The reviews are coming in for Donald Trump’s performance in Singapore and they aren’t pretty. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times says Trump was ‘hoodwinked’. Ari Fleischer, the former press spokesman for George W. Bush, says ‘This feels like the Agreed Framework of the 90s all over again. NK gave its word to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. They never intended to keep their word. And then they broke it.’ And Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst now at the Heritage Foundation, says ‘This is very disappointing. Each of the four main points was in previous documents with NK, some in a stronger, more encompassing way. The denuke bullet is weaker than the Six Party Talks language. And no mention of CVID, verification, human rights.’ Trump even folded on conducting planned war games with South Korea, claiming that they are too expensive and provocative: ‘I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games.’ ‘I want to get our soldiers out,’ he said.
What Trump focused on talking with Kim at the summit meeting was apparently the investment opportunities that North Korea represents, including potential beach front properties. He also talked about what a great guy Kim is and the passion that North Koreans feel for him: ‘His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.’
Presumably, Trump, who went into a hugger-mugger over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mild reproof of him on Sunday, seems to feel a kind of innate bond with dictators like Kim. Trump waved away as minor foibles Kim’s Gulag system, insisting that he had no real choice but to take stern measures to ensure his grip on power. Kim, Trump says, may be a ‘rough guy’ but he ‘loves his country.’ Trump, too, would like to own a country outright, boss everyone around, and clap anyone who defies him into prison.
Trump’s performance will only make Russian president Vladimir Putin even more eager to meet him for a summit as soon as possible. Trump may claim that he possesses a mastery of the deal, but it is the world’s despots who are dealing artfully with him. For years national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have postured as hawks on foreign policy. Now they are enabling Trump’s appeasement of Kim. More may be to come. What happened to their plumage? Taiwan, Japan and the Baltic States should beware.
Still, Trump himself acknowledged afterwards that it might not work out, though he trusts Kim for now. Would he shoulder any blame? Not a chance. ‘I don’t know that I’ll ever admit I was wrong,’ he said. ‘I will find some kind of excuse.’ He may have to start looking for one soon.