Chatham House Report

Image source/description: President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak at the Giant Center on 15 December 2016 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
America’s International Role Under Donald Trump


In January 2013, the US and the Americas Programme at Chatham House published a report, entitled The Next Chapter: President Obama’s Second-Term Foreign Policy, that laid out for an international audience the likely direction that Obama would take in his second term, taking into consideration constraints ranging from the make-up of Congress to the actions and intentions of foreign leaders and governments. This report intends to fulfil a similar objective for the first term of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The report is the culmination of over 11 months of work. Between April and October 2016, the US and the Americas Programme published a series of seven research papers, commissioned from authors both within and outside Chatham House, on foreign policy topics of importance for the next administration. The topics ranged from US relations with Russia and China to Middle East policy, defence and trade. Each author laid out, briefly, the context and current situation regarding the challenge at hand, and the relevant likely policies of the main candidates for the presidency (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as some of the early Republican and Democratic competitors in the initial months). Each author also outlined the respective implications, in the context of that specific issue, of a particular candidate being elected. What would US defence policy, for example, look like under a Trump presidency or a Clinton one? The seven short (approximately 10-page) research papers were published at intervals of roughly one a month.

Following the 8 November election, these papers were reviewed by their authors, the sections referring to Clinton’s policies were removed, and those laying out Trump’s were updated to take into consideration his more recent comments, his cabinet choices, an understanding of the make-up of the next Congress and other relevant contextual factors. The resulting documents form seven chapters in this report, to which we have added three new chapters (on Europe, Afghanistan and Latin America), an executive summary, an introductory essay and a conclusion. Our intention is both to outline the likely implications of a Trump presidency in individual policy areas and also to set the whole in context, providing an overarching perspective on the upcoming Trump administration.

The analysis in each chapter is that of its author or authors alone. However, as we have reviewed the manuscript in the whole in preparation for publication, certain unifying threads have been apparent. Thus, while the common belief is that much about the upcoming administration is unknown, there is some broad consensus about how it is going to move forward. For example, Trump’s willingness to question long-standing American security alliances and partnerships is something that carries across all regions.

It is worth noting that given the atypical nature of Donald Trump and his path to the presidency, the probability of unpredictable events is greater than perhaps for any president of recent memory. These could be internal (such as impeachment or constitutional crises) or external (of the nature of the events of 11 September 2001). Thus, while the authors believe the paths described in this report are the most likely, there is significant space for diversion from them.

We hope you find each chapter and the complete report itself of interest.