Trump doctrine just declared at UN — and it’s called ‘maximum pressure’

Trump doctrine just declared at UN — and it’s called ‘maximum pressure’
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United Nations General Assembly speeches are usually downright boring, dominating the news cycle for a day or so with the world quickly moving on. In years past, I nearly fell asleep when George W. Bush or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBooker dismisses early surveys: 'If you're polling ahead right now, you should worry' Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy Mattis dodges toughest question MORE took to the podium. 

But not any longer.

For better or worse, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE has turned his U.N. speech into what can only be described as must-see TV, or for the social media generation, a live-tweeting fest like no other. While last year’s speech, threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” and anointing Kim Jong Un as “rocket man,” made the Washington foreign policy establishment break out in hives, this year’s version was much more subdued. 

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Sure, there were no threats of possible nuclear war this year, but the speech did have some important policy ramifications that will be felt the world over. For it seems that Trump has finally decided on the true scope and tenor of his foreign policy, crafting a worldview that is easily definable and something that can be articulated clearly to friend and foe alike.

“Maximum pressure,” what was once the administration’s policy of containing the North Korean nuclear threat, has indeed gone global.

But before Trump did his round-robin of the globe, pointing out how his administration would take on the world’s challenges, he addressed the issue of North Korea head-on. While he noted that much progress had been made, even in recent days declaring he wants another summit with Kim, he noted that sanctions will stay in place until the North denuclearizes.

To me, that sounds like the president’s opening bid. And don’t be shocked if Trump’s position shifts on this issue — again. 

Recall that, back in the spring, the administration was all about CVID: complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. Trump ditched that wordy acronym to make diplomatic room for a summit with the North Korean chairman, with slow and steady progress being the result.

Look for Trump to indeed have another summit with Kim, but this time exchanging a peace declaration ending the Korean War as a big down payment on the North giving up its nukes — perhaps the closing of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, as North Korea has suggested recently. Trump knows that maximum pressure will grind to a halt soon: As China is the one tasked to enforce it, it will stop quite soon — as payback for Washington’s trade stance. He also knows that he has the most leverage he will ever have right now, and will likely look to make a deal with Kim.

Iran also featured quite prominently in Trump’s remarks, during which he offered what amounted to an attack on the regime itself. He noted the corrupt nature of Iran’s leaders, speaking to the Iranian people themselves, detailing how their leaders have pilfered the nation’s vast wealth, many times for their own purposes and to destabilize the Middle East. Trump made it clear in his remarks that if Tehran wants act like a rogue nation, especially in its tone and how it speaks about America, he will press forward with sanctions that aim to cripple their economy.

Trump also had tough words for Syria — and possibly a major policy shift. In what could be a big change in the administration’s approach to the Assad regime, he said he would respond if chemical weapons are “deployed.” Focus on the word “deployed” — and not the word “used.” That could signal the administration will strike Syria’s forces if we see even a movement of such weapons getting ready for possible use, rather than waiting for an actual attack.

And Trump did not hold back his venom when it came to China, perhaps the greatest foreign policy challenge America faces today. Angry over what he detailed as an $800 billion trade deficit — much of which is with Beijing — Trump seems locked in for a long trade battle that won’t be easy to wind down.

“The United States has just announced tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese-made goods, for a total so far of $250 billion. I have great respect and affection for my friend, President Xi, but I have made clear our trade imbalance is just not acceptable,” Trump explained. “China’s market distortions and the way they deal cannot be tolerated. As my administration has demonstrated, America will always act in our national interests.” 

Translation: Trump is taking maximum pressure to the economic realm, making sure he keeps a key campaign promise to the American people while not backing down to Beijing, despite his bromance with Xi Jinping.

All in all, the speech was what you would expect from Trump these days, a mix of populism, nationalism, a call for nations to exercise sovereignty over themselves and their borders but — and most important of all — a detailed explanation of where Trump will use America’s still-ample diplomatic power and military muscle.

The world should take notice.

Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded in 1994 by President Richard M. Nixon, and executive editor of its publishing arm, The National Interest. He previously worked on the foreign policy team of the 2016 Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report 2020 Democrats call for Kavanaugh to be impeached Warren: Kavanaugh 'should be impeached' just like Trump MORE presidential campaign and as foreign policy communications manager at the Heritage Foundation, editor-in-chief of The Diplomat, and as a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The views voiced in this article are his own.