Trump’s presidency will increase the probability of a whole series of foreign policy developments across the Eurasian hemisphere, including aggressive moves by Putin and Xi Jinping

Trump’s election increases the probability of the US recognising and, therefore, formalising Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Never shy to seize an opportunity, Putin will then pose a greater threat to Ukraine as a whole if he senses apathy from a President Trump intent on stepping back from spearheading NATO – an organisation Trump has referred to as ‘obsolete’. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be feeling vulnerable right now.

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Photo: HKFP remix.

The possibility of the newly promoted “core leader” of the PRC, Xi Jinping, making moves in the China Seas may also increase under a Trump presidency – unless the Republican Administration lays down a firm line from the outset. Xi’s ambitions aspire beyond the atolls of the South China Sea: Taiwan may enter the firing line.

Trump’s proposals to strengthen the US Navy and its presence in the region must proceed ahead of negotiations aimed at increasing the bill Taipei must pay for American protection.

That North Korea welcomes a Trump presidency should make everyone else in East Asia nervous. Trump’s threat to pull military support from Japan and South Korea needs to be nothing more than a tactic to thicken the invoices America sends them.

south china sea flag

In the long-term, the region may need to accept Trump’s vision of a nuclear-armed South Korea and possibly Japan. Other Asian nations – from India to Vietnam – share South Korean and Japanese hopes that America will continue to counterbalance China’s expansionist ambitions.

In West Asia, Iran also poses a nuclear threat that is not about to go away. Even with a GOP majority in both Houses of Congress, Trump will struggle to get the votes he needs to call off the Iran nuclear deal. Iran rival and US ally Saudi Arabia will cozy up to the Trump Administration; in the long term, expect a nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia to be another Trump outcome.

ronald reagan
Ronald Reagan. Photo: Wikicommons.

‘Peace through strength’ is a foreign policy maxim which has guided powerful leaders from the Roman Emperor Hadrian to Republican US President Ronald Reagan. A Trump Administration may believe that US allies should provide more of that ‘strength’, but a retreating US would only embolden the hawks within the military and political hierarchies of America’s adversaries.

If Trump’s foreign policy is perceived as more isolationist than assertive, we can expect America’s rivals and adversaries to make their moves. That said, the Republican majorities in Congress bear a hostility towards the likes of North, Korea, China and Russia which may prod Trump to assert, rather than isolate, America.

Paul Letters is a historian, journalist and novelist. His latest novel, The Slightest Chance, is set in Hong Kong during World War II. Paul writes freelance for the South China Morning Post, has co-presented 'Backchat' on RTHK’s Radio 3, and produces the fun and educational family podcast series, Dad and Me Love History. Visit his portfolio here.