Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

Japan plans tighter regulation of tech giants

December 13, 2018

Japan is planning to tighten regulation of tech giants like Google and Facebook after an expert panel called for better oversight on competition and privacy, an official said Thursday.

Japan has followed in the footsteps of other countries in scrutinising the dominant role played by the world’s largest information technology companies, including Big Four tech firms Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

The government has now issued a report based on expert opinion that urges new regulatory oversight plans by next year.

Japan has followed in the footsteps of other countries in scrutinising the dominant role played by the world's largest information technology companies

Japan has followed in the footsteps of other countries in scrutinising the dominant role played by the world’s largest information technology companies Japan has followed in the footsteps of other countries in scrutinising the dominant role played by the world’s largest information technology companies AFP

Despite bringing benefits, tech giants “tend to monopolise the market through their features such as… low costs and economies of scale,” the report said.

It calls for better protection of consumer privacy and for more fairness and transparency from the firms about technologies that control market access.

“Based on the report, the government will officially announce principles for new regulations” in the next two weeks, a trade ministry official told AFP.

Japan’s anti-trust authorities have already said they plan a probe into whether global tech firms are using their market leader positions to exploit contractors or obstruct competition.

Japan’s decision to tighten regulations comes as European authorities crack down on US tech giants.

Earlier this year, the European Union issued a record 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) anti-trust fine to Google, accusing it of using the Android system’s huge popularity to promote its Google search engine and shut out rivals.

Google has appealed the decision, arguing that the EU’s accusations were unfounded, but said last month it would comply with the decision in order to avoid further fines.

And the European Parliament in September approved a controversial EU copyright law that hands more power to news and record companies against internet behemoths like Google and Facebook, though the firms have pledged to fight that ruling.


Pompeo Is Leading a Foreign-Policy Farce

December 8, 2018

The secretary of state says Trump wants to lead the global order he’s actually destroying.

Sharing a foreign-policy joke.

Photographer: Pool/Getty Images North America

If a diplomat truly is, as the old saying goes, “an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country,” then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has earned his pay. His speech in Brussels on “Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order” deserves a State Department Distinguished Honor Award for Intellectual Dishonesty.

“Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself,” said Pompeo. “The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.” Maybe I ran in strange circles during my eight years in the State Department, but few of my colleagues were in thrall to such simplistic thinking.

Pompeo then hurled rhetorical grenades at a row of multilateral bunkers: United Nations peacekeeping missions don’t work; the Organization of American States hasn’t brought freedom to Cuba; the African Union doesn’t advance the mutual interest of its members; the World Bank and International Monetary Fund just make things worse; the European Union puts the interests of its bureaucrats before those of its countries and citizens. Admittedly, each of those institutions is imperfect. But none lives down to the caricatures Pompeo made of them.

Finally, in his own Mount Suribachi moment, Pompeo brazenly planted the flag of American leadership on an international liberal order that this administration has worked harder to blow up than to build. Wisely, he beat a retreat after his speech, taking no questions.

So, let’s look at his points one by one. In attacking multilateralism, Pompeo claimed that the Trump administration’s mission is “to reassert our sovereignty … and we want our friends to help us and exert their sovereignty as well.” Trump himself played up this same theme at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

But it’s not clear that multilateral agreements and institutions have actually done much to abuse U.S. sovereignty. The UN charter, for instance, clearly excludes intervention in any state’s domestic affairs. The U.S. veto on the Security Council gives it an unassailable backstop. America has unrivaled voting power in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Many of the supposed threats to U.S. sovereignty that the Trump administration has cited have been either illusory — such as a hortatory compact on migration the U.S. pulled out of last year — or could be easily countered, such as a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court into U.S. actions in Afghanistan.

For its part, the Trump administration hasn’t been shy about trespassing on other countries’ sovereignty. Trump has threatened to invade Venezuela and to punish South Africa for its land-reform policies. By the end of 2017, he had also sanctioned nearly 1,000 individuals and entities. Apparently, there are limits to how much other countries can “exert their sovereignty” within their own borders if doing so goes against the interests of the U.S.

The liberal international order actually provides a legal basis for such interventions — if, that is, you’re willing to uphold it and play by its rules. The UN Security Council has passed hundreds of Chapter VII resolutions authorizing action to “restore international peace and security.” Many investigations and prosecutions by the ICC, to which all NATO members except Turkey and the U.S. belong, have advanced many U.S. policy interests. Multilateral bodies also provide a forum for resolving lesser disputes. Trump’s animus toward the World Trade Organization, for instance, ignores the better than average (and better than China) U.S. winning streak in trade cases.

Even in those situations where international rules may constrain future U.S. behavior, they reflect trade-offs that negotiators have weighed and accepted. As Secretary of State Dean Rusk said to Congress in 1965 about the thousands of treaties and agreements that the U.S. had inked in the previous two decades, “We are constantly enlarging our own freedom by being able to predict what others are going to do.”

At their best, multilateral institutions allow their member states to leverage national power. Twice in the last decade, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has compared the cost of UN peacekeeping missions to U.S. boots on the ground and found them to be a much more cost-effective alternative. Fittingly, two days after Pompeo blasted his hosts at the EU for shortchanging the interests of its members’ citizens, news broke of a massive, multi-nation EU-coordinated raid on the ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate in Italy — the kind of bust that no country can mount on its own.

Do multilateral institutions need review, reform and renewal? Well, what institution doesn’t? And as the largest funder from 2014 to 2016 for 24 out of 53 leading UN and non-UN multilateral institutions (compared with nine each for Japan and the U.K.), the U.S. has a strong interest in making sure they work effectively and advance the interests of member states.

But the way to do that isn’t to browbeat them, or to take your ball and go home when things don’t go your way. For all the weaknesses of the UN Human Rights Council, the U.S. withdrawal (Iceland took its place) won’t make it better, and makes it even less likely that offenders will be held to account. Moreover, China and Russia are busy building their own multilateral bodies or suborning existing ones like Interpol.

Pompeo claimed that the U.S. wants to create international organizations “that deliver on their stated missions, and that create value for the liberal order and for the world.” But the administration’s drastic budget cuts to the State Department and international organizations (which a more multilaterally-minded Congress has blunted) and its preference for bilateral over multilateral deals suggest it would rather they withered on the vine. Equally toxic has been Trump’s disdain for the work of experts and seasoned public servants — witness his recent repudiation of a searing U.S. government report on climate change’s economic impact.

One of my wonkiest jobs as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was to cover Japan’s conduct in commodities groups such as the International Tropical Timber Organization, the International Coffee Organization and the now-defunct International Natural Rubber Organization. I never became an expert, though I did come to understand why Japan has such good coffee. I did, however, develop a healthy respect for the wonks, nerds and gnomes who inhabit the multilateral garden, tending to their countries’ national interests while advancing the greater common good. They need and deserve your support, Mr. Secretary, not your contempt.

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

U.S. Companies Feel the Pinch as Tariff Costs Start to Mount

December 7, 2018

American companies that import products are paying record amounts in customs duties as more tariffs imposed by the Trump administration take effect.

Tariff collections topped $5 billion in October, according to data from the Treasury Department and from Census Bureau data analyzed and released by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a lobbying coalition of manufacturing, farming and technology groups.

President Trump campaigned on an aggressive trade agenda, and from early this year has imposed or considered tariffs on thousands of products from dishwashers to semiconductors. U.S. revenue from tariffs has begun to build rapidly only in the last few months, as more of the levies have taken effect.

The amount of tariffs being paid by U.S. importers has doubled since May, including an increase of more than 30% from August to October, according to the data. The sum has risen through the year as steel and aluminum tariffs were applied to imports from a growing group of countries, then surged in October, which was the first full month in which U.S. tariffs were in place on a full $250 billion of imports from China.

Trade, Tech and Tweets: Stock Markets May Get Even Bumpier in 2019
U.S. stock markets have gyrated this week with seemingly positive news on trade followed by President Trump tweeting he is still a “Tariff Man.” U.S.-China tensions, plus worries about economic growth and the tech sector, spell more volatility ahead for investors. Photo Composite: Crystal Tai

China and the U.S. struck a trade truce Dec. 1, agreeing not to add or increase tariffs for now. But the tariff rates in place in October will remain in effect, meaning collections are likely to remain high in November and December.

President Trump has touted the surge in revenue his tariffs have brought in thus far. “We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Tariffs are assessed to the U.S. importer of record, meaning U.S. companies that import items from China and the rest of the world directly are the initial parties responsible for paying. The Census Bureau data are based off customs filings, while the Treasury data are based off actual payments.

While some importers will bear the cost of the tariffs themselves, others may be able to persuade their foreign suppliers to cut prices enough to offset the cost and others may pass the higher costs on to their customers.

“We are now seeing the raw data behind the stories of tariff pain that are coming in from every corner of the country,” said Charles Boustany, a former Republican congressman who is the spokesman for Tariffs Hurt the Heartland. “American businesses, farmers, manufacturers and consumers are suffering under the weight of the current tariffs and are reeling from the continued uncertainty over whether they will be increased even further.”

Russell Tiejema, the chief financial officer of Masonite International Corp., a Tampa, Fla. manufacturer of doors, said at an investors’ conference this week that U.S. tariffs would hit about 10% of the $900 million worth of material his company acquires to build its products.

“About half of that, we would be the importer of record, which means that we would be the party liable for tariff remittance,” said Mr. Tiejema. “The other half we acquire from other suppliers who then acquire it upstream from China, but they stand as the importer of record. In both cases, we need to negotiate, wherever possible, price concessions.”

Many U.S. companies are also facing retaliatory tariffs from China—and from Canada, Mexico, the European Union and other countries hit by U.S. tariffs this year on steel and aluminum. Data from the research group the Trade Partnership, which works with Tariffs Hurt the Heartland to assess the impact of tariffs, estimate that more than $1 billion in tariffs were paid on U.S. exports in October, based on the volume of trade of affected goods.

John T.C. Lee, the president of Andover, Mass. MKS Instruments, which makes precision measuring instruments, said at a Nasdaq Investors Conference this week that his company was facing both U.S. tariffs and retaliatory tariffs from other countries. MKS faces $3 million in tariffs on its imports over a year, and $7 million in tariffs on its exports, he said.

“That is most likely going to be borne by the customers,” he said, noting that many had no other options for getting those products, a situation that gives his company more leverage to raise prices.

Even after the recent increase in revenue from tariffs, they account for a small share of government income. Tariffs were the primary source of federal revenue before World War I, but that share has dwindled with the introduction of the income tax and the liberalization of trade. In October, more than 2% of federal receipts came from tariffs, the most in at least two decades.

Write to Josh Zumbrun at

Macron’s Moment of Truth

December 7, 2018

Weeks of violent protest by France’s angry working poor are testing a president who promised the people reform but has failed to govern with them, rather than over them.

By Sylvie Kauffmann

Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde

Opinion, The New York Times

He was the savior of Europe. A 39-year-old maverick who rescued France from the populist tide, the newcomer who crushed his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen in a TV debate on the eve of a presidential election. The leader who would make liberal democracy great again. The visionary who had a plan to jump start the European Union. A 21st-century John Kennedy. Some joked that he could walk on water.

That was 2017. Eighteen months into his presidential term, Emmanuel Macron, faced with an uprising by a leaderless army of working poor in yellow vests and by violence unseen since the student riots of May 1968, is struggling to take back control of his country. The charismatic young president was jeered by protesters who tried to chase his car this week when he visited a public building set afire by rioters in Le Puy-en-Velay, in south-central France. “Macron, démission” — “Macron, resign” — has become the rallying cry of these modern-day sans-culottes, whose anger is directed at him, personally.

In a rare show of humility, Mr. Macron admitted a month ago that he had “failed to reconcile the people with its leaders.” Little did he suspect that the anger would turn into hatred, of the kind thrown in the face of dictators by the Arab Spring. As a fourth Saturday of protests looms, in spite of an olive branch offered by the government, nobody can predict whether this revolt will eventually give way to dialogue or degenerate into an even more profound and dangerous crisis.

Image result for macron inspects yellow vest damage, photos

What went wrong? Two sets of factors have come into play. One is not specific to France: an insurrectional wave that is now a familiar feature of Western democracies shaken by the disruptions of globalization, the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and the inability of our traditional political parties to adjust to these new challenges. Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, an emergence of the far right in Germany and a victory of anti-system parties in Italy — all, though less violent, are part of the same dynamics. Emmanuel Macron was initially seen as a bulwark against this trend. More determined than his predecessors, he would reform France with a progressive agenda that would do away with the injustices of the old world.

This is where the second set of factors comes in, and it is of the president’s own making. As the historian Gérard Noiriel has noted, in Mr. Macron’s book “Révolution,” which introduced his presidential bid, there was no mention of the working class. His revolution was not of the masses — it was meant to be top down, and for a while it worked. In his first year in office, the young president adroitly passed several reforms, including of a labor law, and survived a painful strike of railway workers without sacrificing a reform of the national railway company. By then, President Macron may have been thinking that he could, indeed, walk on water.

Unfortunately, nobody can — not even him. His vertical way of exercising power — some call it Jupiterian, others monarchical — became more and more of a problem: his being surrounded by a small team of technocrats; the contempt he seemed to hold for people not lucky enough to be as successful as he was; his lack of knowledge of the local political terrain because he had never been elected before. The combination left people feeling that their president was out of touch.

His tax policy made him “the president of the wealthy.” He ignored his falling approval rates; he had set his course. When Fareed Zakaria of CNN asked him on Nov. 10 whether he would have to slow down his reforms, he defiantly answered, “I have been elected for five years and I have no midterms.”

The Yellow Vests have become President Macron’s midterms, only more brutal. He has been so busy that he forgot to create a new political force to support his agenda. That has left him vulnerable, because his party’s Parliament members, elected a few weeks after him, are as inexperienced in politics as he is.

So what if President Macron fails? This is not an easy question. In the uncharted environment created by the collapse of the old French political balances, there is no obvious alternative, no opposition leader prepared to win a snap election, no strong political parties. Whatever happens in the next few days, President Macron will not be able to govern as he did in his first year. “One cannot govern against the people,” his political ally François Bayrou sternly warned him last week.

Most likely, his reform agenda will need a pause. The hard work still to be done — the reforms of the pension system, of the civil service, of local taxes, of political institutions — will have to wait or be watered down. Curbing public spending will be an even bigger challenge. The Yellow Vests are demanding fewer taxes and more public services. And the crucial equation between ecological transition and social justice will be even harder to solve.

Such a scenario of France reverting to its old woes will do the European Union no good. With Germany absorbed for another year by its domestic political upheavals, the European agenda will be left unattended. This is a cruel dimension of Mr. Macron’s travails: The only leader bold enough to articulate an attractive vision of a renewed European project, he was hung out to dry by those very leaders who had celebrated him. It is difficult to imagine how the pendulum can now swing back: The last bulwark against nationalism is gone. Donald Trump and Italy’s Matteo Salvini may have the last laugh.

Yet, if Emmanuel Macron survives this crisis, something good may come out of it. He, along with French and European elites, could draw the lesson from the revolt of the Yellow Vests and find a way to govern with the people, not against them. That is, after all, what democracy is about.

Sylvie Kauffmann is the editorial director and a former editor in chief of Le Monde, and a contributing opinion writer.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.


Northern Irish DUP says will vote against May’s Brexit deal

December 5, 2018

The Northern Irish party propping up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government will vote against her Brexit divorce deal in a key vote in parliament next week, according to one its lawmakers.

Image result for theresa may, cnn, photos

The Democratic Unionist Party are unhappy with the divorce deal’s so-called backstop provision which will align Northern Ireland more closely with the European Union than the rest of the United Kingdom if no other way can be found to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

“My party will be opposing this agreement as put forward on the basis that we believe it has left Northern Ireland in a constitutionally vulnerable position irrespective of the assurances that we have been given,” Paul Girvan told parliament in a debate on the deal.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Sandra Maler


Trump targets ‘uncontrollable’ arms race, decries ‘crazy’ defense budget

December 4, 2018
AMERICA’S ‘CRAZY’ DEFENSE SPENDING: President Trump in the last two years has never missed an opportunity to tout his $700 and $716 billion budgets to rebuild the “depleted” U.S. military. He also has vowed to rebuild America’s nuclear arsenal by adding new low-yield weapons. He further has announced his intention to abandon a landmark Cold-War era arms control treaty with the Russians. Now, in a single tweet, the president has signaled he’s rethinking the whole idea of winning an arms race by outspending and outlasting America’s adversaries.

By Jamie McIntyre Travis J. Tritten

Image result for donald trump, photos

“I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi [Jinping] and I, together with President [Vladimir] Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!” Trump tweeted.

This is the same Trump who in December 2016 shortly after his election, vowed, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

WHAT IT SIGNALS: Trump has a habit of taking the Pentagon by surprise — as he did earlier this year when he ordered a 5 percent cut in the DoD’s FY 2020 budget proposal. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was left speechless yesterday when asked about Trump’s “crazy” characterization. “I have not seen the tweet, I’ll have to get back to you,” Mattis told reporters before rushing off to greet the Indian defense minister.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans, including the chairman of the armed services committees, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and other GOP members have called talk of defense cuts dangerous. “[W]e are in a crisis situation and cutting the defense budget now is basically a decision not to defend the nation, and that’s not a path we can go down,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said yesterday on Fox News.

REVIVE THE INF: If Trump is serious about wanting to curb a new arms race, he should reconsider scrapping the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Moscow, argue some arms control advocates. Three ranking Senate Democrats — Sen. Jack Reed, R.I., of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez, N.J., of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner, Va., of the Intelligence Committee — have sent a letter to Trump arguing the withdrawal would be a “political and geostrategic gift” to Russia done without consulting Congress and key allies.

“It takes the focus away from Russia’s transgressions and malign behavior and instead feeds a narrative that the United States is willing to shred our commitments unilaterally without any strategic alternative. Additionally, it allows Russia to expand the production and deployment of its intermediate range missile system, the 9M729, which will further menace Europe,” they wrote in the Monday letter.

INF ON THE AGENDA AT NATO: The INF treaty is only between the U.S. and Russia, but it’s of intense interest to America’s European allies because it bans intermediate-range missiles that would threaten Europe with nuclear-tipped cruise and ballistic missiles. Ahead of today’s meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the future of the INF treaty will be near the top of the agenda. “It’s urgent that Russia ensures full compliance in a transparent and verifiable way. Because the INF Treaty is so important for our security,” Stoltenberg said yesterday. “We all know that the time is running out, that this is not tenable, that we have an arms control agreement that is only respected by one party.”

Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.

HAPPENING TODAY, THE CIA’S COMMAND PERFORMANCE: The leaders of key intelligence and defense committees will be briefed today by the Director of Central Intelligence Gina Haspel about the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

The session comes after the Trump administration infuriated some members of Congress by preventing Haspel from joining a briefing last week by Secretary State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mattis. And after Pompeo accused Congress of “caterwauling,” and the media piling on about Saudi Arabia’s human right records, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that some senators took as an insult.

The loudest critic of Pompeo and Trump’s denial of any direct link to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was Lindsey Graham, who fired back in his own op-ed in the Journal this morning. The South Carolina defended the vote to send a Saudi sanctions bill to the floor for debate. “The recent vote should show Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration that Congress isn’t mugging for the cameras or ‘caterwauling,’ as the secretary of state put it. We are a coequal branch of government exercising leadership to safeguard the country’s long-term interests, values and reputation,” Graham wrote. “After all, someone’s got to do it.”

“The fear that the Saudis will stop cooperating with the U.S. on terrorism or Iran isn’t rational. Those threats pose as much of a danger to the Saudis as they do to America. Demanding better from allies isn’t downgrading the relationship; it’s a sign that Americans take our principles seriously and won’t be taken advantage of by anyone, friend or foe,” Graham argues.

HEARINGS POSTPONED: Amid funeral ceremonies for President George H.W. Bush, the House Armed Services Committee has postponed three scheduled hearings this week on artificial intelligence, the defense strategy review, and the Navy fleet. The Senate Armed Services Committee has also postponed its slated hearing with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, and Adm. Bill Moran, the vice chief of naval operations.

GOV’T SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN DEFERRED: The Bush funeral and National Day of Mourning also prompted House to draw up anther a continuing resolution on that would keep the Department of Homeland Security and other parts of the government running through Dec. 21.  The big sticking point remains an impasse over funding for Trump’s border wall. The president wants $5 billion. Democrats are holding at $1.67 billion for “enhanced border security.”

The deadline for Congress to pass the remaining 25 percent of annual funding is Friday. The legislation could kick the debate over Trump’s border wall funding to later in the month due to President Bush’s funeral services — just as lawmakers and staff are getting antsy to leave town for the holidays. Merry Christmas!

SASC NOMINEES HEARING STILL ON: However, the Senate Armed Services is going ahead with its hearing at 9:30 this morning to weigh the nominations Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie to head U.S. Central Command and Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke to lead U.S. Special Operations Command.

PENTAGON CLOSED FOR BUSH: The Pentagon never actually closes but will be operating on a Sunday/holiday schedule tomorrow. Defense Press Operations will be closed. The Metro and River Entrances will be closed, and the few thousand essential workers will access the building via the Corridor 2 entrance.

INHOFE WEIGHS IN: As the defense budget debate heats up, Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe has announced he will give an address Thursday morning to students at the National Defense University, at Fort McNair. The event will focus on the need to provide funding to the military and is meant to mark Inhofe’s first address as Armed Services chairman, a position he assumed after Sen. John McCain’s death in August. He has called $733 billion a budget floor and supports a 3-5 percent increase above that, which could be tens of billions more for the Pentagon.

TODD’S TAKE: The president’s “crazy” tweet adds a new wrinkle to the growing debate over whether the Trump build-up is over. “This looks like a significant shift (perhaps a curveball) in the defense debate and a definite sign of downward pressure on the defense budget from the Trump administration itself,” Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tweeted in response to the president.

BAD IDEAS IN DEFENSE: Harrison has announced a new round of essays in the think tank’s “Bad Ideas in National Security” series. “This is our chance to tear down those frequently recurring, not too obvious policy ideas that keep us up at night. As it turns out, there are a lot of them!” he wrote in the introduction.

  • OCO move: “It should come as little surprise then that the Pentagon, under a Trump administration with [Mick] Mulvaney at the helm of the Office of Management and Budget, included plans to pull enduring costs in OCO back into the base budget in its FY 2019 budget request,” writes Seamus Daniels, CSIS budget analyst. But that could create a major fiscal headache as Congress tries to reach a new deal on budget caps.
  • Innovation hopes: The belief that private industry will deliver on its own the kind of technological advances the Pentagon needs to protect the country is misguided, argues Sam Brannen, a CSIS senior fellow. “Put simply, it’s a bad idea for the United States to ignore the power of national industrial strategy and policy at this moment in history and expect the private sector alone to drive necessary innovation and future security and prosperity,” Brannen writes.

AFGHANISTAN WORRIES: A big issue at today’s NATO foreign ministerial, in Brussels, is the continuing lack of demonstrable progress in Afghanistan, of keen interest to the 41 NATO nations that are part of Operation Resolute Support. “NATO is there to create a foundation for a political solution because we train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces, armed forces, to send a clear message to the Taliban that they will never win on the battlefield,” Secretary-General Stoltenberg said yesterday. “So they have to sit down at the negotiating table and engage in a real peace negotiation with the government.”

The U.S. lost another soldier Sunday when Army Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary died at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. McClary, 24, succumbed to wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device on Nov. 27, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. That brings the number of American service members killed in Afghanistan this year to 14 — 12 in combat, one from a “non-combat” incident, and one from an insider attack.

Asked if he was under pressure to wind down the mission in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Mattis said Saturday withdrawal is simply not a good option. “I would just tell you that if we leave, 20 odd of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world centered in that region, and we walk out of there, then we know what will happen,” Mattis said at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “Our intelligence services are very specific that we will be under attack in a number of years.”

“We’re going to have to try to end this war. And 40 years it’s enough; it’s time to end it, and get the people of Afghanistan back on the right track,” Mattis said. “We’re going to do our level best to drive this to a political resolution in order to end it.”

GREEN-CARD RECRUITS GREEN-LIGHTED: As the Army missed its recruiting goals, and other services are struggling to attract qualified recruits, the Pentagon will begin complying with a court order that will send thousands of green card holders to boot camp, The Washington Post reports this morning.

According to an internal Pentagon directive obtained by the Post, the average wait time for a green-card holder to join the U.S. military had grown to 354 days, compared to 168 for U.S. citizens. The directive suspends, for now, Trump administration policy that required more-stringent background checks for some immigrants wanting to serve, in some cases in return for a chance at U.S. citizenship.

IRAN’S MISSILE TESTS TARGETED: European leaders should impose new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, a top U.S. diplomat said while arguing in favor of President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against the regime.

“We would like to see the European Union [impose] sanctions that target Iran’s missile program,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy for Iran, said Monday.


USA Today: Putin trip to Washington to meet with President Trump is now ‘out of question,’ Kremlin says

Wall Street JournalCIA Director Gina Haspel to Brief Senators Tuesday on Saudi Journalist’s Death

Roll Call: Judge Sets September Trial Date for Rep. Duncan Hunter Air Force Secretary: B-21 Bomber Completes Another Review, Remains on Schedule

Defense One: US Foreign Policy Could Use Some Bush-Era Prudence

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Sends Aircraft Carrier to Persian Gulf in Show of Force Against Iran

Foreign Policy: Strong Economy Poses Recruitment Challenge for the U.S. Army

Military Times: Supreme Court could decide if transgender troops are allowed to serve in the military

CNN: Death of top US naval commander in Middle East an apparent suicide

Reuters: Plane carrying wounded arrives in Oman, fulfilling Yemen Houthi demand Tornado Injures 5 at Kings Bay Submarine Base

UN to vote Thursday on US measure condemning Hamas

December 1, 2018

If adopted, it would mark the first time that the assembly has taken aim at the Islamist terrorist group that has ruled the Gaza Strip

Members of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamass armed wing, marking Al-Quds, Jerusalem, Day in Nusseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, Friday, June 23, 2017. (AP/Adel Hana)

Members of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamass armed wing, marking Al-Quds, Jerusalem, Day in Nusseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, Friday, June 23, 2017. (AP/Adel Hana)

The UN General Assembly will vote Thursday on a US-drafted resolution that would condemn the Palestinian Hamas movement, a measure championed by US Ambassador Nikki Haley.

The United States won crucial backing from the European Union for the draft resolution that condemns the firing by Hamas of rockets into Israel and demands an end to the violence.

If adopted, it would mark the first time that the assembly has taken aim at Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

All 28 EU countries agreed to support the measure after the United States included a mention of relevant UN resolutions in the text that does not however refer to the two-state solution.

Nikki Haley speaks at a UN Security Council Meeting on the Middle East on November 19, 2018 (Courtesy)

In a statement, the US mission to the United Nations said it had hoped to put the draft resolution to a vote on Monday but that the Palestinians had pushed for a delay until Thursday.

“The issue before the United Nations on Thursday is not whether it supports one form or another of a Middle East peace plan,” the US mission said.

“Each country will be asked to vote for or against the activities of Hamas, along with other militant groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

“If the UN cannot bring itself to adopt this resolution, then it has no business being involved in peace discussions,” it added.

The European Union, like the United States, considers Hamas a terror group, but the 28-nation bloc is divided over how to support peace efforts.

Haley, who will step down as UN ambassador in January, has steadfastly supported Israel in its confrontation with Hamas and chastised the United Nations for criticizing both sides.

The vote on Thursday will follow the adoption in the assembly of about a dozen resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that condemn Israeli settlements and call for progress toward the two-state solution.

Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are non-binding, but they carry political weight and are seen as a barometer of world opinion.

The United States put forward the resolution as it prepares to unveil new peace proposals that the Palestinians have already rejected.

The Palestinians have severed ties with the administration of President Donald Trump after the decision nearly a year ago to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and declare the city Israel’s capital.

The US administration has also cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid.

The Palestinians see the city as the capital of their future state. International consensus has been that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between the two.


Brexit: Carney defends BoE’s nightmare ‘worst case’ Brexit projection

November 29, 2018

Central bank has warned of a historic downturn in case of disorderly split with EU

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By Chris Giles, Economics Editor

Mark Carney sought to defuse criticism of the Bank’s apocalyptic no deal Brexit economic forecasts on Thursday, saying the prediction of a steepest downturn since the War was specifically a “worst case” scenario and a very low probability.

The Bank of England governor’s comments to the BBC Today programme came after he was accused of being “hysterical” reheating “project fear” predictions of recession in a no deal Brexit.

“It’s not what’s most likely to happen but what could happen if everything goes wrong,” Mr Carney said.

“These are very low probabilities — this type of worst-case scenario.”

While the governor was seeking to downplay the likelihood of the central bank’s worst case forecasts of drops in output of 10 per cent plus compared with the economy’s pre-referendum path, he also made it clear that Britain was not ready for crashing out of the EU next March without a transition period.

“We know from our contacts with business that less than half of the businesses in the country have initiated their contingency plans for a no deal Brexit,” he said. Speaking of preparations for installing functioning customs systems and companies preparedness, he added: “Right now are the arrangements in place? And the answer is no”.

Mr Carney repeated earlier reassurance that the BoE was ready for a no deal outcome, however. The financial system was safe, he said, and would easily cope even with the worst case no deal scenario.

The BoE was prepared, he said and “[one] of the things people do not need to worry about is that the financial system will be there”.

EU’s Barnier tells Britain this Brexit deal is ‘the only one possible’

November 29, 2018

The European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told Britain on Thursday the Brexit deal the bloc agreed with Prime Minister Theresa May was the only one possible.

May is trying to sell the deal to her divided parliament, which will hold a vote on it on Dec. 11.

Image result for Brexit, worth it, photos

“Given the… high degree of complexity of all the issues surrounding the UK’s withdrawal, the orderly withdrawal treaty that is on the table is the only deal possible,” Barnier told the European Parliament in comments translated from French.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Philip Blenkinsop


EU urges members to submit ambitious climate plans

November 28, 2018

The European Union on Wednesday urged government, businesses, citizens and regions to submit ambitious proposals to cut emissions and help the bloc to go carbon neutral by 2050.

Delegations from more than 200 countries are due in Poland next week for the COP24 climate summit, aimed at renewing and building on the 2015 Paris accord and limiting global warming.

The EU, whose 28 members together form one of the world’s biggest and hence most polluting economies, is keen to play its part and become the first major player to be “climate neutral”.

But the “strategic long-term vision” unveiled on Wednesday by EU commissioner for climate action and energy Miguel Arias Canete relies on member states, not all of whom are on the same page, to take action.

“The proposed strategy does not intend to launch new policies, nor does the European Commission intend to revise 2030 targets,” the European Commission said, in the published strategy document.

© dpa/AFP/File | World leaders have been trying to breathe new life into the Paris climate agreement amid backsliding from several nations — most notably the United States

“It is meant to set the direction of travel of EU climate and energy policy, and to frame what the EU considers as its long-term contribution to achieving the Paris Agreement temperature objectives.”

To this end, according to a news release, the strategy is “an invitation” to European citizens, businesses and institutions “to show leadership” and to put forward ideas to limit emissions.

“Member states will submit to the European Commission, by the end of 2018, their draft national climate and energy plans,” it said.

These plans will cover commitments already made to reduce greenhouse mission by 40 percent before 2030, while the strategy now aims “for a climate neutral Europe by 2050”.

– Backsliding –

But — while they all signed up in Paris for a plan to try to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures — the EU’s members are not united on strategy.

Germany, for example, has resisted higher targets for emissions cuts on cars, and Poland — the host of next week’s global summit — is defensive about its reliance on coal-fired power stations.

World leaders have been trying to breathe new life into the 195-nation Paris Agreement amid backsliding from several nations — most notably the United States — over their commitments.

The accord is to take effect in 2020, and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) now warns that its two-degree goal is already out of date.

Experts warn the temperature rise is on track to surpass three degrees by 2100 and urge governments they must do more than first planned if global warming is to be reined in at all.