WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump starts the new year knee-deep in daunting foreign policy challenges at the same time he’ll have to deal with a likely impeachment trial in the Senate and the demands of a reelection campaign.
There’s still no end in sight to America’s longest war in Afghanistan. North Korea hasn’t given up its nuclear weapons. Add to that simmering tensions with Iran, fallout from Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria, ongoing unease with Russia and Turkey, and erratic ties with European and other longtime Western allies.
Trump is not popular overseas, and being an impeached president who must simultaneously run for reelection could reduce the time, focus and political clout needed to resolve complex global issues like North Korea’s nuclear provocations. Some foreign powers could decide to just hold off on finalizing any deals until they know whether Trump will be reelected. Trump himself has acknowledged the challenge in his Dec. 26 tweet:
“Despite all of the great success that our Country has had over the last 3 years, it makes it much more difficult to deal with foreign leaders (and others) when I am having to constantly defend myself against the Do Nothing Democrats & their bogus Impeachment Scam. Bad for USA!”
At the same time, there is widespread expectation that Trump never will be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate, so 2020 could well bring more of the same from the president on foreign policy, said Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
“America still has an awful lot of power,” said Neumann, a three-time ambassador and former deputy assistant secretary of state. “With a year to go, a president can still make a lot of waves, impeachment or not.”
For Trump, 2019 was a year of two steps forward, one step back — sometimes vice versa — on international challenges. Despite claiming that “I know deals, I think, better than anybody knows deals,″ he’s still trying to close a bunch.
Trump scored high marks for the U.S. military raid in Syria that killed the leader of the Islamic State, but U.S. military leaders worry about a resurgence. He is credited with coaxing NATO allies to commit to spend billions more on defense, but along the way has strained important relationships.
His agreement on a “Phase 1” trade deal with China has reduced tensions in their ongoing trade war. But the deal largely puts off for later complex issues surrounding U.S. assertions that China is cheating to gain supremacy on technology and China’s accusation that Washington is trying to restrain Beijing’s ascent as a world power.