Why It Matters

Testing times for US foreign policy

Post-election politeness here is giving way to rancour, some of it over foreign relations, especially with regard to Russia and Israel.

Outgoing US President Barack Obama stunned Israel with an abstention at a United Nations Security Council vote on its settlements late last year, and then shortly thereafter ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats for alleged Russian interference in the US election process. He also ordered the closure of two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland.

Mr Obama cited US intelligence that Russia had hacked Democratic Party organisations and the e-mails of Mrs Hillary Clinton's campaign staff to disrupt the election, ultimately helping Republican candidate Donald Trump win.

Russian President Vladimir Putin refrained from responding to the move by the Obama administration, saying he would wait for a better relationship under Mr Trump, who is set to take office as the next president on Jan 20.

Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to a supportive tweet from Mr Trump following the UN Security Council vote with a Facebook post that said: "President-elect Trump, thank you for your warm friendship and your clear-cut support for Israel!"

Mr Trump seems set to redefine the US' relationships with Russia, Israel, China and potentially Iran. The billionaire President-elect has styled himself, not just recently but for years, as a deal-maker. But analysts say he will be severely tested by the complex and intractable minefield of US-Russia relations, the Middle East quagmire and Taiwan-China politics.

Any major realignment in Washington will not just reverberate across entire regions. It will also serve as fodder for more political divisions at home, coming on top of already contentious domestic issues such as healthcare, immigration and the environment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'Testing times for US foreign policy'. Print Edition | Subscribe