Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election revealed insights into Donald Trump’s campaign, uncovered 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice, and provided plenty of material for late-night comedians. The report concluded that “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” However, the report also claimed that it could “not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the election interference activities.”
In the first scene of Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky’s hit sitcom Servant of the People, three faceless oligarchs stand above Kyiv’s Maidan Square one week before the presidential election. They agree to stop competing with one another to buy the election, and to instead let the best man win. “Unsupervised democracy,” one oligarch comments, “I like this kind of game.” From the show’s outset, its message is clear: Ukrainian politics have long been dominated by corrupt oligarchic interests. But with the election of Volodymyr Zelensky’s honest, middle-class protagonist, that era is over.
In December 1999, Indian Airlines flight 1C-814 was hijacked shortly after taking off from Kathmandu, Nepal, en route to New Delhi. After several stops, the hijackers flew the aircraft to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where they threatened to kill the hostages unless several incarcerated terrorists in India were released. Under considerable public pressure, the Indian government agreed to the swap. One of the terrorists was Maulana Masood Azhar, a key member of a Pakistan-based terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Ansar, known for its attacks in Indian-controlled part of Kashmir. Once the hostages were exchanged, all three of the released terrorists, along with the hijackers, were allowed to flee by the Taliban regime. Within a year of his release, Azhar founded another deadly terrorist organization, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
After three days of talks in Turkey, representatives from Washington and Ankara failed to reach agreement on the terms of a proposed safe zone in northeastern Syria. The two sides, treaty allies since 1952, share such widely divergent interests in Syria that compromise appears exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. The reasons for these divergent interests are often described as an outcome of a half-hearted American intervention in Syria, where a small and limited military operation to oust the Islamic State resulted in a military partnership with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) affiliate in Syria, the Peoples’ Protection Unites (YPG). The YPG is the core component of the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the militia that Washington depends on to hold the territory taken from Islamic State. This is only half the story and does not capture the nuance of the slow and painful deterioration of Turkish-American relations.
As leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s track record in international relations has been virtually unprecedented. On April 25, he met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, the Russian port city close to North Korea. He’s met with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in twice, and, of course, U.S. President Donald Trump twice as well. China’s leader Xi Jinping and Kim have met four times since March 2018.
North Korea moved back into the headlines last week when its leader, Kim Jong-un, travelled to Vladivostok to meet Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, the possibility of a third Kim-Trump meeting keeps simmering in Washington—for the simple reason that Mr. Trump keeps saying that he wants it. Despite these developments, it is sobering to note that intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts dating from the 1980s have produced essentially no progress on the core issue—North Korea’s determination to build a nuclear arsenal and missiles that can deliver a nuclear strike, not just on South Korea or Japan, but on the U.S. as well. For over three decades, Washington has demanded that Pyongyang agree, under pressure of stringent international sanctions, to dismantle its nuclear and missile capabilities. It has not happened, and it may be time to rethink fundamental U.S. goals and strategy concerning North Korea.