President Trump could make a big difference to US foreign policy. He is likely to confine interventions in the Middle East to assisting the defeat of ISIS, often where requested by the incumbent government of the country concerned. He is unlikely to pursue the policy of his predecessor of seeking to confront both sides in the Syrian conflict, struggling to find a third force that he can credibly support with some chance of winning. This also means he will reduce some of the tension with Russia, which could flare under the previous policy given the proximity of Russian and US jets to each other over Syria and the disagreements over how to handle some of the present incumbent governments.
There will be three big changes of foreign policy. The first will be a more assertive attitude towards China, particularly on trade matters. Mr Trump will be wanting some wins to show that he is tackling what he thinks is unfair competition from the world’s most successful goods exporter.
The second will be a more sceptical approach to the EU. No longer will the US actively encourage EU political integration, and no longer will the US see Mrs Merkel as the de facto leader of the an EU coming together to be a single cohesive unit. Mr Trump may well prove to be on the side of history in this, as Brexit is followed by political advances of parties hostile to the Euro or to more EU integration in various continental elections this year.
The third will be what he sets out to achieve in his first well advertised summit with Mr Putin. I doubt Mr Trump and his experienced and tough Cabinet members are a pushover who like all that Russia does and says. They do look as if they are willing to seek common ground on reducing nuclear warheads, and seeing how the world might combat ISIS whilst bringing the Middle East closer to peace. From Russia’s point of view they have a US President who might be willing to take them seriously and strike some common ground around the world as a token of the US understanding of Russia’s role. From Mr Trump’s point of view it would be good to draw a line under the numerous not very successful wars the US has fought in recent years in the Middle East, and to gain more time to concentrate on the economy at home which is his prime concern.
My main worry about Mrs Clinton as a candidate was her bellicose approach to the Middle East and Russia, wishing to do more of the same which has left the Middle East with too many civil and religious wars. Whilst the west did not cause the disputes or want to bring about civil wars that combusted from within, recent policy has made too little progress in trying to resolve the conflicts and rid the region of its extremists. Lets hope the new team has some better ideas.