Michael KreponFree Fall (cont.)

Lyric of the week:

I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall — Bob Dylan

America’s hard power continues to compensate for grave errors in political judgment, with the result that U.S. expeditionary forces are badly overtaxed. Fred Iklé wrote a thoughtful book on this subject, Every War Must End. Even forever wars must end, and the outcomes will forever diminish those who got us into them.

America has squandered its “unipolar moment.” Its hard power is misdirected and its soft power is greatly diminished. Friends and allies experience a pervasive undercurrent of doubt and worry: How could the country they thought they knew elect Donald Trump? And what does this mean for the future?

The condition of U.S. alliances and strategic partnerships is an important measure of American power; weakened ties are a yardstick of decline. The news on this front is almost entirely bad. Two strategic partnerships — those with Israel and Saudi Arabia — are stronger than before. That’s good news only if you think both countries are pursuing wise policies. Regrettably, they aren’t.

The bad news is that other partnerships are in free fall. America’s power shrinks as bilateral ties atrophy. One evocative example is the resignation of the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States for the sin of telling unvarnished truths. Ambassadors aren’t doing their jobs right if they pull punches in their reports back home. I suppose now they’ll have to phone it in.

How badly have alliance and strategic partnerships atrophied during Trump’s “America First” Presidency? Let us continue to mark some of the ways in this space with verbatim news accounts.

REYKYAVIC — Februrary 15: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday talked up the importance of friends and allies as he visited two European capitals one day after Vice President Pence harshly criticized allies he said are helping Iran evade sanctions.

“No more will we take our friends, our true allies, our partners for granted,” he told reporters… Pompeo stopped in Iceland while returning home from Warsaw, where the United States co-hosted a Middle East peace and security conference that was focused largely on what the administration considers the malign influence of Iran…

Pence stunned the conference Thursday when he singled out Britain, France and Germany for harsh criticism, even though they have traditionally been close U.S. allies. All negotiated and signed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that President Trump pulled out of, and recently launched a special system designed to allow trade with Iran to continue, largely through bartering.

The Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, France, Germany and the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini didn’t attend the conference. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who came to chair a meeting for peace in Yemen left early.  — Washington Post

MUNICH — February 16: An annual security conference where Western allies have long forged united fronts erupted Saturday into a full-scale assault on the Trump administration’s foreign policy… German Chancellor Angela Merkel — habitually cautious about provoking Trump — led the charge, unleashing a stinging, point-by-point takedown of the administration’s tendency to treat its allies as adversaries… Merkel accused the United States of strengthening Iran and Russia with its plans for a speedy military pullout from Syria. She expressed shock that the Trump administration would deem BMWs made in South Carolina a threat to national security. And she lamented that the U.S.-led global order “has collapsed into many tiny parts.” The crowd gave the German chancellor an extended standing ovation — a rare display from the normally button-down Munich Security Conference. — Wasington Post

WASHINGTON — March 17:  The Trump administration’s aggressive campaign to prevent countries from using Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications equipment in their next-generation wireless networks has faltered, with even some of America’s closest allies rejecting the United States’ argument that the companies pose a security threat…

But the campaign has run aground. Britain, Germany, India and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries signaling they are unlikely to back the American effort to entirely ban Huawei from building their 5G networks. While some countries like Britain share the United States’ concerns, they argue that the security risks can be managed by closely scrutinizing the company and its software. — New York Times 

ROME — March 24: Italy resisted the entreaties and warnings of its European Union and American allies on Saturday by officially joining China’s vast new Silk Road at a signing ceremony with President Xi Jinping of China, a move that crystallized shifting geopolitical balances and the populist Italian government’s willingness to break with its traditional partners.

The agreement will “build a better relationship” between China and Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy said. Italy became the first of the Group of 7 nations that once dominated the global economy to take part in China’s “One Belt One Road” project, which makes enormous infrastructure investments to move Chinese goods and resources throughout Asia, Africa and Europe.

The Trump administration, which tried and failed to stop the deal, focused in the days leading up to Mr. Xi’s visit on blocking any Italian use of 5G wireless networks developed by the Chinese electronics giant Huawei, which Washington warned could be used by Beijing to spy on communications networks.

Against the backdrop of Italian, Chinese and European flags, a host of Chinese and Italian ministers and business leaders signed 29 separate agreements at the Villa Madama, marking the culmination of Mr. Xi’s visit to Rome, where he was welcomed as a prized ally and, critics said, conqueror. — New York Times 

NEW DELHI — June 25: Replying to a question on the issue of India facing possible sanctions under the US’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) if they go ahead with the S-400 deal with Russia, [Foreign Minister] Jaishankar said that India will do what is in its national interest.

“We have many relationships with many countries, many of them are of some standing. They have a history. We will do what is in our national interest. A part of that strategic partnership is the ability of each country to comprehend and appreciate the national interest of the other,” Jaishankar said. — Indian Express

ISTANBUL — July 12: The first shipment of a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile system arrived in Turkey on Friday, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced, a process that is expected to incur United States sanctions and will test the NATO alliance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has been insistent in his determination to purchase the S-400 system, Russia’s most advanced antiaircraft weaponry, despite warnings from the United States. Washington has cautioned that the deal will lead to economic penalties against Turkey, a fellow NATO member, and cancellation of Turkey’s purchase of American F-35 fighter jets.

The United States has been unyielding in its opposition to Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400. American officials have argued that the missile system is incompatible with NATO equipment, and that having Turkey operating both the Russian weapons and the F-35 could give Russia access to the American jets’ secret stealth technology.  — New York Times

To be continued…

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