A Defining Week Ahead; NATO, the Supreme Court, N. Korea, the Trade War and Putin
As Americans head off to their summer vacations this week, the Trump Administration has some important decisions to make and their choices will have profound consequences. Their Supreme Court nomination will get the most press, but the other issues are equally important.
The Supreme Court: Each of the leaked finalists for Trump's nomination to our highest court will move the Supreme Court to the right on guns, abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, voting rights and a host of other issues. Given current polling, the Court is unlikely to reverse Obergefell v. Hodges, but they will uphold laws that limit LGBT rights more narrowly. On the other hand, the age of affirmative action in hiring, college admissions, etc. will be over. Conservative state legislatures will also find support at the court for legislation meant to curtail voting rights and Roe v Wade will be limited and finally dispatched. Conservative "states rights" commentators will rejoice, but the result will be a much more divided nation.
N. Korea: N. Korea is a nuclear power and they are likely to remain one for quite some time. Pompeo and Trump were deeply embarrassed by N. Korea's response to Pompeo's weekend visit, but they shouldn't be surprised and now is not the time to increase tensions again. Kim and his family have been playing this game for decades and they have a plan in mind which doesn't include complete and total denuclearization. Time is on Kim's side as he continues to build out his nuclear capability and Trump shouldn't expect much help from China after firing the first volley in the trade war. Negotiations with N. Korea may take years, its time the Trump administration acknowledges that.
NATO: President Trump has the opportunity at the NATO summit to strengthen his hand later in the week with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He should unequivocally state the importance of the NATO alliance and tone down his "pay up or else" rhetoric. Putin needs to know that America stands with Europe against Putin's illegal annexation of Crimea and its war to carve up the Ukraine. Anything less will simply encourage Putin to widen his focus to the Baltic states on Russia's border. However, Trump must understand that if he continues to weaken America's commitment to NATO, he will be in a much weaker position in his negotiations with Putin.
The Trade War with China: This is the week to push for further negotiations with China to address trade issues including the appropriation of American technology and greater access to the Chinese market. No negotiations are planned at this time, but both sides need to find an "off-ramp" to prevent the trade war from escalating. Unfortunately, both sides think that they have the upper-hand right now and that is how trade wars get out of control. Negotiate now before both sides become too entrenched.