President Trump Would Ask More of All Allies, Including NZ
President Trump Would Ask More of All Allies, Including New Zealand: Republican Advisor
A President Trump would not change the US policy towards countries like New Zealand, but may ask them to step up on defence.
Speaking to Corin Dann who is in the US to cover the upcoming presidential elections, Robert O’Brien, a foreign policy advisor to past republican presidents and presidential candidates, said Mr Trump would ask more of all US allies.
“I think New Zealand understands that it has an important role to play, and we’ve seen with this recent budget surplus that Prime Minister Key has developed, I think he’s talking about buying one or two new warships.
I think you’re seeing in New Zealand itself a feeling that New Zealand needs to step up and play a role on the defence front and on the foreign policy front that’s commensurate with the influence it has at the UN and it’s commensurate with the influence it has with humanitarian and human rights organisations.
New Zealand punches above its
weight. The one place it hasn’t been punching above its
weight is on the defence side of things, but I think New
Zealanders are understanding that they can step it up
Q + A
Interviewed by CORIN DANN
GREG Hillary Clinton is in
Florida this week, a swing state that could be a decider in
her battle against Donald Trump to take the White House, and
the polls show it's looking very close. Our next interview,
Robert O’Brien, is Republican Party establishment. He was
foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential candidates
Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney. Under George W Bush, he was the US
representative to the UN. Corin asked him how Donald Trump
has managed to do so
ROBERT I think there are a number of things. America has been leading from behind, and that’s a description of our foreign policy from the White House itself. That’s not a description that opponents have put on President Obama’s policy, and we’ve seen just a series of foreign policy failures and we’ve seen a very dangerous world develop. We’ve seen the Russians go into Crimea. We see ISIS with a caliphate the size of England in the Middle East. We see a genocide taking place in Syria. We see the Iranians now, with Michel Aoun as the new president of Lebanon, really having an archipelago of influence across the Middle East. We see the Chinese building a great wall of sand in the South China Sea, an area of the Pacific where $5 trillion worth of world trade passes through. And I think Americans are starting to recoil from this lead from behind lack of American leadership, and Donald Trump has come out with a promise to make America great again. He’s promised to rebuild the military, which has suffered under the Obama Administration. So I think that’s been part of it. I think, again, part of that is he’s tapped into anger for people who have been left behind in globalisation, especially in the heartland — the industrial heartland of America. And, look, let’s face it, Hillary Clinton’s herself a very flawed candidate. I mean, we’ve never seen a Democrat candidate with higher negatives as the party nominee as Hillary Clinton has. And with the email scandals and the kind of pay-for-play allegations with respect to the Clinton Administration, her setting up the private server, her aides acting as if the rules don’t apply to them but they apply it to everybody else in America, I think all of those factors have allowed Donald Trump, who himself has very high negatives, to stay competitive in this race.
CORIN As a foreign policy expert, do you worry about Donald Trump’s temperament, his ability to carry out the role of president?
ROBERT It’s politics, and so that is something I think that the Clinton folks probably polled well and they’ve identified that as an area of concern for President Trump. I don’t think Donald Trump, if he’s president, is going to have a quick finger with the nuclear button, so to speak, or to get us involved in wars. I think that what he’s talked about doing is a mainstream idea in America, and it’s something called peace through strength — that was Ronald Reagan’s defence strategy. He’s called for rebuilding the military, which has been cut dramatically under the Obama Administration. So I think that he’s got a policy and platform that is acceptable to the mainstream, and it is somewhat different than Hillary Clinton, so I think he’s done a pretty good job on foreign policy and especially on defence policy. It may be one of the strongest areas of his campaign.
CORIN Should New Zealanders be worried about a Donald Trump presidency?
ROBERT No. Listen, the long-standing alliance, and putting aside the ANZUS issue and some of the nuclear issues, between the people of the United States and the people of New Zealand, it’s long and it’s a solid relationship. I’ve been in Afghanistan in prior government work. I’ve seen very brave Kiwi soldiers there fighting side by side and training side by side with American soldiers. I’ve been to Timor and seen New Zealand police officers there working with Australians and Americans, training the Timorese humanitarian relief. I mean, these are very very strong ties that we have with New Zealand. No president and I don’t think any prime minister in New Zealand is going to change the bonds in the Anglosphere. And I think if we do have a President Trump and he’s briefed on the importance of the alliance and what New Zealand does for us and for us collectively in Antarctica, in the South Pacific with humanitarian and disaster relief in Oceania, he’s going to understand and be very appreciative of the role that New Zealand plays and the friendship that the United States has with New Zealand. So I don’t see a major change in policy.
CORIN Might he potentially ask more of New Zealand? I mean, we are contributing to the fight against ISIS. We are training troops, but we’re not on the front lines. Is it conceivable that given his statements about other allies stumping up with more money, et cetera, that he might say to New Zealand, ‘We need you guys to do a bit more’?
ROBERT Look, I think he’s going to ask that of all the allies. America has borne a disproportionate share of the burden in the War on Terror and during the Cold War years a disproportionate share of the burden of standing up to the Soviets, as the Russians were called at that time. But I think New Zealand understands that it has an important role to play, and we’ve seen with this recent budget surplus that Prime Minister Key has developed, I think he’s talking about buying one or two new warships. I think you’re seeing in New Zealand itself a feeling that New Zealand needs to step up and play a role on the defence front and on the foreign policy front that’s commensurate with the influence it has at the UN and it’s commensurate with the influence it has with humanitarian and human rights organisations. New Zealand punches above its weight. The one place it hasn’t been punching above its weight is on the defence side of things, but I think New Zealanders are understanding that they can step it up some.
CORIN How much can presidents actually do and how much will Donald Trump need to do if he is elected, and which bits can he get away with not doing, if you know what I mean? I mean, he’s got to balance that, doesn’t he?
ROBERT He does, and, look, I think one thing that he’s going to be committed to is reforming the immigration process in America although it impacts our international relations. It certainly impacts our relations with Mexico and with countries in Central and South America. I think that’s an area where he’ll have flexibility and where he’ll have some sort of mandate from the American people. I think when it comes to our alliances in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region, I think he’s going to sit down and listen to the generals.
CORIN So is there a risk with either a Donald Trump presidency or President Clinton that the US would lose influence in the Asia-Pacific region if it doesn’t do the TPP?
ROBERT I think that’s a real concern, Corin, and I’m in favour of the TPP. And so I know it’s not popular either with Hillary Clinton right now or with Donald Trump, but if we’re going to continue to engage in the Pacific, if we’re going to be a leader in the Pacific, if we’re going to offer an alternative to a rising and dominant China in the region, we have to engage with our allies, not just on the diplomatic front and not just on the military front, but we have to engage with them in trade and try and bind our economies closer together to offer folks an alternative, a rule-of-law-based alternative to a Chinese mercantilist type trade system.
CORIN So just looking at the race, do you actually think he can win?
ROBERT Look, I think he can win. Certainly the revelations about Hillary Clinton’s aides, Huma Abedin’s server and her personal server and her emails on her disgraced husband’s laptop have hurt Secretary Clinton in the last week of the campaign. It’s made the campaign more competitive. I think Hillary Clinton benefits from the early voting, but I think it’s going to be very close on Election Day. Donald Trump is going to have to flip a blue state. Even if he wins Florida, Ohio, North Carolina — it looks like he has a good shot to do that — he’s still going to have to find a New Hampshire, a Wisconsin, a Michigan, a Minnesota, Colorado, Nevada to flip from the Democrats to the Republicans and win. Right now, the polls in those states make that look like a long shot, but if momentum continued to move to Mr Trump the way it has over the past week or two, it’s not inconceivable that he could win this election.