Trump exposed as unprepared, weak negotiator

On Tuesday, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy released the following statement about President Trump's summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

I think President Trump exposed himself as an unprepared, weak negotiator yesterday, with serious negative consequences for American national security. Many people like me – historic supporters of diplomacy – are hesitant to criticize Trump's foray into nuclear diplomacy because they fear being labeled hypocrites. But Trump is not Obama. North Korea is not Iran. And no one should hold back from continuing to savage the directionless, counterproductive foreign policy of this administration just because diplomacy, done right, is almost always worth supporting.

First, let's consider the context of this historic meeting. Over the weekend, President Trump brutally ruptured relations with America's closest allies – Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. These are the nations that came to our defense after 9/11. These are the countries that we rely on for counter-terrorism cooperation. These are the countries that join us to push back against assaults on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world. But President Trump gave them all the middle finger at the G7 summit, and, increasingly, he's making it clear that if you have a history of friendship and alliance with the United States, you're going to pay a price.

This disastrous treatment of our allies makes the syrupy photo op he just gave the brutal dictator Kim Jong Un so dangerous. I have no quarrel with an American president talking to our enemies. But how and when you talk to your enemies—that matters. Trump's generous treatment of Kim, coming on the heels of his public rejection of our allies, sends a chilling message to those who are thinking about signing up for an alliance with the United States in the future.

Second, the specifics of the agreement are deeply troubling. Kim's commitment on nuclear disarmament is weak—even more watered down than the commitment North Korea made in 2005. It breaks no new ground and is entirely consistent with existing North Korean policy. Kim gave absolutely nothing up; arguably, he backtracked on previous statements regarding nuclear disarmament. Trump didn't give up much either…until he did, at the subsequent press conference. After the meeting with Kim, Trump noted that the U.S. would no longer engage in military exercises with South Korea, a monumental win for Kim, and a major blow to South Korea, signaling a retraction of America's commitment to defend the peninsula south of the border. By giving this concession, there is much less for Trump to offer if there are indeed to be follow up negotiations. This blunder shows how unlikely Trump is to ultimately achieve an agreement that is good for American national security.

And if that ultimate agreement is unlikely, then the gift Trump just gave Kim – a legitimizing photo op that will solidify his evil regime back home – simply isn't worth it. It's not even close. It tells the world that democratic allies get treated like crap, and dictatorial regimes get put on a pedestal without any meaningful sign of reform. It tells Kim that he can gain much from this American President without giving up anything. And it creates the impression that as long as you give Trump a good visual, the substance just doesn't matter.

As Churchill said, ‘To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war,’ but the context and the terms of this jaw-jaw likely just made America a whole lot less safe.

Sen. Chris Murphy is a Democrat and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

 

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