Planning for the Post-Trump Foreign Policy Wreckage


August 31, 2018

Planning for the Post-Trump Foreign Policy Wreckage

When the president eventually exits the White House, the rest of us will quickly have to make sense of the world he’s left behind.

Donald Trump speaks during an event to announces a grant for drug-free communities support program, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 29, 2018. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump speaks during an event to announce a grant for drug-free communities support program, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 29, 2018. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

One of the many unfortunate consequences of U.S. President Donald Trump’s cavalier, corrupt, and capricious handling of foreign policy is that it discourages farsighted thinking about the global agenda. Even worse, it is gradually undermining the institutional capacity the United States will need to deal with that agenda. To a first approximation, the people who are most alarmed by his actions (and I include myself among them) are spending a lot of their time circling the wagons and trying to minimize the damage that he and his minions do while in office. They are like parents trying frantically to corral a rambunctious toddler (hat tip to Dan Drezner) who is running amok through a china shop: All the attention is on saving as much of the crockery as possible, and nobody has any time to think about what they’ll do once the kid has finished smashing things.

It’s understandable that people are trapped in a reactive mode, because Trump’s genius is his ability to make nearly everything all about him and to focus attention on whatever his latest outrageous antic is. What other president could or would make himself the center of attention when a prominent senator died or express his disagreement with an important allied leader by tossing candy at her? Trump may be terrible at running the government, but his ability to command attention through outrageous behavior makes Madonna look like an amateur.

Yet we should resist the urge to remain in a defensive crouch. Yes, there’s a lot of damage being done these days, and resisting Trump’s worst impulses is important. But there are plenty of problems out there that will require attention in the not-too-distant future, and where the appropriate solutions aren’t immediately obvious. Careful and creative thought will be needed to figure out an appropriate destination and then to chart a course to get there. It is not too soon, therefore, for foreign-policy mavens to start thinking about the post-Trump world, not simply to restore the pre-Trump status quo but in order to figure out arrangements that acknowledge new realities and are appropriate for the conditions we will face in the future.

No doubt each of you has your own list of priorities, but for what it’s worth, here are a few of mine.

#1: The Architecture of Great Power Politics

When he ran for president back in 1992, Bill Clinton once declared that “the cynical calculus of pure power politics simply does not compute. It is ill-suited to a new era.” He was expressing the widespread belief (pious hope?) that humanity had turned a corner at the end of the Cold War, and that the old logic of great power rivalry was now behind us. He was dead wrong, alas, and great power politics are now back with a vengeance.

But the form and intensity of that rivalry remains open, and the nature of relations among today’s great powers needs to be shaped through farsighted diplomatic action. Will the United States disengage and let Europe and Asia (mostly) go their own way? Will the United States, its NATO allies, and Japan link up with others to contain Russia, China, and their various regional partners? Should the United States make a concerted effort to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing, perhaps by trying to work out an agreement on Ukraine and promoting a security architecture for Europe and Russia that reduces each side’s fears? Where will countries like India fit into the constellation of great powers, and where should the United States want it to be?

It is all well and good to obsess about “saving NATO” or “preserving a liberal order,” but those short-term, reactive goals do not eliminate the need to think hard about what sort of great power relations are realistic and desirable in the decades ahead. At key moments in world history—such as 1815, 1870, 1919, 1945, and 1993—the leaders of the great powers had to imagine and then try to implement visions of great power politics designed to preserve key interests, ideally without (much) resort to force. They were sometimes successful; at other key moments, they failed miserably. The problem cannot be avoided, but we are more likely to end up with arrangements we like if we start thinking through the possibilities now. 

#2: The Brave New World of Cyber:

I’m the first to admit that I didn’t foresee all of the ways that digitalization, social media, and other aspects of the cyber-world would shape both international and domestic politics. Sure, there’s been a lot of hype and threat inflation about cybersecurity, cyberwar, and cyber-everything else, but in 2018 it’s impossible to deny that these issues are affecting us all in pretty far-reaching ways. Indeed, even the suspicion that bad guys are using the internet to manipulate politics can have effects all on its own.

Instead of moving energetically to address these issues, however, Trump fired the White House cybersecurity coordinator and eliminated the position, repeatedly denied that anybody interfered in the 2018 election, and now is tweeting out accusations that Google is biased against him. Instead of developing a coherent U.S. policy and trying to negotiate an international code of conduct that might mitigate these problems, he’s kicking the can down the road.

But does anyone believe these issues will simply disappear on their own? Surely not. Which means more farsighted people will have to start developing policies that can preserve the benefits of the digital revolution while protecting us from its dark downside.

#3: New Institutions for the World Economy

It is now obvious that contemporary globalization did not deliver as promised for millions of people—though it did have significant benefits for the Asian middle class and the global 1 percent—and that the main institutions set up to manage global trade and investment need serious rethinking. This is partly because some countries (e.g., China) have complied poorly with some of the rules, though no country’s track record is perfect, and because unfettered globalization did not allow individual countries to tailor arrangements in order to support key cultural or national priorities.

This is not my area of expertise, and I’m not going to offer any detailed advice on what should be done. For what it’s worth, I find my colleague Dani Rodrik’s arguments on allowing nations greater autonomy within the global trading and investment order, so that their participation does not produce wrenching social dislocations at home, convincing. Less globalization might be more, therefore, but less globalization does not mean zero.

As near as I can tell, the Trump administration’s approach to these issues has been to use U.S. economic leverage to bully other countries into making minor economic concessions, which Trump can then hail as the “beautiful” new trade deals that he promised back in 2016. That’s what happened with South Korea and what appears to be happening with NAFTA. But what’s missing, at least so far, is any attempt to develop a larger set of institutions or arrangements that would safeguard the wealth-enhancing elements of (mostly) open trade and avoid both the obvious costs of a trade war and the social turmoil of hyper-globalization. Again, it’s not my field, but I sure hope Dani isn’t the only person thinking about what a new global economic order should look like.

#4: Whither the Middle East? 

If the architecture of great power politics is now uncertain and will require creative diplomacy to adapt to and shape, that goes double in the troubled Middle East. Thus far, the Trump administration has mostly doubled down on supporting America’s longtime Middle East partners: giving a free hand to Israeli expansionism, backing Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s military dictatorship in Egypt, and encouraging Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious domestic reforms and his increasingly reckless regional behavior (most notably and tragically in Yemen), as well as ramping up pressure on America’s perennial bête noire, Iran. Trump has also stumbled into a pissing contest with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, but Erdogan is at least as prickly and desperate for scapegoats as Trump himself, and a cynic might argue that the two leaders deserve each other.

Although it’s possible that National Security Advisor John Bolton will still get the war with Iran that he has long favored, the bigger questions are what the U.S. role in the region will be over the longer term and how it will deal with problems that are going to come home to roost eventually. Former Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all openly backed a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, for example, and each tried to bring it about in their own not-very-effective fashion. The two-state solution is now on life support if not completely dead, however, which raises the obvious question: If “two states for two peoples” is impossible, then what is does the United States support? Does it believe Israel should become a one-state democracy, with full political rights for all inhabitants, including the Palestinians who are now under strict Israeli control and denied political rights? Do Americans think those Palestinians should be kept in a state of permanent subjugation (aka apartheid)? Is the United States in favor of Israel expelling them to some other country? Nobody really wants to think about awkward questions such as these, let alone answer them, but Trump’s successors are going to get asked. Might be a good idea to start formulating a response.

And that’s just one issue. The United States will also need to figure out if it wants to continue its (mostly futile) efforts to mold local politics all over the region or revert back to the strategy of “offshore balancing” that it employed there from 1945 to roughly 1991. Should it strive for a modus vivendi with Iran—in the service of maximizing U.S. leverage and maintaining a regional balance of power—or continue to flirt with regime change? And it is worth asking if the Middle East is even as vital a region as it once was, given the shale gas revolution back in the United States, the imperative to reduce fossil fuel consumption, and the rising strategic importance of Asia?

#5: Rebuilding Foreign Policy Capacity and Expertise

Unfortunately, the United States will be grappling with all of these problems with a severely depleted foreign-policy capacity. The travails of the State Department are well known, but there has also been exceptionally high turnover among key Trump aides and a general erosion of nonpartisan experience and expertise throughout the government. Trump’s repeated attacks on the intelligence agencies and his efforts to politicize the civil service aren’t helping either. Lord knows I’m critical of the “Blob” and its tendency not to hold itself accountable and to stick with strategies that aren’t working, but the answer is a better foreign-policy establishment, not amateur hour.

Accordingly, planning for a post-Trump world will also require a sustained effort to rebuild the institutional and administrative capacity for an effective foreign policy. Having an effective and professional civil and foreign service is critical in a system such as America’s, because so many top jobs get replaced whenever the White House changes hands, and many senior officials take months if not years to be nominated and confirmed. Moreover, a lot of them stay in their posts for only a year or two, creating further disarray and churn within the government. Add to that America’s odd practice of letting big campaign donors serve in important diplomatic posts or management positions, and you have a recipe for trouble.

This problem wouldn’t be a big issue if the United States had modest foreign-policy goals, but that is hardly the case. Instead, it is trying to run the world with perhaps the most disorganized and dysfunctional system imaginable. Accordingly, farsighted patriots need to start planning how to restore expertise, analytic capacity, and accountability now, so that this process can begin swiftly once Trump is gone.

The list presented here is far from complete, and it’s easy to think of other issues (e.g., climate change, proliferation, migration, etc.) where imaginative thinking is going to be needed. But my central point remains: Preserving the status quo against Trump’s wrecking operation is not enough. Instead of just playing defense, his critics need to start thinking about the positive goals they intend to pursue once he’s left the political stage. And there’s an added benefit in this course of action: The most obvious way to convince Americans that Trump’s policies are mistaken is to show them a better alternative.

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Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University. @stephenwalt

The Trump Administration Struggles to Defend Its Unruly Foreign Policy


July 29, 2018

The Trump Administration Struggles to Defend Its Unruly Foreign Policy

 

The first hint of a turbulent day in U.S. foreign policy appeared in a one-sentence statement distributed by e-mail on Wednesday afternoon. Just a week after President Trump invited the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to a second summit, in Washington, this fall, the White House announced that the meeting was being postponed.

“The President believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” the national-security adviser, John Bolton, said in a statement.

The Administration had faced scathing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the invitation, especially when details are still scant over what happened at the first summit, in Helsinki, on July 16th. The proposed Putin visit to the Oval Office would also have been on the eve of the high-stakes U.S. midterm elections, in which the Russians are reportedly meddling again. Last week, the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, warned of “ongoing, pervasive efforts” by the Russians “to undermine our democracy.”

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Messy Trump at work

More broadly, questions have grown since Helsinki—and other recent Trump summits with North Korea, the G-7 economic allies, and the twenty-eight other NATO nations—about Trump’s unruly U.S. foreign policy. The optics in Washington are not good.

Minutes after the Bolton statement, Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chastised President Trump during a hearing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The President had “appeared submissive and deferential” alongside Putin, Corker said. He has deliberately “used false information to turn public opinion” against the NATO military alliance, a cornerstone of U.S. security. In meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Corker said the President had legitimized “one of the most ruthless leaders on the planet.” He had also taken to issuing “off-the-cuff” challenges to basic principles of the global order. For months, Trump has been “antagonizing our friends and placating those who clearly wish us ill.” The Helsinki summit is “perhaps the most troubling example of this emerging reality,” he said.

“From where we sit,” Corker, who is retiring, added, “it appears that, in a ready-fire-aim fashion, the White House is waking up every morning and making it up as they go.” America’s top lawmakers, he warned, “are filled with serious doubts” about the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He appealed to Pompeo, saying, “Help convince us that those at the White House know what they are doing,” and “I can’t say it more forcefully. We really need a clear understanding as to what is going on.”

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Senator Bob Menendez

Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee, chimed in that—ten days after the Helsinki summit—U.S. lawmakers had heard more about what happened in the private session between Trump and Putin from Russian statements than from White House briefings. “We don’t know what the truth is, because nobody else was in the room where it happened,” the New Jersey Democrat said. In three hours of grilling, Pompeo repeatedly claimed that the President had fully briefed him. But he offered few insights and sidestepped straightforward questions about exactly what Trump and Putin discussed.

The White House appears to be scrambling to prove it has a coherent foreign policy. An hour before Pompeo testified on the Hill, the State Department issued the “Crimea Declaration.” The United States, it pronounced, will not recognize Russia’s strategic annexation of Crimea, in 2014, after its invasion of Ukraine. Citing the United Nations charter, dating back seven decades, the State Department noted, “No country can change the borders of another by force.”

That statement contradicts what Trump has repeatedly suggested since his first run for public office, in 2016. At the G-7 summit last month, in Canada, he reportedly said the majority of Crimea’s residents “would rather be with Russia.”

The Administration is also gyrating on Russian election interference in the United States. On Sunday night, the President tweeted that claims of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election are “all a big hoax”—dismissing the unanimous findings of U.S. intelligence agencies and Coats’s statement last week. On Wednesday, in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Pompeo insisted that Trump fully accepts intelligence reports of Russian interference in 2016. He has “a complete and proper understanding of what happened,” Pompeo said. “I know—I briefed him on it for over a year,” when he headed the C.I.A.

Now America’s top diplomat, Pompeo claimed that the Administration had taken a “staggering” array of punitive actions against Russia, including the expulsion of sixty Russian spies, closing Russian consulates, and the sale of defensive military material to Ukraine. The President is “well aware of the challenges that Russia poses” today, Pompeo said. (Neither the Secretary nor the State Department speechwriters caught the erroneous reference in his opening statement to more than two hundred U.S. sanctions imposed “on Russian entities and individuals in the Trump Administration.”)

The Administration’s attempt to appear tougher on Putin may, in fact, be a response to Russian reticence. On Tuesday, the Kremlin showed tepid interest in the invitation to a second summit. “It seems to me that, for now, it would be right to wait for the dust to settle before having a businesslike discussion of all issues,” Putin’s foreign-policy adviser, Yury Ushakov, told the news agency Interfax. “But not now.”

Russia is not the only Trump foreign-policy issue facing questions. On Wednesday, Pompeo engaged in testy exchanges with several senators on issues ranging from Syria to arms-control treaties. The Administration is struggling, in particular, to prove that its bold decision to meet with the North Korean leader in Singapore last month is leading to progress. So far, there is still no formal agreement on what “denuclearization” actually means. Pressed on whether North Korea is still advancing its nuclear capabilities, Pompeo refused to answer the question—or say publicly that Pyongyang has at least frozen its weapons program. The Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey charged that that there is “no verifiable evidence” that North Korea is keeping its promise.

“I am afraid that, at this point, the United States, the Trump Administration, is being taken for a ride,” Markey said. Pompeo, who has travelled to Pyongyang three times since Easter to take the lead on diplomacy, shot back, “Fear not, senator.” But he offered little detail to counter reports of White House frustration with North Korea’s stalling tactics.

“After nearly three hours, here is my takeaway,” Menendez said at the end of the session. “This Administration is increasingly not transparent. It’s not transparent as to what takes place at these summits . . . I really don’t believe, Mr. Secretary, you know what happened during the President’s two-plus-hour conversation with President Putin. And I really don’t know much more about the summit after sitting here for three hours than I did before.”

The Administration did make tentative progress on Wednesday to avert a trade war with America’s closest allies in Europe. In a surprise development, Trump and the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced new negotiations on trade barriers and a pledge, for now, to defer new tariffs. “While we are working on this, we will not go against the spirit of this agreement unless either party terminates the negotiation,” Trump said at a hastily organized appearance with Juncker.

Like the nuclear talks with North Korea and the summitry with Putin, however, the agreement with the European Commission on tariffs contains a big idea but is still short on details—with tough negotiations ahead. The Administration has yet to ink a final deal to resolve any major issue.

The Cinema Society Hosts The Screening Of "The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee"

US-North Korea Singapore Summit– A Long Journey to Peace Ahead


July 26, 2018

US-North Korea Singapore Summit– A Long Journey to Peace Ahead

by Charles K Armstrong, Columbia University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2018/07/25/too-early-to-tell-if-the-singapore-summit-was-successful/

“Dismantling a 70-year-old system of conflict and confrontation is an enormous and complex task. As Pompeo rightly stated, North Korean denuclearisation will take a long time. But the goal to which Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington have committed is not just denuclearisation: the goal is a lasting and stable peace. Building that will take a great deal more patience than we have tended to see in Washington.”--Charles Armstrong

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The 12 June US–DPRK summit meeting was vastly oversold, not least by US President Donald Trump. The day after the summit, Trump tweeted that the North Korean nuclear threat had been removed, even though Pyongyang had taken no verifiable action toward eliminating its nuclear program. On 12 July, one month after the summit, Trump brandished a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who declared their Singapore meeting ‘the start of a meaningful journey’ and said he was looking forward to their next meeting. Trump took this as a reflection of the ‘great progress’ that the two countries had made despite the frustrations that had beset US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his recent visit to Pyongyang. Six weeks after the Singapore summit, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has not diminished, US and UN sanctions against North Korea remain in place, and the US government continues to forbid US citizens from visiting North Korea (and vice versa) without special permission.

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Dismantling a 70-year-old system of conflict and confrontation is an enormous and complex task. But tensions on the Korean Peninsula have eased and that is a major step forward in relations.

Still, despite the largely critical coverage from the Western press — the media in Asia, including in South Korea, has generally been more positive — it is far too early to tell whether the Singapore summit was a success or a failure. Kim’s ‘nice note’ is correct: the meeting of the two leaders was only the start of a journey and was the beginning of a long and unpredictable process of normalising relations between two countries that have been in conflict for 70 years.

As critics were quick to point out, the joint declaration was remarkably vague — not much of a ‘deal’ at all. Trump offered North Korea unspecified ‘security guarantees’ in exchange for which Kim Jong-un ‘reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula’. The one concrete action proposed was the return of US soldiers’ remains from the Korean War. Here some progress has been made: according to a US official who was present at the North Korea–US talks on 16 July, North Korean has offered to send back the remains of over 50 US servicemen on 27 July, which is the 65th anniversary of the Korean War armistice.

The summit was oversold in North Korea as well. The Trump–Kim meeting was covered extensively in the DPRK media, and the usually virulent anti-US propaganda has softened. There has been a new focus on economic development in recent months, and the summit was supposed to be a breakthrough moment that allowed North Korea to shift from nuclear weapons to rebuilding its economy. But the economy still languishes; according to the Bank of Korea in Seoul, North Korea’s GDP shrank by 3.5 per cent in 2017 — its worst performance in two decades. On 20 July, Pompeo reiterated the US position that sanctions could not be lifted until North Korea takes further steps toward denuclearisation, and he criticised Russia and China for failing to enforce sanctions on North Korean oil imports.

As with US–Russia relations, there can be a sizable gap between statements from the White House and the actual policies of the administration. While Trump and Kim (as well as South Korean President Moon Jae-in) emphasise peace and cooperation in more general terms, Pompeo and others in the administration speak the old language of CVID (complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program) as a precondition for any change in the US–North Korea relationship. These two approaches may be complementary, but more often they appear contradictory and confusing. Trump himself seemed to walk back on his bullish statements on North Korean denuclearisation by announcing on 20 July the ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ North Korea still poses to the United States.

In the meantime, relations among the countries of Northeast Asia are moving forward — with or without a dramatic change in US–DPRK ties. Russia and China have so far resisted US calls to block oil deliveries to North Korea. Kim’s three meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in less than two months reflect the rapidly warming ties between North Korea and China after several years of cool relations. Russian media recently reported plans for a Kim–Putin summit. President Moon spoke to the Russian lower house on 21 June — the first South Korean president to make an official visit to Russia since 1999 — where he called for greater cooperation between Russia and the two Koreas on economic development and denuclearisation.

On the Korean Peninsula itself, the Moon administration remains upbeat about relations with the North three months after the inter-Korean summit in Panmunjom, which called for a peace agreement to replace the Korean War armistice by the end of this year. Reunions of Korean families separated by the North–South conflict are scheduled for August. Joint inspection has started for reconnecting North–South railway lines. But only so much can be done while North Korea is under heavy UN sanctions. South Korea has requested (and received) special permission from the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee to allow the equipment and materials for communication between the two Koreas’ militaries. Establishing liaison offices between the Seoul and Pyongyang governments, another goal of the Panmunjom Summit, faces similar sanctions obstacles.

Dismantling a 70-year-old system of conflict and confrontation is an enormous and complex task. As Pompeo rightly stated, North Korean denuclearisation will take a long time. But the goal to which Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington have committed is not just denuclearisation: the goal is a lasting and stable peace. Building that will take a great deal more patience than we have tended to see in Washington.

Charles K Armstrong is The Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences at Columbia University and author of The Koreas.

Foreign Policy: The Singapore Summit’s Uncertainty


June 25, 2018

Foreign Policy: The Singapore Summit’s Uncertainty

by Richard N. Haass

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-kim-singapore-summit-outcome-by-richard-n–haass-2018-06

Image result for Kim and Trump in Singapore

Donald Trump’s depiction of his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a great success that solved the nuclear problem could make it tougher to maintain international support for the economic sanctions that are still needed to pressure Kim. Weakening the prospect of achieving one’s goals is not the mark of a strong negotiator.

 

NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump returned from his short summit meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in an exultant mood. “Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” He subsequently told reporters, “I have solved that problem.”

There is only one catch: what Trump claimed was untrue. The nuclear threat posed by North Korea remains undiminished. The joint statement issued by the two leaders was as brief – just 391 words – as it was vague.

The statement was far more about aspirations than accomplishments. North Korea committed only “to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Missing was any definition of what denuclearization might entail, a timeline for implementation, or a reference to how any actions would be verified. Other issues related to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missiles, were not even mentioned. Thus far, at least, the agreement with North Korea compares unfavorably to the Iran nuclear deal that Trump denounced – and then renounced a month before meeting Kim.

This is not to argue that the Singapore summit had no value. At least for now, bilateral relations are in a better place than they were a year ago, when North Korea was conducting nuclear and missile tests, and observers (including me) were busy calculating the chances that the two countries would be making war rather than peace. And, looking forward, there is, in principle, the possibility that the United States and North Korea will be able to reach agreement on the many relevant issues and details that the Singapore summit statement left out.

But turning this possibility into reality will be extraordinarily difficult. There are many reasons to doubt whether North Korea will ever give up weaponry that, more than anything else, explains America’s willingness to take it seriously and treat it as something of an equal. In addition, the experience of Ukraine, a country that gave up its nuclear weapons, only to see the world do nothing when Russia annexed Crimea, hardly provides a reason for Kim Jong-un to follow suit. Much the same could be said of Libya, given Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s fate.

There is also good reason to doubt that North Korea, arguably the world’s most closed and secretive country, would ever permit the sort of intrusive international inspections that would be required to verify that it had complied with undertakings spelled out in some future pact.

Trump seems to think that Kim can be swayed not simply by threats and pressure, but by flattery and promises as well. The White House released a four-minute video that showcased Kim as someone who could be a great historical figure if only he would fundamentally change. The video also went to great lengths to show what North Korea could gain economically were it to meet US demands. The president even spoke of the North’s potential as a venue for real-estate development and tourism.

What seems not to have occurred to Trump is that such a future holds more peril than promise to someone whose family has ruled with an iron grip for three generations. A North Korea open to Western businessmen might soon find itself penetrated by Western ideas. Popular unrest would be sure to follow.

Trump emphasizes the importance of personal relationships, and he claimed to have developed one with Kim in a matter of hours. More than once, he spoke of the trust he had for a leader with a record of killing off those (including an uncle and a brother) he deemed his enemies. All of this turned Ronald Reagan’s maxim – “trust, but verify” – on its head, to something like “Don’t verify, but trust.”

In fact, some of Trump’s post-summit remarks have actually weakened the prospect of achieving his goals. His depiction of the summit as a great success that solved the nuclear problem will make it that much tougher to maintain international support for the economic sanctions that are still needed to pressure North Korea. Trump also did himself no favor by unilaterally announcing that the US would no longer conduct what he described as “provocative” war games, also known as military exercises meant to ensure readiness and enhance deterrence. In so doing, he not only alarmed several US allies, but also gave away what he could have traded for something from North Korea.

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The danger, of course, is that subsequent negotiations will fail, for all these reasons, to bring about the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea that the US has said must happen soon. Trump would likely then accuse Kim of betraying his trust.

In that case, the US would have three options. It could accept less than full denuclearization, an outcome that Trump and his top aides have said they would reject. It could impose even stricter sanctions, to which China and Russia are unlikely to sign up. Or it could reintroduce the threat of military force, which South Korea, in particular, would resist.

But if Trump concludes that diplomacy has failed, he could nonetheless opt for military action, a course John Bolton suggested just before becoming national security adviser. This would hardly be the legacy that Trump intended for the Singapore summit, but it remains more possible than his optimistic tweets would lead one to believe.

Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He is the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.

Foreign Policy: The Despot and The Diplomat


June 22, 2018

The Despot and The Diplomat

by Christopher R. Hill

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/diplomacy-with-despots-kim-milosevic-by-christopher-r-hill-2018-06

With his effusive praise of Kim Jong-un’s leadership and North Korea’s economic potential, Donald Trump has abandoned any pretense that the US has a broader set of values to promote. Whether this approach works to advance peace will depend on the diplomacy that follows.

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DENVER – Back in 2005, when I was the United States’ lead negotiator at the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, I looked at the instructions I received for my first meeting, a Chinese-hosted banquet that included a North Korean delegation. If there was any toasting (not unheard of at Chinese banquets), I was not to join in. Apparently, I was expected to sit there, without touching my glass, glowering with arms folded until everyone else had placed theirs back on the table. Later, when I visited North Korea for the first time, I was instructed not to smile at my hosts. Apparently, I was expected to offer only angry stares.

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Donald Trump has obviously modified those instructions. In fact, with his unending praise of Kim Jong-un’s leadership, his clumsy, impromptu salute of one of Kim’s generals, and his endorsement of all things North Korean (especially the potential for beachfront property development), Trump has all but abandoned any pretense that the US promotes a broader set of values. But while Trump may have overshot the mark, the idea that the US delegation should sit with glasses untouched during a toast also strikes the wrong tone.

In September 1995, during the final month of the Bosnian War, the US delegation to peace negotiations, led by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, arrived in Belgrade for talks with Serbia’s dictator, Slobodan Milošević. According to Milošević, he could not compel the Bosnian Serbs to withdraw their heavy weapons and lift the bloody four-year siege of Sarajevo. He asked Holbrooke to meet with the Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, both of whom were later convicted of committing war crimes. Holbrooke asked where they were. “Over there in that villa,” Milošević replied. “Can I call for them?”

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Ambassador Richard Hoolbroke–A Giant of American Diplomacy

Read this tribute: http://www.newsweek.com/richard-holbrooke-disappointed-man-69125

Holbrooke hastily brought our delegation together for a quick parley. “Should we meet them?” he asked me. “And if we do, should I shake their hands?” Thinking about the hundreds of thousands of Sarajevans – the many who had been murdered and those facing starvation as a result of the continuing siege – I replied, “Shake their hands and let’s get this over with and go home.” We did. The siege of Sarajevo was lifted the next day.

Whether shaking a hand helps or not, negotiating while shaking a fist has little record of success. During this year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with the North Korean delegation. Perhaps to cover his back at home, Pence delivered what were then the usual tough-sounding talking points before the meeting. The North Koreans promptly canceled, as if to ask, What would be the point?

During the period I dealt with the six-party talks, I avoided adding my voice to the anti-North Korean invective. I knew that soon – often every other week – I would have to meet them again, and while a display of moxie might help me in Washington, it would not help at the tip of the spear, where it was my job to negotiate away the North Koreans’ nuclear ambitions. There is a big difference between talking tough on television talk shows and sitting across from the North Koreans. Direct diplomacy is a serious means to a serious end. Posturing from a distance is not part of it.

Sometimes body language is hard to get right. As US ambassador to Iraq, the instructions I received from Washington rarely came with any commensurate sense of responsibility for the outcome. I was told that my job included helping the Iraqi opposition rid themselves of then-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. US officials reveled in their amped-up toughness in Washington meeting rooms, like high school athletes banging on the lockers before a big game. But when they actually came out on the field and met with Maliki, they gave him no reason to believe they wanted anything but the best for him.

I would sit in such meetings watching Maliki glance over at me, wondering why I had previously warned him of diminishing US government patience with his autocratic rule and dire consequences. Meanwhile, the visitors from Washington made points that were so subtle and nuanced that Maliki would have needed a decoding device to comprehend their real meaning.

Any diplomat must be purposeful in a negotiation on behalf of his or her country, which means being clear-eyed about the desired outcome and the best way to achieve it. In Singapore, the issue was the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Nothing else really mattered.

Time will tell whether the North Koreans reciprocate Trump’s professed affection for them. Kim gave away little, and was probably stunned when, for the first time ever, a US president accepted at face value North Korea’s supposed anxiety about US joint military exercises with South Korea (which the North Koreans know to be defensive in purpose). That was too large a concession, and, one way or another, it will have to be taken back. More broadly, a framework for peace and security that includes all the directly affected parties – South Korea, Japan, Russia, and China – will need to be designed.

Similarly, North Korea’s human rights record, one of the world’s worst, will have to be taken up in the future – perhaps, as I signaled during the six-party talks, as a component of eventual diplomatic relations. But, for now, the North Korean nuclear program must be at the top of any negotiating agenda.

Whether Trump’s approach actually works with North Korea will depend on the diplomacy that follows the Singapore summit. Over to you, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

*Christopher R. Hill, former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, was US Ambassador to Iraq, South Korea, Macedonia, and Poland, a US special envoy for Kosovo, a negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords, and the chief US negotiator with North Korea from 2005-2009. He is Chief Advisor to the Chancellor for Global Engagement and Professor of the Practice in Diplomacy at the University of Denver, and the author of Outpost.

If the US military withdraws from Korea, China will be a big loser


June 20, 2018

If the US military withdraws from Korea, China will be a big loser

by Michael Heng

http://www.scmp.com

Michael Heng says while Beijing has good reason to be wary of American hegemony in the region, it must realise that a US military withdrawal would encourage unwanted developments – nuclear-armed neighbours in a unified Korea and Japan.

The Kim-Trump summit in Singapore has reduced the danger of armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula. It is good for peace in the near future and it calms stock markets. 

Image result for trump the demolition man, the economist cover

At the same time, it is a big media event for Kim Jong-un. It will no doubt boost his international standing and strengthen his position at home. North Korea is the biggest winner, thanks to the calculating Kim and the disappointing Donald Trump. The immediate gain is the likely relaxation of economic sanctions against the country.

Other than these two points, one has to fall back on faith in Trump’s instinct that North Korea is earnest in denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula. He seems to have taken a sudden liking to Kim, someone he described as a “madman” after the death of American student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned during a visit to North Korea.

Image result for trump the demolition man, the economist cover

Donald Trump–America’s Showman has forgotten that, in politics, interests are more decisive than personal relationships

Somehow, Trump has forgotten that, in politics, interests are more decisive than personal relationships. But that is understandable as he is more a showman than a politician.

The joint declaration merely reaffirms the same commitment to denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992.

Watch: What’s in the Trump-Kim agreement

 

As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has observed, there was “nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programmes, nothing about destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nothing about allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear programme, nothing about a timetable, nothing about verification, not even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles”.

If this is not disturbing enough, Trump announced after the summit that he wants to remove all US troops from South Korea, a major strategic move which the Pentagon had rejected outright for years despite Pyongyang’s repeated demands. Trump’s seemingly offhand announcement has perplexed American allies, particularly South Korea and Japan, and confused its own military establishment.

Why is the announcement so disturbing? Consider the following scenario. Supreme Leader Kim, aware that Trump’s current term of office would end in 2½ years, could embark on a cosmetic programme of denuclearisation, obliging Trump to respond by withdrawing the US military presence in South Korea.

Meanwhile, Trump’s successor could be boxed in by his vague agreement with Kim.

Watch: US and South Korea conduct joint military drills in September last year

 

The retreat of US military forces would set alarm bells ringing in Japan. Political realities are more important than promises and treaties. If Japan were threatened, what should Tokyo do? The responsible thing would be to rely on itself, to build up its military and create a home-grown nuclear umbrella.

The biggest loser in the new situation would be South Korea. A nuclear-armed North Korea would easily impose demands on a South Korea without American military protection. The demands could range from reunification on Pyongyang’s terms to generous economic assistance from Seoul.

A US departure from South Korea would weaken South Korea to the extent that it may have to give in to the terms dictated by North Korea on reunification. A reunified Korea may well turn out to be a second reunified Vietnam, but with nuclear warheads. Taking either a short or long view of history, there is very little reason to believe that such a Korea would prove to be a friendly neighbour to China.

Therefore, another big loser would be China, North Korea’s supposedly good friend. If Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, could at times prove unpredictable for Beijing, the current supreme leader has exhibited features of a 21st-century Frankenstein. His modus operandi has often proved to be beyond the understanding of Chinese President Xi Jinping, a seasoned world-class political player.

 

It is an open secret that there has been no real fraternal relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the Workers’ Party of Korea, as evidenced by the years of estrangement.

The recent summit in Singapore has not produced any substantive conditions to inspire real confidence that the North Korean leader will follow through on his claimed denuclearisation programme. North Korea’s failure to dismantle its nuclear weapons would represent a persistent nuclear threat on China’s doorstep. However, this is contrary to the view expressed by retired US Navy admiral James Stavridis, in a Bloomberg article: “For Beijing, the best outcome would be an agreed framework that puts off any actual relinquishment of North Korea’s nuclear weapons into the distant future. This will ensure the long-term survival of the Kim regime and the continuation of a divided peninsula.”

Added to this is the possibility of the emergence of Japan as a nuclear power in the wake of a US military withdrawal from South Korea. Japan, with its remarkable technological base, can rebuild its military to beyond its proclaimed self-defence needs and produce more deadly warheads and powerful delivery systems than North Korea within a short period,

“A series of missteps in the wake of the Singapore summit could lead to northeast Asia degenerating into a powder keg. That is certainly not in the interests of China and the rest of Asia, or, for that matter, in the interests of world peace.”–Michael Heng

Beijing is right to be wary of the hegemonic schemes of Uncle Sam, especially in view of the latter’s track record during the cold war period. But that does not mean a total US military withdrawal from South Korea and Japan would always be in China’s best interests.

The fact of the matter is that US hegemony has produced two benign by-products for China. Number one is that Japan has stuck very close to Article 9 of its constitution and remains non-nuclear. Number two is that the US foiled attempts by Chiang Kai-shek to build nuclear bombs in Taiwan.

The Chinese have a wise saying, ju an si wei, which means to be on guard against possible dangers in times of peace. A series of missteps in the wake of the Singapore summit could lead to northeast Asia degenerating into a powder keg. That is certainly not in the interests of China and the rest of Asia, or, for that matter, in the interests of world peace.

Michael Heng is a retired professor who held academic appointments in Australia, the Netherlands, and at six universities in Asia