Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan
Robert Blackwill is a Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to India from 2001–2003 and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Planning at the White House, 2003–2004. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan nominated Blackwill to be the chief negotiator of the United States of America with the Warsaw Pact for the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks.
I had the great honor and privilege to serve in the Administration of President Ronald Reagan, as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military affairs and then for European Affairs, and as U.S. Ambassador and Chief Negotiator in conventional arms control talks with the Warsaw Pact in Vienna. I have no doubt that historians will increasingly view Ronald Reagan as one of America’s greatest Presidents, alongside Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Truman. It is therefore bizarre that Donald Trump frequently compares himself to President Reagan. The two men could not be more different in their policies, in their personal characters, and in their views of America.
When I was negotiating with Moscow on conventional weapons in Europe, my instructions from President Reagan were clear: be tough with the Russians and understand that fundamentally they did not wish us well. In contrast, Donald Trump has an infatuation with Vladimir Putin and his neo-imperial actions that would depart from the policies of every American President since the end of World War II, and be highly dangerous for our country should Trump reach the Oval Office.
President Reagan also took for granted the core value of America’s alliances. He worked hard throughout his years in office to ensure that our democratic allies in Europe and Asia understood the unbreakable U.S. commitment to their security and well-being. When I was negotiating with the Soviets in Vienna, President Reagan stressed to me, “keep NATO together — U.S. security depends on it.” Donald Trump has called into question the very essence of these indispensable U.S. alliances, treating NATO members only as commercial sources of revenue, like his string of golf courses.
These are only two examples of the vast policy gap between these two men on nearly every central issue of American foreign policy.
Regarding personal character, Ronald Reagan was a man of supreme integrity in every dimension of his life. His word was his bond, and both U.S. friends and adversaries knew it. Donald Trump has lied every day of this Presidential campaign, on issue after issue. He misrepresents the truth the way the rest of us get out of bed in the morning. It is as much a part of him as breathing. No foreign leader could be confident about anything Trump promised or threatened, and that is a recipe for continual crisis for the United States.
Finally, Ronald Reagan would not recognize Donald Trump’s America, a country in steep downward spiral, torn everywhere by misery and violence, by discord and hatred. One of Ronald Reagan’s many great gifts to the nation he loved was to project a calm and enduring optimism that the United States with its people working together would solve its problems, that every day was “Morning in America.” For deeply pessimistic Donald Trump, every day is “Despair in America,” a concept that is fundamentally un-American and one that has no basis in truth.
In sum, Ronald Reagan was a great American patriot. Donald Trump is a cheap pretender, profoundly unfit to serve as our President.