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."

Technology has played a big role in accelerating globalization. While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe that technology should respect and even help protect the world's timeless values. That conviction has led us to announce a new and fourth pillar to Microsoft's AI for Good portfolio – our $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society's biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage. Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

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This Saturday, July 20, will mark the 50-year anniversary of the day a human being first stepped onto another world. A moment born out of Cold War political pressures, it's easy to forget a half century later how much bitter controversy the project provoked at home and the intensity of the worldwide fanfare that followed its success.

The moon mission's primary purpose was to defeat the Soviet Union. By the time John Kennedy became president in 1961, the Soviet Union had advanced far ahead of the United States in the race for achievement in space. In October 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. A month later, a dog named Laika became the first living creature to travel beyond Earth's atmosphere. In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, the first human to do so.

In early May, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, spurring Kennedy to announce a far more ambitious plan. On May 25, Kennedy famously pledged that by the end of the decade Americans would go to the moon and return safely to the Earth.

Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, but new President Lyndon Johnson quickly signaled his intention to see the promise kept. The Soviets held their space lead through 1965, by landing an unmanned craft on the Moon.

The moon mission stoked controversy in the United States. A review of polls reveals that only in 1969 did a majority of Americans support the project. Many people argued that the billions spent on a moonshot should go toward the war in Vietnam or to fight poverty in America's inner cities. "No hot water, no toilets, no lights. But Whitey's on the moon," sang musician and activist Gil Scott Heron. It didn't help when a fire during the Apollo 1 mission killed three astronauts and destroyed their space module.

But when Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, the event took on a life of its own. It was a decade framed by two images of respected TV anchorman Walter Cronkite—shaken to the core on air by the 1963 murder of President Kennedy and then speechless with awe as Americans bounded across the surface of the moon.

A decade that included confrontation with the Soviets in Cuba, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, a failing war in Vietnam, race riots in American cities, and violent chaos at the 1968 Democratic Party convention ended with an accomplishment a quarter million miles away, that was watched live by 94 percent of Americans who owned a TV.

Americans weren't the only ones watching. About 650 million people around the world watched the moon landing live on TV, making the event the first truly global televised event. Nine weeks later, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins began a world tour.

Concerns that planting an American flag on the moon's surface would seem an act of obnoxious nationalism faded as the three men were greeted by overflow crowds in 27 cities in 24 countries over 39 days. An estimated one million people greeted them in Dhaka (then Pakistan) and some 1.5 million turned out in Mumbai (then Bombay).

Fifty years later, moon missions are still a mark of national prestige. Russia, China, India, the EU, Japan, and Israel have all sent probes to orbit the Moon or landed vehicles on its surface. But none of them matches that first "giant leap for mankind."

Next up: Mars? For thoughts on the next space race, click here.

Bonus fact: An iPhone has more than 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.