WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s “America First” vision is a stark worldview that sees rivals battling each other for supremacy or relevance and has little use for alliances, treaties and other international agreements unless they directly benefit the United States, its industry and workers.
Trump’s doctrine, to be laid out next week when he unveils his National Security Strategy, holds that nation states are in perpetual competition and the U.S. must fight on all fronts to protect and defend its sovereignty from friend and foe alike. While the administration often says that “America First” does not mean “America Alone,” the NSS to be presented by Trump on Monday will make clear that the United States will stand up for itself even if that means acting unilaterally or alienating others on issues like trade, climate change and immigration, according to sources familiar with the strategy.
If fully implemented, the strategy could represent a profound shift from the traditional post-Cold War approach to global affairs taken by administrations of both political parties over the past three decades. With few exceptions, those administrations have embraced or sought to embrace multilateral cooperation and engagement.
Despite the risk of potential isolation presented by Trump’s strategy, its fundamentals are not a surprise. The Associated Press reviewed excerpts of a late draft of the roughly 70-page document and spoke to two sources familiar with it. The strategy is largely drawn from themes Trump has described in speeches and is based on four pillars: protecting the homeland, stimulating American prosperity, promoting peace through strength and enhancing American leadership.
It is rooted in Trump’s belief that competition rather than cooperation defines the current global environment, the sources said. An excerpt of the strategy seen by The AP emphasizes that America has often fought to protect its interests.
“America’s achievements and standing in the world were neither inevitable nor accidental,” the draft says. “On many occasions Americans have had to compete with adversarial forces to preserve and advance our security, prosperity, and the principles we hold dear.”
National security adviser H.R. McMaster outlined the four pillars of the strategy in a speech earlier this week in which he declared that “geopolitics are back and they are back with a vengeance.”
He said the new strategy, the first of Trump’s administration, would identify threats to the United States and its interests from “revisionist powers” like Russia and China, “rogue regimes” like Iran and North Korea, and non-state actors like terrorist groups and criminal enterprises. In that, the strategy is not dissimilar to those of previous administrations.
But the sources, who fleshed out McMaster’s preview on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly pre-empt Trump’s speech, said it would emphasize that U.S. economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might. And they said it would stress the U.S. is only interested in relationships with other countries, including alliances like NATO, that are fair and reciprocal.
In addition, the strategy will say that staying competitive and successfully defending U.S. sovereignty starts with protecting America’s borders and controlling who may cross them.
“Strengthening control over our borders and immigration system is central to national security, economic prosperity, and the rule of law,” the draft says. “Terrorists, drug traffickers, and criminal cartels exploit porous borders and threaten U.S. security and public safety. These actors adapt quickly to outpace our defenses. The United States affirms its sovereign right to determine who should enter our country and under what circumstances.”
The early draft of the strategy lamented that America had put itself at a disadvantage by entering into multi-national agreements, such as those aimed at combatting climate change, and introducing domestic policies to implement them. That draft downplayed the national security risk of climate change and emphasized the costs to the U.S. economy of environmental and other regulations aimed at mitigating it.
It was not immediately clear if the climate change language would be in the final version of the strategy.
The sources said the document would identify predators and pledge that the U.S. would treat them as such.
China, for example, is to be chided for allegedly manipulating the rules-based international economic order for its own advantage and Russia for campaigns to disrupt democratic processes in former Soviet states, Europe and the U.S.