Posts Tagged ‘H.R. McMaster’

US needs better China strategy in real-life Game Of Thrones

February 19, 2018

By James Stavridis

In HBO’s Game Of Thrones, the most impressive single force on a very complex battlefield is the trio of dragons mastered by Queen Daenerys Targaryen. As she says: “We will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground!”

The symbol of China, of course, is the dragon. The US, whose symbol is the eagle, will need to learn to fly in uneasy company of the dragon in the decades ahead.

These metaphors can fly independently, but they are going to have to deconflict the airspace.

Let’s begin with a hopeful disclaimer: I do not believe we are headed towards a war with China. Our interests are far more likely to converge than to diverge overall, and our economies are deeply intertwined.

Yet the competition, assuming we can avoid outright conflict, will be fierce. A recent cover of The Economist talked about Chinese “sharp power”, meaning the combination of traditional “soft power” (hospitals, medical diplomacy, humanitarian operations) with more coercive tools (trade, economic domination, cyber piracy).

The United States needs a strategy to deal with a China that is increasingly comfortable engaging aggressively in the world. A good primer on this is Graham Allison’s recent book, Destined For War: Can America And China Escape Thucydides Trap?”

Professor Allison of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government tells the story of China’s truly meteoric rise over the past three decades, and makes the point that while we are playing checkers, the Chinese are not simply playing chess – they are playing a different game altogether: Go.

 

It is a complex, multi-move, long-dwell game of strategy. While the US crafts a strategy for the next decade or so (see the Donald Trump administration’s new National Security Strategy), China is planning the 200-year future. It is playing a long, long game.

An F-18 Hornet fighter jet set for take-off from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during a routine deployment in the South China Sea this month. The writer believes that while the US still has an overall military advantage over Chi

So what should the US do? Where are there zones of cooperation, and where must it confront? Is there a sensible strategy the US can pursue to ensure it is not incinerated in the dragon’s fire?

The strategy needs to leave behind the mode of “China versus the US” and into a truly integrated Asian coalition. We must not appear to encircle, contain, or intimidate China; we must avoid creating a stark choice between Washington and Beijing for our partners in the region. Rather, we want to build stronger coordinated approaches with Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other allies, friends and partners.

Let’s start with confrontation. At the top of the tactical watch list is the controversial set of Chinese claims over the South China Sea.

A body of water roughly the size of the Gulf of Mexico, it has billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas under its normally placid waves. Acquisition of this rich trove of hydrocarbons would complete China’s strategic suite of cards in the 21st century.

The US rightfully opposes such an appropriation, and will continue to fly planes overhead and drive ships through what Beijing insists are its “territorial seas”. Similarly, both sides are in conflict in another dimension of time and space altogether: the cyberworld.

The Chinese habit of stealing intellectual property and pressuring US companies in the cybersphere is accelerating, despite assurances from President Xi Jinping to former president Barack Obama and President Trump that he would rein in Chinese activities.

Finally, the US will continue to fight with China over what constitutes “free and fair trade”, and find ways to bring its trade deficit more into balance. There will be confrontation and hard negotiations (and hopefully not a full-blown trade war) ahead.

Here’s the good news: We do have a set of shared interests, starting with perhaps the most important one, Mr Kim Jong Un. China wants to continue to see a divided Korean peninsula (fearing the creation of a powerful juggernaut in the form of a unified, Western-aligned democracy post-Kim). Beijing also wants to avoid a full-blown refugee crisis on the border. There is room to work together in crafting a compromise to solve the potentially catastrophic possibility of a war between the US and North Korea.

The two nations can also work together on a wide range of global problems from climate change (the Trump administration is even talking about re-entering the Paris Agreement) to peacekeeping (perhaps on the turbulent Horn of Africa, where China is building a military base and has real interests).

China and the US could conduct medical diplomacy together (both nations operate hospital ships) and humanitarian operations in Africa and Latin America. There is the possibility of working together to reduce tensions in South Asia, where the US is still at war in Afghanistan and China holds great influence over Pakistan.

None of these will be easy, but all are at least possible. The goal then is to craft a sensible strategic approach that confronts China where the US must, but cooperates where it can.

It should be developed together by the departments of Defence, State, Treasury and Homeland Security (for the cyberpiece), and led by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The working group should take input from outside experts and strategists including Prof Allison; former ambassador to China and retired Navy four-star admiral Joe Prueher; current head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris (nominated to be the next US ambassador to Australia); and Dr Henry Kissinger.

It should feature six key elements:

• Use true long-term thinking. Like China, the US must stop thinking year-to-year or even over the current decade – where do we see the US-China relationship in a century? Two centuries? We are a Pacific nation, but sensible accommodations that can be made that reflect the power and reach of China. We need to think about long-term strategies and the resources necessary to execute them.

•Conduct international coalition-building. The strategy needs to leave behind the mode of “China versus the US” and into a truly integrated Asian coalition. We must not appear to encircle, contain, or intimidate China; we must avoid creating a stark choice between Washington and Beijing for our partners in the region. Rather, we want to build stronger coordinated approaches with Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and other allies, friends and partners. Above all, we must work with India, the other emerging superpower of the 21st century and a fellow democracy.

•Retain a value-based approach. We must not surrender the importance of democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, gender equality, racial equality and other human rights. The US executes these values imperfectly, but they are the right ones and must be part of our strategic approach. Sometimes we think of this as a “war of ideas”, but that is not quite right. We are in a marketplace of ideas, and must compete with the alternate vision for structuring a society offered by China.

•Enhance our geo-economic posture. As the US becomes an energy superpower, revitalises its infrastructure (both physical and cyber), improves its global balance of trade, renegotiates important trade agreements, and uses Bretton Woods institutions – World Bank, International Monetary Fund – aggressively, it will have a more robust set of economic tools. Washington should use them with confidence in dealing with China, starting with returning to the idea of a multi-state Pacific trade agreement (a follow-on to the torpedoed Trans-Pacific Partnership) about which even Mr Trump has mused. Energising the private sector by defending its interests in China and US markets can provide leverage.

•Integrate the interagency. Today, various parts of the government are not well-coordinated in terms of an approach to China. The Defence Department is pursuing an aggressive strategy that names China (correctly) as a potentially dangerous peer-competitor; the State Department has a much softer approach. Treasury is hard-edged on currency manipulation, but the Department of Homeland Security is not aggressive enough in working on cyber defences. The US does not have a two-speed approach – it is more like a 10-speed bicycle

• Maintain a qualitative military edge. While the US still enjoys an overall military advantage over China, the margin is shrinking. It will require smart investments – especially in cyber, unmanned vehicles, advanced maritime platforms and fifth-generation fighters – to ensure it can succeed if forced into combat. Above all, it needs to move from a reactive China “policy” to a real strategy that connects ends, ways and means.

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America could easily take a page from Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese strategist, who was known for his sophisticated blend of hard and soft power to win complex battles. Yet even he ultimately said: “In death ground, fight.”

We are not yet on a death ground with China, but we will need a new approach to ensure we don’t stumble onto one.

BLOOMBERG VIEW

•The writer is a retired US Navy admiral, former military commander of Nato, and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2018, with the headline ‘US needs better China strategy in real-life Game Of Thrones’.
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U.S.-Russia Tension Flares Over Nuclear Arms Control Now at Risk

February 18, 2018

Bloomberg

By Henry Meyer and Patrick Donahue

  • U.S. security chief hits out at Russia after Lavrov criticism
  • Chances of rescuing treaties fading, top Russian lawmaker says

As tensions escalate between Russia and the U.S., the nuclear-armed former Cold War rivals are risking the future of decades-old arms control agreements that have helped to keep a strategic balance and prevent the risk of accidental war.

The conflict played out at a global security conference in Germany where Russia aired grievances about the U.S. and the Trump administration said a new nuclear doctrine unveiled this month doesn’t increase risks. Germany, caught in between, was among European countries voicing concern as both big powers modernize their nuclear arsenals.

H.R. McMaster

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster defended the U.S. nuclear posture, which envisages building more low-yield bombs, and renewed accusations that Russia is violating a 1987 treaty that bans the deployment of intermediate-range missiles on land.

“We will not allow Russia any of the power to hold the populations of Europe hostage,” he said Saturday in Munich, appearing on stage moments after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov listed a litany of complaints about U.S.-led military expansion since the collapse of Communism.

Syria Clash

Efforts to bridge the divide are stymied by a poisoned atmosphere as the U.S. responds to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential vote, with 13 Russians indicted Friday including a businessman close to President Vladimir Putin. The two powers are also clashing in Syria, where U.S. strikes killed more than 200 Russian mercenaries who attacked American-backed forces Feb. 7, according to people familiar with the matter.

“In the U.S., the animus is so tremendous that punishing Russia is the thing to do,” Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said in an interview. “I see the demise of the entire arms control regime.”

Read more: U.S. said to kill scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria

While the two countries have fulfilled the terms of another landmark nuclear weapons reduction treaty, New START, that accord expires in 2021 and there’s political pressure on President Donald Trump to let it expire because of the alleged Russian non-compliance with the INF treaty. Moscow in turn accuses Washington of itself breaking the intermediate-range pact. So far, no formal negotiations are taking place on either issue.

European Fears

Javier Solana, a Spaniard who served as NATO secretary-general, and Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s acting foreign minister, expressed alarm.

“The most likely theater for nuclear conflicts would once again be here, in the center of Europe,” Gabriel told the conference.

Graham Allison, a Pentagon adviser under former U.S. President Ronald Reagan when the two superpowers were negotiating arms control, said he’s skeptical momentum will be found to revive START and the INF.

Arms control was developed primarily to prevent the “insane” possibility that Russia and the U.S. would annihilate each other due to miscalculation or accident, despite not even wanting to go to war, said Allison, now a professor of government at Harvard University. “Those risks remain today.”

That’s something the Russians can agree on.

According to Sergei Karaganov, a former Kremlin foreign policy adviser, the situation could get “much more dangerous” than during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

‘No Limits’

Under New START, which followed from the 1991 START treaty and was signed in 2010, the Russian and U.S. arsenals are restricted to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads on no more than 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers.

If that long-range missile pact isn’t prolonged and the INF collapses, “you have a situation where there are no limits on Russian and American nuclear forces,” said Steven Pifer, a former top State Department official and arms control expert.

In addition, Russia and the U.S. would stop exchanging data on each other’s nuclear arsenals and permitting regular inspections. “It would be less predictable, less secure, less stable,” Pifer said.

Russia would respond to any U.S. move to station land-based intermediate-range missiles in Europe by deploying similar missiles to target “all the bases where these weapons will be,” said Igor Korotchenko, director of the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade in Moscow.

“And the U.S. can’t stay safe over the ocean — we’ll create the same risk for the U.S. as they do for us in Europe,” he said.

Losing Sight

Sam Nunn, a former U.S. senator and a prominent non-proliferation campaigner, says he’s increasingly concerned that “both countries can lose count of their strategic interests.’’

Some experts such as Thomas Graham, ex-White House adviser under George W. Bush, believe Russia and the U.S. will blink when faced with the prospect of stepping into a void without the security of arms control.

Russia has proposed a 5-year extension to New START, to 2026, though it’s tying that to fixing complaints about the way the U.S. has complied with the treaty, the Interfax news service reported Feb. 16.

“The chances are diminishing every day,’’ said Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian upper house of parliament.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-18/u-s-russia-tension-flares-over-nuclear-arms-control-now-at-risk

Munich Security Conference: Netanyahu, Holding Wreckage of Iranian Drone, Says Israel Will Not Allow Iran ‘Put a Noose of Terror Around Our Neck’

February 18, 2018

Haaretz

More details soon…

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Netanyahu holding up a piece of an Iranian drone shot down last week over Israel.
Netanyahu holding up a piece of an Iranian drone shot down last week over Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Iran is the greatest threat to the world. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, the Israeli premier said Iran was not Nazi Germany, but stated that the two has many similarities.

“Israel will not allow the Iranian regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” Netanyahu said.

During his speech, Netanyahu held a piece of an Iranian drone Israel shot down last week after it infiltrated its territory.

More details soon…

European Diplomats Aim to Curb Iran Actions, Save Nuclear Deal

February 18, 2018

Talks intended to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal

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MUNICH—European diplomats met with a senior Iranian official Saturday in a bid to curtail Iran’s regional muscle-flexing and meet a key Trump administration demand.

The push by the European diplomats to check Iranian meddling in Yemen, Syria and other parts of the Middle East is aimed at persuading U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal and show the U.S. that there are other ways to check Iranian aggression.

Mr. Trump has threatened to kill the Iranian nuclear deal in May, when he must decide whether to keep in place sanctions waivers required under the 2015 agreement. He has made Iran’s regional actions a focus of his foreign policy, committing the U.S. to pushing back Tehran’s regional role.

Saturday’s meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference is a new channel of discussions intended to address Iran’s activity.

Chaired by the European Union, it brings together senior diplomats from Italy, Germany, Britain and France—the E4—and Iran, represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. The focus of Saturday’s discussions was the conflict in Yemen.

The meeting comes as concerns rise about Iran’s role in southern Syria and the possibility of direct conflict there between Iran and Israel.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Iran is building a network of proxy forces, like Hezbollah, throughout the region and arming them with increasingly sophisticated weaponry.

“So the time is now…to act against Iran,” Gen. McMaster said.

H. R. McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)

European governments, who have strongly supported the Iranian nuclear agreement, have pledged to work with Washington to address nonnuclear concerns, such as Iran’s missile program and its regional activities. The U.K., France, Germany and the U.S. set up working groups last month to discuss this although people close to the talks say work is at a very early stage.

At the same time, the Europeans agreed in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that they would open a channel for discussion of regional issues. Saturday’s meeting was the first one.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

According to officials, European governments are looking to broaden the talks over coming months to cover the conflict in Syria, where Iranian forces and proxies have helped give the Assad regime the upper hand.

Those discussions could include the situation in southern Syria, one of the officials said.

Last weekend, Israel launched attacks on Syrian air defenses and Iranian fighters in Syria after Israel intercepted an Iranian drone fired from Syria. An Israeli jet was shot down during the attacks.

Iran Recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiites to Fight in Syria

Israel has warned repeatedly it won’t accept an Iranian presence close to its border in southern Syria and said it would strike Iranian built precision missile factories for Hezbollah and other military infrastructure.

On Saturday morning, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that while the EU would maintain its support for the Iranian nuclear deal, Europe was ready to work with the U.S. against “the destabilizing influence of Iranian policies in the region and to push them back.”

A senior German diplomat said Berlin had warned Tehran after last weekend’s events in southern Syria that Europe could step up pressure if Iran seeks to entrench its presence there.

Most European sanctions against Iran were lifted after the nuclear deal was concluded. France has said Iranian firms or people could be targeted with sanctions over Iran’s missile program.

Iran has refused to enter discussions on ballistic missiles, saying it won’t compromise on its national defense. Iranian officials have said Tehran can’t rein in its missile program when the U.S. is selling arms to regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Trump has also pressed European countries to agree to a follow-up agreement to the nuclear deal that would threaten action if Tehran ramps up its nuclear activities once the original limits start to expire. Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear program under the deal.

European governments have said they won’t renegotiate the nuclear deal. Officials warn that they want firm commitments from Washington that if they address their concerns, Mr. Trump will stand by the deal. There is still uncertainty among European governments about precisely what commitments Washington is demanding to stand by the deal.

In Munich on Saturday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said Washington was seeking “a commitment that we can credibly show to the president (that) we’re making progress to address” flaws in the nuclear deal and to counter Iran’s nonnuclear activities.

He said that could eventually lead to direct talks between the U.S. and Iran but “there will need to be significant progress” in Iranian discussions with Europe first.

Write to Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/european-diplomats-aim-to-curb-iran-actions-save-nuclear-deal-1518899767

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Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (AP-Hussein Malla)
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Trump Rebukes McMaster for Not Defending 2016 Election Result

February 18, 2018

Bloomberg

By Joshua Gallu

  • National security adviser spoke about meddling on Saturday
  • President made several tweets saying Russia didn’t impact vote
H.R. McMaster

Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump rebuked his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, on Saturday, saying in a tweet that his aide had neglected to defend his 2016 victory when discussing U.S. claims that Russia meddled in the election.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump tweeted, using a derogatory epithet for Hillary Clinton.

McMaster on Saturday told an audience at the Munich Security Conference that Russia engaged in a “sophisticated form of espionage” against the U.S. in a futile attempt at disruption. He referred to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s charges this week against 13 Russian nationals and a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm,” accused of seeking to interfere in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

“The evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain, whereas in the past it was difficult to attribute,” McMaster said on a panel Saturday. Russian attempts to influence politics in the U.S. and elsewhere are “just not working,” McMaster said.

Earlier Saturday, Trump referenced posts by Rob Goldman, Facebook vice president of ad sales, that said the goal of the sophisticated Russian influence operation was to divide Americans and sow fear and hatred. Facebook verified the authenticity of Goldman’s posts.

Among the evidence Goldman pointed to in a series of posts was that 56 percent of the Facebook ads bought by the indicted Russians were displayed after the Nov. 8 election, while users still considering who to vote for would have seen only about 44 percent.

In a follow-up tweet, Goldman attempted to soften his earlier comments by saying that “the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Trump. The point is that the misinformation campaign is ongoing and must be addressed.”

Trump also suggested that the FBI overlooked a warning about the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people because the bureau was too busy investigating him.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud,” Trump tweeted.

— With assistance by Shannon Pettypiece, and Patrick Donahue

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-18/trump-rebukes-mcmaster-for-not-defending-2016-election-result

US National Security Adviser McMaster says now is the time to act against Iran

February 17, 2018

 

Herbert Raymond McMaster, National security adviser to the US President, delivers his speech on day two of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Feb. 17, 2018. (AFP)
MUNICH: Iran is building and arming an increasingly powerful network of proxies in countries like Syria, Yemen and Iraq that can turn against the governments of those states, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Saturday.
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“What’s particularly concerning is that this network of proxies is becoming more and more capable, as Iran seeds more and more …destructive weapons into these networks,” McMaster told the annual Munich Security Conference.
“So the time is now, we think, to act against Iran,” he said.
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With regards to Syria, McMaster told the Conference that, despite denials, public reports showed that Syrian President Bashar Assad was using chemical weapons, and added that it was time for the international community to hold the Syrian government accountable.
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“Public accounts and photos clearly show that Assad’s chemical weapons use is continuing,” McMaster said at the major international security conference taking place in Munich.
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“It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions and support the efforts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.
McMaster did not specify which public accounts or pictures he was referring to.
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French President Emmanuel Macron has said that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this was the case.
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The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and said it targets only armed rebels and militants.
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In recent weeks, rescue workers, aid groups and the United States have accused Syria of repeatedly using chlorine gas as a weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.
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Earlier this month, Syrian government forces, who are backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded the areas, two of the last major rebel-held parts of Syria.
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Diplomatic efforts have made scant progress toward ending a war now approaching its eighth year, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes.

 

Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections is beyond dispute, H.R. McMaster tells international group including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

February 17, 2018

By , USA TODAY

Published 8:32 a.m. ET Feb. 17, 2018 | Updated 9:39 a.m. ET Feb. 17, 2018

President Trump’s national security adviser said Saturday that Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections is beyond dispute, marking a sharp reversal of Trump’s frequent dismissal of alleged Russian cyber-meddling as a “hoax.”

H.R. McMaster was speaking at an international conference in Munich in response to a question from a Russian delegate.

H.R. McMaster in Munich

H.R. McMaster

He spoke shortly after an appearance at the same gathering by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who had dismissed as “just claptrap” allegations of Russian meddling found in U.S. indictments handed down Friday.

More: Read Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals for election meddling

More: Takeaways from Mueller’s indictment of Russian nationals who meddled in election

More: Meet the 13 Russians charged in Mueller probe

Referring to the indictment of 13 Russians, McMaster said that “with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible” of Russia cyber-meddling.

McMaster’s sharp accusations were the most pointed from a high White House official regarding charges of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The comments also reflected a decided shift from the Trump White House regarding Russia’s possible role.

Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..

In the past, Trump has regularly dismissed claims of Russian involvement as a “hoax” while at other times has said that meddling could be the work of Russia or simply the work of some “400-pound” guy working in a basement.

In remarks in August 2017, at a rally in Huntington, W.V., Trump mocked the notion of Russian meddling in the elections, calling it a “total fabrication” and an excuse by Democrats for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election.

“We won because millions of patriotic Americans voted to take back their country,” he told the audience. “Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?”

The 37-page indictment released by Mueller charges that some of the 13 defendants in fact did travel to the United States “under false pretenses in order to collect intelligence for their interference operations.”

McMaster also pointedly rejected an idea floated by Trump in a tweet in July in which he said he had discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin “forming an impenetrable Cyber Security Unit … so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded…”

Although Trump later attempted to back away from the position, McMaster on Saturday drove a clear stake into it.

Scoffing at the notion of working with Russia on cybersecurity, McMaster, “we would love to have a cyber dialogue when Russia is sincere about curtailing its sophisticated form of espionage.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/02/17/mcmaster-russian-meddling-u-s-elections-beyond-dispute/347835002/

Public reports ‘clearly show’ Assad’s use of chemical weapons: McMaster

February 17, 2018

Reuters

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U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster talks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski Reuters

MUNICH (Reuters) – U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Saturday that, despite denials, public reports showed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was using chemical weapons, and added that it was time for the international community to hold the Syrian government to account.

“Public accounts and photos clearly show that Assad’s chemical weapons use is continuing,” McMaster said at a major international security conference taking place in Munich.

“It is time for all nations to hold the Syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions and support the efforts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said.

McMaster did not specify which public accounts or pictures he was referring to.

Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Syrian government had repeatedly used chlorine gas, but stressed that the U.S. did not have evidence of sarin gas use.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that “France will strike” if chemical weapons are used against civilians in the Syrian conflict in violation of international treaties, but that he had not yet seen proof this is the case.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and said it targets only armed rebels and militants.

In recent weeks, rescue workers, aid groups and the United States have accused Syria of repeatedly using chlorine gas as a weapon against civilians in Ghouta and Idlib.

Earlier this month, Syrian government forces, who are backed by Russia and Iran, bombarded the areas, two of the last major rebel-held parts of Syria.

Diplomatic efforts have made scant progress towards ending a war now approaching its eighth year, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced half the pre-war Syrian population of 23 million from their homes.

NORTH KOREA

McMaster called on the international community to do more on North Korea.

“We must pressure the Kim regime, using all available tools, to ensure that this cruel dictatorship cannot threaten the world with the most destructive weapons on earth,” he said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The United States has appeared to endorse closer post-Olympics engagement between North and South Korea with an eye to eventual U.S.-North Korean talks, but has agreed with Seoul that sanctions must be intensified to push Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons program.

The prospect of negotiations comes after months of tension over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader traded insults and threats, while the U.N. tightened sanctions.

“Nations that evade full enforcement and fail to take these steps are acting irresponsibly, now is the time to do more,” McMaster said, calling on countries to cut off military and commercial ties with Pyongyang.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrea Shalal and Andrew Bolton)

South Korea Kept U.S. Out of the Loop on North Korea Overture — South Korea accused of “cutting the U.S. out of the decision-making process”

February 5, 2018

Officials on both sides say Seoul’s North Korea move puts strains on alliance

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SEOUL—When North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un suggested in a New Year address that his country might be open to participating in the Winter Olympics, South Korea’s president and top aides quickly convened to craft a friendly response.

U.S. officials, however, weren’t included in those consultations and, to their consternation, were notified just hours before Seoul announced its proposal to Pyongyang for negotiations.

North Korea’s surprise outreach and South Korea’s opening to its northern rival have stirred tensions between Seoul and Washington—despite professed unity in public statements—as the allies work to present a common front in dealing with Pyongyang, according to senior U.S. and South Korean officials.

US tells Turkey it will end weapons support for Syrian Kurdish YPG: Anadolu

January 27, 2018

A Syrian rebel-fighter stands in the Tal Malid area, north of Aleppo, as he watches smoke billow from a Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) position in the area of Afrin, on January 20, 2018. (AFP)
ANKARA: The United States has told Turkey it will not provide any more weapons to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Turkish state media said on Saturday, as Turkey’s offensive by against the US-backed YPG in Syria entered its eighth day.
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The Turkish incursion in northwest Syria’s Afrin region against the YPG has opened a new front in the multi-sided Syrian civil war, but has also further strained ties with NATO ally Washington.
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Washington has angered Ankara by providing arms, training and air support to the Syrian Kurdish forces. Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast for three decades.
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Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said on Saturday that Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan, and US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster held a phone call on Friday in which McMaster confirmed the United States would no longer provide weapons to the YPG.