Sunday, August 05, 2018

Trump’s Deadly Appeasement to Putin in Helsinki


Confident Putin and nervous Trump at the press conference.


It has turned out that American foreign policy pundits and intelligence community were right to raise critical concerns with the Helsinki summit, since President Donald Trump’s election team is suspected of collusion with the Kremlin during the presidential campaign in 2016. As expected, Trump spurred criticism from the media and national security experts at the joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. As the full text of this communique says, both sides did not give details about what was discussed on critical security issues like Crimea and Syria, but just mentioned mutual disagreements over these issues (“Read the full transcript of the Helsinki press conference”; Vox; July 17, 2018). Therefore, it is not clear whether Trump admitted Putin’s annexation of Crimea, or left Syria to Russia. It is interpreted that Trump had no intention of pushing Putin hard over legality of the annexation of Crimea and humanitarian treatment of refugees in Syria (“Putin didn’t have to push the Kremlin’s narrative. Trump did it for him.”; Brookings Institution; July 20, 2018). Meanwhile, Trump made a controversial and naïve remark that Russia had not intervened in the election because Putin said so. Not only did Trump say that he trusted Putin more than American intelligence agencies, but also tell that he would admit the Russian intelligence agency to inquire Americans and allied nationals whom the Kremlin saw unfavorably, in return for the Mueller investigation of 12 Russian spies (“Trump Says He Lay Down the Law in His Latest Account of His Meeting With Putin”; New York Times; July 18, 2018).

Those whom Putin demanded Trump to get summoned by the Russian authority include former Ambassador Michael McFaul for his anti-Putin diplomatic activities according to the Kremlin, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele who wrote the Trump dossier that reports Trump’s deep contacts with Russia and his dishonorable behavior, and a London-based businessman Bill Browder whom Putin charges for illegal transfer of $1.5 billion out of Russia to donate $400 million for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Quite importantly, Browder lobbied for the Magnitsky Act to impose sanctions on Russia for human rights abuse (“White House says Trump to discuss allowing Russia to question US citizens”; Hill; July 18, 2018). Obviously, it is contradictory to Trump’s obsession with national sovereignty, if he hands American and allied citizens over Putin upon his request. Particularly, Putin’s demand to have McFaul interrogated is outrageous, because the United States keeps out of the International Criminal Court to protect her diplomats from adversaries (Twitter; Richard Haass; July 19, 2018). More importantly, Trump’s imprudent deal with Putin infringes on the diplomatic immunity of the Viena Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It appears that Trump was ceding American sovereignty to Putin, in order to take his personal revenge on an Obama official like McFaul and those who acted against him like Steele and Browder. Trump himself thought a rapprochement with Russia would boost his popularity among voters, but to the contrary, he faced vehement bipartisan criticism from the Congress, and even his cabinet members, including Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Chief of Staff John Kelly at the White House, and also, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, raised critical concerns with Trump’s deal with Putin (“Pence, Bolton, Kelly confronted Trump in Oval Office about Russia comments”; Chicago Tribune; July 21, 2018).

Actually, foreign policy pundits are dismayed with Trump’s rapprochement with Putin, whether liberal or conservative. It is utterly wrong to believe that those who are obsessed with the Russian interference in American politics are liberals, as they want to defame Trump. Though the current Republican Party has become so nationalist and isolationist as to be called the Party of Putin, instead of Reagan and Lincoln, responsible pundits do not share such narrow-sighted partisanship among grassroots conservatives. James Fallows of the Atlantic Journal comments that he was shocked to see the President prioritize Russian interests, and questions whether Republicans are loyal to the party or the country (“This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans”; Atlantic; July 18, 2018). Former Bush Administration Speech Writer David Frum is critically concerned whether the US government hears anything about the deal with Putin, and even Trump really understands the implication of the deal or not if it really exists (“The Worst Security Risk in U.S. History”; Atlantic; July 19, 2018). Max Boot criticizes more harshly that Trump’s deal with Putin is an act of hostility to the American public, and argues that the media play the vital role to shed light on his intolerable treason (“We just watched a U.S. president acting on behalf of a hostile power”; Washington Post; July 16, 2018). It is extremely deplorable that so many self-styled conservatives are indulged in Trump. According to Fox News, Trump’s job approval rate is 88% among Republicans (Twitter; Fox News; July 24). McFaul and Browder, whom Putin asked Trump to admit Russian officials to investigate, comments that such an overdraft shows how much the Kremlin is imperiled with the Magnitsky Act in their interviews (“Deeply disappointed”: Michael McFaul opens up about threat of being turned over to Putin by Trump”; Salon; July 20, 2018). Whether Trump understands such backgrounds and basics of diplomatic interactions or not, it seems to me that he is obsessed with repealing Obama era achievements and retaliating those who helps the Mueller investigation directly or indirectly.

Above all, it is quite odd that Trump met Putin without accompanying any officials other than the interpreter. It is the common sense of homo sapiens that a droop and fat real estate agent is no match to a fit and muscular former KGB élite. Only Team America can match or outperform Team Russia. Then, why did he want to talk to Putin face-to-face? Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, says this negotiation style comes from is Trump’s businessman experience. He sees personal relationship very important in diplomacy. Rather than bureaucratically arranged meetings, Trump prefers ad hoc sessions so that he can set the agenda more freely with his counterpart. However, a meeting without a formal document of accord is too risky, as it defines no obligations to do something, and eventually leads to mutual distrust over the implementation of the deal. When both sides disagree over something, there is no way to reexamine the content of the deal. Trump is too reckless, and could fall into an easy dupe to crafty autocrats like Putin and Kim Jong-un (“Summing up the Trump Summits”; Project Syndicate; July 25, 2018). Also, further consideration is necessary, as Trump is suspected of the collusion with Russia. Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post and the London School of Economics points out that Russia and Anglo-American rightwing shared information via Cambridge Analytica, whose commitment to the Kremlin’s election interference to boost Trump drew media attention. An expert on Russia and Eastern Europe, she explains how the above mentioned axis of evil was formed through this consulting firm which was closely tied with alt-right Breitbart News. Cambridge Analytica obtained personal data of 87 million Facebook users illegally from Alexandr Kogan of Cambridge University, in order to help the campaign for Trump, the Brexit movement, and even for Senator Ted Cruz. It is suspected that the Russian Internet Research Agency shared election data with the Trump campaign team to target specific voters, in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica. For example, they urged Trump supporters to rise through sending anti-immigration messages, and discouraged black voters from voting through sending distorted information. There is every reason to assume that the Cambridge data helped their illicit manipulation (“Did Putin share stolen election data with Trump?”; Washington Post; July 20, 2018).

The Helsinki summit reveals more problems other than Trump’s loyalty to the nation and the lack of understandings in diplomatic interactions. When the Trump administration was launched, Washington politics watchers said that “adults in the room” would manage the President’s temperament and unpredictability. Since then, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster were replaced by more loyalist and nationalist Mike Pompeo and John Bolton respectively. Even though they are closer to Trump, they had little influence to stop his poorly prepared and dangerous one-on-one diplomacy with Putin and Kim. In addition, Trump sidelines Secretary of Defense James Mattis these days, and explores more leverage on military affairs by himself (“Trump is reportedly turning on Mattis and taking US military matters into his own hands”; Business Insider; July 25, 2018). Also, Chief of Staff John Kelly is rumored to be in a tense relationship with the President, though he told the media that he would stay in the office until Trump’s term completes (“John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, says he will stay in role through 2020”; PBS; July 31. 2018). If cabinet members cannot stop the President, are there any hidden agreements with Putin? That would be extremely dangerous. Donald Trump’s base may not care critical flaws that he has shown after the Helsinki summit, but it is the burden of enlightened people to grill them persistently, and we should not go along with vulgar populism.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Will the Trump-Putin Summit Destroy the World Order?



The top leader meeting of the United States and Russia could change the strategic landscape of great power rivalries, particularly in Europe and the Middle East. The summit of the fat man and the muscle man in Helsinki on July 16 is far more important than the summit of the fat man and the fat man in Singapore, since the latter was just a negotiation to manage a specific nuclear threat of North Korea. In addition, this summit is held when 12 Russian spies are indicted for the interference in the US presidential election in 2016 ("U.S. accuses Russian spies of 2016 election hacking as summit looms" Reuters; July 14, 2018). Prior to the Helsinki summit and the preceding NATO summit, President Donald Trump spurred criticism as he remarked that he would pull out the US troops from Germany, and might recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. This is a complete denial of the Western alliance and the rule of law in international politics. Furthermore, Stephen Walt points out that Trump does not understand that Europe would be in nationalist rivalries like the prewar era without NATO and the EU, and both multilateral security regimes save US defense spending (“The EU and NATO and Trump — Oh My!”; Foreign Policy—Voice; July 2, 2018). US security officials are making every effort to calm down anxieties among European allies (“Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany is not being discussed, U.S. ambassador to NATO says”; Washington Post; July 5, 2018 and “Pentagon: White House did not request plan to withdraw Germany troops”; Washington Examiner; June 29, 2018). As to Crimea, National Security Advisor John Bolton failed to assure that Trump would not recognize Putin’s unlawful seizure, when he appeared “Face the Nation” of CBS News on July 1 (Twitter; Richard N. Haass; July 2, 2018). More problematically, Trump will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin without accompanying any staff (Twitter; Richard N. Haass; July 4, 2018).

Trump and Putin share common mindsets as they favor strongman leadership and disdain the alliance (“Trump hopes he and Putin will get along. Russia Experts worry they will”; Washington Post; July 29, 2018). Therefore, experts are critically concerned with Trump’s appeasement to Putin over the election meddling and Syria. Meanwhile, Trump wants a ceasefire in southwestern Syria with between Jordan and Russian-backed Assad regime. Therefore, he willing to make a compromise with Russia, though American officials are alert to another chemical attack by Assad (“Trump is kowtowing to the Kremlin again. Why?”; Washington Post; June28, 2018). Among American allies, Britain and Ukraine are in bitter conflicts with Russia over the Salisbury poisoning and Kremlin proxy activities from Crimea to Donbass, respectively. Thus, both nations critically concerned with a possible fatal deal in Helsinki (“First Trump-Putin summit has Cold War backdrop, U.S. allies nervous”; Reuters: June 28, 2018). The most critical problem is that Trump is meeting Putin without appreciating the significance of the alliance to US diplomacy. Former Ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland comments that throughout the postwar era, American presidents have met Soviet or Russian leaders with solid support of European allies, but Trump is weakening this position as he does not understand that NATO gives leverages to US diplomacy with Russia. Furthermore, she argues that the Russian public want improved economy through sanction relief by the West, rather than successful military missions in Syria and Crimea to satisfy their patriotism. That is to say, America is in a stronger position than Russia for diplomatic interactions. However, she is seriously concerned that Trump is too willing to make compromises with Russia over Crimea and the election interference, which would ultimately reinvigorate Putin (“In Two Summits, a Moment of Truth for Trump”; New York Times; July 6, 2018).

But the problem is much deeper than Trump himself, because the Republican Party has fallen into an easy prey of Putin's manipulation. Formerly, Republicans were to more hardliner to the Kremlin, and they were alarmed when the Bill Clinton administration decided to incorporate Boris Yeltsin's Russia into the G8. But current Republicans give priority to partisanship rather than national security as typically seen in the case of Russian hacking to Hillary Clinton's e-mail. In an atmosphere like this, Trump sidelines foreign policy establishment efforts for long term alliance building, and pursues diplomacy for his business interests. That is his deal-oriented diplomacy for his personal victory (“The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki”; Economist; July 5, 2018). Regarding such corrosion of the Republican Party, Jamie Kirchick of the Brookings Institution presents further analyses, who could have been a Republican foreign policy maker under Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Therefore, the following criticism to Trump's Republican is by no means Democrat progressive perspectives. The most fatal problem of the Clinton e-mail affair was that the majority of Republicans acquired stolen e-mails from Russia to defame her during the campaign. We should not dismiss that current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was actively and knowingly involved in this denigration that was plotted by Putin and WikiLeaks. Only a handful of them such as John McCain, Marco Rubio, and so forth, rejected to help Putin's manipulation. Actually, the rise of pro-Russian mindsets was seen among American conservatives before Trump, particularly on social issues like anti-LGBT movements. Also, both Putin and Trump supporters mock worldwide Me Too Movements. Dismayed with political correctness and globalization, Republicans today become enamored of Putin's illiberal and anti-Western values through his KGB experience. Their America First is in complete resonance with Putin's vision of the world, because they are skeptical to multilateral security organizations like NATO and the EU, which sustain the liberal world order. This is the vital reason why Republicans put the party before the country today. The Party of Reagan has fallen into the Party of Putin in this way ("How the GOP Became the Party of Putin"; Politico: July 18, 2017).

Finally, I would like to mention possible implications of the Helsinki meeting beyond Europe and the Middle East. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed their hope that the summit would be of some help to resolve global challenges ("Trump-Putin Summit: China says meeting should help solve global problems"; CGTN; June 29, 2018). Meanwhile, India regards Trump's disengagement from Eurasia as a new opportunity to strengthen her leverages throughout the continent, while Europe worries about the huge vacuum of power in consequence of it ("Raja Mandala: Trump, Putin and future of the West"; Indian Express; July 3, 2018). In the face of growing Chinese and North Korean threats, the US-Japanese appears to work well, despite Trump's controversial remarks. However, we have to keep in mind that his outrageous election pledges are real, not bluff, as shown in global trade wars and his yells and cusses at the last NATO summit. The vital problem is his fundamental thinking about America’s role in the world and her alliance network. As in Europe, Trump remarked withdrawal of the US troop from South Korea, which provoked anxieties among East Asian nations including Japan. Those gaffs show that American allies are liabilities from his business acumen perspectives. In addition, Trump's conciliatory approaches to the Kremlin's deeds over the intrusion of Crimea and Donbass in Ukraine, the poisoning of a former Russian spy and British citizens in Salisbury, and election meddling in Europe and America, simply gives green lights to Putin's infringement of the rule of law in international politics. That makes American commitments to the Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea doubtful. Also, it undermines the Japanese appeal against Joseph Stalin’s unlawful seizure of the South Kuril islands. There are too many concerns with the Trump-Putin summit.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Can Macron Represent Moral Universality of the West?



At the end of this April, leaders from Japan, France, and Germany visited the White House one by one. Among them, President Emmanuel Macron of France gave an outstanding impression to the American and the global public over Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, because he addressed a message to remind the core value of American leadership of the world in his speech at the Congress, against the background of anti-globalization populism. Actually, Macron has not had a nasty confrontation with Trump, unlike Merkel. Nor has he taken seemingly favor-asking attitudes to Trump, unlike Abe. Instead, he sent a clear and strong message that Western democratic values and multiculturalism were the anchors of world peace and prosperity. It appeared that Macron is the real President of the United States, rather than Trump. His handling of Trump is well-balanced, and his visions are forward-looking. But can Macron take moral leadership in a world of increasingly intensified geopolitical rivalries in an era of populist nationalism?

To begin with, let me talk about the speech. Though Macron did not criticize Trump by name, he differentiated his position on global policy from that of the White House. He mentioned wide ranges of policy issues from the Iran nuclear deal to the Paris accord on climate change, and most importantly, he stressed America’s role as the leader of multilateral diplomacy that has been the anchor of the liberal world order. He received bipartisan applause as Democrats anticipated him to persuade Trump to embrace globalism, and Republicans respected French contribution to American military operations (“How Macron distanced himself from Trump’s policies in his address to Congress”; PBS News Hour; April 28,2018). Macron refuted America First through the following steps. The underlying assumption of his speech was that global challenges which Western democracies faced were so critical and complex that isolationism and nationalism could inflict a fatal blow on the liberal world order. In order to rebuild this situation into a 21st century world order, he argued that we should tame excessively inhumane globalization, explore low carbon economy furthermore, and promote democracy (“Emmanuel Macron and the Franco-American Ties That Bind”; CFR Blog; April 26, 2018). That is to say, Macron spoke on behalf of Western moral universality that any American president was supposed to do. This is the foremost reason why American pundits such as Anne Applebaum paid the highest compliment to his speech. Having invited Trump to the Bastille Day, Macron succeeded in cajoling him. He even embraced Trump’s dominance gesture to brush dandruff off his shoulder. However, once he delivered an address, he articulated that he denied Trump’s views of the world, such as anti-globalism, anti-environmentalism, and most importantly, Lindburgh styled nationalism and isolationism. Both Europeans and Americans applauded Macron, even though Trump was coaxed too much to understand the real intention of the speech. Trump may not change America First from climate change to the JCPOA and trade, but Macron delivered a message to save the trans-Atlantic alliance from virulent effects of Trumpism (“Macron embraces Trump - and then elegantly knifes him in the back”; Washington Post; April 25, 2018).

But if we were to make an adequate assessment of Macron’s leadership potential in international politics today, we need to understand his foreign policy directions. Despite the impressive address at the Hill, François Heisbourg, Chairman at the Institute for International Security Studies and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, regards Macron as a neorealist who dares to make a deal with notorious autocrats like Donald Trump, along with Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Recep Erdoğan of Turkey, and Abdel el-Sisi of Egypt. Anyway, Trump does not seem to care Macron’s political values, and just exhibited bromance with him, without making compromises on the JCPOA and climate change. Meanwhile, Macron tried to act as a connecting bridge between America and Europe, particularly mitigating bitter relations between Trump and Merkel (“Macron to put 'Trump whisperer' skills to test on state visit”; Guardian; April 23, 2018). For an overview of Macron’s foreign policy, let me mention the IFRI (Institut français des relations internationals) report, “Macron Diplomat: A New French Foreign Policy?” (“Macron, an I. Quelle politique étrangère ?” in French), which was published this April. This paper discusses a broad range of multilateral issues like climate change, migration, and terrorism, and also, French strategic interests like the digital industry. At the beginning of this report, two premises are mentioned. First, Macron is firmly committed to European integration, as he insisted this more steadfastly than any other candidates during the last presidential election. But paradoxically, his victory does not mitigate the rise of rightwing populism in Europe. The AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) won 94 seats in the German federal election in September last year, for the first time in history, and the Euroskeptic coalition claimed victory in the Italian general election in March this year. Second, in response to the deteriorating strategic environment, France leads European defense cooperation to pursue strategic autonomy from Trump’s America, and to manage more multipolar and less multilateralist world as increasingly assertive Russia and China challenge the current world order. In the short term, Iran and Syria are critical. Besides Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran’s ballistic missiles and terrorist sponsorship still pose grave threats in the region. Also, repeated use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime requires prudent humanitarian intervention in Syria. From these points of view, I focus on the following issues in the IFRI paper: French foreign relations with Germany, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, and most critically, Trump’s America.

In view of Brexit and Trump’s America First, the Franco-German axis has become more important than ever. However, France and Germany do not necessarily act on common causes. Along with those divergences, the decline of Merkel's leadership since the German federal election last September has slowed down European integration led by France and Germany. While Macron urges further integration, the German Budestag is reluctant to cede the national sovereignty to Brussels. Also, Germany is stricter on fiscal austerity of the Eurozone. Regarding European defense cooperation, France wants to make it a strong and cost-effective partnership for defense policy, while Germany wants to make it more inclusive one for regional integration. Actually, Germany is not so much interested in European defense autonomy as France is. Also, we should not dismiss that Macron’s penchant for defense cooperation comes from Gaullist tradition, despite his globalist reputation. Considering this, Germany remains more Atlanticist, despite Merkel’s icy relation and Macron’s “bromance” with Trump. In addition, France and Germany have different priority in military operations outside the Euro-Atlantic area. The Franco-German axis needs to overcome these strategic gaps. Regarding European security, the relationship with Russia is another key issue. Despite Macron’s firm determination to promote democracy and reject election intervention, French-Russian economic ties are strong in foreign investment, aerospace, civil aviation, and energy. Politically, Macron pursues pragmatic relations with Russia in the De Gaulle and the Mitterand eras, but Putin wants to weaken Western predominance, which is completely at odds with Macron’s aspiration to strengthen Western democracies. Notably, there are some hurdles between both countries, such as the spy poisoning in the UK, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and security around Ukraine. The IFRI paper shows us that Macron needs to overcome so many problems in relations with France's most vital friend and foe in Europe.

To be a real global leader, Macron’s France needs to increase security and economic presence beyond Europe and the Francophonie, particularly in the Middle East and Asia. In the Middle East, Macron keeps an eye on business opportunity in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE for their globalization reform, and in Egypt for her success in curbing terrorism. France is promoting infrastructure and civil aviation sales in this region. Furthermore, During the GCC crisis in 2016, Macron even sold arms to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt, while exporting them to isolated Qatar as well. But this sort of omnidirectional and economy-oriented diplomacy is critically challenged by Iran that still tests ballistic missiles and sponsors proxies, and Syria that uses chemical weapons against civilians. As to Turkey, Macron makes a compromise to soften his criticism over human rights abuse, as he needs Erdoğan’s cooperation in Syria. Meanwhile, in Asia, France insists on rule based multilateralism on key regional issues such as the nuclear problem of North Korea and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The most vital partner and adversary in this region is China. At the beginning of this year, he visited this country to impress the French leadership in Sino-European relations. On one hand, Macron explores reciprocal economic partnership in the Belt and Road initiative, but on the other hand, he leads a European initiative to watch Chinese investments that could jeopardize the security of Europe. Japan, Australia, and India are security partners to France as she joins the “free and open” Indo-Pacific initiative launched by Japan and endorsed by the United States. Still, Macron’s visit to Japan is anticipated to clarify his policy in Asia. In both the Middle East and Asia, the IFRI paper tells us that Macron gives priority to economic diplomacy with major regional powers, but his capitalist-realist approaches needs to be balanced with national survival and moral considerations in relations with some autocracies like Turkey and China.

In a world as mentioned above, how will Macron manage relations with Trump’s America? Currently, Merkel’s leadership is weakening in Germany, and Britain has failed to boost the special relationship with the United States when Theresa May succeeded the Cameron administration, following the Brexit vote. This is an unprecedented opportunity for Macron’s France to act on behalf of Europe in trans-Atlantic relations. However, Trump has no intention to return to the Paris Accord and the JCPOA, no matter how hard Macron tries to persuade him. Also, he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster to appoint more nationalist Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. The IFRI paper even thinks of the worst scenario that Trump would be reelected in 2020, as the research team assumes that Democrats are not strong enough, Republican opponents are virtually nonexistent, and the impeachment is not likely to come so soon. If such trends were to continue, America would fall into a bête noire in the global community further and further, as typically seen in the G7 Charlevoix.

Considering the overview of the French foreign policy direction in a world of growing great power competition, I would like to talk about ongoing diplomatic challenges and Macron’s job performance. Above all, domestic stability is a prerequisite for global leadership. A failure to manage labor protests against his deregulation of employment (“Left-wing protesters say 'enough' to Macron's French reforms”; Reuters; May 6, 2018) could make him another Merkel. At the moment, Middle East crises, notably Iran and Syria are critical. Regarding the Iran nuclear deal, Trump’s abrupt withdrawal gives an opportunity for Russia to have more leverage in the Middle East, and the E3 should fill the vacuum. Also, the EU can fall into America’s sanction target, as Trump is willing to punish Iran unilaterally (“Iran nuclear deal set to test Macron-Trump ‘bromance’ on historic visit”; France 24; April 23, 2018). Though Trump’s deal breaking is severely criticized at home, he is firmly determined to repeal Obama era achievements. While Macron makes every effort to keep the JCPOA, he needs to strike a delicate balance to avoid a fatal clash with the United States. Some experts worry that Trump would pursue a regime change in Iran to charm pro-Israeli evangelicals for the midterm election. But I am skeptical of it, because Trump is obsessed with cost performance so much that he has been reluctant to get involved Middle East affairs as shown in his criticism to the Iraq War. Bolton may endorse that idea, but he is not a real neocon, and thus, he is not clearly determined to install democracy in Iran.

Meanwhile, Europe is making use of perception gaps with the United States over the nuclear deal. While the E3 tries to keep the JCPOA, they use American pressure to contain Iran’s ballistic missile program and terrorist sponsorship in the region. However, the E3 explores to implement these measures through rearranging geopolitical balance of regional stakeholders and working with the UN Security Council, as opposed to Trump’s favorite go-it-alone approaches (“America Is More Than Trump. Europe Should Defend the Iran Deal without Burning Bridges to the US”; IFRI; May 2018). As to Syria, Macron barely managed to persuade Trump not to pull out troops prematurely, but American Middle East strategy swings incoherently between post-Iraq War disengagement and counterterrorism engagement. Macron’s advice to Trump was effective to compromise domestic noninterventionism of his base and anti-terrorism strategy of national security circles in America, when the repetitive chemical attack by Assad raised humanitarian concerns (“Macron Tries to Nudge Trump on Syria Policy”; New Turkey; May 1, 2018). However, neither Macron nor Trump has a long-term strategy in Syria. In both cases, it is difficult to implement French Middle East policy without giving consideration to American foreign and domestic politics, even though Macron wins more moral support than Trump in the global community.

The vital point is that France is just the 6th most powerful country in the “Best Countries 2017” ranking of the US News & World Report (“RANKED: The 23 most powerful nations on earth”; Business Insider; March 15, 2017), and therefore, Macron needs democratic partners in Europe and Asia for global leadership. In Europe, the severest problem is deteriorating trans-Atlantic relations. In addition to disagreements over the JCPOA, the trade war intensifies tensions between Europe and America, as the Trump administration treats the EU like state-capitalist China. More problematically, trans-Atlantic communication has dwindled substantially under the current administration (“Can the U. S. -Europe Alliance Survive Trump?”; Foreign Policy; May 18, 2018). Actually, as French Ambassador to the UN François Delattre comments, the United States often acted unilaterally before Trump, and therefore, Europeans assume that American isolationism will continue to be dominant. Consequently, Europe explores autonomous collective defense and united diplomacy (“RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945-2018”; Foreign Policy; May 11, 2018). But the problem is political instability in Germany. In addition to the weakening leadership of Merkel, Germany is less enthusiastic to the common defense and more inclined to Atlanticism than France, despite a harsh personal feud with Trump.

Therefore, post-Brexit partnership with Britain is a vital issue, particularly in defense. British defense officials are keenly interested in Macron’s initiative for the European Intervention Force (“UK ‘very keen’ to support European intervention force”; UK Defence Journal; May 8, 2018). In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine news paper this June, Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington commented that the United Kingdom and the European Union needed strong defense ties, and a complete divorce would simply benefit Russia (“UK seeks 'closest possible' security pact with EU after Brexit – minister”; Reuters; June 16, 2018). Actually, only a few countries are enthusiastic with Macron’s coalition of the willing. Particularly, Germany is reluctant to join overseas activities outside Europe, as shown in Mali and Syria. Therefore, Britain is the vital partner (“Emmanuel Macron’s coalition of the willing”; Politico EU; May 2,2018). From this point of view, it is quite odd that Britain is excluded from the FCAS (Future Combat Air System) fighter project (“Airbus and Dassault Launch a New FCAS—without BAE”; AINonline; April 25, 2018) and the Galileo satellite plan (Ashley Fox MEP; Twitter; 14 June, 2018). British defense contractors such as BAE systems and Rolls Royce have provided high tech components for American weapon systems like fighter, bombers, war ships, and so forth for decades. The EU defense projects deadly need British technology, if they were to rival against the United States, Russia, and China, in terms of the quality of weapons and competitiveness in world arms export. Macron has to take a leadership to arrange the UK-EU defense cooperation more consistent.

In the Asia Pacific, Japan is the key country to strengthen Macron’s global leadership and define his Asia policy, though China is by far the largest trade and investment orientation. While China is more inclined to geopolitics to edge out American influence to found a Sino-tributary system in her neighborhood, Japan launches the Indo-Pacific security initiative, which is based on equal partnership and burden sharing in accordance with the capability of each stakeholder. Most importantly, Japan poses no threat to Western allies, and her investment in France creates more jobs than Chinese investment does. As to trade, France’s deficit with China is five times as large as that with Japan. In other words, economic relations with China is not so lucrative as commonly thought (“The Missing Piece in Macron's Asia Vision: Japan; Diplomat”; May 18,2018). On the other hand, as the G7 Charlevoix was called “G6+1” (“Trump turns the G-7 into the G-6 vs. G-1”; Washington Post; June 10, 2018), Trump has isolated America from major Western democracies, and it has become an imperative for both France and Japan to defend the liberal world order from his vandalism. Particularly, both nations share common security and economic interests in the Indo-Pacific initiative, but the overview of this is not clear yet. Though Macron has met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at multilateral meetings like the G7, bilateral talks are necessary to define and strengthen mutual cooperation in this region, since France is a Pacific nation to have overseas territories like New Caledonia and Polynesia. Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Taro Kono agreed that both leaders would meet in Paris in July, on the occasion of Japanese cultural events there and the Bastille Day (“Abe plans July visit to France as Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono requests reciprocal trip by Macron”; Japan Times; April 23, 2018).

As noted above, France herself is not strong enough as a single actor, and thus, Macron needs democratic partners to take leadership to reboot the liberal world order. Also, it is necessary to take a delicately balanced approach to Trump’s America, that is, not to appease his high handed demand, but to avoid the fatal clash with the superpower. Bu we must remember that the total economic scale of the G6 is bigger than that of the G1. However, there are some problems that undermine the solidarity of the G6. Besides the erosion Merkel’s leadership in German domestic politics, the Franco-German discrepancies on defense are bigger than commonly understood, as stated in the IFRI paper. What matters is not just postwar pacifism and geopolitics. Like Japan, Germany is not in a good position to uphold the moral universality confidently, and to join global law enforcement operations, because people are repentant of misconducts during World War II. Japan is a more passive pacifist, and she has not even reformed the constitution yet, though her security environment in the neighborhood is turning worse. From this point of view, post-Brexit policy coordination with Britain is critical, as shown in the cases of the JCPOA and free trade. Prime Minister Theresa May is on the tightrope to balance Europhile and Europhobe within the Conservative Party. A successful Brexit deal is essential for both sides. Today, America is in paranoia populism that people see themselves victims infested by foreign economic competitors, allies, and immigrants. As long as they are infected with the virulent effect of Trump, the world needs a coalition to represent Western idealism led by a visionary leader. Macron’s globalist idealism that was addressed at the Hill was so impressive. But it remains to be seen whether such moral universality is compatible with neorealist, capitalist-realist, and Gaullist aspects of his foreign policy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

How Can Atlantic Democracies and Japan Coact against Russia and China?

The transition of international politics of values to geopolitics turns the world increasingly more unstable. During the Cold War, the cohesion of liberal democracies was relatively strong. However, in the New Cold War against Russia and China, the democratic alliance does not necessarily act in solidarity. This is typically seen in quibbles by Europeans and Americans that Japanese are too preoccupied with China, but pay not much attention to Russia. Meanwhile, Japanese often complain that Europeans and Americans are not well-aware of China’s dangerous ambition associated with the Belt and Road Initiative. Historically, there was a similar example, which was the relationship between Britain and white dominions of the British Commonwealth during World War II. There are some geopolitical analogies of revisionist powers between Nazi Germany and Russia, and also the Imperial Japan and China.Likewise, we can regard the British homeland as NATO nations, and the Australian Dominion as Japan today.

The British Commonwealth in the prewar era was more closely associated with British imperialism than the Commonwealth of Nations today. Through World War I, Britain’s white dominions had grown more important actor on the global stage, and they were admitted domestic and diplomatic autonomy, while maintaining special bonds with Britain to bolster the Empire, based on common socio-cultural heritage of the Anglo Saxon and loyalty to the British crown. However, when World War II broke out and geopolitics grew more important, the cohesion of the Commonwealth was critically tested. While Britain gave priority to defeat Germany, Pacific dominions of Australia and New Zealand faced an increasing threat of Japan, particularly after the fall of Singapore. Some cities, notably Darwin, were hit by Japanese air raids repeatedly. In other dominion like South Africa, Afrikaners even defied the British rule, and explored to align with Germany. History tells us that the world order of geopolitics is so fragile, and therefore, it is critical to revitalize the alliance of liberal democracies to manage worldwide challenges by revisionist powers.

In terms of present day security context, NATO nations and Japan have different priorities. However, unlike Nazi Germany and the Imperial Japan, Russia and China are potential geopolitical rivals each other, as they share long borders in the Far East, and compete for superiority in Central Asia. Actually, they had territorial clashes in the Cold War era, over the Damansky Island on the Usiri River in the east and Tielieketi in Xinjian Uyghur in the west, though both of them confronted with America. Their mutual distrust has not been wiped out. Therefore, Japanese policymakers need to draw more attention from NATO nations to the Russo-Chinese rivalry in the Far East, in order to fill the gap of strategic interests and scopes, between Atlantic and Pacific democracies. There is no doubt that Europeans and Americans are more keenly aware of Russia than Japanese, but their focuses are disproportionately concentrated on her actions in Europe and the Middle East, particularly, military threats in the Baltic, annexation of Crimea, sponsorship to Assad in Syria, close alignment with Iran, and so forth. However, these Russian actions are not separated from, but correlated with those in East Asia.

Having mentioned strategic gaps between Atlantic and Pacific democracies, let me talk about Russo-Chinese geopolitical partnership and rivalry. Though Russia and China share common interests to pursue a more multipolar world against Western superiority, their geostrategic goals are not necessarily congruent over the Far East and Central Asia. Globally, while Russia wants to overturn the liberal world order, China has been already incorporated into the global economy, as shown in her WTO membership and numerous subcontractors to Western businesses in manufacturing. Meanwhile, Russia worries about the growing Chinese economic presence in Central Asia and the Far East. In Central Asia, China accommodates Russian interests in the Belt and Road Initiative. But due to critical concern with the growing instability in Central Asia and Afghanistan, China is boosting security engagement in the region, which could edge out Russian military influence in the future. In the Far Eastern Siberia, the Sino-Russian partnership and rivalry is more complicated. It is a strategic imperative for Putin’s Russia to proceed economic development plans in the sparsely populated and underdeveloped region, in order to solidify the sovereign rule there. For this objective, Russia hosts Chinese investments in energy resource and infrastructure in the Far East. Despite friendly personal relations between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, local governments are critically alarmed at the growing influence of Chinese business and gangsters. Unlike Central Asia, the clash of the two major powers arises in the Russian homeland in the Far East. (“Cooperation and Competition: Russia and China in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic”; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; February 28, 2018). In view of such geopolitical backgrounds, Euro-Atlantic nations cannot dismiss security impacts of Putin’s pivot to Asia.

Beyond Russo-Chinese geopolitics, there are some points in the Far Eastern Siberia that deserve attention from Euro-Atlantic democracies. Komsomolsk-on-Amur is the center of Russian aerospace and defense industry, because huge air space of this region is more advantageous to test fighter jets and missiles than congested air space of European parts. Also, Putin started to build Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2011, which is already in use now. Vast Siberian taiga is critically endangered by illegal Chinese loggers, and it is important for the global environment as much as tropical rain forests in the Amazon and the rest of the world. Further to the east, the Bering Strait will be a strategic place between the United States and Russia, in an era of Arctic navigation. Historically, Asian horse riders like Huns, Pannonian Avars, and Mongolians invaded Europe through the Eurasian Steppe that stretches from northern China to Romania and Hungary. Therefore, the new age of geopolitics does not necessarily imply the age of myopic localism. Pacific and Atlantic democracies can fill perception gaps, if both sides understand the link of their primary threats.

On the other hand, Japan needs to reconsider her handling of Russo-Chinese geopolitics. There is no denying that Japan needs assurance of regional power balance in an age of America First populism in the United States. But that does not mean that Japan should make a loophole in the democratic alliance. As seen in the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, it is Japan’s vital interest to maintain the liberal world order in the absence of American leadership under the Trump administration. However, Japan has been hollowing Western sanctions against repetitive Russian transgression like the invasion of Crimea, the nerve gas attack against Sergei Skripal, and the sponsorship to the Assad regime in Syria that continually uses chemical weapons against unarmed civilians. Those “independent” actions simply pose the risk of isolation within western democracies to Japan, while she does not have powerful and reliable partners in Asia for her own national survival. More importantly, savage competition of geopolitics makes Japan’s position in the world increasingly vulnerable and fragile (“A New Cold War With Russia Forces Japan to Choose Sides”; Diplomat; April 23, 2018). Nationalists may feel proud of a Japan that is totally “independent” from any regional powers, including China, Russia, and even America, as she was in the prewar era. But Russo-Chinese geopolitics is too big for Japan to handle alone. This is clearly shown in Putin’s blunt comment that Russia had no intention of returning the disputed Kuril islands, because Japan is in alliance with the United States. Remember, prewar Japan was not proudly independent as nationalists argue, but forcefully cut off from the alliance with Britain.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Neocons Do not Give Credits to Bolton

The global community was startled when President Donald Trump reshuffled the cabinet to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster with Former UN Ambassador John Bolton. As tensions over the North Korean nuclear crisis grows, the nomination of loyalist hawks raises critical concerns among foreign policy experts all over the world. While Pompeo needs approval at the Senate, Bolton has started his job from April 9. It is commonly understood that outspoken Bolton is a good match with unorthodox Trump. However, there are some discrepancies in foreign policy views between the both. Particularly, Bolton is commonly regarded as a neocon, and willing to make cases for regime changes against rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, while Trump is inclined to businessman styled costs and benefits thinking and isolationism. Therefore, I doubted Bolton’s appointment to the Secretary of State, when people rumored it in the transition period (”Bolton would consider serving as Trump's secretary of State”; Hill; August 23, 2016). From this point of view, his appointment to the National Security Advisor is rather surprising, despite the mismatch between Trump and McMaster.

However, there are some policy discrepancies between Bolton and Trump, notably on Russia and the Middle East. According to the BBC, their policy match is just 3 out 5 issues. Both think there is nothing wrong with a preemptive attack on North Korea. They also agree to bomb Iran when necessary. In addition, they distrust the United Nations, and prefer the world system based on sovereign states. On the other hand, Bolton strongly believes it was necessary to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War, which is completely at odds with Trump. Russia is another issue that both disagree. Ironically, Bolton admits Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, although his predecessor McMaster was forced to clash with Trump on this issue (“John Bolton: Five things new Trump security adviser believes”; BBC News; 23 March, 2018). From this perspective, Russian dominance in Syria and its neighborhood could trigger some frictions between Bolton and Trump in the future. Despite vehement criticism from renowned experts, Trump clings to his notorious election pledges like tariff hikes against trade partners whether allies or non-allies, troop deployment on the border with Mexico as he failed to win the budget for the wall, withdrawal from the TPP, repeal of the Paris Accord on Climate Change, and so forth. Whoever the advisor is, it is extremely difficult to avoid a clash with Trump.

Even more vicious criticism to Bolton comes from his fellow “neocons”, most of whom joined the Never Trump movement during the election, as opposed to his firm endorsement to Trump against Hillary Clinton. Let me talk about some example. Professor Eliot Cohen of the SAIS, who led an anti-Trump movement during the election, is critically worries that there is no one to check Trump in the cabinet after he nominated Bolton and Pompeo to take place of McMaster and Tillerson. Thus, Cohen recommends McMaster to write a memoir to tell Trump’s confused management of his administration to awaken the public (“McMaster's Choice”; Atlantic; March 23, 2018). Max Boot at the Council on Foreign comments even acrimoniously. Contrary to historical presidents who explored to seek common ground with the Congress and the federal bureaucracy when they reshuffled the cabinet, Trump appointed friction prone Bolton to replace McMaster. During the Bush era, Senate approval for his appointment to the UN Ambassador was delayed due to his disrespect to international treaties and organizations. As the Ambassador, he failed to exert American leadership at the UN. The National Security Advisor needs interpersonal skills to coordinate foreign policy and defense agencies, but Bolton is not good at it. Most dangerously, he is endorses preemptive attack on nuclear armed North Korea, and withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without showing an alternative for the United States to denuclearize Iran (“Add another zealot to the White House”; Washington Post; March 22, 2018). Though Boot agrees with Bolton for his criticism to overstaffed and red taped UN, he comments that Bolton’s nationalist and authoritarian mindsets as shown in his antipathy to the EU and Islam are incompatible with idealistic internationalist Republican mainstream, but more compatible with Trumpism (“Why I changed my mind about John Bolton”; Washington Post; March 26, 2018).

Though Bolton joined the campaign for the regime change in Iraq by the Project for the New American Century (“PNAC and Iraq”; New Yorker; March 29, 2009), William Kristol told that he is not a neocon but a national interest hawk in an interview with his Weekly Standard on March 23. In fact, Bolton is not so much interested in universal moral issues like democracy promotion and human rights, although he still endorses the regime change in both North Korea and Iran (“Bolton Brings Hawkish Perspective To North Korea, Iran Strategy”; NPR News; March 22, 2018). In other words, he just wants to overthrow dangerous regimes that pose critical threats to US national security. Kristol’s analysis is plausible as Bolton hardly supported democracy initiatives in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He would not care dictatorship of President Abdel el-Sisi and Gulf emirates, as long as they remain close allies to the United States. Therefore, he is more in line with Trump’s America First than neoconservative idealism. On the other hand, Kristol mentions that Bolton does not agree to Trump’s isolationist view, and he believes in strong alliances with NATO, Japan, and so forth, to boost American foreign policy. From this point, it is critical how much Bolton can exert influence on Trump’s Russia policy. The imminent problem is whether Bolton reinforces or restrains Trump’s instinct of war against North Korea and Iran. Since he argues preemptive attack on the North and repeal of the JCPOA, he is more likely to reinforce Trump’s belligerence. Kristol is not so sarcastic as Boot, but he is critically concerned with the combination of hawkish Bolton and irascible Trump, which was not the case with the same Bolton serving Republican mainstream presidents like Bush Sr and Jr.

Above all, the media use the word of neocon too broadly to anyone who supported the Iraq War. Actually, those who are commonly called neocon include a broad range of foreign policy pundits from Bolton who sees himself a diehard conservative from the beginning, to Robert Kagan who proclaims his thoughts are based on liberal and traditional international interventionism, and endorsed Clinton in the last election from the early phase. The media and foreign policy experts should use the word more precisely defined. But even though Bolton is not a neocon, why he endorses Trump so firmly despite his long career at the State Department? Until the rise of Trump, foreign policy circles both inside and outside the United States assumed that America would restore global leadership under the new president after post-American Barack Obama, whether Hillary Clinton or someone from Republican mainstream. However, Bolton was extremely skeptical to Clinton’s interventionism. One example that he mentions is US intervention in the Libyan Civil War in 2011. As opposed to popular notions of Clinton as a liberal hawk, he argues that she was too timid to remove Muammar Qaddafy without international authorization when Libya was resuming terrorist sponsorship. In his view, UN backed humanitarian intervention is a standard Democrat foreign policy, and hardly compatible with the vision of Henry Jackson (“Hillary and ‘interventionism’”; Pittsburgh Tribune Review; May 7, 2016). While blaming Clinton’s "passive" diplomacy, Bolton praises Trump for his understanding that the War on Terror comes the hate ideology of Islamic extremism to the West. Thus, he endorsed Trump’s Muslim immigration restriction, as opposed to law enforcement approaches of Obama and Clinton. Quite interestingly, Bolton is scornful to nation building in a country without legal, political and cultural foundations as Trump is, though he endorses the regime change in Iran and North Korea (“What Trump’s foreign policy gets right”; Wall Street Journal; August 21, 2016).

Despite such a contradiction, there are some discrepancies between Bolton’s proactive nationalism and Trump’s Fortress America isolationism. From this perspective, the Syrian Civil War is a critical test for both. Though Trump launched air raids along with Britain and France against the chemical attack by the Assad regime (“US strikes three Syrian sites in response for chemical attack”; Military Times; April 14, 2018), he hinted a plan to withdraw US troops from Syria before this incident, while generals strongly resisted that (“Trump gets testy as national security team warns of risks of Syria withdrawal”; CNN News; April 5, 2018). Trump may have shown the power, but Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations tweets, “The US strikes in were a legitimate but narrow response to Syrian CW use. There is no visible change in US policy toward Syria, ie, the US did not act to weaken the regime. Nor is there any more clarity re future US policy or presence in Syria.”

Current Syria policy is deeply entangled with Russia and Middle East policy. Can Bolton persuade Trump to shed his Fortress America instincts? The problem is Trump’s election base. They lament that an interventionist Trump is turning to another Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush, over Syria (“Trump supporters rip decision to strike Syria”; Politico, April 13, 2018). Though alt-rights like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka left the administration, Trump supporters' favorite FOX News anchorman Tucker Carlson propagates isolationism through blaming bipartisan foreign policy leaders (“Tucker Takes on Critics Over Skepticism of Syria Strikes: They Want You to 'Shut Up and Obey'” FOX news; April 11, 2018). Bolton may not believe in neocon idealism, but as a foreign service veteran, he must override populist isolationism on which this administration is founded. That is an extremely tough job.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Without the Ambassador in Seoul, How Can Trump Have Leverage over North Korea?

In the North Korean crisis, there is a growing chasm between Sunshine policy-oriented South Korea and pressure-oriented Japan and the United States. But it is utterly wrong to blame President Moon Jaein of South Korea one-sidedly, though his pro-North posture since the election has been posing constraints to the trilateral partnership with the United States and Japan. We need to pay more attention to an inherent problem of President Donald Trump’s management of the US government, notably, the Foreign Service. Ever since his inauguration, senior governmental positions are still vacant, and the ambassador to South Korea is one of them. In view of Trump’s notorious America First creed, there is no wonder that Moon worries about American commitment to the security of the Korean Peninsular, and appease North Korea. Even if South Korean president were more pro-American than Moon, this country would lean toward balancer diplomacy with the North and China, rather than a staunch partnership with the United States and Japan. In my eyes, the more one knows about Korean affairs, the more liable to dismiss this basic point.

With a highly qualified ambassador in Seoul, America and South Korea would be able to discuss North Korea policy on a daily basis in every detail. The role of the US ambassador in South Korea is not just policy consultations with the Blue House. The American ambassador in Seoul can watch and control Moon so that he will not deviate from the common ground with other US allies in the region. The Commander of the US Forces in Korea is not in a position to be involved in political affairs. It is the ambassador who can have leverage over the Blue House, whether through compassionate consultation or ruthless pressure. We need to remember geopolitics that South Korea is adjacent to North Korea like China, thus, she is tempted to an appeasement to Pyong Yang for fear of instability of the Peninsular and a huge influx of refugees in her territory. Only a strong diplomatic presence of the United States can keep South Korea closely aligned with Asia-Pacific democracies. The Trump administration was so upset to send Vice President Mike Pence to the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchnag Olympics, in order to drive a wedge between South Korea and North Korea (“The Last Moratorium that the US gave to South Korea”; Gendai Business; February 16, 2018). Furthermore, the administration even sent Ivanka Trump to the closing ceremony, that spurred bitter criticism to her poor credentials in diplomacy (“Ivanka Trump's chronic problem”; Chicago Tribune; February 28, 2018). Anyway, they stayed only a few days there, while an ambassador can meet Moon almost daily.

As shown in Trump’s notorious plan to cut State Department budget and personnel based on cost and benefit perspectives, his disrespect to the Foreign Service is terribly lopsided. But considering the emphasis on North Korea in the New Security Strategy last December (“President Trump's New National Security Strategy”; CSIS Commentary; December 18, 2017), Trump needs to recognize the importance of Foreign Service professionalism, rather than clinging to populism and cost-and-benefit thinking. From this point of view, Trump has to reconsider the appropriate balance of diplomatic bargaining and military pressure against Kim Jongun. He may want to send his own appointee to South Korea after Barack Obama’s ambassador Mark Lippert. However, as long as he disdains expertise of the Foreign Service, he will not find the right nominee by himself. This is why former National Security Council Victor Cha in the Bush administration did not accept Trump’s nomination (“Trump Finally Taps Ambassador to South Korea”; Diplomat; December 16, 2017 and “Still No US Ambassador in South Korea”; Diplomat; February 10,2018).

The fundamental problem goes beyond the ambassador to South Korea. The populist businessman is not well acquainted with those who have close contacts with the government. Also, Trump himself has little experience working for the government. Therefore, his appointment of senior officials has been delayed so much. As of February 28, Trump fails to nominate 41 ambassador positions, including those in some strategically critical countries such as Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan (“More than 40 countries lack a U.S. ambassador. That’s a big problem.”; Think Progress; February 28, 2018). In addition, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Department reorganization plan to cut sections and positions raises serious concerns among national security experts that it will erode the capability to defend the homeland from global problems like crime and terrorism, and weaken diplomatic presence on the global stage (“Rep. Nita Lowey: Trump is destroying America's status as a global leader and endangering national security”; NBC News; March 1, 2018). These messes were foreseeable when Trump bid for the presidency. Trump’s lopsidedly business-oriented thinking and disdain to the government are shown in his appointment of his cabinet members. From the presidency of George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama, more than 80 % of the cabinet secretaries have governmental experience, but only 47% has in the Trump administration. On the other hand, CEOs account for 28% in the Trump team, but they accounted below 18% in the predecessors’ team since 1989 (“Donald Trump’s Cabinet is radically unorthodox”; Washington Post; January 11, 2018).

The Trump administration is neither comfortable for qualified political appointees to work, nor is it respectful to existing governmental professionals. During the transition period shortly after Trump won the election, Professor Eliot Cohen at the Paul Nitze School of the Johns Hopkins was so discouraged to hear incoherent policy and acrimonious atmosphere in the Trump team that he recommended his fellow conservatives not to work for this administration (“I told conservatives to work for Trump. One talk with his team changed my mind.”; Washington Post; November 15, 2016). A few months after Trump’s inauguration, things went so negatively as Cohen said. His administration disinformed the public that Obama wiretapped him, his dismissal of human rights eroded America’s influence and reputation on the global stage, and his nepotism brought conflict of interests to the White House (“Eliot Cohen was right: Work for Trump, lose your soul”; Washington Post; April 3, 2017). As a result, this administration is forced to appoint unfit people to the ambassador and senior governmental positions. This is typically seen in the case of Ambassador Pete Hoekstra to the Netherlands. Former Republican Congressman without diplomatic experience, he was severely questioned about his past remark to agitate fears about Muslims in the Netherlands, at the first press conference as the ambassador (“Trump's ambassador to Netherlands finally admits 'no-go zone' claims”; BBC News; 12 January, 2018).

Trump may want to replace Obama’s appointees with his favorite ones from his inner circle, but that causes frictions at home and abroad. Therefore, I would suggest that Trump be more respectful to America’s venerable Foreign Service to rebuild diplomacy. Considering talent depletion in his network, he should appoint career diplomats to unfilled ambassadorial positions. Furthermore, Trump and Tillerson should overturn the State Department reorganization plan to keep qualified candidates for ambassador vacancies. This is not just a problem of US-Korean relations.Among industrialized democracies, the Civil and Foreign Services are merit-based, and the ambassador represents the state, not the incumbent administration. Why doesn’t Trump follow this global standard? How can Moon trust current America whose government and diplomacy are in a terrible confusion?,br>

Thursday, January 18, 2018