I Will Be Treated Fairly Or Else: The Trump Doctrine In Action In Ukraine

In April 2016 I delineated the Trump Doctrine, which was the central through line message of the President’s campaign, as (emphasis mine):

America’s allies are taking advantage of our treaty and other obligations in the national security space; America’s allies and peer competitors are ripping the US off through our trade agreements; the US should go it alone if it can’t renegotiate better deals; and only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly – or else. That only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly, whether in national security arrangements or global trade, was simply an extension of one of the major, if not the major theme of his campaign: Donald Trump would be treated fairly or else and only Donald Trump could guarantee that Americans, especially the forgotten men and women as he phrased it, would be treated fairly or else.

As I wrote two years later, after the most recent demonstration air strikes by the US against Assad’s government in Syria, the Trump Doctrine was a form of strategic communication genius:

That the US will be treated fairly or else, and that only a President Trump could guarantee that happening became the central, unifying theme of his national security and foreign policy approach was actually a stroke of strategic communication genius. A significant amount of the President’s initial strategic communication approach was through tying his primary opponents, the Republican National Committee, and the broadcast and cable news networks in knots about treating him fairly. This included trying to get Megyn Kelly removed from debate moderation after he felt she treated him badly, as well as actually dropping out of a GOP primary debate on Fox News and holding a competing charity event for veterans because he did not like that Fox wouldn’t comply with his demands. And if they failed to do so he’d deal with them harshly. Then candidate Trump threatened his fellow primary opponents and the RNC by making it clear that if he didn’t feel he was being treated fairly by them, then the “or else” would be his running as an independent candidate, thereby splitting the Republican vote for president, and handing the election to the then presumed Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.

By making this the dominant theme of his national security and foreign policy approach, he was able to make a singular through line for his campaign – “I, Donald Trump, will be treated fairly or else by the GOP, the RNC, and the news media; only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that you the forgotten men and women of America are treated fairly in regards to both domestic politics and foreign policy; and only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that the US will be treated fairly or else there will be serious and severe repercussions for the GOP, the RNC, the news media, elected and appointed officials, and America’s allies, partners, and peer competitors”. Here was the simple through line to connect Make America Great Again both domestically and internationally by placing America first. It is also the essence of the real Trump Doctrine: President Trump and by extension the forgotten men and women of America, as well as America itself, will be treated fairly or else.

We now have an excellent empirical example of the Trump Doctrine in effect in Ukraine. As the NY Times reports, the Ukrainian government stopped cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation regarding former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, his connections to Russia, as well as potential connections between Manafort, the President’s campaign, and Russia. They’ve also decided to slow walk their own investigation.

In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.

The cases are just too sensitive for a government deeply reliant on United States financial and military aid, and keenly aware of Mr. Trump’s distaste for the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into possible collusion between Russia and his campaign, some lawmakers say.

The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.

The State Department issued an export license for the missiles on Dec. 22, and on March 2 the Pentagon announced final approval for the sale of 210 Javelins and 35 launching units. The order to halt investigations into Mr. Manafort came in early April.

Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament who is an ally of President Petro O. Poroshenko, readily acknowledged that the intention in Kiev was to put investigations into Mr. Manafort’s activities “in the long-term box.

At NY Magazine, Jonathan Chait suggests this may be because someone in the administration bribed the Ukrainians. Quite simply: stop cooperating and you’ll keep your financial aid and get the weapons you want.

It is of course possible that Ukraine reached this decision on its own, completely independent of any suggestion from Washington. It is far more likely that somebody in the administration proposed a quid pro quo, and Ukraine quite rationally decided it would rather have weapons to defend itself against the next Russian aggression than participate in an investigation that the president of the United States regards as a mortal threat.

The latter possibility cannot be assumed as fact, of course. But it is striking that when the missile sale came up in December, almost nobody even considered the possibility that it might be used as a bribe to shut down Ukrainian cooperation with Mueller.

I think Chait is reading far too much into the Ukrainian government’s decisions to both stop cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and to put their own on indefinite hold. The Ukrainians, like President Moon in the ROK and the Qataris, have simply recognized what is in their own best self interest by accurately assessing who the President is, how he understands the world, and what is therefore the best way to interact with the him, other US officials, and the US in order to achieve their self interests. Think of all three of these as real world examples of the effects of the Trump Doctrine – ensuring that the President will be treated fairly in order to avoid the or else.

The NY Times‘ reporting supports this conclusion.

David Sakvarelidze, a former deputy prosecutor general who is now in the political opposition, said he did not believe that the general prosecutor had coordinated with anybody in the United States on the decision to suspend the investigations in Ukraine, or that there had been a quid pro quo for the missile sale.

Ukrainian politicians, he said, concluded on their own that any help prosecuting Mr. Manafort could bring down Mr. Trump’s wrath.

“Can you imagine,” Mr. Sakvarelidze said, “that Trump writes on Twitter, ‘The United States isn’t going to support any corrupt post-Soviet leaders, including in Ukraine.’ That would be the end of him.”

Last summer, another member of Parliament, Andrey L. Derkach, initiated an investigation into leaks to the news media about Mr. Manafort’s dealings from Ukrainian law enforcement, saying they put at risk vital American aid to Ukraine. He has openly opposed any Ukrainian role in aiding the special counsel’s investigation.

Ukraine, Mr. Derkach said in an interview, would be taking grave risks if it assisted in what he called a politicized investigation in the United States. In Ukraine, he said, “everybody is afraid of this case.”

It will be important to look out for and to see where else the Trump Doctrine comes into play in international relations. Which other state and non-state actors decide to make sure the President feels as if he’s being treated fairly in order to avoid the or else. Or which state and non-state actors simply decide not to engage on specific issues and problem sets to avoid creating the impression they are not treating the President fairly so as to avoid the or else. And what effects it has on how the global system is ordered and functions.

Stay frosty.

Open thread.

 








The Nobel Lie: The US Is Now Superfluous To The Future Of The Korean Peninsula

There’s been a lot of chatter over the past day or so about President Moon of the ROK stating that the President should get the Nobel Peace Prize. This isn’t exactly what President Moon said:

Leaving potential Nobel Peace prizes aside, what the President’s approach to foreign policy in general, and dealing with both the ROK and the DPRK in specific, has made the US superfluous to the process. I’ve read the joint statement from Kim and Moon a couple of times. While the language is nice and flowery and ambiguous, I think that section 2 and parts of section 3 are going to be what cause the US headaches. These sections read to me as the pretext for Kim to demand or require that 1) the Joint Multinational US-ROK annual military exercises stop and 2) the US drawdown its 28K personnel in the ROK as they will no longer be needed. This is in line with how Kim and the DPRK understands denuclearization, which always means getting the US off the peninsula, not that the DPRK necessarily gives up its nuclear weapons program, or, now, the fruits of its program.

I also think that aside from the meeting between Kim and the President, the US is now superfluous to the reality on the ground. And that Kim is manipulating the President into a diplomatic and strategic trap where Kim and the DPRK looks like the good guys here and the President, and by extension the US, look unreasonable and become the bad guys. This would also make Xi and the PRC, as well as Putin – another Kim patron – very, very happy.

Part of the problem is I don’t think the President or anyone on his team really seem to understand where President Moon is coming from. Moon is from the center-left/left of center party in the ROK that seeks an opening with the DPRK. His parents were also refugees from the DPRK to the ROK, so reaching a rapprochement that allows for families to be reunited is very important for him.

Moon clearly wants to reach a new normal on the Korean Peninsula. Kim, in the DPRK, wants what he’s always wanted:

  • the removal of the US, specifically of the US military, from the peninsula
  • the reunification of the peninsula
  • under Kim family control
  • preservation of the Kim family regime

When you hear or read Kim or other DPRK officials calling for denuclearization, part of what they mean is for the US to remove the nuclear umbrella that it provides to Japan and the ROK, if not the removal of the US military from the Korean Peninsula. Not giving up the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent. Sue Mi Terry, formerly a senior Korea analyst at the CIA, provides an explanation of what denuclearization means to Kim:

She said it’s significant that Kim spoke not of removing nuclear weapons from North Korea, but rather of the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” as a whole. That formulation by the Kim government is “not new,” Terry told me, and has been accompanied in the past with demands for measures to preserve the regime’s security such as the signing of a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea, and the end of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, which in turn would terminate the protection the United States extends to South Korea through its nuclear weapons. Hence, talk of a nuclear-free peninsula despite the fact that South Korea doesn’t have nuclear weapons. (In this respect, Kim was right to assert that he was simply echoing the policies of his father, who was also quoted by Chinese media as committing to the denuclearization of the peninsula even as he persisted in developing the nation’s nuclear-weapons arsenal.)

What Kim is talking about is not what the President or anyone on his team is talking about when they talk about denuclearization. Before US-DPRK negotiations have ever begun we have a fundamental mismatch of what the key term means. This will make negotiating more difficult if there is no agreement to what the key terms mean and key issues actually are. There is little doubt that President Moon knows exactly what Kim means when he talks about denuclearization. Moreover, President Moon is no doubt very clear about the President not wanting to keep US military personnel in the ROK. The President, per his longstanding belief dating back to 1987, sees this as a waste of money and another example of America’s allies and partners taking advantage of it and playing the US for suckers.

As NBC reported yesterday:

In one heated exchange between the two men before February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, Kelly strongly — and successfully — dissuaded Trump from ordering the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, according to two officials.

That the President wants the US troops out, as the “or else” portion of the Trump Doctrine, because he doesn’t believe the US is being treated fairly by the ROK in terms of trade, is not exactly a state secret.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to threaten to withdraw US troops from South Korea if he can’t get a better trade deal with Seoul.

In a fundraising speech in Missouri, Trump told donors South Korea had become rich but that American politicians never negotiated better deals, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed to CNN by an attendee.

“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” Trump said. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military.”

“We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens,” Trump said.

The President went on to argue, “Our allies care about themselves. They don’t care about us.”

On Friday, South Korean Finance Minister, Kim Dong-yeon, appeared to hit back at Trump’s remarks.

“We don’t think it’s ideal to link an economic issue with such an issue [the withdrawal of US troops],” said Kim, while speaking on South Korean TBS radio.

“The South Korean government, with national interest of South Korea as priority, will consider striking a balance in the national economy and among multiple industries,” said Kim.

“We have many issues to take into consideration dealing with the United States as well.”

As the ROK’s finance minister’s response indicates, the South Koreans know exactly where they stand with the President. So it should not be surprising that President Moon is going to pursue the ROK’s interests and get the best deal he can get with Kim if there is a deal to be had regardless of what happens between the DPRK and the US. Moon has essentially recognized that there are two separate, though somewhat related, diplomatic tracks going on. The first he controls and is bilaterally between the ROK and the DPRK. The second involves the US, is sort of multilateral and at the same time sort of bilateral, and may or may not be anything more than a show.

From the perspective of the DPRK’s Kim, he’s already gotten what he wants from the US: agreement to the meeting. This elevates Kim and the DPRK from pariah status to worthy of direct negotiations with the US and the President. While the President and his team don’t seem to realize this, or if they do, acknowledge it publicly, this is a key concession from the US to the DPRK. And it was provided without Kim having to do much of anything.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.








The Trump Doctrine and Syria: “I, And By Extension The US, Will Be Treated Fairly Or Else” Runs Into The Ambiguity Of A Wicked National Security Problem

The President appears to have decided that the US needs to leave Syria as soon as possible. This decision caught his national security and foreign policy team flatfooted. It really isn’t a change in US policy as I’m not sure anyone could actually articulate this administration’s policy in regard to Syria. When the President gave his campaign speech on foreign and national security policy in 2016, I wrote that he had articulated the Trump Doctrine, which is: “America will be treated fairly or else…”.

The President’s meandering remarks in his April 2016 speech touched on a number of his long standing national security and foreign policy beliefs: America’s allies are taking advantage of our treaty and other obligations in the national security space; America’s allies and peer competitors are ripping the US off through our trade agreements; the US should go it alone if it can’t renegotiate better deals; and only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly – or else. That only a President Trump could guarantee that the US would be treated fairly, whether in national security arrangements or global trade, was simply an extension of one of the major, if not the major theme of his campaign: Donald Trump would be treated fairly or else and only Donald Trump could guarantee that Americans, especially the forgotten men and women as he phrased it, would be treated fairly or else.

That the US will be treated fairly or else, and that only a President Trump could guarantee that happening became the central, unifying them of his national security and foreign policy approach was actually a stroke of strategic communication genius. A significant amount of the President’s initial strategic communication approach was through tying his primary opponents, the Republican National Committee, and the broadcast and cable news networks in knots about treating him fairly. This included trying to get Megyn Kelly removed from debate moderation after he felt she treated him badly, as well as actually dropping out of a GOP primary debate on Fox News and holding a competing charity event for veterans because he did not like that Fox wouldn’t comply with his demands. And if they failed to do so he’d deal with them harshly. Then candidate Trump threatened his fellow primary opponents and the RNC by making it clear that if he didn’t feel he was being treated fairly by them, then the or else would be his running as an independent candidate, thereby splitting the Republican vote for president, and handing the election to the then presumed Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton.

By making this the dominant theme of his national security and foreign policy approach, he was able to make a singular through line for his campaign – “I, Donald Trump, will be treated fairly or else by the GOP, the RNC, and the news media; only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that you the forgotten men and women of America are treated fairly in regards to both domestic politics and foreign policy; and only I, Donald Trump, can guarantee that the US will be treated fairly or else there will be serious and severe repercussions for the GOP, the RNC, the news media, elected and appointed officials, and America’s allies, partners, and peer competitors”. Here was the simple through line to connect Make America Great Again both domestically and internationally by placing America first. It is also the essence of the real Trump Doctrine: President Trump and by extension the forgotten men and women of America, as well as America itself, will be treated fairly or else.

The President, and his preferences as enumerated in the Trump Doctrine, are now in conflict with the reality of the wicked problem that is the Syrian Civil War and the US led coalition fight against ISIS.

The Washington Post reports that:

Trump’s words, both in public and private, describe a view that wars should be brutal and swift, waged with overwhelming firepower and, in some cases, with little regard for civilian casualties. Victory over America’s enemies for the president is often a matter of bombing “the s— out of them,” as he said on the campaign trail.

For America’s generals, more than 17 years of combat have served as a lesson in the limits of overwhelming force to end wars fueled by sectarian feuds, unreliable allies and persistent government corruption. “Victory is sort [of] an elusive concept in that part of the world,” said Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who led troops over five tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. “Anyone who goes in and tries to achieve a decisive victory is going to come away disappointed.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis echoed that point in late November when he outlined an expanded role for U.S. forces in preventing the return of the Islamic State or a group like it in Syria. “You need to do something about this mess now,” he told reporters. “Not just, you know, fight the military part of it and then say, ‘Good luck on the rest of it.’ ”

His remarks reflected a broader Pentagon consensus: In the absence of a clear outcome, winning for much of the U.S. military’s top brass has come to be synonymous with staying put. These days, senior officers talk about “infinite war.”

“It’s not losing,” explained Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes in a speech earlier this year. “It’s staying in the game and . . . pursuing your objectives.”

The Army recently rewrote its primary warfighting doctrine to account for the long stretch of fighting without victory since 9/11. “The win was too absolute,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy of the old document. “We concluded winning is more of a continuum.”

LTG Lundy is the Commanding General of the US Army Combined Arms Center (CAC) at FT Leavenworth. As the CAC Commander he oversees doctrine for the US Army. Unfortunately US Army doctrine is pretty silent on what winning or victory means. So is joint doctrine. I spent all morning going through the DOD Dictionary, Joint Publication 3-0/Joint Operations, TRADOC Pamphlet (PAM) 525-3-6/The US Army Functional Concept for Movement and Maneuver, TRADOC Pamphlet (PAM) 525-3-1/The US Army Operational Concept: Win in a Complex World, and the 2015 National Military Strategy in an attempt to find a definition of win, winning, and/or victory. The only two documents that included a definition, or something close, where in the endnotes of PAM 525-3-1/The US Army Operational Concept: Win in a Complex World and in the body of the previous administration’s National Military Strategy.

PAM 525-3-1 defines win in endnote 2 as:

The dictionary defines “win” as: to be successful or victorious in (a contest or conflict). Winning in this concept is meeting the policy objectives of the Commander in Chief. It refers to more than simply defeating threat forces; it means meeting national goals and objectives that are unique for each operation. The joint commander must define success for each operation (or campaign) based upon the national goals and objectives, which may change, based on conditions during the operation

The 2015 National Military Strategy defines win as:

We are prepared to project power across all domains to stop aggression and win our Nation’s wars by decisively defeating adversaries.

The President’s senior military and national security advisors don’t have much to work with in trying to help the President, or any president, define successful termination of hostilities, especially for the ambiguous low intensity, irregular, asymmetric, and unconventional wars that the US has been involved in over the past seventeen years or so. We’re not talking about an interstate war, with two or more state combatants fighting in identifiable uniforms, where victory is achieved when one side in the conflict has either been rendered incapable of continuing to fight or has made the decision that it cannot endure any more pain as a result of a continuation of hostilities. Whether the US and its allies ever participate in that type of war again is an interesting question that is discussed in military and civilian classrooms, as well as in other forums, but it is not the reality we are in and expect to be in any time soon.

This ambiguity regarding what successful combat operations, let alone victory, looks like in the early 21st Century Operating Environment (OE), and the US military’s acceptance of it, is running head first into the President’s preferences, specifically the Trump Doctrine. The President has made it clear he wants the US out as soon as we finish reducing ISIS’s physical foot print. And he wants the Saudis and the Gulf states to pay for reconstruction and reconciliation efforts in the US led Coalition liberated areas within Syria.

Unfortunately, ISIS’s actual center of gravity isn’t the amount of physical terrain it holds. Rather, it is its extreme theology and doctrine of tawheed – the radical unity of the Deity. The US, its coalition partners and allies, including the Syrian Kurdish militias we are training, equipping, and assisting in our by, with, and through strategy against ISIS, aren’t really fighting for terrain. Or to kill or capture as many ISIS fighters and officials and supporters as possible. What they are really fighting is ISIS’s theology and doctrine. This is the strategic target. Trying to decisively measure success in combatting the spread and acceptance of ideas is very, very difficult. As is killing them. It is very hard to stop the signal. This creates a very unpleasant reality: the inability to create actual strategic measures of effectiveness in the fight against ISIS, which is really the fight against ISIS’s doctrine.

Finally, simply taking our personnel and equipment and going home once the physical caliphate has been reduced is only going to help reset the conditions for either ISIS to make a comeback or for something new and likely equally dangerous to rise from its ashes. Defeating ISIS means defeating the conditions that led to its creation – the economic despair, the social inequality, the despotic rule of the Assads, the sectarian divisions – which can only be done through reconciliation and reconstruction. There isn’t a lot of room in here for the US to be treated well in exchange for doing this. It is largely thankless. It is not a mission to achieve decisive victory on the battlefield. These operations are much more similar to the Marshall Plan, which is how we secured the peace in Europe after World War II. It is a longer term, ambiguous mission to work by, with, and through our local partners to manage and mitigate significant social, political, economic, and religious problems and disputes in an attempt to prevent ISIS’s reemergence or the emergence of something even worse. Failure to do so will simply see the US and its Coalition allies and partners back in the Levant once again conducting kinetic operations as refugees stream out of a region that becomes more unstable leading to more loss of life on all sides. The US’s actions in Iraq from 2003 through 2011 helped to set the conditions for the rise of ISIS. Taking responsibility for that reality and working by, with, and through our local partners in Syria and Iraq to manage and mitigate it is a moral responsibility. It is not, however, a matter of being treated fairly or an opportunity for turning a profit.

Open thread.








The Devolution Of A Superpower & The End Of The American Century Part II: Levantine Edition

Earlier today MSNBC’s Ali Velshi interviewed Ronen Bergman, the Senior National Security Correspondent for Yedioth Ahronot. Bergman book on Israel’s assassination program has just been published, but the interview never actually got to the book. Rather, it was all about the Israeli Vs Syrian and Iranian fighting over the weekend. The discussion was illuminating, alarming, and discouraging (click across to see the video as it won’t embed).

Bergman is reporting that Israel was preparing a full scale operation against the Syrian military, the Iranian Quds Force, and Hezbullah on Saturday in response to the drone incursion and the downing of the IAF F-16I. The operation was called off when Prime Minister Netanyahu got an angry phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin telling him to stand down as this operation would put Russian military assets and personnel in Syria at risk. Bergman’s conclusion is that the US has now ceded its role in the Middle East to Russia. And that Putin may not have the region’s well being, let alone stability in mind, as he pursues his own agenda. Bergman also reported that when the Israelis went to the US and asked for them to get involved the American responses were a combination of less than reassuring to non responsive. As a result the Israelis, specifically Netanyahu, have concluded that the US is now disinterested and not willing to be engaged at the national and regional strategic level. Therefore the Israelis will make their own determinations about what to do, when to do it, and how to do it without concern for what the US may or may not want.

Bergman’s reporting should be shocking. And not just to national security and foreign policy hawks. There is a legitimate discussion to be had about the US’s role in the world, or in specific regions of it, and how better to balance other states involvement in the 21st Century global system. Essentially a long overdue discussion about what the global system should be, how it should be organized, who should guarantee a basic level of security within it, and who should be the rule maker or rule makers, as the post World War II and post Cold War international orders break down and need to be replaced. These discussions require intelligence, forethought and foresight, nuance, reason, the ability to negotiate in good faith and communicate across cultures to balance competing interests. From long established powers like the US to emerging powers like China to smaller, but regionally significant powers.

What Bergman describes as happening in the Middle East, as well as in other parts of the world, is not this. Rather it is simply an abandonment, a discarding with little to no thought, let alone apparent planning, for what comes next. This is not a recipe for success. It is a recipe for failure. It is a recipe for upheaval, discord, and ultimately more war, more death, and more destruction. It is both the devolution and the dissolution of a superpower as that superpower, the US, abrogates and abandons the responsibilities it has assumed over the past 70 years and the end of the American Century. This is not the result of being eclipsed by the next, rising hegemon. It is not the result of natural disaster or economic collapse. It is solely the result of a President that has no clear strategy or policy beyond “I will be treated fairly or else”. This is the true Trump Doctrine: I will be treated fairly or else. And only I, President Trump, can ensure that America will be treated fairly or else. Unfortunately for the US, for its allies, its partners, for the people that depend on it, Russia, China, Iran, the DPRK, and a whole host of other state and non-state actors don’t really care if the President or the US is treated fairly. And increasingly they don’t seem to be worrying too much about the or else.

Open thread.








The American Century Ends After 72 Years

Throughout the 17th century and the 18th century and the 19th century, this continent teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Above them all and weaving them all together into the most exciting flag of all the world and of all history was the triumphal purpose of freedom. It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.

Henry R. Luce

Back in January I wrote about how two events – Japan agreeing  to talks with China to proceed on a post Trans-Pacific Partnership Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestine Authority asking Putin to intercede with the US – showed a devolution of the US from superpower and hegemon to, potentially, client state. The events of the past week at the NATO and G-7 Summits clearly demonstrate this diminution of the US and its power. Today, speaking in a Bavarian beer hall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated:

The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days.

We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.

If this was part of a well thought through and developed strategy to shift some responsibilities to America’s allies and partners, to better distribute the work that needs to be done to maintain and improve the global system – including to defend it, then Merkel’s remarks would not be so alarming. However, it is pretty clear from the Administration’s own remarks about the trip that this is not the case. They think everything went swimmingly!

The President has had a long standing animosity towards America’s allies and partners, believing since 1987 they have been taking advantage of the US, we now know where some of his animosity towards the EU comes from. The length of time it takes to navigate EU rules and regulations to get approval to build a golf course. The fallout from last week’s NATO and G-7 summits are going to be with us for some time to come. While the President and his senior advisors, such as the neo-nationalist and nativist Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the latter of whom allegedly wrote the NATO speech, may have believed they could crack the EU apart and knuckle NATO, the failure of neo-nationalist candidates in Holland, France, and Austria have pretty much killed that plan. While Merkel still faces reelection later this year, the neo-nationalist, pro-Putin tide that they envisioned washing over Europe appears to have failed. And as a result the US cannot, no matter what the President and his nativist advisors may want, negotiate separate trade agreements with each EU member state and defense agreements with each NATO ally. Rather the US is stuck unless it decides to abrogate those agreements and become almost completely isolationist.

The reality that the NATO and EU member state leadership have now observed up close and personal has disabused them of the belief that the President was transactional. That if they gave him takeaways that he could claim as wins and stroked his ego then he would do what every US president since Truman has done: formally and publicly commit to Article 5 of the NATO charter. No amount of sweet talk or easy wins will move him off what appears to be one of his few well defined and long held core beliefs. That America’s allies and partners seek only to take advantage of the US. This will make whatever the US wants to do in the world going forward more expensive. We will begin to see less assistance from our NATO allies and partners. And we will have to pay more, as in purchase, for assistance from other allies and partners going forward. Trade, defense, and anything else the US will seek to do within the global system will now come with a premium surcharge attached. Just think of it as the price that must be paid to make America great again…