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Trump's Address to the Muslim World: What Changes to Expect?

The National

During the weekend the first foreign visit of the US President Donald Trump took place to Saudi Arabia. The choice of the first visit was traditionally highlighted in the US political culture.  Based on that choice, it was possible to make assumptions on the priorities of a US president in his foreign policy. If previously, the first visits of the US president took place to neighboring countries and to European ally countries, Donald Trump by the choice of the country for his first foreign visit, deviated from the traditional line.

The choice of the country was also interesting by the fact that it was a Muslim country. As we know, during this period, Trump became known for his sharp statements and steps (such as an order banning the entry of the residents from the majority-Muslim countries to the USA) towards the Muslim countries, which became a cause for accusations in address of Trump of having a biased attitude towards the Muslim world. The visit was also interesting by the fact that for the first time a new format - Arab Islamic- American summit took place.

During the summit, the US president delivered a long speech before the Islamic world leaders, which contained a number of important messages on the main directions of the US foreign policy in the Middle East. Below, let’s refer to those main messages.

Before turning to the main emphases of Trump’s speech, it is important to note that during his speech, the US president announced the start of two new initiatives. First, the foundation of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, on the basis of the activities of which will be the leading role of the Muslim-majority countries in combating radicalization, as Trump noted. Second was an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, which will be co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and joined by every member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Referring to the main emphasis of the speech, we should note that Trump emphasized with a red line the fact that each of the Muslim countries should bare its share of responsibility in the fight against terrorism and do not wait for "American power to crush this enemy for them." To increase the sense of responsibility among the Muslim countries, Trump underlined the fact that by various estimations more than 95 percent of the terrorism victims are the Muslims. By the way, this is one of the main peculiarities of Trump’s foreign policy: to redistribute the share of responsibilities no longer bearing the whole share of them in relations with its allies. The same logic applies to the US relations with its NATO allies demonstrated so far.

Second, the US president openly stated that they are going to review those tools in the foreign policy that have not worked so far. According to the US president, from now on their decisions will be based on "real-world outcomes – not inflexible ideology." This corresponds to the expected transition from the foreign policy based on ideology to the real politics. In such a case values will not be subordinated to political interests, notwithstanding the fact that Trump called such a politics "Principled Realism rooted in common values and shared interests."

Third, counterpoising to his opponents accusations of having biased attitude towards the Muslim world, in his speech Trump tried not to draw any dividing lines between Muslim and Christian people, the struggle against terrorism calling not a struggle among religions, sects and civilizations, but as he called it "a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it."

To sum up, we can state, that in the US President speech addressed to the Muslim world, some changes in the US foreign policy were outlined – redistribution of responsibility, in case of which each of the allies should bare its share of responsibility. Of course, from this, we cannot assume that the US is going to weaken its positions in the region. The US will continue to preserve its presence in the region deepening bilateral relations with its allies, from whom it will have concrete expectations based on the  practical relations by the principle "what for what."

Among the US regional allies the first place will have Saudi Arabia. It is not by chance, that the first foreign visit of the US president was particularly to this country.  It is not by chance either that during his first visit he signed an agreement that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries (the one that also included the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase).

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