Low-conceptual complexity and Trump's foreign policy

Asaf Siniver, Christopher Featherstone

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This article examines President Trump’s foreign policy behaviour as a product of a leadership style that is entrenched in a plutocratic worldview. We apply elements of Hermann’s leadership traits framework to Trump’s engagement with NATO, and characterize him as a low-conceptual complexity president, enabled by limited search for information and advice, a confrontational and insensitive approach to his environment, and proclivity to violate international norms and rules. We show that Trump’s low-conceptual complexity is underpinned by a plutocratic worldview which is transactional and money-first. We argue that while this signals change between Trump and his predecessors, this plutocratic approach has been one of the most significant sources of consistency within Trump’s administration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-85
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Affairs
Issue number1
Early online date5 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Mar 2020


  • foreign policy analysis
  • leadership styles
  • change & continuity
  • US foreign policy
  • NATO
  • Trump


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