Before being elected president, Donald Trump had already disparaged many American allies during the 2016 campaign, questioning the point of NATO and suggesting he might abandon defense treaties with countries like Japan and South Korea, among other criticisms of longstanding U.S. foreign policy. So there were immediate questions, and lots of angst, about what effect his presidency would have on U.S. relations around the world.
Three years later, Trump’s often boorish behavior has had an undeniable impact on America’s relationships with its allies. Yet America’s alliances have not fallen apart, and many far-flung friends still have good relations with Washington. The most surprising development, instead, may be that many of these countries are not getting along with each other like they did before the Trump presidency. Some of these relationships are even at risk of permanently unraveling, at great risk to the United States. The network of international partnerships that have bolstered America’s national security, acting as a multiplier of U.S. influence, is clearly fraying, while the Trump administration is doing little to stop it.
In fact, Trump is not only dismissive of frictions between some of America’s closest friends, but in many cases is personally adding to them. In the Persian Gulf, Arab countries that have close links with the U.S. are sharply at odds with each other, while in East Asia, South Korea and Japan are engaged in a bitterly escalating feud. In Europe, where Trump’s constant criticism of NATO members has prompted some of America’s closest allies to openly question whether they can rely on Washington in the future, Trump is also cheering on Brexit, the biggest blow against European unity since the European Union was established.