Last week was a bit of a whirlwind, to put it lightly! With just a few things brewing internationally, I weighed in with some of our favorite folks to discuss everything from the U.S.-DPRK talks landing back on the rocks, to peering into the crystal ball to see what will become of the Iran nuclear deal, to weighing up where things stand with Russian-U.S. relations. To tie the whole week up with a bow, we had former Secretary of Defense – and good friend – Ash Carter here on campus to accept the Dean’s medal and give an address to Fletcher’s graduating Class of 2018 – but more on that later.

First, North Korea: As North Korea cancelled planned talks with South Korea hours before they were due to take place, we saw a familiar pattern set in that sparked questions over whether the planned U.S.-DPRK summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un may also fall to the wayside. As I told Alex Witt on MSNBC there’s a 10-20 percent chance that “things will be different this time,” in terms of Kim actually giving up his nukes (i.e. it’s not going to happen). I spoke with the teams at Morning Joe and NBC Nightly News about this as well, and essentially, I believe we can still land this high-stakes summit but the U.S. (and particularly our National Security Advisor John Bolton) must be careful about the images it invokes if there’s hope that Kim will agree to a draw down on his nuclear capabilities. Hint: Mentioning a “Libya model” that brings to mind pictures of Moammar Gadhafi ending up dead in a drainpipe and is unlikely to convince Kim that he should come to the table for denuclearization talks.

As you may have seen from the first clip above, Alex and I also touched on the Iran deal – something I also spoke about with Lakshmi Singh, of NPR’s Weekend Edition. Our pulling out of this Iran deal, not only sets a bad precedent on our ability to stand by our negotiations as we look to bring North Korea to the negotiating table, but it also throws relations with our strongest allies into question. As the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, I’m still in regular contact with many political leaders and senior military leaders across Europe who are incredibly dismayed by the way this administration seems to hold Europe in such low regard. And it’s times like these that I recall the first SACEUR, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said that America’s greatest asset, globally, is our alliance with Europe and I think we turn our backs on that relationship at great peril.

And while the world’s focus flits between North Korea and Iran, Russia continues its toiling, often just out of sight. Midweek, I spoke with Radio Boston’s Meghna Chkrabarti and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul about the current state of U.S. Russian affairs. The real point here, is that while the U.S. has a perfectly constructed cabinet for the 19th Century and is equipped to deal with a Cold War – per Mike’s new book that’s coming out “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American in Putin’s Russia – we may be less ready to deal with a very savvy, manipulative, and determined  President Vladimir Putin. Putin’s background as a KGB agent who sees NATO as a poison informs his worldview that he must cause chaos and disruption in the West – and he’s operating on all levels including cyber, military, and diplomatic to do just that. In response, the U.S. must prepare to operate on par and be strong in our confrontation of Russia where necessary while cooperating where possible.

As a reflection on the U.S.-Russia relationship that is currently in freefall, I wrote a piece for Bloomberg Views at the end of the week about the U.S. decision to resurrect the historic and venerable Second Fleet. That force that has traditionally been responsible for guarding the Atlantic approaches to the continental U.S. but was disestablished in 2011 after being significantly drawn down in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s not a topic that’s garnering much attention in the media frenzy around the much “sexier” discussions of Stormy Daniels and possible Russian collusion, but I believe it’s an important harbinger of things to come as the great power politics of yesteryear return to the fore.

So, with some of the world’s toughest issues simmering just under boiling point, we welcomed Ash Carter to campus this weekend for Class Day, where he called on Fletcher’s 2018 class of graduates to step forward. I’ll share more on his speech later, but I can only reflect his words of wisdom in telling our next class of diplomats and leaders, that there is plenty of work to be done out there – and boy, do we need them to start getting to it.

As always, thanks for reading, watching, and listening.

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