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Foreign relations of the United States
The United States of America has vast economic, political and military influence on a global scale, which makes the concepts and details of its foreign policy a subject of great interest and discussion around the world.
Goals of U.S. foreign policy repeatedly mentioned and emphasized by U.S. officials are:
- Protecting the safety and freedoms of all American citizens, both within the United States and abroad.
- Defense policy and procurement decisions related to force posture.
- Promotion of peace, freedom, (most notably of speech and enterprise) and democracy in all regions of the world.
- Furthering free trade, unencumbered by tariffs, interdictions and other economic barriers, and furthering capitalism in order to foster economic growth and thus improve living conditions everywhere.
- Bringing developmental and humanitarian aid to foreign peoples in need.
During the American Revolution, the United States established relations with several European powers, convincing France, Spain, and the Netherlands to intervene in the war against Britain, a mutual enemy. In the period following, the U.S. oscillated between pro-French and pro-British policies. In general, the U.S. remained aloof from European disputes, focusing on territorial expansion in North America.
After the Spanish colonies in Latin America declared independence, the U.S. established the Monroe Doctrine, a policy of keeping European powers out of the Americas. U.S. expansionism led to war with Mexico and to diplomatic conflict with Britain over the Oregon Territory and with Spain over Florida and later Cuba. During the American Civil War, the U.S. accused Britain and France of supporting the Confederate States and trying to control Mexico, but after that, the U.S. was unchallenged in its home territory. It strove to be the dominant influence in the Americas, trying to weaken European influence in Latin America and occasionally intervening to establish puppet governments in weak states.
As U.S. power grew, it began to look at interests farther abroad, particularly in the pursuit of trade. It occupied territories in the Pacific, such as Hawaii and the Philippines, demanded the opening of Japan to trade, and competed with other powers for influence in China. Eventually it became involved in World War I and World War II, after which it abandoned its traditionally isolationist policies in order to counter the influence of the Soviet Union, and to fill the vacuum left by the decline of Britain as a global power. By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. had military and economic interests in every region of the globe.
The United States has one of the largest diplomatic presences of any nation on earth. Almost every country in the world has both a U.S. embassy and an embassy of its own in Washington, D.C.. Only a few nations do not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States. They are:
In pratical terms however, these lack of formal relations do not impede the U.S.'s communication with these nations. In the cases where no US diplomatic post exists, American relations are usually conducted via Canada, the United Kingdom, or another friendly third-party. In the case of the Republic of China, de facto relations are conducted through the American Institute in Taiwan.
The U.S. maintains a Normal Trade Relations list and several countries are excluded from it, which means that their exports to the States are significantly more taxed.
The United States is a founder of NATO, the world's largest military alliance. The 26 nation alliance consists of Canada and much of Europe. Under the NATO charter, the United States is compelled to defend any NATO state that is attacked by a foreign power.
The United States also has several "Major Non-NATO allies" which is a distinction given to certain states which are unable to join NATO for geographic reasons. Each non-NATO allied state has a unique relationship with the United States, involving various military and economic partnerships and alliances. The designated Major Non-NATO allies are:
- New Zealand
- The Philippines
- South Korea
- Russia (Joined in 2002 as a junior-member)
Criticism and responses
Critics of U.S. foreign policy tend to respond that these goals commonly regarded as noble were often overstated and point out contradictions between foreign policy rhetoric and actions:
- The mention of peace as opposed to the long list of U.S. military involvements
- The mention of freedom and democracy as opposed to the many former and current dictatorships that receive(d) U.S. financial or military support.
- The mention of free trade as opposed to U.S. import tariffs (to protect local industries from global competition) on foreign goods like wood and steel.
- The mention of U.S. generosity as opposed to the low spendings on foreign developmental aid (measured as percentage of GDP)
Cold War policies
Today, both much of the criticism and justification for many actions of U.S. foreign policy was formulated during the Cold War. Following World War II the government of the United States grew increasingly worried - some say paranoid - of the expansionist actions of the Soviet Union, and its support for Communist revolutions in the third world and beyond. Foreign policy makers of that time are usually quick to point out that this atmosphere of conflict with the Soviets created many situations in which the United States was apparently forced to compromise on some of the ideological policy objectives stated above. For example, American support for certain dictatorships was frequently condemned by critics as an apparent violation of the U.S.'s Wilsonian principles. However, policy makers would justify such support by stating that supporting a certain dictator was often necessary when he was the only stable ruler of a unstable country, or when the alternative to his rule would be a Soviet-sponsored Communist dictatorship. This was often dubbed the lesser of two evils principle. The country also continues the U.S. embargo against Cuba which has been in place since 1962 despite almost unanimous international criticism.
So-called globalization critics, like the Attac movement, also oppose the notion, most notably spread by U.S. politicians, and international economic organizations closely related to the USA, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that selling state industries to private investors (privatization) would necessarily improve quality and lower prices of the goods produced by these industries, arguing that certain industries must remain publicly-owned to avoid abuse of private monopolies, and that certain countries had already seen an erosion in price-to-value ratio as the result of privatizations. It is also argued that the sale of public property often includes potentially massive corruption, for example underpriced "sell-out" of public assets in return of personal or political favors.
- Maritime boundary disputes with Canada (Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Machias Seal Island).
- U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or U.S. abandonment of the area can terminate the lease.
- Haiti claims Navassa Island.
- U.S. has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other nation.
- Marshall Islands claims Wake Island.
- consumer of cocaine shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean.
- consumer of heroin, marijuana, and increasingly methamphetamines from Mexico.
- consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin.
- illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamines.
- drug-money-laundering center.
See also: War on Drugs
The U.S. provides military aid through many different channels. Counting the items that appear in the budget as 'Foreign Military Financing' and 'Plan Colombia', the U.S. spent approximately $4.5 billion in military aid in 2001, of which $2 billion went to Israel, $1.3 billion went to Egypt, and $1 billion went to Colombia.
- Sino-American relations
- U.S.-Canada relations
- United States and the United Nations
- Neoconservatism (United States)
- List of U.S. Presidential Doctrines
- Timeline of United States diplomatic history
- Franco-U.S. relations
- Anglo-American Special Relationship
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