On the day before the U.S. presidential election, there are still plenty of unknowns concerning the foreign policies of Democratic and Republican candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — a fact that can be troubling for Europeans. This lack of clear foreign policy is one of many questions that Professor Ruud Janssens will raise during a lecture on 7 November, the eve of Election Day.
Janssens, who has taught at the University of Amsterdam as a professor of American Studies since 2002, specialises in the history of American intelligence and security agencies. He’s also been following the U.S. presidential elections since 1988.
“In previous elections cycles, you had presidential candidates…write an article on foreign affairs explaining what the viewpoint of the candidate was on international relations,” says Janssens. “This time around, they haven’t done that.”
Apparently, for both these candidates, domestic issues currently eclipse foreign policy. Not only have they not penned these essays, their campaign websites, which serve as powerful tools in an Internet-reliant culture, push down foreign policy to mere afterthoughts: both Trump’s and Clinton’s websites leave foreign relations far down a long list of issues, he notes.
It seems, Janssens says, that neither party wants to emphasise that point. However, it would be the assumption that Clinton would follow in Barack Obama’s footsteps, meaning she would be open to multilateral talks and negotiations, especially regarding the Middle East and African refugees. These are “topics that are really important to Europe, but also the U.S. because it destabilises Europe,” Janssens says.
Trump, along with Clinton, has also expressed opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), though Trump has also expressed his desire to compel Europe to pay more for defence. Beyond that, Janssens says, “we just don’t know.”
Counting the unknowns
There are more unknowns in a Trump presidency, Janssens says, including who he would select as his own Secretary of State. Clinton has an established and extensive network of foreign relations experts, while Trump, with little experience as a politician — a fact that some his supporters celebrate as a positive — has no track record from which to judge how he will select his staff and advisers.
Or, Janssens continues, if Trump will even have a hand in policy at all, citing a report that Trump’s son approached Ohio Governor John Kasich with an offer of being the “most powerful VP” ever, in charge of both domestic and foreign affairs.
It would be a presidency completely unheard of, but then again, so is Trump’s campaign. Clinton’s campaign has been mostly traditional, while Trump’s, with an emphasis on “Twitter feeds and morning breakfast shows,” Janssens says, has turned this election cycle into a media sensation that has captured the attention of the world — and everyone, not just the American public, is waiting for the results.
University of Amsterdam Professor Ruud Janssens will present his lecture on the 2016 presidential election in the United States on 7 November at 8 pm.