Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got very confused about how negotiations work.

In an interview with Fox News airing today, Trump made two statements about his approach to negotiations with authoritarian leaders like Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin.

On the subject of North Korea, Trump once again expressed his anxiousness to remove American troops from South Korea. Specifically, he said, "I would love to get the military out as soon as we can because it costs a lot of money." (Earlier in the week, Trump had cited the cost of joint military exercises with South Korea as a reason to comply with North Korea's demand that they be halted.)

Ignoring its nuclear arsenal, North Korea has assembled a staggering number of conventional missiles and artillery batteries along the border that could level nearby Seoul. U.S. troops are there as a deterrence against any such attack. Removing them from South Korea--and, therefore, the danger that an attack on South Korea would trigger instantaneous retaliation by the United States--is the ultimate military goal of North Korea. 

Trump seemed genuinely unaware that by taking the North Korean position on the subject, he removes any incentive for North Korea to make concessions of its own. 

But at the same time, he seemed to think he would be the beneficiary of a similar mistake on the part of Vladimir Putin. Returning to his sudden and unexplained interest in restoring Russia to the G7 economic meetings, Trump said this: "If Vladimir Putin were sitting next to me today instead of one of the others [at the G7] and we were having dinner the other night in Canada I could say, 'Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of Syria? Would you get out of Ukraine? Just come on.' I could ask him to do things that are good for the world."

Russia has paid dearly in economic terms for its invasion and occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula--although Trump has tried his best to soften the blow where U.S. sanctions are concerned--but in the end, its attempt to annex that Ukrainian territory may be worth the cost in terms of its value as an economic and military asset. Vladimir Putin probably won't cede it back to Ukraine just because Trump got him reinvited to an annual diplomatic meeting.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's bad if the president doesn't understand that hostile authoritarian dictators act in their own best interests, and not the United States'.
  • To be president requires at least basic reasoning skills.