Foreign Policy in the First Hundred Days of Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a directive ordering an investigation into the impact of foreign steel on the American economy after signing it. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

As President Donald J. Trump approaches his hundredth day in office, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Foreign Affairs offer resources and analysis on the new administration’s foreign policy.

April 26, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a directive ordering an investigation into the impact of foreign steel on the American economy after signing it. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
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As President Donald J. Trump approaches his hundredth day in office, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Foreign Affairs offer resources and analysis on the new administration’s foreign policy.

One Hundred Days

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CFR’s Philip H. Gordon warns that Trump’s “erratic style and confrontational policies [could] destroy an already fragile world order and lead to open conflict—in the most likely cases, with Iran, China, or North Korea,” in Foreign Affairs.

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Politics and Government

“The world needs a significant degree of predictability from the leader of the free world so that allies and enemies alike know that certain red lines can’t be crossed and certain commitments won’t be abandoned,” writes CFR’s Max Boot in Foreign Policy. “With Trump, it’s impossible to have any such confidence.”

Confronting “vexing foreign policy challenges ranging from a decaying global order to transnational terrorism,” the Trump administration has already “reaffirmed and revitalized critical American alliances,” asserts CFR’s Ray Takeyh in the Washington Examiner

East Asia

“The trajectory of the next four years will hinge in no small part on whether [China and the United States] can avoid a trade or any other kind of war,” contends CFR’s Richard N. Haass in the Boston Globe.

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CFR’s Ely Ratner argues in the Washington Post that “without fundamentally addressing the unfair [Chinese] trade and investment practices Trump railed against during the campaign, the president will have given away his single most valuable asset.”

“Thanks in part to the Trump administration’s lack of preparation,” writes Yale Law School’s Graham Webster on ForeignAffairs.com, “the results [of the U.S.-China summit] did little to move bilateral ties forward and may have entrenched distrust between the two sides over North Korea.” 

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Middle East

The meeting between Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Trump signaled the end of “a period of mistrust and tension between the two countries,” writes CFR’s Steven A. Cook on Salon.com

“President Trump has pivoted from resolutely opposing U.S. military intervention to ordering missile strikes, and from acceptance of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power to a renewed focus on getting rid of him,” observes CFR’s Philip H. Gordon in the Washington Post.

CFR’s Elliott Abrams claims that the U.S. strike on Syria indicates the president has “finally accepted the role of Leader of the Free World,” in the Weekly Standard.

The use of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb “is a sign that the war in Afghanistan is not going well,” notes CFR’s Max Boot in the New York Times.

CFR’s Stephen D. Biddle warns that attacks like the Syrian bombing can “fail in ways that could indeed escalate or entrap the United States in a quagmire,” on Fortune.com.

“The negotiating table is the only place this war [in Syria] ends,” asserts CFR’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in Defense One.

Russia

“Despite Trump’s clear personal interest in outreach to Putin, he may have already lost the chance to make the initiative work,” writes CFR’s Stephen Sestanovich in the Atlantic.

Robert David English from the University of Southern California argues on ForeignAffairs.com that Trump’s policy to take Russian interests into accord “could prove a tonic” because “both America and Russia—indeed, Europe and the wider world—badly need that détente.”

Immigration and Border Control

Trump’s immigration policies will deter bright foreign students from studying and working in the United States, and will lead the United States “away from greatness and into mediocrity,” warns CFR’s Edward Alden in Renewing America.

Budget and Defense

Congress and the American people should worry that “the time between the Syrian chemical attack and [Trump’s] response is the shortest period for debate or deliberation compared with recent U.S. retaliatory attacks,” states CFR’s Micah Zenko in Foreign Policy.

Trump’s budget proposal “guts the State Department and USAID on the erroneous assumption that the U.S. military alone can somehow meet America’s foreign policy needs,” argues CFR’s Stewart M. Patrick in the Internationalist.

While Trump is correct to prioritize a Nuclear Posture Review, explains CFR’s Rebecca Lissner in Defense One, “the American people deserve an inclusive and exhaustive process that reaches beyond the Pentagon.”

Trade and Economy

“The Trump administration would be foolish to walk away from America’s leadership role at the [International Monetary Fund], which remains one of the great success stories of post-war governance and multilateral cooperation; all while largely advancing U.S. strategic and economic national interests,” argue International Capital Strategies’ Douglas Rediker and CFR’s Heidi Crebo-Rediker in Foreign Policy.

Dartmouth College’s Douglas A. Irwin cautions the Trump administration “to distinguish between what trade policy can achieve and what it cannot,” and to “also recognize that protectionism at home can lead to protectionism abroad” in Foreign Affairs.

Additional Resources

Listen to CFR’s podcast series, the President’s Inbox.

Read CFR backgrounders on NATOU.S. foreign aid, the Iran nuclear agreement and U.S. immigration.

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