Trump sends mixed message with 'America First' security strategy

2017-12-20 05:32
President Donald Trump speaks on national security in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

President Donald Trump speaks on national security in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

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Washington - US President Donald Trump used the launch of his first National Security Strategy on Monday to laud the benefits of co-operation with Russia, a striking departure from the document's more combative tone toward the Kremlin.

Unveiling a text that pilloried both Russia and China as "revisionist powers" bent on rolling back American interests, Trump hailed recent counter-terror co-operation between Moscow and Washington.

Trump claimed that a recent CIA tip-off about a terror attack on a cathedral in Vladimir Putin's home town of Saint Petersburg had prevented deaths "in the thousands".

READ: Putin thanks Trump for help in foiling attack plot

"They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event with no loss of life and that's a great thing, and the way it's supposed to work," Trump said, offering the prospect of better ties.

His conciliatory tone toward Putin came in sharp contrast to the 68-page strategy that was put together by key aides and which was designed to serve as a framework for the Trump administration's approach to the world.

Biting language

The text uses remarkably biting language to frame Beijing and Moscow as global competitors.

"China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity," the document reads.

It warns that "Russia aims to weaken US influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners," while Russian nuclear weapons are deemed "the most significant existential threat to the United States".

Trump's presidential campaign is being investigated for possible collusion with Russia in the runup to his shock 2016 election win - allegations the 45th president has dubbed "fake news".

The strategy accuses China of seeking "to displace the United States" in Asia, listing a litany of US grievances, from deficits, to data theft, to spreading "features of its authoritarian system".

"Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others," it reads.

A Chinese Embassy spokesperson responded sharply, saying: "It is completely selfish for a country to claim that its own interests are superior to the interests of other countries and to the shared interests of the international community."

"This mentality will only lead to isolation," the spokesperson added.

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