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Even if this refashioning of world order is ignored, the internal logic of Trump’s worldview is difficult to reconcile with any coherent foreign policy. It is hard to imagine a bargain that would allow Trump to harmonise his policies towards Russia and Iran with the desire to defeat IS. If Trump co-operates with Russia in Syria without preconditions, the US will effectively be complicit in propping up Assad, and in the process fuelling jihadism. Backing Russia and Assad also requires at least a tacit alignment with Iran and by implication with Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shia militias. This would only strengthen Iran’s regional ambitions.

Embracing Putin, diminishing Nato and the EU, and antagonising European leaders will only divide America and its most important allies. The transatlantic alliance has become the main body through which the US tackles most problems. Putin has been actively attempting to undermine Atlanticist security arrangements and interfering in European politics. American retrenchment will not only embolden him but also incentivise some European countries to push for the lifting of sanctions against Moscow. Both Putin and Europe are carefully monitoring the dependability of the US to honour its defence commitments. Although none of these individual issues might worry Trump, the loosening of international ties will weaken America’s hand. Trump currently has little desire to act unilaterally or to negotiate with Russia from a position of isolated weakness.

So far these contradictions have created a significant disconnect between provocative rhetoric and implementation. The areas where Trump has remained true to his campaign promises have mainly been domestic, staking out new territory on trade and immigration. The ripples have affected relations with Mexico and large swathes of the Muslim world. Equally, ties with allies such as Australia have suffered from Trump’s abrasive transactional style. Still, the early days of the new administration’s foreign policy look strikingly similar to Obama’s.

There is little doubt that Trump and Bannon are aware of the power of provocation and controversy. It is hard to understand policies such as the recent travel ban except through the prism of Bannon’s ideology. This was a domestic political manoeuvre rather than a national security priority and was not requested by any government agency. It was implemented in a rush at the start of a weekend and has already started to implode because of its legal and bureaucratic contradictions. It was never designed to be a durable measure. It seems more likely that its purpose was to create a political firestorm — liberal outrage exacerbating the divide with core Trump voters. In reality it has had a disastrous effect on Trump’s approval ratings. More importantly the media furore overshadowed the appointment of Bannon as a permanent member of the National Security Council — the first time a political adviser has assumed such a formal role.
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