America first. Russia first. China first.
The United States of America puts American interests first. Just as every other nation in the world puts its own interests first. President Donald Trump was right about that in his first speech before the United Nations, on Sept. 19. Few world leaders have so nakedly expressed the essence of the Westphalian state system, established by treaty in 1648, and under which every human being dwells today.
“As president of the United States,” Trump said, “I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always, and should always, put your countries first.” This is controversial? Every undergraduate learns this on the first day of International Relations 101. It is the first principle of the realpolitik practiced by Henry Kissinger, Winston Churchill and Otto von Bismarck.
Virtually every other American president has made the same point. President Barack Obama, expressing his conception of larger interests during his final speech before the United Nations in 2016, returned in the end to his own primary obligation—and that of his counterparts. “Sometimes I’m criticized in my own country for professing a belief in international norms and multilateral institutions. But I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security. And I think that’s not just true for us.”