President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn., May 29, 2018 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

There’s little reason to believe that U.S. President Donald Trump will successfully achieve his foreign policy objectives. But as a thought experiment and for the sake of argument, what would America and the world look like if he did? Trump’s “America First” agenda is predicated on a number of notions, explicit and implicit, regarding how to promote strength at home and abroad. First, the U.S. should maintain balanced accounts, and where possible net surpluses, in its trade relationships. Second, America’s alliances and security partnerships should be as close to cost-neutral as possible. Third, the U.S. should not shrink from leveraging […]

A rally supporting U.S. policy of putting pressure on North Korea, Seoul, South Korea, May 18, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

SEOUL—Without knowing how many plot twists are left in U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to engage with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it’s hard to know if the play will end up being a tragedy, a comedy or a satirical farce. The audacity of Trump’s belief that he can transform the Korean Peninsula into a denuclearized zone of peace in mere weeks is matched by his inability or unwillingness to master the historical issues and complex constraints that have so far kept the parties from achieving the breakthrough he seeks. One of the reasons the plot keeps changing is […]

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at the 9th China Business Conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, May 1, 2018 (AP photo by Cliff Owen).

It’s déjà vu all over again. Where’s the beef? And speak loudly, but forget the stick. Those were among the clichés that came to mind during the Trump administration’s China trade policy gyrations over the past few weeks. Almost exactly a year after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the results of a “herculean” effort to get a deal with China to boost U.S. exports of energy and agricultural goods, and six months after Ross announced another set of deals purportedly worth $250 billion in increased American exports of natural gas, soybeans, beef and pork, the White House released a joint […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei listens during a meeting with members of the Iranian government, Tehran, May 23, 2018 (Sipa photo via AP).

Two weeks after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined the parameters of the “new Iran strategy” that he believes would lead to a “better deal” with Iran. It is a laundry list of 12 demands Iran must meet if it is to avoid getting hit by what Pompeo called the “strongest sanctions in history.” But Iran won’t accept these sweeping demands. Would it actually return to the negotiating table? And how could this new strategy shape Iran’s domestic politics? The Trump administration’s move is a huge gamble […]

A military parade is held to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army at the Zhurihe training base, Xilingol, China, July 30, 2017 (TopPhoto photo via AP).

Say you had just awoken from a long slumber and glanced at today’s headlines. You would conclude, no doubt, that Iran and North Korea are America’s greatest security threats. The attention those admittedly malign nations receive from the Trump administration surpasses all other adversaries or potential adversaries. In reality, though, Iran and North Korea are second-tier challenges, unlikely to strike directly at vital U.S. national interests. Russia is more worrisome, given its recent and continuing political meddling against the United States and President Donald Trump’s perplexing lack of concern with its attacks on American elections. Ultimately, though, Russia is devious […]

Argentine President Mauricio Macri and his wife, Juliana Adawa, arrive for the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 6, 2017 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

Presiding over the Group of 20 seemed like a good idea back in 2016, when Argentina outmaneuvered India for this year’s presidency. The rotating leadership gig was supposed to showcase Argentina’s political and economic transformation after years of international isolation and scandal at home, and offer a chance at global leadership. Instead, largely as a result of jolting policy changes in the United States under President Donald Trump, Argentine President Mauricio Macri landed a burdensome assignment. So far, the G-20 warm-up meetings ahead of the November Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires have not rocked the influential forum, whose members represent […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country’s military, Pyongyang, North Korea, Feb. 8, 2018 (Korean Central News Agency photo via AP).

For many years, North Korea’s relationship with the outside world has endlessly cycled between belligerence and crisis, always backed by an endless chorus of hysterical hostility. Recently, though, things seemed to be heading in a very different direction. Since late March, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held two cordial meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. And during a landmark April summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Kim promised to work toward an official end to the Korean War and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The next big step for Kim was a planned June meeting with […]

Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, the Iranian minister of oil, waits on Germany’s then-Minister of Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel at his office in Tehran, Iran, October 3, 2016 (dpa photo by Bernd von Jutrczenka via AP).

Last week, President Donald Trump announced the United States would be reimposing unilateral sanctions against Iran that had been suspended as part of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. At the heart of the U.S. sanctions are measures targeting Iran’s oil and gas sector, including any non-Iranian corporations that do business with Iran. In an email interview, Thijs Van de Graaf, an assistant professor of international politics at Ghent University in Belgium, discusses the evolution of Iran’s oil and gas sector since the JCPOA, and the implications of the reimposition […]

Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, May 14, 2018 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

Iraqis went to the polls last weekend in an election that was closely watched by outside powers, especially Iran and the United States. Both Tehran and Washington had hoped voters would solidify their own respective plans for Iraq by choosing their preferred candidates to lead the next government in Baghdad. The results came as a shock. It’s early in the government-forming process and surprises could still occur. But the election alone suggests the biggest geopolitical loser from Iraq’s latest democratic exercise was neighboring Iran. That doesn’t mean, however, that the U.S. found much to celebrate in the results. The top […]

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before meeting with the British, French and German foreign ministers, Brussels, May 15, 2018 (AP photo by Thierry Monasse).

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Last week, in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel solemnly declared that from now on Europe would have to take its destiny in its own hands. It’s hard to disagree with Merkel. But that was already true the first time she expressed the sentiment in May 2017, in the aftermath of Trump’s first visit to Europe as president. In the meantime, Europe has not done anything to fundamentally address the challenge of managing trans-Atlantic relations under Trump. As a result, […]

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the CIA, is sworn in during the confirmation hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, Washington, May 9, 2018 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

In all likelihood, Gina Haspel will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is also likely that she will perform her duties competently and will be respected by the CIA’s workforce and the larger national security community. Nonetheless, her nomination and her record on torture, which was addressed during her confirmation hearing last week, will linger in the minds of those who worry about the direction of U.S. national security under the Trump administration. Haspel’s long career in intelligence, along with her experience and reputation as a team player […]

Iranian women attend an anti-U.S. gathering after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, May 11, 2018 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

The United States has found a new way to hurt the United Nations Security Council: Ignore it. Last week, I predicted that U.S. President Donald Trump was about to pull out of the Iranian nuclear bargain, setting the stage for a showdown in the council. This was half right. Trump quit the deal Tuesday. But his national security adviser, John Bolton, signaled that the U.S. does not plan to return to the U.N. to reimpose multilateral sanctions on Tehran. Instead, Washington will rely on unilateral secondary sanctions, which can cut non-American companies out of the U.S. market if they continue […]

Iranian lawmakers burn pieces of paper representing the American flag and the nuclear deal as they chant slogans against the U.S., Tehran, Iran, May 9, 2018 (AP photo).

On Tuesday, from the Diplomatic Room of the White House, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, which waived multinational sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict controls on Tehran’s nuclear program. Listing a litany of destabilizing actions by the Iranian regime, including sponsorship of terrorism, support to armed proxies, the development of ballistic missiles and “plundering the wealth of its own people,” Trump declared that no action is “more dangerous” than Iran’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons—and the means of delivering them.” The […]

A Chinese Wing Loong 2 reconnaissance and combat drone on display at the Dubai Airshow, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 12, 2017 (Sputnik photo by Sergey Mamontov via AP).

In another move meant to break with his predecessor, President Donald Trump last month announced new export policies for U.S. drones. In presenting Trump’s policy shift, Peter Navarro, assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy, said it “will level the playing field by enabling U.S. firms to increase their direct sales to authorized allies and partners.” The media reaction was hyperbolic, with one outlet asking whether the policy now meant Trump could “sell deadly drones to dictators,” and another stating in its headline that “Trump offers deadly U.S. drones to more countries.” But does the move simply harken […]

President Xi Jinping arrives for a plenary session of China's National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, March 13, 2018 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Forty years after China embarked on the economic reforms that have helped transform it from an isolated and impoverished communist outpost into an increasingly confident and capable global power, a growing number of observers in the United States have, understandably, concluded that Washington adopted the wrong strategy toward Beijing. Their judgment is largely rooted in two propositions. First, the United States was mistaken to assume, or hope, that China would become more democratic as its economy grew. Second, by persisting with efforts to integrate China into the postwar international order, the United States ultimately enabled the rise of a country […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have lunch with U.S. and South Korean troops at Camp Humphreys, Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Nov. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

It is a bedrock for both countries, so why does the 65-year-old security alliance between South Korea and the United States look shakier today than it has been at any time since its inception? Codified in a 1953 treaty after the armistice that froze the Korean War, the alliance helped South Korea preserve its independence and transform itself from one of the world’s most underdeveloped nations to an economic powerhouse and robust democracy, while signaling America’s determination to contain communism. But today, amid an unexpected diplomatic thaw between North and South Korea and with an American president dismissive of alliances, […]

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev leads a Cabinet meeting to draw up measures to support sanctioned Russian companies, in the Gorky residence outside Moscow, April 9, 2018 (Sputnik photo by Alexander Astafyev via AP).

At first glance, the U.S. Treasury Department’s April 6 sanctions against 38 Russian individuals and business entities, including oligarchs and senior government officials, would be easy enough to dismiss as the latest reprisal in an escalating geopolitical spat between the United States and Russia. Just a week before, the two countries traded diplomatic expulsions over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom. Sixty diplomats from each nation were declared persona non grata. The U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg and the Russian consulate in Seattle were both shuttered. The tit-for-tat expulsions followed a February indictment by the […]

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