Trump is correct that he’s made history. But not all history is good. Donald consistently has made bad history, e.g., the North Korea summit. Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin are playing President Trump like a finely tuned Russian balalaika.
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“There is no evidence that Mr. Putin is dictating American policy. But it’s hard to imagine how he could do much better, even if he were.”
(Rice, Susan, former [Obama] U.S. ambassador to U.N. and national security adviser; “How Trump Helps Putin”; The New York Times; 6/8/2018.)
Susan Rice’s June 8 The New York Times opinion piece should be extremely illuminating for those blindly supporting the president. It should also rock the moral foundation of those invertebrate Republican leaders and legislators who remain mute to his atrocities out of electoral fear.
Alas, it won’t faze either group. Trump voters don’t want to know these things. GOP legislators already know them and — astonishingly — don’t care.
For all others, here’s a summary of the article. Ms. Rice ponders what advice Vladimir Putin might have left in the Oval Office top desk drawer for incoming President Trump, if he’d had the opportunity: “If Mr. Putin were calling the shots, he would ensure that America’s reliability is doubted, its commitments broken, its values debased, and its image tarnished.”
Per Rice, Putin’s goals are simple. He wants to restore Russian greatness by damaging the United States, weakening NATO and the European Union, and breaking down post-World War II democratic alliances that have protected and strengthened the free world for 70-plus years.
Putin’s Advice to New U.S. President
Susan Rice speculates in her article about what Mr. Putin would want the newly inaugurated American president to do to strengthen Russia and its leader:
1) “Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade agreement the United States negotiated to bolster its economic and strategic position in the Pacific, at the expense of China (and Russia).”
2) “Pull out of the Paris climate agreement, [making the U.S.] the only country in the world absent from this landmark accord.”
3) “Criticize NATO and cast doubt on America’s willingness to defend its allies on the grounds that they haven’t paid their bills (when that’s not how NATO works).”
4) “Corrode the European Union by lauding Brexit; sending Stephen Bannon to stoke European anti-establishment movements; and undermining Europe’s most powerful country, Germany, most recently through installing a right-wing flamethrower as ambassador.”
5) “Withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, [further separating the U.S. from its allies].”
6) “Start a trade war with [America’s] closest allies. Impose steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union with the threat of auto tariffs to follow so that, according to reputable economists, both the United States and its allies’ economies will suffer.”
7) “Justify the [tariffs] on the preposterous grounds that allies threaten United States national security.”
8) “String along [America’s] European partners with the hope that [the U.S.] might agree to augment aspects of the [Iran nuclear deal].”
9) “Threaten sanctions on European companies for abiding by the [Iran] deal, which has worked as intended.”
10) “Ensure that countries large and small revile America’s leadership … disparage African nations and Haiti with a vulgarity; call Latin American migrants rapists and criminals; halt most refugee admissions; ban Muslims from several countries from entering the United States; restrict legal immigration; and separate children from their parents at the border.”
(Ibid.; Rice; 6/8/2018.)
As we’ve seen, President Trump has checked each item off the list. And this was before his disgraceful dissing of our G7 allies at the summit in Canada, days before his bizarre performance at the summit in Singapore.
[FUN FACT]: Donald bellowed before the G7 meeting that Russia should be allowed back in the group. It was kicked out in 2014 for annexing (invading and stealing) the Crimean Peninsula, formerly part of Ukraine. Since then, Russia has killed more journalists and expatriates, and criminally influenced other nations’ democratic elections including America’s 2016 contest. (The other G7 members immediately declared Russia would not be readmitted.)
No one clearly understands why Donald is in lockstep with Russian interests. He has earned a near-perfect report card from the Putin School of Diplomacy and World Order. Vladimir Putin is America’s enemy, as illustrated repeatedly, but Trump acts as his partner. The fact that Mr. Trump is so public about it seems to lessen the impact, as if it must be OK or he would hide it better. That is all part of Donald’s strategy. We know he’s in the game for illicit self-enrichment and power consolidation. But what other influence or kompromat does Putin have over him?
I strongly urge everyone to access the “Reference Articles” link and read Rice’s entire article, a mere 900 words. Ten minutes. Our country needs you to read it.
Photo Op Summit
Speaking of America’s enemies, Kim Jong Un saw a sucker approaching from a mile away.
Kim and Trump had a summit this week. You might have heard. Photos were taken. Hands were shaken. More pictures were snapped. They turned to each other and smiled and shook hands again. More photos.
That was about it. This was the Photo Op Summit, little more. It was ultimate reality show theater.
It is mind-boggling to consider how we have gotten to this place. Donald famously said this about his readiness to negotiate with Kim: “I don’t think I have to prepare very much. It’s about attitude.”
Could this be brilliant reverse psychology on Trump’s part? Nah.
Ask Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Germany’s Angela Merkel, or Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto about Trump’s (bad) “attitude.” Of course, these are all friendly democratic leaders. If you ask strongmen of the world — Russia’s Putin or the Philippines’ Duterte — they love Donald’s attitude.
Kim Jong Un went home and declared a true victory: parity on the world stage with the president of the United States.
Donald Trump came home and declared a phony victory. (It was a given that he would claim a massive victory no matter what happened.) He thinks simply by making the trip to Singapore — having his travel team dutifully book the hotel rooms, massage appointments, and reservations for “Hot for Teacher” (the golden showers nightclub act) with no screw-ups — that it was a success. He’s bragging that he has met face-to-face with the North Korean leader, something no other U.S. president has done, something no other president could have done.
President Trump is well-known for his ignorance of and complete lack of respect for history.
First, circumstances are different: North Korea did not yet have nukes during other U.S. presidents’ terms.
Second, there are good reasons other chief executives have not met with the North Korean leader without proper preparations and preconditions. Those reasons have not changed. Oh, Dear Leaders past have invited other presidents to meet. But those were experienced American administrators who had highly qualified advisers and diplomatic experts to whom they listened. And the advice they got was this: Don’t give the North Korean dictator parity with an American president on the world stage until a boatload of preparations have been made and preliminary agreements have been reached; it would be dangerous.
Kim Plays Trump Like a Balalaika
Trump is correct that he’s made history. But not all history is good. Donald consistently has made bad history, the North Korea summit in Singapore being the latest example. Kim Jong Un is playing President Trump like a finely tuned Russian balalaika. He knows the American leader is all bluster, says whatever he needs to say at any given moment, i.e., lies, and is laughably unprepared for even the most important events.
Kim also has learned that Trump is pliable with empty praise and compliments. (Kim reportedly told Trump that no other U.S. president could have pulled off this summit.) Granted, the pliability point is known the world over by now. The challenges for Kim Jong Un and other world leaders, however, are that they must debase themselves by giving the empty praise, and continue to answer “yes” to the lingering question: Is Donald Trump really that transparently shallow and vain?
The two leaders talked initially for about 45 minutes with only interpreters in the room, no other staff or note-takers. Trump’s handlers, obviously trying to minimize the opportunities for the president to hang himself, decreased this period from the originally scheduled “one to two hours.”
As has been pundited ad infinitum, this introductory private talk consisted of two narcissistic pathological liars — who are both known for cheating and reneging on agreements — in a room. No one will ever know what was said. The principals even will have forgotten over time because their clear intentions were always to report whatever would be self-serving to each respective fabulist. Essentially, both men personally made great gains, though their countries did not.
This summit has been the gift that keeps on giving for Kim Jong Un. He knew he could get Trump to meet with him without making any real commitments. Clearly, President Trump wanted the meeting too much, and the world knew it. He foolishly is thinking of Nobel Prizes. All Kim had to do was suck up to The Donald, which he did brilliantly.
President Trump has now come home from the summit and gushed the following about Kim Jung Un:
“His country does love him. His people … they have a great fervor.” “Smart cookie,” “strong guy,” “very, very smart.” “He loves his country very much.” “Great personality,” “funny,” “great sense of humor,” “great negotiator.” “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for [his people].” “He loves his people.” “We got along really well. We had a great chemistry.” “I think great things are going to happen for North Korea.” “He is very talented. Anybody [is] that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough.” “I trust him, I do.”
The Trump-Kim Agreement
Here is the essential text of the signed agreement that came out of the summit:
Convinced that the establishment of new U.S.-DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
1) The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
2) The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
3) Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
4) The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.
There are a couple more paragraphs repeating the same vague “commitments” to “the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.” There is nothing about crimes against humanity. When pressed, Trump said human rights were discussed “relatively briefly.”
But Donald did get in what had to be one of his own lines: “The U.S.-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance.” (OK, you know he had help with epochal.)
Epochal and of great significance. Redundant and repetitive.
As most experts have said, there is scant substance here. The first three points are essentially statements of intentions to try to commit to establish commitments to state intentions to talk about having more talks. As referenced in the fourth point, the withholding of seven-decade-old soldiers’ remains is a grave depravity that the North Koreans should have made right long ago.
Then, to illustrate further to the world his colossal ignorance and incompetence as a self-proclaimed “deal-maker,” President Trump said the U.S. would discontinue joint military exercises with South Korea on the peninsula. He adopted the North Korean rhetoric that they were unnecessarily “provocative.” He also shocked our allies and our own military by claiming the joint exercises were “too expensive.” (Though many cooler heads, including some Republicans, responded that they were much less expensive than another Korean war.)
North Korea has complained bitterly about these exercises for many decades. The annual drills keep American and South Korean military forces coordinated and prepared in the event of conflict. Not surprisingly, Trump shot from the hip with his surprise announcement to cease them. He blind-sided South Korea and U.S. military officials (though China seemed to have had a heads-up). The Trump administration is still trying to clean up the mess.
Note that Trump gave away the joint exercises for nothing. He claimed the three Korean-American hostages returned by Kim before the summit was the trade-off. But we already had them. Furthermore, North Korea should never have taken those hostages. And they’ll likely simply take more when necessary.
Bringing It Home for Putin
[FUN FACT]: Russia has 11 miles of shared border with North Korea, and Putin also has complained about the joint South Korea-United States military exercises. Shortly before the Singapore summit, Putin made a personal request of Donald to stop the exercises. Russia’s goal is to eliminate American troops from anywhere near its borders and, ultimately, within its hemisphere.
Donald also 1) hinted at withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea, to the horror of the South Korean and Japanese governments, and 2) hinted at dropping North Korea economic sanctions in the near future.
Again, these developments and possible developments are balalaika music to Vladimir Putin’s ears. He could not have scripted this better himself: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un stumbling into a love affair. Donald is like an infatuated teenage boy; his new crush can do no wrong. The president said Wednesday that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat:
“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future! … Before taking office people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea. President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer – sleep well tonight!”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter posts; 6/13/2018.)
Democrats weren’t so optimistic:
“What planet is the president on? Saying it doesn’t make it so. North Korea still has nuclear weapons. It still has ICBMs. It still has the United States in danger. Somehow President Trump thinks when he says something it becomes reality.”
(Schumer, Chuck, D-N.Y., U.S. Senate minority leader; Senate floor remarks; 6/13/2018.)
“This is truly delusional.”
(Van Hollen, Chris, D-Md., U.S. senator; Twitter post; 6/13/2018.)
“One trip and it’s ‘mission accomplished,’ Mr. President? North Korea still has all its nuclear missiles, and we only got a vague promise of future denuclearization from a regime that can’t be trusted. North Korea is a real and present threat. So is a dangerously naive president.”
(Schiff, Adam, D-Calif., U.S. House representative, House Intelligence Committee ranking member; Twitter post; 6/13/2018.)
Republicans, as alluded to above, remain paralyzed from electoral fear. Putin is giddy.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Putin is dictating American policy. But it’s hard to imagine how he could do much better, even if he were.”
(Ibid.; Rice; 6/8/2018.)
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