Trump canceling Putin meeting is diplomatic slap on the wrist

Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the des...

Posted: Nov 30, 2018 8:19 AM
Updated: Nov 30, 2018 8:19 AM

Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the desk of the President of the United States. Modeled on the President's Daily Briefing, or PDB, which the director of national intelligence prepares for the President almost daily, my Presidential Weekly Briefing focuses on the topics and issues President Donald Trump needs to know to make informed decisions.

This week, I offer a special briefing in advance of Trump's participation at the G20 summit in Argentina.

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Europe

Government and public administration

Investigations

Political Figures - Intl

Political Figures - US

Politics

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Vladimir Putin

Asia

Business, economy and trade

China

Diplomatic talks and summits

East Asia

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

G20 summits

Inter-governmental talks

International relations

International relations and national security

International trade

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

North America

North Korea

Saudi Arabia

The Americas

Trade and development

Ukraine

United States

US Federal elections

Xi Jinping

Government bodies and offices

US federal government

White House

If you give a mouse a cookie

From Russian President Vladimir Putin's perspective, the Michael Cohen bombshell exposing his lies about your alleged Russian business dealings could not have come at a better time.

Putin probably thinks that you're entering the G20 worried about your exposure to the Special Counsel. He may even think he has leverage over you because he knows the truth about what may actually have happened between Russia and members of your campaign. Despite your denial of wrongdoing, we assess that he thinks he knows all the dirty little secrets about who he worked with and when.

While he may have been itching for a repeat of your meeting in Helsinki -- it could have been a chance for him to score points at home when his domestic approval ratings are falling -- you citing Ukraine as the reason for canceling your meeting doesn't hold a lot of water. While you are canceling a meeting with him for violating Ukraine's sovereignty, you went ahead with meeting him in Helsinki despite his violation of US sovereignty via election interference.

Canceling (or postponing) the meeting is also signaling to Putin that you'll give him a relatively free pass on Ukraine. This is a diplomatic slap on the wrist for Putin. He knows that past presidents haven't viewed bilateral meetings as simple photo-ops -- but as opportunities to deliver tough messages. In a one-on-one meeting, you could have delivered a clear message about the actual costs for his misbehavior -- including more sanctions and/or NATO enhancements.

Even without a meeting, expect Putin and his team to use their digital army and public statements to continue cooking up their favorite Russian recipe -- scapegoating imaginary political forces for everything Russia is actually doing wrong. He said that the recent clash with Ukraine was a political stunt by Ukrainian President Poreshenko. And because he knows that your Twitter feed and public remarks are often filled with ire, he'll likely rely on his favorite tactic of blaming US political forces, rather than himself, for any deterioration in the bilateral relationship.

His goal is probably to divert your attention from punitive measures for his ongoing aggression and to refocus you on your usual suspects -- Democrats, Robert Mueller and your perceived "unfair" treatment by other countries. But, if you give Putin any wiggle room, he'll just continue to push (with all kinds of force) for more.

No points for just showing up

G20 leaders may view your arrival in Argentina as a huge cost to the summit. Why? Because they fear a repeat of your previous summit performances -- such as when you insulted world leaders at a gathering of NATO or refused to sign the G7's communique in Ottawa.

They also probably expect you to criticize what the G20 itself is premised on: multilateralism and the idea that coordinating with other major economies on international stability is of net benefit to each member.

Your threats that the United States would leave multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization and "go its own way" if NATO allies didn't pay up -- plus your withdrawal from multilateral efforts like the Iran deal, Paris climate accord, Trans-Pacific Partnership and the United Nations Human Rights Council -- have sent a clear message to your peers that you aren't a big fan of multilateralism, unless it suits your agenda.

They probably believe that it's your way or the highway, particularly after you criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the host of this year's G7 summit, right after you left the summit.

Because of this background, foreign intelligence services might reasonably assess that you do not view the G20's focus on globalization and interconnectedness as an effective tool for international economic cooperation. They are expecting you to make unilateral statements about what America wants and what America needs -- rather than what's good for international stability.

While much attention will be focused on your bilateral engagements, a decision to insult the body of the G20, its host or its members could stoke more concerns about US isolationism.

Making a murderer

After you broke with our allies and issued a unilateral statement proclaiming that, despite the horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the United States should continue doing business with Saudi Arabia, your posture toward Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be the focus of much discussion at the G20. Any moves you make to embrace him further -- literally and figuratively -- will be perceived as emboldening him to murder again (even if MBS still denies any involvement).

Any public display of affection you show for MBS -- even if he offers you a carrot, like agreeing not to advocate further on oil production cuts -- may be interpreted as standing with Saudi Arabia and against our other allies, like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (whom you are scheduled to see) and European countries who have pledged to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia. However, any coordinated measures you announce to punish Saudi Arabia -- even if not aimed at MBS himself -- could show a renewed interest in strengthening your (non-Saudi) alliances.

You should be aware that statements you make in Argentina criticizing recent congressional moves against the Kingdom will be viewed as further evidence that your real enemies list is made up of whomever doesn't vote your way -- and not perpetrators of actual crimes.

Not a one-trick pony

Chinese President Xi Jinping probably knows that you have two goals in mind for your meeting with him this weekend: trying to maintain the image of your close personal relationship with him, while concurrently hammering China to at least publicly profess (like they did after your first meeting last year) that they'll be more flexible on trade issues so that you can declare even a temporary victory.

Xi has witnessed your tactics. He has seen you agree to a tariff cease-fire with the EU only to restart berating it again. And even if you agree to a US-China trade war moratorium temporarily, he probably thinks that more tariffs are a foregone conclusion, especially because of your team's recent findings of ongoing, egregious Chinese behavior.

While you highlight your leverage over China's economy, we want to flag that the Chinese Communist Party is not a one-trick pony. Your (sometimes) friend Xi is able to strike back with more than tariffs. Harassment of US businesses could increase along with harassment of US interests in the diplomatic and security space. China has ramped up its aggression against our ally Taiwan, and with a more pro-China party winning last week's Taiwanese election, China could increase efforts to hurt Taiwan's independence while concurrently upping its bullying tactics in the South China Sea and against US military assets.

Xi also knows how much you have invested in denuclearization talks with Kim Jong Un and, despite a lack of progress on that front, there is reporting that he may be planning a visit to North Korea soon .

While China has pledged to uphold relevant UN sanctions against Kim, for now, as North Korea's biggest trading partner, Xi could choose to weaken enforcement of these sanctions, if he feels like you're treating him unfairly on trade.

If you're not playing by the rules, it's safe to assume that neither will he. You should expect Xi to have coordinated with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in urging you to relax sanctions on North Korea. But this doesn't mean that China isn't considering covertly lifting the maximum pressure campaign for any number of reasons, including their growing dissatisfaction with you.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48524

Reported Deaths: 2698
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11682684
Lake5180242
Elkhart330146
Allen2798132
St. Joseph196466
Cass16389
Hamilton1563101
Hendricks1410100
Johnson1288118
Porter73237
Tippecanoe7268
Madison65964
Clark65544
Bartholomew58644
LaPorte58026
Howard57757
Kosciusko5494
Vanderburgh5486
Marshall4904
Noble48228
Jackson4723
LaGrange4709
Hancock45035
Boone44543
Delaware44550
Shelby42625
Floyd38144
Morgan32931
Monroe30028
Grant29526
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Henry27415
Dubois2736
White26510
Decatur25032
Lawrence24625
Dearborn23823
Vigo2358
Harrison21822
Warrick21829
Unassigned193193
Greene18932
Miami1832
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1627
Daviess14317
Wayne1406
Orange13623
Perry1299
Steuben1292
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1177
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Gibson812
Huntington812
Randolph794
Wells731
Fulton721
Jefferson722
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey420
Brown391
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton321
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57956

Reported Deaths: 2927
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10410429
Cuyahoga7883373
Hamilton6019198
Lucas2752302
Marion273438
Pickaway219741
Summit2143206
Montgomery203427
Mahoning1832232
Butler159944
Columbiana130760
Stark1123112
Lorain103567
Trumbull96770
Warren86021
Clark7669
Delaware58215
Fairfield57216
Tuscarawas56710
Belmont54922
Medina52332
Lake50018
Licking49312
Miami46631
Portage44258
Ashtabula43544
Wood42851
Clermont4146
Geauga40742
Wayne36351
Richland3455
Allen32141
Mercer2829
Greene2589
Darke25125
Erie24422
Holmes2363
Huron2202
Madison1978
Ottawa14923
Sandusky13614
Crawford1355
Washington13520
Putnam12815
Ross1273
Hardin12312
Morrow1161
Coshocton1112
Auglaize1074
Monroe8917
Jefferson882
Union861
Muskingum831
Hancock791
Hocking788
Guernsey743
Preble731
Lawrence710
Williams712
Clinton680
Shelby684
Logan621
Fulton610
Ashland591
Athens591
Carroll593
Wyandot596
Brown571
Defiance513
Knox511
Fayette460
Highland451
Scioto410
Champaign401
Perry351
Van Wert350
Seneca342
Henry300
Paulding250
Adams241
Jackson230
Pike230
Vinton222
Gallia181
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 82°
Angola
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 81°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 82°
Decatur
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Van Wert
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Hot Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events