President Donald Trump framed a new national security strategy Monday that cast his election as a pivot from failed economic policies and shortsighted negotiating strategies.
“You spoke loud and you spoke clear,” Trump said of his upset election last year. “On November 8, you voted to make America great again. You embraced new leadership and new strategies and also a glorious new hope,” he said.
The congressionally mandated National Security Strategy presents China and Russia as competitors that want to realign global power in their interests, potentially threatening the United States.
“Whether we like it or not, we are engaged in a new era of competition,” Trump said.
Trump used the rollout to reiterate his commitment to an “America First” doctrine and a focus on fighting terrorism and protecting U.S. borders. He listed what he called successes, including withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and the “very expensive and unfair Paris climate accord.”
“The American people rejected the failures of the past,” he said. “You rediscovered your voice and reclaimed ownership of this nation and its destiny.”
Trump also used the moment to tout the surging stock market, economic growth and the expected passage of a tax-cut package.
Trump administration officials said the strategy, a kind of mission statement that guides policymaking, prioritizes the economic implications of global engagement.
For example, the document says that under Trump, national security decision-making will take greater account of economic factors and homeland security, administration officials said. Three officials described the document to reporters Sunday on the condition of anonymity ahead of its release.
“This strategy advances what I would call a principled realism,” one official said, adding that the global balance of power has shifted in ways that have been unfavorable to U.S. interests. “This new strategy presents a plan of how America can regain momentum to reverse many of these trends.”
Both China and Russia have sought to “change the status quo” in ways that the United States opposes and that could challenge U.S. interests, another official said. She cited Chinese military expansion and island-building in the South China Sea and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
The document does not expressly “overturn” the strategies of former president Barack Obama or his predecessors, but it frames Trump’s priorities differently, the third official said. Trump’s most significant foreign policy and national security decisions mostly have been cast as reversals of Obama policies, including on Iran and climate change, and a heavy focus on North Korea after what he calls the failed policies of the past.
Trump’s new strategy document has four main organizing principles, one official said: protecting the American homeland, protecting American prosperity, preserving peace through strength and advancing U.S. influence.
The focus on China’s changing role and ambition recognizes that the country is both a competitor and a sometime partner, the officials said. That is a familiar theme from past administrations, but the Trump officials said the new document focuses on the trade and economic consequences for the United States from Chinese cybertheft and other issues.
As a candidate, Trump accused China of “raping” the United States economically and stealing jobs. As president, he has developed and trumpeted a warm relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he credits with helping to apply pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
Trump also has publicly admired Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling him “very smart,” and has sought a better relationship with Russia after years of worsening ties under Obama. He has been openly skeptical of U.S. intelligence findings that Russia mounted a systematic effort to undermine the 2016 presidential election. But Trump has not reversed congressional sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, as Putin hoped he would.
Putin and Trump spoke by telephone Sunday and, according to both sides, Putin thanked the U.S. leader for a tip from the CIA that thwarted a terrorist attack being planned in St. Petersburg. The call was unusual, as the sharing of intelligence is rarely discussed in public. It was also the leaders’ second call within four days.
“Based on the information the United States provided, Russian authorities were able to capture the terrorists just prior to an attack that could have killed large numbers of people,” the White House said in its readout of the call. “Both leaders agreed that this serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Anne Gearan