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Wednesday, April 12, 2017 1:00 am

Lugar harshly critical of Trump policy

Says downsizing US role will lead to global crisis

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar charged Tuesday that President Donald Trump's foreign policy ambitions are “squandering America's international leverage.”

The Indianapolis native reportedly said during a lecture to the Foreign Policy Association in Washington that the Trump administration's “skepticism or even disdain” for America's global leadership role could lead to more conflict around the world and leave a host of threats – climate change, extreme poverty and hunger, communicable diseases, nuclear proliferation and terrorism – “almost impossible to solve.”

Lugar, a Republican, described as “simplistic, prosaic and reactive” White House goals to deport undocumented immigrants, build a wall along the Mexican border, seek concessions from trade partners, require that European allies pay more for their defense and severely cut the State Department budget.

“Taken together, these policies do nothing to enhance American productivity or competitiveness at home or influence overseas,” Lugar said, according to a transcript. “These are goals that normally would be associated with a selfish, inward-looking nation that is being motivated by fear, not a great superpower with the capacity to shape global affairs.”

Lugar, 85, represented Indiana in the Senate from 1977 through 2012. He is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and gained international recognition for his work with ex-senator Sam Nunn of Georgia to rid former Soviet Union countries of their nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Lugar is president of the Lugar Center, a Washington think tank that focuses on foreign policy issues, bipartisan governance, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and food and energy security.

During his Tuesday lecture, Lugar said Trump's early foreign policy choices are “offering a vision that is so lacking in ambition and so devoid of American heroism,” according to the transcript.

“Unfortunately the first three months of the Trump presidency have been an exercise in squandering America's international leverage in favor of campaign-driven foreign policy themes that are fundamentally contradicted by centuries of world history,” he said.

“The president is choosing to wager American prosperity and security on the discredited panaceas that industry growth can be preserved by greater protections from global trade, that American jobs can be preserved by building a border wall and deporting immigrants, and that American security can best be protected by downsizing the U.S. role in the world.”

If Trump follows through on these themes, Lugar predicted the result “would be an economic and geopolitical disaster.”

“We doom our nation's workforce to a dismal future if we shift the blame to trade and immigrants” instead of improving the business environment and retraining workers for new jobs, he told the Foreign Policy Association.

Lugar said it is too early to assess Trump's military policies, including last week's missile attack on a Syrian air base.

“A strong, well-funded military remains as important as ever in deterring aggression and addressing threats that cannot be solved in any other way,” Lugar said. “But we cannot bomb our way to security.”

He said the president's attempt to ban entry to the United States by citizens of predominately Muslim nations “gives verbal ammunition to any terrorist leader who seeks to focus followers on the United States.”

bfrancisco@jg.net