President Trump and his team have inherited a world in incredible tumult, an international landscape arguably rife with more uncertainty than at any recent time.
They’ll have to hit the ground running - er, sprinting.
Unfortunately they will be running in the direction of a buzz saw of global foreign policy and national security problems, affixed with a razor-sharp cutting blade.
Here’s a pocket guide to some of the toughest challenges Team Trump faces:
China: After a stunning rise, Beijing sees itself as a peer of Washington on the world stage. Its leader, President Xi Jinping, is assertive and bent on putting China atop the international system as soon as possible.
With hyperactive global diplomacy, the world’s second biggest economy and a large, rapidly modernizing military, China is ready to assert its broad national interests along its periphery (such as Taiwan and the South China Sea) - and beyond.
Russia: Plenty has been written and said about Moscow’s activities of late, but suffice it to say that Russia’s international goals are focused on making it a preeminent player in international politics.
The new Trump crew will have to decide how it’s going to deal with Russia’s involvement in European affairs, Crimea/Ukraine, Syria, cyber operations, the Arctic, and its multifaceted “new generation warfare.”
North Korea: Pyongyang loves to poke and provoke its adversaries. Unfortunately, its all-too-often theatrical, but menacing, outbursts can’t be dismissed, considering advances North Korea has made in its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.
North Korea threatens - or seeks to threaten - Asian allies (for example, Japan and South Korea), U.S. forces in the region and beyond (i.e., Guam) and the continental United States with its conventional military and increasingly diversified strategic forces.
Iran: Despite the Obama-era nuclear deal, Tehran and Washington aren’t on the best of terms as witnessed by the regular dust-ups between Iranian and American forces operating in the Persian Gulf. Iran wants America gone from the region.
There’s also strong concern about the nuclear deal itself, such as whether Iran is cheating and where it will leave us at the end of the agreement, when Tehran could easily decide to join the nuclear-weapons-state club.
Terrorism: While ISIS is in crisis due to military pressure placed on it in Iraq (Mosul) and Syria (Raqqa) with U.S. help, the terror group is still quite capable of exporting terror here through one of its foot soldiers or followers.
Though we don’t hear much about al-Qaeda these days, it hasn’t retired from violent Islamist extremism. Indeed, some see it making a comeback as ISIS loses its air of invincibility - and its “caliphate” crumbles.
The new commander in chief will also have to make decisions about the 8,000-plus American troops in Afghanistan bravely fighting the Taliban insurgency, in America’s longest war.
Of course that’s not an inclusive list of expected or potential problems - nor does it include the possibility of a bad actor challenging the Trump team in a contrived crisis to test the incoming administration’s policies and resolve.
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