It is increasingly likely that US President Donald Trump will not remain master of the White House for another four years. Coming from a business rather than a political establishment, Trump has often acted outside the box and at random, but his presidency will undoubtedly go down in history. We decided to remember what was remembered for his current presidential term, which will end next January.
Migrants and the Trump Wall
Even during his 2016 election campaign, one of Trump’s main campaign promises was a significant reduction in illegal migration. He argued that the newcomers worsen the crime situation in the country, and also take jobs from the Americans.
Shortly after coming to power, Trump signed legislation restricting entry from seven Muslim countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Somalia – and proposed several initiatives to reduce refugee intake. As a result, the programs were cut so much that in 2021 it is planned to accept only 15 thousand refugees in the United States (in 2018 there were 45 thousand).
In April 2020, Trump signed a decree to reduce the issuance of green cards in connection with the coronavirus, as a result of which our compatriots, who won them in the annual lottery of the US government, also suffered.
But the “dream project” of the construction magnate who took over the executive branch was the wall on the border with Mexico, which was supposed to protect the United States from the flow of illegal migrants, drug trafficking and smuggling. The administration of the new president had a lot of determination, but little leverage to implement such an ambitious project: it was completely unclear who would pay for the construction, although before the election Trump said that the burden should fall on Mexico. The order to build the wall from the federal budget was signed shortly after Trump took office in January 2017. However, they failed to get Mexico itself to pay for the wall.
Butting a congressional reluctance to fund the wall led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history in December 2018. Congress nevertheless allocated almost five times less amount, and Trump decided to act differently. In February 2019, he introduced a state of emergency due to the situation at the border, which allowed him to gain access to funds allocated for defense needs. During this time, a total of about 600 km of additional border facilities were built from more than 3100 km of the border with Mexico.
Medicine and pandemic
In 2010, the United States implemented a major health insurance reform for the country, which became known as Obamaker, after its initiator. Republicans in general and Trump in particular have criticized this major achievement of the previous American president, saying that it is too expensive for the budget and for individual members of the middle class. However, Trump’s attempts in 2017 to get an alternative bill through Congress were unsuccessful. Then the presidential administration began to undermine Obamaker with its other decisions. As a result, in the first year of Trump’s presidency, the number of people using the program decreased by a third compared to the previous year, but commercial insurance has grown significantly. The presidential administration has proposed a reduction in funding for a number of social programs in the field of medicine for the elderly, disabled and needy. During the current campaign, Trump has pledged to re-enact his health plan, which will provide more choice, cost less, and have “the highest standards of service anywhere in the world.”
Trump has also been criticized for not doing enough to counter the coronavirus. The cuts in medical spending led to a shortage of protective equipment during the pandemic in the United States. COVID-19 tests only covered a small portion of the population, while testing has only expanded in Asia and Europe. Until mid-2020, Trump said that the threat was not so serious – including in order to prevent American exchanges from collapsing. In March, he banned flights between the United States and Europe, and soon declared a state of emergency in the country. At the end of March, the United States became the leader in the number of detected cases of coronavirus, and by mid-April topped the statistics on mortality: at the beginning of November, 233 thousand people had died in the country. At the same time, Trump praised those who protested the quarantines and isolation imposed by some Democratic governors, as well as supported their fellow Republicans, who violated state guidelines to prevent the economy from sinking.
In the economy, Trump has focused on reducing the tax burden, reducing government regulation, and protectionism in foreign trade.
He quickly suspended Obama’s cut in mortgage payments, and changes introduced in 2017 included corporate tax cuts and the abolition of inheritance taxes.
Unemployment in the early years of Trump’s presidency fell significantly – by more than a percentage, although this trend continued during Obama’s second term. GDP also showed mostly positive growth dynamics. The results of the “shale revolution” that began in the early 2010s, by their end, allowed the United States to become the world leader in oil and gas production.
In order to protect American manufacturers, Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and also called for the reform of NAFTA, the free trade agreement of the United States, Mexico and Canada, by concluding a more profitable, from his point of view, agreement that entered into force on July 1, 2020. He introduced measures to protect domestic steel production from foreign competitors, and also supported local producers in other industries by waging “trade wars” with China. In June 2017, Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, explaining this step by the support of American companies, especially those engaged in mining, and formally the withdrawal procedure was completed on November 4, 2020 – a day after the presidential election. As a result, foreign direct investment in the United States has fallen sharply, but the number of jobs in industry has increased significantly: there has been no such growth in this sector of the economy in more than 30 years.
However, all achievements collapsed in 2020 during a pandemic: jobs were declining, unemployment was growing, a decline in GDP began – a recession. The Wall Street Journal concluded that Trump’s “trade wars” did not lead to a significant revival in the industry, as well as the return of production facilities of American companies in the United States from abroad.
Protests and the BLM movement
In May 2020, black George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Massive protests against police violence and racism began in the country. Trump approved the use of force against protesters, citing riots, cases of looting and robberies.
In June, federal forces, subordinate to central rather than local governments, began deploying to some US cities to quell unrest. Police dispersed a crowd of peaceful protesters outside the White House on June 1 using truncheons, tear gas and rubber bullets, sparking criticism.
In July, the Feds were brought into Portland to end the riots. The armed men wore camouflage uniforms with no insignia and used unmarked minibuses to detain protesters. This drew harsh criticism from both ordinary residents and local authorities, and the Oregon attorney general announced the start of an investigation into the actions of the security forces.
Still, Trump praised the work of federal law enforcement officials in Portland and other cities.
The House of Representatives launched a parliamentary investigation against Trump in September 2019. He was accused of abuse of power: it was alleged that he put pressure on the Ukrainian authorities and demanded that they open an investigation against Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, and his activities on the board of directors of the Ukrainian oil company Burisma Holdings. If he refused to cooperate, Trump threatened to stop military aid to Ukraine approved by Congress. And on December 18, impeachment proceedings began, the completion of which required a two-thirds vote of the senators. The Senate, where the majority were Republicans, on February 5 acquitted Trump, so that the fifth attempt to impeach the president in the history of the United States, like all previous ones, ended in failure.
The president’s quarrelsomeness has become the talk of the town. The president’s closest advisors are his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. With other appointees from outside the family circle, Trump sometimes did not stand on ceremony.
Defense Secretary James Mattis was forced to resign in December 2018 because he could not convince Trump not to withdraw troops from Syria until ISIS was completely defeated, and before that they had not agreed on the appointment of a new head of the joint committee.
Trump dismissed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just a year after the appointment, and, according to a representative of the latter, he learned about her from the president’s tweet. Trump himself later said that his differences with Tillerson boiled down to personal relationships and disagreements on political issues. After appointing CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him, Trump said they had “a very similar train of thought.”
Also known is the case of a conservative journalist and, as his opponents call him, “one of the leaders of white suprematism” Stephen Bannon, whom Trump appointed as senior adviser and chief strategist of the White House immediately after taking office. However, in August, the influential adviser was fired – about a week after the events in Charlottesville, where the march of representatives of the extreme right forces, including neo-Nazis, escalated into armed clashes with the police, when one person died and dozens were injured.
Also an important milestone in the Trump presidency, which will affect American politics for a long time to come, was the appointment of three of the nine justices of the Supreme Court – one of the most important state bodies of the country. Judges are in office for life, so only their resignation or death vacates the vacancy. Naturally, Trump chose candidates with conservative views, characteristic of the Republicans. Obama has managed to appoint only two judges in his eight years in power.
Trump unreservedly supported Israel – perhaps because the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, comes from an Orthodox Jewish family (by the way, his paternal relatives are from Novogrudok). The president’s daughter Ivanka even had to convert to Judaism in order to become his wife. Kushner actually led the Trump campaign, and in 2017 became a senior adviser to the president and undoubtedly influenced the development of US relations with the Jewish state.
Already on December 6, 2017, after 10 months of his presidency, Trump took an unprecedented step: he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, ordering the transfer of the American embassy there from Tel Aviv. East Jerusalem, with the main shrines of three religions, considers Palestine as its capital. The international community does not recognize the claims of both states. Trump’s decision sparked Palestinian protests, but widespread approval and support in Israel.
The second chronologically, but no less important step of Trump was the recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory on March 25, 2019. Israel occupied this part of Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and formally annexed it in 1981. No state in the world recognized this, and Trump’s move caused a negative response among Arab states.
Trump’s victory in the Middle East was the signing of the Israeli peace treaty with the UAE on August 13, 2020. It should be noted that before that, only two members of the League of Arab States maintained diplomatic relations with Israel: Egypt and Jordan, peace treaties with which were not easy in the past. In September 2020, a similar agreement was announced between Israel and Bahrain.
In a country where American troops have been present for 19 years, the situation has not significantly improved: the militants, invariably losing to the US army in open clashes, were not completely destroyed. And although Trump even increased the contingent of the American military in the country at some point, he decided to find a way to finally withdraw the troops. Everything was aggravated by the fact that there was a struggle for power in the Afghan government between President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah: in March 2020, the latter did not even recognize the results of the presidential elections and proclaimed himself the legitimate head of state. Trump encouraged representatives of the Taliban, who were ready to talk only with Americans and hated the central authorities, to sit down with him at the negotiating table. An agreement with the Taliban was signed on February 29, 2020: the United States must withdraw its troops within 14 months, and the Taliban are committed to fighting al-Qaeda in their territories and negotiating with the central authorities to create a unified government. True, it is still not possible to completely avoid intra-Afghan clashes.
Withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal
Since coming to power, Trump began to seriously revise US foreign policy, including what was considered its achievements. The Iran Deal, concluded in 2015, was considered a major victory for the Obama administration: the United States, China, Germany, Britain, France and Russia lifted economic sanctions on Iran, and he had to severely restrict its nuclear program, placing it under strict international control. Trump said that the deal still allows Tehran to work on the creation of nuclear weapons, although the IAEA said that the country is fulfilling its obligations. In May 2018, the United States withdrew from the “nuclear deal” and announced sanctions against Tehran. The latter stated that in this case he was not going to fulfill the clauses of the agreement concerning the permitted size of uranium reserves and the level of its enrichment.
During the election campaign, Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “maniac”, although he stated that he did not want to be involved in the conflict between the two Koreas. However, after becoming president, Trump changed his rhetoric, stating that “if China is not going to solve the North Korean problem, then we will.” He sent warships to its shores in April 2017. Given the “nervousness” of the North Korean leadership, a major war could begin. In July, North Korea tested missiles with a range that could strike Hawaii and Alaska. Trump, in turn, said that such actions would lead to a US response – “fire and fury that the world has never seen before.” Nevertheless, in March 2018, through the South Korean delegation, Trump received Kim Jong-un’s proposal to discuss the country’s nuclear and missile programs with him. Trump jumped at the opportunity. North Korea even released several American citizens who were imprisoned there, but the meeting was postponed. The two leaders met on June 12, 2018 in Singapore – and this was also unprecedented. They agreed to work on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and further cooperation. However, in January of the following year, American intelligence reported that the North Koreans were in no hurry to wind down their military programs. Trump met with Kim twice more, but these meetings did not bring any significant achievements.
China especially got a lot of Trump’s speeches: for the artificial devaluation of the yuan, which makes Chinese goods more competitive, forgery of American brands, theft of technology and intellectual property. In 2017, the United States began to make statements about China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China and East China Seas, supporting China’s rivals. And in 2018, a trade war began between the United States and China: duties on the import of Chinese goods were seriously increased, and the Chinese responded in kind. In November 2019, Trump imposed sanctions on the PRC authorities for human rights violations in Hong Kong, where protests have not abated. When the coronavirus pandemic began in the world, Trump called it “Chinese” and even said that the secret services were finding out if the leak from the Institute of Virology in Wuhan led to a pandemic. Chinese officials responded with similar rhetoric and began to say that the United States deliberately spread the virus to the PRC. In June 2020, the United States again imposed sanctions – this time due to the repression of the central Chinese government against the Uighurs. At the UN General Assembly in September 2020, Trump criticized China because of the coronavirus, but in general, relations between the two countries only worsened.
Mutual flattering assessments of Putin and Trump began during the 2016 election campaign, which is why the new American president is still called “Putin’s puppet”, hinting at the latter’s alleged contribution to Trump’s victory and cyber interference in the vote. However, if Russia had hoped to see a suitable figure in the White House, those expectations were not met. In fact, in the summer of 2017, new sanctions were imposed on Russia. In October 2018, Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from the agreement on the elimination of medium and short-range missiles, which Reagan and Gorbachev had concluded 30 years earlier. In December 2019, the United States imposed sanctions on companies involved in the construction of the important for Russia Nord Stream gas pipeline, which was almost completed – as a result, construction stopped indefinitely, and billions of invested dollars may have been wasted. A joint fight against ISIS in Syria also did not work: both countries, in addition to fighting the Islamists, tried to help the parties in the civil war, which they supported, however, until they reached strikes directed against each other.
Syria and Iraq
In Syria, Trump continued to support the anti-Assad opposition, as well as the Kurds, who tried to create broad autonomy in northern Syria, following the example of their neighbors in Iraq, who were once aided by the Americans. However, when Turkey launched a military operation against the Syrian Kurds in October 2019, crossing the border, the American president did not take any steps, freeing the hands of the Turks. In April 2017, in response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun, Trump ordered a missile attack on government forces from a US military base in Syria. The move drew approval from the Republican camp in the US Congress, but Russia, although its troops were not harmed, was extremely unhappy. The situation with the missile attack repeated itself a year later, after a similar incident with chemical weapons in the city of Duma.
The Americans also confronted ISIS, having achieved particular success in Iraq, where the group managed to recapture a third of the territories it controlled in the spring-summer of 2017, but could not influence the clash of interests of representatives of various forces in the Iraqi government, which paralyzed its work in 2018 and led to a political crisis that erupted into mass protests the following year.
NATO and UN
Trump said that the United States, playing a major role in NATO, actually pulls on the entire military alliance, and many of its other members, using America’s protection, are cutting their military budgets to a minimum. He demanded that countries spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, otherwise he threatened that the United States could demand its price for protection.
The American president’s relationship with the UN also did not work out. He criticized the organization for its weakness, the impossibility of really influencing events in the world and the bureaucracy, recalling that the United States is its largest financial donor. Trump insisted on reforming the UN, distributing financial and military obligations evenly. In October 2017, the United States decided to leave UNESCO (a few years earlier, Palestine was admitted there, which Israel did not like). And in July 2020, after Trump harshly criticized WHO, the United States also withdrew from the organization.