On the heels of his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, President Donald Trump surprised U.S. military and congressional leaders when he announced he would cease performing war games with South Korea, saying such actions are “very provocative” and “very expensive”.
Reactions to the decision were mixed, but it is worth noting where Trump found inspiration for the ending joint military exercises: Vladimir Putin.
According to a January piece in the Wall Street Journal, Trump first mentioned the idea after a chat with the Russian president.
Last summer, Trump was considering a veto for the bill Congress passed issuing fresh sanctions on Russia, irritated that lawmakers had intervened in a foreign policy matter, the Journal reported.
Around the same time, Mr. Trump had an idea about how to counter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, which he got after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin: If the U.S. stopped joint military exercises with the South Koreans, it could help moderate Kim Jong Un’s behavior.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was able to steer the president away from that course of action, the Journal noted:
“He says, ‘Your instincts are absolutely correct,’ and then gets him [the president] to do the exact opposite of what his instincts say,” said one person close to the White House. Mr. Trump dropped the idea, although he has ordered aides to give the exercises a low profile, eliminating press releases and briefings about them.
Now that Trump had the opportunity to negotiate with Kim personally, the idea is front and center once again – and it appears the offer was made with little in the way of North Korean concessions.