As the North Korean deal crumbles, Donald Trump's foreign policy looks worse than ever

After getting hosed by Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Trump does Putin's bidding ahead of their Helsinki summit

By Heather Digby Parton


Published July 2, 2018 8:20AM (EDT)

Donald Trump, John Bolton (Getty/Mark Wilson)
Donald Trump, John Bolton (Getty/Mark Wilson)

Upon returning from his summit meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, President Trump triumphantly told the world:

He was very excited about his "agreement" and couldn't stop praising Kim for weeks afterward, apparently convinced by his braying sycophants that he was a shoo-in for the Nobel Peace Prize. It was obvious that he had offered up the cancellation of American military exercises without consulting anyone (which we later found out was on the advice of Vladimir Putin) and had gotten nothing but vague, empty promises in return.

But I think even the most cynical among us assumed Trump had probably bought some time with his pomp and pageantry, if nothing else. Surely, there would at least be a short pause, with North Korea giving some space to the South Koreans and the Chinese to ratchet down the tension and give the real negotiators a chance to put together some kind of agreement more in line with those that had been done in the past.

But it appears that Kim sized up Trump as an inexperienced and uninformed buffoon who would allow him to carry on his nuclear program and simply tell the public that it wasn't happening rather than admit that his "deal" was a sham. (He didn't actually have to meet him to know that: After all, Trump is one of the only people in history who went bankrupt running casinos.) And that is exactly what's happening.

I mentioned last week that satellite analysis showed the North Koreans were building up their nuclear research facility. But that's not all. The Wall Street journal reported this on Sunday:

North Korea is completing a major expansion of a key missile-manufacturing plant, said researchers who have examined new satellite imagery of the site, the latest sign Pyongyang is pushing ahead with weapons programs even as the U.S. pressures it to abandon them.

The facility makes solid-fuel ballistic missiles — which would be able to strike U.S. military installations in Asia with a nuclear weapon with little warning — as well as re-entry vehicles for warheads that Pyongyang might use on longer-range missiles able to hit the continental U.S.

NBC reported last week that more than a dozen intelligence sources confirmed to them that "North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration." They see "a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration — while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival." Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported that Kim has asked Chinese President Xi Jinping for early relief of sanctions, and Xi told him he would make the “utmost effort” to help out.

It's all working out quite well for North Korea. Sanctions are being relaxed, the U.S. is pulling back militarily and the regime is continuing to build up its nuclear arsenal. Kim must have read "The Art of the Deal" before the summit.

In an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, Trump reassured his followers for the hundredth time that he had great "chemistry" with Kim and said, "I made a deal with him. I shook hands with him. I really believe he means it." He finally shrugged, reluctantly admitting that it "may not work out," as if it were a development deal for some hotel in Miami Beach rather than the possible annihilation of millions of people.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to be feeding Trump's delusional thinking by saying things like, "[Kim] made a personal commitment. His reputation is on the line in the same way that we are, that says we're going to create a brighter future for North Korea and denuclearize as quickly as we can achieve that." That sounds suspiciously like the neocon fever dreams that led to the Iraq war, but perhaps in this case, it's the only thing keeping Trump from doing something truly crazy.

The Bartiromo interview also featured more of Trump's Euro-bashing, which seems to be ratcheting up in advance of the upcoming NATO meeting and his summit with Putin in Helsinki.

Trump told Bartiromo that he didn't want to single out China on trade, which was surprising to say the least. He also reiterated how much he likes Xi personally, noting that he's "president for life, you can call him the king, right?" Which clearly sounds great to him.

As for the big Putin summit, Trump tweeted last week that Russia continues to insist it had nothing to do with any interference in the 2016 election. But apparently he will grudgingly bring it up again:

It was National Security Adviser John Bolton who made real news about the Helsinki summit on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, when he confirmed that Trump is seriously thinking of recognizing Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. He did this in an especially weird way:

That's not something you hear someone in Bolton's position say every day. The above-referenced exchange about Putin seems equally odd. Perhaps there is trouble brewing again in Trump's national security team?

The upshot of this interview was that Trump is planning on rewarding Putin's interference in 2016, and potentially in the 2018 midterms as well, by starting a trade war with Europe, degrading the NATO alliance and deciding to let bygones be bygones when it comes to the incursion into Crimea.

No word on what Trump might ask for from the Russian leader in return. If it's anything like the North Korea deal, since Putin and Trump have such "chemistry," we can assume it will be nothing.

Bolton told "Fox News Sunday" that people shouldn't "have a case of the vapors over discussions we have in NATO or the G7 versus discussions we have with Putin or Kim Jong Un," because they're "very different." Actually, they're not. Trump responds positively to flattery from anyone but gives away the store to strongmen and treats allies like dirt.

Bolton is proving to be just as much over his head as Trump is.

Oh, and by the way, Axios reported on Sunday night that Trump is also considering a unilateral withdrawal from the World Trade Organization. He's had draft legislation drawn up called the "United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act," which "provides Trump a license to raise U.S. tariffs at will, without congressional consent and international rules be damned."

The acronym for that bill would the U.S. FART Act. What can I say?

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By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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