The summit between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un is over. And their message was clear.
The U.S. is welcome at the negotiating table but they are not necessary to resolving the situation. Russia, however, is.
Kim went to Vladivostok to build a relationship with Putin and put the U.S. on the spot. Per Putin’s comments after the summit:
We are going to discuss the situation with the US. Russia is always open on this – there are no conspiracies. More than that Kim Jong-un personally asked us to inform Washington of his position and the issues he wants to ask about.
What Kim has done is elevated Russia and Putin to the level of mediator between North Korea and the U.S. Russia is now an equal partner in the process.
And the U.S. has been diminished in its position in these talks.
As I said yesterday, I expected something big to come from this meeting and this was it. Kim is no longer willing to talk with the U.S. directly and they must go through Putin and his staff of professional diplomats to do so.
What’s the U.S.’s response to this? Ambassador to Russia and Deep State mouthpiece John Huntsman said of two aircraft carrier groups in the Mediterranean, “When you have 200,000 tons of diplomacy that are cruising in the Mediterranean, this is forward-operating diplomacy — nothing else need to be said.”
This is the kind of statement that is completely counter-productive and Huntsman knows it. It betrays the kind of thinking that led us to this point.
In fact, it is now exactly that kind of thinking that is precluding a settlement with North Korea. And that’s exactly what John Bolton wants and Trump isn’t strong enough to see the situation for what it is and rein in his foreign policy staff.
None of that phases Putin, however. He’s made it clear that sabre-rattling is not diplomacy. And relative to North Korea’s nuclear weapons it is irrelevant to the process.
The U.S. will not attack North Korea. If that was going to happen it would have by now.
He knows that the Koreans are driving the reunification process and urged South Korea to act with more independence.
And while Putin holds out the possibility of future diplomacy, being willing to relay Kim’s positions and concerns to Trump, he also knows that Trump is not setting policy.
That’s the take away from this. Trump has to now, with RussiaGate concluded, take back control of his foreign policy and take the lead, end the Korean War and be a peacemaker or fold.
Remember the U.S.’s calculus here. North Korea is about Iran, which, in turn, is about Israel. Since all of Trump’s foreign policy is focused on securing Israel’s future no one in the administration is willing to let him end the stalemate without testing all involved to the limit.
The problem is, however, that threats are only threats if you are willing to go through with them. Proxy war proliferation to destabilize central Asia as a central strategy has failed. Syria is mostly secure, as is Iran. Turkey, Pakistan and India are off the reservation.
Sure there is still a lot of damage those 200,000 tonnes can do but at what cost? And to whom? Russia? No. Where do those strike groups go and who do they attack?
The answer is, “No one important.”
The time for belligerence is over. Kim just went to the Russians to show the world his willingness to be reasonable and find new solutions to his country’s situation.
Set against the backdrop of China bringing the world together through the incentives of Belt and Road shouldn’t be discounted. Kim is showing not only the U.S. but the world that he is the statesman here and that the U.S. precludes a solution which will weaken support for continuing sanctions.