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Home / World / Trump has just canceled a high stakes summit. In 1972, Nixon did almost the same thing.

Trump has just canceled a high stakes summit. In 1972, Nixon did almost the same thing.




President Richard Nixon, center left, talks to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, center right, as he sails along the Potomac on June 1
9, 1973, on the yacht "Sequoia". (AP Photo)

On Thursday, President Trump canceled the June 12 summit with North Korea. White House sources describe how Trump worried Kim Jong Un to withdraw from the talks and, according to The Washington Post, "make Americans look like desperate suitors."

Trump accused North Korea of ​​derailing the summit. His letter to Kim says, "Unfortunately, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility shown in your recent statement, I find it inappropriate to have this long-planned meeting."

Trump is not the first president to have tricky issues at the high-stakes summit. Many commentators see parallels between Trump's meeting with Kim and Nixon in 1972 to China. Trump's blame is, however, rather another Nixon trip – a visit to Moscow in 1972.

Nixon thought the Soviets would withdraw from the summit, which would result in SALT I's restrictions on nuclear weapons. But the politically experienced Nixon White House decided it would be best to break the Soviets and force them to blame.

Trump's North Korean Gambit has a built in tension

Trump has a Hawkian reputation, so he can not hit North Korea if it makes him look weak. But Trump has publicly committed to cooperate with North Korea, and cooperation with North Korea would bring him an important foreign policy success. When it appeared that North Korea was demanding too much and promising too little, Trump's solution was – and accused North Korea.

Nixon also wanted a big diplomatic victory. He wanted to transform the Cold War by relaxation, a warm-up in relations with the Soviet Union, which would reduce the risk of nuclear war. The 1972 Moscow Summit was the first meeting of relaxation among world leaders to sign the first major arms deal

Summits are precarious

In my book Constructive Illusions, like Nixon, I almost describe The launch of the Moscow Summit

At the end of 1971, Nixon and Secretary-General Leonid Brezhnev met in Moscow the following year to sign the SALT I Accords. But then in 1972 North Vietnam launched the Easter Offensive and made rapid progress in the South.

Nixon panicked. He said to his then security advisor Henry Kissinger, "If [South Vietnamese Army] collapses, many other things will collapse here … We play a Russian game, a Chinese game and an electoral game." Kissinger replied, "That's why we need the living Bejeez out North Vietnam blast. "

As the situation in Vietnam became increasingly gloomy. Nixon began to believe that the summit was impossible. He asked consultant Alexander Haig, "How can you possibly go to the Soviet Union and strike Brezhnev and Kossygin and sign a SALT deal in the Great Hall of St. Peter as Russian tanks and weapons kill our Vietnam allies? "He told Kissinger that" Vietnam is ten times more important than the summit. "

Unlike Trump, Nixon Left Opponents Out

Nixon faced a dilemma. If he canceled the summit, he would look like a warmonger. If he did not cancel, he would look weak. His solution was to let the Soviets settle.

When Nixon told his National Security Council on May 8 that he could not afford to go to the summit, Finance Secretary John Connally responded: "It is better for the Soviets to cancel the summit than we do."

Days before, Nixon's Chief of Staff, HR Haldeman, had reminded the president of President Eisenhower's failed meeting with the Soviets in 1960. At the meeting, the Soviet premier criticized US spy flights over the Soviet Union. He also told Eisenhower that he was not welcome in Moscow. Haldeman felt that the sample made the Americans gather in Eisenhower's defense and increase his popularity.

Nixon told Kissinger: "I remember what Eisenhower did, but I had really forgotten that Eisenhower did not hurt when the Russians canceled the summit, it did not hurt him. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Do you remember? "Kissinger later agreed:" Of course it's [unclear] when they cancel the summit, but then let's just say we'll have the record to have tried. "

If the Soviets left the talks, they would be held responsible.

Playing for time

Fortunately for the cooperation with the superpowers Brezhnev did not retire. When Nixon escalated the war in Vietnam and the Soviet Union did not respond, Nixon decided to go to Moscow without appearing weak. He therefore appeared to be tough in Vietnam and a peacemaker in Moscow. And he helped create the cornerstones of modern arms control.

Nixon was on the same wire rope as Trump. In order to achieve dramatic diplomatic breakthroughs, it often takes a cautious behavior to negotiate with enemies. It's hard to do that while addressing a hostile base. Nixon has understood that you do not have to go out of negotiations to look tough. This insight allowed him to pursue a wider range of creative options than Trump's team seems to be considering at the moment.

For the time being, Trump's summit plans seem to be on hold. If Trump had followed Nixon's lead and agreed to go to the summit on June 12, despite North Korea's rhetoric, one of two things would have happened. Either North Korea would cancel the summit and record Trump as a peacemaker, but Kim's refusal to meet fails. Or North Korea would have gone to the top, where Trump would have had the chance of a diplomatic breakthrough. Both would be a good result for the US president and the world.

The events are moving fast. In the spring of 1972, much changed in the world and made Brezhnev finally a victory for Nixon. It remains to be seen where spring 2018 could lead.

Eric Grynaviski is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University. His most recent book is "America's Middlemen: Power on the Edge of the Empire." It examines how unusual figures, such as merchants, missionaries, and slaves, have contributed to American history through agreements with militias, tribes, and rebels.


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