Posts Tagged ‘NATO’

Bolton: No Trump-Putin Meeting While Russia Holds Ukrainian Ships, Sailors

December 15, 2018

U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton says there will be no meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin while Moscow still holds the Ukrainian ships and sailors it seized near Crimea.

“I don’t see circumstances in the foreseeable future where such a meeting could take place until the ships and the crews are released,” Bolton told reporters on December 13.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands on board a Coast Guard ship in the Sea of Azov. (file photo)

A Ukrainian serviceman stands on board a Coast Guard ship in the Sea of Azov. (file photo)

Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships on November 25 and arrested 24 sailors in the Kerch Strait that links the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov.

Moscow alleged that the vessels had illegally entered Russian territorial waters near the Crimea region, which Russia occupied and annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine and most UN member states do not recognize the annexation.

NATO has pledged support for Ukraine’s navy, with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg saying on December 13 that “Russia must immediately release the sailors and ships they seized and allow freedom of navigation including free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.”

“This is part of Russia’s pattern of destabilizing behavior,” Stoltenberg added. “We strongly condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.”

Putin and Trump briefly discussed the matter on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina on December 1, the Kremlin said.

On the eve of the summit, Trump announced he would not hold a formal one-on-one meeting with Putin, citing the Kerch Strait incident.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa


EU leaders call for urgent action against disinformation — Facebook and Google “need to do more”

December 14, 2018

European Union leaders called for urgent action to combat fake news on the Internet at a summit on Friday, saying more needed to be done to safeguard next year’s EU election against disinformation.

The bloc’s 28 heads of state backed a plan to help stop what the United States, NATO and the EU say are Russian attempts to undermine Western democracies with disinformation campaigns that sow division. Russia has repeatedly denied any such action.

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The plan calls for an early warning system to alert governments and tech giants such as Facebook and Google to do more to remove misleading or illegal content.

“Swift and decisive action at both European and national level” is needed to ensure fair elections to the European Parliament in May 2019, the EU summit’s conclusions said.

“The spread of deliberate, large-scale, and systematic disinformation, including as part of hybrid warfare, is an acute and strategic challenge for our democratic systems,” the statement said. “It requires an urgent response.”

The EU executive’s plan, endorsed by governments, will hand more money and power to regulators in Brussels to monitor and flag Russian disinformation. It increases funds for the foreign service EEAS for this to 5 million euros ($5.7 million) from 1.9 million in 2018.

Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, editing by Elizabeth Piper


Donald Trump Is a Good President — By Michel Houellebecq

December 14, 2018

One foreigner’s perspective

In all sincerity, I like Americans a lot; I’ve met many lovely people in the United States, and I empathize with the shame many Americans (and not only “New York intellectuals”) feel at having such an appalling clown for a leader.

However, I have to ask—and I know what I’m requesting isn’t easy for you—that you consider things for a moment from a non-American point of view. I don’t mean “from a French point of view,” which would be asking too much; let’s say, “from the point of view of the rest of the world.”

donald trump Illustration by Ricardo Martínez

Illustration by Ricardo Martínez

On the numerous occasions when I’ve been questioned about Donald Trump’s election, I’ve replied that I don’t give a shit. France isn’t Wyoming or Arkansas. France is an independent country, more or less, and will become totally independent once again when the European Union is dissolved (the sooner, the better).

The United States of America is no longer the world’s leading power. It was for a long time, for almost the entire course of the twentieth century. It isn’t anymore.

It remains a major power, one among several.

This isn’t necessarily bad news for Americans.

It’s very good news for the rest of the world.

My response is a bit of an exaggeration. One has an ongoing obligation to take at least a modicum of interest in American political life. The United States is still the world’s leading military power and unfortunately has yet to break its habit of mounting interventions beyond its borders. I’m not a historian, and I don’t know much about ancient history—for example, I couldn’t say whether Kennedy or Johnson was more to blame for the dismal Vietnam affair—but I have the impression that it’s been a good long time since the United States last won a war, and that for at least fifty years its foreign military interventions, whether acknowledged or clandestine, have been nothing but a succession of disgraces culminating in failures.

Let’s go back all the way to the United States’s last morally unquestionable and militarily victorious intervention, namely its participation in World War II: What would have happened had the United States not entered the war (an unpleasant alternate history)? Without a doubt, the destiny of Asia would have been greatly altered. The destiny of Europe, too, but probably somewhat less. In any case, Hitler would have lost just the same. What’s most probable is that Stalin’s armies would have reached Cherbourg. Some European countries that were spared the ordeal of communism would have suffered it.

A disagreeable scenario, I admit, but a brief one. Forty years later, the Soviet Union would have collapsed all the same, simply because it rested on an ineffective and bogus ideology. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the culture in which communism has been established, it hasn’t managed to survive for so much as a century—not in any country in the world.

People’s memories aren’t very long. The Hungarians, the Poles, the Czechs of today—do they really remember that they used to be communists? Does the way they envision what’s at stake in Europe differ so much from the Western European viewpoint? It seems extremely unlikely. To adopt for a moment the language of the center-left, the “populist cancer” is not at all limited to the Visegrád Group. Above all, the arguments used in Austria, in Poland, in Italy, and in Sweden are exactly the same. One of the constants in Europe’s long history is the struggle against Islam; today, that struggle has simply returned to the foreground.

I’ve read about the CIA’s repulsive tactics in Nicaragua and Chile only in novels (almost exclusively American novels), so I can’t make any definite accusations on those scores. The first American military interventions I can really remember are those of the two Bushes, especially the son’s. France refused to join him in his war against Iraq—a war that was in equal parts immoral and stupid; France was right, and my pleasure in pointing this out is all the greater, because France has seldom been right since . . . let’s say, since the time of de Gaulle.

Enormous progress was made under Obama. Maybe he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a little too soon; but as far as I’m concerned, he truly earned it later, on the day when he refused to back Francois Hollande’s proposed attack on Syria. Obama’s attempts at racial reconciliation were less successful, and I don’t know your country well enough to understand exactly why; all I can do is regret the fact. But at the very least, Obama can be congratulated for not adding Syria to the long list (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and others I’m no doubt forgetting) of Muslim lands where the West has committed atrocities.

Trump is pursuing and amplifying the policy of disengagement initiated by Obama; this is very good news for the rest of the world.

The Americans are getting off our backs.

The Americans are letting us exist.

The Americans have stopped trying to spread democracy to the four corners of the globe. Besides, what democracy? Voting every four years to elect a head of state—is that democracy? In my view, there’s one country in the world (one country, not two) that enjoys partially democratic institutions, and that country isn’t the United States of America; it’s Switzerland. A country otherwise notable for its laudable policy of neutrality.

The Americans are no longer prepared to die for the freedom of the press. Besides, what freedom of the press? Ever since I was twelve years old, I’ve watched the range of opinions permissible in the press steadily shrinking (I write this shortly after a new hunting expedition has been launched in France against the notoriously anti-liberal writer Éric Zemmour).

The Americans are relying more and more on drones, which—if they knew how to use these weapons—could have allowed them to reduce the number of civilian casualties (but the fact is that Americans have always been incapable, practically since aviation began, of carrying out a proper bombing).

But what’s most remarkable about the new American policies is certainly the country’s position on trade, and there Trump has been like a healthy breath of fresh air; you’ve really done well to elect a president with origins in what is called “civil society.”

President Trump tears up treaties and trade agreements when he thinks it was wrong to sign them. He’s right about that; leaders must know how to use the cooling-off period and withdraw from bad deals.

Unlike free-market liberals (who are, in their way, as fanatical as communists), President Trump doesn’t consider global free trade the be-all and end-all of human progress. When free trade favors American interests, President Trump is in favor of free trade; in the contrary case, he finds old-fashioned protectionist measures entirely appropriate.

President Trump was elected to safeguard the interests of American workers; he’s safeguarding the interests of American workers. During the past fifty years in France, one would have wished to come upon this sort of attitude more often.

President Trump doesn’t like the European Union; he thinks we don’t have a lot in common, especially not “values”; and I call this fortunate, because, what values? “Human rights”? Seriously? He’d rather negotiate directly with individual countries, and I believe this would actually be preferable; I don’t think that strength necessarily proceeds from union. It’s my belief that we in Europe have neither a common language, nor common values, nor common interests, that, in a word, Europe doesn’t exist, and that it will never constitute a people or support a possible democracy (see the etymology of the term), simply because it doesn’t want to constitute a people. In short, Europe is just a dumb idea that has gradually turned into a bad dream, from which we shall eventually wake up. And in his hopes for a “United States of Europe,” an obvious reference to the United States, Victor Hugo only gave further proof of his grandiloquence and his stupidity; it always does me a bit of good to criticize Victor Hugo.

Logically enough, President Trump was pleased about Brexit. Logically enough, so was I; my sole regret was that the British had once again shown themselves to be more courageous than us in the face of empire. The British get on my nerves, but their courage cannot be denied.

President Trump doesn’t consider Vladimir Putin an unworthy negotiating partner; neither do I. I don’t believe Russia has been assigned the role of humankind’s universal guide—my admiration for Dostoevsky doesn’t extend that far—but I admire the persistence of orthodoxy in its own lands, I think Roman Catholicism would do well to take inspiration from it, and I believe that the “ecumenical dialogue” could be usefully limited to a dialogue with the Orthodox Church (Christianity is not only a “religion of the Book,” as is too quickly said; it’s also, and perhaps above all, a religion of the Incarnation). I’m painfully aware that the Great Schism of 1054 was, for Christian Europe, the beginning of the end; but on the other hand, I believe that the end is never certain until it arrives.

It seems that President Trump has even managed to tame the North Korean madman; I found this feat positively classy.

It seems that President Trump recently declared, “You know what I am? I’m a nationalist!” Me too, precisely so. Nationalists can talk to one another; with internationalists, oddly enough, talking doesn’t work so well.

France should leave NATO, but maybe such a step will become pointless if lack of operational funding causes ­NATO to disappear on its own. That would be one less thing to worry about, and a new reason to sing the praises of President Trump.

In summary, President Trump seems to me to be one of the best American presidents I’ve ever seen.

On the personal level, he is, of course, pretty repulsive. If he consorted with a porn star, that’s not a problem, who gives a shit, but making fun of handicapped people is bad behavior. With an equivalent agenda, an authentic Christian conservative—which is to say, an honorable and moral person—would have been better for America.

But maybe it could happen next time, or the time after that, if you insist on keeping Trump. In six years, Ted Cruz will still be comparatively young, and surely there are other outstanding Christian conservatives. You’ll be a little less competitive, but you’ll rediscover the joy of living within the borders of your magnificent country, practicing honesty and virtue. (With some instances of marital infidelity. Nobody’s perfect, you should relax about that. Even in the best American thrillers, there are scenes of spousal repentance that are hard to bear, especially when the children intervene. I don’t want to play the “licentious Frenchman,” a character I loathe, I’m just pleading for the maintenance of a minimal level of hypocrisy, without which no life in human society is possible.)

You’ll export some products (indispensable brands: Marshall, Klipsch, Jack Daniel’s). You’ll import some others (we in France also have stuff to sell). In the end, this probably won’t amount to much, either in trade volume or in foreign exchange. A reduction in global trade is a desirable goal, and one that could be reached within a short time frame.

Some protest actions could accelerate the process. Without very much difficulty, they could be limited to goods and property. There’s a limited number of sailors aboard any given container ship; in case of an attack, it would be easy to warn the captain and to evacuate them, avoiding any conflict.

Your messianic militarism will completely disappear; the world will only breathe a sigh of relief.

Silicon Valley and, to a lesser degree, Hollywood will have to cope with the appearance of formidable competitors; but Silicon Valley, like Hollywood, will hang on to important sectors of the market.

China will scale back its overweening ambitions. This outcome will be the hardest to achieve, but in the end, China will limit its aspirations, and India will do the same. China has never been a global imperialist power, nor has India—unlike the United States, their military aims are local. Their economic aims, it’s true, are global. They have some economic revenge to take, they’re taking it at the moment, which is indeed a matter of some concern; Donald Trump is quite right to not let himself be pushed around. But in the end, their contentiousness will subside, their growth rate will subside.

All this will take place within one human lifetime.

You have to get used to the idea, worthy American people: in the final analysis, maybe Donald Trump will have been a necessary ordeal for you. And you’ll always be welcome as tourists.

Trump presidency ‘good news’ for the world, says controversial French author Houellebecq

December 14, 2018

Controversial French author Michel Houellebecq has again raised eyebrows with a quasi defense of the US president. Under Donald Trump, “America is no longer the world’s leading power,” he said, adding: This is “good news for the rest of the world”.

Tension-stirring French writer Michel Houellebecq on Thursday published a defense of US President Donald Trump, calling him “one of the best American presidents I’ve ever seen.”

In the essay printed in Harper’s Magazine, a New York-based monthly, Houellebecq praises Trump for his protectionist trade policies, his disdain for the European Union and his willingness to negotiate with iron-handed leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Image result for Donald Trump, Pictures,

“It seems that President Trump has even managed to tame the North Korean madman; I found this feat positively classy,” Houellebecq wrote in the article translated from French.

While he kicked off by labeling Trump an “appalling clown,” the French provocateur also argued enthusiastically that the US president has ushered in the end of American imperialism: “The United States of America is no longer the world’s leading power.”

“This isn’t necessarily bad news for Americans,” he wrote. “It’s very good news for the rest of the world.”

“The Americans are getting off our backs. The Americans are letting us exist.”

The author — whose nihilistic works replete with swingers’ clubs, anonymous sex and misogynistic men have earned him global acclaim — also cheered the Republican leader’s threats to cut NATO funding.

“France should leave NATO, but maybe such a step will become pointless if lack of operational funding causes NATO to disappear on its own,” he said. “That would be one less thing to worry about, and a new reason to sing the praises of President Trump.”

The treatise drew mostly eye rolls on social media: “Michel Houellebecq liking Donald Trump is the least controversial position Michel Houellebecq has ever taken,” tweeted New Yorker writer Alexandra Schwartz.

“You would have to know literally nothing about him to be scandalized by this.”

Houellebecq’s last novel triggered furor. In “Submission” he imagined the election of a moderate Islamist as president of France in 2022 — a controversial tome published the same day jihadists attacked the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris in January 2015, killing 12 people including one of the writer’s closest friends.

He has since said he would “stop writing political books.” His next novel titled “Serotonin,” slated for publication next month, is about love.

Despite commending Trump for his first two years in office, Houellebecq admitted he also empathized “with the shame many Americans (and not only ‘New York intellectuals’) feel.”

“On the personal level, he is, of course, pretty repulsive.”

But he concluded that “you have to get used to the idea, worthy American people: in the final analysis, maybe Donald Trump will have been a necessary ordeal for you.”

“And you’ll always be welcome as tourists.”



Trump assails Mueller probe in tweetstorm, insisting ‘no collusion’ with Russia

December 8, 2018

President Trump launched a tweetstorm Saturday morning to opine on some of his favorite topics — NATO funding and Robert Mueller’s probe into his campaign — and sound off on protests that have put France on edge.

“The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris,” he tweeted at 7:34 am. “Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment.”

Protesters in France were taking to the streets for a fourth Saturday in a row after demonstrations there broke out in violence last week. The previous protests prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to nix a planned fuel-tax hike. But participants continue to accuse Macron of looking out only for the rich.

Trump claimed they were clamoring for him, tweeting, “Chanting ‘We Want Trump!’ Love France.”

Europe remained on his mind in a message posted 20 minutes later.

“The idea of a European Military didn’t work out too well in W.W. I or 2,” he wrote, a reference to Macron’s idea of creating a pan-European army. “But the U.S. was there for you, and always will be. All we ask is that you pay your fair share of NATO … Fairness!”

He then proclaimed his innocence in the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!” he wrote.

The post came a day after Mueller produced charging documents against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen saying that both men had lied to prosecutors about contacts with Russians.

Trump heads to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon for the annual Army-Navy football game.


Russia and Ukraine – Why is the Kremlin picking a new fight?

December 8, 2018

Russia cannot seem to shake its obsession with Ukraine. Starting in 2014, Moscow’s seizure of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine have led the West to sanction Russians and expand aid to Ukraine, and NATO to shift land and air forces eastward.

Expanded Russian coercion, including the seizure of two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug in the Kerch Strait, and detention of their 24 sailors, may draw more NATO naval power closer to Russia’s shores and lead to tougher sanctions.

Image result for Kirch Strat, Sea of Azov, Ukraine, Russia, Crimea, map

By Brad Martin and William Courtney

Why is the Kremlin picking a new fight?

Perhaps Moscow thinks naval coercion will give it leverage to negotiate an end to Ukraine’s economic blockade of Crimea and a resumption of Ukrainian water supplies to it. But the Kremlin has not given public priority to such talks.

Perhaps the Kremlin is seeking to bolster President Vladimir Putin’s political fortunes after a pension reform that sparked public protests. A poll published in October found that 58 percent of Russians trusted him, down from 75 percent last year.

Perhaps Moscow is trying to weaken Ukraine and show it to be a failing state. But Ukraine is recovering. In October the International Monetary Fund predicted that this year economic growth in Ukraine would be double that of Russia (3.5 vs. 1.7 percent).

Or perhaps the Kremlin thinks naval pressure will help Russia take effective control of a wide swath of eastern and southern Ukraine. In spring 2014 Putin implied this goal by saying the region – seized by Catherine the Great – was not part of Ukraine.

Russia does seem to want military control of the Sea of Azov, despite a 2003 Russian-Ukrainian accord that ships of both states have a right of “free navigation” there. Ukrainian ports on the Sea are a lifeline for export of bulk commodities, such as coal, metals, grain and fertilizer.

The persistence and scale of Russian coercion will affect Western countermeasures. Likely ones fall into three categories: sanctions, commercial and maritime.

Since 2014 the West has made liberal use of sanctions. They require little government funding but can have big impact. A recent study by Bloomberg Economics found that sanctions may have reduced Russia’s GDP by up to 6 percent over the past four years.

Soon the U.S. is expected to announce new sanctions in response to Russia’s violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. A U.S. law requires sanctions over the use of a banned nerve agent in the attack last March on former Russian spy Sergey Skripal. The Kerch Strait crisis or other Russian coercion could give impetus to two sanctions bills pending in Congress.

Several Western commercial options could be considered. The West could help Ukraine build more rail and road links between eastern Ukraine and Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port. But added land transport could make export of bulk commodities less competitive on global markets. Western ports could become less receptive to Russian-flagged vessels.

U.S. and other Western military training and equipping efforts have enhanced Ukrainian land forces. In light of Russia’s naval challenge, the West could offer training to Ukrainian sailors and over time provide Ukraine with patrol ships capable of delivering anti-ship cruise missiles and greater maritime surveillance capacity. Even so, over any reasonable time horizon, Ukraine will not be able to compete on the scale of Russia’s large Black Sea Fleet supported by its major base at Sevastopol.

The U.S. Navy has increased its presence in the Black Sea over the past two years as Russia has deployed more warships there, particularly submarines. This year NATO warships have spent 120 days in the Black Sea versus 80 in 2017.

Within the constraints of the 1936 Montreux Convention, which bans permanent naval stationing in the Black Sea by non-littoral states and imposes other limits, the U.S. and other allies could further expand rotations of warships in the Black SeaDestroyers and other ships having strong defense and anti-ship missile capabilities could be a good option. More patrols may help to deter further Russian naval adventurism.

European navies have long experience with coastal patrol vessels well-suited for operations in confined waterways. Recently retired but still capable German Gepard-class patrol vessels are an example. Other European navies operate patrol craft and could provide training and assistance. Better maritime defense capabilities would also help Ukraine deter future Russian coercion in the shared littoral area.

The Kremlin may not want Ukraine to bolster its coastal defenses or NATO ships to steam more often in the Black Sea, but its actions could lead in this direction.

Brad Martin is a senior policy researcher at RAND and Captain, USN (retired).

William Courtney is an adjunct senior fellow at the nonpartisan, nonprofit RAND Corporation and was U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, Georgia, and a U.S.-Soviet commission to implement the Threshold Test Ban Treaty.

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. Envoy Says Russia Shows No Indication It Wants to Save INF

December 7, 2018

Russia has not indicated a desire to save a Cold War-era arms control agreement amid a looming U.S. deadline to pull out of the pact unless Moscow returns to compliance, according to the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

In a press call with reporters Thursday, Jon Huntsman said the United States and its NATO partners have “gone to great lengths to preserve” the treaty, “however no one believes, nor is there any reason to believe” that Russia will destroy the missiles the alliance says violate the pact.

Image result for Jon Huntsman, with putin, photos

Jon Huntsman and Vladimir Putin / Getty Images

“When you have two signatories to a 30-year old agreement … and you find that today—indeed, over the better part of the last five years, only one of two is abiding by the obligations, it becomes foolhardy to carry on,” Huntsman said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Moscow on Tuesday that the United States would no longer adhere to the accord’s provisions if Russia failed to come back into compliance within 60 days.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, signed by the United States and Russia in 1987, bars the Cold War adversaries from possessing ground-based ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,000 kilometers, or roughly 310 to 3,400 miles. The United States has alleged Russian violations of the agreement since 2014.

At issue is Russia’s development of an intermediate-range ground-launch cruise missile called the 9M729 (or SSC-8) that the United States has said exceeds the range allowed by the INF. Russia has denied the violation.

Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson, who was on the media call with Huntsman, said Russia must get rid of its 9M729 cruise missiles and launchers or alter their range to return to compliance with the INF.

Huntsman rejected the notion that the Trump administration’s threat to withdraw from the pact represented an “ultimatum” or signified a U.S. abandonment of arms control.

“This does not mean we are walking away from arms control,” he said. “We are doing this to preserve the viability and integrity of arms control agreements more broadly. We remain committed to arms control, but we need a reliable partner and we do not have one in Russia on INF, or for that matter on other treaties it is violating.”


Putin Must Be Punished — By Petro Poroshenko

December 6, 2018

Russia can’t be allowed to get away with its brazen aggression against Ukraine. The West needs to act.

By Petro Poroshenko

Mr. Poroshenko is the president of Ukraine.

In 2014, for the first time in seven decades, a state sought to redraw Europe’s map by way of military aggression. Russia’s theft of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula commanded condemnation and economic sanctions from around the world. But as the news coverage moved on, Moscow was left to design a new assault: a 12-mile bridge between Russia’s mainland and Crimea.

The Ukrainian people will not watch as Russia continues its creeping annexation of our country. Four years ago, in the aftermath of our revolution, Ukraine alone was not able to withstand a Russian military adventure. But today our resolve is strong, and we are prepared to stand up to Russia. This is why I have enacted limited martial law in Ukrainian territory near the Russian border, so that we are able to mobilize and protect our security should Russia dare to intensify its aggression. But we also need the support of the international community in the form of further sanctions against Moscow for its latest assault.

Russia’s attack in the Kerch Strait and the Black Sea on Nov. 25 was not an isolated incident. Since 2014, Russia has regularly violated international rules of navigation and treaties in both those waters and the Sea of Azov. It has stolen our energy supplies and fisheries, harmed Ukrainian livelihoods, and blocked traffic and trade to our ports.

Ukrainian ships in Kerch Strait (picture-alliance/dpa/Tass/S. Malgavko)

This summer, Russia raised the tensions, regularly halting commercial ships destined for Ukrainian ports. Extensive delays can cost each ship as much as $10,000 to $12,000 per day on each leg. Russia is engaging in economic warfare, trying to slowly suffocate our export markets. Jobs have been lost, livelihoods destroyed, food is being wasted, and goods intended for Europe and the Middle East delayed. The words of Western condemnation this fall have only worsened Russia’s behavior.

Russia brought the situation to a head on Nov. 25 as Ukrainian naval boats sought to make their way — legally and peacefully — from the Ukrainian port of Odessa to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Let me make clear that despite Russia’s typical efforts to distort the truth, Ukraine’s ships never aggressed Russia’s Navy, never opened fire despite being goaded, were attacked with gunfire and missiles, and were seized while sailing home in international waters.

This was a direct, unprovoked military attack by Russia’s armed forces on Ukraine’s. Moscow did not hide behind “little green men” as it did in Crimea in 2014 or its servicemen on “vacation” as it claimed when hostilities started in Eastern Ukraine the same year. Moscow does not even try to deceive the world this time.

The crisis continues, with our servicemen and boats being held in Russian custody, hundreds of ships being blocked in the Sea of Azov, denied permission by Russians to pass through the Kerch Strait. These are not just Ukrainian ships; they carry the flags of other countries and they have effectively been commandeered by Russia.

These recent events have a direct bearing on the security of all of NATO. Russia now has a challenging number of naval ships in the Black Sea, meaning it can threaten NATO members Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. And that may just be the beginning. Russia also has a significant presence in the Baltic Sea. Recently, Russia’s fighters were intercepted, not for the first time, over the Baltic region and had not filed a flight plan. Who can guarantee that this was not a rehearsal of patrols over the notorious Nord Stream II gas pipeline being built by Russia through the Baltic Sea to challenge Europe?

Russia’s objective is obvious: It wants to return to an era where property and land are seized by force. It starts with Ukraine and continues westward as far as the democratic world will allow. Democratic countries must now make a choice: Stand up for what is right or continue appeasing President Vladimir Putin. If history has taught us anything, it is that appeasement has deadly costs. Despite Kremlin propaganda, Mr. Putin is weaker than he would have the West believe. The West can — by raising the cost of his aggression — force him to fall back into line.

How much more hostility will it take before the West’s words of concern graduate into the hard currency in which the Kremlin trades — strength? Russia has deployed chemical weapons in Britain; undertaken cyberattacks and hacking attempts across the West; bombed civilians in Syria; fomented a war in Eastern Ukraine that has caused more than 10,000 Ukrainian deaths; and spread disinformation to confuse, anger and frighten citizens around the world. Is now not the time to act?

President Trump showed true leadership by canceling his meeting with Mr. Putin at the G-20 in Argentina over Russia’s seizing of Ukrainian ships and sailors. We have enjoyed tangible support from the White House and Congress, including defensive weapons, stronger sanctions and more secure American energy supplies. Together, partners on both sides of the Atlantic can continue to raise the cost to Russia for threatening our collective security.

With Crimea and Donbas under occupation, our common task is not to allow Russia to spill its aggression into the Sea of Azov. And an “Azov package of sanctions” against Russia would be the least the world should respond with this time. While the West is speaking, Mr. Putin is acting. It is time to respond.

Petro Poroshenko is the president of Ukraine.


Russia threatens ‘Fort Trump’ in Poland: ‘These are the rules of war’

December 6, 2018

A Russian senator warned this week that a proposed U.S. military base in Poland nicknamed “Fort Trump” would quickly become one of Russia’s military targets if the plan moves ahead.

Poland has invited the U.S. to set up a military base near Russia’s border. A few months ago, Polish President Andrzej Duda proposed it could be called “Fort Trump.”

But this week, Frants Klintsevich, a member of Russia’s upper house in its parliament, said the base would immediately be targeted by Russia.

Image result for Andrzej Duda, photos
Polish President Andrzej Duda and U.S. President Donald Trump sign a strategic partnership pact to boost defense, energy, trade and security ties at the White House on September 18, 2018. (The White House/The White House)

“If a facility is really created on Polish territory, it will immediately become a target for a strike,” the senator said, according to Tass, Russia’s state-owned news service. “These are the rules of the war.”

Klintsevich said the establishment of a “Fort Trump” would be an “irresponsible step” that would only boost tensions in the region. He also said Poland’s proposal is “dangerous” and “economically unjustified,” Tass said.

Trump said in September he’s considering Duda’s plan for an increased U.S. military presence in Poland.