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NATO leaders need to Trump-proof their policies, now

The re-election of Donald Trump as US president would cause another enormous shock to international politics. The world is full of crises, such as Ukraine and Gaza. But Trump casts a destabilizing shadow over all these issues.

How do you cope with a crisis when you have no idea what a future US president will do about it – including potentially creating a further crisis? Many international leaders have largely shut down to wait and see what happens after November 5.

But sitting tight is the wrong way to deal with Trump. Leaders need to be proactive and move now to Trump-proof their foreign policies, as well as international organizations such as NATO.

Trump is unpredictable and thinks that’s exactly what you should be as president. He is not simply chaotic but believes that an unpredictable foreign policy gives you the advantage.

Trump is also inexperienced about international affairs and transactional – only trying to find the benefit to himself, regardless of the political implications. He thinks that all of this makes you a strong player.

But unpredictability is bad for an international system in which other states rely on knowing what will happen to formulate their own foreign policies. It’s hardly surprising then that foreign leaders feel frozen – unable to act without knowing what the situation may be.

Not acting is a dangerous policy, though. It limits countries’ power and plays into Trump’s strategy. Letting him run the show strengthens his position at a cost to everyone else, by making others work to his agenda.

Instead, leaders should step up now to protect their foreign policies. They need to fully articulate what they want – and work to get it (or as much of it as they can) irrespective of Trump.