The swearing in of our 45th President marks a historic crossroads for American foreign policy. President Donald Trump has threatened to beat back an assurgent China, slap punitive tariffs on the goods of foreign countries who “don’t play by the rules,” and renegotiate a better deal with—as Trump might say—our thrifty NATO allies. Meanwhile, ISIS remains a global threat and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is flexing his geopolitical muscles.
To make matters worse, U.S. and South Korean officials said yesterday that North Korea may be readying two inter-continental ballistic missiles for a test launch in the not-too-distant future.
(Click here to read Senior Defense Policy analyst LtGen Emerson "Emo" Gardner’s analysis of the developing North Korea situation.)
What’s the future of U.S. global leadership in these uncertain times? In the video above, retired Lieutenant General Dan Christman and Hedgeye Senior National Security Analyst offers some answers.
“North Korea is an existential threat to us in the first term of Mr. Trump,” General Christman says. Both President Bush and President Obama were confronted with a Pacific crisis, early in the first year of their presidencies, that required a response from the White House, Defense Department and State Department that was “very delicate,” he says.
A working relationship with China is essential in thwarting an ambitious North Korea. Trump must tread lightly. So far, Christman is concerned:
“I’ve felt here for months and particularly in the wake of the phone call that President-elect Trump took with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen that this is the state-to-state issue to watch. Mr. Trump thinks he can work out a deal transactionally somehow by leveraging Taiwan. I think that’s a huge mistake. The reason I think it’s a mistake is because we need China’s help with North Korea.”
Trump’s tweets may have aggravated an already dicey situation.
“As we have seen him tweet and declare, if North Korea tries any additional long range missiles testing, Trump has said he’s not going to allow that to happen. What does that mean? Will he preemptively go after a missile on its launch pad.”
President Trump hasn’t been a warm welcome to our European allies either. “Mr. Trump does not hold a romantic view about NATO and the European Union,” Christman says. He was shocked to hear Trump suggest more countries might leave the European Union after Britain’s vote to exit.
“What one hears from Mr. Trump is American first,” Christman says. “One hopes that there will be an assurgent U.S. leadership.”
Time will tell.
Click here to watch the entire discussion between Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough and General Christman.