President Donald Trump is reported to be setting up a major Saudi Arabia arms deal. The Obama administration also oversaw billions of dollars of weapons sales to the kingdom, though by all accounts, not of this size.
The latest development might surprise anyone who last tuned in when candidate Donald Trump declared: “Who blew up the World Trade Center? . . . It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take a look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents.”
So far it is tough to see a clear, sweeping reversal in foreign policy coming out of the president’s first four months.
Many tilts seem to have countertilts.
Closest to home, the president ratcheted up the rhetoric in a trade dispute with Canada over dairy products. But he also has yet to end the North American Free Trade Agreement as he earlier vowed.
Trump said he would take the symbolic step of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But this week, White House officials were saying that won’t happen immediately, since it would be seen as a provocation to Palestinians.
Last month, the U.S. launched a military strike on a Syrian government air base in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed and injured civilians.
Despite their differences, Democrats generally supported the merits of the bombing, and even Hillary Clinton described the advisability of such a move before it happened.
The president also is considering some escalation in troop presence in Afghanistan, which the U.S. has seen before in recent years.
For sure, the tones of some foreign leaders toward the U.S. leadership have changed. Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed warm feelings toward Trump. But he also made clear he dislikes the decision to send weapons to a Kurdish faction.
And while much is made of a thaw between the ruling circles of the U.S. and Russia, Trump has not moved as he earlier hinted to let go of NATO. After the Syria chemical attack, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley asked the Security Council: “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?”
As president, Trump’s Chinese trade policy so far seems less assertive than it promised to be from the campaign trail. And the North Korea crisis he inherited seems to remain a matter of how tough sanctions will be and where missiles are stationed.
Perhaps Trump’s first overseas trip in office, now underway, will help clarify his positions.