Publications 2016

Lost in transition? US foreign policy from Obama to Trump

2 December 2016
Giovanni Grevi (Senior Fellow)


Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential elections has shaken long-held assumptions about American foreign policy. In many ways, Trump’s foreign policy discourse (insofar one can discern a coherent one) is defined by his opposition to the grand strategy of international liberal order building and forward-leaning military posture in Europe and Asia that previous administrations have more or less consistently pursued since World War II. In this Discussion Paper, Giovanni Grevi takes a step back from the flurry of commentaries that followed Trump’s election and attempts to provide the reader with some coordinates to navigate the uncertainty surrounding President Trump’s foreign policy direction. He places Trump’s own stated positions in the context of the US strategic debate and President Obama’s foreign policy legacy, and reviews some of the political traditions and schools of thought that inform Trump’s vague but potentially consequential foreign policy agenda. Finally, he looks at how all of this might affect transatlantic relations, and Europe itself. While the exact consequences of the expected paradigm shift in the White House remain uncertain, what is clear is that President Trump will confront Europeans with important questions on what they stand for and what they want to achieve together, at home and abroad. This is not going to be business as usual.

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