Jun 24, 2019 - Economy
Expert Voices

Trump team slated for a full week of fraught global diplomacy

President Trump disembarking Air Force One

President Trump disembarking Air Force One. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

Amid ongoing flare-ups between the U.S. and Iran, President Trump and his allies will travel this week to diplomatically engage allies on Middle East peace, North Korea’s nuclear program, U.S.–China trade and more.

Why it matters: The week's meetings present an opportunity for Trump and his team to demonstrate their ability to leverage diplomacy as a tool of American power. He’ll be taking on tough issues this week, and his administration's policies have in many ways amplified the work ahead.

What's happening:

  1. On June 24, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met both Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, and will next head to the United Arab Emirates to further solidify a regional coalition against Iran. National security adviser John Bolton is in Jerusalem to meet Israeli and Russian officials in hopes of recruiting Russian support in containing Iran.
  2. On June 25–26, Jared Kushner will convene his Middle East peace meeting in Bahrain, with attendees from the Gulf states but without either the Israelis or the Palestinians. The plan asks other countries to pay for $50 billion in economic policies that no key players expect to yield a peace agreement. At the moment, the most promising outcome is a loose list of commitments.
  3. On June 28–29, Trump will join the G20 Summit in Japan to discuss the global economy and security issues. The highlight will be Trump’s bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, yet the negotiating teams are still far from a trade deal and that conflict could complicate Chinese cooperation on North Korea.
  4. On June 30, Trump will head to South Korea to meet with President Moon Jae-in, who is largely responsible for recent American diplomacy with North Korea and eager to resuscitate it.

Meanwhile, on June 26–27, Trump’s domestic opponents will have a 2-night national platform to criticize his policies during the Democratic presidential debates.

  • Candidates are likely to highlight Trump’s careening on Iran, where tensions have escalated to the brink of war; catatonic nuclear negotiations with North Korea, where two leader-level summits have secured no firm results; and the unilateral trade war against China, which is straining the U.S. economy.

The bottom line: Trump’s Iran bombing flip-flop last week suggests that he and his team still lack a coherent vision for determining and executing their national security goals. The week ahead will show whether he and his team manage a swing back toward multilateral problem-solving or continue the go-it-alone approach that is increasingly isolating the U.S. from its allies.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

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