Nuclear diplomacy in the age of Trump

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source : Possibilitator,  June 12, 2018

Less than twenty-four hours since Mr. Trump and Mr. Un shook hands, many pundits are critical of  the outcome. I am certainly no fan of  either of these two national leaders. Trump defines arrogance and narcissism as well as any public figure. His braggadocio is so untethered to reality that it’s difficult to believe anything he says (or tweets).

But, for whatever reason, he has resisted (thus far) a military solution to this vexing problem, and that is a very big deal as we might pause and reflect on the 17 year old war in Afghanistan that has gained nothing for anyone except the arms lobby. I am not sanguine about the possibility of him triggering a military encounter with Iran or some other “evil empire” du jour. The chances of that disaster became higher with the elevation of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton in his administration. But for the moment, he has resisted flexing his military macho side.

It seems pretty obvious that North Korea has had a target on its head since at least the days of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” claim. Regime change from the US has been the driver for pursuit of a nuclear missile as a possible barrier to a US led first strike. I can’t imagine a sane person, giving that up, especially with the example of what the US did with Qaddafi after he relinquished his nukes. Trump’s aversion to building a lasting trust does not bode well for a total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. If you were North Korea, would you trust any deal made with Trump? Still, I applaud the diplomatic effort both sides have made. It’s better than war!!!!

I certainly would be surprised if we see any movement on global arms reductions, let alone nuclear weapons, during this administration. Would even his pals, the Russians, trust him on a nuclear deal? His former allies, Britain and France, are probably not likely to believe much of what he proposes, especially after last weekend. Diplomacy needs trust to work and the absence of this arrow in his quiver suggests we will have to wait for a later administration to try and resurrect arms control.

But while Trump is clearly a champion of American Exceptionalism, the failure of the Congressional members of both parties to reconsider the sword of Damocles that nuclear weapons hangs over humanity (and all other species we share this special planet with) suggests our political leaders of both major parties suffer from the same toxicity of American Exceptionalism.

The US remains in the global driver’s seat of weapons ownership in both nuclear and conventional weapons. As Trump proclaims, others should fear the US for both our military might and our economic power. A perfect example is the threat we use in the UN to hurt any country that doesn’t vote with us. While President Obama spoke collegially about global partnerships and even hinted at nuclear weapons reductions early in his administration, he too fell into the muck of nuclear madness, proposing to spend $1.2 trillion over thirty years to rebuild the nuclear arsenal.

We need a statesperson that can get out of the muck and begin discussions with other sane members of the global family on ridding the world of these weapons, not just for lowly North Korea, but with all the nuclear nations – Russia, US, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel. As the first and only nation to use a nuclear weapon, we have a special responsibility to lead the world in abolition and destruction of the weapons that are only meant to destroy entire communities and every living thing in them.


Where are our political leaders? $1.2 trillion, plus whatever Trump tries to boost the pot with could be used for so many good things. Each of the other eight nations could also redirect their own funds saved from de-nuclearization into their communities to make life better for all. Every candidate for federal office should be forced to answer how they will end nuclear arms. What steps should the US be willing to lead with?

A little less than one year ago, 122 nations of the UN agreed to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Of course, the nuclear nations either voted against or abstained. How serious can they be about reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons. Words are cheap, but we’re not even getting words for global de-nuclearlization out of American political leadership. What a travesty.

ICAN logo

The folks at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize call today’s meeting “Good for Diplomacy, But Little Substance.”

ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said, “Trump just pulled off the photo-op of a lifetime. Rather than signing an unsubstantial agreement, Trump and Kim should be signing a real document based on international law, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty doesn’t tweet, it doesn’t change its mind on the plane home, and can’t have it’s ego bruised. It’s the only comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible way to achieve meaningful nuclear disarmament”.

Since our elected leaders won’t lead, we need to join with citizen driven organization like ICAN and our local Peace Education Center to push for getting global nuclear disarmament back on the agenda of our media and the government.


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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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