China, Russia, and North Korea are smacking down President Trump’s tough talk

The past four days has seen three foreign policy promises made by President Donald Trump deflate like a dropped soufflé, and in pretty public fashion, no less.

The president spent most of 2018 engaging in some measure of tough-talk against Russia, China, and North Korea. As of now, the promises of having the best relationship with Russia, of wiping out America’s massive trade deficit with China, and of getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear and long-range ballistic missiles all seem pretty far out of reach.

Let’s take a look at the latest developments on three of President Trump’s favorite tough-talking foreign policy issues:


This is the most complicated of the three cases, largely owing to the extent to which President Trump seems thirsty for acceptance from Russian elite, certainly including President Vladimir Putin.

This capitulation peaked during the July summit in Helsinki, which ended with Trump giving a joint press conference with Putin. Before international media, he let Putin walk all over him, never pushing back against the country’s meddling in the 2016 elections that put Trump in office (as pretty much every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded to be the case).

The “extraordinary relationship” President Trump predicted has, thus far, not materialized with Putin, with Russia on Monday canceling Putin’s visit to Washington.

Putin’s spokesperson told Russian media that the two leaders are currently in an “untenable pause” after President Trump canceled a planned bilateral meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina over the weekend.

Trump said he called the meeting off after Russia seized Ukranian ships and their crewmembers last week. This is viewed as a act of aggression as the Ukrainian ships had every right to be in the shared waters.

Of course, it’s hard to ignore that all of this is unfolding just as the investigation into ties between President Trump and Russia in the lead up to the 2016 elections is heating up — and that the optics of a friendly Trump-Putin meeting are far from optimal for the White House.

While Putin has held steady on how he views the U.S., Trump has veered all over the place on Russia, a country where he was apparently still trying to do business (Okay, okay, “lightly looking at doing a building somewhere in Russia“). He has gone back and forth on claiming that he doesn’t know Putin and claiming that he knows him “very well.”

While his Nuclear Posture Review classifies Russia as a military challenge and the president himself has blasted Germany for relying on Russian natural gas for power rather than shelling out for the more expensive American option, Trump has also lavished praise on President Putin and has not pursued available sanctions against companies building the Russian pipeline to Europe.


While the premise of President Trump’s trade war with China are sound (China has engaged in intellectual property theft and other practices that give it a huge advantage over the U.S. in trade), his methods have been largely criticized and have thus far hurt U.S. businesses.

After months of making American farmers and manufacturers deal with the consequences of Chinese tariffs, slapped on U.S. goods in direct response to tariffs imposed on Chinese imports, President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a highly anticipated meeting at the G20 summit — which resulted in a big, fat nothingburger.

Here’s what was agreed upon: Three months of waiting, with the idea being that China will, by then, somehow agree to change to some of its more objectionable practices, such as forced technology transfers (basically, forcing American businesses to surrender technology know-how in order to do business in China).

Experts say there’s little to no chance of this happening, which is why there are no details coming from the meeting from either side (and certainly no joint statement) other than the fact that the U.S. has agreed to wait 90 days before slapping fresh tariffs on Chinese goods.

Still, President Trump started his day on Tuesday with a series of — what else? — tweets on the meeting, casting them in a rather rosy light before giving himself a new nickname: Tariff Man.

His tweets seems to do little to reassure investors: The U.S. stock market plummeted (the Dow by 800 points, S&P by 500) on Tuesday after hopes were dashed that the trade war would end any time soon.

North Korea

Who can even remember the last time the President said anything definitive about his administration’s attempts to negotiate denuclearizing North Korea?

He’s made some claims about talking about North Korea with China and criticized a New York Times piece on undeclared missile bases, but has not appeared to make any progress on the effort.

On his way back from the G20 Summit over the weekend, Trump told reporters that  he and Kim are “getting along very well,” and that they have “a good relationship,” which is a bit of a mystery, given that Pyongyang has been openly furious about the U.S.’s negotiating tactics, which included cancelling a meeting at the last minute in August.

But on Tuesday, National Security Adviser John Bolton admitted that North Korea wasn’t doing what Trump had assumed. Bolton told reporters that Trump would have to hold another summit with Kim because North Korea had not “lived up to the commitments so far.”

The next meeting, he said, might be in January or February of the new year, adding that, “If the North Koreans follow through on their commitments they made in Singapore, President Trump will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.”

But the nature of those commitments is vague, as the remarkably brief two-page agreement released right after the Singapore meeting essentially repeated an earlier agreement between North and South Korea, which was also light on details.

Indeed, the road to success on this one has always been a little murky.

President Trump thought things would go smoothly after the very odd summit he held with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June. He tweeted that Pyongyang no longer posed a threat and seemed very confident that he could tick that box on his foreign policy promises.

But in the months that passed, several reports indicated that North Korea has, in fact, continued to build and strengthen its nuclear capabilities, and simply saying that this isn’t the case, as the president has, will not make those reports go away.

Source: thinkprogress