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 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.