Kiev Pledges Reform for NATO Road Map as US Urges Russia to Ease Tensions in Ukraine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

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Kiev Pledges Reform for NATO Road Map as US Urges Russia to Ease Tensions in Ukraine

NATO

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko vowed on Monday that his country will carry out reforms for it to meet the necessary standards to be able to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

He added that Kiev and NATO will begin discussions on a roadmap to get Ukraine into the alliance by 2020.

His announcement came a day after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged, during a visit to Kiev, Russia to take the “first steps” in easing the violence in eastern Ukraine.

At loggerheads with Russia and fighting a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine passed a law in June prioritizing NATO membership as a foreign policy goal.

Speaking alongside Poroshenko on a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged the alliance’s support for Ukraine as it faces a bloody insurgency by pro-Russian separatists in the east.

“Russia has maintained its aggressive actions against Ukraine, but NATO and NATO allies stand by Ukraine and stand on your side,” Stoltenberg said in his opening remarks of the NATO-Ukraine Commission session in Kiev.

Ukraine and the West accuse Moscow of smuggling weapons and troops across the porous border, a charge it denies. The US and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia, though Moscow has denied backing the rebels.

“Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and future in the sphere of security,” Poroshenko told reporters.

“Today we clearly stated that we would begin a discussion about a membership action plan and our proposals for such a discussion were accepted with pleasure.”

NATO leaders agreed at a summit in 2008 that Ukraine would one day become a member of the alliance and the country already contributes troops to NATO missions including in Afghanistan.

A formal NATO membership plan for Ukraine would mean meeting targets on political, economic and defense reforms, with national plans submitted annually to show progress.

But there are even larger barriers.

NATO rules state that aspiring members must “settle their international disputes by peaceful means”, meaning Ukraine would need to resolve the Donbass conflict — an insurgency by pro-Russian forces — that has so far killed more than 10,000 people.

Responding to Stoltenberg’s comments, the Kremlin said on Monday that Russia does not have troops in Ukraine.

It added: “Ukraine’s possible NATO membership will not boost stability and security in Europe.”

On Sunday, Tillerson visited Kiev and said Russia must make the first move in staunching the violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russia must take the first steps to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine, he said after meeting Poroshenko. He added that Washington’s primary goal is the restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity.

Tillerson’s tough talk clearly pleased Poroshenko, who has long complained about Russian interference in his country’s east and has watched nervously as the Trump administration has sought to improve ties with Moscow.

He thanked Tillerson for the continued US commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed deep appreciation for his “symbolic and timely visit immediately after the meetings at the G20 in Hamburg” where US President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 have driven ties between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.

“We are also here to demonstrate NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine and our firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of your country,” Stoltenberg said.

“NATO allies do not and will not recognize Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea.”

Ukraine sees NATO accession as a way to bolster its defenses against former master Moscow.

However, Kiev has yet to officially apply to start the lengthy and politically challenging process of joining the alliance.

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Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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This Is The Week President Trump Meets President Putin Face To Face In Germany At G-20 Summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will demand the return of two diplomatic compounds seized by the United States when he meets in Germany this week with President Trump for the first time, the Kremlin said, as a senior Russian official warned that Moscow’s patience on the issue was running out.

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said his government showed “unusual flexibility” by not retaliating in December when then-President Obama confiscated the two compounds, in New York state and Maryland, and expelled 35 Russian diplomats as punishment for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Ushakov urged Washington to “free Russia from the need to take retaliatory moves,” according to The Associated Press.

The White House has reportedly been mulling returning the compounds in an effort to improve relations with Moscow, and in recent days Russian officials have warned that retaliatory measures have been drawn up if the compounds are not returned. They were nominally used by the Russian Embassy as recreational facilities, but U.S. intelligence has long argued they were bases for espionage.

In a separate statement released today, the Kremlin said Putin would raise the issue with Trump when the two meet in Hamburg, Germany, where the G-20 summit is being held Saturday. The statement said that the Kremlin expected Putin would convey the need to find the “most rapid resolution” on the issue, which it described as an “irritant” in Russian-U.S. relations.

The two leaders’ first meeting is highly anticipated, coming as investigations continue into possible collusion between members of Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials and as relations between Moscow and Washington are being described as at their worst since the Cold War.

There has been intense speculation for months over when the two presidents might come face to face. Since confirming the meeting

last week, the White House has been light on details about what they will discuss.

“There’s no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” Trump’s national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster told reporters last week.

McMaster said administration officials had been tasked with drawing up options to confront Russia over “destabilizing behavior,” including cyber threats and political subversion, as well as looking for ways to cooperate on issues such as Syria and North Korea.

Today the Kremlin was more specific, issuing a broad list of areas where it said it believed it could cooperate with the United States. The top issues listed for discussion were Russia’s dissatisfaction with U.S. sanctions, its desire to cooperate on international terrorism, the Syria crisis and improving efforts around nuclear arms control.

Most of the issues resembled those the Kremlin frequently raised with the Obama administration, and the statement emphasized Moscow’s desire for a return to normal relations.

There is “significant potential for coordinating efforts,” the Kremlin statement said. “Our countries can do much together in resolving regional crises,” including Ukraine, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The statement also said Russia was eager to restore business links with the United States.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday told the news agency Interfax he hoped the meeting would lend clarity to the relationship and warned that not seeking to normalize relations would be a “huge mistake.”

In reality, however, it’s unclear that, beyond the return of the diplomatic compounds, there is much Putin and Trump will be able to ask of each other. In many areas, U.S. and Russian interests have little overlap, and that has not appeared to change under Trump.

On Syria the two have clashed, and last month a U.S. fighter shot down a war plane belonging to Russia’s ally President Bashar al-Assad. The White House has said sanctions will not be lifted on Russia until it withdraws from Crimea, and in the Senate both parties are drawing up more sanctions to punish Russia for its alleged election meddling.

“I don’t think we should expect any kind of breakthrough,” said Maria Lipman, a veteran political analyst in Moscow. “I don’t think we should expect any significant results from this meeting. Not even the beginning of solutions to the major issues.”

During the presidential campaign and after the election, some Russian officials and state media expressed optimism that Trump would mean better relations with the United States. But such hopes have so far largely not materialized.

Lipman said she believes there is a growing realization in the Kremlin of Trump’s severely restricted ability to alter U.S. policy toward Moscow, given the intensity of the scandal around the Russia investigations.

RUSSIA AND NATO WAR GAMES IN EUROPE SEE NEW PLAYER: CHINA

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

RUSSIA AND NATO WAR GAMES IN EUROPE SEE NEW PLAYER: CHINA

Russia and China have begun naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, the most significant sign of military cooperation between the two major powers in a region seen as a flashpoint for Moscow’s rivalry with Western military alliance NATO.

Russia’s ambassador to China Andrei Denisov acknowledged Friday that the joint drills conducted by Russian and Chinese armed forces were unique, especially in the increasingly militarized Baltic region, but denied that the nations were “scaring off” rival powers. The Baltics have become a major point of contention between Russia and U.S.-led NATO, which have both devoted extensive military resources toward fortifying the region’s borders. The two factions accuse one another of instigating a European arms race, but Denisov dismissed Western concerns Friday.

Related: America’s new problem? Russia wants to solve the North Korea crisis

“There is a point of novelty, but I haven’t heard anyone expressing much concern over this so-called ‘threat.’ The Baltic States repeat their usual incantations, but at the same time, they take for granted the fact that NATO is deploying large forces on their territory,” Denisov told reporters, according to the state-run TASS Russian News Agency.

“Those who are scared off are inclined to being scared,” he added.

RTSOJ3RA Chinese soldier waves farewell to Russian fleets as the Chinese-Russian joint naval drill concludes in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, China, September 19, 2016. Russia and China, which trail behind only the U.S. in military power, have sought greater cooperation in recent years and have begun joint naval drills in the highly contested Baltic Sea, where NATO has raised its defenses.STRINGER/REUTERS

The Joint Sea-2017 drills began last week as China deployed a fleet consisting of guided missile destroyer Changsha, mulitpurpose frigate Yuncheng, one comprehensive supply ship, ship-borne helicopters and a number of marines to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, a Baltic exclave of Russia located between Lithuania and Poland, Xinhua News Agency and Reuters reported. Days later, a U.S. spy plan and Russian jet reportedly came within five feet of one other over the Baltic Sea during an incident in which both nations said the other was at fault.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told journalists last week that China’s cooperation with Russia, who he referred as a country that is “not setting an example in the field in real life and by way of actions,” could threaten regional stability, The Baltic Times reported. In response, the Russian Defense Ministry issued a statement maintaing that the exercises were routine and intended to “strengthen and bolster Russian-Chinese relations regarding overall strategic cooperation,” according to TASS Russian News Agency. Additional drills are scheduled for mid-July.

GettyImages-605476586Chinese and Russian marines take part in the 400-meter sea-crossing and landing training as a par of the China-Russia naval drill ‘Joint Sea-2016’ on September 13, 2016 in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province of China. The two countries have recently signed a road map for greater military cooperation and may also seek to form a united front to counter U.S. pressure on North Korea and its nuclear weapons program. LI JIN/VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES

Denisov’s remarks Friday came one day after Russia and China signed a roadmap for military cooperation and just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit Monday at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin. Throughout the two-day visit the pair were expected to “examine the full spectrum of relations within the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China, as well as current international and regional matters,” according to the Kremlin’s official website, which also anticipated that the leaders would sign bilateral agreements.

Observers often rank Russia and China as the world’s second and third strongest military powers, respectively, behind the U.S. The two have frequently teamed up against initiatives led by the West in the U.N.  and Russia has recently entered a political spat involving the U.S. and China over nuclear-armed North Korea in the Asia-Pacific.

Trump: The Result Of An Affluenza Child Now An Affluenza Old Man

 

My commentary this evening was brought on by President Trumps latest immature tweets about the two folks who do a radio program called ‘The Morning Joe’. Like most Americans I wish that our President would be banned from Twitter as long as he is still our President because he does tend to say many things that are beneath the dignity of the Office he holds. Mr. Trump in my opinion has done many things to show his lack of knowledge since he has been in Office like not knowing that his favorite former President had died more than 15 years before the Civil War ever started yet was speaking about how he was distraught about that war. He has shown that he knew basically nothing about issues in the Middle East even though he liked to brag how he knew more than our military Generals knew and he has made it clear that he has no need for morning briefings from our Intelligence Agency Heads. Yet to me the most embarrassing thing he has done yet is how he acted at the group photo at the last NATO Summit. When he pushed the Prime Minister out of the front row center spot that he, Mr. Trump wanted to be in, he actually embarrassed me that he was even an American let alone our President.

 

Most of us probably remember at least a little bit about the young man in California that was nicknamed the ‘affluenza’ brat from a wealthy family who killed 4 people (if I remember correctly) while driving a car while drunk. His lawyer was able to get him off with just probation and no jail time because he had been raised ‘to wealthy’ to know right from wrong. He must have had an amazing lawyer and or an incompetent Judge for that verdict to have happened. You would think that a child who is being raised in a home where the family is in need of nothing would be a very grateful young person and not a menace to society but this is not always the reality. There is also another issue here in America where our legal system does not tolerate parents if they in any way discipline their child and the children know this so many act out like pure spoiled brats. Yet when a child acts out at school the courts then blame the parents for doing a bad job of raising their child when in many cases it is the politicians and courts that are to blame and not the parents.

 

I have always been a person who has been pleased when someone I know accomplishes something like being able to purchase a new car or is able to buy a new house or even be able to purchase a new living room suite or a new lawn mower. I have always been pleased when a person through their hard work or even good luck is able to become quite wealthy, as long as they did it honestly and decently. When a person obtains their wealth through stealing from other people then I have no respect for them.

 

Donald Trump grew up in a very wealthy household and all I can say about that is, good for him. His Dad taught him many things in his childhood years, some good some bad, just like most parents do. Donald Trump was given millions from his Dad when he graduated college and all I can say to that is, good for him. The issue I have with Donald Trump is his pure greed and huge ego as those two issues are an embarrassment to any person whom possesses them. Mr. Trump has bullied and stolen his way into becoming the billionaire that he is on the backs of anyone he felt he could ‘get over’ on. He has proven without any doubt that money is his God and when this is so a person tends to act like an immature habitual liar just as he is today and it appears that he has always been. I will end this commentary with this one thought and hope, for our Nations sake I really hope that somehow Mr. Trump would grow up and act like a responsible adult and quit acting like a little spoiled affluenza child in an old man’s body.

Russian Defense Minister’s Plane Buzzed Over Baltic By NATO Jet: TASS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS AND TASS)

Russian defense minister’s plane buzzed over Baltic by NATO jet: TASS

(PRESIDENT PUTIN NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO HIS POLICY OF CONSTANT ‘FLY-BY’ IGNORANCE)(TRS) 

A plane carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was buzzed by a NATO F-16 fighter jet as it flew over the Baltic Sea, but was chased away by a Russian military jet, the TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.

TASS said the NATO plane had tried to approach the aircraft carrying the defense minister even though it was flying over neutral waters. It said Shoigu was en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad at the time.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Montenegro joins NATO as Russia turns furious

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Montenegro joins NATO as Russia turns furious

ONCE the Balkan stronghold of pro-Russian sentiments, tiny Montenegro was yesterday silently celebrating its entry into NATO in a historic turn that has made the Kremlin furious.

Despite the Russian anger and a deep split within the nation of some 620,000 people over the issue, Montenegro is formally becoming the 29th member of the Western military alliance at a ceremony in Washington yesterday.

To get there, Montenegro has stood up against its former ally Russia, which has sought to maintain strong historic, political and cultural influence in the Slavic country it considers a special zone of interest.

The US State Department said Montenegro’s membership “will support greater integration, democratic reform, trade, security, and stability with all of its neighbors.”

Russia has threatened economic and political retaliation, including a campaign to undermine the Montenegrin tourism industry, which relies heavily on Russian visitors. An estimated 200,000 Russians visit Montenegro a year and 80,000 Russians own property in the country.

Russia has also banned imports of Montenegrin wine and recently deported a ranking official from a Moscow airport.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recently warned potential Russian tourists that “there is an anti-Russian hysteria in Montenegro.”

“We do not rule out the possibility of provocations, arrests for suspicious reasons or extradition to third countries” of Russians, Zakharova said.

Montenegro says Moscow was behind a foiled coup attempt in October that allegedly targeted former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who was the driving force behind the country’s NATO bid. Russia denies involvement.

“One of the reasons we are joining NATO is to create greater stability, not only for Montenegrin citizens, but also for foreign investors and tourists,” Djukanovic said. “Therefore, our goal is to bring even more Russian tourists.”

Montenegro has officially become the 29th member of NATO

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWSPAPER)

Montenegro officially joins NATO
© Getty Images

Montenegro has officially become the 29th member of NATO after a process that saw a failed coup attempt believed to be supported by Russia, and U.S. senators hurling invective’s.

The tiny Balkan nation on the Adriatic Sea officially joined the alliance in a ceremony Monday at the State Department, where officials hailed the strength of the alliance.

“Montenegro’s accession sends a strong message of strength to the region and makes clear to our allies that the United States remains as committed as ever to the principal of collective defense as enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty,” Thomas Shannon, undersecretary of State, said at the ceremony.

The growth of NATO comes as President Trump’s commitment to the alliance continues to be called into question.

During his first alliance meeting, Trump chastised allies for not paying enough for their defense. He also did not explicitly endorse Article 5, the mutual defense clause, despite such an affirmation reportedly being part  of his written speech.Administration officials have since said Trump is committed to Article 5, but Trump has yet to say so himself.

Trump also caused a stir when he appeared to push aside the prime minister of Montenegro so that he could be in the front of a photo of NATO leaders.

In March, the Senate approved Montenegro’s bid to join the alliance in a 97-2 vote.

Despite the strong support, the vote caused some turmoil in the chamber. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had earlier blocked a vote on the treaty, arguing that allowing the country into the alliance would add to America’s military burden.

Paul’s move prompted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to lament that his colleague “is now working for [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”

Monday’s ceremony is the culmination of seven years of work for Montenegro.

The process endured a coup attempt in October 2016 that Montenegrin and U.S. officials have said was sponsored by Russia.

In Monday’s ceremony, Shannon commended Montenegro for joining the alliance in the face of “concerted foreign pressure.”

He also highlighted Montenegro’s commitment to spending, saying it will spend 1.7 percent of its gross domestic product on defense and envisions spending 2 percent by 2024.

Montenegro has also contributed to the wars in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Shannon added.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who was at the ceremony, said Montenegro’s accession sends a message to other countries hoping to join the alliance.

“Montenegro’s accession sends a signal to other states that seek membership,” he said, “that if a country truly reforms, if it promotes democracy, strengthens the rule of law, modernizes its armed forces and contributes to our collective defense, it too can join the alliance.”

Montenegro’s Prime Minister Duško Marković thanked the United States for its “staunch and continuous support” for his country’s NATO membership and pledged that his country will be a “strong advocate and partner” for NATO’s efforts in the region.

“I firmly believe that this is a historic day for NATO,” he said at the ceremony. “Facing the new and grave challenges, the alliance’s admitting the 29th member show increasingly that the open-door policy is alive and that it works well as a beacon of hope to all of those who want to share its values and standards.”

Updated at 3:45 p.m.

Perverted Humanitarianism: The Neocon Case for Arming Ukraine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE RUSSIA INSIDER’) (THIS IS AN INTERESTING READ FROM A RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT POINT OF VIEW)

Perverted Humanitarianism: The Neocon Case for Arming Ukraine

Here in the West, our leaders firmly believe that chaos is theirs to create and control, collateral damage be damned

Sat, Mar 21, 2015 | 2227 24

For Nuland, the more guns the better
For Nuland, the more guns the better

This article originally appeared at Letters from Globistan


Despite the coordinated efforts of Russia, Germany, and France to deescalate the crisis in Ukraine, the United States has remained steadfast in its opposing policy objectives as it fans the flames of war in the name of humanitarianism and democracy. Since the provision of “non-lethal aid” have failed to defeat the Novorussian rebels, American lawmakers such as John McCain have predictably worked themselves into a lather, contorting words and facts to justify their itch for openly arming Ukraine. Neocon policy wonks acted quickly in lockstep to spin the Ukraine debacle and contain public fallout, and in the process, established a convoluted narrative that polluted the meaning of the vaunted principles they claim to uphold.

The Elusive Nature Of An Alleged Invasion

In her statement to Congress on March 4, 2015, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland stopped beating around the bush and publicly accused Russia of invading Ukraine. However, other officials prefer to be coy with their terminology, opting for vague allegations instead. Pentagon spokesman Major James Bridle has described the crisis as a “serious military escalation” and a “blatant violation of international law”. In contrast, American UN Ambassador Samantha Power resisted the urge to specifically define the crisis, but has cautioned that continued Russian intervention “could be viewed as an invasion”.

Verbal gymnastics aside, the evidence provided for the alleged invasion so far have been less than compelling. Released satellite photos of Russian troops appear grainy, nondescript, and underwhelming, despite the mainstream media’s assertions to the contrary. In Munich, Ukrainian president and oligarch-in-chief Petro Poroshenko presented a handful of Russian passports as “damning” evidence to the international media. Less than impressed with the “bombshell revelations”, the Russian Foreign Ministry requested copies of the passports, which they have yet to receive. In another recent snafu, it was discovered that Senator Jim Inhofe’s “exclusive photographic evidence” of Russian military aggression had been recycled from the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, Georgia. In an attempt to deflect the embarrassing oversight, Inhofe passed the buck and pointed the finger at the Ukrainian MPs, who in turn denied any wrongdoing or mischaracterization on their part.Regrettably, tortured semantics and flimsy evidence won’t be enough to discredit the government hawks. Fortunately for the warmongers and desktop warriors in power, the absence of proof does not logically confirm the absence of guilt. Given the relative ease in selling the Iraq War to the American public, persuading the masses of Russia’s alleged invasion should be a piece of cake.

Screw Diplomacy! Why Might Is Right No Matter What Those Pantywaists Say

Now that the Neocons have successfully established the “fact” of Russian aggression, the next step is to justify lethal aid to Ukraine by repackaging it as a humanitarian mission. Wesley Clark, retired General of the US Army and NATO commander, penned a criminally dishonest column on USA Today exhorting the public to “remember Rwanda” and to “arm Ukraine”. The column correctly assumes the ignorance of the typical reader, neglecting to mention the true American role behind the Rwandan genocide and the destructive bombing of the former Yugoslavia. In a brazen example of rhetorical misdirection, Clark uses past war atrocities committed in RwandaSerbia, and Bosnia to advocate for the arming of Ukraine, reinforcing the toxic assumption that diplomacy can’t work without using military force:

“In the old days of the post-Cold War world, the U.S. learned the hard way that when we could make a difference, we should. In Rwanda, we didn’t, and 800,000 died. In Bosnia, we tarried, and more than 100,000 died and 2 million were displaced before we acted. It’s time to take those lessons and now act in Ukraine.

“In the Balkans in 1991, we let the Europeans lead with diplomacy to halt Serb aggression disguised as ethnic conflict. Diplomacy failed. We supported the Europeans when they asked for United Nations peacekeepers, from Britain, France, Sweden and even Bangladesh. That also failed. Only when the U.S. took the lead and applied military power to reinforce diplomacy did we halt the conflict. And we did succeed in ending it with minimal expense and without losing a single soldier.” -Wesley ClarkWhy did diplomacy fail? What was the cause of the conflict? When such obvious, underlying questions remain unanswered, it deceptively leads to the conclusion that America could have saved more lives if it weren’t for those pesky international laws and the naïve insistence on diplomacy. Salient details such as institutional hypocrisy, sabotage, and CIA involvement are conveniently edited out, casting America as the reluctant knight in shining armor for the world’s ungrateful victims.

Regime Change Remains A Top Objective

In somewhat refreshing candor, Casey Michel of the New Republic cuts to the chase and lays out the real benefits of escalation, which are raising the financial and human costs for Russia:

“The point of increasing arms to Ukraine is not, as Bloomberg’s editorial board claimed, to simply “escalat[e] a fight that it’s almost certain to lose.” Nor is the aim to deter any form of immediate Russian retreat. The point, rather, is to inflict more casualties than the Russian government is willing to stomach…

“Like the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and the First Chechen War, the Kremlin sparked fighting in Ukraine hoping for a small, victorious war—something to drum up support for a stagnant, morally exhausted regime whose citizens were finally grasping its political bankruptcy. So long as the war remains external, Russians can support it. But when the costs come home—as they will with increased arms support for Ukrainian forces—Russians will turn (italics mine).” -Casey MichelThe possible effects of escalation on the number of Ukrainian casualties aren’t even worthy of mention, as Michel seems overly preoccupied with the perceived costs to Russia’s economy, armed forces, and political stability. Who cares if sending arms results in more dead Ukrainians? If it results in more dead Russians and a revolt against the Putin administration, then of course it’s totally worth it.

Is Military Escalation A Forgone Conclusion?

The Obama Administration continues to be non-committal about providing lethal aid while sending 600 paratroopers to train the Ukrainian military. Meanwhile, the fear mongering in Europe continues unabated: Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, made a serious proposal to create a transnational EU army to defend Europe against Russia. Even with Germany’s support, the idea remains controversial—UK Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the proposal as redundant, stating that NATO already exists to protect European security. There are also legitimate concerns regarding loss of national autonomy, mismanagement, and budget-busting inefficiency. Still, such considerations are small potatoes compared to the abstract threat of Russian military aggression.

Here in the West, our leaders firmly believe that chaos is theirs to create and control, collateral damage be damned. As Michel correctly observed, war is easy to support as long as it remains external and abstract. But when the illusion of control crumbles, as they always do—once the costs come to our shores, will we finally be the next ones to turn?

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FRANCE 24 TV)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

 

 
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | US president Donald Trump flies home after G7 summit in Italy

Text by EMILIE BOYER KING

Latest update : 2017-05-28

President Donald Trump flew back to the United States on Saturday without a much-awaited commitment to fighting climate change, at odds with many of his allies on big policy issues and to a brewing crisis in the White House.

Now back home, Trump is unlikely to get much rest after his gruelling nine-day diplomatic marathon, with Russian controversies and claims that his son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to set up secret communications with Moscow swirling overhead.

Trump’s first trip abroad as president took him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. He met with heads of state, the pope and attended gatherings of NATO leaders and members of the G-7 industrialised nations.

The royal treatment in Saudi Arabia

Trump is not a conventional president and neither was his first foray into international politics.

From the start, he set a new direction. In many ways, the first leg of his journey in the Middle-east was the easiest for the US leader who made ‘America First’ a cornerstone of his presidency and is still learning the ropes on international diplomacy.

Instead of following presidential tradition by heading to a neighbouring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump kicked off his maiden voyage in Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom, where he sought to win Arab states’ support for fighting extremism.

He was given the royal treatment, and looked delighted as he took part in traditional dances and enjoyed lavish meals. Raising the human rights record of his host, one of the world’s most oppressive governments, was not on his agenda.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Instead, the US closed a $110 billion arms sale to show its renewed commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region and unveiled numerous business agreements, but without going into details.

Trump then travelled to Israel and the West Bank to more rapturous welcome. He looked solemn as he lay a wreath at a holocaust memorial and as he prayed at the sacred western wall in Jerusalem. But while he called for peace in the region he was vague as to what form it should take. Trump stayed clear of calling for ‘a two-state solution’, an option backed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump chastised the members

Things started to heat up when Trump left the warm climes of the Middle East for Europe, for the NATO summit in Brussels and the most confrontational part of his trip.

On his way, Trump made a short stop in Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and the Mexico-US wall. After the meeting, the Vatican said, laconically, that there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Trump was more enthusiastic: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” he tweeted on May 24th after meeting the pontiff.

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

The NATO summit in Belgium the next day pitted Trump against the 27 other members of the military alliance. The US president unnerved them by not affirming his commitment to the alliance’s key Article 5 on mutual defense — which states the principle that an attack on any one member is an attack on all. A US administration spokesperson downplayed their fears however and saying the US would adhere to it.

Trump chastised the members for not spending enough on defence and repeated the charge that some members owed “massive amounts of money” from past years, even though allied contributions are voluntary.

A “disaster”

Trump’s appearance in Brussels was particularly frustrating for Germany. In a meeting with senior European Union officials, he said the country was “very bad on trade” despite months of painstaking relationship building between Germany and the US in the run up to the summit.

It is little surprise European officials described the summit as a “disaster”.

Side meetings with other leaders in the Belgium capital provided with some light relief however. A series of “manly” and prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by an apparent snub by Macron in favour of European Union leaders, delighted the twittersphere.

À Bruxelles, unis avec nos alliés de @NATO.

Leaving the EU headquarters and his crestfallen NATO allies behind, Trump ended his diplomatic tour in Italy for the G7 summit with the leaders of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations. This stop was set to be just as acrimonious: four preparatory meetings had failed to clear up differences with the Trump administration on trade, how to deal with Russia and climate change.

Little surprise, but some disappointment

So there was perhaps little surprise, but some disappointment, when after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders, Trump refused to commit to the hard-fought Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The six other G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to it in a joint statement issued Saturday.

Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

The leaders reached agreement on some issues however. On trade, Trump bowed to pressure from allies to retain a pledge to fight protectionism. And on Russia, Trump did not insist on removing the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, as the allies had feared.

‘Someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work’

But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

“I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

At the summit’s close on Saturday, Trump appeared to rate his trip as a success.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” he said.

Home, where a whole new set of challenges begin.

Trump’s Brussels trip displayed a now familiar disregard for the facts.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

‘Bad Germans’ And Other Trump Blunders

Trump’s Brussels trip displayed a now familiar disregard for the facts.
May 26, 2017, 8:31 AM EDT May 26, 2017, 10:56 AM EDT
Made in the U.S.A.Photogaper: Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg

During his first foreign trip since he was elected, President Donald Trump didn’t look too out of place in Saudi Arabia or even in the Vatican. In Brussels, however, he was a befuddled elephant in a china shop, doing his best to convince European leaders that the U.S. was clueless on key cooperation issues.

It was bad enough that he shoved aside Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic to be in the front row during a North Atlantic Trade Organization photo opportunity; Markovic, whose country has just been welcomed into NATO, graciously said that the U.S. president belonged out front. It was awful enough that he used a memorial opening ceremony to make a politically contentious speech in which he railed against NATO members’ low defense spending and, unlike any of his predecessors, avoided explicitly affirming NATO’s pledge of mutual defense — the very Article 5 of the treaty that the memorial was supposed to commemorate.

One would expect a novice political leader in his first six months since being elected to climb a steep learning curve; instead Trump appeared to demonstrate a persistent unwillingness to learn. Despite having been told repeatedly that NATO member states had pledged to spend 2 percent of economic output on defense individually, not to pay that amount into some common pool, Trump repeated the canard that under-spenders “owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.” There appears to be no way to explain to him that no NATO member is in arrears to the military bloc’s budget.

“I never once asked what the new NATO headquarters cost,” Trump said. “I refuse to do that.” The number is published on NATO’s website: 1.12 billion euros ($1.26 billion), an amount comparable with NATO’s common budget for 2017 (1.5 billion euros) but contributed separately by the member states in proportion to the size of their economies. Besides, each country paid for the offices to be occupied by its mission.

At the meeting with top EU officials, Trump tore into Germany’s trade surplus, showing a similar disregard for facts. “The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to Der Spiegel. “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the U.S. Horrible. We’re going to stop that.”

German carmakers don’t sell millions of cars in the U.S. Last year, the total unit sales of Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler reached 1.3 million (not counting Lamborghinis). At the same time, the German companies produce about a million vehicles in the U.S. For example, BMW made 32,659 sports utility vehicles in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in April 2017; it churns out 1,400 a day, most of them for export. The relatively few BMW X5s on German roads are made in Spartanburg, too: It makes sense for BMW to make the large cars closer to their main market.

Daimler made a total of 300,000 Mercedes cars in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 2016. The plant is the state’s biggest exporter. VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, operation has a 150,000-vehicle production capacity and also is export-oriented.

The U.S. does have an auto trade deficit with Germany. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it exported $2 billion worth of cars, trucks, buses and parts to Germany (including those BMW X5s) in the first three months of 2017, and imported $7 billion worth. But it’s with Mexico and Japan that the U.S. has the biggest vehicle trade shortfalls.

If Trump is intent on making sure Americans buy more U.S.-made cars, he should be the biggest lobbyist for German car manufacturers. They bring jobs to the U.S. and work to reduce the country’s trade deficit. The stocks of all three major car makers fell following Trump’s remark — but the drops weren’t dramatic. Investors may be betting that someone will give Trump better information and he’ll change his tune. As his NATO “debts” comments show, that is unlikely.

Trump refuses to understand things that go against his deep convictions. He wants to tailor reality to them, which may mean he’ll actually try to impose punitive taxes on German-made vehicles. That may bring the price of a Mini, not made in the U.S., close to that of an  SUV made by BMW, playing havoc with the firm’s North American sales structure — but the German Big Three will, of course, adapt to it, just as VW has absorbed the enormous costs of the U.S.-generated diesel scandal.

European NATO members, too, need to adapt. That will mean grim patience for the next few years, but also stepped-up at European military cooperation outside NATO.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

(Corrects reference to the number of unit sales from the three German carmakers in paragraphs 6 and 8.)

To contact the author of this story:
Leonid Bershidsky at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Therese Raphael at [email protected]

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