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Virginia Tech international affairs expert sees organization in elements of Trump’s foreign policy agenda where others see confusion

March 5, 2017

Virginia Tech’s Yannis Stivachtis, an expert in international affairs and former research fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, is available for interview on a variety of areas of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy agenda, including his reported proposed budget additions to military expenditures at the expense of foreign aid.

“This resonates very well with the Republican party, and it’s a good way for the President not only to ensure that the American military will be very competitive but to demonstrate to his own voters that he is committed to do what he said during the election campaign,” Stivachtis says. “But in order to find the money for it, he had to cut from somewhere else.”

Quoting Stivachtis

On the military budget
“There were significant cuts during the Obama administration because, among other things, the previous president believed that multilateralism is a better way of doing things, instead of having the United States going it alone. If the United States doesn’t pursue unilateral policies and doesn’t use its military might so often, then what is the purpose of spending so much there, and not putting money in other areas, whether it be the environment, health, or education? This president has the opposite view: the American military has been weakened, so we have to undo whatever President Obama has done.”

On negotiating tactics
Stivachtis says he sees the lack of clarity between some statements that have been made by President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not as a sign of poor coordination or disagreement in the administration, as some have suggested, but as purposeful ambiguity that serves as a negotiating tool.

“This ambiguity allows someone to go and say, ‘We understand you and we’ll try to compromise and we’ll make sure the President understands.’ It’s a kind of tool that can be used for negotiation purposes. I think that’s what the President meant when he said that previous administrations didn’t know how to negotiate and that his negotiation will produce results. Before, the U.S. made clear commitments. According to President Trump and the art of negotiation he has in mind, clear commitments means that the others will take you for granted. But if you speak a language where they don’t know what it really means, they’re on their toes. And then you can get exactly what you want.”

On Trump’s view of democracy
“The version of democracy that President Trump has in mind moves away from the Western understanding of democracy where demands for internal stability and security should be balanced against the requirements for democracy and individual rights, and instead moves closer to the idea that certain democratic principles may be curtailed for stability and security to be maintained.”

About Stivachtis 
Stivachtis is an associate professor of political science and director of the International Studies Program in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences’ Department of Political Science. He is a former research fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Stivachtis’ current research interests include foreign policy, international relations, and security studies.

Request an interview
To secure an interview with Stivachtis, contact Jordan Fifer by email at jordanfifer@vt.edu or 540-231-6997.

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