Donald Trump’s astonishing election victory has provided a surreal context for John Kerry’s current visit to New Zealand. The Key government can promote the need for real Security Council action on Syria all it wants. And Mr Kerry can concur all he likes. But everyone is aware of the bigger picture. The 45th President is not going to be Hillary Clinton, who in 2010 became the first Obama Administration Secretary of State to visit New Zealand. And so Mr Kerry, who has just become the second, cannot offer a golden thread of American foreign policy consistency running from the present to the future. Instead his visit may be one of the last chances for normal conversations before the Trump team charge through the White House gates.
Just how many of Trump’s alarming foreign policy sentiments are converted into action will only be clear after January’s inauguration. But it would be foolish to think that his administration’s approach will be so toned down from campaign trail rhetoric that no one will really notice the difference from the Obama era.