Posts Tagged ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin’

Ukraine raids Kiev offices of Russian state media — “No more hybrid war against Ukraine.”

May 15, 2018

Ukraine’s state security service searched the Kiev offices of Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency and TV channel RT on Tuesday, after detaining one journalist near his home, officials said.

“Investigative actions are continuing, there are searches in RIA Novosti and other media structures,” Olena Gitlyanska, a spokeswoman for the SBU security services told AFP.

On her Facebook page, Gitlyanska said Russian-controlled media were being “used as tools in a hybrid war against Ukraine.”

© AFP/File | Ukraine’s state security service searched the Kiev offices of Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency and TV channel RT, after detaining one journalist near his home, officials said

Earlier the day, RIA Novosti reporter Kyrylo Vyshynsky was detained by Ukrainian law enforcement officers near his house.

The raids and detention came just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was to open a bridge that will provide the first direct road connection to the Crimean Peninsula which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“Kiev decided to take revenge on us for the Crimean bridge,” Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, said on her Twitter feed.

The Kremlin called the raid “scandalous”.

“If it is the case that the actions of Ukrainian law enforcement bodies are somehow connected with the professional work of these media organisations, that would be outrageous and scandalous,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

According to the SBU, RIA Novosti and RT share the same offices in the centre of Kiev.

Up to 15 journalists work for RIA Novosti in Ukraine, some of whom transmit information to its headquarters in Moscow while others, led by Vyshynsky, are in charge of the website for the Ukrainian audience.

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter feud since the 2014 Crimea takeover.

Moscow has been accused of fuelling a rebel conflict in eastern Ukraine that broke out after the annexation of Crimea that has cost the lives of some 10,000 people.


The memo said ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE PUTIN’ — Trump did it anyway

March 21, 2018

Washington: US President Donald Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection, including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating “DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” according to officials familiar with the call.

US President Donald Trump said he called Russia President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his election victory.

Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and US governments have blamed on Moscow.

The President’s conversation with Putin, which Trump called a “very good call,” prompted fresh criticism of his muted tone toward one of the United States’s biggest geopolitical rivals amid the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials.

Image result for Donald Trump with Putin, G20, photos
Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Germany last year.Photo: AP

See also:

Trump Congratulates Putin on Re-Election, but Fails to Mention Meddling in U.S.


Putin Has a Chemical Weapons Problem

March 15, 2018
The use of a nerve agent against an ex-spy in the U.K. will haunt the Kremlin worse than previous transgressions.
A time for action.

 Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has shrugged off criticism over his annexation of Crimea, sanctions over his meddling in Ukraine, and attacks over Russian interference in the U.S. elections. It will be much harder to shrug off international outrage over the use of a chemical agent in a NATO ally.

No matter what they say officially, neither U.S. nor European officials are particularly bothered about Ukraine, a poor, corrupt country on the Soviet periphery that the West isn’t bound by any treaties to defend. So sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine and fomenting unrest there have been weak. It also has been hard for the U.S. to get European cooperation for any retaliatory measures tied to the election meddling issue. The use of chemical weapons is a different story. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans them, has 192 signatory states, one fewer than the United Nations Charter; it’s one of the most universally approved international documents in history. Breaking it can entail far more serious sanctions than those Russia has faced for its earlier attempts to assert itself globally.

After former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned, apparently with a Russian-developed nerve agent known as Novichok, in Salisbury earlier this month, Moscow has failed to engage meaningfully with the U.K. to clarify the incident. Of course, the U.K. government baited the Kremlin, demanding an answer within 24 hours; Prime Minister Theresa May and her ministers must have known they’d only get an angry rebuke this way. But it’s also clear that Russia doesn’t have a good response.

In a speech to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzya laid out what he had. There was the usual verbiage about the presumption of innocence and a weird Sherlock Holmes reference that, judging by the British representative’s puzzled face, didn’t really work. But Nebenzya’s arguments also included the following substantive points:

  • “The Russian Federation has not conducted any scientific studies or research and development under the code name Novichok”;
  • The U.K. hasn’t made a formal request for information under Article 9 of the Chemical Weapons Convention, nor has it provided “material proof” of Russian involvement, such as samples of the substance used against Skripal;
  • Russia has “nothing to fear or hide” from an independent investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
  • In 1992, Russia stopped all Soviet chemical weapons programs, and by 2017, the remaining stocks were fully destroyed.
  • Since the early 1990s, some Russian scientists involved in the chemical weapons program moved to the West and continued their work in the U.S. and the U.K. Their output is, “for some reason,” classified in the West as “Novichok.”
  • There’s no way to identify a toxic substance unless one has its formula. If the U.K. has identified the nerve agent used against Skripal, it must have its formula and be capable of manufacturing it.
  • The attempted murder of Skripal would have been of no benefit to the Russian government ahead of the March 18 presidential election and the upcoming soccer World Cup.

That’s a weak defense for several reasons. One is that Nebenzya’s Novichock statement is carefully formulated to deny what the U.K. isn’t claiming.

In 1992, Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who had worked on the Soviet chemical weapons program since the 1960s, disclosed that Novichok agents, also known as A-230 and a A-232, were produced under a program called Foliant. During Mirzayanov’s 1992-1994 Russian trial, the research institute where he had worked reported that work on the substances, described by the whistleblower as nerve agents more powerful than the U.S.-developed VX, had been sanctioned by several 1980s resolutions of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee. So was the development of binary weapons which produced the poisonous compounds through a reaction between seemingly innocuous substances.

It was the Soviet Union, not the Russian Federation, that conducted the research and development, and the program was known as Foliant, not Novichok (that name was used just for the compounds themselves). But that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Russia’s maintaining both stocks and production of the chemicals.

Nebenzya’s demands that the incident be handled under the CWC and by the OPCW are another reason his argument doesn’t hold water. Russia, of course, has positive experience with the OPCW in Syria, where the U.S. says President Bashar al-Assad’s troops are using chemical weapons and Russia insists they aren’t. The OPCW has thoroughly investigated a number of incidents but has been reluctant to apportion blame. But in the Skripal case, both the U.K. and Russia are in a position to know the OPCW is likely to draw a blank. As Mirzayanov wrote in his book, “State Secrets”:

Despite my revelations and the ratification of the CWC by Russia, the Novichok program was not put under international control, and agents A-230, A-232 and their precursors and the binary components are not on the list of controlled compounds of CWC. This is very troubling because there are no guarantees that Russia isn’t continuing such secret programs. There are extremely compelling reasons for amending the CWC to include these chemicals, but nothing has been done about it.

On Wednesday, Vladimir Uyba, head of Russia’s Federal Medico-Biological Agency, confirmed this, saying Novichok was not covered by the CWC. No Russian government official has said clearly that Russia doesn’t have stocks of Novichok or that it doesn’t produce it.

Of course, if keeping or producing these agents is not banned by the convention, Russia formally has, as Nebenzya said, “nothing to fear or hide.” But it’s not certain that the international community — not just Western nations but a broader set of UN members — will want to stand on formality and not on the spirit of the convention, whose purpose was to ban all chemical weapons of mass destruction. In a strong statement on Thursday, condemning “the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II,” the leaders of the U.K., Germany, France and the U.S. called on Russia to declare the Novichok program to the OPCW.

That leaves the final part of Nebenzya’s argument — that Western nations likely had the capacity to produce the chemical used on Skripal and that Russia had nothing to gain by using it. I find it hard to support. Hits on people the Russian intelligence services consider traitors — such as Skripal or Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned with polonium in the U.K. in 2006 — are meant to deliver the message that traitors aren’t safe anywhere. Such decisive action could only help Putin in the presidential election: His core electorate supports such shows of strength and wile. But the election isn’t free or fair, anyway, so there’s no reason to bring it into the conversation. As for the World Cup, it’s too late to do anything about it, and the U.K. has made no move to withdraw its team.

The U.K. is certainly not interested in using a nerve agent on its own soil just to spite Russia; even if once cynically considers it a distraction from May’s Brexit problems, it can’t last long enough to be of any real benefit to the prime minister.

The Skripal case will not go away easily, and it’ll probably haunt the Kremlin worse than any of its previous transgressions. The West won’t, of course, wage an Iraq-style war on it, but harsher sanctions, including some from Europe, are suddenly a revived possibility.

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

To contact the author of this story:
Leonid Bershidsky at

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Russia says Syria rebels plan to ‘stage’ chemical attack

March 14, 2018


© AFP | Russia claims Syrian rebels are planning a chemical attack to give the US-led coalition a pretext to strike Damascus

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday claimed that Syrian rebels were planning to stage a chemical attack to give the US-led coalition a pretext to strike Damascus.Lavrov’s claims came after he and the Russian military warned Tuesday that any such strike by the US coalition would lead to Russiam retaliatory steps in Syria and “very serious” consequences.

They spoke after US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that the United States was ready to act in Syria “if we must” to address the use of chemical weapons and “inhuman suffering”.

“New provocations with the use of chemical weapons are being prepared — performances will be organised in Eastern Ghouta, among others,” Lavrov told reporters on Wednesday.

“Under this pretext there are plans to use force by the US coalition including against the Syrian capital,” he said, adding that he hoped “such irresponsible plans will not be realised”.

Lavrov’s remarks follow a statement by the chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov who on Tuesday raised the spectre of a direct clash between Russian and US troops in Syria.

Image result for chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, photos

Valery Gerasimov

Gerasimov claimed that Moscow had “reliable information that fighters are preparing to stage the use by government troops of chemical weapons against the civilian population”.

He alleged that the US plans to accuse Assad’s troops of using chemical weapons against civilians and then “carry out a bombing attack” on Damascus.

He warned Russia would “take retaliatory measures” if the US targeted areas where its military are staying in the Syrian capital.

“Russian military advisers, representatives of the Centre for Reconciliation and members of military police” are currently in the Syrian capital, Gerasimov said.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons and Russia, its ally in the war, has questioned UN findings that Damascus carried out sarin and chlorine attacks.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have consistently claimed that chemical and other attacks were in fact staged, and that an army of actors including children has been trained to fake injury on a massive scale.

Gerasimov’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin told the American network NBC in an interview released last week that “we know about fighters’ plans to stage the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army”.

Putin insisted that the Syrian government has “long ago” destroyed its stockpiles of chemical weapons and dismissed accusations against Assad and Russia.

NATO joins Angela Merkel and Donald Trump to voice concern about Putin’s ‘invincible’ weapons

March 5, 2018

A speech by President Vladimir Putin detailing new nuclear weapons in Russia’s arsenal has raised fears of a new arms race. NATO has joined Merkel and Trump in voicing concern about the impact of Putin’s words.

Trump, Merkel, Putin

NATO has joined Germany and the US in condemning recent claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country has developed a new, “invincible” nuclear weapon.

On Friday, NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said: “Russian statements threatening to target allies are unacceptable and counterproductive.” She also reiterated the fact that the alliance would remain vigilant in using its military forces to deter foreign aggression directed at alliance members.

The statement from NATO echoed comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump, both of whom voiced concern about a speech delivered by Russian leader Vladimir Putin on March 1, in which he spoke of his country’s buildup of nuclear weapons, a German government spokesman said on Friday.

“The chancellor and the president are […] concerned about Russian President Putin’s latest remarks about arms developments and their negative impact on international arms control efforts,” Steffen Seibert said in a statement summing up a Thursday phone call between the two leaders.

‘No intention to attack others’

In a state of the nation address on Thursday, Putin said Russia had tested new nuclear weapons, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile that he described as “invincible.”

The Russian president also warned that his country’s military buildup would be able to cancel out NATO’s amassment of military force on Russia’s borders, though he stressed that Russia did not intend to attack any other country.

Putin’s speech featured an animation that showed missiles striking parts of the United States, a presentation that the US State Department described as “irresponsible.”

The Kremlin has rejected US claims that it is in breach of arms control treaties with its new weapons and denied that Putin’s speech marked the start of a new arms race.

Screenshot of animation showing missiles headed for US (bbc)The animation showed missiles striking the US eastern seaboard

Call for Syria ceasefire implementation

Merkel and Trump also agreed that the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies should “promptly and fully implement” a recent US Security Council resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, Seibert said.

The two leaders called on Moscow to stop participating in the assault on eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb near the capital, Damascus, in which more than 550 people have been killed.

They also demanded that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad should be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons, attacks on civilians and the humanitarian blockade.

tj/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

Putin boasts of new Russian nuclear weapons — Maybe Russia has mastered magic

March 1, 2018


Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address in Moscow on Thursday, March 1. Putin said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has an unlimited range and high speed and is capable of penetrating any missile defense. (AP)
MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin says Russia has tested new nuclear weapons, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile and a nuclear-powered underwater drone, that would be immune to enemy intercept.
Speaking in a state-of-the-nation speech Thursday, Putin said that the nuclear-powered cruise missile tested last fall has an unlimited range and high speed and is capable of penetrating any missile defense.
He said the high-speed underwater drone capable of carrying a nuclear warhead could target both aircraft carriers and coastal facilities.
Putin said that Russia also tested a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, called Sarmat, with a range and number of warheads exceeding its predecessor.
Putin boasts Russia has developed an intercontinental nuclear missile that can’t be stopped or shot down by any country’s defence system

VLADIMIR Putin says Russia is developing an “unstoppable” nuclear cruise missile which cannot be intercepted by any anti-missile system on earth.

The newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket with “unlimited range” was one of several unveiled by the Russian leader in his state of the nation address in Moscow.

 Footage showed during Putin's speech appeared to show one of the new missiles heading towards the US

Footage showed during Putin’s speech appeared to show one of the new missiles heading towards the US

They include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and new hypersonic missile which apparently have no equivalent.

Footage shown during his speech apparently showed the new “unstoppable” missile heading toward the United States as he promises to “neutralise” America’s missile defence.

“Russia remained a nuclear power but no one wanted to listen to us,” Putin, 65, told lawmakers. “Listen to us now.”

He said the hypersonic intercontinental rocket, known as the Avangard, is capable of travelling 20 times the speed of sound and strike “like a meteorite, like a fireball”.

Here are Putin’s most explosive claims from today’s speech

  • Vladimir Putin has raised fears of a nuclear arms race in the 21st century
  • He unveiled new, hypersonic nuclear weapons which have no equal
  • The most frightening weapon he alluded to was a nuclear-powered cruise missile
  • Putin said it can travel 20 times the speed of sound and strike “like a meteorite”
  • He said the Avangard also has “unlimited range” and “cannot be intercepted”
  • Putin also announced a nuclear-powered underwater drone and cruise missile
  • The Russian leader emphasised the weapons have no equivalent in the West
  • Putin vowed to wage nuclear war on the United States if Trump attacked first
  • “We aren’t threatening anyone… we aren’t going to take anything from anyone,” he said

 The new missiles have an 'unlimited range', Putin said in his state of the nation address in Moscow

The new missiles have an ‘unlimited range’, Putin said in his state of the nation address in Moscow

“It’s like a fireball guided to its target,” said Putin, who also announced Russia was working on laser weapons systems.

The Russian leader, who has been in power since May 2012, said the missile’s appearance is being kept under wraps.

Putin also announced a web contest to name a new, high-speed underwater dronewhich carries nuclear warheads and can destroy aircraft carriers and coastal facilities.

The Russian military has dubbed the shadowy vessels autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), allegedly capable of deploying missiles with a power of 100-megatons.

These are the best countries on Earth to live in if you want to survive World War Three

 Putin claimed the rocket was capable of neutralising American missile defence. This is the computer generated image shown at his speech

Putin claimed the rocket was capable of neutralising American missile defence. This is the computer generated image shown at his speech

Putin said the new weapons make NATO’s US-led missile defence “useless”, effectively ending Western efforts to “contain” Russia.

He said: “I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions.

“All you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened… You have failed to contain Russia.”

Putin sensationally vowed to wage nuclear war on the United States if they attacked Russia, branding Donald Trump’s new nuclear doctrine “worrying”.

 Putin said the rocket was capable of travelling 20 times the speed of sound

Putin said the rocket was capable of travelling 20 times the speed of sound

 A video played at the state of the nation address appeared to show it heading towards the US

A video played at the state of the nation address appeared to show it heading towards the US

The Kremlin strongman said that if Russia was attacked with nukes then he would not hesitate to launch his nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, RT reported.

The country successfully launched its massive Satan Two nuclear missile, a 100-tonne rocket capable of wiping out the UK, in October.

The colossal weapon which can carry 12 warheads at once travelled 3,600 miles towards a ballistic missile test landing site in far-east Russia.

The missile, also known as RS-28 Sarmat, has a range of 6,000 miles and was fired on Thursday night from Plestek Cosmodrome in Oblast, 880km north of Moscow.

 He said Russia also tested a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, called Sarmat

He said Russia also tested a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, called Sarmat

 Putin also announced a web contest to name a new underwater drone which can destroy aircraft carriers

Putin also announced a web contest to name a new underwater drone which can destroy aircraft carriers

Russias RS-28 Sarmat ICBM Satan 2 missile could wipe out Texas or France’

 The Satan 2, pictured, could wipe out an area the size of France or Texas, according to Russian news agency Sputnik

The Satan 2, pictured, could wipe out an area the size of France or Texas, according to Russian news agency Sputnik

The Russian news outlet Sputnik reported in May that an RS-28 rocket is “capable of wiping out parts of the Earth the size of France or Texas”.

On that basis it has been reported that the weapon could “wipe out an area the size of England and Wales twice over”.

It is unconfirmed where exactly the Satan 2s will be kept but they could easily reach the UK if fired from the east coast of Russia.

The Russian ministry said they had “carried out an exercise to manage its strategic nuclear forces.”

 A single Satan 2 missile, pictured, could allegedly decimate most of New York state in the US

A single Satan 2 missile, pictured, could allegedly decimate most of New York state in the US

Putin today claimed Moscow’s operation in Syria showed Russia’s increased capabilities in the defence sector.

Putin told lawmakers the nation had restored its domestic air defence systems.

The strongman also vowed to cut the “unacceptable” poverty rate in half over the next six years, in a state of the nation address on Thursday.

“[We should] at least halve the poverty rate in the next six years,” Putin said, adding that 20 million Russians currently live below the poverty line compared to 42 million in 2000.

The Russian leader used the address to outline policy for a widely anticipated new six-year term in the Kremlin following March 18 presidential elections.

Putin, who has led the country for the last 18 years, focused on domestic issues in the speech, saying that the coming years will be “decisive” for Russia.

Russia may end cooperation with European Court of Human Rights: RIA

March 1, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a state awards ceremony dedicated to the Defender of the Fatherland Day at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia February 23, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERSREUTERS

MOSCOW (REUTERS) – Russia is considering withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights and ending cooperation with the European Court of Human Rights, the RIA news agency reported on Thursday, citing unnamed government sources.

The reason for considering withdrawing from the court was because of the fact that many of its decisions ran counter to Russia’s interests, the sources were cited as saying.

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Syria: Russian-backed ceasefire takes effect in Eastern Ghouta

February 27, 2018

Civilians may now exit one of Syria’s last rebel strongholds under a temporary ceasefire ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The UN has urged warring parties to allow aid into devastated areas.

A child and a man are seen in hospital in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Damascus

Eastern Ghouta near Damascus was relatively calm on Tuesday morning after a Russian-backed ceasefire entered force at 9 a.m. local time (0700 UTC).

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered on Monday a daily “humanitarian pause” to airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta to allow civilians to exit the rebel-held enclave, according to Russian news agencies.

The ceasefire comes amid calls from the international community to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities as the humanitarian situation worsens on the ground.

Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria’s eastern Ghouta?

What the ceasefire entails:

  • The five-hour cessation of hostilities will end at to 2 p.m. local time (1200 UTC), according to the order.
  • The ceasefire is aimed at establishing a “humanitarian corridor” to allow civilians to exit from eastern Ghouta, considered one of Syria’s last rebel strongholds.
  • In agreement with the Syrian regime, the Russian Defense Ministry said it will help evacuate the sick and injured

Read moreWhat foreign powers want from the Syrian war

Massive casualties: Over the past week, more than 500 civilians have been killed by the Syrian government’s latest offensive in eastern Ghouta. Russian warplanes formed an integral part of the offensive, according to independent monitors, rights groups and US authorities.

Why now: As the conflict winds down, Damascus is attempting to consolidate territory across the country with the help of Russia to secure its interests during peace talks.

Given that eastern Ghouta is one of the last remaining rebel strongholds, the Syrian regime is seeking to strike a fatal blow to the opposition movement before peace talks gain ground.

Calls for ceasefire: With a growing civilian death toll, the international community has urged all warring parties to enact a nationwide ceasefire. On Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a 30-day humanitarian ceasefire.

Better than nothing: Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres, responded to the announcement, saying: “Five hours is better than no hours but we would like to see any cessation of hostilities be extended.”

Russia “can end” the violence: US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged Russia to use its “influence” to end the fighting. “The United States calls for an immediate end to offensive operations and urgent access for humanitarian workers to treat the wounded and deliver badly needed humanitarian aid,” Nauert tweeted late Monday. “Russia has the influence to stop these operations if it chooses to live up to its obligations under the #UNSC ceasefire.”

Seven-year war: More than 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2011 following a government crackdown on protesters calling for the release of political prisoners and for President Bashar Assad to step down. Since then, the conflict has evolved into a multifaceted war, drawing in global superpowers, neighboring countries and non-state actors.

Read more: The search for dead Russian mercenaries in Syria

amp, ls, jcg/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

Putin, Macron and Merkel discuss Syria by phone: Kremlin — Syria continues to “Rain Down Hell” on Eastern Ghouta despite UN decision

February 25, 2018

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Syrian crisis with his French and German counterparts, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, on Sunday, the Kremlin said.

 Image result for merkel, macron, putin, photos

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron meet during the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tobias SCHWARZ, Pool

The leaders, who spoke by phone, highlighted the importance of common efforts to implement a ceasefire called by the United Nations, the Kremlin said.

Top U.S. officials tell the world to ignore Trump’s tweets — Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to world affairs

February 19, 2018

By  Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte
The Washington Post


Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to world affairs, U.S. officials had a message for a gathering of Europe’s foreign policy elite this weekend: Pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain.

U.S. lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump’s Twitter stream: The United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn’t contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

But Trump himself engaged in a running counterpoint to the message, taking aim on social media at his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, because he “forgot” on Saturday to tell the Munich Security Conference that the results of the 2016 election weren’t affected by Russian interference, a conclusion that is not supported by U.S. intelligence agencies. They say they will probably never be able to determine whether the Russian involvement swung the election toward Trump.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

H.R. McMaster

The determination to ignore Trump’s foreign policy tweets has been bipartisan.

“There is a lot more support for continuing our past policies than it might appear from some of the statements,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told an audience on Sunday that was made up mostly of Europe’s foreign policy elite. “The unanimity comes from those folks who are actually operationalizing policy.”

“The values are the same, the relationships are the same,” said Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). “What you do see is this administration willing to put pressure upon the systems.”

The question of whom they should believe — the president or his advisers — has befuddled European officials. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel confessed Saturday that he didn’t know where to look to understand America.

“Is it deeds? Is it words? Is it tweets?” he asked.

He said he was not sure whether he could recognize the United States.

Away from the glare of television cameras, many European diplomats and policymakers echoed the same concerns. One diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid provoking Trump, asked whether policymakers like McMaster who adhere largely to traditional U.S. foreign policy positions were falling into the same trap as Germany’s elite during Hitler’s rise, when they continued to serve in government in the name of protecting their nation.

The answer, the diplomat said, might be found after a “nuclear war,” which he feared could be provoked by the Trump administration’s hawkish approach to North Korea.

Testing those lines, McMaster offered a starkly different view of the world from that of his boss, saying that the “evidence is now incontrovertible” that Russia intervened in the U.S. political system. Trump has played down Russian involvement, saying that he believes the reassurances of Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Kremlin was not involved in the election.

McMaster even walked back some of his own previous tough language. Asked about a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with White House economic adviser Gary Cohn last year that said they embraced a world that was “an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage,” McMaster said it was actually a call for greater cooperation among Western powers.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats took a similarly reassuring stance hours later.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats

The assertions that nothing fundamental has changed about Washington’s commitments to the world do seem to have eased some concerns among some allies, particularly regarding the U.S. commitment to defend NATO allies against the threat of Russian aggression.

In the Baltic nations, which border Russia, Trump’s election had raised concerns about U.S. commitments to NATO. But that doubt is now “gone,” Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said in an interview, embracing the Pentagon’s stepped-up military commitments to Eastern Europe.

Even hawkish Republicans shrugged on the matter of Trump’s top priorities. While speaking on a panel Friday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was cued up by a questioner to attack the “failure” of Europe to spend 2 percent of its economic output on defense — a frequent Trump talking point. Graham demurred.

“I want you to get to 2 percent so Trump will be quiet,” he said before swiftly moving on.