Foreign Policy during the Trump Administration

Thread on foreign policy and world events during the Trump administration.

From WaPo: Putin ally said to be in touch with Kremlin, Assad before his mercenaries attacked U.S. troops

A Russian oligarch believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin and ­Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had “secured permission” from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative that would take place in early February.

Prigozhin made front-page headlines last week when he was indicted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III on charges of bankrolling and guiding a long-running Russian scheme to conduct “information warfare” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.



And that brings me to one of the most momentous mysteries of the new year. Did American and Russian forces just engage in a deadly clash in Syria, and was that clash the direct result of a Putin-approved effort to test American defenses? While Americans were arguing over Russian Facebook posts, did American air power and artillery leave up to 300 Russians dead on a Syrian battlefield?


…the situation in Syria is extraordinarily dangerous. It’s understandable that international eyes are focused on North Korea, but consider this: If reports of hundreds of Russian dead are correct, the American military just killed more Russians than it did in any single encounter throughout the entirety of the Cold War. That’s stunning. At present, a few thousand American troops are in the midst of the world’s most vicious war, rubbing up against hostile Russians, Syrians, Turks, Iranians, and Lebanese. Confrontations are inevitable. Proper management of those confrontations is not.

Therefore it’s more vital than ever that the Trump administration formulate and articulate a clear strategy for American involvement in Syria.


This is worrisome:

Here’s the frame of mind for Trump today (not a parody account):


No way. I go a little crazy when I hear information like this.


More on those Russian mercenaries and what happened to several hundred of them:

7 thoughts on “Foreign Policy during the Trump Administration

  1. Possibility of War with North Korea

    3/8/2018: Kim Jung Un Invites Trump for Talks and Why That’s Probably Not a Good Idea


    and this

    If I’m understanding Graham’s thinking here, he’s advocating for a recklessly dangerous approach:

    This is essentially a game of chicken. You don’t denuclearize, and I’m going to destroy you. To me, you only do this is if you’re willing to follow through–because if Kim calls your bluff and you don’t follow through, that’s a huge loss. Of course, if you follow through, then you have to do something awful, that would likely lead to thousands, tens of thousands, if not more, deaths. It’s the Mad Bomber/crazy man theory of negotiations. Convince the other person that you’re not rational, and you can get them to make concessions that they otherwise would not. But you either have to be a good actor or you have to be crazy–either way, that’s not a good thing.



    Not good if true.


    Summit was cancelled and now it appears to be back on. Here’s a recent comment from Trump about the upcoming meeting:



    This is not meant as “I told you so,” but this is not surprising, if true.

    What concerns me is how Trump and people like John Bolton will react–specifically, would push them toward military action?


    If Trump genuinely has confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract, I would say Trump is foolish.


    The following seems like a good summary of the current situation:



  2. Managing Decline

    Interesting thoughts about dealing with America’s waning power.

  3. Will North Korea Give Up Their Nuclear Weapons?

    I’d be ecstatic if North Korea stopped and got rid of their WMD, but I’m really skeptical for a variety of reasons (which I won’t go into here).

    I did want to say the thought that popped into my mind when I first saw this tweet. The move would probably insulate Kim from a first strike from the U.S. How could the U.S. attack North Korea now? They can continue diplomatic activity with South Korea, that hints at better relations, and they can negotiate with the U.S. to denuclearize their nation. As long as this process goes on, an U.S. attack on them would be really difficult. In the meantime, they can go on developing their weapons.


    I haven’t been following this story much. It’s a situation where I’m closing my eyes because I’m too afraid to see what happens. The tweet below provides one reason I feel that way.

    (In the article, the comment is based on one senior official. But many stories prior to this lend credence to the claim. I believe Trump doesn’t think he need to prepare much for this meeting. After all, this is a guy who thinks he’s smarter than generals, that he relies on himself the most because he has a big brain.)

  4. You and everyone else, I think. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t trust crazy people or dictators.

    1. Same. I also don’t trust people that are ignorant and incompetent.

      If Trump manages to influence, to the degree that it leads to denuclearization, Trump will have done this by successfully convincing Kim that Trump was irrational and unstable (read: crazy). Basically, I believe Trump would have persuaded Kim that he was willing to bomb Kim even if it lead to thousands, maybe tens or hundred of thousands of American, South Korean and Japanese lives–which is nuts in my view. If Kimm believed that, it would make sense that he would make more concessions.

      OK, cool, but the problem is you’ve just persuaded everyone that you’re kinda crazy. I think that such a person is no longer a credible leader.

  5. The following article touches on domestic politics as well, but the overview of European politics, the fragile state of liberal democracy and emerging strongman populism, is what stood out for me, so I’m putting it here.

    The view is bleak, but worth keeping in mind. The main point: There’s reason to believe that Europe and the U.S. won’t tilt back to liberal democracies, but illiberal populism could become a more normal in the West.

  6. Is NATO and the Western Alliance in Jeopardy?

    Besides that remarkable comment–which falls in line with those who think Trump is compromised by Putin–the article focuses on the significant unease Europeans are feeling with Trump’s upcoming NATO meeting and the one with Putin. I don’t blame them one bit.

    Europeans cannot accept making collective security transactional, or dependent on actions on tariffs or specific spending targets in a relationship that is mutually beneficial, said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a policy institute in London.

    “It can feel like a protection racket, trading security for economic return,” Mr. Niblett said, especially as Mr. Trump “then goes off to see Putin.”

    I hope the following is correct, but I don’t put a lot of stock into it:

    Mr. Trump’s advisers have struck a far sharper tone against Russia.

    They say that the president is ready to confront Mr. Putin about Russia’s “malign activities,” and that the United States wants a strong and unified NATO. They also have dismissed any suggestion that Washington would consider pulling back its military presence or commitment to the alliance in response to what it considers to be under-spending by member countries.

    “The major thing, the major deliverable, the major overall theme of this summit is going to be NATO’s strength and unity,” Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States ambassador to NATO, said in a conference call with reporters last week.

    It just sounds like empty talk. One question that comes to mind: How long can someone like Mattis or even Pompeo stand by, if Trump indeed really starts doing things to dismantle NATO and the Western Alliance?

    Also, there doesn’t seem to be any dispute that weakening or breaking up NATO and the Trans-Atlantic alliance are key Russian objectives. Whatever Trump’s motives, his actions are in line with those objectives, and as crazy as the hypothesis that Russia may be blackmailing Trump, these actions fit with that hypothesis.

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