Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
Guest Host: Tom Gjelten
World leaders convey congratulations after Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election – but also uncertainty over the potential impact on alliances and trade pacts. China has moved to hinder two pro-democracy legislators from taking their seats in Hong Kong. A top Chinese security official was elected president of Interpol, the global police agency. And this evening Venezuela’s government and opposition rivals are set to resume Vatican-mediated talks on the nation’s ongoing crisis. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tom Gjelten for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Moises Naim Distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and chief international columnist, El Pais; author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be"
- Missy Ryan Pentagon reporter, The Washington Post
- David Sanger National security correspondent, The New York Times; author, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power"
MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's off today. World leaders are congratulating Donald Trump for his victory in the presidential election. But there's also a lot of anxiety about what it could mean. In Venezuela, talks are set to resume between the government of Francisco Maduro and the opposition over the nation's political and economic crisis. And China flexes its muscle over Hong Kong.
MR. TOM GJELTENJoining me for this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, we have Moises Naim of El Pais, Missy Ryan of The Washington Post and David Sanger of the New York Times. Good day to all of you and thanks for coming in.
MR. DAVID SANGERThanks for having us.
MS. MISSY RYANThanks.
MR. MOISES NAIMThank you.
GJELTENSo our phone lines are open. Our number is 1-800-433-8850. We invite your questions and comments. You can, of course, also email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Facebook. You can find us on Twitter or you can find us on our webpage, drshow.org. So David Sanger, fair to say there's a lot of uncertainty around the world today about what this is going to mean going forward. What are some of the questions that people are raising, that they want answered?
SANGEROh, did something happen this week? Yeah, this -- there's uncertainty in the world and there's uncertainty here in Washington. I guess if I had to characterize it on the national security and foreign policy side, I would say that the big mystery is, what does Donald Trump mean by America First, a phrase he brought up in an interview with a colleague of mine and me back in March and used repeatedly after, and how does he solve the mystery of when we intervene around the world? The two are related.
SANGERSo on America First, there's some easy parts to this. In trade, for example, which I'm sure we'll come back to in a little bit, he said various trade deals are not in America's interest, no longer in American interest. That's a debate the country actually needs to have and did have to some degree. It's one of the few issues that actually did get hashed out some in this debate. It's less easy to figure out when you think about the value of America keeping its forces around the world.
SANGERHe has said that he would pull back from NATO. He has said he will pull back from our forces in the Pacific unless our allies pay the price of protection and it's a question of how you identify what are national interests are in having a forward force.
GJELTENLet's take those two issue one at a time. First of all, America First. Missy Ryan, it's not only America First, it seems to me, because Donald Trump applauded the decision by the British people to leave the European Union.
GJELTENHe seems to be saying every country should look first after its own interests. What does that indicate about the future of multilateralism?
RYANSure. I think that, you know, the central question that people here in Washington are asking themselves and foreign capitals around the world is how much of what Donald Trump has said on the campaign trail does he actually mean. And there's some indication, speaking to advisors this week, that what we may see in Donald Trump as a president could be significantly different than what we saw on the campaign trail. We just don't know yet.
RYANBut in terms of whether or not America First is something that will actually translate into a palpable policy, I think, yeah, we can expect to see changes in our trade policy, potentially changes to the allocation of forces overseas. But I personally wouldn't expect any withdrawal from NATO, perhaps we've -- we'll see an increase in NATO contributions from member states in Europe. But, you know, I think that we're just going to have to see over the next couple of months whether or not the advisors will be able to -- will want to come up with a sort of policy, a more consistent policy, than what he suggested on the campaign trail.
GJELTENMoises, one of your books is "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields." Are we seeing -- what are we seeing here now in terms of the future of power relations in the world? I mean, are we seeing each country sort of retreating into its own position and what would that imply?
NAIMThe central message of my book is that in the 21st century, power has become easier to acquire, but much harder to use and therefore is more ephemeral, easier to lose. And we have seen that with Trump. It's another of the many candidates or the many new powers that come out of nowhere. They're improbable, unexpected, surprising and then they manage to dislodge the existing, traditional mega players. And I think he's in for a surprise. He's going to discover that the White House does not provide as much power as he thinks, that he will have face constraints that he did not imagine both domestically and internationally.
NAIMThe things that he said that he will do, he will not be able to do. I think he's in for a huge Guantanamo-like trauma. Remember that one of the main commitments of President Obama was to close Guantanamo on day one and that was a strong commitment.
GJELTENEight years ago.
NAIMEight years ago. And he tried and he tried and he discovered...
SANGERHe's still going to try to close it by the last day, you know.
NAIMAnd so that is a very small example...
GJELTENSo that's the template here that...
NAIM...compared to others, but that is a very interesting illustrative examples of how many of the things that presidents are passionately committed to get don't get to do it.
GJELTENRight. Well, David, let's break down the international reaction a little bit. We first -- the first, as far as I know, the first foreign leader to congratulate Donald Trump was Vladimir Putin. There's a whole story there. Then, much more guarded reaction from Angela Merkel in Germany and the prime minister of Japan, Abe. Also, China doesn't seem to -- hasn't -- the leaders of China, Xi Jinping, haven't seemed to figure out yet exactly what they should say.
SANGERBut the forces around Assad seemed fairly positive on it as well. So I mean, I think that tells you a lot, you know, in those early-on -- so for Putin, I mean, I think if you're the Russians, you have to worry a little bit about Donald Trump's unpredictability. I mean, the odd -- the way he stood out not only from the Democrats, but from his own party, was with this argument that it's time for more than a reset, but actually finding common ground with the Russians to the point that the former deputy director of the CIA, Mike Morrell, who was on the Clinton side, wrote in an op-ed that Mr. Trump was an unwitting agent of the Russians.
SANGERThat's pretty strong words for somebody who is now just become...
GJELTENUm-hum, who knows a thing or two about agents.
SANGERKnows a thing or two about agents, but also, you know, is now -- has said that about somebody who is about to become president of the United States. So, you know, that's going to be the interesting and, I think, in some ways, the most interesting test. Here's the oddity in the Russia case. Look at Syria. On the one hand, President-elect Trump's wording about Russia would make you think that he wants to find common ground about dealing with Syria with the Russians. On the other hand, he has denounced the Iranian presence in Syria.
SANGERAnd the Iranians are working with the Russians. So this is one of the first circles that he's going to have to go figure out how he deals with the intersection. As for the Germans and the Japanese on this, they're concerned about the whole concept that the United States will, in fact, pull back. Now, this gets to what Missy was describing about how little we know and the question, I think, implicit in Missy's point here is, and correct me if I'm wrong on this, Missy, is, is this a core belief of Donald Trump or is this a negotiating position in order to go make these countries pay more?
GJELTENWhich it would not be -- he would not be the first president that has come into office with that goal.
SANGERThat -- certainly not. And, you know, the goal itself is shared by people as mainstream as Barack Obama and Bob Gates, the former defense secretary, all of whom said, countries need to pay, particularly NATO countries, need to pay more than their share. The Japanese pay a lot. And it may work.
GJELTENMissy, let's turn our attention a little bit to -- David mentioned Syria and the complexity of the situation in Syria and the questions about what Donald Trump intends to do there. And he has portrayed everything in the Middle East, basically, it seems to me, as coming down to the fight against ISIS. And how have the most radical Islamists who have pronounced themselves in this election, how have they reacted so far and what can we foresee on that front?
RYANYeah. From what we've seen, there's been a positive euphoric response from some of the extremists who are out there on the Internet. Basically, the idea is that this would be good for the jihadist cause because Trump has articulated the conflict, not just in Syria against the Islamic State, but against militants, Islamic militants the world over as a conflict between the West and Islam. And that really plays into the way that they see it as well. And so the idea is that, you know, people are saying, well, finally, Donald Trump is telling the truth whereas Barack Obama pretended that it wasn't this sort of age-old culture war.
RYANDonald Trump is telling like it is. And I think the other idea is that Trump, by doing -- if he does some of the things that he's promised to do, such as attacking the families of suspected terrorists and bombing the heck out of ISIS...
GJELTENBombing the blank.
RYAN...exactly, bombing the blank out of ISIS, that that would actually galvanize antagonism in the Muslim world against the West and that's good for them. But I just want to go back to something that David just said, which is that, you know, some of -- regarding Syria and many other issues, there are these sort of internal inconsistencies in the positions that Trump has taken and I think that as we try to map out how this plays for different countries and our relationship with the world, we just need to figure out how those internal conflicts will be resolved, if they are.
GJELTENMissy Ryan is the Pentagon reporter at The Washington Post. My other guests this morning are David Sanger, he's the national security correspondent at the New York Times. And his book is "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power." And finally Moises Naim, a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and chief international columnist at El Pais, the newspaper in Madrid.
GJELTENAnd, as he mentioned, he's the author of "The End of Power" and his newer book "Churches To States." Oh, no, that's all the same -- boy, he has a long title. "Why Being In Charge Isn't What It Used To Be." Well, we're going to find out about that, aren't we? Okay. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back. I'm Tom Gjelten. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
GJELTENHello again. I'm Tom Gjelten from NPR. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm today. This is the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, the hour where we go over all the international news. And my distinguished guests are David Sanger, national security correspondent at The New York Times, Missy Ryan, Pentagon reporter at The Washington Post, and Moises Naim, and author and columnist for El Pais in Madrid. And Moises, just before the -- or during the break, you were telling me what -- how German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to this election, a pretty courageous leader who's faced a lot of populist anger in her own country.
NAIMAnd faces an election soon. She wrote a letter congratulating Donald Trump for the election. And in that latter she said this, Germany and America are bound by common values -- Democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law, and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation or political views.
GJELTENNot a lot of nuance there.
NAIMSo this is...
GJELTEN(laugh) She's making her point.
NAIM...this is letter of congratulations that also sends a strong message about...
GJELTENA strong message. Indeed. So, Moises, no foreign policy goal was mentioned more often in Donald Trump's speeches than his promise to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants from Mexico. What is he going to do with that? Is he going to be able to do that? Is he -- how is he going to pay for it? What are all the -- what are the answers to those questions?
NAIMWe don't know. It's -- is the answer to all of these questions, as my colleagues here have said. And many interpret this to be opening salvos, opening bids in negotiated -- it is a negotiating tactic. But this one has acquired a symbolic value...
NAIM...that it would be very hard for him to say that he's not going to do it. We're talking about 2,000 miles. We're talking about more than $5 billion. We're talking about him saying that the Mexicans will pay for it. And, you know, he may -- either through taxing remittances or raising tariffs would generally weaken the Mexican economy and paradoxically would create even worse incentives for Mexicans to come here. So the weaker the Mexican economy, the more Mexicans would want to come. And they will find a way to come. There is no evidence in the world that these kinds of barriers really stop immigrants that are determined to come.
NAIMEurope does not have a wall. Europe has an ocean. And still people are managing to get to Europe. So, you know.
GJELTENWhat does this mean about the future of a Trump administration's relations with Latin America as a region? I mean, on the one hand, his vigorous anti-immigrant rhetoric, the idea of building a wall, his rejection of trade deals. I mean those -- I would think that those kind of all go together in terms of shaping Latin America's -- the perception of Donald Trump from Latin America.
NAIMLatin Americans are, like the rest of the world, baffled and perplexed and uncertain about what it all means. He has not talked much about Latin America, except to say -- of course, a lot about Mexico. He has said that the normalization of the relationship between the United States and Cuba is a bad idea and that he's going to reverse it. And he has mentioned something about Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro, the president. He doesn't like him and he wants to help. But he has been very vague. And then -- and Latin America did not figure importantly in these debates or in the election.
RYANMm-hmm. I think it's important to mention that the United States is a major trade partner not just for Mexico but for countries across Latin America, including Peru and Chile. And just the very uncertainty in what the policies are going to be -- the immigration policies, the trade policies, the economic policies -- is I think very worrying.
GJELTENDavid, the other big issue that he talked about a lot was the Iran nuclear deal, which he called, what? The worst deal in the history of U.S., I mean, I forget all the hyperbole that's associated with it. But what is going to happen? Is he -- because at one point, it seemed like he was willing to sort of see if Iran would abide by it. Even though he said it was a bad deal, it sounded for a while there that he was going to let Iran sort of prove itself in a sense, right?
SANGERYou know, I think this is going to be one of the most interesting tests. He has not said that he would rip it up. And I pressed him on this in two separate occasions. But he has said that he thinks provisions of it have to change. And he has supported sanctions for events that are happening outside the deal -- Iran's continuing support of terrorism, Iran's activities in Syria, all the other destabilizing things that they're doing. The problem with this, that he's soon about to discover, is that if you think the deal is unpopular in parts of the Republican Party, you should go check in Iran. Because it's really unpopular there, for completely different reasons.
SANGERIt's unpopular because the Iranians believe that they are not getting the benefits from the sanctions relief. So if he reopens elements of the deal and says to the Iranians, we need to renegotiate. They're going to come back and say, you know, you're right. And we've got a list as well. And the question that leaves you with is, if they don't like the final deal that's put together, do they go back to reprocessing plutonium and enriching uranium? So in other words, does the reimposition of sanctions open the way for the erosion of the deal?
GJELTENWell, in fact, the Iranians have been pushing the limits on this deal in that regard, right?
SANGERWell, not really. They've had one or two things that they have done, including the production of heavy water, which by itself is not going to make you a weapon. It's a way on. But remember, in January of this year, they shipped 98 percent of their nuclear fuel out of the country. So they do not have the stuff right now to make a single nuclear weapon. And I think it's probably going to -- I think even Trump's advisers will conclude, you don't want to get them to the position where they've got the stuff to build a weapon.
GJELTENMissy Ryan, another big question is Donald Trump's relations with the military leadership in this country. He said some pretty provocative things, that the generals have been reduced to rubble. He said, at one point, as far as Syria is concerned, that he knew more than the generals. You saw, within the national security community, Republican's and Democrat leaders alike feeling very uneasy about the prospect of a Trump presidency. What are you hearing around the Pentagon about the -- about their view of a Trump presidency?
RYANWell, this is something I've obviously been looking at since Wednesday and before. And in some ways, the military, as a traditionally conservative, politically conservative organization, when you're talking about the rank and file, may be, you know, disposed to like Trump. I think it's different when you come to the leadership, because some of the policies that he suggested he would pursue upend these fundamental agreements and principles that have underpinned American security policy for decades.
RYANI think that, when it comes down to it, though, the brass -- the senior leadership is going to get in line with whatever President Trump orders, unless it's something that is believed to break the law. And I think there about his promise to resume the use of torture in detainee interrogations.
RYANAnd potentially, as I mentioned earlier, intentionally striking civilians.
GJELTENOkay, Moises. And another big issue -- I mean, there are so many big issues to consider, we just have to kind of race through them -- the future of international trade. I mean, I saw a quote this morning from Senator Schumer who said basically no one is going to push the Trans Pacific Partnership deal anymore. That one appears to be dead. Trump promises to renegotiate NAFTA. Have we seen the end of this whole recent era of trade advances under the rubric of the World Trade Organization and other deals?
GJELTENWe probably have seen the end of it?
NAIMYeah. This is surely the biggest change in U.S. trade policy in 40 years or something like that.
NAIMIt is very interesting how trade has become the third rail of American politics. It used to be entitlements and Medicare and things like that, that were untouchable in elections. Now, it's trade. You know, whoever favors trade gets voted out of office, which is a terrible thing. Because part of the confusions -- of the many confusions that we have seen in the campaign is the admonition of trade and admiring technology. You know?
NAIMVery proud of the technology that the United States creates and that puts it at the top of the league in the world. But that technology is the one that is causing a lot of the employment and dislocations. And a lot of the ills that are blamed on trade, in fact, have to do with technology. And Trump never recognizes that, never says that. And so, yes, it has become radioactive to talk about promoting trade and creating new trade agreements.
GJELTENAnd, David, what is -- what would that mean for Americans, if the United States were, as Moises says, to retreat from 40 years of commitment to free trade?
SANGERWell, I think it -- there are two big things to think about here. First is, would this have happened even without Donald Trump's election? Because remember...
GJELTENHillary Clinton was against...
SANGER...Hillary Clinton was -- that we had -- when we came down to three candidates, when Bernie Sanders was still in this, you had not a single one in favor of TPP. So the fact that TPP has died this week is not a huge shock. The question about Secretary Clinton was whether she really meant it or not.
SANGERBut I think there is a reasonable argument to be made that the era of these big trade agreements that take upwards of a decade to negotiate -- by the time you're done with them, you're imposing them on an economy that bears no resemblance to the economy as it stood when you began to negotiate them -- you know, that that probably is not an all bad thing. But Moises raised a really other interesting question, which is when you listen to Donald Trump talk about the American economy, it sometimes sounds like the American economy that resonates with him is the one in the 1950s, when we had a lot of steelworkers. We don't have enough working steelworkers right now in the U.S. to really be a -- any significant contributor to the American economy.
SANGERHe doesn't talk about services. He doesn't talk about software development. Even in immigration, you know, it would be hard to get him at times to acknowledge the fact that some of the most successful American companies we have seen -- Intel, Google -- were co-founded by immigrants.
SANGERAnd these are the drivers of the American economy. So I think that's going to be the hard part. And to get his arms around the technology element. We don't have any trade deals with China. And yet the trade deficit with China is what you hear about from him the most.
GJELTENHe wants Apple to bring back the manufacture of iPhones to the United States.
SANGERThat's right. I don't think that's...
GJELTENThat's not going to happen.
SANGERFrom what I hear from Tim Cook, the head of Apple, I don't think that's going to happen.
RYANThe fundamental question is, can Donald Trump bring the jobs back? This is being driven by a loss of, you know, (word?) blue collar jobs and loss of livelihood. And I just personally don't see, even if you do impose new tariffs, even if you do withdraw and renegotiate NAFTA, it's hard to see how those jobs could come back in the scale that they would have to in order to satisfy that desire from the populate.
GJELTENMissy Ryan is Pentagon reporter at The Washington Post. I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Moises Naim.
NAIMIt's very interesting to see how this conversation about job losses takes place at a time in which the American economy is creating more jobs than any other advanced economy. The unemployment rate is below 5 percent. And median incomes are going up. Still, not recovered fully to what they were, but, you know, the economic situation is not as catastrophic as Trump describes it. In fact, it is quite the contrary. So that's point one.
NAIMPoint two is that, yes, trade and trade agreements may become -- might have become toxic, politically impossible and enviable in the United States and in other countries, but not elsewhere. If TPP goal -- I agree that TPP is not going to be approved and it's dead for now. But other countries are moving forward. So China is promoting a free trade agreement in the neighborhood, in the Pacific. So, you know, it may be that it's only in the United States and countries like the United States, you know, that -- where trade and trade agreements have become so toxic. Elsewhere, people -- countries are pursuing their own trade agreements.
GJELTENSo, Moises, you have a lot of experience in trade, you know, from your prior life in Venezuela. What will be the practical implications of a real retreat from trade in terms of the American consumer, the technology that they have access to and the price of items that they've gotten accustomed to?
NAIMThere is a lot of evidence that trade has generated -- that the United States is one of the countries that has benefited the most from trade openings and the like. Of course, there are dislocations that we have seen and that have been widely discussed. But there are also studies that show that if Donald Trump goes ahead with all of his trade-related promises, something like 5 million workers in the United States may be affected, negatively.
GJELTENLet's go now to Kyle, who's on the line from Chicago, Ill. Hello, Kyle. You've reached "The Diane Rehm Show."
KYLEHi. Thank you so much for taking my call. I just wanted to say that it's a happy Veterans Day.
KYLEAnd, actually, happy Armistice Day, you know, the 11th day, the 11th month, of the 11th hour, the 11th day, and so on and so forth. I was just kind of curious about...
GJELTENAnd you're a veteran yourself, aren't you, Kyle?
KYLEI am. I did 10 years in the military and I'm not a disabled veteran.
GJELTENWell, thank you for that.
KYLEWell, thank you so much. I was just curious, as a veteran that has had to serve abroad -- I served over in Germany, I served in South Korea -- how much longer is America actually going to be a player on the world stage? I mean, we went over it to -- in World War II and we took over Germany. And now, if you look at Germany's economy and you look at Germany as a whole, they're flourishing. And then if you look at South Korea, where my grandfather was in the war and where I subsequently served, they're flourishing. How -- isn't it ironic that, you know, we go over and we take care of these people and kick out the bad, so to say, and now they're flourishing and we're struggling?
GJELTENWell, as Moises Naim pointed out, we're -- it's not necessarily so clear that we're struggling economically in comparison to these other countries. But, David Sanger, it's certainly true that we are taking a far less seat in front than we used to with respect to Europe and Asia and so forth. Or would under a Trump president.
SANGER...would, and that's the big question. So you've raised a fascinating question. And I think the country is grateful for the time you spent in both places. And I think the question that really comes out of the Trump election here is, are those troops abroad in our interests? Or are they merely in the interests of the nations in which we are keeping them?
GJELTENThat's how he poses the question, isn't it?
SANGERYeah. And the argument that they are in America's interests are that China, North Korea, are likely -- far less likely to be adventurist and ultimately move against American interests if they're going to collide up early with American forces who are based in Japan and South Korea. And that Russia is going to be significantly more contained with a presence in Europe, which the Obama administration has been bolstering with these rotating forces going through the new NATO countries of Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania, and also in Poland.
SANGERAnd so if you pull back from that, do you ultimately get to a position where you've got a shrunken sense of American power?
GJELTENDavid Sanger is national security correspondent at The New York Times. We're going to take a short break. And when we come back, we're going to go back to the lines. A lot of people have questions about what this election means for America's role in the world going forward. There's a couple of other issues we definitely need to touch on, such as the future of what this government is going to do with regard to climate change. And we've got a couple other parts of the world we have to talk about -- developments in Venezuela and China, for example. I'm Tom Gjelten. This is "The Diane Rehm Show." Stay tuned.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten from NPR, this is "The Diane Rehm Show." My guests for this discussion of international news are David Sanger from the New York Times, Missy Ryan from the Washington Post and Moises Naim, who writes for El Pais, the newspaper in Madrid. And Moises, bring us up to date the horrifying situation in Venezuela. A once wealthy country, your native land has descended into crime and poverty and a great deal of popular unrest there with the government of Nicolas Maduro, and finally there do seem to be some prospect of negotiations, talks between the Maduro government and the opposition. Fill us in on where those stand, and do they have any prospect of bridging this gulf?
NAIMThose negotiations were brokered by the Vatican with the support of three former presidents from -- one's from Spain, from Panama, from the Dominican Republic. They met several weeks ago, and they decided to create working groups that were going to report back today. And so today, in the afternoon in Caracas, there's going to be a meeting of the opposition with the government to talk about the results of the possibilities of these working groups.
NAIMMany see these as just delaying tactics. The context for these talks is, as you said, is a horrible humanitarian tragedy, which is a country that has some of the worst indicators in the world in -- from murder rates to inflation to unemployment to infant mortality. But the other is that the Constitution allows for a recall referendum, a midpoint, so if 20 percent of the voters vote in favor, there should be an election, provided it happens before the midpoints of the term, which is January 10.
NAIMSo if before January 10 there is a referendum, and the voters, as all surveys point -- call for an election, there should be a general election. If it happens after January 10, which is the midpoint, then the vice president of the country takes over and finishes the term if they lose the referendum. So many are seeing these negotiations as a delaying tactic on the part of the government, just to kick the can and move things just to get after the January 10 date.
GJELTENWell, is the timing of that referendum under negotiation as a result of these talks?
NAIMWell, the opposition -- part of the opposition said let's stop all of this, just let's call a general election and stop all the other things, and that's not going to happen. This is a government that is not going to just leave power because opposition leaders call for an election.
GJELTENIs there any other -- are there any other players in Venezuela that could influence the Maduro government's stance in this? I mean, the military of course has been powerful in Venezuela in the past, and have seen defections from some of the senior military leadership from the Maduro government.
NAIMWell but not in the sense of creating a counter-balance to a military that is completely allied and aligned with the government, who supports the government. The three foreign players that are most important in Venezuela today are very surprising. They are China, Russia and Cuba. Cuba wields immense influence in Venezuela, they control a lot of the security apparatus. The Chinese, through their financial aid to Venezuela, and they are premiere financial supporters of the regime, are very important, and the Russians, the Russians have a very close relationship.
NAIMAnd it was odd that, and it's an interesting, surprising take that one of the leaders of the government party said that now that Trump is in power in the United States, and he's so close with the Russians, and Venezuela and Russia are so close, then perhaps through the Russians the Venezuelan Chavez government, Maduro government, can get better treatment on the part --- from the United States.
GJELTENMissy, we have a question from David about another country in our hemisphere, and that's Canada. And you mentioned earlier how the Canadian immigration website was crashed during the election. David wonders, as a Canadian living and working in the United States, I want to know how the U.S.-Canada relationship will change. If NAFTA is canceled or drastically changed, my life in the U.S. will be over. Apparently he is here under some kind of work arrangement that is authorized by NAFTA. Do we know the answer to that?
RYANWe don't. I mean, I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I think it's too soon to say, obviously Trump, as part of his first 100 days' plan, has promised to either renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA, and as the caller suggests, that would have a huge impact on the Canadian economy, perhaps not as punishing as it would be for Mexico but significant.
RYANAnd, you know, I mean, I think that when you look at the sort of -- the orientations of the Trump administration and the Trudeau and, you know, what Canada has stood for in terms of progressive immigration and its sort of stance on the world stage, I think you could potentially see a drifting of these two important allies. But again, we're just going to have to wait and see.
GJELTENAnd David Sanger, we need to talk about China, not only China's reaction to the election of Donald Trump but some of the actions that China has taken this week, particularly in Hong Kong, where there's been this long-running battle about how much autonomy or independence or freedom the people of Hong Kong are going to have vis-à-vis China. What happened there this week on that front?
SANGERWell over the past nearly 15 years now, I guess, since China reverted back longer than to -- Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese control from British control, the Chinese have gradually tightened down on their commitment to allow the two systems of the one country, two systems concept. But you could publish criticism of the Chinese leadership still in some Hong Papers and so forth. We saw some editors and writers disappear for a while, and it turned out they were taken off to China and come back.
SANGERBut what happened this week was that two just-elected legislators who basically shouted epithets about the Chinese as they were being sworn into the Hong Kong legislature, were barred from being seated. And this is the first time we've ever seen the Chinese basically interfere with that -- with the electoral system in the one country, two systems element. And that tells you that the complete absorption of Hong Kong into the Hong Kong -- into the Chinese system is really beginning now.
GJELTENAnd what implications does that have for Taiwan, which is another government whose sovereignty and independent status China does not recognize?
SANGERWell, you know, when Hong Kong first -- or when Britain first struck the deal to return Hong Kong, the idea was that Taiwan would look at how this worked out, and if it worked out, it could be a model for if not a full reunification, which the Chinese have always talked to, at least some kind of a working relationship. And everything we have seen happen in Hong Kong since would give the Taiwanese significant pause about turning what has been a very strong economic relationship into a strong political one.
GJELTENMoises, you mentioned China's role in Venezuela and of course growing all across the -- across Latin America. China influence at the United Nations of course is very powerful and really an extraordinary development this week with the election of a new president of Interpol, the global police agency. A Chinese security official is now going to be running Interpol. What's the significance of that, do you think?
NAIMIt's Meng Hongwei. He's the former vice minister for public security. It's very important to note that Interpol is not a police force. It's a multilateral organization that coordinates and exchanges information between police forces. And also it's important to know that he's the president. He was named the president of the organization that -- it's largely symbolic but not insignificant.
NAIMThe real power of the organization is held by the secretary-general, which at this point is held by a citizen of Sweden. The concern there is that sometimes political persecution is -- you know, countries persecute their political opponents if they flee away, and then Interpol is asked to pursue them, and that is a highly sensitive issue.
GJELTENAnd we'll see what happens there. One other part of the world we haven't mentioned, well there are several parts of the world we haven't mentioned, but Missy, I wanted to ask you about the situation in Afghanistan and what you anticipate happening there. Donald Trump hasn't spoken a lot about the U.S. deployment to Afghanistan, but we had some news from Afghanistan this morning, some disturbing news, a reminder that conflict that got -- conflict there continues.
RYANSure, there was a suicide bombing at the German consulate in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, and there were four civilians killed, and really this is just the latest brazen Taliban attack that we've seen in Afghanistan, and it's I think a reminder of how precarious the security situation there is and how much it's deteriorated. It was very striking to see how absent Afghanistan was from the presidential campaign, from the debates, but we still have 10,000 troops there, and the country is not heading in a good direction.
GJELTENLet's go now to Doug, who's on the line from Illinois. Doug, you've called "The Diane Rehm Show." You're on the air.
DOUGThank you, Tom, and good morning to you and the panel. Thank you for accepting my call. We'd like to ask the panel, and in particular Mr. Sanger, your -- your interviews in depth, in March, April, with Donald Trump, you and Maggie Haggerman, he actually praised you for your accuracy in terms of reporting what his foreign policy views were. And I'd be grateful, Mr. Sanger, if you could share some reflections on -- from those interviews and in your -- of course your long experience in journalism and in the world, your sense of Donald Trump as you talked with him because you and Maggie talked with him, your sense of what his -- of foreign policy might be as our next president, and thank you very much.
GJELTENAnd I think that he's wondering whether he said something in private that he has not said in public, or...
SANGERNo, I mean, we published -- Maggie and I published the transcripts of those interviews. So you can go into the Times and see exactly what he said. I had the sense of somebody who has been deeply interested in the world for a long time but has seen the world in a very transactional sense. In other words, alliance are less interesting to him than the one-on-one transactions, which would be expected if you have been interacting with the world as a real estate developer, and you're, you know, building a building someplace, and you've got a one-off deal.
SANGERSo I think that where he -- it became clear from the interviews that he needs to focus his most attention is trying to come up with a hierarchy of national interests that he wants to defend, what's important to him and what isn't, and then having a set of policies that can -- that he can act on from that but also trying to figure out how he's going to build partnerships because the world he has been in has been one where you had maybe one or two local partners, but you didn't have to go organize 20 fractious countries.
GJELTENDavid Sanger from the New York Times. I'm Tom Gjelten, you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And let's go now to Peter, who is on the line from Michigan. Hello, Peter, you've called "The Diane Rehm Show."
PETERYes, the hacking of the U.S. election by a hostile foreign power is a monstrous catastrophe that I see the media and including this conversation just furiously trying to normalize and move off of, perhaps because they recognize that they were enthusiastic collaborators and vectors in this process. And it's even more disturbing that this MO of hacking, distorting and weaponizing emails is exactly the same as that deployed against climate scientists in 2009 following a hack at the University of East Anglia in the U.K.
PETERWe don't know who did that hack, but I know from -- because I'm a videographer, and I talk to climate scientists and have for 10 years, that Russia was a leading suspect in that hack because of their huge interest in fossil fuels.
PETERAnd I just find this -- these swing developments, the hacking of the U.S. election and the complete chaos that our climate policy is now in is absolutely catastrophic developments and almost completely ignored in the press. I'd like to hear an explanation.
GJELTENOkay, thanks very much, Peter, and you're right, there are two developments there. Some would separate them. You have linked them. Missy, do you have -- first of all climate change. I mean, this is a huge issue. Let's deal with that question first. Donald Trump has raised a lot of questions about the accuracy of predictions on climate change and certainly suggested he's going to retreat from some of the commitments that the United States made in the past.
RYANSure, a lot of people have been asking whether Donald Trump will be the country's first anti-science president. We don't know yet, but he certainly has questioned climate change, and it's a real possibility that he will either pull out of the Paris agreement or make it moot by not respecting it or doing things that would lead to do their part. The United States is supposed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 significantly, but he's talking about increasing the fossil fuel industry.
GJELTENAnd David, Peter made the point that he thinks that Russia is sort of a saboteur of the climate change agenda and even sort of with its sort of hacking they have done something.
SANGERYeah, could have been. I -- the biggest question that I think he raised at the beginning is what was Russia's role in the hacking, you know, in this election because they are two somewhat separate things. If you're hacking for the purpose of propaganda for a political purpose, we've seen that before. That's not saying that we approve of it, but we've seen the Russians and others do that in a propaganda campaign. Certainly you've seen it in Ukraine, you've seen it in Estonia and elsewhere.
SANGERWhat we haven't seen before, until this election cycle, was a foreign power coming in, breaking into a political party and then using that data to try to move an actual election or just sow chaos in that election. And there wasn't any sign of hacking that we found yet in the actual election day, but the -- we've got to think hard before the next election cycle about what the implications were of the fact that we, for the first time in our history, really saw a foreign power get involved in this system.
GJELTENFirst time in our history we've seen a lot of things this week, and as we have been discussing today, lots of discussions about this U.S. domestic politics that will have ramifications around the world. I want to thank my guests for this hour, David Sanger, whom you just heard from, national security correspondent at The New York Times, Missy Ryan, Pentagon reporter at The Washington Post, and Moises Naim, a distinguished fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a columnist for the newspaper El Pais.
GJELTENI want to also thank all the people who called. We had one call from Kyle, who is an Army veteran, and he reminds us that today is Veterans Day, and I think all of us honor and appreciate all the Americans who have served our nation and continue to do so in very difficult places. So thank you for coming in.
GJELTENThanks for listening. I'm Tom Gjelten. This is "The Diane Rehm Show."
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