Democrats’ win to res­onate around world

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

By seiz­ing con­trol of the House, Democrats have set the stage for a power strug­gle with Pres­i­dent Trump that will re­ver­ber­ate around the world, for­eign pol­icy an­a­lysts said Wed­nes­day, with U.S. mil­i­tary pol­icy in Afghanistan, Syria, Ye­men and else­where com­ing un­der scru­tiny amid ris­ing fears abroad that Repub­li­cans’ elec­toral losses could spur the pres­i­dent to lash out even more against NATO, China and other per­ceived ad­ver­saries.

Although Democrats will be lim­ited in their abil­ity to al­ter Mr. Trump’s for­eign pol­icy — es­pe­cially given that Repub­li­cans strength­ened their grip on the Se­nate in the midterm con­tests — pre­sumed in­com­ing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her al­lies surely will call hear­ings, con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions and de­mand more in­for­ma­tion on how Mr. Trump is han­dling crises from the Mid­dle East to the Pa­cific.

House Democrats are

ex­pected to take a harsh look at the ef­fec­tive­ness of U.S. pol­icy in Afghanistan, the strat­egy to erad­i­cate the Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Amer­i­can re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia, for­eign aid and the State De­part­ment’s bud­get, de­nu­cle­ariza­tion ef­forts with North Korea and Iran, and U.S. sup­port for Saudi Ara­bia’s bru­tal mil­i­tary cam­paign against ex­trem­ists in Ye­men, an­a­lysts say.

But the Demo­cratic of­fen­sive is un­likely to limit Mr. Trump’s bold ac­tions on the global front, schol­ars pre­dict. Un­like the White House’s do­mes­tic agenda, which will hit se­ri­ous road­blocks over the next two years, there was a grow­ing ex­pec­ta­tion Wed­nes­day that Mr. Trump will feel lib­er­ated to act more ag­gres­sively in the for­eign pol­icy realm.

Some an­a­lysts pre­dicted that ag­gres­sion could man­i­fest it­self most in the U.S. re­la­tion­ship with Bei­jing, per­haps in the form of ramped-up mil­i­tary ten­sions in the South China Sea or es­ca­la­tions in the trade war with China.

“If I were you look­ing at the United States, I would say a more be­sieged Pres­i­dent Trump who has not suc­ceeded in midterms is likely to act more er­rat­i­cally, more ag­gres­sively and po­ten­tially more dan­ger­ous for your part of the world,” po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Ian Brem­mer said Wed­nes­day in an in­ter­view with the South China Morn­ing Post.

“The like­li­hood that you get sur­prises out of the sec­ond two years of the Trump pres­i­dency is very high,” said Mr. Brem­mer, founder of Eura­sia Group.

Across the At­lantic, there is con­cern that Mr. Trump will ratchet up his pres­sure cam­paign to­ward NATO, the Eu­ro­pean Union and lead­ing West­ern al­lies such as Ger­many, which the pres­i­dent has ac­cused of not spend­ing enough on de­fense.

“The for­mi­da­ble ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers of the pres­i­dent, no­tably in for­eign pol­icy, re­main un­touched,” Nor­bert Roettgen, head of the for­eign af­fairs com­mit­tee in the Ger­man Bun­destag, told Deutsch­land­funk ra­dio. “We need to pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump’s de­feat [in the House] fires him up, that he in­ten­si­fies the po­lar­iza­tion, the ag­gres­sion we saw dur­ing the cam­paign.”

Con­cerns were sim­i­lar in Is­rael, where po­lit­i­cal pun­dits feared that Mr. Trump could try to score a ma­jor win ahead of his 2020 re-elec­tion ef­fort by se­cur­ing the “deal of the cen­tury” be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans.

“What wor­ries me is that pres­i­dents often shift to for­eign pol­icy af­ter midterms, when they lose the House, and so I think it is likely that Trump will look for suc­cesses there since he can’t take away Oba­macare now or ad­vance his tax plans,” said Sh­muel San­dler, pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at Bar Ilan Uni­ver­sity just out­side Tel Aviv. “We can look at a sce­nario where he tries to push for­ward his ‘deal of the cen­tury plan.’”

‘Hit the ground run­ning’

The Democrats’ play­book for han­dling Mr. Trump’s for­eign pol­icy ap­proach hasn’t been fi­nal­ized. It wasn’t even en­tirely clear Wed­nes­day who would take helm of key com­mit­tees in­side the House re­spon­si­ble for over­sight of for­eign af­fairs, the mil­i­tary and the CIA.

But an­a­lysts say Democrats will act quickly. In ad­di­tion to call­ing hear­ings on more tra­di­tional for­eign pol­icy mat­ters such as the war against Is­lamic State and the com­plex geopo­lit­i­cal ri­valry with China, Democrats also will face pres­sure to in­ves­ti­gate the more per­sonal sides of Mr. Trump’s ap­proach to global af­fairs.

Democrats will pay at­ten­tion to his pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions and per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with lead­ers such as North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong-un and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, son-in­law Jared Kush­ner’s role in ne­go­ti­at­ing a Mid­dle East peace deal, and whether high-rank­ing of­fi­cials from around the world have tried to curry fa­vor with the pres­i­dent by stay­ing at his prop­er­ties in New York and Wash­ing­ton.

“They should all hit the ground run­ning in Jan­uary,” said an anal­y­sis Wed­nes­day by Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion vet­er­ans Brian McKeon and Caro­line Tess, now se­nior di­rec­tor and se­nior fel­low, re­spec­tively, at the Penn Bi­den Cen­ter for Diplo­macy and Global En­gage­ment.

“To be­gin with, they should hold hear­ings on U.S. pol­icy to­ward Iran, North Korea, Rus­sia, Saudi Ara­bia, and Cen­tral Amer­ica; the im­pact of tar­iffs on eco­nomic and for­eign pol­icy; and grow­ing transna­tional threats, par­tic­u­larly cli­mate change, cy­ber­se­cu­rity, and ter­ror­ism,” they wrote.

“The House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee will likely spend a good por­tion of its time in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump fam­ily busi­nesses,” they said.

“It should pri­or­i­tize tak­ing a close look at the Chi­nese and Rus­sians who have bought Trump prop­er­ties in New York and else­where, as well as the lav­ish spend­ing by for­eign gov­ern­ments at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.”

“There’s so much to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that could be in­ves­ti­gated, it’s an un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion of ma­jor busi­ness en­tan­gle­ments around the world,” Dana Allin, se­nior fel­low with the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “It’s very dif­fi­cult to rule out the idea that for­eign pol­icy de­ci­sions are not be­ing kept sep­a­rate from busi­ness in­ter­ests.”

Democrats, how­ever, could over­play their hand if they press too hard, too early.

“From a po­lit­i­cal point of view, the chal­lenge for them is will they use [their in­ves­ti­ga­tory power] in a sub­tle way … or are we go­ing to see an­other set of Beng­hazi hear­ings and they go over­board?” said Carla Anne Rob­bins, ad­junct se­nior fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions.

In Rus­sia, top of­fi­cials openly pre­dicted that the Demo­crat-con­trolled House would reach too far and spur more con­fu­sion and chaos in the U.S.

“I’m afraid that the U.S. po­lit­i­cal sys­tem will be among losers, be­com­ing even more un­bal­anced and un­pre­dictable, up to at­tempts to launch the im­peach­ment pro­ce­dure,” Kon­stantin Kosachev, chair of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil’s For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, told Rus­sia’s Tass news agency.

But there was also a mea­sure of fa­tal­ism that the po­lit­i­cal earth­quake in Wash­ing­ton will have lit­tle im­pact on Mr. Trump’s dis­rup­tive for­eign pol­icy, in Rus­sia and around the globe.

“It would be hard to make [the re­la­tion­ship] even worse,” Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told re­porters Wed­nes­day.

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