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Trump, New START, and U.S.-Russian Relations

Reuters reports [1] that Trump didn’t know what New START was, but was sure it must be a bad deal:

In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced a treaty that caps U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a bad deal for the United States, according to two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call.

When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was [bold mine-DL], these sources said.

Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration [bold mine-DL], saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said.

The account rings true, and it fits in with Trump’s views on agreements made during the Obama years. If an agreement was reached with another government when Obama was president, Trump takes it for granted that it must be a bad deal that benefits the other side more. This is what he always thinks about deals not made by him, and it is typically paired with total ignorance of the substance of the agreement that he is criticizing. This is how he concludes that the nuclear deal is a “very bad deal” despite the fact that he appears to understand nothing about it and gets basic facts about it wrong. He doesn’t concern himself with the details because he already knows that the deal must be to our disadvantage, since he takes it as a given that the U.S. has been getting “ripped off” in everything. The result is that the supposed deal-maker is against any successful diplomatic agreement that has already been negotiated.

In the case of New START, it was conventional hawkish boilerplate back in 2009-2010 that Russia benefited more from the treaty, but this wasn’t true. It represented the continuation of a mutually beneficial arms reduction process, and it ensured that reductions by both sides would be verified by inspections. Romney made a point of denouncing the treaty ahead of his second presidential campaign, and he made his opposition to the treaty a major part of his anti-Russian/anti-Obama rhetoric as a candidate. If Trump is now echoing the shoddy arguments against New START, that suggests that he doesn’t understand that arms control is one of the major areas where U.S.-Russian cooperation is very important, and it also means that he is getting very bad advice from the same kinds of people that Romney was listening to back then. That’s bad news for improving relations with Russia.

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8 Comments To "Trump, New START, and U.S.-Russian Relations"

#1 Comment By SF Bay On February 9, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

“If Trump is now echoing the shoddy arguments against New START, that suggests that he doesn’t understand that arms control is one of the major areas where U.S.-Russian cooperation is very important, and it also means that he is getting very bad advice from the same kinds of people that Romney was listening to back then. That’s bad news for improving relations with Russia.”

And we’re surprised? Trump doesn’t know anything about anything, except that he’s the smartest most special guy on the planet, which by the way, revolves around him.

His first three weeks in office cannot be a surprise to anyone who actually listened to him, and knows his history of lying, welshing on deals, filing for bankruptcy, and never ever taking responsibility for anything that his does wrong. This dates back all the way to 1973 and the federal discrimination case he and his father lost. No responsibility then or ever.

#2 Comment By Howard On February 9, 2017 @ 2:29 pm

“May you live in interesting times.” Yeah, it’s going to be an interesting four years.

#3 Comment By victory over eurasia On February 9, 2017 @ 3:22 pm

I suppose if you are negotiating wallboard pricing in Atlantic City, maybe this works, international relations, not so much. The second coming of Lord Palmerston, he ain’t!

Hard to see how this lasts 205 more (long, long) weeks…….

#4 Comment By collin On February 9, 2017 @ 3:49 pm

If Trump is now echoing the shoddy arguments against New START..

No it suggests that his aides were Googling the arrangement and found out Obama supported it.

#5 Comment By Will Harrington On February 9, 2017 @ 3:49 pm

On the plus side, he asked his aides about the treaty. This is good and indicates that, despite his cultivated image, he does not assume he is the smartest guy on the planet. Rather, it is more likely that as a negotiator (something that most Americans who are afraid to question a price tag aren’t) and he asks for far more than he knows he will get. you can’t negotiate anything if your starting point is that what you have is just fine.

#6 Comment By Chris Chuba On February 9, 2017 @ 5:11 pm

The START treaty is a good litmus test to determine if someone wants to be reasonable with Russia or if they are a NATO supremacist. Basically, it is a fair and reasonable treaty that actually favors us a little bit because it does not factor in ABM technology.

However, if you are a NATO, supremacist, Uber Hawk you don’t want a fair treaty with Russia, you want to conquer them. You want an arms race to bankrupt them again and force them to disarm completely. This is where I think Romney was coming from. That would be okay, I guess, if you are a sociopath and if you knew for certain that we would always win but if we ever lose, the stakes are high.

#7 Comment By Howard On February 9, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

@Will Harrington — What you say about negotiating is true, and there is a time and a place for that. For instance, before Desert Storm the US should have demanded reparations to Kuwait, a massive reduction in the Iraqi military, and war crimes trials for the Baath Party members who planned and oversaw the invasion. Then we could have negotiated down to a peaceful withdrawal. Instead, the US signaled that it was willing to try diplomacy, but that the US had made its final offer and no compromise was possible. In other words, the offer of diplomacy was a sham.

The conditions here are very different. Russia is not hopelessly overwhelmed the way Iraq was, and renegotiating a treaty to which one is already a signatory has a different odor than negotiating an entirely new treaty.

Anyone can see this well enough, merely by reading the last negotiations between London and Berlin. The Prussians had made a new discovery in international politics: that it may often be convenient to make a promise; and yet curiously inconvenient to keep it. They were charmed, in their simple way, with this scientific discovery, and desired to communicate it to the world.

— G.K. Chesterton, The Barbarism of Berlin

[2]” Yeah, but “my predecessor was a bad negotiator and did not get everything he could have” is not an “extraordinary event”.

#8 Comment By Victory over Eurasia On February 11, 2017 @ 9:13 am

@will Harrington – is it possible to set the bar any lower? “He asked his aides about the treaty” is inadequate at best in a business or professional environment. This man is supposed to be our president, and is idly and ignorantly babbling about treaties affecting nuclear weapons. His grotesque inadequacies are in plain site, but many still seem determined to see some non-existent guile or capability in his (or his staff’s actions)

More incredibly, perhaps, is that his staff did not prepare him on this topic in advance of the call. It was certainly a scheduled event, and it cannot be too surprising that the subject came up. We are in dangerous times.

But, at least, emails……..