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When Nations Agree

January 25, 2017

President Trump’s appearance at CIA headquarters on Saturday, January 21, suggests that he was told he had to “correct” the impression that he was not pleased with the CIA (and he had every right not to be pleased). But, they didn’t script his remarks leaving him open to new criticism.

That puts into question upcoming meetings with the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and a possible meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

A business meeting is different from diplomacy. Nations have permanent interests and the interest of corporations change frequently, are conditioned by markets and can be negotiated in personal meetings.

In principle, there is nothing personal about meetings between foreign leaders and none should be held until staff has resolved what is to be discussed, US policy has been formulated and conveyed to the other side.

The notion that a “personal” approach works in relations between nations is false.

And any meeting with a national leader that unleashes a President with little knowledge of foreign relations into meetings where he doesn’t know what is to be said, nor how to reply, simply puts President Trump at risk to making major mistakes. After a couple of missteps, President Trump will learn, but seeking “personal” meetings this early in his tenure confuses good business methods with the practice of diplomacy. They are not the same and require different methods, if nations are to agree.

 

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