The Foreign Service Journal, November 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2020 27 “capping” the buildup of U.S. and Soviet strategic nuclear forces to one of beginning to actually reduce the levels of forces. We succeeded, with the cooperation of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, in turning around the nuclear buildup so that 1986, the year of the Reagan-Gorbachev Reykjavík Summit, became the high-water mark for the world’s nuclear weapons instead of just another year of more and more nuclear bombs and warheads. Trust was key to reaching these agreements. The Ameri- can president and his Secretary of State became convinced that Mikhail Gorbachev was a new type of Soviet leader, one who shared their concerns about nuclear weapons and could be trusted to carry out agreements. Of course, we used a Russian proverb to stress that verification had to be a part of the deal: “Trust, but verify.”That brings us to another point about the meaning of trust: It has to be earned, which means that it has to be based on undertakings that can be seen to be carried out. After nearly four years of an administration that seems to have assumed that American relations with the rest of the world is a zero-sum game and that the game is based largely on the personal relations between national leaders, distrust abounds internationally. The ability of the United States government to execute the president’s foreign policies has become severely limited by the lack of a clear and coherent method of formulating policy. The president’s use of social media to make frequent public reversals and revisions in policies has made the job of America’s diplomats exception- ally complex. I see a need in the coming years to rebuild trust where now it is absent, based on policies that defend and advance American interests and ideals. The international system is constantly being reshaped; right now, trends in technology and economics, and even the pandemic, are having a major impact on how our country interacts with the rest of the world. With skillful diplomacy and visionary leadership, we can influence these trends and help to create an international system consistent with our values. Our partners in this effort will have to regain trust that we do, indeed, share the same democratic values, and that we really are working for an international system of nations that benefits all of us. Even our adversaries will have to regain the trust that we can work together to manage global threats to humanity’s very exis- tence even when we disagree on other issues. This task may require more than a single presidential term to accomplish. The Role of Strategic Thinking At the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second term, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee invited me to talk with them about the future and how American foreign policy might shape a world to our liking. I gladly met with them on Jan. 31, 1985. I recommend that the Senate convene a similar meeting in January 2021, or whenever a new Secretary of State is in place, because strategic thinking is critically impor-