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George Shultz Speaks Out for Renewing U.S. Leadership Overseas

In the final years of the Cold War, Secretary of State George P. Shultz negotiated the first arms-control treaty in history to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons, a crowning achievement of President Ronald Reagan’s tenure and the start of a new era of nuclear de-escalation.

So when President Trump pulled the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia last year, Mr. Shultz saw it as a dangerous step backward, away from the Reagan-era policies that were meant to bring the major nuclear powers closer together and make the world safer for generations to come.

“Withdrawing from the I.N.F. treaty was a giant mistake,” Mr. Shultz said in a telephone interview on Friday. “You lose not only the agreement itself, but you lose all those verification provisions that we worked so hard on.”

As he publishes a new book on Sunday in advance of his 100th birthday in December, Mr. Shultz has become America’s uber elder statesman, the longest-serving secretary of state of the last half-century and a voice ever since for the kind of international engagement and political moderation that have seemingly fallen out of favor. At a moment when the United States has pulled back from its allies, Mr. Shultz is speaking out for a renewal of American leadership overseas.

In “A Hinge of History,” written with James Timbie, a longtime State Department adviser who helped negotiate the I.N.F. treaty, Mr. Shultz argues that the world is now at a pivot point in history much like the one it faced at the end of World War II. Based on research at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where he is a fellow, Mr. Shultz describes what he sees as necessary changes in education, migration, national security, technology, economics and democratization, all of which he says will require international cooperation of the sort rarely seen these days.

“We seem to be in an upset state of affairs where it’s hard to get things accomplished,” he observed in the interview. He especially lamented the Trump administration’s allergy to international accords. “They seem to be skeptical of these agreements, of any agreement. Agreements aren’t usually perfect. You don’t get everything you want. You compromise a little bit. But they’re way better than nothing.”

He likewise criticized Mr. Trump’s combative approach to the rest of the world in a new article in The Foreign Service Journal. “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,” he wrote.

Read entire article at New York Times