So an update and then some analysis this week. Greece and FYROM agreed on a name! And Trump pissed off our allies! And then he went to Singapore to bro down with Kim Jong-un! Let’s get it.
So first, and this should be quick: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and FYROM PM Zoran Zaev finally signed an agreement saying that FYROM could call itself Northern Macedonia. The qualifier is important: it signifies that this is not the complete Macedonia, that there is another – my ancestral home. Of course, the Greek community worldwide is outraged. If you’re outraged, slide into those DMs. Let’s talk.
But remember how I said that maybe Greece would want to strike a deal on this to engender goodwill as it comes to the end of its bailout deal? No one is going to explicitly tie the two together, but just the day after the name agreement was announced, the vice president of the European Commission said Wednesday that Greece would need relief in order to move forward after its bailout program ends August 20th. So fingers crossed.
Quickly, on Canada and the G7: Trump went to the G7 meeting (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – the ideological “west”) and pissed a lot of people off. Basically, he walked in the room and said “Why isn’t Russia here? Russia should be here.” And when he was reminded that it was because Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and got 10,000 people killed and 1.4 million displaced, he was like “Oh but that was Obama’s fault.” Okay, Donald.
Trump didn’t want to go in the first place, and it showed. He turned up late, was petulant the whole time, and left early. Usually they all sign a communique at the end. Trump refused, then said he would, and then pulled out after Justin Trudeau, PM of Canada, criticized US tariffs on steel and aluminum. So all in all, not a great week for US-EU relations.
This all happened in the days before Trump flew to Singapore to meet with Kim Jong-un. I wrote about this on Tuesday, so I’ll link that here and get to the good stuff.
This deal was effectively meaningless. The big “get” for the US was a “recommitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”. Sounds great, but what the North Koreans mean by that is the denuclearization of the WHOLE peninsula. No US nuclear umbrella, no US troops, no reason for NK to HAVE nuclear weapons – and then they’ll disarm. There’s no specific language about how or when, and the treaty is not legally binding, so it’s an empty statement. And there are already holes in the agreement. North Korean media announced that the US would gradually lift sanctions, to which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Uh, we never said that.”
That said, we didn’t blow each other up, and the two dictators (Fox’s words, not mine) seemed to like each other! A low bar for diplomatic success, to be sure, but at least we’re all alive. The thing is, the US got an empty promise, but North Korea got a whole lot more. The US and NK flag on equal display? Check. Photo op with a US president making Kim his equal? Check. The biggest piece? Trump said the US would cease its joint military exercises with South Korea – “provocative war games,” he called them, which is how the North Koreans refer to them – not the US’s language. Why does this matter?
This has long been a goal for the NKs. It doesn’t cost the US anything materially, but: the South Koreans didn’t know we were pulling out, and neither did the US military. This wasn’t a card on the table until Kim asked for it, and Trump blindsided everyone by agreeing. You know who DID know about it though? The Chinese. A Chinese minister alluded to the end of the ‘war games’ before Trump even announced it, meaning it was agreed in the meeting and relayed to Beijing before the US’s own allies and military.
Remember how I said, way back in April, how when Trump went to meet Kim he would be hearing Xi Jinping’s words? Just saying. I had thought it would be concessions on trade, but this is much better for Xi. It means a rift between the US and her allies in the region, and the drawdown of US military presence – all good things for China’s quest for regional domination.
In the end, this entire piece of political theater does one thing of which we cannot lose sight: legitimizes a brutally repressive dictator whose labor camps have been compared to Nazi death camps – by a Holocaust survivor. His hold on power is only stronger. His people only more oppressed. #fpf
Edit: A previous version of this piece mistakenly said Trump went to South Korea for a summit with Kim Jong-un, when in fact the summit took place in Singapore.