Trump administration: U.S. Foreign Relations 2018- June 2019

Written by  //  June 28, 2019  //  Foreign Policy, U.S.  //  Comments Off on Trump administration: U.S. Foreign Relations 2018- June 2019

Trump administration U.S. – Russia relations
Trump administration U.S. – China relations
North Korea
Israel – Palestine/Gaza 2017
Canada-U.S. 2018

28 June
Elizabeth Warren Thinks We Need More Diplomats
Senator Elizabeth Warren released a set of proposals designed to build up the U.S. Foreign Service. … she says she intends to double the size of the Foreign Service, which would include the opening of new diplomatic posts. She’s also pledged to diversify diplomatic ranks. (As she correctly points out in her proposal, the Foreign Service is extremely white and extremely male, and the recruitment process skews to graduates of elite universities.) Warren pledges to “correct the employment records” of State Department employees fired for their sexual orientation, and adds, “I’ll dedicate recruiting resources to applicants from HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions, women’s colleges, and community colleges. And I’ll double the size of fellowships designed to recruit minority and low-income diplomats.”
This would dramatically reshape the U.S. Foreign Service, and so too would Warren’s final proposal, to “professionalize” U.S. ambassadors. … she would “end the corrupt practice of selling cushy diplomatic posts to wealthy donors,” and appoint “experienced career ambassadors” to “some of the most senior positions in the State Department, including at least one Deputy Secretary position and the Director General of the Foreign Service.” A robust diplomatic corps is only as good as the policies it promotes, but rebuilding the Foreign Service is going to be a necessary plank in any foreign-policy platform that emphasizes diplomacy and negotiation over hostility and military intervention.Revitalizing Diplomacy: A 21st Century Foreign Service

11 June
Mexico, Cuba, and Trump’s Increasing Preference for Punishment Over Diplomacy
(New Yorker) The weaker the country, the more bullying Trump’s behavior. In March, for instance, in a bid to pressure the nations from which much of the current surge of migrants is arriving, he announced cuts to U.S. humanitarian aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. On May 30th, he moved to punish Mexico over immigration, as well. He peremptorily announced, via a pair of tweets, that he had decided to tax all Mexican imports with a five-per-cent tariff, beginning June 10th, “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied, at which time the Tariffs will be removed.” His idea was that the tariff would rise by five per cent at the beginning of every month until it reached twenty-five per cent—the same rate he has levied against China.
Trump’s action took Mexico’s government by surprise, even though he had previously threatened to close the border altogether. But it was probably an inevitability, given the country’s centrality to the MAGA fever dream that Trump has kept alive since launching his Presidential run, in 2015. He began by stoking feelings of fear and loathing toward Latino migrants, and now he has returned to the idea that Mexico is a threat to the peace and prosperity of the United States.
6 June
C. Uday Bhaskar: Wary of China, India draws closer to the US – just not too close, as the loss of its special trade status shows
(SCMP) The punitive trade move comes even as the US publicly embraces India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy against China. The contradictory moves are part of a long and uneasy alliance between the two countries
The trade decision to penalise India is at odds with America’s Indo-Pacific strategy, a report of which was recently unveiled at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, and which lists India among the major partners of the US in this collective endeavour.

3 June
2019 Shangri-La Dialogue: US-China Divide Lingers Amid Asia’s Anxiety
By Prashanth Parameswaran
The dynamics at play at Asia’s premier security summit only reinforced existing regional worries that the divisions between Washington and Beijing are set to endure.
(The Diplomat) As had been expected, the 2019 iteration of the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) that took place this weekend in Singapore was dominated by the subject of heightening U.S.-China competition, which has been a source of deep regional anxiety in the Asia-Pacific over the past few months. While SLD 2019 spotlighted some of the dynamics within the U.S.-China relationship, it unsurprisingly did not provide much in the way of reassurance about the future trajectory of the relationship and only reinforced the sense that competition between the two powers is likely to linger thereafter.
As I noted ahead of SLD 2019, while the headlines going into the summit had been focused on individual manifestations of U.S.-China relations – be it U.S. government actions on Huawei or the prospect of a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 in Japan in June – they obscured a bigger picture where, over the past year, increasing U.S.-China tensions, which date back to the 2010s, have been gradually concretizing into what increasingly looks for now like a longer-term U.S.-China competition as initially outlined in recent U.S. national security documents such as the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy. Unsurprisingly, that has triggered regional anxiety about not just aspects of the current fallout, be it the so-called trade war or saber-rattling on the South China Sea, but also the broader question about whether the region is headed into a return to major power rivalry last seen during the Cold War.

2 June
New US Indo-Pacific strategy underscores greater need for defence partnerships
(Jane’s Defence Weekly) Despite growing public uncertainty between the United States and its Indo-Pacific partners and allies because of recent comments from the current US administration, the Pentagon said in a recent report maintaining and retaining those relationships is a priority for US security interests.
Specifically, the US is trying to further nurture its relationships with Japan and Australia, according to the Pentagon’s “Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region,” released on 1 June.

16 May
Gwynne Dyer: Trump’s sabre-rattling on Iran may get him what he doesn’t want
Donald Trump is well known for his desire to cut American military commitments overseas.
But his attention span is short, he plays a lot of golf, and he does not have the knack of choosing good advisers.
His main domestic advisers on the Middle East are Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton, all hawks on Iran. His closest allies in the region itself are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, both of whom want the United States to attack Iran for them.

26 April
Trump Pulls Out of Arms Treaty During Speech at N.R.A. Convention
Mr. Trump said that his administration “will never” ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which seeks to discourage the sale of conventional weapons to countries that do not protect human rights.
Although the accord was brokered by the United Nations and signed by President Barack Obama, it has never been ratified by the Senate. Experts in arms control note that the accord, even if ratified by the Senate, would not require the United States to alter any existing domestic laws or procedures governing how it sells conventional weapons overseas.
(NYT) In a call with reporters, a senior administration official said that a major factor in his decision was the lack of compliance with the treaty from other large conventional arms exporters, including China and Russia.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States had its own set of controls to ensure the appropriate sale of arms abroad, and added that the Trump administration opposed possible future amendments to the treaty up for consideration in 2020.
Critics see it as a concession to the gun lobby, and another effort by the Trump administration to distance itself from multilateral diplomatic initiatives — from the nuclear deal with Iran to the Paris climate agreement — that advocates say are meant to make the world a safer place.

17 April
Exclusive: Dispute flares among U.S. officials over Trump administration Iran arms control report – sources
(Reuters) The clash among U.S. officials emerged on Tuesday when the State Department posted on its website, and then removed, an unclassified version of an annual report to Congress assessing compliance with arms control agreements that the sources saw as skewed against Iran.
The report’s publication follows the administration’s formal designation on Monday of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s elite paramilitary and foreign espionage unit, as a foreign terrorist organization.

27 March
The Lost Art of American Diplomacy
Can the State Department Be Saved?
By William J. Burns
(Foreign Affairs) Diplomats are translators of the world to Washington and of Washington to the world. They are early warning radars for troubles and opportunities and builders and fixers of relations. All these tasks demand a nuanced grasp of history and culture, a hard-nosed facility in negotiations, and the capacity to translate U.S. interests in ways that allow other governments to see those interests as consistent with their own—or at least in ways that drive home the costs of alternative courses. That will require modestly expanding the Foreign Service so that, like the military, the diplomatic corps can dedicate time and personnel to training, without sacrificing readiness and performance.
The State Department will also have to adapt in ways it never before has, making sure that it is positioned to tackle the consequential tests of tomorrow and not just the policy fads of today. It can begin by taking a cue from the U.S. military’s introspective bent. The Pentagon has long embraced the value of case studies and after-action reports, and it has formalized a culture of professional education. Career diplomats, by contrast, have tended to pride themselves more on their ability to adjust quickly to shifting circumstances than on paying systematic attention to lessons learned and long-term thinking.
As part of a post-Trump reinvention of diplomacy, then, the State Department ought to place a new emphasis on the craft, rediscovering diplomatic history, sharpening negotiation skills, and making the lessons of negotiations—both successful and unsuccessful—accessible to practitioners. That means fully realizing the potential of new initiatives such as the Foreign Service Institute’s Center for the Study of the Conduct of Diplomacy, where diplomats examine recent case studies.
The pace of advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and synthetic biology will only increase in the years ahead, outstripping the ability of states and societies to devise ways to maximize their benefits, minimize their downsides, and create workable international rules of the road. To address these threats, the State Department will have to take the lead—just as it did during the nuclear age—building legal and normative frameworks and ensuring that every new officer is versed in these complex issues.

21 March
Announcing U.S. foreign policy via Twitter is no longer surprising under the Trump administration. On Thursday, President Trump fired off a tweet declaring a change in an American policy on the highly disputed territory of the Golan Heights: The U.S. should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area Israel annexed in 1981. (Last year, Trump reversed another long-standing policy, moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.) Thursday’s announcement is awkward for many of the U.S.’s Arab allies, but it was no impulse tweet.

9 March
Trump learns perils of ‘made-in-America’ regime change
The Trump administration has heavily sanctioned and condemned Iran and Venezuela, but both anti-American administrations appear dug in

7 March
Will John Bolton Bring on Armageddon—Or Stave It Off?
The national security adviser could be our best hope for protecting the world from Donald Trump’s impulses.
Many will worry that Bolton’s pragmatism leaves him unrestrained, and that the world will suffer for it. But having a shrewd, amoral calculator in charge might not be so terrible. After all, blind devotion to principles can lead to catastrophe, and freedom from principles at least leaves Bolton less prone to bold and irreversible gestures
(Atlantic Magazine, April issue) He is now the most important figure in American national security, and because his position requires no Senate confirmation, he answers to no one but Trump. With the departure of James Mattis as secretary of defense early this year, Bolton is, incredibly, the only senior security official close to Trump who has seen how a normal White House works.
Bolton’s return to power has allowed him to pursue his great passions in life, which are outmaneuvering his adversaries, foreign and domestic, and getting America out of treaties.
… He said that America has slowly constrained its range of action, through foolhardy entanglements with international institutions such as the United Nations, and naive bilateral agreements that promised too much to America’s enemies in exchange for too little. He saw bad deals all around: The INF Treaty, which even Barack Obama’s administration said Russia had violated with impunity, was one. The Iran nuclear agreement, which Bolton has labored tirelessly to scrap, was another.

2 February
Gwynne Dyer: Venezuela: ‘Let Trump Be Trump’
It’s no surprise that right-wing governments in Latin American countries like Colombia and Brazil are going along with a US attempt to overthrow a left-wing regime. (The support of Brazil’s new neo-fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro, was a foregone conclusion.) But it’s shocking when Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain also back this sort of intervention in another country’s internal affairs.
Maduro’s government does not deserve to survive. It has run the country’s economy into the ground, its ‘re-election’ last year was the product of a ruthlessly rigged vote, and three million Venezuelans (10 per cent of the population) have fled abroad. But this is a problem for Venezuelans to solve, not foreigners, and least of all Americans.
Recognizing a rival president as legitimate (on very flimsy grounds) opens the way to supplying his alternative regime with money and weapons, and thence to civil war in Venezuela.
It also creates the preconditions for direct U.S. military intervention in Venezuela … You’d think that senior American military officers and government officials would have figured out by now that this is not a great option. Overthrowing governments they disliked by military force didn’t work out so well in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, so why would they think that doing it in Venezuela would work out any better? Even invasions undertaken with good intentions generally end in tears. But hang on. Almost all the “adults in the room” in the Trump administration have quit or been fired by now, and the second-raters and nonentities who replaced them have no feel for how these things work. Would any competent and well-informed U.S. administration be toying publicly with the notion of attacking Iran? (“Options on the table” again.)
Trump is not that frightening once you have worked out that he will settle for even the slightest symbolic concession and claim it as an historic victory. The Mexicans and the Canadians both exploited that fact in the NAFTA renegotiation, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is about to do it again in his second ‘summit’ with Trump, and in due course China will do it over the alleged China-U.S. “trade war,” too.
The darker possibility is that America’s NATO allies are afraid that he is going to drag them into a war with Iran, and are willing to contemplate the risk that he may stumble into a war in Venezuela instead.

29 January
Trump’s Spy Chiefs Call B.S. on His Entire Foreign Policy
The intelligence community’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” makes Trump look like a moron.
(Vanity Fair) The reality gap between Donald Trump and his spy chiefs, while always disconcerting, has grown to encompass far more than just Russia. According to a new threat-assessment report compiled by the U.S. intelligence community for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the president’s entire foreign-policy agenda is based on faulty assumptions, too.
The 42-page document is an extraordinary rebuke of Trump, who has claimed in recent months that Kim Jong Un is a dear friend, ISIS is essentially defeated, and Iran is on the warpath. Instead, as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and C.I.A. Director Gina Haspel told the Senate on Tuesday, North Korea is “unlikely to give up” its nuclear weapons, ISIS “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” and Iran is not “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity” to make a bomb.
Neither Coats nor Haspel directly challenged the president during the hearing. But their testimony was, in its own way, a remarkable reminder of the disconnect between the commander in chief and the agencies that report to him.
Intelligence community rebukes Trump’s favorite talking points during Senate hearing
North Korea isn’t giving up nukes, Iran isn’t violating its deal, ISIS isn’t defeated, and NATO isn’t obsolete. Not to mention Russian meddling, climate change, and the “value” of a shutdown.

20 January
Trump Doesn’t Like Traveling. That’s Bad for Diplomacy.
(Foreign Affairs) One of U.S. President Donald Trump’s few consistent views is that the United States must replace grand, multilateral bargains with more favorable bilateral deals. As he said of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a 2016 speech, “We need bilateral trade deals. We do not need to enter into another massive international agreement that ties us up and binds us down.” But two years into Trump’s presidency, the results are underwhelming. A deal with China has proved elusive. Trump’s new agreement with Canada and Mexico amounts to little more than a rebranded NAFTA. A grand bargain with North Korea still seems unlikely, notwithstanding the announcement on Friday of a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. U.S. alliances with Japan and South Korea are fraying, and relations with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are little better than they were two years ago, despite Trump’s efforts to cultivate personal relationships with those countries’ leaders. The art of the deal has fallen flat.

18 January
Trump’s Foreign Policy Is No Longer Unpredictable
(Foreign Affairs)  It has become a commonplace to describe the foreign policy of U.S. President Donald Trump as unpredictable. But doing so mischaracterizes the man and the policy. In fact, although Trump’s actions may often be shocking, they are rarely surprising. His most controversial positions—questioning NATO, seeking to pull out of Syria, starting trade wars—are all consistent with the worldview he has publicly espoused since the 1980s.
The unpredictability of this administration originated not in Trump’s views but in the struggle between the president and his political advisers on the one hand and the national security establishment on the other. Until recently, these two camps vied for supremacy, and it was difficult to know which would win on any given issue.
At the two-year mark, it is now clear that the president is dominating this struggle, even if he has not yet won outright. For the first time, it is possible to identify a singular Trump administration foreign policy, as the president’s team coalesces around his ideas. This policy consists of a narrow, transactional relationship with other nations, a preference for authoritarian governments over other democracies, a mercantilist approach to international economic policy, a general disregard for human rights and the rule of law, and the promotion of nationalism and unilateralism at the expense of multilateralism
… Throughout his campaign, Trump relied on his own instincts and added a few new issues, particularly strong opposition to illegal immigration and criticism of trade with China.
By the fall of 2017, the second phase of the Trump administration’s foreign policy—that of unilateral action—had begun. In this period, which continues to the present day, Trump has tried to bypass the formal deliberative interagency process in his decision-making and has made his preferences clear.
The appointment of Bolton was particularly crucial to Trump’s foreign policy autonomy. As long as a member of the national security establishment held the position of national security adviser, Trump was deprived of the agenda-setting power that controlling the interagency process entails. Bolton gave him this power.


26 December
Iraqi lawmakers criticize Trump visit as blow to Iraqi sovereignty
(Reuters) – Iraqi political and militia leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, and lawmakers said a meeting between Trump and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was canceled due to a disagreement over venue.

3 December
The G-20 summit was overshadowed by other news. But there wasn’t much to overshadow anyway.
(WaPost) This past weekend, President Trump was in Argentina for the Group of 20 summit. Although he signed a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico and announced a pause in the U.S.-China trade conflict, the rest of the summit was fairly predictable, with few fireworks.
The death of former president George H.W. Bush cast an unexpected shadow over the proceedings, prompting some nostalgia for his enthusiasm for foreign policy and international gatherings. But even before news of his death broke, the gathering seemed distracted from any grand multilateral goals because many world leaders — not just Donald Trump — arrived in Buenos Aires facing serious domestic problems back home.

29 November
After meeting cancellations, more headaches await Trump at G20
President Trump is flying to Argentina today for the G20 Summit, and, after he canceled a meeting with Russian President Putin and downgraded another with Turkish President Erdogan, it’s already off to a rocky start.
What to watch: The summit will be fraught with strategic problems. On Trump’s plate will be questions about European security in the face of Russian military aggression; America’s Middle East plans now that Saudi Arabia is becoming an international pariah and the Senate has moved to reject the administration’s support for the Yemen war; U.S. plans to disregard international asylum standards along the Mexican border; and rising global concerns about climate change.
Here are the top issues Trump will confront in meetings with foreign leaders:

  • Japan’s Abe: Devising a workable plan for ending North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. North Korea is continuing to develop its nuclear and missile programs in secret, despite assurances to the contrary made by Kim Jong-un to President Trump. With a key stake, Japan is taking a hard position, one that will create concerns for South Korea’s Moon, who is taking a more amicable approach.
  • China’s Xi: Deciding whether to end the jointly destructive tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in goods. Markets have been shaky and Trump’s political base is feeling blowback from his tariffs policy, opening the door to deal-making. An agreement to pause new tariffs while conducting negotiations to resolve the trade conflict would be a practical way forward.
  • Turkey’s Erdogan: Discussing strategies to resolve the Syrian war and prevent the re-emergence of ISIS. The U.S. now controls nearly one-third of Syria, but ISIS is not fully extinguished. Cooperation with Turkey, Syria’s northern neighbor, is crucial to negotiating an end to the conflict. But Turkey still presents challenges to Trump’s Iran and Gulf policies. And Trump may be fearful of offending Saudi Arabia by meeting formally with Erdogan and not with Muhammad bin Salman, so he isn’t.

With the canceled Putin meeting, nuclear insecurity will now become a greater concern as both the U.S. and Russia put off renewing their treaty commitments.
The bottom line: The G20 Summit will highlight many of the most intractable problems the U.S. faces abroad. Trump will need to redouble his engagement with the international community in order to resolve ongoing nuclear uncertainties, economic clashes and military quagmires.
Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and the former deputy assistant secretary of state for the House of Representatives.

9-11 November
Trump’s Bromance With Macron Fizzles Spectacularly
A weekend of presidential drama in Paris culminated in the French president’s warning against an emerging global disorder.
(The Atlantic) The ceremony was planned long in advance. A chance for French President Emmanuel Macron to welcome world leaders to mark the centenary of the Armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I. A way to decry nationalism and reinforce his deep commitment to multilateralism, and to a European Union born out of past conflicts.
Then President Trump came to town.
Since his arrival late Friday night, Trump’s every action seemed emblematic of the unilateralism he has made the hallmark of his administration. And the whiplash he tends to inflict on his hosts.
Then came the news that Trump would skip a central event of his 48-hour trip: a visit to the Aisne-American Cemetery and Memorial outside Paris, where he had been expected to honor American soldiers who had died in World War I. … The vanishing act was classic Trump—dominating the news cycle, insulting and upstaging his hosts, to say nothing of U.S. soldiers and veterans. … here in Europe, Trump’s political theater underscored exactly what Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders are increasingly concerned about: Europe is being isolated, if not hung out to dry, by the United States.

Led by President Emmanuel Macron of France, world leaders marched down the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday. Credit Eric Feferberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Trump’s Nationalism Rebuked at World War I Commemoration
(NYT) President Trump’s brand of “America First” nationalism was repudiated on Sunday as leaders from around the globe gathered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I and reaffirm the international bonds that have once again come under strain.
Stone-faced and unmoved, the American leader listened as President Emmanuel Macron of France used the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe to denounce self-interested nationalism and extol the sort of globalism and international institutions that Mr. Trump has spent the last two years pulling the United States away from.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” Mr. Macron said in a speech on a dreary, rain-soaked day. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying, ‘our interest first, who cares about the others?’ ”

Churchill’s Grandson: Trump ‘Pathetic’ for Scrapping Cemetery Visit

17 October
Nicholas Kristof: A President Kowtowing to a Mad Prince
Trump is providing cover for Saudi barbarism.
As someone who knew Jamal Khashoggi for more than 15 years, I’m outraged at the reports that a Saudi team of royal thugs beat, drugged and murdered Jamal — even cutting off his fingers, presumably because that’s what he wrote with — and then dismembered him with a bone saw. But I’m equally outraged at the pathetic White House response.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as M.B.S., has repeatedly manipulated Trump and Jared Kushner, for he knows how to push Americans’ buttons, and now it’s happening again: Trump is helping whitewash what appears to be the Saudi Arabian torture-murder of an international journalist.
Saudi Arabia transfers $100 million to U.S. amid crisis over Khashoggi
The United States received a payment of $100 million from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, the same day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Riyadh to discuss the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a State Department official confirmed Wednesday amid global calls for answers in the case.
Saudi Arabia publicly pledged the payment to support U.S. stabilization efforts in northeastern Syria in August, but questions persisted about when and if Saudi officials would come through with the money.
The timing of the transfer, first reported by the New York Times, raised questions about a potential payoff as Riyadh seeks to manage the blowback over allegations that Saudi agents were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance

11-12 October
The End of American Lip Service to Human Rights
The administration’s reticence about the disappearance of a Saudi journalist is offensive, but it’s also clarifying.
(The Atlantic) Past U.S. administrations were willing to overlook abuses by allies—including, notably, Saudi Arabia—but continued to rhetorically support human rights and frown at abuses. The Trump administration is either unwilling or uninterested in going even that far.
Trump’s Weak Khashoggi Response Tells Dictators They Can Get Away With Murder
(New York) If the Saudi regime believes it has carte blanche to commit atrocities on account of these princelings’ bromance, well, that’s what you get when you conduct foreign policy on the basis of personal affinities rather than rules and institutions. The Saudi-Kushner-Trump relationship merits much greater scrutiny, however, particularly if it turns out to have a financial dimension. On Twitter on Thursday evening, Hawaii senator Brian Schatz alluded to the suspicion that Trump has some kind of corrupt financial ties to MBS, which are motivating his reaction to this crisis.
Saudi Arabia Is Taunting Trump
The disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of an American ally shows how little Saudi Arabia fears the repercussions of its actions.
By Shadi Hamid, Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution
(The Atlantic) In Trump’s world, friends—particularly friends that are both Arab and authoritarian—are to be criticized as little as possible, especially on low priorities for the administration, like human rights. This hands-off approach has emboldened and empowered MbS to increasingly destructive effect over the past year and a half, offering a reminder that the prospect of U.S. pressure—if not actual U.S. pressure—serves as a constraint on allies that tend toward overreach.
Bad allies, particularly in the Middle East, where they abound, have been a recurring problem for successive U.S. administrations. U.S. policy makers need—or think they need—them, even when those allies go out of their way to undermine their relationship with the United States. Those allies believe—mostly correctly—that the United States will express concern and complain, but ultimately do little. The worst offenses will be forgotten in the name of national-security interests, as they have been so many times before. It is time to call Saudi Arabia’s bluff.

3 October
You wouldn’t last two weeks without us, Donald Trump tells Saudi king. So about those oil prices
(Financial Post) As oil prices have risen above US$80 a barrel, Trump has heaped more pressure on the world’s top exporter of crude to do more to subdue the market and reimburse the costs of American military presence in the region. While the kingdom’s ties with the U.S. have improved under Trump, Tuesday’s remarks were unusually harsh and appeared to question the stability of a monarchy in power since the 1930s.

25 September
Trump urges world to reject globalism in UN speech that draws mocking laughter
President says: ‘We embrace the doctrine of patriotism’
Laughter breaks out when Trump boasts of achievements
(The Guardian) Donald Trump urged other nations to reject globalism and embrace patriotism at a speech to the United Nations that was interrupted by derisive laughter from other world leaders.
In the course of the bombastic address, Trump highlighted the achievements of his presidency, lashed out at enemies – Iran foremost among them – and railed against multilateralism in its spiritual home, the UN general assembly (UNGA). When he arrived at the green marble podium, Trump expounded on his visceral dislike of multilateral institutions, which he portrayed as inherent threats to US sovereignty.
“America is governed by Americans,” Trump said. “We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.”

9 August
Anatole Kaletsky: Trump’s Victorious Retreats
Why does US President Donald Trump keep making empty threats against other countries? While his detractors think he is simply a braggart, a fool, and an ignoramus, there could be a less unflattering, though equally depressing, explanation.
(Project Syndicate) Why does Trump keep making empty threats? His detractors respond that he is simply a braggart, a fool, and an . But there could be a less unflattering, though equally depressing, explanation.
Trump’s approach to foreign policy is the opposite of President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous early-twentieth-century dictum: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Trump’s modus operandi could be described instead as, “Shout loudly and carry a white flag.” And while this sounds irresponsible and cowardly, it may be the most politically effective and rational strategy for conducting US foreign policy in the twenty-first century.
If we acknowledge that the United States is now a global hegemon in decline, it is reasonable for US voters to reject any serious economic or military sacrifices in pursuit of unattainable foreign policy objectives such as containment of China. And if Americans are no longer prepared to bear the costs of global domination, then disguised retreat is a better policy than the neo-conservative belligerence that produced the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the liberal interventionism that encouraged the Arab Spring and caused the disasters in Syria and Libya.
Trump’s skill at turning US retreats into personal political victories was on display in his dealings with North Korea and his acquiescence to Russian dominance in Syria. A similar policy should probably be expected vis-à-vis China and possibly Iran and Ukraine, because it reflects geopolitical and economic realities – and, more important for Trump, it enhances his personal position.

3 August
There’s Trump’s Foreign Policy and Then There’s His Administration’s
In the last five days, President Trump has thanked Kim Jong-un of North Korea for his “nice letter,” reminisced about his “great meeting” with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and offered to meet Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, without any preconditions.
During those same five days, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Russian bank accused of helping North Korea with weapons-related activities. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed stringent preconditions for any engagement with Iran. And the administration’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials vowed to combat Russian interference in the midterm elections, while Senate Republicans pushed a bill that would impose harsh new sanctions on Moscow.
The dissonance between Mr. Trump and his staff extends to countries like Iran, with which neither he nor his aides are seeking a warm relationship. The president’s declaration that he would meet Iran’s leaders “anytime they want” — without preconditions — came just as other officials, including Mr. Pompeo, were hardening their language toward the country.
Mr. Pompeo quickly listed three preconditions for engagement: that the Iranians “demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior” and “enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation.”
For aides like Mr. Pompeo or Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, there could be another reason for the disconnect with Mr. Trump: they harbor their own long-term political ambitions and do not want to run afoul of traditional Republican constituencies.

23 July
Danielle Allen: Trump’s foreign policy is perfectly coherent
(WaPost Opinion) Less than seeking to disrupt the old order because he has a considered view about it, apparently Trump seeks a global order that turns around him personally, where global politics is conducted as a series of deals with Donald Trump.
The important thing to recognize about Trump’s foreign policy agenda — his sequential, bilateral dealmaking — is that we, the American people, with our mammoth consumer market, are now his most valuable asset. Other countries want access to us; this is the ace in Trump’s hand. Like his erstwhile casinos, we’re a stake he can put on the dealmaking table
The purpose of Trump’s bilateralist foreign policy is not some overarching vision about world peace or democracy’s role in global order. The purpose is simply to maximize Trump’s personal power, to make him personally great, by proving his dealmaking prowess and making himself necessary to the world’s economy.

13 July
Trump leaves London after wreaking diplomatic destruction
US president was shielded from the public but causes havoc for Theresa May
(The Guardian) The presidential hurricane had swept through southern England, uprooting protocols, rattling institutions and leaving politicians with a sense of whiplash. As the disrupter-in-chief’s MV-22 Osprey helicopters departed, Theresa May could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief familiar to any sorely tested host.
The US president is finally coming to Britain, but he won’t be honoured with a state visit
The prime minister invited Trump for a state visit … . It was swiftly downgraded to a “working trip” after huge public opposition to the visit and MPs vowed not to give Trump the opportunity to address parliament.

“He Chooses the Hammer Every Time”: NATO Left Fuming as Trump Turns Toward Putin
The president’s three-country European tour has been NATO’s worst nightmare, weakening the alliance and empowering Russia. “This meeting confirmed that Trump barely knows the politics, if even the geography, of Europe,” one foreign diplomat said. “Diplomacy has become a sadly hilarious affair with him.”
(Vanity Fair) Damon Wilson, the executive vice president of the Atlantic Council who was in attendance, told me. “He helped to sort of elevate and, to some degree, fabricate a sense of crisis. He created a sense of friction between characters and used it to create a situation in which he could basically solve the problem, come in, and declare victory.”
11 – 12 July
Trump’s Feud With Europe Is Worse Than You Think
A three-week trip across the continent revealed a transatlantic relationship in tatters.
(Politico) Europeans bemoaned U.S. surrogates, who seemed cast right out a crime drama procedural, playing good cop-bad cop. One day, the European officials would find themselves talking to a rather sympathetic U.S. figure doing his or her best to justify or even apologize for the administration’s demands. The next day, the “cowboys,” as my European friends called them, would arrive, setting down ultimatums. Both positions would then be made irrelevant by a single presidential tweet.
… it is not just that Europeans do not know what the U.S. wants. They also told me they are increasingly skeptical of what Americans are telling them. U.S. intelligence and information has long been considered the gold standard, its detail and sophistication unparalleled. In areas from counterterrorism to corruption and financial regulation, the U.S. has used this advantage to press its policy objectives globally. For example, a U.S. official might approach a European counterpart with evidence of a crime committed by a European firm or citizen. In the past, European officials would typically trust U.S. intelligence and arguments. Increasingly, however  … I increasingly had conversations in which Europeans questioned the trustworthiness of their interlocutors as well as the credibility of the information they provided.
The transatlantic partnership is not made up of any single commitment or set of funding requirements. It is made up of thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic, working every day to bring prosperity and peace to each other. In the short term, the administration’s disregard for these relationships will make it harder for the U.S. to address its own policy priorities, from terrorism and migration to nonproliferation and financial stability. In the long term, it could set in motion a radical transformation in the international system.

How Trump’s Nato summit meltdown unfolded
(The Guardian) The agenda for Thursday seemed, on the surface, to offer little reason for further confrontation with Trump: a routine discussion of moves by Georgia and Ukraine to join Nato and of Nato involvement in Afghanistan.
Seldom keen on such detailed discussions, the US president turned up late and came with a different agenda.
Ignoring the discussion about Georgia and Afghanistan, Trump charged forward, saying his predecessors in the White House had pushed for an increase by Europeans on defence spending and he was not going to put up with it. Dispensing with the usual diplomatic niceties, he pointed at Merkel, whom he dislikes on a personal level as well as over their policy differences, and said: “You, Angela.”
The most stunning comment came from a source reported by Reuters: “He said they must raise spending by January 2019 or the United States would go it alone.”

A tense NATO summit begins. European Council president Donald Tusk warned Donald Trump yesterday to “appreciate your allies,”  European Council president Donald Tusk warned Donald Trump yesterday to “appreciate your allies,” but the president is thirsty for a showdown over NATO members’ defense-spending contributions. Already this morning, Trump called Germany a “captive of Russia” over a gas-pipeline deal

Trump’s neglect of Europe goes beyond angry tweets
Unfilled positions, truncated communications, lack of policy clarity combine to provoke anger across the continent.
(Politico) …as they braced for Trump to barrel into Europe this week with visits to NATO and Britain and a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, senior officials from more than a dozen countries, most of them steeped in decades of experience with the trans-Atlantic relationship, insisted that the breaches under this administration go well beyond the types of policy disagreements of the past. They spoke to POLITICO largely on condition of anonymity out of fear of worsening the situation, or redirecting Trump’s ire at their own capitals, which each have different interests and priorities in Washington. Despite those differences, they voiced a consistent message of concern: pointing less to Trump’s rhetoric than to a more organic breach of collaboration, a collapse of institutions and, most worrisome to them, the obliteration of any sense of predictability.
For instance, for more than a year and a half into a four-year term, dozens of positions crucial to the trans-Atlantic relationship remained vacant, leaving their European counterparts stranded and grasping for interlocutors, on everything from trade policy to Russian sanctions. One senior American diplomat in Brussels said European officials, desperate for lines of communication — and thrown off balance by the churn in the White House — pleaded for more visits by members of Congress, especially Republicans.
Only at the end of June did the Senate finally confirm Gordon Sondland, a hotel magnate and longtime Republican Party fundraiser, as ambassador to the European Union, and he just took up the post on Monday. The most prominent envoy Trump has sent — Richard Grenell in Germany — has stirred controversy by seeming to threaten to meddle in European politics, telling the right-wing news site Breitbart: “I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders.”
Several key European ambassadorships remain unfilled, including in Ireland, which is at the center of the sensitive negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, and Poland, which is in a fierce battle with Brussels over alleged rule-of-law violations. This month, Trump finally nominated an ambassador to Albania, days after a crucial EU summit where leaders decided to postpone membership talks with the strategic Balkan nation for at least a year.

8 June
(New York) As he meets with America’s supposed allies in Canada, President Trump continues to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s loftiest goals, Jonathan Chait writes in “Trump Is Fulfilling Russia’s Dream of Splitting the Western Alliance.” Time after time, Europe and Canada have urged Trump to act in the mutual interest of what used to be a stable partnership. But Trump is far more comfortable dealing in “transactional” (a.k.a. corrupt) terms with the globe’s strongmen and despots, with whom he shares a personality type and style. All this is great news for Russia, China, and everyone else delighted that America is willingly diminishing its own power more and more each day.
The rise of Donald Trump has been met with a persistent strain of denial. First domestically, and then abroad, his would-be partners greeted the unfathomable election of an uneducable demagogue by convincing themselves he didn’t really mean ravings that passed for his official policies, and that they could reason with, co-opt, or otherwise negotiate with him. Trump’s domestic counterparts grasped reality more quickly than his international partners.
“Senior government officials in Washington, London, Berlin, and other European capitals” tell Susan Glasser “they now worry that Trump may be a greater immediate threat to the alliance than even authoritarian great-power rivals, such as Russia and China.” Trump might be a greater threat to the West than Putin. Worse, he might be, in a sense, the very same threat.
(The Atlantic) Rough Relations: On his way to the G7 Summit, President Trump said the forum “should let Russia come back in.” Russia has been suspended from the group since 2014, and Trump’s call for its reinstatement may add to the divisions between the U.S. and its fellow G7 members. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe and Canada are a key point of conflict, reportedly even causing friction between him and French President Emmanuel Macron, who had cultivated a friendly relationship with his U.S. counterpart. As for America’s relations with Asian powers, Reihan Salam argues that normalizing trade relations with China was a mistake.

3 June
American Foreign Policy: It’s Worse Than It Looks
By James Fallows
(The Atlantic) This past week I argued that the current U.S. approach to China mattered enormously, and was being grievously mishandled. The set-up for the argument was a ranking of which U.S. relationships were “most” by a variety of criteria, which the’s editor Adrienne LaFrance brilliantly summarized this way:
Now, two reader reactions I’d like to quote. First, from the author (and veteran of congressional politics) Mike Lofgren, who says that I’m wrong to worry more about what’s happening with China than about the less sexy-sounding but more profound damage the United States is doing to its long-standing alliances in the rest of the Americas and with Europe.

31 May
Trump’s Art of Unpredictability Starts to Backfire Overseas
(Bloomberg) Trump “is oblivious to the advantages of being at the center of the global order,” said Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute, in Sydney. “He is dubious about the value of alliances, even though China or Russia would dearly love to have an alliance network as powerful and cost-effective as that of the United States.”
In recent days, Trump’s sudden policy reversals on everything from tariffs to nuclear non-proliferation have prompted complaints from allies and rivals alike. Such flexible negotiating tactics — laid out in Trump’s 1987 book “The Art of the Deal” — have led them to question America’s reliability as a negotiating and, in some cases, security partner.
With defense ministers from around the world convening Friday for the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore, questions around U.S. reliability are likely to rival familiar concerns about China’s growing military assertiveness.

28 May
James Fallows: America Is Fumbling Its Most Important Relationship
The United States has a China problem—and pundits and politicians are making it worse.

29 May
(The Atlantic) International Relations: Recent comments from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggest that the goal of President Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran is to force a regime change. That plan could backfire. It’s also disrupted the United States’ relations with its European allies, who now frown upon the Trump administration’s disengagement with global politics. The country’s most important relationship of all is with China, James Fallows argues—and right now, American leaders may be fumbling it.

8 May
Trump is Master of the Art of Making America Grate
(Australian Institute of International Affairs) Trump’s decision this week to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is a global tragedy likely to unsettle an already volatile Middle East and a world in some disarray.
Trump has pulled out of the deal not because it was flawed, but because it was working as intended and this posed an insurmountable obstacle to potential military strikes on Iran. As a consequence, Trump’s decision will worsen relations with Europe, destabilise the Middle East, complicate negotiations to reverse North Korea’s nuclearisation and damage the global nuclear order.

Trump Continues to Rebrand America As Weird and Flaky
Pulling out of the Iran deal breaks a long U.S. foreign policy tradition of avoiding surprises — and it works against all the president’s goals.
(New York Magazine) The president provided all the television staples of national-security seriousness. He described the threat posed by Iran with headline-worthy hyperbole. No one thinks Iran is close to having a missile that can “threaten American cities” (that would be North Korea). He said Israel had provided new information about Iran’s nuclear intentions — all of which dated from before the agreement was signed and implemented, but never mind. And, with a flourish, he signed a national-security directive that would, he said, institute “the highest level of economic sanction.”
But wait. Insiders had told reporters an hour before that sanctions would not be reimposed for six months. Statements from the White House and other agencies provided no details on when sanctions would come, or what they would include. In the prose of the White House fact sheet, “Those doing business in Iran will be provided a period of time to allow them to wind down operations in or business involving Iran.”
Trump’s Iran decision just brought us closer to war
(WaPost editorial board) THE NUCLEAR deal struck with Iran three years ago was far from perfect, but President Trump’s decision to abrogate it over the opposition of our European allies and without a clear strategy for replacing it is reckless and, most likely, self-defeating. Mr. Trump has opened a rift with Britain, Germany and France, who were partners to the pact along with Russia and China, and he has handed Iran’s Islamic regime some unfortunate opportunities.

14 April
A Trump Doctrine for the Middle East
The region has now been Trump-branded as “a troubled place”—and one America is not particularly interested in helping
(The Atlantic) Trump already has a Middle East strategy. It’s just not the one [his critics], and possibly Bolton, would prefer. He will embrace America’s Middle East partners, autocrats and democrats alike, and sell them all the arms they can afford. But it’s their job to assume the burdens of dealing with this troubled place, not his.
If Assad dares to use chemical weapons again, Trump made clear he’ll bomb again. But if Assad wants to continue slaughtering his people with conventional weapons, it’s up to others to deal with him. Listen up: “The fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people,” not in Trump’s hands.

12 April
(The Atlantic) Affairs of State: CIA Director Mike Pompeo faced the Senate in his confirmation hearing to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Uri Friedman breaks down the most revealing part of the testimony. If confirmed, Pompeo could spell new relevance for the Republican foreign-policy establishment. His hearing comes at a time when Trump’s views on military intervention in Syria are rapidly evolving. The conflict in the country, where Israel and Iran are closing in on a clash, is growing ever more complicated.

16 March
U.S. hints at shift on Russia with sanctions and condemnation
(Reuters) “I think we have hit an inflection point in the current administration’s approach towards Russia,” said a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. By imposing new sanctions on Russia and condemning a suspected Russian chemical attack in Britain, Washington has hinted at a tougher stance toward Moscow despite President Donald Trump’s stated desire for better ties.

15 March
Why Trump’s admission that he made stuff up to Justin Trudeau is particularly bad
by Aaron Blake
((WaPost) … the fact that Trump would make up this particular fact is especially remarkable and ominous.
The first reason is that this is perhaps the one issue Trump has focused on for decades: trade. It would be more understandable for him to make things up on guns and immigration, but trade is supposedly the issue on which Trump has been entirely consistent for many years. … The second reason is that it was a rather pointless invention. Why Trump would feel the need to make something up that is of such consequence to Trudeau doesn’t even make sense for strategic reasons. The final part of this is what it says about Trump’s brand of diplomacy. … Can a guy who can’t be bothered to understand the basics before talking to foreign leaders and lawmakers do the kind of homework required for very sensitive and complicated negotiations involving nuclear programs? And what if he doesn’t even try? What if he decides to wing it, as he did with Trudeau?

13 March
Rex Tillerson Out as Trump’s Secretary of State, Replaced by Mike Pompeo
(NYT) He had deep experience with Middle Eastern potentates, and knew President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia through Exxon’s extensive efforts to explore for oil in Russia. But the early enthusiasm for bringing a business sensibility to the State Department faded fast, as Mr. Tillerson seemed overwhelmed by the diplomatic challenges before him and isolated by career foreign service officers whom he often froze out of the most important debates. His profound disagreements with the president on policy appeared to be his undoing: Mr. Tillerson wanted to remain part of the Paris climate accord; Mr. Trump decided to leave it. Mr. Tillerson supported the continuation of the Iran nuclear deal; Mr. Trump loathed the deal as “an embarrassment to the United States.” And Mr. Tillerson believed in dialogue to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Mr. Trump repeatedly threatened military options.
(Updated from 30 November 2017) Replacing Tillerson With Pompeo Would Supplant a Moderate With a Hawk

12 March
9 things Trump should do before he meets with Kim Jong-un
By Jeffrey A. Bader, Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center
(Brookings) How should responsible critics of President Trump react to the seriously flawed initiative for the U.S. president to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un? I would offer nine specific suggestions for how to make it work passably and how to minimize the risks:

Donald Trump’s Year of Living Dangerously
It’s worse than you think.
(Politico Magazine January/February 2018) A year into his presidency, this is where we are: Trump’s national security team and his allies are engaged in a silent conspiracy of sorts to guide and constrain him. America’s enemies in China and Russia have taken their measure of the man and are preparing to test him more decisively than they have yet ventured. Opportunists in the Middle East and elsewhere are taking what they can get. War talk with North Korea grows ever louder. And in Washington, the America Firsters have been purged from the White House staff—but not from the Oval Office itself. (2 January 2018)

6 January
Hard-won UN debate sees US at odds with partners over Iran
America accused of ‘preposterous bullying’ by Iran as heated discussion lays bare deep rifts over Middle East’s future
The US successfully fought off a Russian-led attempt on Friday to block a UN security council discussion over the past week’s Iranian protests. But it immediately found itself at odds with its European partners, who used the subsequent debate to reject American efforts to make the protests an excuse for ditching the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

(Brookings) Trump is right about Pakistan. After accusing the country of providing safe haven to terrorists followed by a suspension of military aid this week, President Trump has initiated a fundamental shift in U.S. policy toward Pakistan. Vanda Felbab-Brown explains Pakistan’s logic in supporting terrorist groups and the limits of U.S. pressure, while Bruce Riedel outlines what other tools the Trump administration has at its disposal.
Cutting Off Pakistan, U.S. Takes Gamble in Complex Afghan War
(NYT) Afghan officials have pleaded with three American presidents to reconsider their support for Pakistan, which was both receiving billions of dollars in American aid and harboring the leaders of a Taliban insurgency that the United States has struggled to defeat.
But when President Trump suspended nearly all American security aid to Pakistan on Thursday for what he called the country’s “lies and deceit,” any jubilation in the halls of power in Afghanistan — and there was some — was leavened with worry over how the move might affect a complex war that has pushed the Afghan government to the brink.

5 January
(Quartz) The US and South Korea talk trade. Negotiators meet in Washington today to thrash out changes to Korus, the free-trade pact between the two countries. The White House has criticized the deal, saying that the US trade deficit with South Korea has more than doubled since the agreement started in 2012.
North Korea said “yes” to South Korea’s high-level talks offer. They’ll meet on Jan. 9, with a key topic being the North’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. The White House said it hoped Seoul wouldn’t “go off freelancing” on other issues, while Donald Trump took credit on Twitter for the diplomatic breakthrough.

1 January
‘Nothing but lies and deceit’: Trump launches Twitter attack on Pakistan
US president tweets saying Pakistan is providing ‘safe haven to terrorists’ and America was ‘foolish’ to give $33bn in aid
Trump began the new year by launching an attack on Islamabad in his first tweet of 2018, saying Pakistan was providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt”.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” he wrote. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
The tweet on Monday comes in the aftermath of heightened tensions between Washington and Islamabad since the summer, when the US president announced his administration’s national security strategy for Afghanistan.

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