A Comedian Just Became UKraine’s Next President

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

A comedian just became Ukraine’s next president

Volodymyr Zelensky rode a populist, anti-corruption message straight to the presidency.

Volodymyr Zelensky was just voted in as Ukraine’s next president. Here he talks to journalists after taking a drug and alcohol test at the Eurolab diagnostic center on April 5, 2019.
 Pyotr Sivkov\TASS via Getty Images

Ukrainians on Sunday overwhelmingly voted to make a comedian their next president — ushering in a new era of politics in the struggling country.

Volodymyr Zelensky, a famous comedian who portrayed Ukraine’s head of state for years on a popular comedy show, defeated the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, who had been in power since 2014.

According to exit polls, Zelensky won a staggering 73 percent of the vote. Poroshenko conceded the race not long after polls closed.

It’s all quite the rise for an ordinary guy who, well, played an ordinary guy-turned-president on television.

Zelensky — or “Ze,” as he’s more popularly known — has no prior political experience and hasn’t offered a detailed blueprint for how he would govern. But he struck a populist, anti-corruption message during the campaign that clearly resonated with millions of Ukrainians suffering from poverty and government graft. That, plus his previous celebrity, made him a formidable force during the Eastern European country’s election.

The big question now is if he can follow through on his promises to stamp out undue oligarch influence in Kyiv and turn Ukraine’s economic fortunes around. After all, the comedian has no prior political experience and didn’t offer a detailed governing blueprint during the campaign.

Clearly, though, Ukrainians believe Zelensky embodies the change they hope he can bring to a struggling nation.

“There’s been a desire for a new face for a long time,” Melinda Haring, a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, told me before the election. “It was clear the people wanted someone without the same baggage and connections to political dinosaurs.”

Ukraine’s struggles led to Zelensky’s rise

Experts say Zelensky’s remarkable story stems from Ukrainians’ dissatisfaction with decades of failed political leadership.

“After almost 30 years of electing to the presidency either relatively pro-Russian or officially pro-Western candidates from the economic and political elite, Ukraine remains one of the poorest nations in Europe,” Andreas Umland, an expert at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv, wrote for the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank on April 16.

World Bank chart below showing Ukraine’s massive dip in gross domestic product per capita starting around 2013 illustrates this point. And while the country has been experiencing a bit of growth lately, Ukraine is still among Europe’s poorest — if not the poorest — countries.

Chart of Ukraine’s GDP per capita, 2000 to 2017.
Chart of Ukraine’s GDP per capita, 2000 to 2017.
 World Bank

The country’s troubles have led millions of Ukrainians to flee in search of a better life.

“Ukrainians just want a normal standard of living,” Haring told me, but “Ukraine has gotten poorer as Poroshenko has gotten richer.”

Since Poroshenko, who once led the very successful company Roshen, took power in 2014 corruption only worsened as the government’s ties to oligarchs have strengthened. That made it harder for Ukraine to attract foreign investment and help the country’s economy rebound.

In February, Ukraine’s finance minister said that if the country grows at the same economic rate for 50 years — a big if — Ukraine will have the same economic strength as Poland. That, to put it mildly, isn’t an optimistic outlook it may take a half-century to become a European economic success story.

So while Poroshenko got high marks from many for pushing back against Russia’s invasion of parts of Ukraine’s east and south, a record he touted throughout the election, experts said that counted for very little.

“Poroshenko either misread the voters or thought his campaign themes — army, language, and faith — would carry the day,” Steven Pifer, the US ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000, told me on Thursday. “It looks like he greatly misjudged the electorate.”

Voters clearly wanted to hear new ideas for a new Ukraine, and that meant stemming the country’s rampant corruption and kick-starting the nation’s sputtering economy.

Poroshenko was such a symbol for Ukraine’s old ways that it was almost funny. Enter a comedian.

Zelensky represents what Ukraine wants to be

Zelensky, 41, made his name on Servant of the People, a comedy program that you can watch on Netflix in the US. It follows the life of Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko, an everyman schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president and takes on the nation’s oligarchs.

The actor wants to do the same thing — but now in real life.

It’s probably not surprising that such an unconventional candidate ran an unconventional campaign. He held few big rallies and rarely spoke to the press. Instead, he mainly toured the country with comedy troupes to perform in skits and make audiences laugh, experts told me. But he leveraged social media to directly connect with voters and make his pitch.

Not much is known about his foreign policy except that he is mainly pro-Western, wants Ukraine to enter the European Union, and would seek NATO membership for his country — all positions that didn’t separate him much from Poroshenko.

There are two big worries Ukrainians still have about Zelensky, however. The first, of course, is his inexperience. But Ukrainians have shrugged that off in the past, though, like when voters in Kyiv voted in 2014 to make former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko their mayor.

The second, and more important, is just how close he is to a Ukrainian oligarch: Igor Kolomoisky.

Zelensky’s show appeared on Kolomoisky’s TV channel, and the billionaire has long been a Poroshenko rival. Some worry that the comedian may simply be a tool of another Ukrainian fat cat trying to wield power, a charge Zelensky denies.

But those concerns didn’t dissuade Ukrainians from choosing Zelensky on Sunday. And so now a Ukrainian comedian who entered an election to take on the entrenched corruption in his country will be the next president. It sounds like a joke, but it’s reality.

Want To Stop WW3: To Avoid War, Russian People Must Kill Their Dictator Putin?

Damn, thats a hard statement. I had forgotten about this headline, I think it is from about two weeks ago. I have to think before I continue this article. Think about it for a moment, your talking about a Man, a Person, dying. I am not a fan of some actions that Mr. Putin has made since He has been in power. I believe that if all the People of Russia had free information, they would have no interest in big bad bloody wars, especially Nuclear Wars. Then again, this question must be directed at any Country that Is Nuclear.

President Putin could, along with President Xi Jinping of China, these two men could, if they so chose to, could pick a date, like Christmas Day or New Years Eve to start WW3 against the West. Russia cuts off all oil going through Federation States into Western Europe. China fully takes HK, Taiwan and all of the South China Sea. Having each others back, work together and they own at least two thirds of the world as long as they didn’t strike the U.S. directly, yet. If they look at our President as being weak, in any way, they have a lot to win, little to lose.

So, back to the beginning, if you were a Citizen of the Great Nation of the People of Russia and you found out these things, these what if’s, were true, could you, would kill him? Do you hear the term 1 for 1,000? How about 1 to save a hundred million? All I can say to this is, I thank G-d, that I am not G-d.

Putin Raising Likelihood of War, Ukrainian Navy Chief Says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

Does Putin Want WW3?

Analysts predict an ‘imminent’ surge in conflict between Russia and Ukraine in and around the Black Sea.By Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security WriterDec. 12, 2018, at 10:23 a.m.More

Ukrainian Admiral: Putin Raising Likelihood of WarMore

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a narrow-format meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council at Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St Petersburg.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be planning to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, onlookers say.ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/POOL/TASS

RUSSIA APPEARS POISED to escalate hostilities in Ukraine, according to a new analysis – signs of an uptick in the broader war that the country’s top naval officer says is directed exclusively by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It is extremely centralized power in Russia. Everything is in the hands of Mr. Putin,” Ukrainian Vice Adm. Ihor Voronchenko tells U.S. News.[ 

SEE: The Week in Cartoons for Dec. 10-14 ]

Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors and seamen on Wednesday remained in Russian custody following a November encounter between the two countries’ navies and security forces in the Black Sea. Russian ships have also blocked access to the Black and Azov seas, limiting Ukraine’s ability to use critical commercial ports and raising the specter of war following four years of simmering conflict.

“I can say with 100 percent probability, all command and control in this operation was run from Moscow. Not Rostov, not Crimea. Everything was given instructions by Mr. Putin,” Voronchenko says.

Russia’s latest activity has followed a monthslong, intense propaganda campaign seeking to spread disinformation about Western activity in Ukraine – home to a U.S.-led military training mission in place since Russia began supporting separatist rebels in the country’s east in 2014. Moscow appears prepared to escalate the conflict.

RELATED CONTENTU.S. Moves to Defy Russia in Black Sea

During a meeting last week, NATO members did not agree on a unified response to Russia’s latest activities, though the U.S. has begun preparations potentially to sail a naval vessel into the Black Sea in defiance of what it considers Russian aggression. American aircraft have also stepped up surveillance flights, including at least one through Ukrainian airspace as an affront to Moscow and show of support for Kiev.

“Russia will likely escalate militarily against Ukraine imminently,” Catherine Harris and Mason Clark, members of the Institute for the Study of War’s research team, wrote in a Tuesday analysis.

“Russia likely perceives the lack of a unified NATO response to Moscow’s aggression in the Sea of Azov as an opportunity to escalate against Ukraine and elsewhere in the future,” they wrote. “None of the responses are likely sufficient to deter Putin, whereas the disagreement itself will likely embolden him.”

Russia has moved ground units nearer its border with Ukraine in recent days, according to the ISW report, and deployed new ships to the Black Sea under the auspices of preparing for training exercises. It has also reportedly begun a propaganda campaign designed to alarm the populations in Ukraine about a Western attack.[ 

READ: U.S. Issues Nuclear Ultimatum to Russia ]

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander and head of U.S. armed forces in Europe, was scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, in Azerbaijan on Wednesday “to promote military predictability and transparency.”

Voronchenko says Putin appears frustrated and surprised because the Russian leader does not understand why Western countries have responded so intensely to these particular events.

“Now he is extremely nervous, and he’s like a rat in the [corner] of a dark room. He doesn’t know what to do,” the admiral says.

Voronchenko says he has been in email contact with at least one of the detained sailors, who said this week that his morale remains high, though he’s tired of listening to the Russian music his captors offer.

One of the captives was reportedly supposed to begin training to command one of two retired U.S. Coast Guard cutters that Ukraine received in September to add to its modest fleet of naval vessels. Bohdan Nebylytsia was a cadet at the Ukrainian naval academy in Sevastopol, Crimea, when the strategic peninsula was annexed by Russia in 2014 – a move Western countries say was illegal. He was among those who refused to side with the Russian occupiers, a spokeswoman at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., says, adding that he sang the Ukrainian national anthem at the Russian flag-raising ceremony.

Voronchenko met with defense officials at the Pentagon on Thursday and was scheduled to meet Navy Chief of Staff Adm. John Richardson on Friday to discuss a new naval strategy Kiev released earlier this year and to plan for countering the threat posed by Russia.

“The U.S. government continues to work closely with our allies and partners in Europe and around the world to support Ukraine in its pursuit of a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the ongoing Russian aggression, including Russia’s recent unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon says. “DoD leaders will reiterate the U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, as well as the right of its vessels to traverse international waters.”

The new strategy focuses on modernizing the Ukrainian navy and coastal defenses and coordinating with NATO for exercises in and around the Black Sea.

“These steps and others, I think, demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment, and we are currently considering additional ways the United States might assist Ukraine to further develop its maritime capacity,” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said at a security conference in Kiev on Nov. 29.Updated on Dec. 13, 2018: This story has been updated with additional details about meetings between U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

Paul D. Shinkman, Senior National Security Writer

Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow h…  READ MORE

Tags: RussiaUkraineworld newsforeign policyVladimir PutinNATO

Russia: U.S. Tech Giants Greed Helping To Kill & Imprison Dissent Voices

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

New internet laws in Russia — and US tech giants’ acquiescence — spell trouble for dissenting voices

Rally against online censorship in Kaliningrad, Russia. Sign reads: “Respect the Russian constitution.” Photo by Alexandr Podgorchuk, Klops.ru. (CC BY 4.0)

A 2017 law regulating online activity and anonymous speech went into effect in Russia at the beginning of this month.

The law “on information and information technology” stipulates what content search providers are legally allowed to show. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor, known as the “censorship ministry”) already maintains a registry of banned websites, created in 2012. The list of banned sites range from online gambling to extremist material and information on the use of narcotics. Search engines are now prohibited from showing these sites in their search results.

To facilitate the implementation of the registry, Russian agencies created the Federal State Information System to act as a bridge between the registry and search providers. These search providers are now legally mandated to connect to this system through an API so that banned websites will automatically be filtered out. Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine has connected to the API, but Google has so far not compliedwith these new requirements, which may leave it subject to a petty fine (by Google’s standards) of up to 700,000 rubles, or about USD $10,000.

The law also dictates when and how a user can anonymously use the internet, such as through VPN (Virtual Private Networks) software that allows users to mask the origin of their traffic through servers in other countries, thereby avoiding locally-based content restrictions and censorship.

Google has been censoring search results in Russia on the basis of local laws for quite some time. Links to popular Russian torrent sites disappeared over a year ago from both Yandex and Google as Roskomnadzor deemed the sites illegal. As RuNet Echo reported earlier, Google has also been accused of over-complying with censorship requests from the Russian government, such as removing YouTube videos posted by opposition figure Alexey Navalny, and most recently, blocking a controversial rapper’smusic video.

Several years ago, Google moved some of its servers to Russia in accordance with laws compelling companies to store their data on Russian citizens on Russian soil. With some servers now in Russia, the authorities have a more direct means of forcing the company to comply with local law.

Users have long suggested using VPNs to go around these types of measures, but the law’s provisions took this into account as well: VPN providers must block the sites, or face being blocked themselves. But this may be easier said than done. The Russian government banned Telegram earlier this year, but the app is still up and running and being used all across Russia without a VPN. Similar attempts to block VPN services could meet limited success, due to their decentralized infrastructure. This leaves the threat of a fine as the most salient option at Roskomnador’s disposal against VPNs and search providers that do not connect to the new federal system.

While the proposed fine may seem paltry from the perspective of massive tech companies like Google, sources close to Russian tech operations have said that amendments are in the works to drastically increase fines. Rather than capping the fines at 700,000 rubles, the new rules allegedly peg the fines at 1% of the company’s earnings.

While regular internet users don’t have to worry about such excessive fines, they too could soon face other repercussions for anonymously using the internet. Roskomnadzor has spearheaded new rules that require messaging apps to identify users based on their mobile provider. This in effect ties a user’s phone number to their personal identity.

Apps like Signal and Telegram pride themselves on allowing a user to communicate practically anonymously if they so wish. By obligating such apps to verify a user’s identity with their service provider, the Russian government is attempting to crack down on dissent and what they see as criminal activity. Telegram voluntarily registered with Roskomnadzor in 2017, which makes them liable under the new law. Signal does not keep servers in Russia and may run the risk of being banned there for non-compliance with the rule, but it also has a relatively small user base in Russia.

Aleksandr Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor, stated plainly:

The ability to communicate anonymously on messaging apps makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes. The government’s current decree is a necessary step in creating a safe communication environment for both citizens and the state as a whole.

In many instances, the ability to post content online anonymously is a major draw for users. Being able to express an opinion or expose injustices without using one’s identity is now more important than ever, seeing as how people have been facing criminal chargers simply for posting memes.

And the consequences of de-anonymizing a user have been seen in various scenarios. After last month’s suicide attack at an FSB (Federal Security Service, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency) office, the administrator of an anonymous Telegram channel was arrested for spreading messages glorifying the attacker. It is unknown if Telegram cooperated with law enforcement to expose this user, but if messaging apps start to follow these new rules, more prosecutions can be expected along with an outright drop in dissenting voices online.

These new laws and rules, along with the plethora of other laws regulating the collection of online users’ data, make it difficult to use online platforms to voice discontent in Russia. At a time when both online and public spaces face increasing limitations on expression in Russia, further restrictions should worry Russians and non-Russians alike. Though individual users can take measures to protect their accounts, such as using two-factor verification, there is little they can do to protect themselves from backdoor transmission of their data to the authorities.

To Stop WW3 Do The People Need To Kill This Batch Of The Worlds So Called Leaders?

To Stop WW3 Do The People Need To Kill This Batch Of The Worlds So Called Leaders?

 

Firstoff, because of my personal Christian beliefs I cannot condone killing anyone unless you, your family, your loved ones or your Country are being attacked with deadly force. So, for anyone to walk up to another person and kill them just because you don’t like them as a person, that would make you a murderer. We are told that we are all to pray for our Leaders, executing them is something that is not in the Scriptures. But one may well say, what about other Countries Leaders, is that allowed? Are those other Countries Leaders at war with you or with your Country? That, might be a more difficult question to answer than it seems.  If we believe that another Countries Leaders are at war with your Country, does that mean that the people of that Country are at war with you also? What about the so-called Leaders of your own Country, are they at war with you and your Country’s Constitutional rights? If you believe that they are and you cannot vote them out of positions of power, is it okay to kill them? I know, so many questions, but are there any correct answers?

 

There are many very evil people who are in positions of power all over the world, and that does include here in the U.S., can we the people ever get rid of all of them? Personally I believe that the answer to that question is no we can’t. Here in the U.S. we have evil people scattered throughout both of our Nation’s major political parties, they are not all on one side. I personally believe that there are many Nations of Earth that would love to conquer and or destroy every inch of ground that we call home, yet the same can be said for every Nation on the planet. I personally believe that President Putin of Russia is a very evil human being, I believe that he is a liar, a thief and a mass murderer and that he would love to bring an end to the United States. But, I do not believe that the vast majority of the Russian people are our enemies, I believe that their own President is their biggest enemy. I believe that Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping would love to blow the U.S. off of the World Map, but I do not believe that the vast majority of their people are our enemies either. Outside of the Nations where Demonic Religious Zealots rule, I do not consider the other people of the world to be each others enemies. Outside of these Zealots, most people of the Earth tend to want the same things, peace, safety, housing, food, good health, electricity and the trash picked up off the streets each week. I believe that it is these ‘Leaders’ that cause all of the people’s ill’s.

 

A simple solution it would seem would be to simply execute these horrible self-serving Leaders and get new ones, better ones installed, but would that really work? Could we simply lock up all of these evil Leaders? Yes, we could, but would that really do us or the World any good? Here in the U.S. if we locked up Donald the Donkey Trump and all of his household except for the First Lady and Barron his 12-year-old son, we would end up having Mike Pence as our President. I have family who lives in his home State of Indiana and I have many readers from Indiana who have told me that in their opinion Pence is even more dangerous than Trump, and that in itself is a rather scary thought. Pence, just like the Republican Party in general have very much proven to be for sale to the highest bidders but do not get me wrong on this issue, I believe just as lowly of the Democratic Party Leadership. Remember in November of 2016 we the people were given the choice of two habitual lying crooks to be our President. One was very smart (Hillary) the other a total idiot (Trump), yet both still very evil. If a Nation replaces their Leaders what are the people going to get in return, more crooks, more liars, more murderers? To me, by my beliefs, all any people of any Nation can do is to pray for worldwide peace and to never ever allow any politicians to ever take away your means of protecting your families. Yet never ever be the aggressor, the murderer, because if you become a murderer, even when it is from murdering an evil Leader, you and the one you murdered will end up in Hell together and that my friend is not winning the battle between good and evil, if you lose your Soul, you lost.

The 10 Biggest Liars That I know Of Here In The U.S.

The 10 Biggest Liars That I know Of Here In The U.S.

 

Obviously this list is only my personal list and is open to everyone’s versions and interpretation.  I started to make a list of the 10 biggest habitual liars in the World then realized that most of the names were Americans. I am not the wisest person in our World, I do not know all of the bad people within every Nation so I am sure that if I made a ‘World’ list that I would be missing at least a million names on my top ten list. This list is just for the fun of it, so if you would, make your own list of habitual liars within your own Country, or the World, if you wish. Here in the South-Eastern United States us Hillbillies tend to call it a “just for the shits and grins of it’ kind of a list. I know that don’t make no sense but, this is Appalachia Kentucky after all so just ‘grin and bare it.’

(SINCE THE DEVIL HIMSELF IS THE ‘FATHER OF ALL LIARS’ THEN THESE 10 MUST HAVE BEEN ON HIS HONOR ROLL STUDENT LIST.) 

1.) Donald Trump

2.) Mike Pence

3.) Mitch McConnell

4.) Hillary Clinton

5.) Bill Clinton

6.) Nancy Pelosi

7.) George H. W. Bush

8.) Donald Trump Jr.

9.) Jared Kushner

10.) Rudy Giuliani

(OK, I GAVE INTO MY OWN THOUGHTS WHILE DOING UP THE AMERICAN TOP 10 LIST AND DECIDED TO AT LEAST  A ‘WORLD’ TOP 5 LIST. SO, HERE GOES.)

1.) President Donald Trump of the U.S.

2.) President Vladimir Putin of Russia

3.) President Xi Jinping of China

4.) President Kim Jong Un of North Korea

5.) Saudi Crown Prince  MBS

( HOW ODD: TURNS OUT TO BE PRESIDENT TRUMP AND FOUR OF HIS “GOOD FRIENDS’)

(Reality Poem) O’ Our Leaders

O’ Our Leaders

 

Our Leaders, they sure do talk a lot

Saying nothing just an empty box

Questions they do dance around a lot

They smile and they grin but answer not

When words come out they just lied again

 

Do they tell us others are evil, just to hide their own

Xi Jinping, Putin, the Supreme Leader, Little Rocket Man

These Leaders, are they really as evil as what do we have

Trump, Pence, McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and the Clinton’s

Their all in bed together, do we the people have a chance

 

What is a true Leader, have we had one since Mr. Reagan left

The truth, the truth, if they said it, would they really succumb

Hiding in their Castles they start the wars, and our people die

Chinese, Russians, North Koreans, against their people, I’m not

The Leaders are our puppets, it appears this they have forgotten

India among world leaders expected to push for China-backed trade deal excluding US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDIA NEWS PAPER THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

India among world leaders expected to push for China-backed trade deal excluding US

World leaders, including China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries, will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the US at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

WORLD Updated: Nov 11, 2018 11:22 IST

India,China,trade deal
Not only is the US absent from the deal, but Donald Trump is skipping the summit in Singapore.(NYT)

World leaders will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the US at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries could announce a broad agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which covers half the world’s population, on the sidelines of the annual gathering.

Not only is the US absent from the deal, but Trump is skipping the summit in Singapore, highlighting how far he has pulled back from efforts to shape global trade rules and raising further questions about Washington’s commitment to Asia.

Trump launched his unilateralist trade policy with a bang shortly after coming to office by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal spearheaded by predecessor Barack Obama that aimed to bind fast-growing Asian powers into an American-backed order to counter China.

His approach has left the floor open for Beijing to promote a rival pact it favours, the 16-member RCEP, a free trade deal which also aims to cut tariffs and integrate markets, but gives weaker protection in areas including employment and the environment.

The pact championed by Obama has been kept alive even without the US, and is due to go into force this year, but the Beijing-backed pact has now overtaken it as the world’s biggest.

Announcing in Singapore that talks for the deal — which formally began in 2012 — are mostly concluded would be “important as a symbol of Asia’s commitment to trade at a time of rising global tensions”, Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, told AFP.

US commitment questioned

She said negotiations in some areas were likely to continue into next year, however, while a diplomat attending the summit, speaking anonymously, said “substantial progress” had been made but there were still sticking points.

The gathering of 20 world leaders comes against a backdrop of a months-long trade dispute between China and the United States after Trump imposed tariffs on most Chinese imports this summer, and Beijing retaliated with its own levies.

The standoff is having an impact far beyond the US and China, and leaders at the four days of meetings that begin Monday will be keen to voice their grievances to Vice President Mike Pence, attending in Trump’s place, and Premier Li Keqiang.

Trump’s absence from the Singapore gathering and a subsequent meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea is even more notable given Obama, who launched a so-called “pivot to Asia” to direct more US economic and military resources to the region, was a regular participant.

Washington, however, argues that it remains committed to Asia, pointing to regular visits by top officials.

“We are fully engaged,” insisted Patrick Murphy, one of the State Department’s most senior Asia diplomats. “That is very sustained and has been enhanced under the current administration.”

Nukes, sea tension

Myanmar’s embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi is attending the meetings, and will deliver a keynote address at a business forum Monday.

She may face criticism over a military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya that saw hundreds of thousands flee to Bangladesh last year, and has sparked rare criticism of Myanmar from within regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Also on the agenda will be North Korea’s nuclear programme. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a vaguely worded agreement on denuclearisation at a historic summit in June, but progress has been slow since.

Pence will also keep on pressure on Beijing over its growing aggression in the South China Sea. China claims almost all the strategically vital waters, a source of friction with Southeast Asian states that have overlapping claims as well as the US, the traditionally dominant military power in the region.

Other leaders attending include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But much of the focus will be on the RCEP as leaders seek to send a message in support of free trade. The deal groups the 10 ASEAN members plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

World leaders “should present a united front advancing trade liberalisation in (the Asia-Pacific) despite global headwinds to trade from the rising tide of global protectionism,” Rajiv Biswas, chief regional economist at IHS Markit, told AFP.

First Published: Nov 11, 2018 11:21 IST

Trump And Putin Meet ‘Off Script’ Privately In France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Macron reportedly asked Putin not to privately meet Trump during World War I commemorations — but they talked anyway

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was asked not to meet US President Donald Trump one-on-one during a World War I commemoration event in Paris this past weekend.
 Chris McGrath/Getty Images
  • Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin attended a World War I commemorative event in Paris this past weekend.
  • Putin on Sunday said France asked that he and Trump not meet one-on-one at the event, and that he agreed to the request.
  • But later that day he said he did end up having a brief conversation with Trump, describing the chat as a “good” one.
  • The two leaders were meant to sit next to each other at lunch, but France changed the seating plan at the last minute.
  • Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that French President Emmanuel Macron personally asked that Trump and Putin not meet so that they don’t upstage him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said France specifically asked him not to hold one-on-one meetings with US President Donald Trump during World War I commemorations in Paris this past weekend — but he ended up chatting with him anyway.

Putin on Sunday afternoon said he agreed to France’s request so as to “not violate” France’s planned events. “We will agree that we will not violate the schedule of the host party here: At their request, we will not organize any meetings here,” he told the Russian state-owned RT news channel, according to the state-run Interfax news agency.

Less than an hour later, however, Putin told reporters that he did end up having a brief conversation with Trump.

When asked by journalists whether he had a chance to talk to Trump, Putin said “yes,” Interfax and RT reported. According to RT, Putin added that the chat was “good.” Where and when that talk took place is unclear.

Read more: Putin saved his warmest greeting for Trump as he met world leaders in Paris, and Trump returned the love

Trump Putin1.JPG
Putin greeting Trump and German Chancellor Merkel before a group photo on Sunday.
Reuters

The leaders had been in Paris over the weekend to mark 100 years since the armistice that ended World War I. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian President Justin Trudeau, and the European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, also attended the commemoration.

It was the first time the two leaders met since their summit in Helsinki in July, during which Trump claimed that he didn’t “see any reason” why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 US elections. National security experts have said Trump behaved like a “controlled spy.”

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the request that Putin and Trump not meet one-on-one came from French President Emmanuel Macron.

The French president asked that his Russian and US counterparts not hold negotiations in Paris that could “eclipse” the events and meetings that Paris had organized, Kommersant said, citing a European diplomatic source.

trump putin merkel macron wwi commemoration paris
World leaders at a World War I commemoration at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday.
 Francois Mori/AP

Paris’ eagerness that Trump and Putin not meet even resulted in a last-minute change in the seating plan at a lunch for the leaders at the Elysée Palace, RT reported.

A preliminary seating plan of the lunch showed Trump placed next to Putin, The Guardian reported, but photos of the lunch released by the Russian presidency showed Putin seated between Juncker and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

—President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) November 11, 2018 //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js ” data-e2e-name=”embed-container” data-media-container=”embed” style=”box-sizing: border-box; margin: 20px 0px;”>

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President of Russia

@KremlinRussia_E

: Vladimir Putin attended a working lunch at Elysee Palace hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron for heads of delegations

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Trump was placed next to Macron, who sat opposite Putin — making it difficult for the US and Russian presidents to have personal asides, The Guardian reported.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the leaders discussed a “variety of issues,” including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty — which Trump has threatened to withdraw from— as well as North Korea and Syria.

Putin said he hoped to meet Trump one-on-one on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina in late November instead, RT and Interfax reported.

More: Donald Trump Vladimir Putin Emmanuel Macron Russia

Gowdy: Trump advisers should consider quitting over Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO)

 

CONGRESS

Gowdy: Trump advisers should consider quitting over Russia

The South Carolina Republican chastised Trump for inviting Putin to Washington this fall.

Updated 

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy chastised Donald Trump for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, saying Sunday that some members of the president’s administration should consider quitting if Trump won’t listen to their advice.

“The fact that we have to talk to you about Syria or other matters is very different from issuing an invitation,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday” of the Putin invitation, which the White House confirmed last week would be extended for the fall. “Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies.”

The South Carolina Republican suggested that some members of the administration may need to consider leaving if Trump continues to disregard their advice to stand firm against Russia.

That concern has dominated discourse in Washington since Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki last week, at which he spoke more harshly of the FBI than of Russia.

“It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,” Gowdy told host Bret Baier. “So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue.”

Political commentators and Democratic lawmakers said after Trump’s news conference with Putin — in which he refused to side with the U.S. intelligence community on the issue of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and said he held both countries responsible for tensions — that advisers including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and national security adviser John Bolton should quit their posts.

But Republican lawmakers have been more hesitant to call for such a response from the president’s team.

Earlier this weekend, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman penned an op-ed for a Utah newspaper in which he said he would not resign, saying he felt he is very much needed in the role. And Coats said during a Thursday interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that the question of resigning was “a place I don’t really go to publicly.”

“As long as I’m able to have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I’m on board,” Coats said. After Trump indicated Monday that he did not believe Russia was responsible for hacking Democratic Party computers and other wrongdoing during the 2016 election, Coats defended American spies’ assessment that Moscow was to blame.

Gowdy struck a tone of admonishment Sunday on Trump’s refusal to side with the U.S. intelligence community — comments that the president later partially walked back.

“I’m glad he corrected it,” Gowdy said, “but when you’re the leader of the free world, every syllable matters.”

Still, Gowdy urged Trump to separate concerns about Russian interference from his frustration with the investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“I have not seen one scintilla of evidence that this president colluded, conspired, confederated with Russia,” he said. “And neither has anyone else, or you may rest assured Adam Schiff would have leaked it,” he said, referring to the Democratic congressman from California.

Congressional Democrats continued Sunday to be skeptical of the response of their Republican colleagues on the Russia issue.

“When it comes to defending the country, they’re not willing to follow through,” Schiff said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Others were just rather startled at the week’s whole turn of events.

“The fact that we have to question the integrity, the honesty and the loyalty of a commander in chief when it comes to dealing with Russia is a problem in and of itself,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) on CNN‘s “State of the Union.”

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