Trump Doesn’t Understand New Cold War, Doesn’t Understand Presidency

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Donald Trump doesn’t understand why Russian “resets” have failed in the past, tweeting, “Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the ‘smarts.’ Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry.”

The real reason, as Ryan Bohl has explained here, is that America and Russia have diametrically opposed interests in Europe. “Smarts” or personal chemistry has nothing to do with it.

In fairness, Trump is hardly the first American president who believes he can overcome the restraints of history and geopolitics through the sheer force of personality. Nor is he the first one to fail. Read more

Trump Agrees to Meet Kim, Trans Pacific Partnership Continues Without Him

Presidents Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Donald Trump of the United States meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, October 2, 2017
Presidents Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Donald Trump of the United States meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, October 2, 2017 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un to meet one-on-one. It would be the first time a sitting American president met with the North Korean dictator.

North Korea craves international legitimacy, which the United States have deliberately withheld. Trump’s break with decades of policy is risky — but it’s not if existing policy has worked. North Korea remains a rogue state. It has only continued its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The challenge now, as Fred Kaplan writes in Slate, is organizing a careful diplomacy that includes coordinating common negotiating positions with Japan and South Korea.

Unfortunately, Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to Seoul. The State Department’s top North Korea expert has resigned. None of the three top foreign-policy officials in Trump’s government — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — have much experience in Asia.

Also read this thread by Robert E. Kelly about why Korea hands are skeptical. Read more

Merkel Praises Macedonia, EU Struggles to Influence Romania

German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21
German chancellor Angela Merkel receives Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev in Berlin, February 21 (Bundesregierung)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has praised judicial reforms in Macedonia as well as steps to improve transparency and resolve the former Yugoslav republic’s name dispute with Greece.

“In the last ten years, the solution has not been as close as now and it would be wonderful if the remaining difficulties can be bridged,” she said during a news conference with her Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev.

It would, but the dispute with Greece is only one of the many obstacles to the Balkan nation’s EU accession.

The EU has nevertheless set a target date of 2025 for the remaining states of the Western Balkans to join, fearing that otherwise Russia might take advantage. Read more

EU Balkan Enlargement Is Hardly Too Slow. It May Be Too Fast

Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for enlargement negotiations, gives a speech in the Montenegrin parliament in Podgorica, February 9
Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner for enlargement negotiations, gives a speech in the Montenegrin parliament in Podgorica, February 9 (European Commission)

Central and Eastern European countries want to speed up the EU accession of Western Balkans.

Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov warned this week, “If there’s no enlargement now, there’ll be no other time for enlargement… Otherwise what China, Russia, Turkey are planning for the region, they will start today.”

Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó agreed, calling the 2025 target date set by the European Commission for the accession of Montenegro and Serbia “very late”.

In fact, it is extremely ambitious, as an analysis by former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt for the European Council on Foreign Relations makes clear. Read more

Hemisphere Defense or Sea Command: America’s Choice in 1940

Map of a proposed hemispheric defense for the United States from Life magazine, July 8, 1940
Map of a proposed hemispheric defense for the United States from Life magazine, July 8, 1940

On the eve of America’s entry into World War II, George Fielding Eliot reported for Life magazine that the country essentially had three ways to defend itself against an Axis invasion.

He rejected the first option, a purely defensive strategy, out of hand. Protecting just the United States, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and Samoa, but not Canada, Greenland, Newfoundland and South America, would allow Germany and Japan to gain footholds in the Americas.

The whole of military history rises up to warn us that this is the inevitable prelude to defeat.

The choice, he argued, was between hemisphere defense and sea command. Read more

How Worried Is the World About Trump’s Abdication of Leadership?

American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G20 summit in Hamburg, July 6, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

How worried is the rest of the world about Donald Trump’s abdication of American leadership?

Not as much as is commonly assumed, argues Parag Khanna. He sees Trump’s presidency as merely continuing the demise of American hyperpower in favor of a multipolar world.

Fred Kaplan disagrees. He argues that by his very abrogation of leadership, Trump has shown just how important the United States remain. Read more

The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Empire in Maps

Japan's imperial ambitions as depicted in the 1945 American propaganda film Why We Fight: War Comes to America
Japan’s imperial ambitions as depicted in the 1945 American propaganda film Why We Fight: War Comes to America

It is debatable when the history of the Japanese Empire began. One can go back to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, but wasn’t the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War, fought over influence in Korea, really the starting point of Japanese imperialism?

Or the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War? Fought for influence in Korea as well as Manchuria.

Or 1910, when Japan annexed Korea?

A watershed moment came in 1931, when Japan occupied Manchuria. There was no doubt at that point the island nation had become a colonial and an expansionist power. Read more