Trump’s introductory calls to foreign leaders are quickly becoming the subject of both fascination and horror as folks realize that he doesn’t appear to hold any respect for preexisting agreements. For example, he had an unorthodox conversation with the Taiwan president, which ruffled some feathers as he declined to honor the One China principle. He also had a not-so-good call with the Australian prime minister while slamming “the worst deal ever” concerning refugees. And according to Reuters, even Trump’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t go off without a hitch as previously assumed, particularly when it came time to discuss nukes.
Reuters reports that Trump spent part of his hour with Putin bragging about his popularity, although that seems like a standard move from all the reports these calls have produced. In addition, Trump denounced the existing U.S.-Russia treaty (New START) as “a bad deal,” although he had to ask his team — during the call — to educate him about the treaty. Oh boy:
In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced a treaty that caps U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a bad deal for the United States, according to two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call.
When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was, these sources said.
Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration, saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said.
Officially, the White House wouldn’t comment, although previous accounts of this call never mentioned nukes or the New START deal. This agreement, which went into effect under Obama, required both countries to power down to “1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed” intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2018. Putin wanted an extension, and Trump apparently drew a blank. This conversation happened months after both men were signaling an increase in their respective countries’ nuclear capabilities, and Trump was casually tossing out “arms race” while discussing the matter.
If Trump really trashed a nuke deal without even knowing any details, that’s disturbing enough on its own. However, Reuters floats the suggestion that Trump did not even prepare for the Putin call, which is a growing concern about his conversations with other leaders. Is he relying on his ability as a negotiator to carry him though the nuances of foreign policy? There’s something to be said about on-the-job experience, but when one is dealing with the fate of the globe, that concept kinda flies out the door.