President Trump Unveils ‘America First’ National Security Strategy

President Trump delivers remarks on December 18, 2017 regarding the administration's national security strategy.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday framed his foreign policy as an extension of his populist economic message, lambasting past presidents and trumpeting his own achievements during a speech meant to outline the guiding principles of his national security strategy.

In a speech that closely resembled a campaign address, Trump offered a laundry list of accomplishments and a reiteration of his view that Americans have been left behind as a result of decisions made by past administrations, including on immigration, the Iran nuclear deal, and trade pacts.

And while Trump repeated some core aspects of the foreign policy strategy document that his aides have spent the past eleven months preparing, he reserved much of his address for touting domestic economic growth and lambasting his predecessors for damaging American security.

“For many years, our citizens watched as Washington politicians presided over one disappointment after another; too many of our leaders — so many — who forgot whose voices they were to respect, and whose interest they were supposed to defend,” Trump said in a speech to collection of uniformed military personnel and members of his cabinet assembled at an auditorium in downtown Washington.

“On top of everything else, our leaders drifted from American principles, they lost sight of America’s destiny, and they lost their belief in American greatness,” Trump said. “As a result, our citizens lost something as well. The people lost confidence in their government and eventually even lost confidence in their future.”

Trump said his election last year was an indication that Americans yearned for another direction.

“We will stand up for ourselves, we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before,” Trump said. “We know that American success is not a foregone conclusion. It must be earned and it must be won. Our rivals are tough, tenacious and committed to the long term, but so are we.”

Speech skipped strong references from policy

The congressionally-mandated strategy document spells out overarching themes for Trump’s foreign policy.

National security aides to Trump began preparing the strategy statement shortly after he entered office, and drew from his public speeches during the campaign and as President to craft the 48-page document. Trump formally endorsed it during a meeting with cabinet members last week.

During his remarks, however, Trump avoided the more specific references contained within the strategy document, including to Russia’s attempts to influence elections.

Instead, Trump called Russia and China “rival powers” who “seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth,” but stopped short of calling out Moscow for its election meddling.

“We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interest,” Trump said, recounting a conversation he held with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday about shared US intelligence that helped thwart a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg.

“They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event with no loss of life and that’s a great thing, and the way it’s supposed to work,” Trump said. “But while we seek such opportunities of cooperation, we will stand up for ourselves and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before.”

That’s a softer approach than what’s contained within the national security strategy, which was released in full shortly before Trump began his remarks. The document describes China and Russia as “revisionist powers” who “want to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests.”

The doctrine envisages a world in constant rivalry for economic and security influence, but downplays global agreements signed during past administrations meant to bring the world’s nations into better agreement on issues like trade and climate change.

Congress requires the President to deliver a National Security Strategy that outlines the guiding principles of the administration’s foreign policy. Trump’s two immediate predecessors did not present their strategies in person, opting instead to present them in writing to lawmakers and the public.

Trump determined that a major address would help underscore the document’s adherence to his campaign promises of protecting American interests, aides said. They hoped the speech would help provide coherence to a foreign policy that’s been viewed as confused by some lawmakers and foreign governments.

Didn’t mention election meddling

Trump offered a view of America’s role that discounted the country’s role in achieving global agreements like the Paris climate accord or the Iran nuclear deal. Instead he characterized US foreign relations as competitive and pitted with rivalries.

“We know that American success is not a foregone conclusion. It must be earned and it must be won. Our rivals are tough. They’re tenacious and committed to the long term, but so are we,” he said. “To succeed, we must integrate every dimension of our national strength, and we must compete with every instrument of our national power.”

Many of the strategy’s central tenets are familiar aspects of Trump’s political agenda, including his insistence that trade with other countries be fair and reciprocal. But other aspects of the strategy seem discordant with Trump’s own insistence that ties with Russia be improved.

While the President’s strategy doesn’t directly address Russian attempts to influence the US presidential election last year, it does make reference more broadly to attempts by Moscow to interfere in democratic contests.

“Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data,” the document reads. “The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life.”

Trump did not mention those lines during his remarks, instead sticking to broad declarations of American superiority on the global stage.

“With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity and pride,” he said.

16 comments

  • Merlin

    The real question here is who would win in a fight? Japanese Sumo or Amish Barn Raiser? You Yanks can’t even figure that out and your opinions are stale. Get it together.

  • McCracken

    “America first”-yet, his daughters clothing line is made overseas and Trump-branded suits are made in Mexico. “Do as I say, not as I do” seems to fit quite well.

  • Everybody poops

    North Korea residents believe than the Kim regime does not poop. Same with the liberals when it comes to Barack and Hillary. I gave them a fighting chance, but this is freaking scary already. I wish I didn’t have eyes or ears, let alone a moral compass. I’d rather be killed than watch them destroy each other.

  • Lance

    What is wrong about looking out for America first? Other countries Europeans especially spend their money on their citizens and infrastructure. They dont send billions to other countries who take the aid and spit on us at the same time. Enough! China will continue to kick our ass commercially if we continue to buy and not demand made in the USA! We all know about the Russians nothing new here they tried to screw up an election. But the people voted regardless of any fake news stories. Let us move forward!

    • Lloyd Schmucatelli

      It’s not as easy as it seems.

      Just the manufacturing alone.

      With permitting, minimum wage, the EPA, rules, regulations, and on and on and on, it’s stifles business.

      America has become no longer business friendly.

      Certainly not in the manufacturing sense of things.

      Businesses are not bound by national boundaries. They go where rules and taxes are more favorable, like China.

      Oh, I forgot taxes!

      On this front, we are our own worst enemy.

    • JessicaInWilliamsport

      I agree, we need to quit giving Israel money that could be put to better use here. Close loopholes that allow U.S. companies to hide their money overseas. Quit spending money on the military industrial complex and let every other country fend for themselves. Let’s *really* be U.S. first….. (the aforementioned will never happen under this president because he and his cronies benefit)

  • The people

    He actually might be smarter than most of us originally thought. You are looking at the first stepping stones to abolishing NAFTA and bringing our small towns back if you think about it. There is an excessive level of comparison in words waged on this POTUS in relation to former’s (which Obama is CNN). All of the previous ones did the opposite of what they said they would do since JFK was elected for the most part. I hate talking about America to most people because very few are on middle ground. Extreme left is crazy and will vote for him in 2020 just because of the “Zero Curse” if he leagalized weed. The right is feeling attacked and coming up with some doozies like they should be wearing “Members Only” jackets. How do we go back to where chivalry and community aren’t news worthy?

  • Jeff Woehrle

    Under Obama, half the workforce of America paid no federal income tax at all.

    Now liberals whine when the other half gets a break.

    Do not think this goes unnoticed.

  • Erik Latranyi

    Of course, CNN would find it surprising that Trump is realistic about Russia and China despite his “embracing” of Russia.

    More stupidity from the news organization that cannot tell the truth. These people are so biased that they cannot see what normal people see…….a POTUS putting this nation first and not in bed with anyone.

    But, when you have no evidence, you must hold onto your lies somehow……so CNN feigns “surprise” that Trump singles out Russia as a threat.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    I Voted for Trump proudly and would again.

    That said, I’m not buying the whole “Russia” thing.

    There’s too many behind the scenes connections making them more of an ally these days than a foe.

    North Korea is a click bait joke.

    And Walmart needs China.

    Mexico, looks like that walls coming baby!!!

    • 🤔

      I voted for Trump also and would again. He made promises and is doing his best to stick to them, which is more than you can say for Obummer. All he did was like, lie, lie, lie. Just imagine what this country would be like if Hillary Clinton got in. She was following in Obummer’s footsteps this country would be in a world of Doo Doo that’s for sure. Worse than it is now. Trump is actually doing things to make this country better. Thank you President Trump, you rock!

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