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Rediscovering the Art of Diplomacy with Vladimir Putin

July 10, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

The United States has enjoyed many advantages over the decades
because of its superpower status. As the principal architect of the
post-World War II liberal international order, Washington has
secured disproportionate security and economic benefits for itself.
America’s overwhelming military capabilities have magnified
that clout in global affairs. Allies and adversaries alike might
grumble at Washington’s preeminence, but they have been
prudent enough to avoid direct challenges whenever possible. Even
the Soviet Union confined itself (with the notable exception of the
Cuban Missile Crisis) to probes in marginal, mostly Third World,
arenas.

However, Washington’s dominant position has also led to
some foreign policy bad habits. Because U.S. leaders have not had
to deal with serious peer competitors in a long time, they appear
to have lost the art of skillful, nuanced diplomacy. Even before
the arrival of the Trump administration, U.S. policy exhibited a
growing arrogance and lack of realism about diplomatic objectives.
The upcoming summit between President Donald Trump and
Russia’s Vladimir Putin affords an opportunity to relearn the
requirements of effective diplomacy. If handled poorly, though, it
will underscore the adverse consequences of Washington’s
rigid approach to world affairs.

Too many American politicians, pundits, and foreign policy
operatives seem to believe that when dealing with an adversary,
diplomacy should consist of issuing a laundry list of demands,
including manifestly unrealistic ones, without offering even a hint
of meaningful concessions. Critics of Trump’s summit with
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un epitomized that attitude. Some of
them excoriated the president just for his willingness to accord
Kim implicit equal status by approving a bilateral meeting. House
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi groused that President Trump “elevated
North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the
regime’s status quo.”

Others grudgingly conceded that the summit theoretically might
have been an appropriate move, but argued that Washington should
have demanded major substantive and irreversible North Korean steps
toward denuclearization in exchange for such a prestigious meeting.
In other words, they wanted North Korea’s capitulation on the
central issue before Trump even agreed to a summit. Critics were
furious that such a capitulation was not at least enshrined in the
joint statement emerging from the meeting. And if that hardline
stance was not enough, they insisted that Trump should have made
North Korea’s human rights record a feature of the
negotiations. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne
asserted that “our wrongful indifference
to human rights in the past should not be used as an excuse to
justify apologias for dictatorships in our time.”

The lack of realism such positions exhibit is breathtaking. If
the hardliners had prevailed, no summit would have taken place.
Their demands were …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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