Trump's State of The Union – The View From Abroad

President Trump's speech before a joint session of Congress last night was dominated by domestic issues, and he was careful to strike a conciliatory tone.

But foreign policy also made a few appearances – some subtle and others less so. Here's how we like to imagine leaders from the world's geopolitical hot spots received the president's speech.


Xi Jinping: (reading over the notes in his little red book)

Curious speech. You say you want to establish "a new standard of living for the 21st century" – but we're almost a fifth of the way through it. Talk about short-term thinking. And rebuilding "crumbling infrastructure?" I just approved$125 billion in new railway projects – top that.

Note to self: One of the few moments both Republicans and Democrats stood and applauded together on foreign policy was when Trump talked about getting tough on China. That doesn't bode well for relations with the US, no matter what Trump says about having "great respect" for me personally.

Vladimir Putin: Wednesday Things to Do:

  1. Congratulate Donald on his big speech.
  2. Remind Donald that whatever he does with Maduro, Venezuela still owes Russia a lot of money, and we want our $17 billion back.
  3. Donald says he will "outspend and out-innovate" us with his nuclear arsenal. Check with the Treasury whether we have enough cash to keep up.
  4. Remember to thank Donald for not mentioning Ukraine with its elections next month.
  5. Call MBS.

Nicolas Maduro: (Muttering under his breath)

I saw your speech, viejo. Eighty-two minutes? That's it? Are you tired, old man? Fidel once held the Naciones Unidas rapt for four-and-a-half hours. Our beloved Hugo Chavez spoke for eight hours on live television without a glass of water. This is a man's endurance, and I will outlast you, too. Talk all you want about the evils of socialism, Trump. Your puppet, Guaido, will never convince the army to abandon me. I will be dancing in the streets of Caracas when you are in jail.

The Taliban: Ok, let's get this straight. Trump wants to get America's 14,000 troops out of Afghanistan, because "great nations do not fight endless wars." Americans broadly support him – with 57 percent favoring a withdrawal within the next 5 years. Russia is backing a peace process that excludes the government in Kabul. And we currently control a majority of Afghanistan's territory. After two decades of war, are we interested in a "political settlement?" You bet we are.

Mohammed bin Salman: (On the phone)

"Haha… I know, I know, I really got off lucky Vladimir… he didn't even mention me… Didn't even! It's like, Jamal who? Yemen what? Anyway, you coming to my next comedy show? I think Jared will be there."

Kim Jong-Un: (Dips quill into inkwell)

"Dear Donald, now that you have announced publicly the date and time of our next meeting, I am aflame with anticipation to see you again. Merely to be with you will draw open the earliest blossoms of spring in my wintry soul. Yours, Kimmy."

(Folds letter into envelope, shouts to aide)

"Send this to the White House along with the others, and bring me the latest nuclear program updates. What? Pompeo is calling? Tell him I'm busy rearranging my paper clip collection and he'll have to wait."

Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick joins That Made All the Difference podcast to discuss how his career as a surgeon influenced his work as an educator, administrator and champion of underserved communities, and why he believes we may be on the cusp of the next "golden generation."

Listen to the latest podcast now.

It's been a bad week at the office for President Trump. Not only have coronavirus cases in the US been soaring, but The New York Times' bombshell report alleging that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan has continued to make headlines. While details about the extent of the Russian bounty program — and how long it's been going on for — remain murky, President Trump now finds himself in a massive bind on this issue.

Here are three key questions to consider.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:

Do some of the Facebook's best features, like the newsfeed algorithm or groups, make removing hate speech from the platform impossible?

No, they do not. But what they do do is make it a lot easier for hate speech to spread. A fundamental problem with Facebook are the incentives in the newsfeed algorithm and the structure of groups make it harder for Facebook to remove hate speech.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Yes, still in the middle of coronavirus, but thought I'd give you a couple of my thoughts on Russia. Part of the world that I cut my teeth on as a political scientist, way back in the eighties and nineties. And now Putin is a president for life, or at least he gets to be president until 2036, gets another couple of terms. The constitutional amendments that he reluctantly allowed to be voted on across Russia, passed easily, some 76% approval. And so now both in China and in Russia, term limits get left behind all for the good of the people, of course. So that they can have the leaders that they truly deserve. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here. It's sad to see. It's sad to see that the Americans won the Cold War in part, not just because we had a stronger economy and a stronger military, but actually because our ideas were better.

Because when those living in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block looked at the West, and looked at the United States, they saw that our liberties, they saw that our economy, was something that they aspired to and was actually a much better way of giving opportunities to the average citizen, than their own system afforded. And that helped them to rise up against it.

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Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US politics:

How likely is bipartisan action against Russia in light of Taliban bounty reports?

I think it's probably unlikely. One of the challenges here is that there's some conflict of the intelligence and anything that touches on the issue of President Trump and Russia is extremely toxic for him. Republicans have so far been tolerant of that and willing to stop any new sanctions coming. I think unless the political situation or the allegations get much worse or more obvious, that stalemate probably remains.

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