December 11, 2020
WASHINGTON - Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the Senate floor to tout America’s foreign policy accomplishments under the Trump administration, like improving ties between U.S. allies in the Middle East, applying maximum pressure on the Iranian regime, and creating a more level playing field for U.S. trade.
Following Are Excerpts of Blunt’s Remarks:
“I want to talk today for a few minutes about something that I don't think has gotten the attention it deserves and that's the many successes in foreign policy over the last four years. I think at the top of my list of foreign policy successes, in terms of unanticipated accomplishments, that we would not have thought would happen would be the Abraham Accords that were signed at the White House in September. This agreement paves the way for normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and Israel and Bahrain, and I believe really establishes a way where the rest of the Middle East could hopefully follow this step in the right direction.
“I think not only was this one of the most significant moves in decades to promote peace and understanding in the Middle East, but frankly, probably wouldn't have happened if we hadn't had a president who hadn't spent years hearing how something like this was impossible. The president believed it was possible, and it was because of his strong leadership that the countries involved made it a priority to bridge the gap that everyone thought was unbridgeable that really had separated these neighbors for generations.
“What we see when we look at this and other events in recent times, is that when our friends become friends with each other, we win. The United States wins when our friends also become friends with each other. This agreement can be a model for future progress in the region. It's the first time in four decades that any Arab country has recognized Israel. …
“The president started his Middle East efforts by acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel his first year in office. A few months later, he moved the U.S. Embassy there. Now, was this a new idea? Absolutely not a new idea. American presidents have been saying for years that this was a good idea. Party platforms have said for years that Israel should be able to have their capital in Jerusalem acknowledged. But nobody's done it before.
“Congress has said repeatedly this should happen, but it hasn't happened and didn't happen until the Trump administration decided to make it happen. Critics actually said that moving our embassy would hurt our credibility in the region. Three years later, the Abraham Accords proved that that was 100% wrong.
“Another reason American credibility has soared in the Middle East is that President Trump took a strong stance against Iran. He did that by dealing with a nuclear agreement that President Obama and the Obama administration had struck with Iran is a bad idea. It was an idea that actually allowed Iran to eventually get a nuclear weapon and reduce sanctions on the country's leaders as they continue to sponsor terrorism around the world and, in fact, even returned substantial amounts of money that we now know went in large part into terror building network efforts. …
“President Trump put a spotlight on the deal’s failure to protect our national security. He took a strong new approach to applying maximum pressure on the Iranian regime and it's had an impact. Eventually, that new view led to eliminating Qasem Soleimani, who was clearly the architect of Iran's terrorist activities and the attacks on Americans. There had been no doubt about that for a long time.
“This was the number one state sponsor of terrorism, General Soleimani, the number one architect of that state sponsorship of terrorism, and the president was willing to do what needed to be done there. The world is a safer place with him gone, and Iran knows that we will not turn a blind eye on aggression or on false promises or often even things being said that on the face of them are clearly not true. …
“Accommodating and rewarding our enemies doesn't advance peace in the Middle East or anywhere else. Supporting our allies and building stronger alliances and holding terrorists accountable does. Stronger alliances are also a goal of the Trump administration's new focus on the Indo-Pacific region. The president recognized that China is the greatest threat to democracy and freedom in the world. He understands that America cannot counter that threat alone. And because of that, has reached out in meaningful ways. While other administrations have said they would pivot to the Pacific, the Trump administration actually oversaw a period of renewed engagement in the area, renewed branding of the area that indicated that the Indo-Pacific is now that command, the Indo-Pacific is now that focus. We have strengthened our alliances with India, and with Australia, and other countries in the region. We began working to foster a multilateral community, one that will protect the free and open nature of the region, from the threat of China. …
“The president also took action to strengthen global security and stability by asking our allies to pull their weight. For too many years, other countries seemed content to let American taxpayers bear the cost of defending freedom everywhere in the world. President Trump challenged the other members of NATO to meet the organization's guideline of spending 2% of their gross domestic product on defense. Our allies stepped up in many cases, and did better than they'd been doing. In 2016, just four of the 28 countries in NATO met the 2% guideline, four out of 28, Mr. President. Today, that number is still not at 28 but it's at 10 countries that now exceed the guideline. Remember, four countries met the guideline three years and 10 months ago. Ten countries have now exceeded the guideline. And every country in the alliance with a military has increased its defense spending.
“That's important progress, and it wouldn't have happened if the President of the United States had not been willing to say the obvious and, frankly, be very direct about it and make himself an uncomfortable partner at the negotiating table. …
“The president sought to address imbalances and protect U.S. interest in the area of global trade. The Trump administration replaced the NAFTA agreement with a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA was great for all three countries but it needed to be improved, it needed to be updated. And now, it has been. In my state, Missouri, the top two countries, those two countries, are our two biggest trading partners. And that's the case for the United States, Mexico, then Canada, dwarf trade with almost every other country in the world as they trade with the United States. And the new agreement will lead to more jobs and bigger paychecks in all three countries.
“Our goal in our neighborhood should be not just to make ourselves stronger, but to make our neighbors stronger, because we're stronger when our neighbors are stronger. Nationwide, exports are expected to grow by $2.2 billion under USMCA and our trade relationship with Japan, the world's third largest economy, is even stronger thanks to a new agreement that went into effect at the start of the year.
“So it's clear that there's been lots of activity in America's foreign policy over the past four years, been a lot of important progress and a lot of success stories. An awful lot of it was done in a very unconventional way and so it, frankly, just doesn't get covered by the traditional trade press or the traditional foreign policy press or the traditional defense press in ways that really the results should produce.
“These are not areas that get the attention they deserve. I think when people look back at the four years that we've just completed in foreign policy, they're going to look at what has happened, understand it in the context of what was happening. And, Mr. President, I'm sure they will believe that these items I've talked about today, led to a stronger and safer country as we approach the years ahead of us.”