During a tour of the Nixon Library, Richard Grenell, U.S. Ambassador to Germany, observed a piece of the Berlin Wall and a life-size statue of former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. (Richard Nixon Foundation)

President Trump’s Man in Berlin Reflects on the Nixon Doctrine

Ambassador Richard Grenell Articulates America’s National Interests for the 21st Century on 50th Anniversary of President Nixon’s Foreign Policy Pronouncement

July 16, 2019

Yorba Linda (Nixon Library) — Why should today’s leaders study President Nixon’s foreign policy doctrine?

In an address at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library marking the Nixon Doctrine’s 50th anniversary, Richard Grenell — America’s Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany— explained how Nixon’s vision helps policymakers think about the national interest given current geopolitical circumstances, and the capabilities which America possesses to conduct its foreign policy.

“American politics had become a struggle between those who wanted to retreat from the world, and those who wished to expand our interventions in it,” Ambassador Grenell said, referring to America’s decade long adventure in Indochina in the 1960s. “Nixon offered a third way, based on the national interest as the core motivation of U.S. foreign policy.”

Principally, the Nixon Doctrine was about advancing U.S. interests across the globe, while recognizing that allies had to share the burden for their own defense.

Furthermore, Nixon had articulated in his first inaugural address that his administration would end an era of confrontation, and begin one of negotiation. This meant that the United States would attempt big power diplomacy with the likes of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China in an effort to lessen global tensions, and recalibrate American leadership following the setbacks of the last decade and deep political divisions at home.

Nixon first outlined the doctrine on the island of Guam on July 25, 1969 in informal remarks following the splashdown of the Apollo XI Astronauts in the South Pacific, and before he embarked on an eight-country tour of Asia and Europe.

Nixon’s comments were steeped in deep policy rhetoric. He discussed America’s present and future role in Asia’s security, as well as American troop withdrawals in Vietnam, summitry with the Soviet Union, and the recent relaxation of economic restrictions on the People’s Republic of China.

Moving forward, Nixon said his foreign policy would be based on three basic premises: 1) The United States will keep all its treaty commitments; 2) It shall provide a shield if a nuclear power threatens an ally or another country vital to American security; and 3) in cases of other types of aggression, the U.S. will furnish military and economic assistance in accordance with treaty commitments, but would look to the nation threatened to assume the primary responsibility of providing the manpower for its defense.

Ambassador Grenell cited Nixon’s Foreign Policy Report to Congress in February 1970, which challenged how policy makers should think about America’s commitments.

“We are not involved in the world because of our commitments; we have commitments because we are involved,” Nixon said. “Our interests must shape our commitments, rather than the other way around.”

Ambassador Grenell related these principles to more recent foreign policy events in the 21st Century. While he was the U.S. spokesman at the United Nations during the first five years of American military intervention in Iraq, he became convinced that the costly engagement and over idealism had profound negative effects for American interests across the globe.

Grenell advocated for a clear eyed foreign policy that works to benefit the American people, which he believes is the essence of the Trump administration’s doctrine.

For Grenell, this also means empowering allies and being willing to cut deals with adversaries if American and global security will benefit.

“By openly pursuing our interests, the United States can build consensus among other countries whose own interests reflect similar ideals and objectives,” Grenell said.

“America first does not mean America alone.”


Read the full remarks here.