President Trump, Congress and Shaping a Way Ahead

It is early days for President Trump and his Administration.

He was elected to shape a new strategic direction for the US government and economy.  A change in direction cannot be made by a President alone.  To achieve the goals on which he campaigned, Trump needs to gain sufficient support from Congress and the judicial system.

Trump won the Presidency as a leader of a populist movement.  That movement was made up of strongly motivated opponents of the Democratic Party candidate and an array of voters dissatisfied or disappointed with what little recent Presidents and the Congress had achieved.

Trump blamed an entrenched “establishment” for domestic and foreign policy failures.  He promised to bring to bear new leadership and new initiatives at home and abroad to Make America Great Again (MAGA).

Now Trump faces the need to build a new political and bureaucratic consensus in order to carry out promises of change on which he campaigned and won the Presidency.

Trump is already being challenged by intense factional and personal rivalries within his Republican majorities in House and Senate.  He needs to inspire and motivate greater teamwork and sense of common objectives among Congressional Republicans.  Without a consensus among the fractious members of his party, he will be unable to gain adequate funding and approval of legislative changes that would enable execution of his policies.

Trump was not a core figure in the evolution of the Republican Party until recently.  Many members of Congress are happy to have seen a Republican elected as President, but don’t see Trump as one of their own power structure in Congress built over many years, long before Trump’s entry onto the scene.  Gathering consensus within his party on his own agenda will require a national political effort on the state and Congressional District level to motivate individual Republicans in Congress to follow his lead.

Until mid-March, Trump had not yet gained an upper hand in trying to persuade or incentivize support from some Republicans who constitute the membership of the House Freedom Caucus. 

Trump’s aides convinced him that he must collect the votes of  House Member still opposing an elaborately crafted Obamacare repeal and replace bill.  He did gain votes among Republicans opposd to the bill as it existed in the week of March 20, but this required threats of future Presidential hostility and potential opposition to reelection in their own districts.

Private Presidential threats are often necessary in collecting votes for specific legislation, but public threats are usually counterproductive for future support and cooperation.  Trump sometimes fails to distinguish public and private threats.

In his early weeks as President, Trump is already discovering he is confronted with resistance to dramatic changes by the vast bureaucracies of government.  His first awakening to the powers of the bureaucracy was triggered by apparent intrusions of parts of the nation’s intelligence network that interfered with or even contradicted his own narratives.

In the early weeks Trump was able to assemble a Cabinet and leadership of a number of other Federal agencies.  But by mid-March Trump he was discovering that filling in the basic management infrastructure of government departments and agencies is highly contentious.

The nominations of an array of Deputy Secretaries, Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries in each Cabinet department all require Senate approval.  The Senate routinely conducts extensive vetting of each nominee, including personal financial circumstances, any history of illegal or publicly questionable behavior, and other factors that might influence decisions made in public service.

Choosing nominees for each senior post is often subject to a fundamental conflict of interests between a Cabinet Secretary in charge of his own Department and White House officials seeking to assure the Cabinet adheres to Presidential policy decisions and action priorities.

By mid-March few of the Presidential appointees to fill the top managerial posts in the Cabinet Departments had been named.  Cabinet Secretaries made known their choices for the top management posts, but the Trump White House in most cases showed resistance, suggesting alternative names.

This process of approving each Presidential sub-Cabinet appointee was made dramatically more difficult by a White House list of  “acceptable” experienced and capable names.  Mattis wanted people with previous experience at high levels in defense or security positions, but many of the most experienced Republicans had opposed or refused to support Trump’s nomination.  The White House staff deemed such people “unacceptable.”

In the meantime, the White House has been appointing a handful of people designated to monitor and report directly to the White House on actions taken within each department.  The intention is to assure consistency and loyalty to the President.  Senior, experienced officials not surprisingly bristle at the idea of being continuously “monitored.”

At top level executive levels in American industry, banking and other organizations it is normal practice to permit the Chief Executive to appoint his or her own management team.  When strong, publicly recognized personalities are appointed as Cabinet Secretaries, they tend to assume they will be able to make their own choices of subordinates to whom they may delegate authority to manage and make routine decisions on their behalf.

Trump and his White House staff have little experience with management of large organizations, and seem distrustful of efforts by Cabinet Secretaries to establish their own power structures.

In the meantime, by mid-March President Trump and his White House were discovering that holdover officials from prior Administrations, functioning as “Acting” senior managers, are able to delay or resist execution of his plans, and even divert funding allocations to their own preferred programs.

Thus, the President is finding that establishment of an operating Administration supportive of his objectives and skillful in achieving those objectives is a far more complicated challenge than he or his campaign aides had ever envisaged.

In his initial days as President Trump began an elaborate process of approving and signing Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda, many of which constituted reversal of such orders by President Obama.

This paperwork signing process provided early public evidence of Presidential action to break with the recent past.  However, signing documents is a far simpler process than motivating and administrating a vast decision structure involving thousands of decision makers in both the Executive Branch and Congress.

In the years before his election, President Trump developed and managed a global scale real estate and services business.  However, in that business he never personally had need to supervise a complex decision structure involving tens or even hundreds of thousands of subordinates.  Each of his property developments was set up as a separate entity or activity, with separate co-investors.  The decision structure for each building, hotel, casino, or recreational services enterprise is managed separately.

In that operational structure there was rarely need to delegate his authority to someone else, and for them to delegate to additional subordinates in an elaborate hierarchy typical of large corporations.

Trump seems distrustful of need for delegation of authority, likely unaware the mammoth US Government decision structure cannot function without substantial delegation.  Trump and his White House team seems unaware that if a top executive is chosen to carry out a new job, he or she will expect to be free to pick the very best people available to run his or her organization.  It is customary in most of the corporate structure in America that top executives are customarily given large discretion in appointing and setting up their respective management teams.

By March, the President found that his authority did not automatically gain acquiescence of member of his Republican members of Congress.  Members of the House, facing re-election every 2 years, naturally give priority to the concerns of voters in their own Districts.  To some extent they may need financial support from their Party, and therefore may be mindful of Party and Presidential desires, but ultimately each operates in personal survival mode.

Senators only face elections once each six years, and tend to feel freer to mark their own, sometimes independent policy paths. Many Senators are ambitiously planning or hoping to become President.  Most Senators are therefore potential rivals to the sitting President.

It is often said about Senators that most of them privately believe they could do a better job than whoever is the sitting President at any moment in time. 

As a result, the Senate is a separate political elite, dismissive of what they see as a House full of politicians who want to be Senators but not yet strong enough to reach that elevated level of power.

From that perspective, many Senators see themselves as political peers with the President, and not as officials of the government subordinate to the President.

Republicans within Congress were already becoming increasingly divisive among themselves in recent years.  The Speaker of the House is supposedly the leader of the present Republican majority, but in practice he is under continuing challenge by many of the House Members of his party.

The last Republican Speaker was forced out by fractious Members, most notably from the most right-wing faction known as the House Freedom Caucus (numbering upwards of 40 Members).

This faction is continuously pressing the Speaker and now the Republican President to bend to its will, especially at critical moments in voting on Presidential priority legislation.

In March Trump began to face explicit resistance to his efforts to gather support of all Republicans on repealing and replacing Obamacare.  Speaker Ryan was also confronted with resistance in a test of his ability to deliver support of all or most his House Republicans.

It became evident in March that that several Senate Republicans would also show resistance to both the House Republicans and the President. Since the Republican majority is only 52 seats out of 100, three of more defectors could disable any Trump initiative or detailed provision of an initiative. A few votes that demonstrate defections would be seen as decline in the influence and support Trump brought to the Presidency from his base of political support across the nation.

He might soon be viewed as a typical President of past years, capable of big achievements in a post-election honeymoon, but with slowly falling influence thereafter.

Problems with Congress are also posed by a more unified Democratic Party.  At the outset of his Presidency Democrats in Congress began a concerted effort to slow the process of approval of Trump’s Cabinet nominees.  Efforts to slow organization and staffing of the new Administration might at first look like simple harassment.  This would be a misreading.

The Democratic leadership intention is to delay action on Trump’s policy agenda at every step ahead in Trump’s first two years in office. The slower they can make the establishment of a working new management structure under Trump, the less time will remain for Congressional approval of Trump’s policy initiatives.  The longer the delays in developing and approving legislative action to enable policy changes, the later will be potential positive effects on the economy before the next 2018 Congressional elections.

A key Democratic Party objective is to weaken Trump’s popularity or record of achievements before those elections as a means of preventing Republicans to gain 8 or more seats over the present number which could provide Supermajority status to the Senate Republican majority.

In essence, the Democratic leadership believes its own fortunes in 2018 Congressional elections depend upon diminishing Trump’s possible successes before then.

Because reform of Obamacare has proven to be technically difficult and politically divisive, Congressional action on other matters, most notably tax reform, has been delayed.

Revisions of tax code provisions historically take many months.  A wide range of differing interests exist among businesses, banks, farmers, small business owners, charities, local governments and a many other entities.  Members of Congress must devote personal time to interaction with all groups to demonstrate personal concern about tax code changes on virtually everyone.  The tax code is embodied in thousands of pages that must be revised or deleted, accompanied by insertion of new provisions.

The later positive effects of Trump initiatives will be felt by voters, the greater the risks not only for reelection of incumbent Republicans, but also for survival of party candidate selections.  Party primaries to select candidates for upcoming elections begin to take shape early next year.

Incumbent Republicans will face competition from new candidates who will criticize the stances of incumbents on Trump’s various proposals, and whether those proposals have succeeded or failed by the start of next year.

Delays in Congressional actions have in turn prevented filling in lower tier management posts. In many Departments and agencies, specific people must be identified to exercise authority to approve or disapprove administrative and budgetary allocation decisions.

Until senior DOD posts are filled, many of the posts critical for day to day management of government remain staffed by “Acting” officials, most of whom are typically long time holdovers from previous Presidencies.

In the details of everyday spending, much of the decision process in such functions as Defense Department procurement are subject to officials whose views run counter to the new Administration’s intentions.

President Trump has had difficulties in setting up a White House staff system to oversee relations with Congress, execution of Presidential decisions by relevant Departments and agencies, handle communications with the press, media, and alt-media, and provide guidance on details underlying Presidential expressions of “policy”.

It has become clear that his White House is enmeshed in power struggles over who has what authority over what issues and actions.  This power struggle is definitely holding up approval of Presidential nominees to the management of Cabinet Departments and key agencies.

This early power struggle has also left Congressional Republicans confused, with incoherent of conflicting guidance from various White House staff about Presidential priorities for timing and content of legislative actions.

In short, it is early weeks, but it will be increasingly crucial for President Trump to get on with setting up an Administration that is both supportive and competent in realizing his objectives.

With regard to foreign affairs, defense, and international economic policy the President has jarred many foreign governments with his rhetorical emphasis on a need to reorient America’s policies to emphasize priority attention to domestic US interests.  He has articulated this shift in his “America First” formulation.

In some of his public comments he has questioned appropriateness of US engagements in multilateral economic institutions, multilateral trade and financial agreements, and multilateral security arrangements, even including NATO.

Much of the initial activity of his top appointees to posts interactive with other governments around the world, notably Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson, has been spent reassuring allies of the United States that campaign rhetoric and administration policy are not necessarily the same thing.

Trump has begun personal meetings with selected counterparts in other capitals to develop personal ties.

However he has left growing uncertainties in virtually all capitals as to what he expects from bilateral relations, and to what extent he is likely to upend decades of international agreements that provide predictability and order in world economic and security affairs.

His early challenges of existing trade agreements has raised profound political concerns in an endless list of other governments.  Most national economies depend on exports as the primary engine of national economic growth.  Exports enable reliance on faster growing external demand to enable them to escape from inadequate incomes to sustain domestic consumption and investment led growth.

After several decades of world trade growing faster than world production, trade collapsed near the end of 2008 into the longest contraction since the Great Depression. Although there was some recovery from 2011 world trade subsequently seems to have plateaued out in near stagnation in parallel with historically low world economic growth rate in the last several years.

In this context, Trump’s warnings that he will seek “better trade deals” is interpreted as posing the threat that he wants a greater share of non-growing world trade, effectively meaning cutting the shares of other nations.

Trump Administration consideration of unilaterally imposed import taxes and other measures aimed at reducing the US trade balance are viewed with alarm.  In response, the governments of the EU, China, and other nations are already discussing coordinated counteractions, including concrete retaliatory actions.

Thus, much of the world is on edge as to whether it will experience an American swing to greater nationalism and diminishing interest in international collaboration in addressing global economic and financial challenges.

Some other governments are also likely to “test” Trump’s responses to unilateral actions of their own.

Putin can be expected to continue probing security responses of neighboring countries and the readiness of Trump to defend such neighbors.

China can be expected to push the envelope of its security grip in the South China Sea and even elsewhere.

Iran will continue its high tension relationship with the US, while continuing and possibly expanding its extraterritorial military interventions by the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Turkey will continue threats of realignment and reconfiguration of relations with NATO, Russia, and all its neighboring nations.

North Korea’s recently ramped up threat posture poses entirely unpredictable scenarios that may have to be faced with hard responses.

The list is long. 

Testing will be done by other governments and by terrorist movements to see how long it takes for Trump to respond as well as what form of responses Trump might choose.  If the US responses are slow, the process of testing will likely intensify and accelerate.

To consolidate his domestic political grip, Trump must give primary attention to execution of the domestic measures he promised to the American electorate.  While interested in new “deals” with other nations, he will find challenging foreign policy or security transactions when domestic politics will demand priority political attention.

How this new American President will cope with this multiplicity of challenges both at home and abroad will determine adjustments in many capitals that have for decades relied upon the US to provide a fixed point of reference for most of the rest of the world’s policy deliberations.

Trump will need to develop an autonomous machinery for managing foreign relations that encompasses both security and economic issues, problems, and opportunities.  Since the Kennedy Administration such a machinery was embodied in the National Security Council framework, with the NSC staff  coordinating the many different points of interaction with other governments.

Trump, at least for now, has been thinking of handling foreign interactions in several separate ways, for example leaving trade policy decisions in an entirely separate National Trade Council.

If America First is pursued with vigor, many of the international institutions and bilateral working arrangements with other nations will be put into question.  This may very well end an era of US-led efforts to bring national policies into some kind of peaceful and orderly harmony. 

A period of unexperienced disorder could prove unsettling to the US economy, not only to industrial sectors, but also to agriculture, banking, and the many other segments of the American economy that are influenced by a Trumpian revolution in world affairs.

The Evolving Strategic Map: Challenges for the Trump Administration

The strategic certainties and alliances of the post Cold War world are all now facing severe challenges. The certainties of the period of globalization are clearly contested on many fronts.

The causes of this crisis are multiple. Some see the causes as originating in the imperial overreach of the United States in the Middle East. Others blame the imperial overreach of Europe to the borders of Russia. Some blame Russia and Putin for the seizure of the Crimea.

But these causes will be the subject for future historians.

What is clear now is that a new phase is beginning which requires clear headed analysis. The tectonic plates are shifting and the United States needs to think carefully about the prospects and consequences of these profound changes between (and within) nations, and how best to respond to this new world order (or disorder).

Many of these changes were already underway before 2017. But this is most especially the major international challenge facing the new Trump administration.

But for now what is clear is that security threats have unleashed national reactions with various nations seeking to rebalance their position in the global order, and seeking to work with clusters of either like minded states, or with states capable of providing key needs.

It is not exactly the return of nationalism, for that has not been absent in any case, but is clearly the return of security and defense concerns as a priority, and these concerns are always led by states seeking allies, partners or friends, or “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” types of partners.

And of course, key elements of global reach will remain relevant in the new situation, such as the reach of global information, cyber threats, and information war, as key interactive tools, which will be as disruptive as they are binding.  And the reach of global information into sub-regional groups can well lead to new types of disintegration and integration as well.

These trends were underway before the election of Donald Trump. But the trends are clearly affected by him and will provide a significant challenge to his Administration as it seeks to protect or advance American interests in the new global situation.

Brexit

We can start with Brexit which clearly has been generated by security concerns unleashed by open borders and concerns about the perceived roles of the European Court and the Commission in making rules without regard to British national interests.  The “democratic deficit” in Europe, and the often low quality of who get high ranking jobs in the Commission have been met by the referendum vote for Britain to exit the European Union.

It is clear, however, that even when Article 50 is invoked it will be a complicated process to determine what exactly Brexit will mean. And these negotiations will clearly be affected by the dynamic and fluid set of affairs on the Continent itself.

And with the possibility of another Scottish referendum it is not impossible to image that Scotland becomes independent and “little” England on its own seeking to sort out its post-Brexit future.

The prospect for a United Ireland has also returned.  The possibility of a post-Brexit “hard” border returning between the Irish republic, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, is already causing deep concern. Northern Ireland is currently without a devolved government, and a return to the bitter tribal politics of the past there should not be discounted.

The Euro, the European Union and “Multi-Speed” Europe

Clearly one of the major domestic challenges in almost all the western nations is the continuing “democratic deficit” that is the alienation of many segments of the population which have be adversely impacted by globalization and post industrialization. The critical role of the upper mid-western states in the victory of Trump, and the rise in support for the anti-EU and anti-Muslim “National Front” of Marine Le Pen in France, and the support for Brexit in the U.K.  are  all part of this new wave.

But how to respond to the root causes of this alienation from mainstream politics and politicians is not at all clear.  This is clearly one of the major challenges for the future within many western democracies.

The impact of Brexit, and profound security and economic concerns among the populations of European states, are leading to significant pressures for change. The euro-club is unlikely to expand, and open borders will end to all intents and purposes.

The European market already hardly an open one, so that renegotiation with Britain will raise again fundamental questions of support for special interests such as French and German farming and many other protected sectors in the European Union.  It is quite likely that the European Union will come to resemble what President Trump called it, namely the European consortium.

But clearly key states will try to sort out ways to work more effectively together to protect perceived national interests, but this is already very different from the multi-national structures dominated by the Commission in the globalization phase.

And key states outside of the European Union, namely Russia, China and Iran, will enhance their roles in dealing with individual states to seek ways to enhance their interests globally, supported by various bilateral agreements or investments as well.

Turkey

The war of words between the Turkish leader and Europeans is simply the more obvious shift in the President of Turkey’s approach to shape in effect a more Islamic state which can provide for leadership in the Middle East and work with other global powers outside of Europe to enhance his position in the region.

Turkey has already ramped up its defense industrial relations in the region and has become a source for arms in the region as well.

And will play off the United States, China and Russia to enhance Turkey’s power in the region.

ISIS is seen as a useful de-facto ally of Turkey in dealing with the Kurdish threat as the leaders of Turkey sees it.

Not only is Turkey not going to be a member of the European Union but its role in NATO is clearly in question as well.

Mexico

With the focus of attention in the 2016 Presidential campaign on Mexico, it is clear that the alliance between the two countries forged during the globalization phase is on the rocks.  Mexican leaders are reaching out to China as well as to other Latin American leaders to provide new sources of revenue, raw materials and diplomatic support.

Mexico has often been a security threat to the United States in the 19th Century and was seen by the Nazis in World War II as a soft underbelly for the United States. And of course significant parts of the United States were once part of Mexico, something which Americans forget but the Mexicans do not.

With the NAFTA agreements Mexican elites tied their future to their North American neighbors. With the new US administration, Mexican elites are seeking to retreat from this position, and seek alternatives in a reshaped relationship with Latin America and receptiveness to new openings to China.

But with a wall, the blending of Mexicans in the United States and Mexicans living in Mexico is a significant one which create significant domestic political problems for the Administration. The drug cartels will find ways other than overcoming the wall to come into the United States.  This will be especially true if the USCG is really reduced to the extent envisaged in the Trump Administration budget, or by using pathways through Canada into the United States, as the Trudeau government is providing visa free travel from Mexico into Canada.

Dynamics are underway which can clearly change the nature of Mexico and its relationship to the United States which President Trump has not anticipated in his discussion of the future US-Mexican relationship.

China

The leader of China has consolidated his control over China and is certainly not going to wait while President Trump sorts out his strategy.  He is already shaping a global support for multilateralism Chinese style.  He put that clearly in play at this year’s Davos sessions and although one has to be a bit delusional to believe in Chinese multilateralism, what this means in reality is the Chinese offering an alternative to the Trump vision of trade and global economic relations.

It is a version of playing older style Americanism against the new style of Americanism.

The Role of the BRICS

How will the relationships among the BRIC states work out?

The notion of an alliance of major developing countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) was originally an economically motivated construct from Goldman Sachs British born chief economist. It has long since been superseded. Major rivalries between the BRICS remain, especially between India and China.

But the concept was given form in a series of summits between the leaders of the countries involved,  and they have also established a BRICS development bank to provide a rival (or at least an alternative) to the US and Western European led IMF and World Bank.

Russia is already a major supplier of arms to India. Brazil has signed a deal to provide a new generation of fighter jets with Sweden in preference to the US. Russia is also a major supplier of arms to Venezuela,

For China this is an important extra mechanism for its engagement especially in Brazil where China is already Brazil’s largest trading partner. And is becoming a major investor.

Political Corruption, Drug trafficking and International Criminal Networks

Even if explicit national recognition of globalization as a positive focus of inter-state agreements goes down, globalization will certainly continue at the sub-national level, notably with regard to cyber threats, drug trafficking, and movement of migrants.  For example, the international drug trade is not confined to “bad hombres” from Mexico.

Nor is the US the only market for illegal drugs.  With the putative peace Agreement in Colombia many of the drug traders in cocaine have continued with their links to international cartels,  not only via the Caribbean and Mexico and Venezuela, but also via the Brazil, the small west African nation of former Portuguese Guinea, and on into southern Europe, and into then into the UK and  North Western Europe.

The corruption endemic in all the countries on these route from South America, as well as the control by competing drug gangs in the South American favelas and on the street, and into the political, law enforcement, and judicial systems of all these countries, is a continuing, and largely hidden problem, which is presenting major border control problems for the Brazilian military for example on the far flung, riverine, jungle, and only partially controlled Amazonian frontiers of Brazil.

The Redrawing of Boundaries and Negative Globalization: The Case of the Middle East

The state boundaries established in the 1920s in the Middle East were also stakes in the sand. With the evolution of the new phase of the global order, these lines are very likely to be redrawn.

The fissures in the Middle East are creating new fault lines as well with the role of outside players being significant in playing upon those fault lines with new working relationships among powers in the region, state and non-state with external power actors, namely European states, the United States, China, and Russia.

Key players in the region are already redrawing on the ground the nature of power.  The dissolution of Iraq and Syria is well underway.  ISIS and the significant migratory pressures in the region represent what might be called negative globalization, namely the movement of threats and forces which have eroded the reality of state sovereignty in the region.

And the reach of Iran and Turkey from the two sides of the region is designed to augment their national influence and augments the dynamics of change in the effective meaning of sovereignty in the region.

The GCC states facing Iran, Turkey and ISIS and having several powers proactively acting in the region from the outside face internal and external pressures, which can easily lead to explosive pressures on these states.

In many ways, the new Middle East, which will emerge in the next few years, may be the clearest statement about what the new phase in global politics actually will look like.

Israel as the only democracy in the region faces significant pressures to defend its interests and will certainly rely heavily on the United States to provide for maneuver room while Israel finds its place in the evolving Middle East situation of maneuvering sovereignty and explosive negative globalization.

The Trump Administration and Its Way Ahead

There are many other fissures emerging in a dynamic process of disintegration of the old and forging of the new, notably in terms of old nemeses of the United States, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Iran. But we can simply stop here for the moment and reflect upon the trends we have introduced in the paper and address the challenge for the way ahead for the Trump Administration.

What are the consequences for trade and the opportunities for China as a consequence of Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific trade deal negotiations? One aspect will be the question of how Australia and the east coast Latin American countries might seek new forms of engagement with each other.

The evolving strategic map raises a number of key questions.

What will new world “order” look like? What are the principal emerging clusters of power — political, economic, and military?

How serious is the domestic political crisis of western democracy? Is the West up to confronting these shifting military, strategic and economic challenges of a new global order and strategic map?

How dangerous is the threat of war? How dangerous is the threat from nuclear proliferation? If the threat of war is a real treat where will the spark most likely come from?  Estonia? Korea? Ukraine? Will it be conventional? How quickly might a war become nuclear?

How will the Russians play on the fissures in Europe and tensions between key European nations and the United States? What opportunities will emerge for the Russians? What threats can be generated by significant Russian miscalculation of varied Western responses to their actions?  If there is less Western cohesion, they may well be very different responses to which the Russians might clearly miscalculate.

The world which President Trump is facing is a very fluid one and one which is changing right before his eyes.  History will not stop while he sorts out his NAFTA negotiating strategy or figures out what to do with China.

His rhetoric and language has highlighted trends already underway but what is not clear is what will be his realistic policy responses?

Will there be a reworking of the US-Mexican relationship which can involve security and trade but is viewed by Mexico as equitable and far?

What will be his real policy towards Europe in terms of trade and defense and will there be a realistic understanding of how negative some of the far right players in Europe clearly are for American interests?  Any notion that Marie Le Pen is somehow Trump like needs to be clearly dealt with.

Brexit will be a difficult path to thread through a fluid and dynamically changing Europe, a Europe which remains central for the security, defense and prosperity for Britain.  What will be the Trump Administration policy towards Britain in a European context?

And China clearly needs to be dealt with.  It is a threat to US interests on many levels and the President clearly raised the level of interest in terms of dealing with these threats.  But there needs to be a global policy which deals with China in a broader context; it is not just about a trade negotiation.

There are many other issues and players to discuss, but what we have done here is simply to sketch how dramatic the changes underway are already.  And those changes will define the environment to which the Administration will need to shape and respond, not simply aspirations articulated during the campaign.

 

Time for a Strategic Move Towards India

Along with pressing for fairer trade with Germany and China, the Trump administration should strive for greater commercial opportunities with India, especially in the defense sector.

India’s large defense budget and the country’s vast unmet weapons needs guarantee that India will remain an important arms buyer for years to come.

India will soon surpass the United Kingdom to become the world’s third biggest defense spender, after the United States and China.

Last month, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said that India will purchase some four hundred military aircraft in the next three-four decades.

Per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia supplied 68 per cent of India’s imported arms during the 2012-2016 period. The United States lagged considerably behind, providing only 14 percent of India’s imported weapons, with Israel occupying third place at 7 percent.

India is also the largest foreign purchaser of Russian weapons, buying some 38 per cent of Russian defense exports. At the end of 2016, India’s defense orders from Russia exceeded $4 billion.

In addition to having the advantage of long-established ties and Soviet legacy systems that need upgrades, Russian arms suppliers have been willing to offer more sophisticated military hardware and technologies to India than Western countries.

Still, India is also the lead foreign buyer of Israeli weapons and the second largest purchaser of British exports. Regrettably, India does not even rank in the top five of the foreign purchasers of U.S. defense exports.

Based on planned deliveries and orders, SIPRI expected that Russia would retain its dominant position for at least several more years—unless the Trump administration makes it a priority to support more U.S. defense sales in India.

Presently, three fourths of the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s current fighter fleet are of Soviet or Russian origin (including MiG-21s, MiG-27s, MiG-29s, and Su-30s).

Of note, Russia developed a unique “Indian” version of the Sukhoi Su-30 (known as the Su-30MKI, for “multirole, commercial, Indian”) that will remain the Indian Air Force’s top-line heavy fighter, at least until the Dassault Rafale enters service.

India now has acquired some 240 Su-30MKIs, which have undergone constant modernization. By the end of this decade, the Indian Air Force will possess around 270 of these planes.

In addition, most of the Indian army’s tank force consist of Soviet- or Russian-made T-72 and T-90 Main Battle Tanks. Approximately half of the major surface combatants and combat submarines in the Indian Navy were constructed in Russia or the Soviet Union.

Russia has leased nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) to India to allow the Indian Navy to gain experience with maritime nuclear propulsion—a Project 670 Skat-class (NATO: Charlie-class) vessel in the late 1980s and early 1990s as well as currently a Project 971 Shchuka-B (NATO: Akula-class) multipurpose SSN, formerly known as K-152 Nerpa, which the Indians have renamed as the INS Chakra.

Russia and India recently signed about $10-billion worth of inter-governmental defense deals when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Gao for the October 2016 BRICS summit. The major deals included systems that no other country seems prepared to yet sell India:

  • four-five Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf Air Defense Systems (NATO reporting name: SA-21 Growler) regiments (each having 16 launchers and 64 missiles) for as much as $6 billion;
  • four more Project 11356 Admiral Grigorovich class (Indian named Talwar-class) frigates for $3 billion (including new Ukraine-made engines); and
  • 200 Kamov Ka-226T “Hoodlum” twin-engine light utility helicopters (in a joint venture of the majority shareholder HAL Corporation with Rosoboronexport and Russian Helicopters—the latter two as part of Rostec holding corporation) for over $1 billion.

Moscow gave India the right to produce some of the frigates (probably at the HSL shipyard) and 140 helicopters (at a new HAL plant at Tumakuru) under license, as well as service the helicopters.

Russia and India expect to finalize the S-400 surface-to-air missile contract later this year. Russian negotiators are encouraging India to forego the usual 30 percent offset package to speed delivery of the systems—an argument U.S. contractors should also use.

Russia has also agreed to repair, upgrade, and then lease India another multipurpose Project 971 Shchuka-B (NATO: Akula-class) nuclear-powered attack submarine for some $2 billion as well as consider assisting India to develop more nuclear-powered submarines beyond its newly commissioned Arihant-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN).

Russian analysts have argued that Western sanctions have not adversely affected their arms trade with India.

Looking ahead, Russians and Indians aim to take advantage of India’s having joined the Missile Technology Control Regime to conduct joint research and development to extend the range of their jointly developed Brahmos cruise missile beyond 300 kilometers.

Furthermore, Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation has agreed to prolong a 2006 agreement that allowed India to import 470 T-90S tanks and build another 530 under license. India aims to have a fleet of 1,600 T-90 tanks by 2020.

Russia is also offering the Indian Air Force an opportunity to upgrade the Su-30MKI engine from its current Saturn AL-31F engine to the AL-41F-1S engine now on the Russian Air Force’s Su-35 as well as make other upgrades under a possible modernization of India’s Su-30MKI to a future near-fifth generation “Super Sukhoi” configuration, with upgraded avionics, sensors, cockpit, and capacity to launch BrahMos supersonic missiles, at an estimated total cost of over $6 billion for all the 272 Su-30MKIs India has ordered to date.

Depending on the terms of reference, Russia plans to offer this modernized Su-30MKI variant, the MiG-31, the MiG-35 or the PAK FA in the new tender for India’s fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project.

Perhaps the most ambitious Russian-India joint defense development project, launched in 2007, is the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which is co-financed on an equal basis. The development teams includes Russia’s Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation, India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), and the Indian Aeronautical Development Agency. They intend to manufacture a plane based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) fifth-generation multirole fighter, designed primarily for air superiority, with stealth, a single-seat, twin engines, and “supercruise” (sustained supersonic flight) capacity. Besides offering the plane to potential foreign buyers, the IAF plans to buy some 120 of these planes for around $25 billion.

Before finalizing the development contract, however, the Indian government is demanding improvements over the current T-50 prototype, such as a stronger engine. Furthermore, Indian officials have complained about inadequate technology transfer under the existing Sukhoi-30MKI acquisition, in which HAL only assembles rather than manufactures the planes and at a higher price than the turn-key imported planes from Russia.

They are also disappointed that Indian firms are receiving less valuable FGFA-related contracts than Russian ones even though both countries are contributing equally to the costs of developing the plane. Indians are still displeased by the slow pace of the project given their urgent need for a more air power to counter China.

The Russian-Indian arms relationship has experienced other problems. For example, Indians have complained about quality of some Russian weapons, seen by the recriminations over several Su-30MKI crashes, as well as delays, technology transfer restrictions, and rising costs of some Russian arms imports.

Russian defense companies are attempting to address Indian complaints about the lengthy time to obtain spare parts and other maintenance by establishing local logistics hubs, such as for the Su-30MKI, at the HAL facilities in Bangalore.

Even so, these problems with past Russian sales, competition from other suppliers, and efforts to improve India’s indigenous defense industry could lead New Delhi to buy fewer Russian weapons in coming years—if the United States makes a major effort to capture some of these sales.

Making the American Worker Great Again: The Fallacy of Labor Costs

When I was working in the semiconductor industry in 1984, the U.S. labor force was approximately 250,000 direct employees. In 2017, the labor force is roughly the same size.

Yet, we know that the volume of silicon wafers consumed, the base material used in almost all computer chip manufacturing, has grown from 1.3 to 10.4 billion square inches. (Semiconductor Equipment & Materials International, Industry Research & Statistics (www.semi.org)

But this tremendous growth rate pales in comparison to the number of transistors (the tiny electrical circuits that make up the computer chip) that have increased from around 250,000 per chip to well over 7,200,000,000 for a modern Intel microprocessor (over 30,000,000,000 for some application specific chips).

The point is clear; labor has become less of a factor in determining the output of a modern semiconductor factory, commonly called a “fab.”

But, have labor costs also gone down in relation to the productivity improvements achieved through automation, manufacturing equipment performance, and chip design?

I used the semiconductor industry, more correctly the integrated circuit (IC) industry, to demonstrate the subjective points regarding output and labor content.

To quantify my thesis that the reason we have seen a migration of high tech manufacturing jobs away from the U.S. has less to do with labor rates and more to do with governmental policies, I looked at another manufacturing industry; one that has almost entirely consolidated in mainland China, photovoltaics (PV) (i.e., solar electric distributed generation). PV manufacturing is much less complicated than IC’s and, therefore, easier to demonstrate the points regarding labor costs as they impact total product costs.

In a modest PV factory of approximately 100-megawatts (MW) annual output, there are approximately 130 direct labor employees.

(Factory modeling and simulation results provided by Wright Williams & Kelly, Inc. (www.wwk.com)

Looking at Figure 1 shows us that a 100% range of labor costs (±50%) impacts product costs by less than 7%. To say that another way, if a country offers wages at half the U.S. rate, they only impact the product cost by 3.5%.

So, how can government policies impact product costs by amounts greater than that impacted by regional differences in labor rates?

One obvious strategy is the proposal by President Trump to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%.

Using the same set of data, we see the increase in cash flow almost exactly offsets a 50% delta in labor costs (See Figures 2 and 3).

(Year 1 represents the start of investment. Year 2 represents the start of production.)

Anecdotally, in a recent conversation regarding a proposed merger of two equipment companies I was informed that their decision to incorporate outside the U.S. was solely based on a 17% reduction in tax rates.

A 20% reduction in U.S. corporate tax rates would have had the effect of keeping that combined organization in the U.S. and captured the tax revenue from not only the original U.S.-based firm, but also their foreign partner.

Yet, tax rates don’t’ seem to answer all the questions.

In the case of silicon-based PV, you have to look at the very first stages of the supply chain. To avoid dumping charges, for which they were not successful, it has been reported that the Chinese government provided subsidies to polysilicon suppliers.

Polysilicon is the basic starting material for the wafers that will ultimately be turned into PV cells and those, in turn, used to create the finished panels you see on rooftops and ground-based installations.

An examination of the impact of polysilicon pricing finds that the reported subsidies by the Chinese government result in a ~33% reduction in finished wafer costs.

When this data is used in the Solar American Initiative Public Solar Model the resulting impact on PV module costs is just slightly lower at ~30%; however, given the low margins in the silicon PV market, mostly due to pricing pressure applied by Chinese manufacturers, you can see how difficult, if not impossible, it is for U.S. manufacturers to compete.

(National Renewable Energy Laboratory, www.nrel.gov).

And, in fact, they have virtually abandoned this market and have concentrated on other possible PV solutions.

While much of the media has been critical of President Trump’s call for the institution of tariffs and taxes on products manufactured in countries suspected of illegal subsidies and currency manipulation, it was the Obama administration that enacted tariffs against Chinese PV module manufacturers.

The reported tariffs were very close to the numbers modeled above and were stated to be up to 31 percent, depending on the manufacturer.

(https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-09/u-s-imposes-dumping-duties-on-imports-of-chinese-solar-goods).

Yet, this tariff approach has done little to bring silicon-based PV manufacturing back to the U.S.

Perhaps this strategy is too little too late; proving that once an industry has been undercut, it is difficult to bring it back on shore without significant government policy changes.

So, that brings us to the question of how to change the playing field instead of just trying to level it.

In the PV case, one proposal that could change the playing field is a new set of regulations that require the measurement of the environmental impact of various PV technologies based on their point of origin (mass and energy balances and disposal costs).

What is the lifetime carbon footprint of a PV panel from China, made with electricity generated by a traditional coal-fired (i.e., dirty) plant as opposed one made with electricity from a natural gas-fired plant in the U.S.?

Other areas that impact the manufacturing location decision process are:

  • Strength of Intellectual Property (IP) protection
  • Cost of raw materials (e.g., lower energy and petroleum product costs due to “fracking”)
  • Cost and time to meet environmental and other regulations
  • Renegotiated trade agreements (e.g. Border tax)
  • Political winds of change (i.e., Nationalism)

Clearly, the old excuse that American workers are overpaid, is no longer a valid axiom.

Given the state of automation in most manufacturing environments, or at least those that are highly valued by governments, it is government regulations (or lack thereof) that will ultimately drive these decisions.

David Jimenez is President and CEO of Wright Williams & Kelly, Inc., the largest privately-held operational cost management software and consulting services company serving technology-dependent and technology-driven companies. He holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.B.A. in finance. He is also the author of over 25 published papers in the fields of productivity and cost management.

President Trump and Shaping an Approach to the Global Nuclear Order

President Donald Trump’s February 23 interview with Reuters has understandably garnered much attention.

Among other matters, he advocated a tougher U.S. stance on nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear weapons, and other security issues.

Regarding nonproliferation, Trump reiterated his opposition to the 2014 Iran nuclear pact and maintained that Beijing could “very easily” pressure North Korea into ceasing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs. Trump did not exclude meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to end Pyongyang’s provocations through diplomacy, an idea Trump first raised during his presidential campaign.

However, Trump warned that the U.S. government was considering “a lot more” than diplomatic and defensive measures to end the North Korean threat.

With respect to the strategic balance, Trump asserted that the United States has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” He stated that it would be his dream to eliminate nuclear weapons throughout the world, “but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

Regarding Russia, Trump labeled Moscow’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty “a big deal.”

The treaty prohibits Russia and the United States from researching, testing, and deploying ground-launched missiles, whether armed with conventional or nuclear warheads, with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

According to media reports, the U.S. intelligence community recently concluded that the Russian military has deployed two battalions of a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile (U.S.-designated SSC-8). Each battalion may have several dozen SSC-8 missiles on multiple road-mobile launchers. One of the two battalions has been moved from its missile test site at Kapustin Yar, located near Volgograd in southwestern Russia, to an unidentified operational base in another part of the country.

The new system may be a ground-launched version of the sea-launched Kalibr intermediate-range cruise missile that Russia has employed with conventional warheads in Syria for over a year. Depending on the version, these missiles can carry a 1,000 pound explosive package up to 2,500km when launched from surface ships or submarines. They can also carry nuclear warheads.

The SSC-8 may be launched from the two-stage mobile 9K720 Iskander-M (NATO-reporting name SS-26 Stone), with which Russia has been reequipping its Ground Forces.

According to Russian News Agency TASS, “the Iskander tactical ballistic missile complex includes a launcher, a loader-transporter, a routine maintenance vehicle, a command post vehicle, an information post, an ammunition equipment set and training aids.” When deployed with its standard 9M728 cruise missile, the Iskander’s stated range is slightly under 500km, but with a different cruise missile or other payload, its reach could extend well beyond that.

Depending on the location of this mobile battalion and any other missiles that Russia deploys, the SSC-8 could hit a variety of targets in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, including U.S. friends, allies, and U.S. military forces deployed or operating in these regions.

For instance, an extended-range version of the Iskander based in Kaliningrad could hit NATO missile defenses, command posts, air bases, and other high-value targets throughout Europe, making it difficult to reinforce the Baltic states and other areas near Russia.

In his Reuters interview, Trump criticized the 2010 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) as “just another bad deal that the country made,” and promised that under his leadership, “we’re going to start making good deals.”

Trump left open whether the United States would withdraw from the INF Treaty or New START—as the George W. Bush administration did from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002—or try to correct weaknesses in the current agreements through formal amendments or informal agreements, or attempt to secure better deals in future accords.

President Trump’s remarks must be viewed in context.

First, there are many continuities in Trump’s views and those of previous U.S. presidents, though as usual, Trump’s diction differs from that of his predecessors.

For example, former President Barack Obama similarly accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty, unsuccessfully appealed to China to pressure North Korea into curtailing its nuclear and missile programs, strove to secure greater defense commitments from NATO’s European members, and committed to spending billions of dollars to ensure a safe and secure U.S. nuclear force.

Like his predecessor, Trump did not discuss proposals to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing, deploy space-based missile defenses, or pursue other contested defense initiatives.

Second, in some respects, the global nuclear balance has indeed become less favorable to the United States.

Besides China’s growing capabilities, Russia currently has more strategically deployed nuclear warheads than the United States and has successfully improved its other nuclear capabilities. However, the INF Treaty and New START had little direct effect on this outcome.

Over the past decade, Russia has been steadily rebuilding its nuclear forces, which collapsed after the Cold War, within New START ceilings. Meanwhile, the United States has mainly extended the life of the Cold War-era nuclear systems and warheads that it inherited from the Cold War.

Although new U.S. initiatives will eventually change this situation, at least for the next few years, enforcing the New START constraints will benefit the United States, since the next-generation U.S. nuclear delivery systems currently under development will probably not become operational before 2026.

However, congressional support for nuclear rearmament to address this capabilities gap is broad but potentially shallow, given many members’ desire to spend more on other defense priorities and support effective arms control.

Trump could address congressional concerns about Russian arms control violations through targeted means, such as applying the newly enacted Rogers-Poe provision of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA Section 1290), which sanctions companies involved in arms control violations as well as entities that do business with them.

Most importantly, Trump seems open to looking beyond New START in an effort to put the Russian-U.S. strategic framework on a more positive trajectory.

Obama also saw New START as a transitional arrangement to be superseded by a superior accord that would mandate reduced Russian strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.

Given the Trump administration’s openness to rethinking U.S. nuclear strategy, now is the time to reconsider old truths and encourage new thinking about nuclear futures.

The Second Nuclear Age, North Korea and the F-35

The F-35 is entering into operations precisely as the second nuclear age becomes a key strategic reality.

A new plane and a new age have arrived at about the same time.

It is the strategic context which drives the operational demands upon the aircraft and its role in the U.S. and potentially allied responses to the second nuclear age.

The context drives the demand signal; and the F-35 global fleet is part of the response.

The F-35 is part of the evolving approach to 21st century high intensity operations, which can be characterized as an offensive-defensive enterprise enabled in part by the nuclear tip to the spear.

The Second Nuclear Age

The return of nuclear weapons as a key currency for global power and the rise of several new nuclear or powers at the threshold of possessing nuclear weapons has created a second nuclear age. It is one, which is largely ignored, in strategic discourse where the assumption is that the rules, which were shaped by the US and the Soviet Union in the first nuclear age, somehow apply; they don’t.

As Paul Bracken has put it: “In the first nuclear age there was a single overarching nuclear rivalry. It took only two to tango, so to speak, in order to moderate any provocations, limit the dynamics, and reduce the number of bombs through arms control. Today, the number of bombs is much reduced from cold war levels, but the number of rivalries that have taken on a nuclear context has increased.  These rivalries, anchored in the regions but with global impact, have more deeply embedded the bomb in international affairs than was the case even during the cold war.”[1]

It is about a power like North Korea becoming nuclear capable and working to shape long range strike capabilities against the United States and the need for the United States to shape a real strategy for the decapitation of the North Korean regime and the elimination of the strike assets of that nation against the U.S. and the allies which rely upon it for nuclear deterrence.

It is about having a credible and plausible strike and defense package, which can devalue the ability of the small nuclear power, from credibly using its weapons. It is about attenuating the credibility of a small power using its weapons as the only real path to deterrence.

It is not about running political campaigns for a nuclear free world; it is not about simply having an existential capability to destroy one’s enemy; it is about having nuclear forces integrated enough within a precision strike force capable of defeat of a small nuclear power.

The Coming of the F-35

The F-35 has come at a time in which there is a clear need for enhanced precision strike able to operate in such a way as the ability to strike the command and control, and delivery assets of a small nuclear power is of growing strategic significance.

The F-35 can provide a key delivery vehicle for such a mission, notably when connected with a significant offensive and defensive force integrated to the extent that seamless capabilities to strike and defend are integrated into an effective command and control decision making system able to deal with small nuclear powers.

21st century warfare concepts of operations, technology, tactics and training are in evolution and revolution.

The F-35 is at the heart of this change for a very simple reason – it is a revolutionary platform, and when considered in terms of its fleet impact even more so. The F-35, Lightning II, will make combat aviation history with the first of kind sensor fusion cockpit.

The F-35 is essentially an F/A/E-35 that makes it effective in air-to-air, air-to-ground and electronic warfare combined missions. Allied and U.S. combat pilots will evolve and share new tactics and training, and over time this will drive changes that leaders must make for effective command and control to fight future battles.[2]

The impact of an integrated fleet of F-35s with fused internal pilot combat data and also distributed information out, will allow the US and its allies to rethink how to do 21st century air-enabled operations.

Each F-35 will be able to network and direct engagements in 360-degrees of three-dimensional space by offloading tracks to other air/land/sea platforms including UAVs and robots.

As a fleet, the F-35 is an integrated fleet able to share data over great distances via its wave based communications systems.

And it comes as Western forces are augmenting their ability to network forces and to prepare for the next generation of weapons, and learning how to off board weapons, that is one platform identifying targets and guiding a weapon launched from another platform to the target.

The F-35 is the first software upgradeable tactical jet ever built; and the evolution of the software will be determined by the operational experiences of the air combat force.

And the evolution of the next generation of weapons will be highly interactive with the evolution of F-35 software, either in terms of the integration of weapons onboard the F-35 itself or in terms of its ability to direct strike from other platforms, whether manned or unmanned.

The Offensive-Defensive Enterprise

The evolution of 21st century weapon technology is breaking down the barriers between offensive and defensive systems.

Is missile defense about providing defense or is it about enabling global reach, for offense or defense?

Likewise, the new 5th generation aircraft have been largely not understood because they are inherently multi-mission systems, which can be used for forward defense or forward offensive operations.

Indeed, an inherent characteristic of many new systems is that they are really about presence and putting a grid over an operational area, and therefore they can be used to support strike or defense within an integrated approach.

In the 20th Century, surge was built upon the notion of signaling.

One would put in a particular combat capability – a Carrier Battle Group, Amphibious Ready Group, or Air Expeditionary Wing – to put down your marker and to warn a potential adversary that you were there and ready to be taken seriously.  If one needed to, additional forces would be sent in to escalate and build up force.

With the new multi-mission systems – 5th generation aircraft and Aegis for example – the key is presence and integration able to support strike or defense in a single operational presence capability. 

Now the adversary cannot be certain that you are simply putting down a marker.

By shaping a command and control and ISR system (in today’s concepts referred to as C5ISR) inextricably intertwined with platforms and assets, which can honeycomb an area of operation, an attack and defense enterprise can operate to deter aggressors and adversaries or to conduct successful military operations.

Inherent in such an enterprise is scalability and reach-back.

By deploying the C5ISR honeycomb, the shooters in the enterprise can reach back to each other to enable the entire grid of operation, for either defense or offense.

http://www.sldinfo.com/the-f-35-and-the-offensive-defensive-enterprise/

http://www.sldinfo.com/airpower-in-the-next-two-decades-of-the-21st-century-secretary-wynne-looks-ahead/

Integrating Nuclear Weapons Into the Offensive-Defensive Enterprise

If one is dealing with combat with a small nuclear power, it is not enough to shape a completely conventional warfare strategy.

It is incumbent on the force planner to integrate nuclear strike into the planning and in providing a means to persuade the adversary that it is simply not credible to use his nuclear weapons as a first strike weapon or a weapon that can not be neutralized in effective ways by attacks on his C2, delivery assets or storage facilities.

It is about designing from the ground up a credible offensive-defensive capability to effectively defeat a small nuclear power.

It is not about wishful thinking or remaining in the rules of engagement shaped in the first nuclear age; it is entering into an age where the use of nuclear weapons can be imagined once again.

The US Navy refers to the shaping of such distributed capabilities in terms of either “distributed lethality” or the “kill web.” The notion is that strike is distributed throughout a web or honeycomb and that strike can be distributed through a self learning web operating in a high threat environment.

It is crucial as well to design weapons which can be integrated into an offensive-defensive or distributed force where very limited use would be envisaged and only in clear need of doing so. This is why what nuclear warheads, which have historically been called tactical nuclear weapons, combined with advanced delivery technologies becomes a key focus of attention in one’s warfighting force.

It is deterrence based on actual warfighting capabilities; not the words of a diplomatic kabuki dance.

The F-35 when married to a small yield nuclear weapon clearly can be a key part of such an evolution.

The ability of the F-35 to command situational awareness of 360 degree space and to be able to determine with high precision a target set, and to operate passively while doing so, provides an ideal platform for the delivery of a small yield weapon against appropriate targets as part of an overall campaign against an aggressive small nuclear power.

The redesign of weapons associated with the evolution of the aircraft, and perhaps other delivery vehicles such as hypersonic weapons needs to be part of the effort to deal with second nuclear age powers.

It is about clearly both the evolution of weapons technology as well as delivery technology.

And with the software upgradeable approach of the F-35, their can be an open ended evolution of the aircraft highly interactive with the evolution of weapons delivery and performance as well.

The Current F-35 and Tactical Nuclear Weapons Approach

The F-35 is a block upgradeable aircraft; in the fourth block in the evolution of the aircraft, currently under design and testing, nuclear weapons delivery will be integrated onto the aircraft.

This design capability will be operational by 2018 but the testing and integration of the aircraft with the initial weapon to be carried on the aircraft will take longer.

Currently, only the F-35A is being considered for nuclear weapons delivery, although it would not take a great deal, to evolve the F-35C, the carrier-based F-35, to have this capability as well.

The head of the F-35 program, Lt. General Bogdan has argued that the F-35 will carry an update B-61 tactical nuclear weapon. The weapon is in development and its progress will determine when the integration actually occurs which then will be followed by testing and certification. According to Bogden: “We don’t see the marrying-up of our capability and that weapon until probably the mid-’20s, but it’s going to happen.”[3]

The Department of Energy is building the weapon itself and the Air Force is building the bomb’s tailkit.

The B-61-12 is a low yield weapon and can be delivered several miles from its target.

But all of that is part of the question of weapons design including the question of evolution beyond the B-61 itself.

Combing an aircraft integrated sensors and target acquisition, and able to so in a passive sensing environment, with a low yield nuclear weapon clearly can introduce a new tool set into an integrated warfighting strategy appropriate to dealing with smaller nuclear powers, or deterring a power like Russia which has recently threatened the use of tactical nuclear weapons against NATO powers, notably in Northern Europe.

The North Korean Case

Unfortunately, for many strategists the North Korea of today is perceived as fighting the last war with a wave of conventional forces coming South.

This ignores not only the possession of nuclear weapons and missiles by the North, and the very isolated regime which will have its own calculus on war which will have to be affected by minutes and hours not days of actions by the UN, the South Koreans and the United States.

The key challenge is the marriage of North Korean nuclear warheads with mobile delivery systems. This means that there is a need for dynamic targeting of the delivery system as it moves into deployment. The F-35 as an overhead system that can detect, and then prosecute such a delivery system is clearly a very useful platform in shaping a response.

One way to let the North know that the US recognizes the new realities of the Second Nuclear Age is to change the command structure.

It makes no sense to have an Army officer in charge of US forces in South Korea; it is time to have an Air Force officer in charge and directly focused on the capability of the US and the allies to strike North rapidly and effectively in the very early moments of the coming of war.

It is not about the US Army defending South Korea in depth; it is about the South Koreans doing that and the US and allied air, naval and army air defense systems integrated in a strike and defense enterprise than can defeat North Korea’s missile and strike force.

With a shift in strategy towards North Korea which would enhance the capabilities of the US and South Korea to strike into North Korea and to debilitate North Korea’s nuclear warfighting capabilities, such a shift must include a tactical nuclear strike capability as part of the warfighting arsenal.

North Korea may be the test case, but we have to think about a world in which we have more than one North Korea, in which those capabilities are held by other nations whose interests and strategy are very different from ours.

Declaratory deterrence is not enough; a fully conventional strategy is not feasible; but an integrated offensive-defensive force with a nuclear tip is.

http://www.sldinfo.com/shaping-a-21st-century-korean-defense-strategy-key-questions-to-address/

http://www.sldinfo.com/the-evolution-of-strategy-for-south-korean-defense-shaping-the-us-army-role-in-the-second-nuclear-age/

[1] Bracken, Paul (2012-11-13). The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics Times Books. Kindle Edition, Conclusion.

[2] The F-35 and 21st Century Defence. 2016. https://www.amazon.fr/F-35-21st-Century-Defence-English-ebook/dp/B01FA3P5YM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488199420&sr=8-1&keywords=laird+f-35

[3] http://www.airforcemag.com/DRArchive/Pages/2015/September%202015/September%2023%202015/Only-USAF-Making-F-35-Dual-Capable.aspx

Editor’s Note: The graphic above and the intellectual thinking about the Z axis has been developed by Ed Timperlake.

For a discussion of Timperlake’s thinking, see the following:

Shaping a New Approach to Combat Learning: The Role of the F-35

The International Security Dimension of Border Adjustment Taxes

Border Adjustment Taxes (BAT) is a controversial issue that thus far, have been primarily viewed as a means to reform the US corporate tax system, simultaneously achieving the goal of raising revenues while improving the competitiveness of US businesses worldwide.

There is a much more important case and argument for BATs: It is perhaps the ideal mechanism to achieve a range of key foreign policy goals of the US, from dealing with the PRC to petulant allies.

Domestic tax reform via BAT is a chance to address one of the major failings of the present international system: compartmentalization of security and trade issues have created a situation whereby the PRC regime, the world’s largest trader and greatest beneficiary of “free riding” on the international system, is now actively undermining international order maintained and paid for by US allies upon which global free trade rests.

Proposals for BAT raises many questions including whether it is legal under WTO.    The WTO was never meant to be a deal with trade between near enemies like the PRC, Russia, Iran, North Korea and the US and allies.

There are, at least two ways to address the issue without renegotiating WTO.

Article XXI Security Exceptions:

“(b) to prevent any contracting party from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests”

(c) to prevent any contracting party from taking any action in pursuance of its obligations under the United Nations Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security”

These clauses offer multiple “escape hatches” such as unilaterally declaring the PRC’s military aid to the North Korean nuclear and missile programs, the PRC’s military buildup, etc. an existential threat to the US and allies, or to invoke the inherent right of self-defense in the UN Charter.

The other alternative is to craft a WTO compliant Border Adjustment Tax which can in theory be done under Article XX(b). “(i) be necessary, (ii) to protect human, animal, or plant life or health, and (iii) satisfy the requirement of the chapeau of Article XX to the effect that it not be applied as arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade.”   In any case, to do so will likely involve years of legal disputes that risk an adverse conclusion.

The easiest way to implement a border adjustment tax is to simultaneously invoke Article XXI (Security Exception) and Article XX(b) so as to provide a difficult to defeat regime. Combining this with bilateral agreements with key trading partners to waive their rights (if any) to seek redress under WTO should make it unlikely that the US will have to risk WTO adjudication. Ultimately, the goal will be to renegotiate the WTO treaty to foreclose the option.

Once the legal strategy is formulated, the question then becomes what and how should such a BAT charge be structured and what it should aim to achieve.

A BAT need to create an adjustable middle ground between the “on and off” of sanctions that is presently the only policy instruments short of war to compel regimes like Russia, North Korea, and Iran to change their behavior.  By being a tax or charge, it gets away from the issue of enforcement of sanctions, and convert it into a revenue opportunity for the US and allies.

BAT Impact on Enemies or near Enemy “Peer Competitors”

Sanctions, when international consensus allowed it, have rarely been all encompassing or suffocating in the post War era. There have always been exceptions for food, medicines, and allowing exports to pay for them.

What to do about nations like the PRC, who dominate international trade and are peer competitors to the US and allies and actively arming for a war with the US?

By levying a BAT of, e.g., 30% without exception or exemptions on all imports (direct or indirect) from regimes like China, Russia, Iran, it would not “kill” trade per se, but over time, encourage customers to do what businesses do best, to seek more economic alternatives.

For example, it was not possible for EU states to sanction Russia’s gas and oil exports after Crimea and the Ukraine were invade because there is no substitute for them in the short run.  A EU BAT will enable essential trade to continue, but strongly motivate customers to find alternatives and switch — greatly enhancing the impact of sanctions over time.   Contrast this with the present exemption from sanction for Russian gas exports to EU, where customers are taking their time seeking alternatives. With a 30% BAT on Russian gas imported to EU, they will act to find cheaper alternatives.

In all likelihood, China or Russia will retaliate with similar levies, but if the OECD nations are to stand together with a NATO for trade, much of what China source from the west for domestic consumption (rather than re-export) have few non OECD suppliers and no substitutes.

The customarily retaliatory tactics used by the Beijing regime like playing off Airbus against Boeing, abruptly funneling tourists away from one country to others, slashing key imports (e.g. salmon from Norway), etc. can be blunted if OECD nations had a collective defense in trade like NATO Article 5.   Likewise, retaliation at individual foreign firms like Qualcomm would be less effective if OECD nations fielded a collective defense and stood behind any member nation’s targeted by PRC.

As for export processing industries like Foxconn that heavily utilize off shore manufacturing facilities based in China, such a tax will weigh heavily on them in the short run — and yes, encourage industry to move away from China.   Which is not a bad stratagem.

BATs will in due course, allow individual areas of PRC (provinces or cities) to be narrowly target for sanctions or concessions in return for curbing abhorrent behavior like facilitating the export of synthetic narcotics.   The key is to not enshrine the administration of BATs and concessions in a process that require legislative action but allow for rapid action by the executive branch — much like temporary anti-dumping tariffs.

What about US retailers and consumers?

BATs levied by the US on PRC’s consumer goods will raise prices.

But a lot less than whatever the BAT rate shall be.

It is only the landed cost of an item (CIF) that is subject to the BAT, which is typically only one quarter of the retail value of the product. If the BAT is uniformly applied, there are very few retailers that do not have the means to pass along the very modest increase in retail prices that a BAT will cost.

Neutrals and Allies

Much of the world (though relative little of the trading volume between the US) is with neutrals or allies (e.g. sub-Saharan Africa or Latin American or India) that only minimally contribute to international security. Assessing a standard BAT at a significantly lower rate than enemies or near enemies will give them the same benefits that “free trade” gave when world tariff rates now average 2.88% (2012).

If a BAT is set at 30% for enemies (not sanctioned) or near enemies, then a BAT of 20% for Neutrals and allies would be more than enough to make it expensive to be an enemy.

What’s more, for allies of the US that have collective responsibilities for the defense of the international system, the revenues collected from the BAT can be in part used to induce them to do the right thing.

Countries like Germany and most of EU that is dragging their feet on defense can be induced to do so with funds derived from the BAT.

Germany, for example, exported $121b to the US in 2014.   A BAT of 20%, net of demand effects, will raise about $24 billion.   Turning to Germany’s present defense budget of EUR 37 billion in 2017, that conveniently brings Germany’s defense expenditures to just about 2% GDP immediately. The NATO target that Germany refused to meet until 2024.

Conceivably with the BAT, the US can offer Germany $5 billion of credits for acquisition of US defense equipment or assistance in restructuring the horrifically inefficient European defense industry.

As Germany begin to meet their defense obligations — and not just in a financial sense of 2% GDP — but in actual capabilities tied to war plans, the US can negotiate with Germany a reduction in the BAT.

Let’s revisit the BAT issue from the National Security perspective.

It could become the most valuable and efficacious of policy instruments for the US.

 

National Security Case for Border Adjustment Taxes

Free riding on defense by NATO and other allies is not the Trump Administration’s biggest problem.

The largest exploiter of the US and allies are not only not paying anything at all toward the common defense, but, like the Beijing PRC or North Korean regime, are actively undermining and destroying the international system while taking full advantage of it.

During the cold war, diametrically opposite visions of political and economic order created two poles with very little trade or interaction between them beside military and political rivalry. Today, that dimension is replaced with a rivalry closer to geopolitical competition prior to WWI except trade is front and center of every relationship.

Today’s relationship with PRC is very similar to Germany before WWI.  

Recall that pre War Germany had the second largest merchant marine fleet after England, colonies around the world, Germans were the largest ethnic minority in the US and many other countries, and Germans dominated many fields like chemicals and heavy industry and was one of the largest trading nations in the world.

World War I resulted in not only the loss of colonies, the ending of trade, but also the seizure of most German owned assets abroad.

Post cold-war, even sanctioned regimes like Russia, North Korea and formerly Iran are partially (never completely) barred from the international trading system.

The PRC is at once the largest trading partner of the US, and at the same time, making full use of the wealth generated from trade, technologies, knowhow, and access to the US led global system to forward their cause.

Minimal sanctions (e.g. ban on arms sales dating from Tiananmen) on the People’s Republic of China do not begin to do justice to the large scale damage and disruption caused by the Beijing regime — or even cause anything but a minor blip in the massive benefits PRC derive from trade.

Meanwhile, PRC is actively undermining the international system with their “sea grab” and expansive claims from “unequal treaties”; and particularly, actively creating expensive to counter security problems like military aid (including transfers of WMDs) and assistance to North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, etc. that is creating existential threats to US and allies and costing substantial resources to counter.

The Beijing regime, in particular, is the largest beneficiary of North Korea’s rapidly advancement in nuclear and missile capabilities — giving Beijing exceptional leverage to demand substantial concessions from the US and allies in other policy areas like trade to pretend to “solve” a problem Beijing created.

Presently, policy instrument “sticks” like sanctions, either narrowly targeted at particular individuals, firms, or broadly targeted at regimes e.g. by barring them from the world financial system, are too blunt an instrument and have little or no positive impact on Bejing’s behavior.

Sanctions either do not offer enough (or too much) of a disincentive.

To regimes like North Korea, used to hardships, the inducements of sanctions is nowhere near enough.   Likewise, it did not substantially change the behavior of Cuba’s regime, and (e.g. arms sanctions) had the perverse impact of facilitating the PRC regime developing their own indigenous capabilities that is rapidly catching up with the best western technologies.

Border adjustment taxes, however, offer the chance for a much more finely calibrated instrument that can be more closely tailored to the problem at hand.

Moreover, if properly administered it can be rapidly changed as circumstances dictate.

It may, in fact, be just the tool that US policy makers have been looking for to solve a wide range of issues ranging from predatory and unfair trade practices of the PRC to the regime’s willful support of North Korea’s WMD programs.

The PRC and “Free Trade:” Playing the Game Their Own Way

Historically going back to the origins of agriculture, a recognized authority to protect economic activity have been an indispensable part and parcel with the rise of civilization.  Economic activity from hunter gatherers onwards all have to have security, stability, predictability, and certainty.

Thus, trade beyond a minimum level have always been between “friends”, or at least, primarily between those who are not active enemies.

When the world economy transitioned from mercantilism to capitalism in the late 19th early 20th Century, empires sought to provide preferential treatments to their “own” through mechanisms like “imperial preferences”.

The notion that “free trade” is good came about during the Great Depression when protectionism ultimately deepened economic woes, which may or may not be responsible for WWII.

Post War economic institutions like the European Economic Community have been crafted to undermine autarky: economic independence or self-sufficiency with the express aim to prevent war.  The argument is that interdependent countries cannot go to war against each other.

Trade was thought of as a pacification tool. It was the express aspiration of the Europeanists to see economic integration “bleed” into political integration and in the process, banish the evil of European wars forever.

Likewise, the GATT, predecessor to the World Trade Organization, was conceived of as an institution not just to capture the benefits from trade predicted by liberal economic theory, but implicitly, to dampen conflict and support a broader group of like minded nations beyond allies.

At first, it was the US that supported European and Japanese recovery and reconstruction with aid and trade – defined as preferential access to the US market. As Europe and Japan recovered, and East Asian wars ended, economies that are US allies like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, etc. jumped on the bandwagon and became very successful.   There are exceptions, like the Philippines and Indonesia that had the opportunity but failed to make much of it.

The peak of this policy was the opening to China by President Nixon that initially, did little, but by the 1990s after the exhaustion of the first round of Deng reforms, ignited economic growth first along the southern Chinese coast, then throughout China that created the China we know today.

Along the way, the People’s Republic of China, a communist regime that is officially dedicated to the destruction of capitalism and western powers, was admitted to the World Trade Organization in 2001 after negotiations that began in 1986 under GATT after the initial gambit that “they never left” failed.

There were many considerations for this glaring exception to admit a major communist regime.

Leaving out a major economy and trading power (assuming no trade embargo by the west) would undermine the world trading system.

It would also prevent Taiwan (another major trading power) from being admitted.

Thus, geopolitical considerations were pushed aside and for the first time in the modern history of “free trade” institutions, an exception was made to allow the PRC – a sworn enemy with an incompatible non-market economy – to accede to a club for rules based market economies.

The belief by liberal internationalist is that trade will eventually undermine Beijing’s communism, and increased prosperity and openness to the world will ultimately lead to political reforms and ultimately, democracy and a stable team player with substantial stakes in the international system.

Certainly part of this can be seen to be true, but there are more than one pathway that the PRC can follow. One of whom is to have the PRC substantially remain enemies of the west, and yet taking full advantage of the openness.   The PRC is in effect, undertaking Lenin who reputedly said: “Capitalist will sell you the rope you hang them with”.

The critical issue facing the international community is that the PRC is at once, the world’s largest trading economy, and at the same time, actively undermining the Western dominated institutions for international security, stability and peace necessary for commerce.

It can no longer be taken for granted that the PRC is “becoming more like us” or “on the path to economic or political reform.”

The PRC is actively reshaping international norms and institutions, not just as a major player and benign (non military) partner asserting their interests with the aim to support and sustain international order, but as a heavily armed peer competitor that have geopolitical goals no different from Germany, France, Russia, Britain, Japan, and the US in the 19th Century to upend international order and replace it.

What is more, the Beijing regime is at once, throwing their weight around and at the same time, powerless to control their powerful local governments and military theater commands who, with or without Beijing, are pursuing policies or acquiescing to behavior that are destabilizing the entire international system in a range of issue areas from arms trade, predatory trading practices, intellectual property piracy, to narcotics trafficking.

To name a few, PRC’s longstanding relationship with Pakistan and North Korea that transformed them into nuclear armed powers with a dangerous “hair trigger” arsenal.  Pakistan, in turn, became one of the world’s most vigorous proliferators of nuclear weapons knowhow until the Khan network was shutdown.

Similarly, the “sea grab” of South China Sea and the massive military buildup is undermining the freedom of navigation in one of the most intensely travelled trade routes of the world.

The Beijing regime of China, pay next to nothing toward maintenance of the international order. That may have been acceptable when the PRC was deep in poverty and emerging from Mao’s disaster.

But today, the PRC boast the first or second largest economy in the world and still contribute virtually nothing beyond a very modest UN assessments and recently, peace keeping missions abroad.

Had the PRC made progress toward becoming a team player in the international system and receive appropriate and due recognition for their interest based on their present economic, military and political standing, that is one thing.

But the PRC’s leverage is increasingly being used to for undermining the international system such as propping up and sustaining North Korea, proliferation of weapons technologies to Iran, Pakistan, etc. that are deeply destabilizing to the US and allies.

As of 2017, the Beijing regime is sparking a massive round of rearmament and causing major new military expenditures by the US and allies to counter the threats created by Beijing and their allies. The last time this happened was with the Soviets under the cold war when a major bloc actively undermined the international system.

Treating the PRC regime with “most favored nation” status and privileges from a multilateral trading regime that is structured to deal with trade between friendly governments make no sense when what is emerging is cold war era competition between Beijing and the US.

 

 

What if NATO and other US Allies Fail to Deliver?

Secretary Mattis delivered an impassioned plea for increased defense spending by NATO allies at the Brussels summit.

“If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense,” Mattis made clear.

NATO, including the US, cut defense spending from 2010 onwards in the aftermath of the Great recession. As recently as 2009, America spent 5.3% GDP on defense, and NATO Europe spent 1.7%.  As of 2015, US expenditures fell to 3.6% GDP, while NATO Europe averages 1.43%.   Critically, in 2015, large, major, healthy economies like Germany (1.2%) and Canada (1%) are spending well below their capacity.   How will allies respond to the end of year (2017) deadline set by the Trump Administration?

Exhortations by the Trump Administration to increase spending have fallen on deaf ears.   Chancellor Merkel will only raise spending gradually to 2% GDP by 2024.   Jean-Claude Junker advocated resisting American demands on the grounds that development and humanitarian aid is also spending for “security”.

Canada’s Trudeau regime is leading the pack with fictitious and fraudulent accounting and hallucinations of Canada doing “heavy lifting” in NATO.   Defense Minister Sajjan’s Enron grade accounting moved defense spending up to 1.3 – 1.5% GDP – well short of the 2% NATO standard even before deductions for wasteful spending like Canada’s infamous CAD $4,800 a copy Bolt Action Canadian Ranger Rifles – Comparable weapons available at retailers like Cabelas for about CAD$300.

Europe, likewise, waste an estimated €20.6 billion annually that result in “a cost of more than half of that of the US, Europeans obtain only a tenth of the [military] capacity.”

Staggering wastage like this was acceptable in peacetime, but not when Canada and EU are unwilling to raise defense budgets while facing real, serious existential security threats like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Since no NATO countries had any difficulty financing abrupt rises in social spending on things like refugee programs (e.g. Germany spent .35% GDP in 2016 according to IMF), during the past few years, or running deficits, it is hard to believe that fiscally sound NATO allies like Canada are unable to raise defense spending by year end if their regime wanted to.

The Trump Administration’s demands for increased expenditures will more likely than not, result in recalcitrant allies engaging in a round of whining and creative accounting for the May NATO Summit.  

Any improvement in burden sharing will have to be sharply discounted even if the 2% goal is reached.   Though there are a few symbolic moves.  Realistically, the 2% target must be accompanied with major reforms to ensure the efficacy of spending as well as increased spending — neither is likely forthcoming anytime soon in any serious way from NATO allies.

Spending is no longer an effective and useful gauge of capabilities for gauging a NATO member’s treaty obligations under Article 3 “by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid… maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.”

For example, NATO in Europe, at present, consist of mostly light formations that have been conclusively demonstrated to be unsuitable against Russian New Generation Warfare used in the Crimea and Ukraine.   Except for Norway and a few other NATO members, there is no serious move to urgently field counters by key players like Germany beyond symbolic deployments to show “resolve”.

Canada, historically the biggest whiner of NATO, is presently going through the motions of “major procurement” for fighters and surface combatants that do not meet the self-evident requirement for Ballistic Missile Defense against North Korean threats. That, plus the failure to join the Missile Defense Program or aid allies with not so much as a protest against North Korea’s latest missile test, disqualify Canada under NATO Treaty Article 3 for aid under Article 5.  None of these facts matter to the Trudeau regime, who insisted they are doing more than enough for their allies. With Canadians, there is not even a consensus about existential threats to Canada or allies.

The question is, what levers and inducements do the Trump Administration have to enforce the demand for fairer burden sharing among allies?  

There is the blunt instrument of withdrawing support, reducing commitments to allies like NATO but not much else. After all, these are sovereign states and there is no mechanism for enforcing commitments in the NATO treaty except for chiding them for failing to meet Article 3 obligations — which up until now, is ambiguous.

As it stands, details of commitments to allies by the US are shrouded in secrecy.   Treaties like NATO and other bilateral pacts like US-Japan, Taiwan Relations Act, NORAD, are worded in the most general terms.

Thus, NATO Article 5 calls for “armed attack against one or more … shall be considered an attack against them all” triggering “such action as [individual NATO ally] deems necessary”.

The lesson from World War I is that detailed agreements that publically committed nations to go to war can result in seemingly minor events cascading into war.  Treaty obligations trigger war plans that once set in motion, was difficult to unwind.

Thus, the US have a longstanding policy of keeping details of commitments known to very few and secret.

The specifics and details of security guarantees given by the US are only known to a handful of allied senior officials in each country. Thus, such details can be amended and alter or changed as needed.   Whether the threat or actual implementation of such action to water down commitments, which by its nature must remain secret, will be enough to change the behavior of politicians like the Trudeau or Merkel regime is an open question.

Regimes like those of Merkel and Trudeau are committed to their course of undermining the Trump Administration’s demands for better burden sharing.

And why not?

Delay, ignore, whine worked against GW Bush and Obama Administrations.

Why shouldn’t it work again?

Just wait Trump out – he be gone at most in 7 years.

Liberal Internationalists will be back in charge in Washington.

Under the existing US system, the worse that can happen is that Trump water down security guarantees, withdraw troops and pre-positioned equipment, close bases, cut joint training and exercise, and other symbolic moves, the most dramatic being withdraw from NATO under Article 13.

But at the end of the day, if there is a real threat to Europe, the US will be compelled to intervene anyways.

If the US did withdraw from NATO, it is not obvious that Europe will break out in war, or the enfeebled Russia will have designs on Europe in the near future.

Though it is very obvious that terrorism and Russia will remain as issues.

What can the Trump Administration do about fair weather allies?

There is a way ahead if the Administration makes this a serious priority rather than simply a campaign tweet or bumper sticker.