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SOTU review: Trump's top 8 foreign policy themes

Conservative Review

1) Border security

The most prevalent (and underreported) short-term national security threat to the United States is our unprotected southern border with Mexico. 

There were rumors that the president would use his SOTU address to announce that he is signing an executive order to repurpose funds for border security. That didn’t happen. However, he is sending an additional 3,750 troops to border areas to prevent human trafficking.

“This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well-being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” President Trump explained.


The president announced that the United States has secured an additional $100 billion in defense commitments from NATO allies, the vast majority of which have failed to live up to the two percent defense spending threshold that they are supposed to abide by. 

“For years, the United States was being treated very unfairly by friends of ours, by members of NATO, but now we have secured a $100 billion increase in defense spending from NATO allies,” the president remarked.

President Trump appeared more optimistic than usual about the NATO alliance. He is definitely skeptical of its long-term future and has expressed frustration with our allies’ lack of commitment to sharing the burden.

For more on NATO, read my latest rundown at Conservative Review on what it has to offer in 2019 and beyond.

3) China

The China part of the speech can be broken down into two separate elements: trade with China and China’s troublesome activities.

The president touted progress with Chinese officials on trade talks and expressed optimism that a deal could soon be concluded that would avoid a tit-for-tat tariff and trade war between the world’s largest economies.

It was encouraging to see the president use his national stage to call out China’s gross intellectual property theft practices. Chinese hackers and spies steal billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. intellectual property every year. The stolen property often goes toward bolstering Beijing’s military and economic development. China should not be allowed to get away with state-sponsored theft.

“We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end,” the president said in his State of the Union address.

4) Withdrawal from INF treaty

President Trump made headlines announcing that the United States is withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia, citing Moscow’s violations of the agreement. 

This move continues President Trump’s commitment to deterring Moscow’s global aggression, whether that comes in the form of military force, cyber attacks, or economic agreements with U.S. adversaries.

“While we followed the agreement and the rules to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. It has been going on for many years,” said Trump in the SOTU.

5) North Korea

President Trump confirmed that he will be holding a second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. This one will take place on February 27 in Vietnam.

“As part of a bold new diplomacy, we continue our historic push for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the president stated.

The Korean Peninsula has indeed been quieter than usual. The Trump administration has succeeded in convincing Pyongyang to stop test-firing ballistic missiles. However, it’s unclear whether North Korea has taken any real steps toward denuclearization. North Korea also remains a human rights catastrophe. 

6) Venezuela

The United States is all in on supporting Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. President Trump denounced the evils of socialism, which has crippled a country with the world’s largest proven energy reserves.

“We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom,” the president started, “and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.”

Just as Ronald Reagan denounced the moral evil of communism, President Trump pointed to socialism as being chiefly responsible for the mass human suffering that is ongoing in Venezuela. He pledged that unlike Venezuela, “America will never be a socialist country.”

7) Drawdown in Syria and Afghanistan

POTUS reaffirmed his commitment to bringing American troops home from the battlefields of Syria and the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

“Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years,” he began, adding that “great nations do not fight endless wars.” 

For more on why we need to get of Afghanistan as soon as possible – and skip the “peace process” with the Taliban – read my latest at Conservative Review.

8) Confronting the radical regime in Iran

President Trump rightly and clearly labeled the terrorist-supporting regime in Iran as America’s number one enemy. Russia and China are more appropriately considered rivals, competitors, or adversaries. He drew a powerful contrast with the Obama administration, which empowered the Iranian regime throughout the world.

“My administration has acted decisively to confront the world’s leading state sponsor of terror — the radical regime in Iran. It is a radical regime. They do bad, bad things. To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal,” the president said in his address. 

Iran continues to take Americans hostage, support terrorist plots throughout the world, and wreak havoc on global U.S. interests. The president remarked that he is firmly committed to challenging the regime at every turn, whether that is through imposing economic sanctions on the regime, supporting the aspirations people of Iran, or stopping the regime from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

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