The United States has requested several Arab nations to achieve non-belligerence agreements with Israel, reported Axios, citing U.S., Israeli and Arab sources.
This is part of an effort by the United States to normalize relations between the Jewish state and the Gulf states, which have made efforts of its own to do the same.
Ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Oman and Bahrain met last week with Victoria Coates, deputy national security adviser for Middle East and North Africa, according to the report. None of these states have formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
A senior Trump administration official declined to comment to Axios on the reported private meetings, but said that said the United States “would certainly welcome expanding relationships between our critical allies and partners in the Middle East.”
KKTC Bakanlar Kurulu, İsrail’in Rumlara 8 İHA verdiği, Fransa ve İtalya’nın savaş gemilerini Kıbrıs’a gönderdiği bir dönemde, 1982 yılında askeri maksatlar için inşa edilen Geçitkale Havaalanı’nın İHA ve SİHA merkezi yapılması kararı aldı. Karar üzerine dün gece 3 TIR, İHA ve SİHA, Gazimağusa gümrüğünden KKTC’ye girdi. Geniş güvenlik önlemleri arasında gümrükten çıkan tırlar, 01.30 sıralarında Geçitkale Havaalanı’na gönderildi.
Doğu Akdeniz’de görev yapan sondaj ve savaş gemilerine eşlik eden İHA ve SİHA’lar yarından itibaren Geçitkale’den havalanacak.
KKTC Başbakan Ersin Tatar, Türkiye’den ‘acil’ koduyla Geçitkale’nin kullanılmasının istendiğini belirterek, ”Bu istek karşısında hem Türkiye’nin hem de KKTC’nin güvenliği için adım atıldı” demişti. Geçitkale Havaalanı’nda, savaş uçaklarının sığacağı büyük beton hangarlar bulunuyor. Bunun yanında, pist de savaş uçaklarının rahatlıkla kalkış ve iniş yapacağı şekilde inşa edildi. Alanla ilgili olarak alt ve üst yapının düzeltilmesi konusunda çalışmalar da yapılacak.
Russia ready to extend New START treaty by year-end: Putin
Thursday, 05 December 2019
Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is ready to “immediately” extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty “without any preconditions” by the end of the year.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty accord, which expires in February 2021, is the last major nuclear arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington that puts a limit on the number of strategic nuclear warheads each of the countries can have.
“All of our proposals to extend the deal are on the table,” Putin was quoted as saying by Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Thursday.
“So far, we have not received any reaction from partners. In this regard, I want to reiterate Russia’s position: Russia is ready to immediately, as soon as possible, right before the end of this year, without any preconditions, to extend the New START treaty,” Putin added.
The US and Russia signed the accord in 2010 and agreed to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missiles by half and restrict the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550.
A senior Pentagon official said on Thursday that Washington had enough time to negotiate the extension of the New START treaty.
“It expires… in February of 2021, so we do have some time until that time and, in accordance with the terms of the treaty, it may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties. No need to renegotiate the portions of the treaty,” said John Rood, the US undersecretary of defense for policy.
Rood told the US Senate Committee on Armed Services that there would not need to be a “lot of negotiations” required if the two sides merely agreed to extend the time period.
“If the US were to agree to extend the treaty now, I think, it would make it less likely that we would have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a broader agreement,” he added.
China is not part of the existing deal, but Rood reiterated that US President Donald Trump was after a deal that would include both Moscow and Beijing.
Russia tests torpedo weapons in White Sea
On Thursday, the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet announced that the country’s multirole nuclear-powered submarine Kazan had test-fired torpedo weapons from its submerged position in the White Sea.
“The crew of the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan made a salvo of two torpedoes from its submerged position against an underwater target. According to a preliminary estimate, the torpedo test-fire passed successfully,” the fleet’s press office said, adding that the test-fire was held as part of the sub’s sea trials.
“The submarine will soon perform several more episodes of its trials in the White Sea, including the tests of its armament,” the press office said.
The Kazan is the first Russian multirole nuclear-powered submarine that was laid out at the Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk in the north of Russia in 2009 and floated out in March 2017.
Iranian defector: ‘Netanyahu has made Israel popular in Iran’
An Iranian national who is seeking asylum in the United States – Shay Khatiri – is also touting the exploits of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
His support is not limited to Israel; it also extends to the U.S. Jewish community, though he says that he is not Jewish.
“An anti-Semite attacked and killed several attendees to Shabbat services at a Pittsburgh synagogue,” wrote Khatiri. “This fundraiser is meant to help the congregation with the physical damages to the building, as well as the survivors and the victims’ families. Respond to this hateful act with your act of love today,” he added.
“My family is in Iran and cannot support me. I’m here [in the U.S.] all on my own, and Iran has kind of blacklisted me, so it’s not the BEST idea to go back, you know? The whole they kill people thing!”
He adds that he “always wanted to visit Israel, because my best friend lives there, and I haven’t seen him in five years, but I’ve never had the money.”
Now, Khatiri has taken to Israeli media to relay a message: “One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s greatest foreign policy legacies remains unseen to most Israelis and the world: He has made Israel popular in Iran!”
Writing in The Jerusalem Post, the Iranian defector states that “it all started with Netanyahu’s video campaign on social media, which coincided with the Islamic Republic’s rapid deterioration of popularity.”
He says, however, that “the most important point that Netanyahu had was that the regime in Iran is the greatest obstacle to the progress of the Iranian people by highlighting how successful Iranians are everywhere else, but not in Iran. This campaign resonated with many Iranians.”
The article, which appeared in The Jerusalem Post on Monday, includes Khatiri’s assertion that “Iranians use Instagram more than any other social medium, and that’s where they get most of their news. Every time there is a story about Israel, a vast majority of comments are in praise of Netanyahu and Israel.”
“They see an ally in Israel. The enemy of their enemy is a friend,” he writes in the Israeli daily.
“During the recent protests, some on social media complained that every time that there has been a protest, the United States has stood idle; it is clear that the United States is not a reliable ally against the regime, but Israel is,” Khatiri asserts.
Corbyn named top anti-Semite of the year by Simon Wiesenthal Center
“No one has done more to mainstream anti-Semitism into the political and social life of a democracy than the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party,” said the human rights organization in a statement on Sunday as cited by the British newspaper.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Daily Mail about the dangers Corbyn poses to the world.
“Britain was at the forefront of defeating Hitler and now, on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the person who wants to sit in Winston Churchill’s chair at No 10 is fostering anti-Semitism,” he added.
“This ranking is ridiculous and grossly offensive. Putting Jeremy Corbyn at the head of a list containing neo-Nazi synagogue shooters is a transparent political attack and has nothing to do with tackling anti-Semitism,” the statement said.
In 2018, Corbyn was named by the Simon Wiesenthal Center as the fourth-worst anti-Semite of the year, up six spots from being named 10th in 2017.
Yesterday, the Sunday Times reported on leaked documents from Britain’s Quality and Human Rights Commission that exposed the vicious cycle of anti-Semitic behavior in the Corbyn-led party.
In one such incident, it took eight months to dismiss a party member who said that the Jews should be drowned in the Dead Sea because “gas is so expensive and we need it in England.”
In another incident a party member said “Jews represent a viral infection that needs to be completely eliminated.”
In a BBC interview with Corbyn in November, the Labour party leader was asked four times if he would like to apologize for anti-Semitism in Labour. He rejected each opportunity.
Britain’s Spies Probe Russian Election Meddling
By Jamie Dettmer December 09, 2019
Britain’s cybersecurity agency is investigating whether state-sponsored Russian hackers were behind the leaks of British government documents used by opposition politicians to embarrass Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party ahead of Thursday’s general election.
The official probe into the origin of the leaked material – which included documents detailing discussions between British and U.S. negotiators on a possible post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal – comes days after the social media site Reddit announced it had blocked 61 accounts linked to the dissemination of the documents after investigating suspect activity bearing similarities to previous Russian online influence operations.
The leaked documents were used by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, as “evidence” that the Conservatives might include the country’s public health service in any future trade deal with the United States – a claim firmly denied by British Prime Minister Johnson.
Corbyn, other Labour leaders, as well as Scottish nationalists, have contended that the Conservatives will “sell off” the National Health Service to American companies in order to secure a trade deal.
A separate set of confidential Brexit government documents were used by Corbyn Friday, which he said proved Johnson has been “misleading the people” about his Brexit plans and the impact they would have on Northern Ireland and the British-ruled province’s relationship with the rest of Britain.
Last week, a report by Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, a social network analysis company, said the leaked documents were “amplified” in a way that “closely resembles the known Russian information operation, Secondary Infektion.” The trade deal documents were posted on Reddit in October, but they attracted little notice until the post was shared in apparently coordinated emails to Labour activists.
Secondary Infektion, which was first exposed by Facebook, is a suspected Russian influence operation that’s been targeting Europe and the United States. It uses fake social media accounts, forged and legitimate documents, and dozens of online platforms to spread and amplify stories attacking Western interests or seeking to undermine unity, according to analysts at the Atlantic Council, a U.S. policy group.
They say Secondary Infektion’s size and complexity suggest it is a “well-resourced actor, possibly an intelligence operation.” In a report in June, the Atlantic Council said Secondary Infektion demonstrated it was behind a string of fake stories, including one suggesting pro-EU activists a were planning to assassinate Johnson.
In a statement last week, Reddit said its investigation had found a “pattern of coordination” between the now-banned accounts on its site and the Secondary Infektion campaign uncovered by Facebook earlier this year.
There is no suggestion that the Labour Party knew Russia had a role in introducing the documents into election discourse, nor is there any suggestion that the documents have been doctored or altered in any way.
Government officials have acknowledged the documents are genuine. A Labour Party spokesperson said, “These documents reveal the plot against our NHS. And of course, neither the U.K. nor the U.S. government have denied their authenticity. Our releasing them was clearly in the public interest.”
During a campaign stop in Wales Saturday, Corbyn dubbed talk of Russian influence a “belated conspiracy theory.” He added, “When we released the documents, at no stage did the prime minister or anybody deny that those documents were real, deny the arguments that we put forward.”
But analysts say the appearance of Secondary Infektion in the British election highlights the vulnerability of Western democracies to Moscow.
Nicky Morgan, Britain’s current culture minister, told the BBC Saturday, “Those who seem to know about these things say that it seems to have all the hallmarks of some form of interference. And if that is the case, that obviously is extremely serious. And actually, as culture secretary, obviously one of the things that we are looking for and monitoring is any interference in our elections.”
In November, before official electioneering got underway, Britain’s intelligence chiefs warned officials involved in organizing the general election that they could be targeted by state-sponsored hackers seeking to influence or disrupt the poll or manipulate the results.
The National Cyber Security Center cautioned local government workers overseeing voting to take care to avoid giving away information that might be “useful to those who aspire to manipulate or compromise electoral processes in the U.K.”
The allegations of a Russian hand in the electioneering is adding to criticism of Johnson for blocking the publication of a report by an all-party parliamentary intelligence committee on likely previous Russian meddling in Britain’s politics. They say it should have been released before Thursday’s vote.
The intelligence report concluded, according to local media reports, that Russian interference may have affected the 2016 Brexit referendum, though the committee said the impact was “unquantifiable.”
Ukraine, Russia Agree On Full Cease-Fire, ‘All For All’ Prisoner Swap By End Of 2019
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on December 9 agreed to “commit to a full and comprehensive implementation” of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine by the end of 2019, a joint communique says.
Following more than eight hours of talks between the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia in Paris designed to revive a road map for achieving peace in the Donbas war between Ukrainian and Kremlin-backed forces, the sides agreed to aim for an “an all for all” prisoner exchange by the end of the year.
“The sides commit to a full and comprehensive implementation of the ceasefire, strengthened by the implementation of all necessary ceasefire support measures, before the end of the year 2019,” the communique said.
Three additional “disengagement areas” will be sought with the “aim of disengaging forces and equipment by the end of March 2020,” the document reads.
Before the talks in Paris, Ukrainian and Moscow-backed military forces had earlier withdrawn from three flash points along the front line in eastern Ukraine where a war is in its sixth year and which has killed more than 13,000 people.
“Yes, we can speak of a thaw in relations,” Putin said at a news conference after the talks.
Speaking at the same news conference after midnight local time, Zelesnkiy said “it was good to unblock dialogue.”
He added that the issue of gas transit had also been “unblocked” regarding Ukraine’s 10-year contract with Russia that expires at the end of the year.
However, Putin and Zelenskiy, who met for the first time face-to-face, had failed to resolve crucial issues such as a timeline for local elections in eastern Ukraine and the borders in the region that Kyiv doesn’t control.
Efforts would revive to remove mines in the war zone, the communique stated.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the need to expand the mandate for monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The communique reinforced the OSCE’s right to have “access throughout Ukraine” while Merkel promoted the idea of having the group’s monitors observe “24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Within 30 days, support should be given to have additional “new crossing points” for civilians along the front line, the document reads.
Additionally, leaders of the four countries agreed to meet in the same format “within four months” to discuss “political and security conditions” concerning the conduct of local elections in eastern Ukraine.
Still, Zelenskiy said he regretted that very little had been achieved during talks to end the Donbas conflict.
“Many questions were tackled, and my counterparts have said it is a very good result for a first meeting. But I will be honest — it is very little, I wanted to resolve a larger number of problems,” he said.
The last time the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine met to discuss the conflict was in October 2016.
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
Russia’s Northern Fleet to build Arctic air defense ‘dome’ with S-400
Iran Press TV
Monday, 09 December 2019
Moscow plans to equip all battalions of the Russian Northern Fleet with the S-400 air defense system within several years in a bid to create an air defense “dome” over the Russian Arctic, a naval commander says.
“This year, S-400 systems will enter service with the air defense missile regiment stationed on Novaya Zemlya,” said Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Alexander Moiseyev said in an interview with the Defense Ministry’s Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Monday.
“There are plans to arm all our Arctic battalions with these systems in coming years and thus create an air defense dome over the Russian Arctic,” the state-run TASS news agency further quoted the fleet commander as saying in the interview.
The file photo, taken on August 22, 2017, shows Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile launching system at the exposition field in Kubinka Patriot Park outside Moscow during the first day of the International Military-Technical Forum Army-2017. (By AFP)
The S-400 entered service with the Russian army in 2007 and is considered Russia’s most advanced long-range anti-aircraft missile system.
Capable of engaging targets at a distance of 400 kilometers and at an altitude of up to 30 kilometers, the missile system can destroy aircraft as well as cruise and ballistic missiles. It can also be used against land-based targets.
Back in September, Russia deployed its advanced air shield systems to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the far north.
Russia has recently been increasing its presence in the Arctic as melting ice opens shipping lanes and reveals incredible riches.
Earlier this year, it launched the world’s first floating nuclear power plant to a remote Siberian town near the US state of Alaska.
Back in April, President Vladimir Putin put forward a program to build ports and other infrastructure in the Arctic and expand Russia’s icebreaker fleet.
In October, Russia test launched nuclear capable missile systems in its Arctic drill. The systems simultaneously employed more than 200 launchers.
According to the vice-admiral, by arming all the divisions of the fleet, the Russian Polar Regions will be protected against aerial aggression, “whether from planes, cruise or ballistic missiles.”
Russia also continues establishing ramified military infrastructure on the Arctic islands, particularly hi-tech lighting systems, to monitor the situation in the air, on the ground and under the water, Moiseyev added.
President Donald Trump of the United States has also floated the idea of purchasing Greenland, the autonomous Danish territory, which is located between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
China, one of the world powers, on the other hand is not currently planning for a military presence in the region. It has, instead, focused on energy and resources, via investment in Arctic countries.
The current race for increasing presence in the region comes as the North Pole is plagued by an unprecedented heat wave, which is threatening a global rise in sea levels.
“The US Embassy has received a green light from the Jerusalem Municipality,” the city’s Mayor Moshe Lion announced on Monday, referring to the embassy’s permanent building that will be built in the city.
The US was the first country to make the historic move and relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018. After the move, the US Consulate in Jerusalem was upgraded and given the status of an embassy temporarily, until a permanent embassy building could be built in the city.
On Monday, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and representatives from the Jerusalem municipality met with representatives from the US embassy and State Department to discuss various issues that have come up in the planning process.
At the end of the meeting, Lion said that the municipality had given the Americans the green light to fast-track the planning process for the embassy’s permanent building.
The US is considering two possible plans for the Jerusalem embassy. One possibility is a brand new building in a compound that belongs to the US, known as the “Allenby Compound.” Another possibility is the upgrade of the facilities in the building that previously served as the US Consulate.
The Jerusalem municipality agreed to move a planned light rail station near the Allenby Compound if the Americans decide to develop it.
The plan to upgrade the current embassy building has received objections from neighbors. Additionally, the nearby Diplomat Hotel, in which 450 destitute elderly Russian immigrants reside, would have to be cleared.
The US will decide which plan will be advanced in the coming months.
Greece irate as Turkey, Libya enforce maritime, military accords
Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Turkey and Libya have begun implementing agreements on maritime boundaries and military cooperation, drawing an angry reaction from Greece which views the accords as a violation of its sovereign rights.
The pacts were signed by Ankara and Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) last month and took effect over the weekend after receiving the approval of the Turkish parliament and the Libyan presidential council.
In an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the maritime deal with Libya – which maps out a boundary between the two countries in the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean close to the Greek island of Crete – was in line with international law.
The agreement, he added, allowed Turkey to carry out drilling on Libya’s continental shelf with Tripoli’s approval.
“With this new agreement between Turkey and Libya, we can hold joint exploration operations in these exclusive economic zones that we determined. There is no problem,” Erdogan said.
Under the deal, he noted, Greek Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel need Turkey’s consent for establishing a gas transmission line in the region.
“Other international actors cannot carry out exploration operations in these areas Turkey drew (up) with this accord without getting permission. Greek Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel cannot establish a gas transmission line without first getting permission from Turkey,” Erdogan said.
Turkish troop deployment to Libya
Erdogan further referred to another agreement signed between Turkey and Libya to expand security and military cooperation, saying it granted Ankara the right to deploy troops in Libya if the Tripoli government so asked.
“In the event of such a call coming, it is Turkey’s decision what kind of initiative it will take here. We will not seek the permission of anyone on this,” he said, stressing that such a move would not violate a United Nations arms embargo on Libya.
Libya-Turkey maritime pact infuriates Greece
The maritime deal has angered Greece, which slammed it as an “infringement on its sovereignty” that could complicate Athens’ decades-old disputes with Ankara over Cyprus and maritime rights in the Aegean Sea.
Athens gave Libyan Ambassador to Athens Mohamed Younis A.B. Menfi 72 hours to leave the country.
“It is with great sadness that I announce to you that this morning the Libyan Ambassador in Athens was called to the Ministry [of Foreign Affairs], where he was briefed about the decision to expel him,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said at a press conference.
“The decision to expel him is an expression of the dissatisfaction of the Greek government with the government in Tripoli. It was taken after the Libyan side did not respond to the conditions we had set,” Denidas added.
Erdogan denounced Greece’s decision to expel the Libyan envoy as an “international scandal” and warned that Athens would “pay the price for its actions internationally.”
EU sides with Greece, Cyprus
Speaking on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the Turkey-Libya maritime deal was “a cause of serious concern” and “problematic” for both Greece and Cyprus.
“We express our solidarity and our support to Greece and Cyprus,” he said after a meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
Commissioning day for HMS Prince of Wales
10 December 2019
HMS Prince of Wales has been commissioned into the Fleet today as the largest warship ever built for the nation.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, as the ship’s Lady Sponsor, alongside HRH The Prince of Wales, presided over the ceremony at HM Naval Base Portsmouth this morning, to an audience of 2,000 from industry, allies, friends and families.
Commanding Officer, Captain Darren Houston, read the commissioning warrant to the crew and guests gathered in the hangar which will soon house F-35 jets and a variety of helicopters. Among those watching were the First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, ambassadors from France and USA, and the commander of the US Sixth Fleet, Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti.
The iconic White Ensign then replaced the Blue Ensign which has flown since she left Rosyth in September for her initial sea trials. Leading Writer Megan Ryan (27, from Stoke-On-Trent) was granted the honour of raising the new ensign; and youngest sailor, Chef Seth Day (17), cut the commissioning cake with Liesl Houston, the Commanding Officer’s wife.
“The men and women of my Ship’s Company have demonstrated significant flexibility, patience and resilience. However, I also want to recognise the wider naval family for their support of our achievements, and I am so pleased that so many of our families and loved ones are able to share this special day with us.” Said Captain Houston.
About 550 VIP guests, 1,400 family and friends of the ship’s company, including guests with connections to the previous HMS Prince of Wales, a battleship sunk on that same date 78 years earlier by Japanese forces in the South China Sea, joined the crew for the ceremony.
Leading Writer Ryan said: “I am lucky enough to have been involved in the commissioning of three ships, but this is the one I will always look back on with exceptional pride. Raising the White Ensign for the first time on HMS Prince of Wales is such a privilege that I will never forget.”
Nearly 7,000 miles away, the crew of HMS Enterprise stopped at the final resting place of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse last week to hold a memorial service and lower a White Ensign to the remains.
For the whole crew, from the chefs making the cakes to the warrant officers perfecting the drills, there has been a sense of pride in preparing the ship and themselves for this day.
AET Patrick Gauson (30, from Edinburgh) said: “Having been present at HMS Queen Elizabeth’s commissioning, to be involved in HMS Prince of Wales’ as well is an immense honour and privilege. It’s another day in my career that I can look back on with great pride and a sense of achievement.”
AET Sam Ward (21, from York) said: “To be part of such an important day in the ship’s history gives me great pride and it will definitely be an interesting story to regale to the grandkids one day.”
HMS Prince of Wales, which by naval tradition will be referred to in the feminine form despite carrying the title of the male heir apparent, is marginally larger and heavier than her sister.
The carrier is powered by four diesel engines and two gas turbines, run by the 170-strong marine engineering department. They are part of a core ship’s company of about 700 which can swell to more than double that with the addition of personnel from Naval Air Squadrons and Royal Marines.
She departed Rosyth in September and conducted her first sea trials before making her first entry to Portsmouth harbour in mid-November.
More than 10,000 people across the UK have contributed to the delivery of the ship as part of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, building on the experience they gained in constructing and operating HMS Queen Elizabeth.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has recently returned from her second deployment to the east coast of North America conducting aviation trials with UK F-35 jets and developing her warfighting capabilities. Both carriers are alongside in Portsmouth for routine maintenance and well-earned Christmas leave for their crews before resuming their programmes to reach operational capability.
WTO Suspending its Role as Arbiter in Global Trade Conflicts
In 1995, developed nations around the world came together to create a means of creating rules for international trade and settling disputes between countries without the use of damaging tariffs. The World Trade Organization, which grew out of that effort, created a consensus-based system of regulations, arbitration, and a de facto court system that gave countries a venue for settling claims against each other.
As of Wednesday, though, the WTO will likely cease to function in any real sense. Its policymaking arm has been crippled for years over internal disagreements. Now, its enforcement arm, a seven-judge panel known as the Appellate Body, is about to wither away, the result of the Trump administration’s decision to block the appointment of new judges to replace those whose terms are expiring.
Enforcement arm vacancies
The Appellate Body is currently down to three judges, the minimum required to rule on a dispute. It will have only one left after Tuesday, making it unable to render judgments in new matters. Theoretically, the two judges whose terms are expiring could stay on to hear cases that have already been filed. However, an American judge, Thomas Graham, has said that he will refuse to do so unless the Appellate Body’s director, Werner Zdouc, is removed from his post. The WTO earlier this year announced that it would not take that action.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has insisted that the demise of the Appellate Body does not mean that the organization’s existing rules no longer have force.
Existing rules would still apply
“Existing WTO rules still apply,” he said last week. “WTO disciplines and principles will continue to underpin world trade. And members will continue to use WTO rules to resolve trade conflicts – in regular WTO bodies, through consultations, via dispute settlement panels, and through any other means envisaged in the WTO agreements.”
However, over the weekend, Azevêdo urged member countries to work to repair the appeals body, saying, “A well-functioning, impartial and binding dispute settlement system is a core pillar of the WTO system. Rules-based dispute resolution prevents trade conflicts from ending up in escalating tit-for-tat retaliation – which becomes difficult to stop once it starts – or becoming intractable political quagmires.”
The reaction of member states to the demise of the WTO is notably mixed. In Europe, the body’s failure is seen as a disaster. “If you have no rules, everyone can do what they want and that would be really, really bad, not least for the smaller and developing countries,” European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said last summer.
European Union considering a replacement
The EU, with the backing of Canada and Norway, is trying to create a temporary replacement panel with the same structure as the Appellate Body. China, Russia, and a number of other countries are said to be considering whether to sign on.
In Washington, however, there is far less sorrow over the fading relevance of the WTO.
In practical terms, the organization has been especially ineffectual when it comes to updating trade rules for the current era. A requirement of full consensus in rulemaking allows any of the 164 member countries to derail a proposal.
WTO’s failure to address China issues
As a result, the body has been struggling for years to come to agreement on multiple complex issues that weren’t contemplated when it was first established, including electronic commerce and how to deal with countries like China, that refuse to play by the established rules of laissez-faire capitalism.
The organization’s failure to deal with the challenge presented by China is particularly galling to the Trump administration. Despite the size of its economy – the second largest in the world – the WTO allows China to operate under relaxed rules reserved for developing countries, something the administration has criticized as deeply unfair.
But the roots of the Trump administration’s antipathy to the WTO go far deeper than concerns about its ability to create new rules. Trump has made it clear that he disdains the very idea of international regulation of U.S. trade policy.
The president who famously claimed “Trade wars are good, and easy to win,” began his term by withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact, and has repeatedly railed against multilateral trade agreements of all types. He prefers to see the United States negotiate trade agreements on a country-by-country basis, which he believes maximizes the United States’ leverage.
Trump is also a prolific user of tariffs, the tool that the WTO was designed to regulate. He has imposed the import taxes on goods coming into the U.S. from a variety of countries around the world – most notably China – as a means of forcing foreign governments to make concessions on their treatment of American exports.
Previous administrations tangled with WTO
American anger at the WTO did not originate with the election of Trump. Multiple administrations including the Obama administration have tangled with the organization, particularly over some rulings from the Appellate Body that U.S. officials have said exceeded its mandate.
However, the Trump administration has been the most aggressive in trying to rein in the WTO. In addition to blocking the appointment of new judges, the U.S. has cut funding for the Appellate Body, slashing its budget by 93 percent.
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By Terri Nir, United with Israel
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has won a clear majority of seats in Thursday’s election, causing British Jews to breathe a sign of relief. As of Friday morning, the results showed 363 seats for the Conservatives versus 203 for Labour.
A recent study in the UK found that more than two-thirds of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s strong supporters are anti-Semitic.
Among other incidents of support for anti-Israel Islamic terror groups, Corbyn attended a conference in Qatar in 2012 with Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal and terrorist leaders behind the 2001 Intifada. Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and London’s Hamas institutions had reportedly joined forces to support Corbyn and his Labour party ahead of the elections.
In a recent opinion piece published by British daily The Times, ahead of the election, Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said that “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory due to the party’s links to anti-Semites and its inability to eliminate Jew-hatred from it ranks.
“A new poison — sanctioned from the very top — has taken root” on Corbyn’s watch, warned Mirvis.
“No one has done more to mainstream anti-Semitism into the political and social life of a democracy than the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party,” said the Simon Wiesenthal Center ahead of the election.
Visiting the UK parliament in October 2018, Danon said Corbyn is “an anti-Semite who wants to return Britain to darker periods in its history.”
In an election campaign ad, Labour chose to specifically include Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs, while explicitly excluding Jews.
Upon news of the election results on Friday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “Congratulations to my friend Boris Johnson!”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin issued a press release, saying, “On behalf of the Israeli people, and personally, I wish you great success as you continue to serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I am confident that under your leadership the important relationship between the two countries will continue to strengthen and that together we will be able to face the challenges of our times on every front.”
Johnson a ‘True Friend of Israel’
Opposition leader Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party, said on Twitter, “I congratulate British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a true friend of Israel, for his decisive victory and look forward to strengthening further the economic, cultural and security ties between Britain and Israel.
Yair Lapid, number two on the Blue and White list, tweeted, “I congratulate my friend @BorisJohnson on his election victory. His victory is a defeat for antisemitism. I’m sure that under his leadership we can strengthen and deepen the relations between Israel and Great Britain. Congratulations Boris and good luck!”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely tweeted in Hebrew, “I congratulate Boris Johnson on his huge election victory. Johnson is a great friend of the State of Israel. Our close ties and our economic and security cooperation will continue to deepen.”
“Congratulations to PM @Boris Johnson & my colleague Foreign Secretary @DominicRaab on their electoral victory. Looking forward to working together to strengthening even further the Israel/UK partnership,” tweeted Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
Following his disastrous loss, Corbyn has stepped down as Labour leader.
«Ο προϋπολογισμός, της κυβέρνησης της ΝΔ, όπως πριν της κυβέρνησης του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, υπηρετεί την εσωτερική και εξωτερική πολιτική της κυβέρνησης της ΝΔ, που είναι ενταγμένη στο στόχο της καπιταλιστικής ανάπτυξης και γεωστρατηγικής αναβάθμισης, που θέλουν οι επιχειρηματικοί όμιλοι για να επεκτείνουν τη δράση τους», ανέφερε, κατά τη συζήτηση του προϋπολογισμού, ο βουλευτής του ΚΚΕ Γιώργος Μαρίνος.
«Πάνω από 4 δισ. ευρώ καταβάλλονται, από τον κρατικό προϋπολογισμό, κάθε χρόνο για τις ΝΑΤΟϊκές ανάγκες, ενώ ότι στο πλαίσιο της ολοένα και βαθύτερης ενσωμάτωσης στο ΝΑΤΟ, ΕΕ, ΗΠΑ που είναι και το κύριο χαρακτηριστικό της εξωτερικής πολιτικής που ακολουθούν οι μέχρι σήμερα κυβερνήσεις, η χώρα έχει συμμετάσχει σε 21 ιμπεριαλιστικές αποστολές».
«Μητσοτάκης και Τσίπρας ασκούν κριτική στον Ερντογάν αλλά και οι δύο τους έχουν καθίσει μαζί του στις συνόδους κορυφής του ΝΑΤΟ και συναποφασίζουν για τη συγκρότηση δυνάμεων κρούσης κατά των λαών, εκσυγχρονισμό του πυρηνικού οπλοστασίου και μέτρα για την ενίσχυση του ανταγωνισμού με τη Ρωσία και τη Κίνα».
NATO experts discuss unmanned underwater warfare trends
- 04 Dec. 2019 – 05 Dec. 2019
More than 230 representatives from Allied nations, NATO staffs and the defence industry gathered at NATO headquarters for a three day symposium (4-5 December 2019) to address the latest trends in unmanned underwater warfare. Organised by NATO’s Maritime Unmanned Systems Initiative – or MUSI – experts focused on operational challenges in the maritime domain and the latest technological developments in unmanned underwater systems. Industry partners also displayed many of their latest innovative systems and technology.
“This was a fantastic event and the culmination of a highly successful first year of MUSI, which has a proven record of delivering meaningful results for the Alliance at pace”, said Captain Michael Brasseur, the director of the MUS Innovation and Coordination Cell at NATO headquarters.
A key note was delivered by Commodore Mike Knott CBE, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Maritime Capability in the UK Navy. High on the agenda where questions of how unmanned underwater systems could better support anti-submarine warfare operations, defence against mines, and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance. The symposium was the second-largest MUSI event in 2019. Planned activities for 2020 include a major naval exercise in Portugal and the United Kingdom-led focus on anti-submarine operations.
MUSI was formed in October 2018. Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States pool their resources and expertise to create better, more flexible and more interoperable unmanned, maritime vehicles and systems.
Secretary General praises Bulgaria’s contributions to Euro-Atlantic security on fifteenth anniversary of NATO membership
- 12 Dec. 2019
The Israel Air Force chief who might need to order a mission against Iran
For Norkin, the people are the real strength behind the IAF. This is not only about its platforms or weapons, it’s about the team behind the machines: the pilots and technicians.
It’s not every air chief who regularly flies with his troops.For Norkin, the people are the real strength behind the IAF. This is not only about its platforms or weapons, it’s about the team behind the machines: the pilots, technicians, troops in the air control towers and ground crews.
Under Norkin’s leadership, the first women to lead IAF squadrons have taken command, including the first female commander of an operational squadron of transport planes, the first woman to be responsible for ground-based operations in the IAF, the first woman in charge of the IAF’s operational command and control unit, and another woman appointed as deputy commander of an F-15 combat squadron.“Congratulations to our first female commander of an operational squadron in the air force. We’ve been waiting for you for 71 years,” Norkin said at the appointment of Lt.-Col. G. in September.
While soft-spoken, Norkin has a commanding presence, a necessary character for a man who leads the tip of Israel’s spear of operations far beyond its borders.
With tensions at an all-time high between Israel and Iran, Norkin might be the one to lead an attack against the Islamic Republic. It would be an operation on a level similar to Operation Opera (the Israeli attack against Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981); Operation Wooden Leg (against Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters near Tunis, Tunisia, in 1985); or Operation Outside the Box (against Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007).But an attack against Iran is something Israel has been working hard to prevent.
NORKIN, BORN in Beit She’arim in Israel’s North, often shows off photographs of his grandfather and tells the story of his family’s contribution to the State of Israel.“Look,” he says. “Here’s [military leader and politician] Moshe Dayan, [Palmah commander and an IDF founder] Yitzhak Sadeh, [Palmah commander, IDF general and politician] Yigal Allon and my grandfather in Kibbutz Hanita, 1938. My grandfather fled from the Russian military when he was 21, and came to Israel via Italy and built the village where I grew up.“My grandfather protected this country with his horse, and I protect it with our jets.”The air force wasn’t Norkin’s first choice. He was drafted into the Armored Corps in 1984 and followed in his father’s footsteps before switching gears and graduating from the prestigious Air Force Academy, receiving his wings in 1987.But Norkin loves to fly, especially the F-15, a jet he’s flown countless hours in since 1988 when he was assigned to the “Knights of Twin Tail” Squadron and became the youngest F-15 pilot in the world.Throughout the years, he climbed the ladder of position and rank, including commanding the Knights of Twin Tail Squadron before he was appointed to establish, integrate and command the IAF’s first F-16I Sufa Squadron in 2004.During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Norkin was head of the IAF’s Operations Department, and from 2009-2012 he commanded Tel Nof Air Force Base, before he was appointed head of the IAF’s Training and Doctrine Division.Two years later he was appointed chief of Air Staff before being promoted to the rank of Major-General and appointed head of the IDF Planning Directorate, where he was responsible for the IDF’s strategic planning, military force buildup and organization.On August 10, 2017, Norkin reached the highest rank in the IAF, and replaced Eshel as commander of the Israeli Air Force.THE BIANNUAL Blue Flag drill, which this year for the first time saw the participation of F-35 stealth fighters from Italy and Israel, is a major component of Norkin strategy for the air force.For him, the ability to increase the ties between the Israel Air Force and foreign forces is paramount. International partners not only allow pilots to learn new techniques and form lasting bonds, but they strengthen Israel’s strategic depth.
The Magazine had the opportunity to fly down to Uvda Air Base several weeks ago as part of Blue Flag 2019, the most advanced air drill the IAF has ever carried out.The sun was just rising as we took off from Hatzor, a hop, skip and a jump some 40 minutes away from Uvda, just north of Eilat where an estimated 800 technical and administrative personnel from five different air forces were taking part.After landing at Uvda, we sat down for breakfast with several officers and pilots before heading into a pre-flight briefing, where pilots from the five participating countries were told of the various challenges facing them during their morning exercises.In the room full of pilots from across the world, Norkin sat front and center taking everything in.Following the briefing, the air chief made his way to an F-15 hangar, where he and a young pilot inspected the jet before taking to the air during the drill. Like every pilot flying under his command, he needs to make sure everything on the jet is thoroughly checked prior to lift-off.As the canopy closed over the pilots, with Norkin in the front seat, a thumbs-up was given by the young female technician. The engines began to roar as the all-clear was given and the jet rolled out of the hanger onto the tarmac. Moments later they were in the sky.During Blue Flag, air force commanders from the United States, Greece, Germany and Italy all landed in Israel and toured the drill, including US Air Force Commander Gen. David Goldfein.As part of Goldfein’s visit, the two generals not only spoke about regional issues, but took to the air in the F-15, flying together over the Israel’s capital Jerusalem. It was the first time such a flight took place.Norkin also met with the German Air Force head Lt.-Gen. Ingo Gerhartz during Blue Flag, 81 years to the day since Kristallnacht, and with smiles and laughter stressed the strong friendship between the two forces.“As a young pilot I flew in an exercise where I had a jet on one side with the Star of David. And when I looked over my shoulder and saw that jet, it was amazing. It touched me emotionally,” Gerhartz said.“This is not only a partnership between two operational air forces, it’s a friendship,” he continued, adding that “being part of Blue Flag, one of the most advanced exercises in the world, is really important for us because training together with the Israel Air Force – which is definitely the most capable air force in the world – is excellent for our training.”Speaking in front of a Eurofighter alongside Norkin, Gerhartz said that the dangers posed by evolving threats in the region have led the pilots to take the exercises in Blue Flag “a step ahead,” as “the air war that we have to fight today is complicated. It’s of utmost importance to train as realistic as it could be.”Norkin praised the Germans for their strong and well-organized air force, saying the two forces are flying and training shoulder-to-shoulder.“For us to see a Eurofighter with a Luftwaffe sign in the Israeli shelter is a special event, especially this week, when 81 years ago the Nazi government burned all the Jewish books. And now we are friends and working together very hard for the future, because we always remember the past. We work for the future, our children, the next generation.”Norkin, who was in Germany as a guest of Gerhartz several months ago and flew in the backseat of the Eurofighter – which he considers to be a very powerful airplane with a lot of capabilities – announced that the IAF would take part next year in Germany’s international air exercise, the equivalent to Israel’s Blue Flag.THE NEED to hold joint training exercises, especially with forces involved in operations in the region, is critical for the IAF.But every week Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin visits a different squadron around the country, dons his flight suit and takes to the skies with the men and women under his command.Norkin understands how complicated the neighborhood is, as the threats posed by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas as well as the deployment of advanced missile defense batteries like the S-300 have the Israel Air Force always on high alert and always trying to adapt to all new operational challenges.Israeli pilots need to learn how to deal with these threats because the IAF continues to carry out thousands of operations on all fronts, many of them as part of what the military calls in Hebrew mabam, or war-between-wars campaign to stop Iranian entrenchment and weapons smuggling to Hezbollah.During the first few years of the campaign, Israel denied having struck targets in war-torn Syria, preferring instead plausible deniability in an attempt to prevent any retaliatory attacks by Iran or its proxies like Hezbollah.But Israel started claiming credit and Tehran began to respond.In February of last year Iran launched a drone armed with explosives from the T-4 airbase in the Syrian province of Homs to carry out a sabotage attack in Israel before it was spotted by Israel and intercepted near Beit She’an by an Apache attack helicopter.Following the infiltration, Israeli jets took off to strike the launch site of the drone as well as the drone-control vehicle which guided the drone into Israeli territory, and were met by massive Syrian anti-aircraft fire. More than 20 missiles were launched toward the Israelis jets from SA-5 and SA-17 batteries.One of the Israeli F16 pilots ejected from his jet, which crashed in the lower Galilee after being hit by shrapnel from the Syrian anti-aircraft fire.It was the first time in 30 years that an Israeli jet was lost in a combat situation.According to former senior air force officers, the silence that characterized the first years of Israel’s campaign was the proper course of action.“As a military man you prefer activities over words,” former IDF Aerial Defense Division commander Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Zvika Haimovich told the Post in a recent interview. “You cannot fight or win fights with words. You can win with activities and missiles and keep it silent and under the radar and public media. You will have many more advantages than when it’s all over the press.“I prefer the old silence,” he declared.Another former senior air force officer well-versed in the campaign told the Post that there were two phases with Israel’s war-between-wars campaign. The first one, which was quieter and under the radar, dealt with Iran’s initial deployment to Syria; in the second phase, the clash between Israel and Iran became more public.“When Israel strikes and sends verbal messages, we do so to communicate that Iran will pay the price… it’s communication through words and missiles, which should create a leverage on the main players to do something,” he said.In 2017, when Norkin was the outgoing head of the Planning Branch, he said the effect of the campaign defined the current period facing Israel and that it “actually prevents the next war. It influences our enemies and causes them to not want to fight us. This has become increasingly influential within the military.”While the campaign began under his predecessor, under Norkin it has expanded exponentially to countries including Iraq, according to foreign media reports.Israel is in a direct confrontation with Iran.“There are rules clearly stated by the prime minister,” the former top IAF officer said. “Iranian targets have been struck and destroyed, and in every case, what Israel has done since 2016… is a direct conflict but both sides are trying to keep it in a box to handle it but it might escalate, that’s for sure.“Both sides don’t want an escalation. But we cannot accept their threatening presence in Syria. This campaign will continue.”Despite Israel’s campaign against Iran, which the retired officer said started in 2013, the Islamic Republic will continue with its aspirations to be a regional superpower, the retired officer said.“They will continue, there is no question about it,” he asserted. “But the question is how steep the trajectory is. Right now they don’t want to initiate an adventure which would lead to more unrest in neighboring countries and their own country. We hear the sound of war drums all over but I think it’s a way of communicating their intentions.”Nevertheless, Iran, he noted, “hasn’t stopped and they won’t stop. They are patient and they want to continue.” And with that continuation, “a miscalculation is a real thing in the Middle East. Because of us or them,” he added.According to Haimovitch, “Norkin is working 24/7. It’s not easy.”But in the Middle East there’s no rest for the weary. It’s a never-ending race.“And in this race, when you see the Iranians and proxies in the region, you don’t have a choice. You need to win,” Haimovich said. “We need to improve our skills and doctrine every day. And you need to see the changes in the region and always upgrade your systems to match. Our forces today are much better than they were, and they will continue to improve as time goes on, otherwise we will lose the future conflict.“We don’t have the privilege to stop and say we are satisfied. There’s not time to rest, we need to always improve,” the retired commander added.As for Norkin, he’s taken an oath to guard and protect Israel. And with his plate of responsibilities overflowing, he isn’t resting.
He worries so that Israelis don’t have to.
What Purpose Does NATO Serve?
What U.S. interests does the bloated bureaucracy advance — at our expense?
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
While the political class obsessed over act two of the House impeachment hearings while normal people ignored them, NATO met in London for an international photo-op and a celebration of the treaty’s 70th anniversary. Nothing of substance happened, and no needed reforms were discussed. Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union made NATO irrelevant, no one can say what strategic purpose this bloated bureaucracy serves, nor how––despite being financed mainly by the U.S––it advances U.S. interests and security.
Of course we were treated to the usual claims that “NATO kept the peace” in Europe during the Cold War, along with the other institutions of the “rules-based international order.” This globalist marketing slogan is hard to credit. The postwar Europeans were in no condition to fight each other, because most had neither the matériel nor the morale to fight with. Nor did NATO keep the Soviets out of Europe: that was accomplished by 70,000 American nuclear warheads and 400,000 American troops. The contributions of European pygmy-militaries to American military capability were in the end comparatively minimal.
Then there were the usual petty squabbles, snarking at President Trump, and bombastic rhetoric about the “world’s oldest military alliance.” The issue of European members’ continuing failure to increase their puny military spending was brought up again. Trump-haters, of course, have used his aggressive lobbying of the Europeans on this score to buttress their claims that he is a dangerous geopolitical ignoramus unschooled in the technical and diplomatic knowledge of the foreign policy establishment and the “interagency consensus” mentioned in act one of the House impeachment hearings––finally, a confession that we do indeed have an unaccountable “managerial elite” that thinks it should run foreign policy rather than their boss, the Chief Executive elected by the people, and the Commander in Chief to whom the Constitution has given this authority.
That criticism of Trump for dunning our deadbeat “allies” does not chastise anything new. It didn’t take long for American politicians to start grousing over American taxpayers having to pay for the defense of some of the richest countries in the world. In 1970, Montana Democratic Senator Mike Mansfield wrote a column calling for the “Europeanization” of NATO in order to reduce the costs of American troops stationed in Europe. And European heart-throb Barack Obama in 2016 complained about NATO “free riders.”
The difference now is that Trump means it, and his hectoring has worked to some degree. His threat during the NATO summit in 2018 to withdraw from the treaty if spending didn’t increase concentrated some European minds. Extra defense spending has increased by $140 billion, and 9 of 29 member-states are now meeting the 2% of GDP requirement. But Germany and Italy, the 4th and 8th largest economies in the world, are still not even close to meeting the low-bar 2% requirement. So Trump didn’t let up in London: “It’s not right to be taken advantage of on NATO and also then to be taken advantage of on trade, and that’s what happens. We can’t let that happen,” he warned.
Once again, we see that Trump’s common-sense foreign policy realism and America-first preferences have been more effective than the foreign-policy establishment’s received wisdom and decrepit globalist paradigms. Even Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General, credited Trump for “showing leadership on defense spending.”
A more interesting bit of drama at the summit came from France’s president Emmanuel Macron. He didn’t back down on some remarks he and Germany’s Angela Merkel made in November that called for a “real, true European army,” as Merkel put it. But Merkel disagreed with Macron when he said NATO was “strategically brain-dead” given Trump’s earlier remarks that the treaty was “obsolete,” and that Europe’s failure to pay its fair share might lead America to leave the treaty. NATO “only works,” Macron elaborated, “if the guarantor of last resort [i.e. the U.S.] functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what Nato is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” Macron also complained about NATO’s failure to do something about fellow member-state Turkey’s drift toward Islamist authoritarianism, adventurism in Syria, and purchase of advanced missiles from NATO enemy Russia. Trump, who has called NATO “obsolete,” surprisingly came to the treaty’s defense in his signature blunt fashion: Macron’s comments were “very insulting” and a “very, very nasty statement essentially to 28 countries.”
Macron no doubt was indulging the European and NeverTrump cliché that Trump is a danger to NATO and can’t be relied on to honor the treaty’s Article 5 provision that an attack on one member-state is an attack on all. But whatever his motives, Macron did put his finger on the central problem with NATO: what are its unifying principles and interests? The answer to that question during the Cold War was famously articulated by NATO’s first Secretary General, Lord Ismay: to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” But Soviet communism is “out,” Germany has done a good job of holding itself “down,” in terms of being a military threat. Indeed, it has made pacifism its state religion, which conveniently frees up money for its economy and its welfare state. But despite the absence of those two reasons for NATO, the Americans are still “in,” with about 65,000 servicemen deployed in Europe.
So what security and economic interests does NATO serve today, now that the Soviet Union has disappeared, and our biggest and most dangerous rival is not Russia, but China? Europe is no longer prostrate economically, as it was in 1949, when the Washington Treaty was signed and created NATO. But today eight European countries are among the world’s 20 richest nations. Why can’t they pay, individually or collectively, for their own defense? Why should American taxpayers subsidize countries that when asked which country their country should support in a conflict between the U.S. and Russia, majorities in all but one of 14 countries polled chose “neither”? Or a Europe in which majorities in countries like Germany, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Greece view the U.S. unfavorably?
Nor do European countries behave the way one would expect from allies whose defense we are subsidizing. For all their talk about the threat of Putin and his undermining of NATO, Germany has gone into business with the global villain Putin to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will pump Russian natural gas into Germany, and give Russia more revenues for financing its global adventurism. And six more countries have joined INSTEX, the financial mechanism France, Britain, and Germany created to circumvent American sanctions on Iran, thus weakening Trump’s “maximum pressure” on Iran to force it to the bargaining table over its nuclear weapons program. The next time Europeans chastise America’s alleged human rights sins, remind them that this subversion of our attempts to rein in the world’s worst state supporter of terrorism is taking place even as the mullahs are killing hundreds, more likely, thousands of protestors fighting for the same rights Europeans get to enjoy because the U.S. took the lead in destroying Nazi Germany and Italian fascism.
The point is not that sovereign nations should not purse their national interests. Rather, the hypocritical rhetoric of multilateral agreements and supranational institutions is predicated on a bankrupt belief in a moralizing internationalism that claims notions like universal human rights unite nations, and so we should collaborate in advancing this shared interest. But the reality is that each nation, being sovereign, ultimately decides its policies based on its interests, particularly its economic interests, as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline does for Germany, and INSTEX hopes to do for the nine countries participating in the program.
Given that truth, we should not be surprised that NATO has degenerated into a way for Europeans to free-ride on our military power even as they pursue interests incompatible or even hostile to our own. That seems to be the only purpose NATO serves, other than giving a multilateral patina to our foreign interventions. But nobody’s fooled anymore about “NATO operations.” The world knows that such operations are predominantly American affairs, with Americans providing the lion’s share of materiél, intelligence, transports, and men, with token contributions from NATO members. For example, during the misbegotten and feckless NATO operation in Lybia in 2011, of the 246 cruise missiles launched, the U.S. fired 218.
Like the UN and other international institutions, NATO lives not because it serves our interests, but because it’s a way for other countries to serve their interests at our expense. Like all bureaucracies not subject to market accountability, it expands to increase its power, not to fulfill its alleged purpose. Now there are 29 member states, some bordering Russia and home to Russian minorities, whose security we supposedly have pledged American lives to defend, a promise most in the event is unlikely to be kept. Does anyone really believe that any NATO member is going to think that Estonia is worth the bones of a single French or German or American trooper? Meanwhile, China continues to expand its military reach and undermine our economy, while we get hysterical over Russia’s lame Facebook efforts to meddle in our election.
So Macron has a point. NATO needs to decide what purpose, beyond its own bureaucratic self-interests, it serves that justifies its existence. And our government needs to explain the same thing to the American voters and taxpayers.
Obama or Trump: Who’s the Real Russian Stooge?
A sobering — and telling — look at the historical record.
Democrats and their socialist allies have been quick to portray President Donald Trump as a tool of the Russians. Pejoratives like “Putin’s puppet” and “Russian asset” are terms routinely employed by Trump’s shrillest critics with banal regularity.
The Mueller Report, compiled by a team largely composed of Trump antagonists, conclusively established that neither Trump nor members of his campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. That fact, established after wasting $32 million in taxpayer funds, has not stopped Democrats and their echo-chamber puppets in the establishment media, from regurgitating tired tropes and talking points steeped in Alice in Wonderland-like fantasy.
Democrats and elements within the leftist media have absurdly attempted to portray Trump’s efforts to establish good, working relations with Russia as an attempt to undermine the republic. However, no such criticism was ever leveled against Barack Obama when he attempted his farcical Russia re-set, which ended in disaster. It’s a tired double standard that Trump and his supporters have become accustomed to.
Despite cautious efforts to foster good relations, the Trump administration’s foreign and domestic policies have adversely impacted Russia and its imperialistic designs. In fact, even a cursory review of Trump’s record on Russia reveals that he is anything but Russia’s stooge and can more accurately be characterized as its worst nightmare. I’ve compiled a list of seven significant actions undertaken during the Trump administration, which unequivocally supports this assertion.
Energy: In September 2019 the United States exported more crude oil and petroleum products than it imported, marking the first time that the U.S. was a net petroleum exporter since monthly records were initiated in 1973. This startling development occurred under Trump’s watch. Trump reversed his predecessor’s deleterious energy policies, which were viewed by the energy industry as hostile. In fact, Obama, who nixed Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline, banned offshore drilling in the Arctic and enacted harsh regulations on the fossil fuel industry, developed a reputation of being anti-energy. Instead of shoring up U.S. energy interests, Obama did everything he could to thwart the fossil fuel industry while providing taxpayer subsidies to failed solar energy companies like Solyndra. By contrast, U.S. fossil fuel development and production under Trump is now surging. This not only strengthens America’s national security, it harms Russian economic interests.
Ukraine: Despite the Democratic narrative, it was the Trump administration and not the Obama administration that provided lethal aid to the Ukrainian army to repel Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the Russian-backed proxy takeover of two provinces in eastern Ukraine was met by tepid action by the Obama administration. Ukraine had asked the United States for lethal military assistance, but that request was rebuffed by Obama. Trump reversed Obama’s pro-Russian policy and authorized the release of military assistance to Ukraine, which included delivery of highly effective Javelin anti-tank guided missiles.
Poland: Shortly after taking office, the Obama administration announced that it would be scrapping a missile defense agreement that the Bush administration had negotiated with Poland and the Czech Republic. By 2013, Obama had completely dismantled the concept of a Europe-based missile defense system, leaving the Poles and Czechs embittered. By contrast, the Kremlin was ecstatic. Putin had to concede nothing and received a windfall. In 2012, Obama was infamously caught on hot mic telling Russian president Dmitri Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” to capitulate on missile defense after the November presidential election. In 2017, Trump partially reversed Obama’s Russia cave-in by signing a memorandum of understanding with Polish president Andrzej Duda in which the U.S. agreed to sell Poland Patriot missile defense systems. The MoU signals to both America’s friends and foes that America does not abandon allies.
Rebuilding the military: It is no secret that the U.S. military – which endured severe budget slashings under Obama – was compromised during the Obama years. U.S. overseas military obligations coupled with sequestrations put an enormous strain on the military and its ability to perform its mission. Military personnel did not have a favorable view of Obama, who saw climate change and not Russia as America’s main threat. A joint poll conducted by the Military Times and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families found that more than 50% of those polled maintained an unfavorable view of Obama while only 36% registered approval. But the toxic situation existing under Obama was reversed under Trump. The latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Trump, ensures that the US. Military maintains its qualitative and quantitative edge over its adversaries, which include Russia and China. Equally important, morale among America’s military personnel has surged under Trump.
Syria: When Bashar Assad used poison gas against his own citizens in 2013, killing nearly 1,500 people including 400 children, Obama declared that such use of chemical weapons crossed all red lines and warranted a severe military response. Within a month, Obama reversed course and allowed Putin to orchestrate a scheme compelling Assad to give up his WMDs. Despite the deal, Assad was still able to retain some of his chemical weapons and the means of manufacturing them. Worse yet, Obama permitted Putin, as interlocutor, to gain a substantial foothold in Syria. Under Trump, Assad’s use of chemical weapons was met with an overwhelming U.S. military response signaling to both friend and foe that the U.S. would not tolerate the use of WMDs by rogue regimes. Trump also ensured that Putin did not extend his reach beyond the so-called de-confliction zone. In February 2018, a Syrian army column backed by Russian mercenaries from CHVK Wagner attempted to seize an oil refinery near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. They were stopped cold in their tracks by U.S. military personnel who called in air and artillery strikes. The entire enemy force was wiped out and the Russians lost an estimated 200 to 300 men. The action signaled to Russia that the U.S. would not tolerate violations of prior understandings.
INF Treaty: Under Obama, the Russians flagrantly developed and deployed ground-based missiles with ranges of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Obama likely ignored the transgressions in a misguided effort to get the Russians on board with the JCPOA, colloquially known as the Iran deal. In 2019 the Trump administration formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) citing blatant Russian violations of the accord.
Venezuela: In 2009, Obama warmly greeted Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Hugo Chavez at the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. A smiling Nicholas Maduro, Chavez’s successor, was standing nearby and appeared amused by the encounter. Obama later defended his warm embrace of one of America’s top enemies by claiming that the U.S. must engage other countries through humanitarian gestures. During Obama’s tenure, Venezuela became a center for nefarious Russian, Chinese, Iranian and Hezbollah activity. Despite the presence of such pernicious actors right on America’s doorstep, Obama actively opposed sanctions against the Venezuelan regime even when there was wide bipartisan support for such measures. Russia maintains a large economic stake in Venezuela to the tune of over $15 billion. In an effort to prop up the regime and secure its investments, it dispatched troops to Venezuela several times this year. When Trump took office, he reversed the pusillanimous policies of his predecessor by immediately imposing sanctions on Venezuela and key Venezuelan officials. Trump continues to ratchet up the pressure against Venezuela by initiating a relentless economic and diplomatic offensive against its ruling junta. The Trump administration also sternly warned the Kremlin not to deploy military assets in the region referring to such deployments as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region. Thanks to Trump’s relentless pressure campaign, Maduro’s days are almost certainly numbered and when he inevitably falls, Moscow stands to lose a bundle.
During his tenure, Obama pandered to the Russians. He allowed them to violate missile treaties, gave them a twenty percent interest in America’s uranium mining capacity in the now infamous Uranium One deal, transferred sensitive technology to Russian companies that would later end up in the hands of the Russian military, dismantled missile defense shields in eastern Europe, eroded the U.S. military, prevented lethal aid from reaching Ukraine and stifled the fossil fuel industry. If the Democrats want to find a Russian stooge, they need look no further than Barack Obama.