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Donald Trump Wins in 2024: Which Countries Cheer or Flip Out?

Donald Trump
By Gage Skidmore: President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

While he has endured an inauspicious start to his 2024 presidential campaign and is ahead in some hypothetical matchup polls and behind in others, Donald Trump could still win the primary and general election. If victorious, he would preside over a world in disarray. Post-war Ukraine would have to be rebuilt. Putin could continue nuclear brinkmanship. Iran could have a nuclear weapon, China could put finishing touches on a plan to invade Taiwan, and North Korea could advance its nuclear arms program. Climate change could also get worse.

How Will Ukraine Be Re-Built?

What would Trump’s foreign policy be like in a second administration? Let’s start with reconstruction of Ukraine assuming there is some sort of armistice that Moscow and Kyiv agree to by 2025 when Trump would be sworn in. Would Trump lead negotiations that could result in a peace treaty, or would it be a fragile ceasefire with a frozen conflict and perhaps a demilitarized zone in the Donbas region of Ukraine?

Reconstruction Needs American Leadership and Stacks of Money

If there is peace in Ukraine, re-building the country could cost as much as a trillion dollars. The United States has already spent, earmarked, or proposed sending over $100 billion to aid Ukraine. Trump as president would likely have spent less. This means he may not want to invest as much in a Ukrainian 21st century Marshall Plan for reconstruction of the country. Assuming the Republicans would run at least the House of Representatives, such an ambitious commitment to a Ukrainian rebuild may not be in the cards because some in the GOP are more skeptical of Ukrainian aid. Without U.S. leadership, a huge global coalition for reconstruction would be more difficult.

The Response to Russia Going Nuclear

If Russia ever used nuclear weapons in Ukraine, it is difficult to predict what Trump would do. He would feel pressure from hawks and doves in his National Security Council and the Department of Defense. They would advise a nuclear or conventional response. The doves would likely win and encourage Trump to order the military to sink Russia’s ships in the Black Sea and launch conventional cruise missiles at nuclear weapons infrastructure in Russia. If Putin ordered a battlefield tactical nuclear weapon, the United States could respond with its own low-yield device, but this scenario is less likely.

The Taiwan Question

Could China invade Taiwan or at least make the final preparations to do so? This would likely happen around 2026 and 2027, later in Trump’s term. This is a difficult situation too. Trump has been tough on China in the past on trade and currency manipulation issues. He would have to decide whether the United States would intervene, and it is likely he would use the Navy and Air Force to respond militarily in the first few days and then hope for a ceasefire. China would have to plan for some sort of occupation strategy if they were successful in the invasion – preparations they have not embarked on yet. Trump would likely use negotiations if possible to avert an attack or occupation and it would be the most consequential deal making of his presidency.

Work With North Korea

In North Korea, Trump would accept that Kim Jong Un will never give up his nuclear arsenal. This would be an unorthodox and unpopular stance but there is no hope that North Korea would disarm. In this strategy, Trump is likely to cancel all joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea and even consider reducing the number of American troops on the peninsula in an effort to get Kim Jong Un to halt further nuclear tests and reduce or freeze the number of warheads in his arsenal.

Regime Change in Iran

In the Middle East, Trump is likely to continue the Abraham Accords efforts. He will rely on allies such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, and of course Israel to balance against Iran. Trump would be helped by Benjamin Netanyahu if Bibi remains in power in Israel. He would also resist any attempts to enter a nuclear deal with Iran for sanctions relief. Trump would support regime change and assistance to opposition groups inside and outside Iran.

No Big Moves on Climate Change

Trump is a climate change skeptic so don’t expect him to have a climate functionary like John Kerry to be in charge of anything. He would likely withdraw from any world accord that would limit fossil fuels or encroach on U.S. sovereignty. The climate could become worse in his second term, but do not expect major engagement in any global multilateral organization like the UN Conference of Parties in which the United States would have to curtail emissions that would hurt the country’s economy.

Trump Can’t Hide from a Messy World

As you can see, this is a cacophony of thorny global problems. Neo-isolationism with America First principles that encourage a foreign policy of restraint would not be possible. Trump would be forced to make difficult decisions with bad options. Hopefully, his finger would stay off the nuclear trigger and Taiwan would not attempt to reunify Taiwan with force. He could be successful in North Korea by working with Kim Jong Un. Trump would eventually agree to providing rebuilding assistance to Ukraine and he would welcome regime change in Iran.

Like all presidents, he would need luck in foreign policy. A military failure against China would be disastrous as would Putin’s use of a nuclear weapon. One thing is certain, he would not be able to avoid engagement in the world. Foreign policy could change the way he governs and would affect how he is remembered among historians.

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.