In his rhetoric, President Trump has clearly identified China as a top issue. This is less apparent in the administration’s strategic planning. In practice, our relations with a rising China are both a paramount challenge to the United States and the most important factor in sustaining U.S. global leadership at an acceptable cost. Terrorism remains the most immediate threat to most Americans, however, something that argues for cooperating with other nations (even some adversaries) where possible rather than attempting to isolate them and backing them into a corner in which support for anti-American terrorism becomes an attractive retaliatory tactic. With Russia, Trump’s realistic objective should not be an unnatural friendship, but rather to avoid Russian-Chinese cooperation against U.S. interests or Moscow reflexively assuming the role of a spoiler. No less important to continued U.S. leadership is to rebalance U.S.-European relations without unduly alienating European allies.
None of these objectives will be easy to achieve, but all of them are realistic if President Trump and his administration can succeed in playing America’s exceptionally strong hand well.
Dimitri K. Simes, publisher and CEO of the National Interest, is president of the Center for the National Interest.