Today we have a report that Donald Trump would like to meet with Vladimir Putin before the election to present a new arms control agreement to the world.
The easiest thing for Trump to do would be to extend the New START Treaty, which lapses in early February next year. The treaty is written to allow five-year extensions with a minimum of negotiation, and Putin has said he is willing to extend it.
Trump has been surrounded by treaty-haters, though, particularly but not only John Bolton, who would be happy for New START to lapse. Their strategy is to insist that China be a part of arms control negotiations and spin their wheels doing stunts like adding small Chinese flags to places around the table during US-Russian interactions and then whining that China didn’t show up. As China had said it wouldn’t.
Russia and the United States each have 1500 deployed nuclear warheads, whereas China has about 300. China has stated that it sees no reason to join arms control talks until Russia and the United States have brought their numbers closer to its own.
Whether China signs on to arms control has nothing to do with New START. If we want to draw China into arms control talks, we should extend New START and work from there.
That may be what Trump has in mind for a meeting with Putin.
His interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios, however, had a tantalizing hint of something else. (transcript of interview)
Swan asked Trump about a phonecall with Putin on July 23 in preparation for asking him about the story of Russian offers of payments to Taleban in Afghanistan for targeting Americans.
Trump says that the call was about “nuclear proliferation.” After discussion of the alleged payments, Trump says
It’s interesting. Nobody ever brings up China. They always bring Russia, Russia, Russia. If we can do something with Russia in terms of nuclear proliferation, which is a very big problem.
Bigger problem than global warming.
A much bigger problem than global warming in terms of the real world, that would be a great thing.
Trump is not good with complicated concepts, so it’s entirely possible that when he says “nuclear proliferation” he means “arms control.” He says “We discussed numbers things,” which could refer to arms control, although numbers would not be necessary in a discussion of extending New START. Others have interpreted these remarks that way.
In an interview with Ron Rosenburg in 1987, Trump said something similar, in more detail.
It’s a deal with the Soviets. We approach them on this basis: We both recognize the nonproliferation treaty’s not working, that half a dozen countries are on the brink of getting a bomb. Which can only cause trouble for the two of us. The deterrence of mutual assured destruction that prevents the United States and the USSR from nuking each other won’t work on the level of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange. Or a madman dictator with a briefcase-bomb team. The only answer is for the Big Two to make a deal now to step in and prevent the next generation of nations about to go nuclear from doing so. By whatever means necessary.
“Most of those [pre-nuclear] countries are in one form or another dominated by the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” Trump says. “Between those two nations you have the power to dominate any of those countries. So we should use our power of economic retaliation and they use their powers of retaliation and between the two of us we will prevent the problem from happening. It would have been better having done something five years ago,” he says. “But I believe even a country such as Pakistan would have to do something now. Five years from now they’ll laugh.”
This has Trump earmarks that are now familiar to us. The two strongmen get together to squeeze the little guys not to make nuclear weapons. It seems to have been his dream for a long time.
If I can find that material, so can Putin’s intelligence services. It would be a great lever on Trump, his way to a Nobel prize, in his mind anyway. If Putin is to be his partner in dealing with “a much bigger problem than global warming,” Trump would not want to alienate him.
The evidence is that Trump has other Russian connections that could be corrupting. But when I listened to the Swan interview, I couldn’t help thinking of that 1987 interview.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner
I just assumed that “numbers” was either what came out when he tried to say “numerous”. Alternate theory: someone said “numerous” to Trump, and he heard “numbers’, and then went on to repeat it.
In 1987 he had a vocabulary! However, at this point he can’t be trusted to discuss anything with Putin.
Yeah. Night and day.
@frosty: I thought that contrast was interesting too.
I think we’ve reached the accelerated roomba poo-flinging stage of the administration. Random shit is generated and hurled violently in the vague hope that something might stick and make a good campaign box-tick and the stronger conviction that the volume and speed will distract everyone from the essential chaos and destruction.
@scav: I agree. It’ll be Infrastructure Minute between now and the election.
since when does drumpf care about arms control, and since when does he think his voters give a shit about arms control?
Emma from FL
@Baud: I was about to suggest a drinking game every time he makes a new announcement but we would all die of cirrhosis before we saw President Harris’s inauguration.
Hoo boy. So much for him only liking bilateral treaties eh? START has always been about the US and Russia because we have always had the most nukes. China is not and really shouldn’t be any consideration here. Then I remember who we’re talking about and yeah…
Whatever Dolt 45 cobbles together will be more toothless than Moms Mabley.
His voters love the idea of Trump doing something that liberals will acknowledge as successful. Purely for marketing purposes.
They tried something similar with criminal justice reform.
@frosty: In September 2001 he had a vocabulary.
He’s brain damaged now, and has been for a long time.
He trusts Vladi more than he trusts the US intelligence agencies. He trusts Vladi more than he does US diplomats. He and Jared tried to setup a secret back channel through the Russian embassy, for crying out loud.
Yeah, this is going to be another stupid disaster, if anything happens at all.
Trump’s domestic policy is a disaster. But he has the incumbent’s advantage to try to whip up some foreign policy success to try to dazzle his supporters. Bibi, friendly Muslim rulers in oil rich states and Putin will be happy to play along.
US: Hey Israel, you need to give up your nukes.
Israel: What nukes? We don’t have any nukes.
US: Ok, thanks, TTYL.
@scav: Random shit works surprisingly well with undecideds. If you are undecided at this point it makes sense. Fortunately about 50% of voters really, really dislike Trump.
I guarantee that somehow this will metastasize and merge his electoral goal of returning Americans to the moon, and sabre rattling, and he’ll dust off that 1960s plan and we’ll end up nuking the moon sometime in October.
No intention of derailing the thread but keep forgetting to ask you, Cheryl, if you have any brief opinions one way or the other about LFTR technology which you’d be willing to share.
@Brachiator: He just had one with the UAE and Israel. It got a little notice then it got lost in the noise. Other than his domestic failures nothing is sticking. Covid is sucking up all the oxygen. And I don’t know if that’s going to change even with a new arms control deal.
EDIT: it landed with such a thud that Jared had to pen an op-ed in the Post to crow about it.
@NotMax: 1. If thorium were ever going to be a thing, India would have developed it long ago. They had lots of thorium, little uranium. But they went the uranium route anyway.
2. I’ve worked a bit with molten salts and find it hard to understand why anyone would think that this is a good way to build a reactor.
3. The thorium fuel cycle is no more nonproliferant than uranium’s.
That one was smoke and mirrors. They interviewed Ben Rhodes on Pod Save America last night – yeah, I know it’s the same people, but Ben has his own new podcast now “Missing America”.
They were interviewing him because the first episode is now out, and he talked about that. Definitely worth a listen.
@Martin: Nuking the moon is known to have unfortunate consequences.
Mai naem mobile
I find it interesting that Donny is insisting that it be a face to face meeting and not by video. Almost like he wants no video tape of the meeting. Just wondering if Vlad wants to give some super duper sekret instructions to Donny, maybe even a threat. Okay let me go see if I can still see black helicopters through this haboob we’re having here this evening.
@Martin: Aw shucks I had to look up TTYL.
I should have known. After all, it’s a thing I said in real life, for decades. On the phone. The phone which was attached to the wall with a long cord. A long cord so ya could take the receiver out from the kitchen into the hall to talk.
I’m too old for this internet stuff y’all have got going nowadays :P
Trump is beginning to understand that he will not win re-election.
He needs a bolt-hole, a place to which to flee the consequences for his many crimes and offenses (some of which I assume have not yet come to light, and some of which are contemplated but have not yet been committed)
He needs reassurance from Putin that a place will be provided, and that a way will be found for Trump to get there.
@joel hanes: I doubt it. Donnie lived in NYC his entire life; I am sure he thinks he can simply go there or to Mar-A-Lago and hole up. Only way he gets to Moscow is if Putin delivers his Trump Tower Moscow – which he has no use for if his puppet loses.
@PsiFighter37: Trump is Floriduh man now.
David ? ☘The Establishment☘? Koch
Melania pulls away from Dump, Again
“This has Trump earmarks that are now familiar to us. The two strongmen get together to squeeze the little guys not to make nuclear weapons. It seems to have been his dream for a long time.”
Much as it feels weird to agree with that putz, this has always been the unspoken underlying assumption of nonproliferation.The reason the nuclear “haves” found it possible to agree to the existing nonproliferation regime despite their mutual animosities is the fact that they know that nuclear weapons are equalizers. They allow third-rate shitpot countries to level the field with them, which none of them have any interest in. Access to nuclear energy tech for the have-nots s a necessary sweetener to get that deal.
Gin & Tonic
@joel hanes: There is zero chance Trump leaves the US, and there is zero chance he is ever sent to prison. Take that to the bank.
Once more, once more, into the breach
Mike in NC
Fat Bastard just wants to talk to his mentor Putin about voter suppression techniques. The Battle of Lafayette Square didn’t work out as he wished; bad PR. He plans to go to Gettysburg soon to defile yet another American place of honor. Too bad he can’t turn that National Monument into a Trump-branded golf course.
@David ? ☘The Establishment☘? Koch:
What a sullen family.
There’s at least one survey that says that 50% of voters would NEVER vote for trump*.
I’m-a stop you right there, for obvious reasons.
Understatement of the year. Of the decade. Of the century.
Of human history and future.
He will never make it to 1989 in his head.
Totally agree, but touting foreign policy success and pleading to get re-elected in order to provide continuity is straight out of the standard edition of the political strategist handbook. Trump’s people are not showing any creativity here. Maybe they are saving it for after the convention.
And right now, I expect for Trump to prematurely announce a workable vaccine for Covid-19. He is trying desperately to get people to forget his abysmal failure to protect the American people.
Kind of hard to do that as the bodies pile up.
Trump may be getting paid by Putin, but he would never live in a shithole country like Russia. Trump is rigidly infantile; he is only comfortable in one of his main properties.
I wonder how many leaders Putin is “advising”?
@David ? ☘The Establishment☘? Koch:
Even more shocking: The tie is not red.
He is trying desperately to get people to forget his abysmal failure to protect the American people.
Trump has always been and continues to be in denial about the virus. He has never done much to help contain the virus. He keeps trying to wish it away.
And in his mind, Trump is never responsible for anything bad that happens and he insists on being praised for any good outcome.
@Gin & Tonic:
Up until recently, I would have agreed that there was zero chance of Trump facing any serious repercussions. I still think it’s extremely unlikely he will go to prison but I am also of the opinion that this fall and winter are likely to be some of the worst in our nation’s history. A large percentage of the country is going to be in no mood to just forget and forgive.
The contrast between his command of language then and now is stark and the first thing I thought of when I read the earlier interview.
About the nonproliferation thing, I can’t help but wonder about the timing. Last week it was peace between Israel and the UAE, this week its nuclear weapons. I wonder if there’s a strategy of rolling out what can be sold as foreign policy achievements between now and the election?
John Boehner is my guess.
I don’t, however, see a “significant number” of Republicans voting for Biden in November and no GOP congressman is going to change that. But maybe it makes people like Kasich feel better.
@Kay: Boehner is retired though.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
“It’s infrastructure minute again?”
(cocks gun at head)
“Always has been.”
Yeah, Kasich clarified to “former”.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
@Kay: Pete McCloskey! (whose name I know from an old Doonesbury collection my sister left lying around my parents’ house thirty-odd years ago. Mike’s mother was a McCloskey supporter)
Boehner would be something of a bomb, and would definitely send The Beast into a rage. Then again, it could be Chris Shays, if he still has a pulse, to the extent he ever did.
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: I guess Charlie Dent. But if it’s Kasich predicting, it’s probably Ohio, which might mean Boner.
Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)
@Gin & Tonic:
We’ve already had Sewall (sp) talk about establishing a special commission to investigate Trump’s wrongdoing while in office. That’s already past “look forward, not back”
@Kay: That’s John ‘passing out tobacco lobby checks on the House floor’ Boehner, to bring up just one of his many …issues. Churchill’s remark about sparing a kind word for Satan should Hitler invade He’ll comes to mind.
@Jim, Foolish Literalist:
It would because Trump demands to be loved and accepted, although he can’t be because he’s horrible, but Republican voters won’t care if Boehner endorses Biden. There’s no “Republican Party” anymore. There’s the Donald Trump Party and some former Republican officeholders and operatives. The thing doesn’t exist anymore.
@David ? ☘The Establishment☘? Koch: Note that the third lady is holding her bag in the hand on the side of the shitgibbon. She’s prepared for this.
He’s a marijuana industry investor now. Although, I must say, based on what I hear in my office Michigan is kicking Ohio’s ass in the marijuana industry sector :)
@Gin & Tonic: I’m fine if Marine One flies to the edge of the territorial waters on 1/20 and kicks him out over the Atlantic. Satisfies both your statements.
The critical fact isn’t the 90%+ of Republicans who still approve of Trump, will still vote for Trump.
Rather, the critical fact is that Trump cannot win if even 5-10% of Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 peel off from him in 2020, even only half those abandoning Trump actually vote for Biden.
The only possible way the 2020 math can work for Trump is if he can prevent or inhibit a substantial-enough portion of voters who would be inclined to vote for Biden from actually turning out. And the 5% or so of GOP voters who switch sides and vote for Biden, if only for 2020, will make it significantly harder for Trump to successfully suppress enough Biden votes to win
@Goku (aka Amerikan Baka):
Pretty sure it wasn’t Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL). You may be thinking of Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).
I agree with all that I just don’t think John Kasich and John Boehner bring any votes. I have no objections to what they’re doing. I don’t even mind if they speak at the convention. I just don’t think they matter.
What I hope comes out of this election is we all admit “undecided” voters are now and have always been full of shit. In what universe is one “undecided” about this election?
These people are morons. I SUPPOSE one has to pretend to “reach out” to them but you may as well be talking to a concrete block. Who knows what goes on in their crazy heads?
Jim, Foolish Literalist
That was news that left me blinking into the middle distance like that guy in the meme. But I guess he is man who is pretty frank about his enjoyment of… relaxation.
My opinion of trump would need to increase exponentially for an infinite amount of time to reach “really dislike”. I hate that MF with the heat of a billion exploding galaxies.
Hypnosis works much better in person, so Vlad insists. I think that’s one of the things that happened in Helsinki and resulted in Trump’s strange affect.
@dmsilev: I loved that show.
David ? ☘The Establishment☘? Koch
Either Scarborough or Sonny Bono
@joel hanes: Pure speculation back at ya:
In their last phone confab, Vlad told Orangecandyass,
Pulling US troops out of Germany is just the beginning. By Halloween Twitler will have ordered US defense & intelligence agencies to send the Russians every file they have, including the identities of everyone who’s worked for Western interests in Russia, and any top-secret work on future weapons systems. It might even include the insertion of some Russian-developed code into the launch sequences for the US nuclear deterrent so that no nuke can be launched without Vlad’s approval.
And Cheetoh Benito will be happy to comply. Because nothing in the world matters more than his being able spend 4 more years rifling the US treasury and skating on all his criminal and treasonous activities. Not even the people who vote for him.
And then…the Russkies just walk away. In fact Vlad Vladimirovich has no ability to deliver re-election to Trump over an aroused and determined US electorate, but it doesn’t matter – he’s already gotten what he wanted from the Gullible Grifter: the effective disappearance of the US as a world power, leaving a deeply-divided nation on the verge of civil war with an overbuilt but impotent military. Which will be explained, in great and gory detail, to President-elect Biden shortly after the New Year. Possibly with a gentle hint that any attempt to undo this will be met with the launch of a Russian-controlled US nuke at Pyongyang, or some Chinese target, rendering us instantaneous global pariahs, destroying the US economy, & creating a worldwide outcry (led by Russia, of course) for our complete disarmament (if not occupation) as a menace to humanity.
 Not even sure what follows is possible, let alone feasible, but as Buffalo Springfield famously sang, Paranoia runs deep.
 Or worse – see note 4.
 Maybe especially not even them, since everyone but they know he despises them.
 See note 1.