– – – Tearline – – – Apr. 6, 2017

In this week’s Tearline: Trump is unprepared for the China summit and handling Syria, Jared Kushner and Nikki Haley are dominating foreign policy, Russia ties go through the Seychelles.

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Tearline noun | ‘ter ï lin
The portions of an intelligence report that provide the substance of a more highly classified or controlled report without identifying sensitive sources, methods, or other operational information.

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What was that?!

President Donald Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping this week, and everyone has a take on how to understand the visit. It is hard to sift through it all, but a few things seem to be true: North Korea will likely top the agenda; Jared Kushner appears to be playing a large role in negotiating with the Chinese; Trump continues his hyperbolic rhetoric on Chinaóas with everything else; and there is no China expertise in the top ranks of the Trump administration. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that the translators miss their flights and the two leaders just smile for photos instead. While this meeting will just be a start to the Trump-Xi relationship, it will likely send some strong signals about where the U.S.-China relationship will go in the next few years. For some thoughts on this weekís meeting and the U.S.-China relationship under Trump, see thoughts from CAPís Michael Fuchs here and here and from CAPís Melanie Hart here.

What we’re missing

A Syria strategy. After reports that a chemical weapons attack against civilians killed scores, the White House quickly labeled the attack ìreprehensibleî but President Trump blamed the Obama administration, saying, ìthese heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administrationís weakness and irresolution.î And while Trumpís top officials seemed to be dropping calls for Bashar Assad to go, after the chemical weapons attack, Trump said yesterday that his attitude toward Syria and Assad have changed. This all begs the question: Is Trumpís Syria policy to work with the very man who just carried out this chemical attack, as he repeatedly indicated on the campaign? More broadly, Trumpís policies in the Middle East seem to be missing any mention of values or human rights—or any real plan to ask more from American partners—as President Trump welcomed Egypt’s strongman to Washington, D.C., and dropped any human rights conditions on the sales of fighter jets to Bahrain.

What’s on deck in the world next week

The United States is president of the U. N. Security Council this month, which means the Trump team gets to decide what issues are on the agenda. With the Trump administrationís open hostility toward the United Nations—Trump wants massive funding cuts to the organization, including to the U.N. Population Fund, peacekeeping operations, and more—this monthís activity will send strong signals about what priorities U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and the new administration actually want to use the United Nations to achieve. Particularly interesting—or chaotic—should be Trumpís own meeting with the ambassadors from the members of the Security Council.

Better ideas

Heís negotiating with Mexico. Heís revolutionizing how the U.S. government operates. Heís going to bring peace to the Middle East. Heís defeating the Islamic State and bringing stability to Iraq. Heís taking the U.S.-China relationship to new heights. He also leaps tall buildings in a single bound! Heís Jared Kushner, and heís a one-man government. When he gets tired, he should read this piece by CAP Senior Fellow William Wechsler and the Hoover Institutionís Kori Schake on how to run a national security policymaking process.

Quote of the week

ìThe Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. Thatís even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.î Thatís how the Seychelles secretary of state of foreign affairs described his hometown—a spot for ìclandestineî meetings such as the one that reportedly took place between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Russian contacts close to Putin. The encounter reportedly aimed to forge a back channel connection between Trump and Putin before Trumpís presidential inauguration.

Read of the Week

The New York Times feature on the plight of people fleeing the violence of Boko Haram in Nigeria is required reading. Victims and displaced people are looking for refuge wherever they can find it, even if it just means gathering by the side of a road in an artificial refugee camp. And as a reminder, President Trump wants to slash U.S. foreign assistance and stop refugee admissions to the United States.

Weekly Trump-Russia reminder

Something new every week. Russian spies reportedly tried to recruit former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2013. And thereís a lot more information in this new Vanity Fair piece about how former spy Christopher Steel e compiled his now infamous dossier about Trump-Russia connections.

76 days still violating the Constitution

President Trump has been violating the Constitutionís prohibition against corruption by foreign governments for 76 days, because his companies are receiving payments from foreign governments.

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Michael Fuchs

Senior Fellow

Stefanie Merchant

Special Assistant