Trump’s Five Questions on US Foreign Policy

Along with his self-congratulatory bombast, Donald Trump has offered a rare critique of Official Washington’s “group think” about foreign policy, including the wisdom of NATO expansion and the value of endless war, notes John V. Walsh.

By John V. Walsh

“Only Donald Trump (among the Presidential candidates) has said anything meaningful and critical of U.S. foreign policy.” No, that is not Reince Priebus, chair of the RNC, speaking up in favor of the presumptive Republican nominee. It is Stephen F. Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, a contributing editor for The Nation, that most liberal of political journals.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in an MSNBC interview.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in an MSNBC interview.

Cohen tells us here that: “Trump’s questions are fundamental and urgent, but instead of engaging them, his opponents (including President Obama) and the media dismiss the issues he raises about foreign policy as ignorant and dangerous. Some even charge that his statements are like ‘Christmas in the Kremlin’ and that he is ‘the Kremlin’s Candidate’ — thereby, further shutting off the debate we so urgently need.” (Cohen’s comment about the lack of a meaningful critique of U.S. foreign policy also covers the statements of Sen. Bernie Sanders.)

Cohen first enunciated Trump’s five questions during one of his weekly discussions on relations between Russia and the West on The John Batchelor Show, on WABC-AM (also on podcasts).

On the April 6 broadcast, Cohen said: “Let me just rattle off the five questions he [Trump] has asked. [First] why must the United States lead the world everywhere on the globe and play the role of the world’s policeman, now for example, he says, in Ukraine? It’s a question. It’s worth a discussion.

“Secondly, [Trump] said, NATO was founded 67 years ago to deter the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union ended 25 years ago. What is NATO’s mission? Is it obsolete? Is it fighting terrorism?  No, to the last question, it’s not. Should we discuss NATO’s mission?

“Thirdly, [Trump] asks, why does the United States always pursue regime changes? Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and now it wants a regime change in Syria, Damascus. When the result is, to use Donald Trump’s favorite word, the result is always “disaster.” But it’s a reasonable question.

“Fourthly, why do we treat Russia and Putin as an enemy when he should be a partner?

Russia scholar Stephen Cohen.

Russia scholar Stephen Cohen.

“Fifth, Trump asks, about nuclear weapons – and this is interesting. You remember he was asked, would he rule out using nuclear weapons – an existential question. He thought for a while and then he said, ‘No, I take nothing off the table.’ And everybody said he wants to use nuclear weapons! In fact, it is the official American nuclear doctrine policy that we do not take first use off the table. We do not have a no first use of nuclear weapons doctrine. So all Trump did was state in his own way what has been official American nuclear policy for, I guess, 40 or 50 years. …

“It seems to me that these five questions, which are not being discussed by the other presidential candidates, are essential.”

Batchelor then turned the discussion to the question of NATO. Cohen replied: “When we say NATO, what are we talking about? We are not talking only about the weapons and soldiers on land and sea. We’re talking about a vast political bureaucracy with hundreds of thousands of employees and appointees, that is located in Brussels. It’s a political empire. It’s an institution. It’s almost on a par with our Department of Defense, though it gets its money from the Department of Defense, mainly, as Trump points out …

“But it has many propaganda organs. If you look at the bylines of people who write op-ed pieces in many American papers, they are listed as working for the public relations department of NATO or they formerly did so. No, I would say along with the Kremlin and Washington, NATO is probably the third largest propagator of information, in this information war, in the world.

U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan who is credited with devising the strategy of deterrence against the Soviet Union after World War II.

U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan who is credited with devising the strategy of deterrence against the Soviet Union after World War II.

“But look, here’s the reality. And Trump came to this late. When they were discussing expanding NATO in the 1990s in the Clinton administration, it was George Kennan, who was then the most venerable American diplomat scholar on relations with Russia, who said: Don’t do it; it will be a disaster; it will lead to a new Cold War.

“Since George spoke his words – and I knew him well when I taught at Princeton where he lived – we have taken in virtually all of the countries between Berlin and Russia. NATO now has 28 membership states. But if you sit in the Kremlin and you see NATO coming at you over 20 years, country by country like PAC-man, gobbling up countries that used to be your allies, who appears to be the aggressor?

“So – the expansion of NATO has been a catastrophe. And that has been, in some ways, apart from fighting the war in Afghanistan – from which I believe it has now withdrawn, it is now solely American (I may be wrong about that) – and in addition taking on the American project of missile defense, expanding toward Russia has been NATO’s only mission since the end of the Soviet Union.

“So people can ask themselves, if they ask calmly and apart from the information war, … do we have less security risks, less conflict, today after this expansion to Russia’s borders, bearing in mind that the Ukrainian crisis is a direct result of trying to bring Ukraine into NATO as was the Georgian war, the proxy war with Russia in 2008. Are we, as [President] Reagan would say, are we better off today? We are not! So easily at a minimum, we have to rethink what it is NATO is doing.”

So get thee to the website for the American Committee on East West Accord and listen to the weekly Batchelor-Cohen podcasts. They are an ideal antidote to the avalanche of Russia-bashing and Putin-demonizing that we must endure. While you are at it, check out the other leading members of ACEWA, a superb and badly needed organization – and make a contribution.

John V. Walsh is a frequent contributor to,, and He is a founding member of “Come Home America.” Until recently he was Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He can be reached at [email protected].


34 comments for “Trump’s Five Questions on US Foreign Policy

  1. Walter DuBlanica
    May 25, 2016 at 21:52

    In terms of foreign policy in particular Trump is the fresh air we in America and the world need. The first thing we all need to remember is that Russia has thousands if Nuclear weapons. Who in their right mind wants this sort of conflict?

  2. Silverado
    May 25, 2016 at 00:59

    Better late than never – at least he’s asked. Too bad he just doesn’t come out and say that he’ll jail all these criminal and psychopathic American neocons, especially the warmongering variety that seems to have pervaded our govt and that criminal cabal known as NATO. NATO’s job was over decades ago and what you see now is nothing but an overfed, bloated organisation overflowing with career political hacks with little to do except spending other country’s money to create mischief and havoc where they have no business being. NATO accountability?? In Europe? Sure…Let Brussels’s handle their own defense, something they’ve screwed up on a number of times historically basically since before WWI and like dead fruit on the vine, you’ll see the end of NATO el pronto…

  3. akech
    May 24, 2016 at 22:34


    “A glance at the people supporting Trump is not reassuring to sensible people. Fanatical Christians, foreigner-haters, right-wing tub-thumpers, gun nuts, skinheads ……. ”


    Unless the groups named above are barred from supporting candidates and voting in the US elections, they are US citizens and are allowed by law to pick candidates who represent their needs! These groups have been participating in elections for the POTUS and representatives in Congress. Why on earth are they now very scary because they are supporting Donald Trump and why are their views being projected on the candidate?
    I am sure there are millions of citizens who voted George W. without anticipating Iraq war and deaths of millions innocent Iraqi citizens and thousands young American men and women. People who voted for Barack Obama were not told his eyes would be hell bent on bailing the Wall Street and wreaking havoc in Libya and Syria, which were very stable countries when he took office!
    The people who are afraid of Donald Trump do not seem to have any qualms about bringing death and destruction to the citizens of Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Libya, Central African Republic, Rwanda and Ukraine. Donald Trump was not the architect of the decisions that led to the destruction their dwellings and lives. Additionally, the brains behind these bloody decisions are same characters telling every American citizen to BE VERY AFRAID of skin heads! Why is marching to Iraq and destroying the whole infrastructure, including killing millions of innocent citizens not viewed as hating foreigners?
    Oh, bringing survivors here in USA after slaughtering their families, friends and destroying their neighborhoods must be very loving, indeed and far better than being a skin-head or Fanatical Christian! WOW!

  4. TruthTime
    May 23, 2016 at 20:15

    Only Donald Trump has asked Foreign Policy questions? Bullshit.

    Independents and Greens such as Jill Stein HAVE been pointing out the U.S.’s complete failure that is “Foreign” Policy.

    Also Trump is playing the Long Con – evidenced by WHO his Foreign Policy Advisers are, a practical A-Team of Imperialist Jack Offs.

    Trump is even signing on fucking Rudy Juliani – do people trust that 9/11 False Flag fucker? How about all these truly great assholes: Walid Phares, Jeff Sessions, Keith Kellogg, Joe Schmitz, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos.

    • Brad Benson
      May 24, 2016 at 10:40

      He has also talked to a lot of people not on that list. He’s a smart man and knows he’ll need every vote. Would you prefer President Netanyahu?

  5. PJ
    May 23, 2016 at 19:55

    Granting your point (politicians lie, and Trump is now a politician), the fact he raises such questions at all puts him head and shoulders above his competitors (except Sanders, apparently). After all the easy thing to do is to not rock the boat. The first job in changing policy is to question it, and Trump and Sanders now are doing so. Rather than question his motives on it, maybe we should instead cheer him on.

  6. Baldie McEagle
    May 22, 2016 at 21:39

    “Don’t do it; it will be a disaster; it will lead to a new Cold War.”

    That’s why they did it.

  7. George Glass
    May 22, 2016 at 21:14

    Trump seemed courageous in asking these questiions — obvious questions that no one in the corporate media is allowed to ask or bothers to ask — but now he seems to merely tell each audience what he thinks that audience wants to hear. Nobody is sure what Trump really thinks or what he might really do if he becomes president. A glance at the people supportingTrump is not reassuring to sensible people. Fanatical Christians, foreigner-haters, right-wing tub-thumpers, gun nuts, skinheads — you name it and it can be found wearing one of those red hats. When he began I suspected that Trump was secretly in league with Clinton, that he would carry out a repeat of the 1992 Ross Perot race and thereby ensure Hillary gets elected. But Trump’s candidacy took off and here we are. Now we could get Trump heading the worst kleptocracy since Ronald Reagan brought in tree-haters to lead the Department of IInteri or, or, on the other hand, a Hillary presidency which would virtually turn over U.S.foreign policy to Israel and domestic economic policy to Goldman Sachs. This choice is nothing short of an excrement sandwich.

    • dahoit
      May 23, 2016 at 11:07

      You clowns are amusing know nothings.I am a life long democrat who will vote for Trump happily,as he says he will end the new world order of Americas destruction at the hands of Zion.
      He might not finger the enemy,but the enemy has sure fingered him,as every Ziorag in America hates him.

      • Bill Bodden
        May 23, 2016 at 12:09

        Stay tuned for Trump’s revision of this and other stories.

      • FobosDeimos
        May 23, 2016 at 15:04

        Did you read Trump’s speech at AIPAC? This is just one excerpt: “I came here to speak to you about where I stand on the future of American relations with our strategic ally, our unbreakable friendship and our cultural brother, the only democracy in the Middle East, the state of Israel”.

    • Brad Benson
      May 24, 2016 at 10:38

      Is James Watt still alive? Maybe Trump could offer him the VP Spot!

  8. FobosDeimos
    May 22, 2016 at 20:35

    Although it is true that some of Trump’s statements on foreign policy sound good, his positions seem to change by the day. For example, on Israel-Palestine he went from advocating some sort of neutrality to embracing the fanatic pro-Israel stand that is common to all the establishment. I do not believe a word he says.

    • Brad Benson
      May 24, 2016 at 10:36

      No he didn’t. You can read the transcript of his speech to AIPAC and see that he promised nothing. It was long on rosy talk about the relationship between Israel and the US, mostly in reference to his daughter’s marriage and conversion, but he gave them nothing to hang a hat on. For these reasons, he received only minimal, polite applause.

  9. May 22, 2016 at 16:53

    Let’s thank Mr. Trump for raising such questions – but let us also keep in mind that raising particular questions does not ipso facto signal that the questioner will take a different course from that of his predecessors. Given Trump’s strategy of touching on issues that gather in the greatest number of people to his camp (many of the positions are contradictory to the others in some ways), we should be very wary that his questioning actual means ANYTHING. His questions are probably more rhetorical than substantive, even though they are necessary questions for starting a true national discussion of what our foreign policy should be. And recall Mr. Trump is most proud of his being a consummate deal-maker. What would he bargain away to get what HE wants? What does HE want? I don’t think we’ve yet found out in a systematic way — he’s still issuing statements that are often changed within a few days, or even a few hours.

    • Zachary Smith
      May 22, 2016 at 18:33

      Amen to all that!

      Just because Trump may be better than Hillary on several issues doesn’t translate into him really meaning what he says.

    • Bill Bodden
      May 22, 2016 at 18:55

      Well said. You saved me the effort of making this point. There is also the claim made by Trump that he will make our military the most powerful again. Again? It has been the most powerful since WW2 – and the most expensive and wasteful and one of the more incompetent. Except for Panama, Grenada and the turkey-shoot along the Iraq-Kuwait border our military misadventures around the planet have been monumental disasters. Fifteen years in Afghanistan against local forces with a budget that is a mere fraction of the US-NATO budget for that graveyard of empires, and our military is still bogged down there.

      “Trump Fundraiser Screws Vets Out Of Millions As His Rich Friends Welch On Donations” By Jason Easley on Fri, May 20th, 2016 at 2:42 pm – Donald Trump’s veterans fundraiser scam has gotten worse as Trump’s rich friends have welched on a promise to donate millions to veterans groups.
      ,” –

      • George Glass
        May 22, 2016 at 21:25

        You are correct. All this U.S. warmongering is being done largely because Western capitalists have nowhere else to go — they have drained all the easily accessible markets of virtually all wealth and profits. All they can do now is thump their chests and spend countless more billions of newly printed tax dollars to stimulate the Western economies while talking tough about Russian and Chinese “aggression.” And it is all talk because it’s unlikely the U.S. could defeat even Russia, much less Russia and China together, in a conventional war. America’s military is depleted and demoralized. Many of our glitzy high-tech weapons don’t last long in combat and our supply lines would be way too long. And with enemy missiles tearing into the U.S. suburbs every day and also destroying the rich and powerful ensconced in their command centers, America would really get a taste of what it has dished out to poor Third World countries for so long. Let’s hope all that never happens and somehow we find a way to take back our country from the military-industrial-banking cartel.

        • alexander
          May 23, 2016 at 09:46

          Mr Glass,

          I am not sure “the printing of trillions of dollars” to fight wars based on fraud was done to “sustain” our economy. Our economy was doing extremely well BEFORE the Neocon spending sprees on belligerent conflicts.

          Rather, these Neocon “wars of choice” have nearly bankrupted us all….. draining our nation of obscene amounts of precious treasure vital to the well being of our national security.

          The massive debt (20 trillion) these wars have generated is an unmitigated disaster.

          It has crippled the country, not “sustained” it.

          It has severely delimited our spending power, eviscerated our balance sheet, and undercut both our short and long term credit worthiness.

          Nothing has more ravaged and imperiled our nations future than these catastrophic wars.


          • George Glass
            May 23, 2016 at 10:41

            True enough, but in the U.S. there are really two economies — the prosperous activity of the miltary-industrial-banking cartel and the more sluggish economy to which everyone else is subjected. The wars of choice are designed to shovel tons of tax dollars into the former and they do bolster the bank accounts of politicians, rich shareholders in the war industries and others. Of course, all this plus the costs of sustaining the rest of society is put on the national credit card. P.S. — Obama’s lifting of the arms embargo on Vietnam is another good example of the military-industrial-banking cartel using diplomacy to enrich itself and promote more wars. Vietnam already is awash in weapons but wants more advanced U.S. warships and other toys. The U.S. MIBC is always eager to oblige, providing illegal cluster munitions — which blow up children for decades after their initial use — and other dirty weapons to all comers with the cash or credit to buy them.

      • Zachary Smith
        May 22, 2016 at 23:09

        Again? It has been the most powerful since WW2 – and the most expensive and wasteful and one of the more incompetent.

        Fox has a recent report about the Air Force, claiming a high fraction of the airplanes are grounded for lack of spare parts, mechanics, or both. Also, the airplanes of all the services are wearing out from overuse. This is despite having almost unlimited money – they’re throwing that at Big Weapons Makers.

        Russia is simply astonished at the waste of military money in the US.

        With an annual defense budget of over $600 billion, the Pentagon can take the liberty of conducting various kinds of experiments, including spending $4.4 billion on a single destroyer. By comparison, one US [Virginia-class] nuclear submarine, the newest in the fleet, costs about $2.2 billion. In other words, they used the budget for two nuclear subs to build one Zumwalt. What can be said? Americans love grandiose projects which sometimes go beyond the scope of reason.

        The F-35, the Ford-class carriers, and the Zumwalt-class destroyers. All terrific wastes of money.

        Anybody who would take one freaking destroyer instead of two nuclear submarines has some screws loose.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 22, 2016 at 19:33

      You are on to it. Trump says a lot of provocative things, some of which even gets the attention of geopolitical liberals who wish for a better tomorrow. But wait a minute, why is the Donald now accepting campaign donations from Sheldon Adelson? Why is Trump considering a position for John Bolton? Trump has even mentioned how he would seek out military advice from General Jack Keane. The only good thing that could come of this, is when and if a President Trump should try and negotiate a deal with the opposition, would be to have these warmongers standing behind him, to scare the opposition into accepting his proposal out of fear. Other than that, he pals around with the worst of the worst. Ah but then there’s that Hillary Clinton.

      • TruthTime
        May 23, 2016 at 20:27

        I think I know exactly what Trump is doing – being a con artist, same as HiLIAry Clinton. I guarantee he will turn right around with his Hope and Change promises, with his stellar Adviser team of Imperialists.

    • John V. Walsh
      May 23, 2016 at 15:12

      You make a good point, Mr. Driscoll BUT you also answer your own question!!!
      First Trump has been making some of these points, for example opposing the war on Iraq. since at least 2004 – long before he was a candidate.
      Second and more important, according to the conventional wisdom at the time, raising these points should have LOST Trump votes especially in the GOP. Why make these points? If it was not opportunism, then it must be heartfelt!!
      So we have good reason to have hope that The Donald may change the direction of the US from Empire to America First. No guarantee but solid reason for hope. Whether the foreign policy elite and the “deep state” will allow it or whether Trump can prevail in a struggle with them is uncertain.

    • Brad Benson
      May 24, 2016 at 10:33

      Between Trump and Hillary, there is no question as to who would be more dangerous, regardless how Trump addresses our foreign policy. She has told us exactly what she intends to do. Versus Hillary, I’ll take my chances with Trump any day and twice on Sundays.

  10. Nancy
    May 22, 2016 at 13:34

    Bernie Sanders excerpt quoted by Google in Dec 2015:

    “The test of a great and powerful nation is not how many wars it can engage in, but how it can resolve international conflicts in a peaceful manner. I will move away from a policy of unilateral military action and regime change, and toward a policy of emphasizing diplomacy, and ensuring the decision to go to war is a last resort.”

    • Oz
      May 23, 2016 at 11:03

      Sanders does utter platitudes of this sort. But he also jumps on the bandwagon of demonizing Russia and China, which does not serve the US national interest and carries the risk of war by miscalculation.

      • Franklin Benjamin
        May 24, 2016 at 10:10

        BS will also be holding hands with Hillary Clinton after August 30. Tragic to his brand, but true.

        He (or a similar candidate) would have defeated the Clinton Foundation if it wasn’t for the rigging of the primaries.

        Question is will Sanders or Trump continue their movements after November.

    • Carol
      May 23, 2016 at 17:49

      Bernie Sanders voted _twice_ in the 1990s to overthrow Saddam Hussein. He supported the overthrow of Gaddafi. He has stated after ISIS is defeated he wants regime change in Syria. He has voted on sanctions against Russia and demonized Russia after the U.S. orchestrated overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected government. He is definitely a recipe for more of the same regarding foreign policy.

    • Brad Benson
      May 24, 2016 at 10:31

      Yes, he did say that and then he went on Chuck Todd’s Program and lauded Obama’s Drone Murder Program as both necessary and effective–stating further that the drone policies would continue under a Sanders Administration. That’s when I stopped sending him money. Now he’s feigning a fight to the death before raising Clinton’s hand in victory and marching over the brink with the War Lovers.

      Anyone but Hillary 2016! (and that looks more and more like Trump as each day passes)

  11. Erik G
    May 22, 2016 at 13:21

    It is most unfortunate that Sanders conceals his foreign policy, and that Hillary’s foreign policy is deeply corrupt. Even more unfortunate that the people allow presidents to make foreign policy, which is a high crime under the Constitution – that is the domain of Congress alone. I wonder whether a Trump win would cut out the right wing tyrants of military adventurism, allowing the Dems to defeat him in 2020 on domestic policy. Although as pointed out, the Trump domestic policy might win despite its regressiveness.

    A repudiation of the NATO treaty, or cutting it back to vestigial defense roles, and other measures appear to be necessary, to keep these criminal presidents from making or forcing US foreign policy by misusing the military and secret agencies.

  12. dahoit
    May 22, 2016 at 11:37

    Trump is the breath of fresh air America desperately needs.
    That is why he is demonized daily,the Zionists want no part of America First.

    • Brad Benson
      May 24, 2016 at 10:27

      Yep. Here’s something I wrote for another publication, which touches on this subject.

      Why the Washington Power Elite fears Trump

    • Aarky
      May 28, 2016 at 14:15

      Trump has kissed up to the Israelis, but their agents in the US, such as Bill Kristal, have been working from behind the scenes to sabotage him,with no success. They are fearful with him at the WH that the $5 billion of free money to Israel will not arrive.

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