New Delhi: President Donald Trump has generally taken the less travelled road in diplomacy. It suits his egotism and it substitutes for his poor knowledge and understanding of geopolitics. Nevertheless, how’s his record so far in advancing US foreign policy? He deserves a B-plus for striving to contain the Chinese economy which is as good as containing China, but a higher grade would have to await the final US-China trade deal. The Chinese are known to wriggle out of tight corners and they have managed, for example, to rein in the Islamic world undercutting Washington’s vocal pro-Uighur campaign to embarrass Beijing.

Donald Trump can also claim some success in removing the spotlight from North Korea’s military nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang is not threatening Washington with nuclear missile strikes and aggressive tests which was the norm in the early months of Trump’s presidency. At the same time, however, denuclearization of North Korea is years if not decades off, and Trump can claim limited success as he prepares for a second presidential election, although he will doubtless milk his summits with Kim Jong-un for all they are worth. Compared to the Democratic Party which has nothing to show, even this would count as an achievement.

But Donald Trump’s luck runs out once the focus shifts from the Asia-Pacific to Afghanistan-Pakistan and moves further to the Middle East. In Afghanistan, the Trump administration is as clueless as the previous ones. Foreign troops cannot pacify Afghanistan and the Taliban and its allies will overrun the country as soon as the US withdraws the military. The narrative could change if Afghanistan is split into Pashtun and non-Pashtun south-eastern and north-western halves which would put pressure on Pakistan to save its Pashtun areas from Afghan Taliban irredentism. Pakistan-Taliban differences would remove Afghanistan as a source of threat to US interests. But the Trump administration is taking the discredited route of involving Pakistan to manoeuvre the Afghan Taliban into a peace dialogue with the United States. It may save some face for the United States during actual troops’ withdrawal but it cannot prevent the denouement of comprehensive Taliban victory followed by strategic threats to the United States.

In the Middle East proper, the Trump administration has done worse than preserving the status quo as in Afghanistan by attempting what may only be described as quixotic actions. Rather to the surprise of Israel, Trump ordered the US embassy to move to Jerusalem in de facto recognition of it as Israel’s new capital. While that policy cannot be reversed, it has left Palestinians even more disillusioned, effectively killing the peace process. The anger has scarcely settled on the decision than Donald Trump proclaimed another with minimum internal strategic consultations: conveying the captured Syrian territory of Golan Heights permanently to Israel. The imposition of victor’s justice seems like a workable gamble for a while but it usually starts unravelling sooner or later. What after Donald Trump? Will a future US president stake Middle East peace on keeping Golan in Israeli hands?

Donald Trump’s riskiest decision, yet, is to look the other way as Saudi Arabia races to become a nuclear power. Formally, the administration says it is opposed to Saudi military nuclear ambitions which the Kingdom denies having in the first place. On the other hand, the US nuclear industry has been permitted to trade with Saudi Arabia. An updated version of the “red peril” is used as justification: if the US disengages from Saudi nuclear needs, Russia and China will step in. Predictably, Iran is seeing red, and has threatened to resume military nuclear activities. It is already angered with an imminent US decision to designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps as a “foreign terrorist organization”. Intriguingly, Israel has not publicly weighed in in a significant manner concerning Saudi nuclear activities.

Leaving aside economic containment measures for China, Donald Trump has nothing to show as regards foreign policy. American grand strategy is missing under Trump. It is true that the United States does not enjoy the general paramountcy it did during much of the Cold War. It has lost considerable economic ground to China which Donald Trump is trying to recover. But outside economic recovery which is no doubt important, the United States under him has increasingly displayed a stagnant foreign policy punctuated by brash deviations in relation to Israel and sometimes Saudi Arabia. It might be said that the best of American geopolitics is truly over.