Macron’s German Challenge, What America Should Attempt in Syria

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17 (European Parliament)

Eric Maurice writes in EUobserver that French president Emmanuel Macron’s biggest challenges comes from Berlin, where Angela Merkel and her conservative party are skeptical of plans to create a European Monetary Fund and establish a European deposit insurance scheme to protect savers:

Although the two plans were initiated by the EU before Macron took them, their rejection would signal a clear rebuttal of the French president’s more ambitious proposals for the longer term.

Merkel hasn’t ruled out a European Monetary Fund, but — like the Dutch and other deficit hawks in the north of Europe — she wants it to be an “intergovernmental”, as opposed to an EU-led, institution.

Germany isn’t in favor of creating a eurozone budget and finance minister either.

I predicted in September that these would be the most difficult items on Macron’s wishlist, but other things are still doable: harmonizing corporate tax rates and asylum procedures, creating an EU military intervention force, reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. 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

Don’t Risk War with North Korea, Experts Warn

An American soldier participates in a joint military exercise with South Korean armed forces at Camp Red Cloud near the city of Uijeongbu, April 2003
An American soldier participates in a joint military exercise with South Korean armed forces at Camp Red Cloud near the city of Uijeongbu, April 2003 (USAF/Efren Lopez)

American president Donald Trump’s advisors have floated the possibility of what they call a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea.

The Wall Street Journal reports that officials are “quietly debating whether it’s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula.”

Experts doubt it. Read more

Retired Military Chiefs Caution Trump Against North Korea Strike

Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of America's Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits Beijing, China, July 11, 2011
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits Beijing, China, July 11, 2011 (DoD/Chad J. McNeeley)

The Financial Times quotes four retired American military officials cautioning President Donald Trump against attacking North Korea. Read more

Trump Contradicts Chief Diplomat on North Korea

American secretary of state Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phạm Bình Minh, at a state banquet in Hanoi, November 11
American secretary of state Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phạm Bình Minh, at a state banquet in Hanoi, November 11 (State Department)

American president Donald Trump has publicly undermined his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for the nth time.

On Tuesday, Tillerson announced a new North Korea policy when he said the United States were prepared to start talks without preconditions.

“Let’s just meet and let’s — we can talk about the weather if you want,” he said.

The White House immediately put out a statement that contradicted him: “The president’s views on North Korea have not changed.”

The administration has said it won’t speak with North Korea unless the regime is willing to discuss curbing its nuclear program. Read more

Worry More About Iran Than North Korea

An Iranian woman walks by a mural of the Statue of Liberty painted on the wall of the former American embassy in Tehran, June 27, 2006
An Iranian woman walks by a mural of the Statue of Liberty painted on the wall of the former American embassy in Tehran, June 27, 2006 (Pooyan Tabatabaei)

North Korea’s nuclear program is more advanced than Iran’s yet it is not the one that should keep Americans up at night, argues Adam Garfinkle, a foreign-policy expert.

President Donald Trump has threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea continues to provoke the United States.

Garfinkle doesn’t share his sense of alarm. Read more

Trump’s Big Mouth Fails to Impress the World

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 13
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, February 13 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Not only is Donald Trump aching for a conflict with Iran; the American president also seems to be keen on a war with North Korea.

His latest threat, to meet further North Korean provocations with “fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” is disconcerting for two reasons:

  1. Who believes him? Certainly not the North Koreans, who responded to Trump’s bluster by threatening to strike the American island of Guam.
  2. North Korea never backs down. It is the superpower, not an impoverished country with an army from the Stalin era, that is supposed to act responsibly and deescalate. Read more