In Donald Trump's America, it is not the interests and values that determine Washington's foreign policy decisions, but money and ego. And other countries have noticed it.
Do the US want to stop criticizing your terrible human rights record? Build a possible trade. Would you like the Trump administration to confirm the cruel murder of a prominent critic of your brutal regime? US arms purchases valued at billions of dollars should do the trick. Do you need to bring the American president to your side in a messy geopolitical struggle? Buy some Boeing aircraft.
These are not just hypothetical scenarios. They describe three very real foreign policy decisions made by the Trump administration over the past year.
From China via Saudi Arabia to Qatar, Trump has either backtracked or changed course to hold countries accountable for human rights violations and other bad behaviors simply because they spend money in the US ̵
In fact, Trump has offered US foreign policy for sale. "Trump is pretty easy to buy for other countries," said Emma Ashford, an American foreign policy expert at the Cato Institute.
Countries know how to play Trump to get what they want.
For Some Experts Trump is a visceral manifestation of an ugly truth about America's behavior in the world.
"Trump's actions are reaching new, depressing heights, which has been true for some time: US foreign policy has been resolved equally by strategic vision and moral purpose." Stephen Wertheim, an American foreign policy historian at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told me. "Trump's trick is that the world deals with simple motives, and he has incorporated this ethos into foreign policy."
But Trump is clearly the newest and best practitioner of this long-standing practice.
Let's start with China. Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked Trump to withdraw the criticism of Beijing for overriding democratic protests in Hong Kong, a person familiar with the discussions said. Trump accepted – because Xi made it a condition to resume trade talks between their two countries.
The Financial Times, which first reported this exchange on Wednesday, also noted that the Trump administration pushed the outgoing US Consul General to Hong Kong. Kurt Tong, not to mention China's policy towards the city in his farewell speech.
Xi continues to use the trade talks as a bait to get what he wants from the US president. First, he called on the US to quiet China and bring more than a million Uighur Muslims to reeducation camps. Second, he called on Trump to lift the ban on US companies working with Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE, although Trump's own administration considers this a national security risk.
This is the third time that Xi Trump plays the same piece on Trump. And every time, it seems, the president fell for it.
Saudi Arabia has also joined the game.
Last October, Washington Post's Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, was killed in the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, an operation personally ordered by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom.
After a week of condemning members of Congress for Trump, Saudi Arabia, and the Crown Prince himself for killing, Trump said he would not – because the country spent a lot of money in America.
] "This happened in Turkey and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not an American citizen," he told reporters at the Oval Office flocked to our country on October 11, 2018, "regarding his desire to provide weapons in the country Sell $ 110 billion to Saudi Arabia, adding that "it would be unacceptable to me."
Trump over the possibility of punishing Saudi Arabia for seemingly murdering a dissident: "I do not like to stop huge amounts of money flowing into our country … they spend $ 110 billion on military equipment and things that create jobs for this country." pic.twitter.com/QkzWPa5zcL  – Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 11, 2018
It may have been one of Trump's most sincere remarks about how he practices foreign policy: he will not call a country that is dwarfing human dignity as long as it is ready to give money to the American economy. And it's especially good if those affected are not US citizens. In this case, Trump has Khashoggi's life with a price tag.
The government punished 17 Saudi officials in November, and Trump has expressed his displeasure with the murder, but refuses to publicly blame the Crown Prince for his orchestration.
Trump's fire sale of US foreign policy continued this week during the visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to the White House. Just two years ago, Trump Qatar called a "high-level terrorist funder" and effectively supported a country-led diplomatic blockade led by Saudi Arabia.
But in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump continued his impressive reversal of the small Gulf State, saying that he now copes well with Qatar because he wants to spend around $ 85 billion on weapons, planes, and more.
"You invest heavily in our country. They create many jobs. They are buying enormous quantities of military equipment, including aircraft, "Trump told reporters. "And as you know, they buy commercial aircraft – a very large number of Boeing airliners – and we appreciate that very much."
This is not accidentally done – it's a deliberate strategy by other countries to manipulate the president , "Many foreign leaders are now either relying on flattery and pomp to court Trump, or they are coming to Washington with evidence of 'big business' addressing him that way," says Catos Ashford So much so that he's a bad negotiator, but he negotiates for other things than most presidents, "she continued. "He wants big profits that look good on him in the media. A promise from another country to invest in US jobs will do so, even if it does not solve long-term problems and even if the investment is never actually made. "
That means the only thing anyone really needs to do. Understanding US foreign policy today does not mean reading political documents, listening to high-profile speeches, or having an innate understanding of American history. No, you just have to follow the money.