Dangerous business

Donald Trump has always prided himself on his covert ways when he conducts foreign policy. But when it comes to Russia and North Korea, it borders on simple duplicity. Saying one thing in the presence of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un and doing the opposite. And the irony is at least the way Trump conceives of it, he is being clever.

In fact, he is behaving in a dangerous manner, giving his adversaries the wrong impression, that he wants improvement of relations when, in fact, he wants to crush those he regards as foes. Meanwhile, his too crafty by half foreign policy team pursues opposite policies of those Trump has espoused. It is the H.R. McMaster–Rex Tillerson show all over again. Proposing no real changes but allowing Trump to leave an impression with Putin and Kim that he really is very different from past U.S. administrations. This not only increases Russian and North Korean contempt, but heightens their fears.

Simply put, what Trump does is confirm the belief that he cannot be trusted. So clever he thinks himself, he is convinced he can pull anything over on anyone. Moreover, his advisors push the worst kind of retread policies. At first Putin probably didn’t think that Trump was eager to reassess relations, but unless he is dumber than few think he is, he fully regards the American president as a feckless operator.

Mike Pompeo clearly desires a war with Iran, an escalation in Syria, NATO membership in Ukraine and endless conflict with any bloc of humans who do not want to live under American domination. As for John Bolton, his approach to foreign policy is dated and is as belligerent as Pompeo. These are not moderates and neither is James Mattis. Either Trump is a captive president or a fool, it is immaterial to other governments, he speaks for the United States.

Indeed, since Helsinki, Trump has been twice as belligerent toward those governments he feigned friendship for. If he did not want to meet Putin, he simply should have eschewed the meeting. But he promised something and then pulled back something he really did not have to give in the first place. But the word is most assumedly out that Trump’s word cannot be trusted at any time. What’s worse, these erratic signals could force a crisis that could realign the power grid of world affairs.

Take his irrational application of tariffs on Russia. If he wanted to do that, don’t leave Putin with the impression that he wanted to make nice. What he has done is the personal version of the reset button, nothing more, nothing less. He is essentially perusing a more militant version of Hillary Clinton’s policy. Add on the very risky policy toward Turkey and you are potentially hastening a diplomatic and financial crisis. The battering of the Turkish lira has implications far beyond America’s cozy financial system.

With advisors that seem pleased to place Trump in handcuffs, he seems irrelevant. But he is also president and that leaves him in the leading role whether he likes the situation or not.

It is time that the president run his own foreign policy.