New directions in the United States’ Foreign Policy after 2016 elections – summary of the lecture by Prof. Peter J. Katzenstein

The lecture by Prof Peter J. Katzenstein from Cornell University, that is a part of the prestigious Ivy League, took place in Collegium Novum Assembly Hall on 23rd May 2017. The presentation was concerning the new directions of the United States’ foreign policy after 2016 elections. 

The event commenced with the speech given by Prof. Andrzej Mania, chair of the Krakow Branch of the Polish Society of International Studies (PTSM) and vice-chair of the PTSM Board of Members, who introduced the profile of Prof. Katzenstein.

The lecture is also the result of a joint cooperation between Krakow Branch of PTSM, BA in International Relations and Area Studies program, and Institute of Political Science and International Relations of Jagiellonian University.

This exceptional academic experience could be further illustrated by the fact, that prof. Katzenstein was named one of the ten most significant international relations theorists by the participants of the survey titled: “Teaching, Research, and Policy Views of International Relations Faculty in 20 countries”.

At the beginning of his speech, Prof. Katzenstein has pointed out that Donald Trump repeatedBarack Obama’s success from 2008. He convinced U.S. citizens, that have not participated in previous elections, to vote. They provided him with the necessary votes and ultimately, the victory (in three key states the overall advantage was less than 100 000 votes).

The victory of Trump has created the exceptional situation for the Republican Party that for the first time since 2007 has regained control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Donald Trump’s presidency has caused a wave of protests from the liberal groups on the unparalleled scale. This, in turn, is currently leading to the gradual erosion of the U.S. political institutions, that are either subject to polarization or they turn out to be inefficient (as in the case of Congress).

Prof. Katzenstein devoted the significant amount of the lecture to the analysis of the state of modern conservatism in the United States, which is linked tothe Republican Party, currently in power. He paid attention to several differences between theconservatism of the Ronald Reagan era, and the contemporary one. For instance, the previous notion of conservatism advocated for the limited government spending whereas the new dimension of conservatism does not anticipate the reduction of the budget deficit. With regards to the foreign policy, a growing number of the Republican Party voters is willing to perceive Vladimir Putin favorably.

The additional problem arises from the racial animosity manifested in Trump’s actions. It does not mean that his supporters are racists, but a lot of them remain open to such kind of arguments. Prof.Katzenstein gave several examples illustrating this issue, such as the attempt to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and perceiving Islam as the main threat to the United States.

Despite the fact that the Russian Federation and thePeople’s Republic of China have initially praised Trump’s victory, hoping for limiting the U.S. promotion of democracy and human rights, this attitude seemed to be premature. The presidency of Donald Trump can lead to the rise of anti-Russian and anti-Chinese sentiment as, for instance, those states don’t entirely support the American policy towards North Korea. Simultaneously, prof. Katzenstein noted that President Trumpwill be far more willing than Barack Obama to make arrangements favorable to the U.S. with the authoritarian regimes.

Furthermore, Prof. Katzenstein also compared the current historical directions in the U.S. foreign policy to three main characters in Sergio Leone’s 1966 film titled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”According to him, depending on the moment in history, the U.S. behaviour in the international system was aimed at: (1) making money without violating the international rules and without using the military means, except for protecting those principles, and self-defense, (2) making money at all cost, even if it meant violating the order within the international system, (3) either supporting or opposing the international structure, as long as the national interest remained the top priority.

From this perspective, prof. Katzenstein indicated that Donald Trump’s foreign policy resembles the third model, although the elements of the second one can also be distinguished.This is especially the case of attempting to negotiate short-term agreements beneficial to the U.S., without addressing the long-term consequences.

After the lecture, Prof. Katzenstein gave answers to many questions coming from the audience. This part of the event was coordinated by Dr. Marcin Grabowski from Chair of the History of Diplomacy and International Politics of Jagiellonian University. 

The speech given by the guest from Cornell University has proven to be a very interesting academic opportunity that gathered around 150 listeners in Collegium Novum Assembly Hall.

Text by: Tomasz Pugacewicz
Translated by: Agnieszka Batko


Data publikacji: 30.05.2017
Osoba publikująca: Michał Dulak