The Russian Regency: The Role Russia Plays Amidst Trump’s America First

When America’s 45th President, Donald Trump, was sworn into office in January 2017, he promised to “Make America Great Again.” However, through his isolationist and protectionist foreign policy, rather than making America great, President Trump has managed to make America “first” again. His “America First” approach to foreign policy is a cautious yet inconsistent attitude of non-intervention—except, of course, when intervening could benefit or protect America. In an increasingly integrated world, America has become increasingly isolated in part due to the development of her influence through military and economic strong-arming, something known as “hard power.”

On the other hand, soft power is being abandoned, as are American values abroad. Harvard Professor Joseph Nye explains that soft power encompasses the culture, foreign policy, and political persuasion of America, which are being left behind in favor of American nationalism. For example, President Trump’s crass remarks concerning other countries—whether it be about nuclear button size or “sh*thole” countries—all reflect an exceptionalist attitude shown through his foreign policy. However, with the rise of American hard power comes the decline of soft power in a time when both are equally important.

After all, America needs sticks and carrots alike if it is to continue wielding global power.

To put such a concept into perspective, the private financial company Bloomberg points out the impacts of neglecting soft power, noting, “From the South China Sea to Eastern Europe, longstanding international rules of the road—concepts such as non-aggression, freedom of navigation, and self-determination—are being flagrantly flouted or subtly eroded.” In times of such chaos, the international playing field is open to rapidly-shifting power dynamics—who will come out on top?

Notably, the ramifications of America First have led to an increase in Russian influence. With a world scrambling to respond to America’s sudden foreign policy shift, Russia is ready to pull the strings behind the scenes. Through analysis of American foreign policy in the age of the Trump administration, Russia’s relationship with America appears to be one that puts Russia in a position to seize significantly more hard power, but only if Russia can play its cards right.

By helping herself, America unwittingly gives Russia a much-needed hand up. Dutch comedian Arjen Lubach poked fun at America First by creating a satirical video response in which he promised “America First. Netherlands Second.” In reality, America First places Russia second, something that hurts America’s soft power by rendering her an increasingly unreliable leader. By blindly standing behind Russia’s controversial actions in order to further America’s self-interest, President Trump consolidates Russian hard power.

It is apparent that America First continues to benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This benefit is evident through an article written by The Moscow Project, a non-governmental organization dedicated to investigating President Trump’s ties to Russia, which points out that “Trump repeatedly praises and defends Putin, lending the weight of the US presidency providing validation toward Putin’s cause.”

Ranging from intentional vagueness to actively proclaiming a desire to maintain a positive relationship, President Trump’s foreign policy supports Russian motives, such as domestic economic boost and increased global instability, which lends a level of unreliability to America’s international identity. Rather than being the morally sound, democratic titaness of freedom she once was, the inconsistency in punishing Russia has made America’s allies wary and cautious of President Trump’s next actions. Whether it be ineffective sanctions, contradictory Tweets, or even the contentious issue of Crimea, President Trump’s approach to Russia are all done in national interest but have far-reaching consequences.

The American side of this dangerous dance with power reveals a power vacuum left with America First, allowing for Russia to quickly adapt and take advantage of the increased global instability resulting from it. In the past, Russia has consistently thrived on its own. In fact, Alexander III of Russia once said, “Russia has only two allies; its army and navy.” However, with China gaining global economic traction, Russia finds itself facing what is either an ambitious rival or an invaluable ally.

With this in mind, Russia’s power is checked by other emerging global superpowers. Thus, if it does not significantly work on improving its soft power, it may be forever resigned to being a second-in-command to other countries with significantly more agency. Russia has started stirring the pot, and other countries have already begun to take advantage of this.

This relationship with Russia is reflective of America’s inconsiderate attitude toward foreign relations, which shape America into an overall more inconsistent and unreliable leader.

President Putin’s approach to America First is just as unpredictable as the policy itself. To quote former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” President Trump’s America First policies show that so long as Trump believes he is acting in America’s best interest, Putin can—and has—lead him to support Russia’s national interest indirectly and directly.

In analyzing the Helsinki summit, which was essentially an informal get together between Trump and Putin,  The Guardian observes, “Putin also has a long experience of US presidents trying to mend bilateral relations, only to discover later how much the Kremlin feeds on confrontation with the US for its domestic political narrative.” President Putin’s deceptive agenda means that America First will unwittingly aid Russia as well, which further damages America’s soft power.

Already, as a result of the Helsinki summit, countries are on edge due to the developments in America’s relationship with Russia. Heidi Hautala, the vice president of the European Parliament, expressed her concerns to journalists in Helsinki when she explained, “We don’t want these two leaders to cut deals over our heads.” Hautala echoes many fears that the international community has due to Trump’s America First policies and unpredictable behavior with Russia.  

One such issue on the international stage is Ukraine. Following the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, America First policies have resulted in President Trump’s nonintervention in the contentious issue. In this case, a lack of using soft power to persuade Russia to change its ways and a lack of hard power to coerce Russia shows an unreliability that Ukraine has already begun to accept, which was evident when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted, “We are ready to defend our land even if we must do it alone, without international support.

This disruption has united many under confusion and fear for the distant future. Drastically different people have shared this fear—former German ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger echoed former CIA director John Brennan’s fears on Twitter, stirring up a clamor of concern for the future of global leadership. Ultimately, by prioritizing America above all others, President Trump unwittingly helps Russia further its own national agenda and hurts America’s international identity by portraying it as an increasingly unreliable and inconsistent figurehead of leadership.

With the chaos surrounding Russia, it seems that the international community is helpless to stop such a threat. However, there still remains hope. A multilateral push of economic pressure on Russia from all directions, especially from China, not only reflects an international return to order but also damages Russian independence. Based on the prior analysis, forced economic confrontation with Russia seems like the best approach. However, with the unpredictability of the global playing field in recent light, the future truly does seem like a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, in an enigma.



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The Russian Regency: The Role Russia Plays Amidst Trump’s America First

When America’s 45th President, Donald Trump, was sworn into office in January 2017, he promised to “Make America Great Again.” However, through his isolationist and protectionist foreign policy, rather than making America great, President Trump has managed to make America “first” again. His “America First” approach to foreign policy is a cautious yet inconsistent attitude of non-intervention—except, of course, when intervening could benefit or protect America. In an increasingly integrated world, America has become increasingly isolated in part due to the development of her influence through military and economic strong-arming, something known as “hard power.”

On the other hand, soft power is being abandoned, as are American values abroad. Harvard Professor Joseph Nye explains that soft power encompasses the culture, foreign policy, and political persuasion of America, which are being left behind in favor of American nationalism. For example, President Trump’s crass remarks concerning other countries—whether it be about nuclear button size or “sh*thole” countries—all reflect an exceptionalist attitude shown through his foreign policy. However, with the rise of American hard power comes the decline of soft power in a time when both are equally important.

After all, America needs sticks and carrots alike if it is to continue wielding global power.

To put such a concept into perspective, the private financial company Bloomberg points out the impacts of neglecting soft power, noting, “From the South China Sea to Eastern Europe, longstanding international rules of the road—concepts such as non-aggression, freedom of navigation, and self-determination—are being flagrantly flouted or subtly eroded.” In times of such chaos, the international playing field is open to rapidly-shifting power dynamics—who will come out on top?

Notably, the ramifications of America First have led to an increase in Russian influence. With a world scrambling to respond to America’s sudden foreign policy shift, Russia is ready to pull the strings behind the scenes. Through analysis of American foreign policy in the age of the Trump administration, Russia’s relationship with America appears to be one that puts Russia in a position to seize significantly more hard power, but only if Russia can play its cards right.

By helping herself, America unwittingly gives Russia a much-needed hand up. Dutch comedian Arjen Lubach poked fun at America First by creating a satirical video response in which he promised “America First. Netherlands Second.” In reality, America First places Russia second, something that hurts America’s soft power by rendering her an increasingly unreliable leader. By blindly standing behind Russia’s controversial actions in order to further America’s self-interest, President Trump consolidates Russian hard power.

It is apparent that America First continues to benefit Russian President Vladimir Putin, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This benefit is evident through an article written by The Moscow Project, a non-governmental organization dedicated to investigating President Trump’s ties to Russia, which points out that “Trump repeatedly praises and defends Putin, lending the weight of the US presidency providing validation toward Putin’s cause.”

Ranging from intentional vagueness to actively proclaiming a desire to maintain a positive relationship, President Trump’s foreign policy supports Russian motives, such as domestic economic boost and increased global instability, which lends a level of unreliability to America’s international identity. Rather than being the morally sound, democratic titaness of freedom she once was, the inconsistency in punishing Russia has made America’s allies wary and cautious of President Trump’s next actions. Whether it be ineffective sanctions, contradictory Tweets, or even the contentious issue of Crimea, President Trump’s approach to Russia are all done in national interest but have far-reaching consequences.

The American side of this dangerous dance with power reveals a power vacuum left with America First, allowing for Russia to quickly adapt and take advantage of the increased global instability resulting from it. In the past, Russia has consistently thrived on its own. In fact, Alexander III of Russia once said, “Russia has only two allies; its army and navy.” However, with China gaining global economic traction, Russia finds itself facing what is either an ambitious rival or an invaluable ally.

With this in mind, Russia’s power is checked by other emerging global superpowers. Thus, if it does not significantly work on improving its soft power, it may be forever resigned to being a second-in-command to other countries with significantly more agency. Russia has started stirring the pot, and other countries have already begun to take advantage of this.

This relationship with Russia is reflective of America’s inconsiderate attitude toward foreign relations, which shape America into an overall more inconsistent and unreliable leader.

President Putin’s approach to America First is just as unpredictable as the policy itself. To quote former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” President Trump’s America First policies show that so long as Trump believes he is acting in America’s best interest, Putin can—and has—lead him to support Russia’s national interest indirectly and directly.

In analyzing the Helsinki summit, which was essentially an informal get together between Trump and Putin,  The Guardian observes, “Putin also has a long experience of US presidents trying to mend bilateral relations, only to discover later how much the Kremlin feeds on confrontation with the US for its domestic political narrative.” President Putin’s deceptive agenda means that America First will unwittingly aid Russia as well, which further damages America’s soft power.

Already, as a result of the Helsinki summit, countries are on edge due to the developments in America’s relationship with Russia. Heidi Hautala, the vice president of the European Parliament, expressed her concerns to journalists in Helsinki when she explained, “We don’t want these two leaders to cut deals over our heads.” Hautala echoes many fears that the international community has due to Trump’s America First policies and unpredictable behavior with Russia.  

One such issue on the international stage is Ukraine. Following the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, America First policies have resulted in President Trump’s nonintervention in the contentious issue. In this case, a lack of using soft power to persuade Russia to change its ways and a lack of hard power to coerce Russia shows an unreliability that Ukraine has already begun to accept, which was evident when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted, “We are ready to defend our land even if we must do it alone, without international support.

This disruption has united many under confusion and fear for the distant future. Drastically different people have shared this fear—former German ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger echoed former CIA director John Brennan’s fears on Twitter, stirring up a clamor of concern for the future of global leadership. Ultimately, by prioritizing America above all others, President Trump unwittingly helps Russia further its own national agenda and hurts America’s international identity by portraying it as an increasingly unreliable and inconsistent figurehead of leadership.

With the chaos surrounding Russia, it seems that the international community is helpless to stop such a threat. However, there still remains hope. A multilateral push of economic pressure on Russia from all directions, especially from China, not only reflects an international return to order but also damages Russian independence. Based on the prior analysis, forced economic confrontation with Russia seems like the best approach. However, with the unpredictability of the global playing field in recent light, the future truly does seem like a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, in an enigma.



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