I am told that on that this day in 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt opened diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Despite Walter Duranty’s protestations to the contrary in The New York Times, that was while Stalin was systematically starving millions—yes, millions—of his own people. He went so far as to seal the windows of trains running through the areas he wished to devastate so that passengers could not throw out food to the starving multitudes. FDR knew this. So: was his diplomatic action a good thing or a bad thing?
On this day in 1985, Ronald Reagan travelled to Geneva to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev. The Cold War was still raging. So: was Reagan’s action a good thing or a bad thing?
Fun archival project: go back to the 1980s and read what The New York Times (and kindred outlets) had to say about Ronald Reagan. He was a moron. He was a war monger. He was being played by Gorbachev.
Fast forward to today. Andrew Rosenthal, writing in The New York Times, wants us to know how “grown-ups” deal with Vladimir Putin. His proffered adult is Prime Minister Theresa May, who, in her address at the Lord Mayor’s banquet, gave a tart (and accurate) assessment of Putin’s hostile actions, from his annexation of Crimea to his propaganda war and “weaponization” of information technology. Spot on, Mrs. May!
Andrew Rosenthal contrasts May’s blast against Putin with Donald Trump’s diplomatic efforts.
Let’s leave aside the hypocrisy of a reporter for The New York Times stepping onto his high horse to deliver anti-Russian salvos. Shameless: he even invokes Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech in Berlin. Go back and read what the Times had to say about that phrase at the time.
You do not have to convince me that Vladimir Putin is a nasty piece of work. Indeed (commercial break), I am just about to publish Putin on the March, Douglas Schoen’s brilliant book on that subject.
The world is full of bad guys. But if you are president of the United States, you should understand that the interests of peace and the interests of prosperity demand that you get along with other nations, if at all possible, especially powerful nations. Donald Trump was quite right when he tweeted a few days ago that “having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. . . . I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!”
It is “a good thing, not a bad thing” to have a good relationship with Russia. Ditto on China, Vietnam, South Korea, and the Philippines.
Yesterday, just back from his 12-day, 20,000-mile whirlwind trip through Asia, the president gave what posterity will regard as a turning-point speech. The master word of this speech was “confidence.” “When we are confident in ourselves,” the president said, confident in
our strength, our flag, our history, our values—other nations are confident in us. And when we treat our citizens with the respect they deserve, other countries treat America with the respect that our country so richly deserves.
During our travels, this is exactly what the world saw: a strong, proud, and confident America.
Donald Trump displayed, in a way we have not seen since the heyday of Ronald Reagan, what foreign-policy leadership looks like. We have serious differences with Russia and China. We also have areas of agreement and potential agreement. To address the former a canny leader endeavors to exploit the latter. This Donald Trump is doing.
The president returned from his trip to Asia having secured a renewed commitment from Chinese President Xi and other leaders to help deal with the threat of a nuclear North Korea. “Throughout the trip, we asked all nations to support our campaign of maximum pressure for North Korean denuclearization,” Trump noted.
And they are responding by cutting trade with North Korea, restricting financial ties to the regime, and expelling North Korean diplomats and workers.
Over the last two weeks, we have made historic strides in reasserting American leadership, restoring American security, and reawakening American confidence.
The president also came back from Asia with billions of dollars in trade deals. “Fair trade and reciprocal trade.” That is Trump’s mantra. “We can no longer tolerate unfair trading practices that steal American jobs, wealth, and intellectual property. The days of the United States being taken advantage of are over.”
The anti-Trump chihuahuas keep yammering about his tweets, his being in cahoots with Putin, and his not understanding the complexities of foreign affairs. But this summary of Donald Trump’s achievements in just 10 months is difficult to gainsay:
Economic growth has been over 3 percent the last two quarters and is going higher. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 17 years. The stock market has gained trillions of dollars in value since my election and has reached record highs. We are massively increasing our military budget to historic levels. The House has just passed a nearly $700 billion defense package, and it could not come at a better time for our nation. Once again our country is optimistic about the future, confident in our values, and proud of our history and role in the world.