Friday, June 8, 2018

“Diplotainment” Crashes in Korea

President Trump’s top of mind acceptance of the North Korean invitation for a summit mostly reflected his view of foreign policy as a form of public relations with substance as an afterthought. His two recent photo ops with European allies demonstrate the media relations strategy.


The two presidents staged a host of buddy pictures, but on trade and Iran, there was no convergence of differences.

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and President Donald Trump
at joint news conference at White House, April 24, 2018 | Reuters


Although the warmth with Merkel was lacking, Trump managed to stage several public relations events. Again, no substance on significant issues.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) shakes hands with  President Donald
Trump at joint press conference at White House, April 27, 2018 | Mandel Ngan/AFP

The impression Trump’s “diplotainment” conveys is his talent at publicity moments and his sway with world media. Unfortunately, the real position between the U.S. and our main European allies is at or near a 70-year low.

The concern for the North Korean negotiations was that the President would declare victory for the photoshoot and a Nobel nomination. The North Korean shift to focus on the substance of nuclear disarmament a couple of weeks ago was a wake-up call for the happy talk that had dominated much of the administration’s early discussions.

North Korea got de facto recognition as a nuclear state and Kim Jong Un created a narrative as a reasonable negotiating partner. Negotiations with a cagey adversary are work. They take careful planning and strategic positioning, not just blustery threats and syrupy praise.

The U.S. has already lost some positioning on sanctions. Time for a reset before the correlations of forces that have favored the U.S. position begin to dissipate even more.

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