January 13, 2017

Ties That Bind: Why Asian Alliances Will Survive Trump

By Mira Rapp-Hooper

On the campaign trail, President-elect Trump regularly denigrated America’s alliances, calling NATO obsolete and demanding that South Korea and Japan “pay up” or the United States would begin to draw down its troop commitment. Since the election, he has reportedly reaffirmed U.S. commitments to Tokyo and Seoul, but Trump’s Asia advisors have confirmed that he intends to press allies to increase their spending. Burden-sharing debates are as old as the security treaties themselves, but Trump’s alliance positions have created unprecedented angst in Asia. Partners worry that his transactional approach to international politics will transcend mere penny-pinching and lead him to abandon them altogether.

These worries have good theoretical grounding:  Realist scholars of international relations have often characterized alliances as marriages of convenience, which form against shared threats and disperse when the foe is vanquished. U.S. alliances were, of course, designed in the early Cold War to contain the Soviet Union and to help rebuild postwar Europe and Asia. Both tasks were long ago accomplished, and yet, America’s treaty commitments have lived on and have been repurposed to contemporary challenges. Could the 2016 election be the beginning of the end for these longstanding pacts? As the incoming Trump administration considers a significant realignment in U.S. foreign policy, including an embrace of Russia and “deal-making” with China, perhaps the 70-year American experiment with security guarantee statecraft will also meet its demise — or so this narrative goes.

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.

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