Recent Events

“If they impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz.''

After a long week of Iran headlines – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laying out the administration’s Iran strategy, Presidents Trump and Rouhani trading implicit threats of war, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qassem Suleimani addressing Trump by name in a speech - one might be forgiven for mistaking the above as a recent quote.

But that threat is actually from 2012, when Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi decried Obama administration oil sanctions in response to Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s recent threat to close the Strait of Hormuz is not new, but rather a tactic Tehran has turned to again and again to get what it wants.
North Korea was caught again. The Washington Post reported on July 30 that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is still constructing long-range missiles capable of reaching the US homeland. This may not be a technical violation of Pyongyang’s agreements with the United States, but it is significant.

North Korea has been riding high since the Singapore summit; Kim Jong Un is the first North Korean leader to hold court with a sitting US president. Kim had to put less on the table than all past frameworks. He then scored a series of meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jingping and received Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Pyongyang. 
US intelligence officials believe that North Korea is continuing to build new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), despite North Korean leader Kim Jung Un’s promise to work towards denuclearization after a summit with US President Donald J. Trump in June.

The intelligence findings, which were reported by The Washington Post on July 30, raise questions about Pyongyang’s commitment to improve its relations with the United States and seriously move to halt or roll back its nuclear weapons program.
The Trump administration has turned its attention squarely toward the Indo-Pacific, with one eye firmly on an increasingly assertive China.

In a significant policy speech in Washington on July 30, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States seeks “partnership, not domination,” in the Indo-Pacific. In a thinly veiled reference to China, Pompeo added: “We… have never and will never seek domination in the Indo-Pacific, and we will oppose any country that does.”  

What exactly does the Trump administration’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy set out and how can this goal be achieved in an America First era? Robert A. Manning, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, discussed the strategy in an interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from our interview.
Eight days ago, US President Donald J. Trump warned Hassan Rouhani of dire “consequences” should the Iranian president persist with his threats against the United States.

On July 30, Trump said he would be willing to meet with the Iranian leader at any time “with no preconditions.”

“If they [the Iranians] want to meet, we’ll meet,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House in Washington.
US President Donald J. Trump, in a late-night, all-caps tweet on July 22, threatened Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have suffered before” if Iranian leaders continued to threaten the United States with war.
US President Donald J. Trump on July 16 appeared to believe Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials over the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections, saying he saw “no reason why” Moscow would have acted in that way.

Speaking at a joint press conference following his first summit with Putin in Helsinki, Trump said: “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today” on meddling.
Just in the past few months, US President Donald J. Trump has blown up the G7 summit in Canada, berated the United States’ NATO allies, criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May on her handling of Brexit, described Germany as a “captive” of Russia, characterized the European Union as a “foe,” and directed the Pentagon to review the cost of withdrawing US troops from Europe.

In sharp contrast to remarks directed at US friends and allies, Trump has been reluctant to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin whom he has described as “fine.” Acting against the advice of his advisers, Trump went so far as to congratulate the Russian president on his victory in an election widely viewed as unfair. He even suggested that Russia be invited back to a G8—a grouping Russia was expelled from after it annexed Crimea in 2014. On July 16, Trump will meet Putin in Helsinki for the leaders’ first summit. The rest of the world will be watching anxiously.
Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, after meeting US President Donald J. Trump at the NATO Summit in Brussels, “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over…We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” That she said it on Memorial Day weekend—the day the United States honors veterans of World War II—seemed an especially sharp rebuke.

Worse than the rebuke was this: Merkel might not be wrong.
At the NATO summit four years ago, the allies declared their commitment to “reverse the trend of declining defense budgets, to make the most effective use of our funds and to further a more balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities.” To that end, the heads of state and government gathered in Wales that summer recommitted themselves to increasing defense spending in real terms and achieving the NATO guideline to spend a minimum of 2 percent of each member’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense by 2024. In the buildup to this July's NATO summit in Brussels, US President Donald J. Trump is both publicly and privately pushing the allies to live up to this commitment, which fewer than half NATO’s twenty-nine members have plans to achieve.

But what about the United States: Does the United States spend at least 2 percent of its national wealth on its commitment to European allies?