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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2340

Revolving US Foreign Policy

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

The death of Otto Warmbier, 22, the American student, released by North Korea while in a coma, only to die in America after six days, could potentially be a harbinger of doom in the coming months, as far as the international affairs of the US are concerned.

At present, the US and Russia are at loggerheads over shooting down a Syrian Air Force jet: Russia threaten to shoot down US jets, if they ever enter the aerospace monitored by them; the US, meanwhile, downplay the threat as if it was irrelevant - so much for the corporation between the two nations to take on terrorism at its source!

Having threatened North Korea with military action, the Pentagon appeared have backed down while taking the threats by the latter a bit more seriously. Instead, the US made it clear that it would pursue a diplomatic offensive through the UN Security Council.

Unfortunately, the US is resorting to tightening the sanctions against the North Korea in the hope of forcing it to toe the line, while antagonising the two Veto-wielding members of the UN over issues that could be ironed out diplomatically – Russia and China. In this context, it remains to be seen how the US is going to take on North Korea at diplomatic level without the blessings from Russia and China.

Even in Europe, the policy makers have been left bewildered by mixed signals that come from the US: having branded NATO as obsolete during campaign, the Trump administration made some attempts to signal that it was not the case, after the election. Then, the member states have been told that they must make their financial contribution to the alliance without relying on the US to prop it up.

Much to the dismay of the European leaders, these issues were raised in public rather than behind closed doors, while exposing the fault lines that crisscross the alliance in recent years.

In the Middle East, the situation is not any better either. The questionable US stand over the crisis involving Qatar is a case in point: at the outset, the State Department wanted the two sides to sort the dispute amicably; then, President Trump went public by saying Qatari rulers were responsible for the current impasse for supporting terror at very ‘high level’. A week later, the Trump administration authorized the sale of F15 fighter jets to Qatar, while leaving the political analysts in a comical lurch.

In the Philippines too, the strange developments attracted global headlines: the US declared that the Philippines asked for military assistance to confront IS fighters in Mindanao Island, only to be quashed by President Duterte, who said he never asked for help.

Things took a bizarre twist again, when the US tried to reverse the diplomatic initiatives taken by the Obama administration for Cuba, while stopping short of severing the diplomatic ties.

Both allies and foes of the US are fully aware that the new administration will pursue its much-trumpeted, ‘America First Policy’. They, however, would not have anticipated the oscillation of the foreign policies like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.

What the allies of the US want is a coherent foreign policy, completely in line with the basic Western values. What they so far got, instead, was the vague statements on many fronts that borders on confusion.

The tendency is not good for the US, the undisputed leader of the Free World; it is certainly not good for the allies, which stood by it for decades despite policy differences on many issues.

They can only hope that the views expressed by the president on his Twitter account and policies spelt out by the State Department will converge to a mutually-acceptable central point, rather than diverging from a policy-muddle, as they happen at present.

- Asian Tribune -

Revolving US Foreign Policy
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