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Trump’s Gift to Putin

The President’s Privatized Foreign Policy Is a Boon for Russia

Trump at a campaign rally in Dallas, October 2019 Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

For decades, if not centuries, scholars have debated which matters more in international affairs: structural forces, such as the relative power between states, or the ideas and decisions of individual leaders. But at least as far as the United States is concerned, President Donald Trump may put the debate to rest.

After a slow start, Trump has affected almost every facet of U.S. foreign policy. And the story to date is not an inspiring one. Trump has personalized, privatized, and deinstitutionalized foreign policy to the detriment of the national interest. That trend has accelerated in recent months, culminating in two disastrous missteps vis-à-vis Ukraine and Syria. In the process, the American public has suffered, U.S. allies have lost, and U.S. adversaries have gained—none more so than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Three years ago, the United States was the world’s most powerful state, capable of

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