WASHINGTON — Donald Trump vowed to “shake the rust off America’s foreign policy” in a wide-ranging foreign policy speech that centered around his credo that “no country has ever prospered that failed to put its own interests first.”
Trump was introduced by former UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of the Center for the National Interest, who noted Trump would offer his “distinctive views about America’s role in the world and explain how he would lead America as commander in chief.” The center would offer the same speaking opportunity to other candidates, Khalilzad said.
A Trump advisor told reporters before the address at the Mayflower Hotel, where the audience included Trump’s national security team and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), that “there will be no details in this speech.”
Trump said his foreign policy “will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else.”
“It has to be first. Has to be. That will be the foundation of every single decision that I will make,” he said. “America first will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.”
“Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster. No vision. No purpose. No direction. No strategy… We’re rebuilding other countries while weakening our own. Ending the theft of American jobs will give us resources we need to rebuild our military, which has to happen and regain our financial independence and strength. I am the only person running for the presidency who understands this and this is a serious problem. I’m the only one — believe me, I know them all, I’m the only one who knows how to fix it.”
The GOP front-runner criticized allies for “not paying their fair share” for security assistance — and he issued a border wall-style ultimatum.
“We have spent trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia,” Trump said. “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.”
“The whole world will be safer if our allies do their part to support our common defense and security. A Trump administration will lead a free world that is properly armed and funded, and funded beautifully.”
He criticized President Obama for negotiating a “disastrous deal with Iran” and abandoning “our missile defense plans with Poland and the Czech Republic,” as well as Obama’s 2009 failure to secure the Olympic Games on a trip to Copenhagen. “He should have known the result before making such an embarrassing commitment. We were laughed at all over the world, as we have been many, many times.”
Trump slammed both Obama and Hillary Clinton for not naming “radical Islam” as the enemy in the war on terror and stressed that “containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States and indeed the world.”
“We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy based upon American interests and the shared interests of our allies,” he declared. “We’re getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world. Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at the water’s edge. We need a new rational American foreign policy, informed by the best minds and supported by both parties, and it will be by both parties — Democrats, Republicans, independents, everybody, as well as by our close allies.”
“…And then there’s ISIS. I have a simple message for them. Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must we must as a nation be more unpredictable. We are totally predictable. We tell everything. We’re sending troops. We tell them. We’re sending something else. We have a news conference. We have to be unpredictable. And we have to be unpredictable starting now. But they’re going to be gone. ISIS will be gone if I’m elected president. And they’ll be gone quickly. They will be gone very, very quickly.”
Trump vowed to rebuild the nuclear arsenal and increase the size of military fleets. “It is the cheapest, single investment we can make. We will develop, build and purchase the best equipment known to mankind,” he said. “Our military dominance must be unquestioned, and I mean unquestioned, by anybody and everybody.”
He said that if elected president he’ll “call for a summit with our NATO allies and a separate summit with our Asian allies.”
“In these summits, we will not only discuss a rebalancing of financial commitments, but take a fresh look at how we can adopt new strategies for tackling our common challenges. For instance, we will discuss how we can upgrade NATO’s outdated mission and structure, grown out of the Cold War to confront our shared challenges, including migration and Islamic terrorism,” the real-estate magnate said.
“I will not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative. But if America fights, it must only fight to win. I will never sent our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V… Our power will be used if others do not play by the rules. In other words, if they do not treat us fairly. Our friends and enemies must know that if I draw a line in the sand, I will enforce that line in the sand. Believe me.”
Trump said he wants to “look to new people” on foreign policy “because many of the old people frankly don’t know what they’re doing.” The Huffington Post reported Tuesday that former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Gen. David Petraeus and Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes all turned down overtures to work with the Trump campaign.
“I will seek a foreign policy that all Americans, whatever their party, can support — so important — and which our friends and allies will respect and totally welcome. The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends and when old friends become allies, that’s what we want. We want them to be our allies,” he said. “We want the world to be — we want to bring peace to the world. Too much destruction out there, too many destructive weapons. The power of weaponry is the single biggest problem that we have today in the world.”
“…America will continue and continue forever to play the role of peacemaker. We will always help save lives and indeed humanity itself, but to play the role, we must make America strong again.”
After Trump’s speech, the term TelePrompTer was trending on Twitter. His only other prepared speech delivered with TelePrompTer assistance this cycle was also a foreign policy address, to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference. He did not take questions after either speech.
Neither Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) nor Ohio Gov. John Kasich immediately responded to the address, though Kasich tweeted several items about his national security team and polling that shows him faring better than Trump among voters with foreign affairs. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was holding a conference call later in the day with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to respond.
Former presidential hopeful turned Cruz supporters Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted: “Not sure who is advising Trump on foreign policy but I can understand why he’s not revealing their names.”
“Trump speech is pathetic in terms of understanding the role America plays in the world, how to win War on Terror, and threats we face,” Graham continued. “Trump’s FP speech not conservative. It’s isolationism surrounded by disconnected thought, demonstrates lack of understanding threats we face. Final thought on Trump’s foreign policy speech — Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave.”