There’s no shortage of topics up for debate at this week’s G20 in Hamburg, but the annual summit— attended by Presidents Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Chancellor Angela Merkel and 16 other world leaders — will certainly focus on increasing threats from Russia and North Korea.

Let’s start with North Korea. As many were celebrating July 4th here in the States, North Korea decided to launch its most successful intercontinental ballistic missile to date. Think of the North Korean problem as a set of two dangerous streams of activity, moving rapidly toward each other. One stream represents the increasing range of their missiles, which are now verifiably in the 3,000 to 4,000 mile mark — probably far enough to strike the continental U.S.

The other stream represents North Korea’s efforts to produce reliable nuclear weapons, small enough to fit on the warheads of those ballistic missiles. Both the U.S. intelligence services and common sense tell us they are moving rapidly to accomplish this – and could do so in as little as 18 to 24 months. I wrote about this delicate situation in Bloomberg, which you can read here.

Over the past two decades, most diplomatic approaches, including negotiations, sanctions and trying to persuade China to rein in the Kim dynasty, have failed to provide significant results. I appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to talk about North Korea earlier this week. You can watch the interview below:

President Trump might consider a military ‘first strike’ under the doctrine of pre-emptive attack. But our President must also consider the downsides of using force, including the idea of regime change. Regime change, while tempting, would almost certainly trigger a nuclear response from North Korea – the very thing we’re working to avoid. Below, you can watch my interview on this concept on NBC Nightly News:

Not to be forgotten, leaders at the G-20 will have to address Russian aggression towards the West and its NATO allies. On Friday, President Trump met with President Putin and had a long list of grievances he could present: meddling in the U.S. election, the annexation of Crimea, the buzzing of NATO ships in international waters – just to name a few.

But just how does one negotiate with Vladimir Putin? I have a few suggestions:

  • Begin by understanding the Russian worldview. Russians see themselves as a powerful empire of enormous physical size and with a distinct culture.
  • Accept the supremacy of Putin. Russia has always followed the “strong man” approach.
  • Prepare for a long and difficult process. No matter the level or significance of the issue over which we negotiate, Russians will make it hard.
  • Sharpen your logic. Russians value logic and direct exchanges and quickly become frustrated when confronted with emotional approaches to negotiating.
  • Wait for it. Russians often think silently before jumping to answer a question or formulate a thought. Avoid the Western tendency to rush the conversation forward.
  • Don’t overlook the personal. Despite all the points above, personal relationships can be important to Russians.

While President Trump greeted President Putin with a handshake and a slap to the back, seemingly implying friendship between the two, I’d warn President Trump from getting too comfortable – once KGB, always KGB.

So, what should the President do while at the G-20? He has to confront where he must and cooperate where he can. Confront China on its support for North Korea. It’s a well-known fact that all roads to Pyongyang go through Beijing. Confront Putin on directing the cyberhacking efforts that interfered with our electoral process.

And remember that there are zones in which we can cooperate, even with Russia, and that will take diplomacy and tact; the skill often referred to as soft power.

I’m not the only military man who thinks this approach works. Four years ago Gen. Jim Mattis, our current Secretary of Defense, testified before the Armed Services Committee. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) asked him, “Have you observed that the International Development budget is helpful to us in providing national defense for our country?” The General responded, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition. […] The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully, the less we will have to put into a military budget.”

I wrote about the need for cooperation and soft power in the face of global crises for CNN. I also joined NPR’s On Point to discuss this and more.

Overall, the G-20 presents a unique opportunity for President Trump to step up into the leadership role the U.S. should hold, and take concrete steps towards reeling in our adversaries. Let’s hope he’s up to the challenge.

As always, thank you for reading.

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