In another departure from his predecessor Barack Obama, President Donald Trump has removed climate change as a global threat in his new national security strategy – a plan that prioritises economic and military might and paints China and Russia as competitors that want to shape global events to match their interests.
Echoing his 2016 presidential campaign message, the President declared in a speech introducing his strategy: “America is in the game, and America is going to win.”
The remarks at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington were largely another reiteration of his “America First” doctrine, which emphasises national sovereignty and the economic implications of global participation. Officials have said the core principles of the strategy have already been put into practice.
While discussing his strategy, Mr Trump seemed to envision nations in constant competition and brushed aside Obama-era warnings on climate change. The President also stressed that the US would defend its sovereignty at all costs, even if that meant ripping up existing agreements.
The strategy focuses on four main themes: protecting the homeland, promoting American prosperity, demonstrating peace through strength and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world.
Along with listing off the threat of rogue regimes like North Korea, Mr Trump said, “We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth.”
“We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interest,” he added.
He then noted how Russian President Vladimir Putin had called him the previous day to thank America for intelligence the CIA had provided regarding a planned terror attack in St Petersburg.
“Many people, perhaps in the thousands, could have been killed,” Mr Trump said. “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. That is the way it’s supposed to work.”
He continued: “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.”
Both China and Russia have sought to “change the status quo”, according to Trump administration officials, in a manner the US opposes and could challenge American interests. As examples, an official cited Chinese military expansion and island-building in the South China Sea and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Mr Trump also made the decision to exclude climate change from a list of global threats in his strategy. The Obama administration had first included the phenomenon, said to be a major cause of the recent massive wildfires in California, in its own national strategy in 2015.
The strategy sets a goal of being an “energy-dominant nation” but does say the US “recognises the importance of environmental stewardship”.
In his speech, the closest Mr Trump came to mentioning the topic of climate change was in his reference to his decision to pull out of the landmark Paris climate accord, which was aimed at fighting global warming.
The move was criticised by world leaders, but the US President maintains that the agreement is “very expensive and unfair” for the US. Opponents of Mr Trump’s decision have said the President is forsaking America’s role as a global leader by withdrawing from the deal.
But Mr Trump on Monday faulted previous US leaders for failing to look out for the nation’s citizens.
Mr Trump stressed his “serious plan to defend our homeland”, again calling for the construction of a border wall with Mexico and pledging to end “chain migration” of immigrants’ relatives and to close “loopholes that undermine enforcement” of immigration restrictions.
He also said that for the first time, American strategy recognises that economic security is national security. This calls for cutting taxes and rolling back unnecessary regulations, he said.
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