© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Look At Foreign Policy Challenges Trump Faces


As U.S.-North Korea talks have been stalling, the regime begins launching short-range missiles...


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Kim Jong Un observed and guided the drills.

CHANG: ...Iran is threatening to restart nuclear activity, and the president is sending the USS Abraham Lincoln closer to Iran's shores.


MIKE POMPEO: We're taking all the appropriate actions in the event that something should actually take place.

CHANG: And efforts to oust Venezuela's socialist president Nicolas Maduro are floundering.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Guaido has called this latest insurgency attempt Operation Freedom, but any hope that he could topple Maduro quickly seems to be fading.

CHANG: These are just some of the foreign policy challenges facing President Trump in the last 72 hours, a president who has promised to elevate the status of the U.S. around the world.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As president of the United States, I will always put America first.


TRUMP: If Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid.


TRUMP: Frankly I think we'll end up being very good friends with Chairman Kim and with North Korea. And I think they have tremendous potential. I've been telling everybody they have tremendous potential.

CHANG: So what do these foreign policy challenges all have in common, and are the U.S. and President Trump making progress on solving some of the most vexing diplomatic issues? To talk more about all of this, we're joined now by Richard Haass. He's the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and he worked on foreign policy for several Republican presidents. Welcome.

RICHARD HAASS: Good to be back.

CHANG: So I just want to zero in on those three countries we've just mentioned - North Korea, Iran, Venezuela. They're three very different places, but what does this administration's approach to each of those countries have in common, you think?

HAASS: You're right. They're very different situations, but the common thread is the degree of ambition that the administration is articulating. We want to see a regime change in Venezuela. We want to see what's tantamount to regime change in Iran, and we want to see complete denuclearization in North Korea. Essentially we want to, as we see it, solve all three situations.

CHANG: And what do the events of the last week tell you about the administration's effectiveness in solving all these problems?

HAASS: Well, alas, effectiveness is not the word that comes to mind. In the case of Venezuela, the aborted coup was just that. It was aborted. Maduro appears to be as strong as ever. In the case of Iran, we now have a nuclear crisis on our hands, and that had been the one area of the relationship that was not an active crisis. And in the case of North Korea, diplomacy simply hasn't yielded any benefits. And in the meantime, North Korea continues to improve its nuclear and missile capabilities.

CHANG: You know, we've sent ships to the Persian Gulf region to send a signal to Iran. There's been talk of military intervention in Venezuela. But this is a president who ran on the vow of decreasing military entanglements around the world. What is going on now?

HAASS: Well, there seems to be an enormous gap between the times - the threats of military force made by this president and his willingness to actually do it. If you recall, the North Korea situation several years ago was defined by presidential threats of fire and fury, and things fortunately never came to that. We're now seeing the threats with Iran. He talked about the possible use of military force in Venezuela.

But my sense, as you probably looked at it or heard about it - Venezuela is twice the size of Iraq, and there are, you know, tens and tens of thousands of people on the ground with guns. And like the case in Iraq, you would not simply have the challenge of removing the government, but then you would have the even bigger challenge of putting something better in its place afterwards. So the challenge in Venezuela even if we succeed in regime change could be enormous.

CHANG: Well, that segues into my next question, and that is, how does this administration course correct at this point with each of these three players that we're talking about - again, North Korea, Iran and Venezuela?

HAASS: It's the right question. In the case of North Korea, I would say we need to jettison all-or-nothing diplomacy. Put denuclearization on the backburner and essentially have a serious conversation, which is, what does North Korea have to do to reduce its nuclear and missile capabilities, and what are we prepared to do in terms of giving them some economic help in return? With the case of Iran, I think the real question again is, would we be prepared to re-enter a changed, an amended nuclear agreement?

With Venezuela, it's tougher. There I think the pressure has to be on figuring out a way to shoehorn Mr. Maduro out of there. My guess is it's through some combination of sanctions, economic incentives for some of the people around him and maybe persuading the Chinese that they ought to rethink some of their economic largesse towards this government.

CHANG: Well, you've just laid out a lot of policy ideas, but do you actually see this administration implementing each of these ideas?

HAASS: This is the most top-heavy administration I've ever seen. What matters is not the interagency process 'cause there isn't one. What really matters is what Donald Trump decides to do and what Donald Trump decides to tweet.

CHANG: Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you very much for joining us today.

HAASS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.