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CPSA/ISA-Canada section on International Relations

C12(b) - American Foreign Policy in the Age of Donald Trump

Date: Jun 5 | Time: 02:00pm to 03:30pm | Location: SWING 306

Chair/Président/Présidente : Jonathan Paquin (Université Laval)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Jonathan Paquin (Université Laval)

Personality and Adherence to International Agreements: The Case of President Donald Trump: Scott Fitzsimmons (University of Limerick)
Abstract: One of the most consistent aspects of President Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy is his attempt to withdraw from or significantly alter treaties and other international agreements that impose behavioural obligations on the Government of the United States. This paper puts forward an explanation for this trend that highlights aspects of Trump’s personality that should plausibly encourage him to challenge constraints, including the constraints imposed by international agreements. Specifically, it develops and conducts a plausibility test of propositions that draw a causal link between a leader’s personality traits and their willingness to challenge constraints. It argues that a leader’s belief in their ability to control events and distrust of others influence whether they are likely to be a “constraint challenger” or “constraint respecter” and that “constraint challengers” are more likely to try to withdraw from or attempt to alter international agreements.


Trump and the Future of Nuclear World Order: Saira Bano (Mount Royal University)
Abstract: For decades, U.S. leadership has limited the spread of nuclear weapons and drastically reduced the global inventory of these weapons. The Trump administration, however, is relying only on unconstrained American might and reversing effective non-proliferation and arms control policies. President Trump’s nuclear decisions ranging from nuclear modernization to withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) are risky that could increase the chances of an arms race and a nuclear war. The administration is redefining US nuclear weapons policy and there is a risk that the deteriorating US-Russia relationship could hold negotiations on existing and future arms control agreements hostage, to the detriment of global nuclear order. This paper argues that while the existing network of agreements has been far from perfect, it has served U.S. security well. Walking away from effective measures to reduce the nuclear threat would be a risky policy and it would undermine the global basis for nuclear restraint and nonproliferation.


NATO Burden-Sharing: The Case of Canada Under Trump’s Presidency: Christian Picard (Université Laval)
Abstract: When it comes to burden-sharing in NATO, the usual approach, both in the literature and in the alliance itself, is to determine the optimal threshold of burden-sharing for the allies, before measuring the gap between a specific contribution and this threshold. Such an approach is useful to set a clear and neutral point of reference to measure an ally contribution. However, this approach doesn’t tell us much how an ally contribution is perceived by the other allies, nor can it explain cases where an ally’s contribution is still positively perceived by the other allies, despite failing to meet the optimal threshold of burden-sharing. To circumvent these two pitfalls, instead of adopting a normative approach (determining the optimal threshold of burden-sharing), an evaluative approach is proposed. It is done through an evaluation framework, where the contributions of an ally are compared to the actual needs of the alliance (as they are stated in NATO’s various official doctrines). These contributions can then be compared to the judgment other allies have of this specific ally. This evaluative approach can prove useful to help understand the political dynamics within NATO, such as studying how are the allies reacting to the new power dynamic since the election of president Trump. As an example, this evaluative approach will be used to shed light on Canada’s burden-sharing in NATO, and see how the country’s contribution to the alliance as evolved under Trump’s presidency.