Foreign policy experts: Tensions with Russia the highest they have ever been

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos discusses the week in foreign policy with journalist Susan Glasser and national security experts Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and Meghan O'Sullivan.
10:40 | 04/01/18

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Transcript for Foreign policy experts: Tensions with Russia the highest they have ever been
Those buses contains some of the 153 Russian diplomats expelled by the west in the wake of that poisoning in Great Britain the former Russian spy. In return rush is a 12142. Western diplomats from Moscow one sign of the worst relations between Russia and the US since the days of the Cold War. On talk about that and other foreign policy challenges facing president trump and his team with our panel of experts Megan O'Sullivan she served this -- asking advice for George W. Bush. Now an international fares professor at Harvard's Kennedy school author of the new book windfall have a new energy abundance up bands global politics strengthens America's power. Elizabeth Sherwood Randall she held Nash payrolls in the Obama administration including deputy secretary of energy now a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy school helper center. And Susan Glasser seem to be his staff writer for The New Yorker and Susan let me begin with you because you were also. Moscow bureau chief with her husband Peter Baker for the Washington Post during president Putin's. First term I guess first of all do you agree with that assessment is made about this being the worst relations between Russia and the west since the Cold War. And do you have a sense of weapons engagements here. Like you know 81 of all new Cold War if you look at that right now you've never heard the term more in the last 25 years I think it really is. A period of and the highest tensions that they really had been arguably. Even since before Gorbachev we we had better relationships and we're talking we're frequently in the late 1980s and we are. Would Moscow today President Putin has already become the longest serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin. She was just reelected to another six year term member present China famously with hospice to congratulate him. But did for this. The question is what is he gonna do with that new six year mandate he's got worse in Ukraine in Syria he's now got this conflict. With the west and not just Great Britain but the United States and other. Western allies over this poisoning of a former. Russian spy. I think we could be in for a period of additional escalation. Rather than this scenario well finally put just get a moderate I don't see any sign of. Liz Sherwood Randall once we've seen him that we saw him publicize that ICBM tests this week they came in the wake of that dagger and he he showed just a couple weeks ago targeting South Florida maybe even mark. Morrow lot go it appears that we could be in for new arms race Russia as well. So we need to maintain our nuclear deterrence against all threats but at the same time as Susan has just said we don't have an interest in escalation into a new Cold War. And so we do need to maintain channels of communication. And we need to be pursuing options that give our president. Alternatives to resorting to nuclear war. We that you want the alternatives were things he seen Megan O'Sullivan is that. I this sort of disconnect between president trumps rhetoric we Susan just mentioned that he can graduated Letterman who wasn't supposed to do that and some relatively tough actions. By his administration finally imposing. Those sanctions going through with the yet but expect expelling Russian diplomats. Well I think it's true that the actions of the trump administration. Have not been anything but like people had expected because of this. Relationship between trump and Putin. But we have to keep in mind that this to tear creation in the relationship is not just because president trump is constrained. President Putin also really doesn't have much of an interest in. Diffusing. Tension with the west because. He has some internal dynamics he can't deliver economic growth in this energy global energy market scenario and as a result yes the delivers psychological benefits in the best way he's been able to do that. Is by having this confrontation with the west in the United States in particular. Susan one of the places we see that the conflict play out is also in Syria of course and and the president surprising so many. That announcement on Thursday that he wants to pull out a Syria. I find in many ways that was an extraordinary and very relevant to if you're trying to understand trump. Foreign policy what did he say he said. Let other people take care of it. People talk about the post American world that was the post American world. An action it's time for other people to take care mantra a waste has a feeling it seems to me when he talks about foreign policy. That America's getting cheated somehow that other people aren't doing the hard work of international relations and yet even this action on Russia. We expelled diplomats we talked tough we join our allies and yet you never saw president trump personally. Take responsibility for router tweet about it or talk about it. Until I feel like there's really a sense that America is very reluctantly acting to leave when it is at all. 101 plays Liz Sherwood who did the president may not want others to step in so aggressively is the is the comparable North Korea seems to want that summit. We Kim Jung went for himself you're one of the things we saw this week. Is that extraordinary meeting between president she. Of China and Kim Jung on the first visit for I can German outside. North Korea and the Financial Times reported yesterday that he came after a dramatic tightening of oil exports. By China it seems like president she is trying to get in this game and signal that he's in charge. So this is very important George because we have many interests in the Asian region that go beyond. North Korea so while we want to be aligned with China and putting pressure on North Korea and pursuing a negotiation that will ultimately lead to the denuclearization. Up North Korea we have a long game to play in the region and the Chinese interest and the American interests are not always aligned they're so our. Goal needs to be to be firmly aligned with our. Our allies in the Republic of Korea in the south to develop a negotiating strategy that gives no opportunity for us to be pushed out of the region. And no bargaining chip should be put on the table that would reduce the American troop presence reduce our exercising with our allies there or in any way. Bush the United States out of the Asian region he's. That's the greatest danger getting pushed over the region ordering that to Megan O'Sullivan as we talk about this summit. My understanding that when Kim Jung once they said he may or may not talk about denuclearization. He means getting United States out of the region. Yes when he says dean legalization he's talking about that only. In the context of a peace treaty with the United States and a peace treaty is more. Then it sounds in the sense that a peace treaty includes as Liz just mentioned. Removal of US forces certainly from the peninsula. Met and potentially getting rid of the UN resolutions that have been in place since the end of the north. That the Korean War so he is definitely talking about it didn't munition of American presence in in Korea and as a result in a region as a whole. And that relates to Japan. And obviously south tree is a well so China's not the only country that's feeling a little nervous. That this bilateral. Potential meeting could. Could squeeze out some larger interest of regional actors that are used to dealing with North Korea to the extent there was any diplomacy. Through a multi party framework. He said potential meeting loser you convince the meanings gonna happen what are the risks. There are lots of risks in this meeting George first of all as I noted we could be in a situation which we negotiate away something we need to. A preserve and that is the American presence in the region. But I also see opportunities because we have maximum economic pressure right now in place against North Korea. The north Koreans continue to build our arsenal and that means the time is ripe for negotiation. And trumps fiery rhetoric which has the risk of escalating into a nuclear war. Has created an incentive for everybody to come to the table so we have some reason to have. Hope that this can lead us to eight a new scenario that would be preferential for United States' interest. This is being prepared now buy a new Nash security team for the president John Bolton coming in his national security advisor. Mike Pompeo coming in at secretary of state we saw the first meeting this week between Bolton and geneticist pentagon secretary. Secretary and so did say thank you for day you're old enough to think for I think and we define me. I heard it here. Out of her dad says had a say entering the devil incarnate or wanted to meet you there Susan blessed to see this this team does have. Strikingly different views from those who came came before we know that John Bolton has been very hard liner on Iran's hard line her. I'm North Korea the same with Mike Pompeo and the question is will they be able to follow through. On the summit would North Korean and. Well and I'm Russia as well by the way they all have significantly more hawkish Hazen president. Himself I think a lot of people look at gold's appointment and this Summitt and North Korea and they think there increases the possibility. That the summit either won't happen. Or will be. Basically a pretext and that they'll come out and say. It failed and let's take that preemptive military action that John Bolton is on the record. I thought indicating however I agree with you that. Doesn't trump really wants this summit to happen rate he personally state his capital on it he loved nothing more than two proclaimed himself the deal maker. Got it done where other presidents bush and Obama. Couldn't you could see a scenario where keen Kim come out. They say we've done it we've made an agreement in principle and then it takes years for it to emerge that this agreement was simply too hard to work and in the details so I wouldn't rule that out. And I mean O'Sullivan with you lose a servant and have Security Council staff one of the big questions about John Bolton. Coming in his Kenny actually fulfill that traditional role of a national security advisor and assure that all views are parked the table and other society sometimes honored in the breach but. Investor Raj is supposed to be. And I was broke. Exactly and that's the term honest broker and that may be the most important part of this job. Many many Americans probably look at this job and they think the most important element is advising the president. But really being the protector of the process that is. That key role of the national security advisor and that's not only being able to represent the views of other agencies when those. Individuals. At the head of those agencies aren't in the room. It also means making sure. That all the options are considered as just passionately as possible that the president has all give up his options lead out for him. This is something that takes a very cool collected com. May be nonjudgmental. Approach and I think. There are concerns about patent Bolton not only from his policy views but also this temperament and whether or not he'll be inclined to encourage trump. To adopt the process. In general which seems to go against tribes in stinks as we seen them so far for this only it were today thank you also agree discussion.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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