to include many people who voted for Trump in the past."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "The Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit described this succinctly in his book On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. In “politics as economics,” material interests are “subject to bargaining, everything is negotiable, whereas in the religious picture, centered on the idea of the holy, the holy is non-negotiable.” This, then, is why politics in the US is now in such a perilous state. More and more, the secular left and the religious right are engaged in a culture war, revolving around sexuality, gender, and race, where politics is no longer negotiable. When that happens, institutions start breaking down, and the stage is set for charismatic demagogues and the politics of violence."
Jul 2nd 2022
EXTRACT: "...EU enlargement is essentially a political decision by member states, based on a multitude of considerations that sometimes include dramatic events. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is such a turning point."
Jun 29th 2022
EXTRACT: "Most market analysts seem to think that central banks will remain hawkish, but I am not so sure. I have argued that they will eventually wimp out and accept higher inflation – followed by stagflation – once a hard landing becomes imminent, because they will be worried about the damage of a recession and a debt trap, owing to an excessive build-up of private and public liabilities after years of low interest rates." ----- "There is ample reason to believe that the next recession will be marked by a severe stagflationary debt crisis. As a share of global GDP, private and public debt levels are much higher today than in the past, having risen from 200% in 1999 to 350% today (with a particularly sharp increase since the start of the pandemic). Under these conditions, rapid normalization of monetary policy and rising interest rates will drive highly leveraged zombie households, companies, financial institutions, and governments into bankruptcy and default."