Trump’s Withdrawal from Syria Is a Disaster

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

The calamity of Donald Trump’s withdrawal from northern Syria is hard to overstate.

Middle East Allies Are Wrong to Bet on Trump

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Donald Trump of the United States pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 16, 2017 (Turkish Presidency)

Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have all made their bed with Donald Trump. That’s paying dividends for them, but only so long as this president remains in power. What happens in two or six years? Read more “Middle East Allies Are Wrong to Bet on Trump”

Russian Missile Treaty Violation Is a Wakeup Call for Europe

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs speaks with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, April 4
Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs speaks with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, April 4 (NATO)

Last month, NATO allies issued a warning to Russia, urging it to destroy a new missile system that could threaten Europe or face a “defensive” response.

The warning is a final opportunity for Russia to respect the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. If it doesn’t — and Russia claims the system in question has a range of only 480 kilometers — it will be another wakeup call for Europe. Read more “Russian Missile Treaty Violation Is a Wakeup Call for Europe”

Shameless Trump Gives Up America’s Power to Shame

Angela Merkel Donald Trump
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

I have little to add to the opprobrium that has rightly been heaped on President Donald Trump from the left and the right — including a blistering editorial in the otherwise Trump-friendly Wall Street Journal — for condoning the Saudi killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Except this: It used to be that when the American president shamed other countries, the world listened. Trump has no shame and does not understand soft power. His is a simplistic realpolitik that gives authoritarians license to kill for fear of upsetting their feelings. Read more “Shameless Trump Gives Up America’s Power to Shame”

With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely

A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013
A German soldier salutes the flag in Bonn, January 29, 2013 (Bundeswehr/Alexander Linden)

It looks like a European army might really happen.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, endorsed the call of French president Emmanuel Macron for an EU fighting force.

She praised the 25 member states — Denmark, Malta and the United Kingdom are not participating — that committed last year to enhance interoperability, pool their defense procurement and improve military logistics under the so-called Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

But a proper army, she said, would make war in Europe impossible and “complement” the NATO alliance. Read more “With German Support, A European Army Looks More Likely”

The Remarkable Thing About Europe Is Not That It Has Problems

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016 (European Parliament)

I’m used to American and British commentators dismissing the EU, but when even a Harvard professor misses the point it warrants a rebuttal.

Imagining a post-American world, Stephen M. Walt doesn’t see Europe playing much of a role. He argues in Foreign Policy that the EU project is deeply troubled.

  • The outcome of the Brexit process is uncertain.
  • Economic growth on the continent is uneven.
  • Extremist parties are flourishing in several countries.
  • The refugee issue, which has convulsed domestic politics throughout Europe, is not going away.

His bottom line:

The EU has become too large and heterogeneous to make rapid and bold decisions, and it faces opposition from illiberal and xenophobic elements within.

Read more “The Remarkable Thing About Europe Is Not That It Has Problems”

Transatlantic Relations Take Another Downturn

German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17 (Bundesregierung)

Europe is striking back against Donald Trump’s aluminum and steel tariffs, taxing €2.8 billion worth of American exports to the EU, including Kentucky bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles manufactured in Wisconsin, the home states of Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, respectively.

The response is relatively mild. Trump’s tariffs target €6.6 billion in European exports to America. But it marks a new low in transatlantic relations, which started to deteriorate almost on the day Trump took office.

Where do we go from here? Below the views of four experts. Read more “Transatlantic Relations Take Another Downturn”

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

Four Ways Trump’s Promise to Remake the World Could Pan Out

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, American president Donald Trump and British prime minister Theresa May attend a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

Gideon Rachman argues in the Financial Times that Donald Trump’s promise to reform the international system could pan out in one of four ways:

  1. Trump succeeds in getting the changes he wants and the system survives, in a modified form, with America still the global leader.
  2. A new system emerges, with the rest of the world operating under multilateral rules and ignoring unilateralist America as far as possible.
  3. America’s withdrawal leads to a collapse in the rules-based order — and chaos.
  4. Trump is satisfied with essentially cosmetic changes and the system continues much as it is now. Read more “Four Ways Trump’s Promise to Remake the World Could Pan Out”

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