The 2016 election signaled the rise of populism as a dominant force in U.S. politics. The campaigns of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders exposed a yearning for a restored middle class, a sense of profound and increasing economic insecurity, and anger over wage stagnation and the pace of social change. These sentiments carry with them serious implications for foreign policy. On trade, alliance burden-sharing, military interventions and more, the effects of populism are evident in the Trump administration’s initial forays into foreign policy.
What does the rise of populism mean for current and future American foreign policy? Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., discussed the Trump administration’s approach thus far and the role of traditional foreign policy elites in the process of defining America’s role in the world. He also examined how the current populist movement — if it can be termed as such — fits into the historical development of U.S. foreign policy.
This event was sponsored by the Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies. It was open to Baker Institute Roundtable and CES Energy Forum members.
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Richard Fontaine is the president of the Center for a New American Security, where he was previously a senior advisor and senior fellow. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was formerly an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the United States. Fontaine served as foreign policy advisor to the McCain 2008 presidential campaign and, following the election, as the minority deputy staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Prior to this, he served as associate director for Near Eastern affairs at the National Security Council (NSC). He also worked in the NSC’s Asian Affairs directorate, where he covered Southeast Asian issues. During his time at the State Department, Fontaine worked in the office of former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and in the department’s South Asia bureau. He began his foreign policy career as a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, focusing on the Middle East and South Asia. Fontaine graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in international relations from Tulane University. He also holds a M.A. in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he attended Oxford University.
8:00 am — Continental breakfast
8:30 am — Presentation