The Summit Plummet

Always be ready to walk away from the table if you don’t like the deal, US President Donald Trump once wrote. Well, forget about the table — on Thursday morning Trump pulled the plug a full three weeks before even getting into the room with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

What happened? President Trump’s framed his decision to cancel the planned 12 June summit as a matter of words — he didn’t like it that North Korean officials said some not very #BeBest things about Vice President Pence! — but in reality the collapse had to do with a critical underlying disagreement over definitions.

The prospect of “denuclearization,” which was central to any talks, always meant very different things to Pyongyang (give up weapons slowly, get lots of good stuff along the way) and Washington (give up weapons swiftly, we’ll talk about your benefits afterwards, but maybe you won’t be around long enough to see them.)

That ongoing disagreement — just weeks from the summit — burst into the open in the recent verbal sparring between Pyongyang and Pence (and National Security Adviser John Bolton) which Trump used as the pretext to scuttle the summit.

So what’s next for our two jilted leaders?

The ball is in Pyongyang’s court now, but Kim Jong-un hardly needs to hurry after it. A summit on equal footing with the US president would have been a diplomatic coup for him, sure, but even without that, the threat of US military action against him is already lower, and his relations with South Korea and China much warmer, than they were just weeks ago. Those things are already wins for Kim. So he can afford to play it cool for at bit — but is that really his style?

For Trump, although the foreign policy mandarins see this as a big humiliation, his base will see it as a strong move from a tough negotiator, so there’s little political fallout there. A bigger question is how this plays into his calculus on China. For months, Trump has pulled his punches with Beijing on trade issues, in part because he needed President Xi Jinping’s help to pressure his client Kim Jong-un to the table. But if Trump sees the summit as a lost cause, he could quickly pivot to a more confrontational stance towards China.

Every day thousands of people legally cross back and forth between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on their way to jobs, schools, doctor's appointments, shopping centers and the homes of family and friends. This harmonious exchange has taken place for more than 400 years, uniting neighbors through shared social ties, geography, history and, most importantly, an interlinked economy.

Beyond the people and goods, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez also converge in a cross-border flow of ideas, ambition and aspirations that have shaped the region for centuries. This forward-looking spirit is what attracted Microsoft to the region in 2017, when it launched Microsoft TechSpark to create new economic opportunities and help digitally transform established industries with modern software and cloud services. It's also why Microsoft announced on Monday that it is expanding the TechSpark El Paso program to include Ciudad Juárez and making a $1.5 million investment in the binational Bridge Accelerator. Read more about the TechSpark announcement here.

Since Syria's brutal civil war began eight years ago, millions of Syrians have fled their country to escape the bombs and bullets. But hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Syria's borders, where they languish in packed refugee camps. The al-Hol camp in northern Syria is sprawling, and of its nearly 70,000 residents, some 11,000 are family members of foreign ISIS fighters, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The surprise American withdrawal from northern Syria last week paved the way for Turkey and Syria's Bashar al-Assad to move in. Some 160,000 civilians have now fled the border region that Turkey is bombarding, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a stretch of Syria that had been relatively secure since the defeat of ISIS's self-declared caliphate back in March. Here's a look at the camps for displaced people in the area.

Syria is quickly turning into US President Donald Trump's most significant foreign policy blunder to date. It's looking like it might be for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, too.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced a fresh wave of sanctions on Turkey, in a bid to get Erdogan to halt his invasion of Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria. Yes, you may recall, that's the same invasion that the US green-lit last week by withdrawing American troops from the area.

More Show less

Mozambique's democracy test Mozambicans voted yesterday in an election that will test a fragile peace accord between the ruling Frelimo party, led by president Filipe Nyusi, and Renamo, a former rebel group-turned-opposition party. The two factions were on opposite sides of a Cold War-tinged civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people between 1977 and 1992. Frelimo, which has ruled Mozambique since independence, has been losing popularity due to a corruption scandal, but is likely to hold onto power at the national level. Renamo, which foreswore violence just two months ago in exchange for electoral reforms that will help the party, will be hoping to make regional gains that allow it to win some key governorships. Disputes over the final vote count and even outright fraud or violence are possible in coming days, particularly if Renamo fails to make its hoped-for gains.

More Show less

What's the update at the Syria-Turkey border?

Well, it is increasingly in the hands of Assad and the Russians, who the Kurds have flipped with. The United States withdrawing some troops away from the border, the Turks coming in, but they going to be limited in how much they can do given the fact that ultimately, Assad and Russia has most the firepower and Turkey does not want that fight.

More Show less