Posts Tagged ‘meddling in elections’

Tillerson says can settle problems with Russia, avoid damaging ties

August 7, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 6, 2017 / 11:15 PM

MANILA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday said the United States wants to work with Russia and it was pointless to cut off ties over their disagreements.

Discussing a meeting he held on Sunday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson told reporters that Russia had indicated “some willingness” to talk and find ways to move forward on the thorny issue of the Ukraine.

He said he saw U.S.-Russia relations pragmatically and believed problems could be addressed, and stressed to Lavrov that Russia needed to understand that meddling in elections was a very serious issue.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Michael Perry

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Rex Tillerson meets for ‘lengthy’ talks with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov amid diplomatic crisis

Russia has removed some 750 American diplomats from their positions

By Emily Shugerman New York

The Independent

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he has engaged in “lengthy” talks with the US Secretary of State, and feels the US is ready to continue dialogue with Russia.

Mr Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila. It was the first conversation between the two men since the US imposed sanctions on Russia last week.

Mr Lavrov said Mr Tillerson was chiefly interested in the reduction of some 750 American diplomatic positions in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the move was a response to the US sanctions, and to former President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US earlier this year.

“I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered,” Mr Putin said in a Russian state media interview.

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There has been confusion, however, over whether the US diplomats would be expelled from Russia, or simply removed from their positions.

“We provided an explanation,” Mr Lavrov said, but did not disclose details.

The US Congress overwhelmingly voted to imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the country’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Three US intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of releasing damaging information on Hillary Clinton and spreading false reports via social media in an attempt to bolster Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Federal investigators are also looking into whether Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government in this effort.

Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!

Mr Trump signed his country’s sanctions into law begrudgingly last week, under intense pressure from legislators. In a statement, Mr Trump called the sanctions “seriously flawed,” and said he would only sign the bill for the sake of national unity.

The President, who has repeatedly pushed for better relations with Moscow, wrote: “We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.”

Later, Mr Trump declared US relations with Russia were at an “all-time low”.

Russia “fully shares” Trump’s view that relations are in dangerous condition after sanctions law passed, Kremlin spokesman told press today.

Mr Lavrov, recalling his discussions with Mr Tillerson, said he felt that the Americans “need to keep the dialogue open,” and added: “There’s no alternative to that.”

Mr Tillerson did not comment on the discussions.’

Mr Lavrov said the two men also discussed sending special representative Kurt Volker, the US envoy to Ukraine, on a visit to Moscow. Mr Volker travelled to Ukraine last month to assess the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. The conflict is seen as a major obstacle to improved US-Russia relations in the US.

Mr Lavrov did not specify when Mr Volker would visit.

Mr Tillerson and Mr Lavrov also reportedly discussed the nuclear situation in North Korea, and how the US and Russia could withstand attacks.

They agreed that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary Thomas A Shannon would continue the discussion.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rex-tillerson-sergey-lavrov-russia-lengthy-talks-sanctions-association-of-southeast-asian-nations-a7880031.html

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Macron, Putin Hold Talks Amid Strained U.S.-European Ties

May 29, 2017

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The talks at Versailles are the French president’s first with the Russian leader since winning election earlier this month

Alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin waves upon his arrival at the Versailles Palace on Monday.

Alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin waves upon his arrival at the Versailles Palace on Monday. PHOTO: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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VERSAILLES, France—French President Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Vladimir Putin of Russia strained Monday to turn the page on allegations of Russian interference in France’s elections well as their differences over Syria, with the French leader describing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime as a “red line.”

The newly elected French leader was hosting Mr. Putin at the Palace of Versailles to mark 300 years of Franco-Russian diplomacy that began under Russian Czar Peter the Great.

Heightened tensions with Moscow loomed over the meeting as Mr. Macron and other European leaders have begun to weigh a geopolitical landscape defined by increasingly fragile trans-Atlantic relations. Last week U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t reaffirm the principle of mutual defense at the heart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to which the U.S. and 27 other nations belong. That prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to say this weekend it was time to “really take our fate into our own hands.’’

“It was an extremely frank, direct conversation,” Mr. Macron said in a joint news conference with Mr. Putin after their talks.

Any fissures in the NATO alliance provide Mr. Putin with an opening to drive a lasting wedge between the U.S. and its allies on a range of foreign policy fronts. Europe has often strained to show unity on defense and foreign policy, a struggle that risks being exacerbated without full-throated security assurances from the U.S. and with the looming departure of the U.K. from the European Union.

On Monday, Mr. Macron stood firm on the European Union’s sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea as well as France’s opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whom the West has accused of carrying out chemical attacks against his own people.

“There is a very clear red line on our side,” Mr. Macron said. “The use of chemical weapons by anyone—so any use of chemical weapons—will meet with retaliation and an immediate response.”

Mr. Macron also said reopening France’s embassy in Damascus was “not my priority.”

Mr. Putin said attacks on the Assad regime would only strengthen militant groups like Islamic State.

“It is impossible to combat the terrorist threat by destroying the statehood of countries that already suffer from internal problems,” Mr. Putin said.

The Macron-Putin meeting was also closely watched for signs of personal animus between the two leaders. Mr. Putin irked Mr. Macron’s presidential campaign by hosting his rival, National Front leader Marine Le Pen, during a visit to Russia.

“If Ms. Le pen asked to meet, why should we turn her down?” Mr. Putin said as Mr. Macron looked on.

The Russian leader also dismissed allegations the Macron campaign made that Kremlin-backed hackers and media outlets interfered in France’s presidential election. Mr. Macron’s party En Marche said in February its website was targeted by thousands of hacking attempts and that Kremlin controlled outlets spread defamatory rumors about the candidate in an attempt to destabilize the campaign. In the final hours of official campaigning, Mr. Macron’s party said it was hacked when thousands of emails and documents purportedly from the campaign were leaked on the internet.

“They say Russian hackers may have interfered,” Mr. Putin said, referring to the Macron campaign. “Dear colleagues, how can you comment on such things?”

The remarks belied initial attempts by both leaders to play down the alleged interference. Mr. Macron he did not discuss the issue with Mr. Putin behind closed doors because he wanted to be “pragmatic.”

That resolve wavered when a Russian journalist asked Mr. Macron why his campaign banned Russia Today and Sputnik from its headquarters.

“Russia Today and Sputnik did not behave like press organizations or journalists, they behaved like organization of influence, of propaganda, and false propaganda,” he said.

Write to Stacy Meichtry at stacy.meichtry@wsj.com and William Horobin at William.Horobin@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/macron-putin-hold-talks-amid-strained-u-s-european-ties-1496062884?mod=e2tw&tesla=y

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Russia steps up support to North Korea despite international sanctions and Trump’s desire to isolate Kim — Trade between Russia and North Korea is up 85 percent

May 17, 2017

In spite of international sanctions on North Korea’s communist regime, Russia has been increasing fuel exports to Pyongyang and filling in the supply gap created by China halting trade. Julian Ryall reports.

“So instead of isolation, which is not working, Russia is proposing engagement.”

Russland Militärparade in Moskau (Reuters/S. Karpukhin)

Despite efforts by the United Nations to impose isolating sanctions on North Korea in response to the country’s continued development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, trade between Russia and North Korea soared more than 85 percent in the first four months of the year.

Citing Russian customs data, the Voice of America broadcaster has reported that bilateral trade climbed to $31.83 million (29 million euros) in the January-March quarter, with the vast majority being energy products going over the border into the North.

This included $22 million worth of coal, lignite with a value of around $4.7 million, and oil estimated at $1.2 million. In return, North Korean exports to Russia were estimated to be worth $420,000. The most significant exports were chemicals and – curiously – wind instruments.

China trade falls

In contrast, North Korea’s trade with China, traditionally its most important economic partner, has plummeted. Pyongyang’s exports of coal to China in March came to 6,342 tons, a fraction of the 1.44 million tons sent to China in January, with an estimated value of $126.39 million. Similarly, Beijing has stopped supplying critically-needed fuel oil to the North, a clear demonstration of China’s displeasure at North Korea’s ongoing weapons tests.

The release of the figures detailing Russia’s increased trade with North Korea coincide with President Vladimir Putin statement on Monday that Pyongyang’s latest missile launch was “dangerous” – but, he added, “We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem.”

Read more: North Korea claims successful test of new rocket able to carry nuclear warhead

James Brown, an associate professor of international relations at Tokyo campus of Temple University, believes some of the cross-border trade may be “economic opportunism” but the motivation for the vast majority of it is geopolitical.

“Russia is very worried about the isolation of North Korea and believes that makes the situation dangerous as the US is taking a confrontational approach,” he told DW.

“Moscow’s position is that pressure on the North has not worked and has in fact caused Pyongyang to react because it feels threatened,” he said. “So instead of isolation, which is not working, Russia is proposing engagement.”

Nordkorea Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) Raketentest (Reuters/KCNA)The UN condemned North Korea’s missile test and vowed new sanctions

New ferry route

The most recent example of this support for Pyongyang is the plan to open a ferry route between North Korea and the Russian Far East port of Vladivostok, although the proposal has been delayed by strong protests from Japan.

Read more: North Korea builds closer ties with fellow outcast Russia

In 2014, Russia announced that it was canceling $10 billion of North Korea’s $11 billion in Soviet-era debt and that the remaining $1 billion would be invested back into the country. Russian investors also agreed to sink $25 billion into the North’s dilapidated railway system, while more would go into basic infrastructure. The two governments also announced that Russia would rebuild the North’s power grid, while the two countries would develop the ice-free port of Rason for exports of Russian coal.

In total, Russia planned to increase bilateral trade almost ten-fold to $1 billion by 2020, and that does not appear to have been hampered by more recent UN sanctions.

But Putin is also motivated by security concerns in Russia’s Far East, Brown said.

“Moscow has always been worried that the defensive missile systems that the US is deploying in the region – the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea and now Japan is discussing having Aegis Ashore – are more directed at its interests than North Korea,” he said.

Daniel Pinkston, a professor of international relations at the Seoul campus of Troy University, believes that Putin – who is at odds with the international community over the Ukraine conflict and has been accused of meddling in a number of elections, including those in the US and France – may be forging closer ties with Pyongyang to sow further disarray among his perceived enemies.

‘Slash-and-burn approach’

“Putin seems to have adopted a slash-and-burn approach to the liberal international order, so anything that serves to undermine institutions such as NATO, the European Union or democracy in general is fair game,” Pinkston said. “He is intent on creating instability in a way that serves Russian interests and this sort of multi-front, hybrid war serves to undermine the US and its allies.”

“North Korea fits neatly into that agenda because it causes problems for Washington, keeps the US tied down, drains its resources and causes friction with allies in the region.”

Pinkston points out that playing neighboring nations off one other for their respective favors is not a new North Korean tactic. It has manipulated China and Russia for its own ends in the past.

“That sort of back-and-forth was easier to pull off in the Cold War, but they seem to be trying to capitalize on their relations with Russia now that China has become more distant,” the expert underlined. “And I think it is clear that North Korea will take whatever it can get in terms of political, diplomatic or military support, as well as resources.”

http://www.dw.com/en/russia-steps-up-north-korea-support-to-constrain-us/a-38867861