The United States and its principal allies in both Europe and Asia have long differed over the best strategies for dealing with recalcitrant regimes. European countries and Japan, to differing degrees, have argued that the preservation of commercial and diplomatic contacts is critical in maintaining leverage over countries with which they have foreign-policy and national-security disputes. In contrast, until very recently, the US has tenaciously clung to the position that policies of economic and political isolation are both morally and practically the right course to follow when dealing with so-called ‘rogue’ states. Although there has been occasional convergence, the friction that these two perspectives have caused has been far more notable than any points of accord. This dissonance is one of several important factors which have spurred the current debate occurring in the United States, and to a lesser extent among America’s allies, over the relative merits of containment strategies versus engagement policies. Because of the prominence of punitive policies – such as sanctions and military force – in the foreign-policy repertoire of the US, this debate draws upon many of the lessons extracted from past cases in which policies of punishment were employed. However, strategies of engagement have thus far been subject to much less stringent evaluation, highlighting the need to identify the most favourable circumstances and strategies for employing incentives or rewards to shape the conduct of problem regimes.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.