How Donald Trump's disruptive foreign policy affects the world
Gideon Rachman, the FT's chief foreign affairs commentator, asks whether the president's unpredictable decision-making on foreign affairs has increased the risk of conflict.
Produced and edited by Gregory Bobillot. Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis and Rod Fitzgerald.
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It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.
As the world's only superpower, with an unmatched network of alliances, America is often referred to as the world's policeman. But with the US police force now led by Sheriff Donald Trump, its behaviour is increasingly unpredictable. And, partly as a result, many of the world's rougher neighbourhoods - from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea - are entering an uncertain and dangerous period.
Of course, all of these regional flashpoints have deep local roots. But it is also true that uncertainty about American foreign policy is adding to the sense of instability. Take Iran. For a while, the Trump administration seemed to be pursuing a clear, if risky, policy. It withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear accords and seemed willing to risk a military confrontation.
But in June, Mr Trump abruptly cancelled an airstrike on Iran that was intended to punish Iran for shooting down an American drone. And that's left a legacy of uncertainty, and may have encouraged the Iranians to take further risks, seizing three oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz in recent weeks.
Then there is the dangerous flare-up in Kashmir. This also took place against a backdrop of confusing signals from the White House. In July, Mr Trump suggested that India had asked him to mediate with Pakistan over Kashmir, a statement that was immediately denied by India. Shortly afterwards, Delhi moved to abolish the autonomy of the province of Jammu and Kashmir. And that move has led to a surge in tensions with Pakistan, with America watching from the sidelines.
And then there is Hong Kong. The government of China is hinting heavily at military intervention there to suppress months of demonstrations. A traditional US administration would express support for the aspirations of the people of Hong Kong and urge restraint on Beijing. But Mr Trump has instead called the protests "riots".
On other contentious issues in East Asia where tensions are rising, US policy is also confusing. If China ever followed through on its frequent threats to invade Taiwan, would the US fight to defend the Taiwanese? The Trump administration has sent very mixed signals, warming up dramatically the Taiwanese at the beginning of the administration, and then backing off.
A similar confusion reigns over the South China Sea. The US has stepped up Naval patrols there to push back against China. But President Trump himself regularly questions the value of America's key alliances in East Asia with Japan and South Korea.
And then there is North Korea. Mr Trump clearly greatly values his friendship with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. But North Korea's recently restarted missile tests and has done very little to deliver on its promise to get rid of nuclear weapons. So how long can the Kim-Trump rapprochement last?
Finally, there's Europe. When it comes to the long-running conflict in Ukraine, the Trump administration has toughened US policy by supplying the Ukrainian government with weapons. On the other hand, Mr Trump himself seems to want a much closer relationship with Russia and with President Putin. And he sometimes questioned the value of the Nato alliance, sending shivers down the spine of America's European allies.
So how would Mr Trump react if there was an intensification of the conflict in Ukraine? The fact is, nobody can be sure. And that's also true for all those other regional conflicts. An unpredictable America poses new dilemmas for other world powers whose policies increasingly are based on guesswork about how the Trump White House may behave. As a result, uncertainty that begins in the Oval Office spreads around the world, creating waves of instability and trouble spots thousands of miles from Washington.