The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s ‘America First’ policy will cost some countries much more than others

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Oct. 17, 2016, in Green Bay, Wis. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Just minutes after Donald Trump took over as president, was updated with his new priorities. Among them? An “America first” foreign policy.

Trump has laid out a staunchly nationalist vision for America, a zero-sum world where U.S. needs are the only ones that matter. In his inaugural address Friday morning, there was little talk of international cooperation or building bridges. Instead, Trump offered this vaguely dystopian readout: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.”

No more.

“From this moment on,” Trump said, “it’s going to be America first." (A slogan popularized, for what it's worth, by Nazi sympathizers.)

In practice, that means a protectionist foreign policy aimed at eradicating “radical Islamic terror” and negotiating better trade deals. Missing will be any sense of America as a champion of human rights and democracy, a warrior against climate change or a leader in peacemaking and poverty eradication. As Politico reported a couple of days ago, Trump wants to rejigger the State Department in this image, prioritizing counterterrorism and intelligence gathering (and using he term “radical Islam” in public as often as possible) over all else.

That would involve a fundamental rethinking of the department's mission, one that would come with a fairly radical re-allotment of funds.

Obama proposed a $50.1 billion budget for the State Department and USAID in 2017. Some of that money is spent on security assistance but significantly more goes to economic and development aid. As my colleagues reported a couple months ago, that money “is intended to ensure American strategic interests abroad and bolster international institutions that respond to humanitarian crises, climate change, infectious diseases and a plethora of other development concerns.”

Here's how the budget broke down in 2017:

It's less clear whether the Trump administration will rethink the military aid it sends abroad. Right now, about three-quarters of all direct military aid goes to Israel and Egypt. As my colleagues explain: “Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid since World War II — the country was forged into existence only in 1948. And Egypt procured such robust funding only by agreeing to an American-brokered peace deal with Israel in the 1978 Camp David Accords.”

U.S. military aid may not face such dramatic cutbacks. After all, regulations dictate that recipient countries spend the money on American defense contracts. (Except Israel, which can spend up to 26 percent of the aid it receives on products of its own defense industry.)

Here are the top 10 recipients of State Department spending overall: