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Look Away

July 10, 2018

While all eyes are focused on the nomination to the Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, we ought to be focused on the upcoming meetings of President Trump with NATO in Brussels and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Our peripatetic President travels hither and yon in the mistaken impression that foreign policy is transacted in person to person meetings. He’s got that half right. Meeting a foreign head of state places relations in better perspective, but successful negotiations must be preceeded by months of lower level meetings.

Walking in to a meeting with nothing more than a “Hey, I’m here” is dangerous.

President Trump’s meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un might not have ended in recriminations, if a foreign policy team had developed a strategy that included assessment of intentions of the People’s Republic of China. Trump has failed to build such a team because he believes that the American government has too many people. Jared, Ivanka, the Donald and Pompeo can handle whatever needs to be done.

President Trump has been critical of NATO and has horrified members of this Atlantic Alliance. But, it was clear that NATO had become much like the United Nations–a place where hot air is released in meeting after meetings. In order to accommodate that, NATO constructed a new HQ that cost $1 billion dollars.

That is only half NATO’s fault.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Secretary of State James Baker slipped up and did not immediately reassess American foreign policy and evaluate whether NATO could now handle its own defenses.  Baker’s “realism” was warped and tied to the former Soviet Union. He hadn’t a clue about what today became a new world order.

So, give President Trump credit for understanding that.

With respect to Russia, however, the President’s foreign policy, to the extent he has one directed toward US/Russian relations, is “off the wall.”

The goal of Russia’s Putin is to recover the Ukraine, improve Russia’s weakened economic condition, and bully the former “captive nations” of Eastern Europe into joining a greater Russia. Rumblings directed at Western Europe are smokescreens directing our eyes in the wrong direction.

Look away, Donald, and focus on the right direction of Russian foreign policy.

 

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