The new decade is set to begin in many shadows, but none is more threatening than North Korea’s threat of returning to nuclear and long-range tests after a two-year break.
Pyongyang’s pendulum evolves from enthusiastic diplomacy at the summit to occupation and threats as Donald Trump increasingly focuses on his re-election campaign.
This can be a good thing, because the US President will be worried about provoking the crisis to spoil his story of peace and prosperity.
Or it could be a very bad thing: Kim Jong-un could try to use the moment of maximum leverage and recalculate.
Last time there was a gap, Trump and Kim decided to mark their nuclear buttons (the US president boasted that he was bigger and more functional). According to a new overview of events during the 2017 crisis, Trump stunned his assistants by asking that the entire 25 million Seoul residents move away from the North border so they would not be touched by the hostages of the terrible Pyongyang artillery.
He also ordered the evacuation of US military families from South Korea – even though it was said that the North Koreans would likely consider such a move to be the forerunner of the attack.
The order was quietly killed by the then Secretary of Defense James Mattis. However, Mattis resigned a year ago and deprived the administration of significant restrictive influence. His successor, Mark Esper, is less likely to ignore such a direct order.
With the departure of the supposed “adults in the room”, Trump is less constrained in his behavior toward the world, completely abandoning advice and trusting his innards. The interim mining process, which has been discussed and agreed in the national security decision in the past, has been canceled.
Decisions tend to come directly from the President’s thumbs through Twitter – often as a surprise to their own top executives.
In the course of 2019, Trump’s foreign policy became more personalized, and thus transactional and erratic, evolving wildly with Presidential mood swings, foreign influence, and second thoughts.
Kim Jong-un waves from the train when he arrives at Vietnam Railway Station to meet Donald Trump. Photo: Minh Hoang / AP
Trump, at his second summit in Hanoi in February, tried to surprise Kim into disarmament. US and North Korean diplomats discussed a step-by-step agreement in which every step to disarm Pyongyang would be achieved by proportionally lifting sanctions. At the summit, Trump introduced the North Korean leader with all agreements – total disarmament.
It was the sort of gambit that could have knocked out competitors from the real estate market, but not the paranoid dictator who owns the nuclear arsenal. Talks have collapsed and relations have been decreasing since then. US security personnel in the US are spending a holiday ready for the “Christmas present” that Pyongyang threatened because the long-range missile test was considered the most likely seasonal surprise.
In Syria, sudden changes in the mind of the President caused a shock to the soldiers on the ground. Following a telephone conversation on October 6 with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in which the Turkish President appears to have persuaded him to let Ankara take the lead in a military campaign against Isis, Trump ordered all US troops from the country without consulting the Pentagon. or the US allies.
Within one day, special forces were ordered to leave their bases on the Turkish-Syrian border, leaving the Kurdish allies who took the onslaught of fighting Isis at the cost of 11,000 deaths in their ranks. Two weeks later, however, Trump tried to lean back in Turkey and fired one of the foreign presidential missions in history in which he pushed Erdogan: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool. “
At the same time, US troops were deployed back to Syria and, according to Trump’s mission, were to “secure oil”.
Extracting resources from another country would be a potential war crime, and Pentagon officials sought to interpret the President’s dictate more fairly as part of an anti-terrorist campaign aimed at preventing oil installations from being controlled by Isis, and as a mandate for US Commanders to continue working with Syrian Kurds.
There is no guarantee how long this new balance will remain. Erdoğan sees the Kurds as a direct threat and uses whatever influence he has on Trump to make him release them.
Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the NATO summit in the United Kingdom on 4 December. Photo: Peter Nicholls / Pool / AFP via Getty Images
There were two turns in Afghanistan. US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spent nearly a year conducting direct talks with the Taliban, which was largely due to the government’s turmoil in Kabul. However, in early September, when the agreement looked immediately, Trump suddenly declared the negotiations “dead” and canceled what he intended as a surprise, David David’s meeting with the Taliban as a result of the attack on the Afghan capital. This decision was surprised because both sides fought and spoke simultaneously at different stages of the 18-year war.
But less than three months ago, when he first visited Trump in the country, he announced interviews. It was not clear what, if any, changed his mind.
In perhaps the most dramatic form of all, Trump gave the green light to the air strikes against Iran after the US drone was shot down in June, but changed his mind to 10 minutes to save when the airplanes were already in the air and said he was motivated to avoid although he was informed of the estimated number of victims before deciding on the attacks in the first place.
In this and other war or peace decisions, the basic thought process is unclear or not at all. The term ‘foreign policy’ may no longer be a useful way of describing what is happening, indicating that it is making a sustained coordinated effort to achieve the national security objective.
Some policies persist in the muscle memory of the State Department and the Pentagon, but there is no guarantee that it will ultimately determine what the US will do. If the policy is in conflict with the interests of the President, his family and their business interests, they usually lose.
After all, such a conflict is at the heart of the Ukrainian scandal that led to Trump’s accusation of 18 December. The formal objective of US foreign policy was to support the new government in Kiev in its efforts to suppress Russian military intervention, but Trump stuck his foot on the brake and turned the US official support into a leverage effect to gain compromise on its domestic political rivals.
The White House also intervened to try to stop repressive measures against Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey for reasons that remained unclear. The business realms of the extended Trump family have talks with all these countries, as well as with Israel and China. President Jared Kushner’s father-in-law was to propose an Israeli-Palestinian agreement at the same time that the Kushner family firm borrowed money from Israeli financial institutions. Meanwhile, Beijing steadfast in issuing patents for Ivanka Trump, at the time negotiating a trade agreement with Washington.
Personal vanity was as wild a card as financial interests, and probably more. It seems that the driving force behind Trump’s determination was to destroy the heritage of his predecessors and replace him with his own.
A large amount of administrative and congressional efforts have been made to tear the free trade agreement with Mexico with Mexico and Canada to replace the very similar USMCA that Trump claims to be a personal triumph.
Other agreements were destroyed without compensation. In the 19 months since the abolition of the multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran in the US, as a result of Barack Obama’s signing of foreign policy, the “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran has not brought any new negotiations with Tehran, not to mention the subsequent agreement.
Activists wear the masks of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, who hold fake nuclear missiles, demonstrating against the termination of the Treaty on the Middle-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) in front of the US Embassy in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Omer Messinger / EPA
In February, Trump withdrew the US from an agreement between the nuclear forces (INF) with Russia, which has kept missiles outside Europe since the Cold War. At NATO, it was generally agreed that Moscow had deceived, but it was not clear what advantage the US had gained by completely tearing the treaty. He has tested some medium-range missiles, but there is nowhere to deploy them if hosts in Europe or Asia are unwilling.
The death of INF leaves the world with the only surviving New Start Arms Control Agreement, which imposes ceilings on strategic arsenals deployed in the US and Russia after 1,500 warheads. It is due to expire in February 2021, but can be extended for up to five years by signatures of US and Russian leaders. Trump declared himself an advocate of arms control, but his administration has so far blocked an extension of a new start, a new Obama legacy.
Officially, the administration wants a new treaty that includes China, but Beijing has refused to attract. The estimated arsenal is less than 20 from the US or Russia and its strategic warheads are not deployed on missiles. Insisting on China’s inclusion is equivalent to condemning a new beginning of forgetfulness. The key to this is that the US still has to make a concrete proposal and that the number of employees in the office responsible for arms control negotiations has decreased.
The Relaunch Treaty seems condemned to its origin (the Obama Administration) – and for this whimsical reason, the last boundaries of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals have been lost for more than 13 months. With it, the extensive regime of mutual inspections and data exchange will disappear, with the result that the US and Russia will lose an important window for each other’s nuclear capabilities and intentions.
In the absence of a coherent policy, there are certain topics that take place through Trump’s actions on the world stage. The problem is that they often meet each other. Overall, Trump sought to shorten the country’s long-standing military entanglements and bring US troops home. This was reflected in his decision to withdraw the bombings targeting Iran in June. However, his withdrawal from nuclear trade with Iran and his subsequent attempt to economically strangle Iran significantly increased the potential of the Gulf conflict. The report has reduced the US presence in Syria by several hundreds, but has deployed 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia to discourage Iran.
Another theme of Trump is the seemingly instinctive preference of foreign dictators over democratically elected allies. The first of them will offer him at least an illusory promise that he will cut much to cement the heritage, and he firmly believes that the path of personal flattery of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping is the way to such an agreement. Allies, which they see as freeloaders, rent for free under the expensive US security umbrella.
For this reason, Trump is a deeply skeptical view of NATO. He refused to oblige the US to defend its European allies in the event of a Russian attack, ignoring the collective defense obligation that underlies the Alliance’s founding treaty. If Trump wins the re-election, the future of the alliance will be under the question mark.
Swinging fluctuations are likely to be more pronounced when Trump enters his fourth year in office and is engaged in a re-election campaign. The accusation did not clearly limit his instinct in acquiring foreign relations for electoral advantage. Rudy Giuliani is still flying to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump’s rivals. In the coming months, when the North Korean nuclear threat returns to the center of attention and Iran is less and less losing its distance with the United States, this share may be much higher.
(tTranslate) US Foreign Policy