Meghan Flanigen

November 7, 2017

Alumnus Highlights Trump’s Nuclear Weapons Strategies

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President Donald Trump may think that “threatening little rocket man with fire and fury and total destruction will intimidate Kim Jong Un and compel him to give up his nuclear weapons, but it’s more likely to have the opposite effect,” Robert Einhorn ’69, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former sports editor for The Sun said.

Einhorn, who was chief negotiator with North Korea on missile issues from 1996 to 2000 and deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the Iran nuclear talks from 2009 to 2013, discussed the challenges of North Korea and Iran with respect to the Trump administration at a lecture on Monday.

He highlighted what the presidential strategies mean for the future of the United States.

“How the Trump administration handles these challenges will have far reaching implications for stability and prospects of war in Northeast Asia and implications for U.S. alliances in relation to potential adversaries all over the world, for efforts to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons capability and for the credibility and leadership of the United States in the world,” he said.

Einhorn also evaluated the current strategies Trump appears to be favoring or employing in regard to the aforementioned nations, and proposed some alternatives.

In the case of North Korea, Einhorn said that Trump’s strategy is to “place irresistible economic, diplomatic and military pressures on North Korea to the point where it decides to abandon its nuclear and missile programs and to do so completely, and in the near future.”

However, Einhorn believes that this strategy is unlikely to succeed, as Trump does not have multilateral support, particularly from China.

Instead, Einhorn proposed that the U.S. begin to tackle the problem with what he calls “an interim freeze.” Under an interim freeze, nuclear tests and production of bomb making will be suspended. In exchange, North Korea will be able to keep the nuclear materials they have already produced if they agree to begin to denuclearize.

“Sooner or later the Trump administration will come around to the conclusion that the current goal — [complete and immediate denuclearization] — is unachievable … and that lashing out militarily is reckless,” he said.

Einhorn also found issues with Trump’s Iran strategy. He argued that Trump wishes to back out of the existing nuclear deal with Iran, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action. Since the beginning of his campaign, backing out of JCPOA has been embedded in Trump’s initial campaign pledge and subsequent rhetoric.

However, Einhorn said he feels that the president should make an effort to “keep JCPOA in place and build upon it … If Washington wants Iran to address its concerns seriously, it will have to offer positive inducements, such as further relaxations of U.S. sanctions on Iran.”

He also noted that Trump’s threat to end the deal will definitely not fare well with Iranians. Overall, he advised Trump to understand the limitations of the political world and to embrace multilateralism.

“We need to build international coalitions. We need to be realistic about what can be achieved and we need to compromise,” he said. “These realities will be difficult for President Trump to swallow but unless he does, the challenges posed by North Korea and Iran will only grow more acute.”