Tag Archives: NATO

An ‘ugly American’ abroad: NATO, the Queen, and pal Putin, oh my!

The NATO Summit will be held July 11-12, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. As Summit Nears, NATO Allies Have One Main Worry: Trump:

[T]here is one wild card: President Trump.

Nobody knows which president will show up — the truculent one railing about inadequate military spending by the allies or the boastful one taking credit for recent spending increases.

Either way, NATO members say they fear that all the preparation and the desire to show solidarity in the face of a new Russian threat will be overshadowed, if not undone, by a divisive encounter followed by Mr. Trump’s prospective summit meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

The European allies are deeply worried that they will confront the Trump who was on display at the meeting in June in Canada of the seven major economies, known as the Group of 7, or G-7. Those in the room described him as angry, mocking, wandering and rude, especially to the host, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

There, Mr. Trump focused on two of his fixed ideas: the unfairness of trade with European allies and their inadequate level of military spending.

The Trump administration regards Western European nations as free-riders on an American-funded, postwar peace that enabled them to build lavish social benefit systems because they spent so little on defending themselves. He has also made clear that he thinks the European Union, as a trading bloc, has taken advantage of American generosity.

European and some American officials say they dread the same pattern — a noisy, divisive NATO summit, damaging deterrence, followed by a chummy meeting with a dictator, in this case Mr. Putin, whose long-term goals are to destabilize the European Union, undermine NATO and restore Russian influence over Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and the Balkans.

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Appeasement by any other name

In case you missed it, because it was released on the eve before the Fourth of July in a pre-holiday news dump (which raises the obvious question, “Why”?), the Senate Intelligence Committee completely refuted Rep. Devin “Midnight Run” Nunes’ bogus House Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign that was ballyhooed by the Twitter-troll-in chief and FAUX News aka Trump TV.

The Washington Post reported, Senate report affirms intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia favored Trump over Clinton:

A Senate panel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election released Tuesday a written summary of its determination that the U.S. intelligence community correctly concluded Moscow sought to help Donald Trump win.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report affirms conclusions that its members first announced in May. It stands in sharp contrast with a parallel investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, whose Republican members questioned the intelligence community’s tradecraft in concluding the Kremlin aimed to help Trump.

The Senate panel called the overall assessment a “sound intelligence product,” saying evidence presented by the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency supported their collective conclusion that the Russian government had “developed a clear preference for Trump” over his opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton. Where the agencies disagreed, the Senate panel found those differences were “reasonable.”

Trump insists that the Russians did not have a preference for his campaign, and has even tried to project onto Clinton that Putin would have preferred Hillary Clinton as president. Sorry, but NO.

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Russia attacks Britain, Putin’s puppet fires his Secretary of State (Updated)

Events over the past week portend a developing international crisis.

On Sunday, March 4, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, England. Was the Poisoning of a Former Russian Spy a Chemical Weapons Attack?

Skripal and his daughter Yulia are still in critical condition after they were found slumped on a park bench on March 4. The officer who found them is also still in the hospital but is communicative. At least 21 people received medical attention, and hundreds more who visited the restaurant where the nerve agent has been detected may have been exposed and have been urged to wash their clothes.

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The Skripal poisoning wasn’t a battlefield attack, of course, but the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which both Russia and Britain are signatories, prohibits the use of toxic chemicals such as nerve agents except for a few, specifically described purposes; assassinating ex-spies on foreign soil is not one of them.

British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed Parliament on Monday regarding the chemical weapon attack in Salisbury, England last week. In her address, she squarely placed the blame for the chemical weapons attack on the Russian government:

Mr. Speaker, this morning I chaired a meeting of the National Security Council in which we considered the information so far available. As is normal, the Council was updated on the assessment and intelligence picture, as well as the state of the investigation.

It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.

This is part of a group of nerve agents known as ‘Novichok’.

Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

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Congress now wants to talk to Trump’s personal lawyer (updated)

The Hill reports that the congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election now includes Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen:

Cohen told ABC News on Tuesday that he was asked by House and Senate investigators “to provide information and testimony” regarding communication he has had with people connected to the Russian government.

“I declined the invitation to participate as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” Cohen said in an email.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has a good background post on Cohen at Talking Points Memo. Investigators Are Right To Be Looking at Michael Cohen. He’s not just “Trump’s bully lawyer who makes legal threats and mouths off on TV. He is a much, much more significant player.”

ABC News noted that after Cohen declined to cooperate, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee voted last Thursday to give the panel’s chairman and ranking Democrat the power to issue subpoenas when they think it’s necessary.

NBC News reported on Tuesday that the request letters sent to Cohen were the same ones sent to former Trump aides Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.

Last month, Cohen defended the president’s relationship with Russia, saying in an interview that Trump is reducing tensions between the United States and Moscow.

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Russia tests NATO alliance in Eastern Europe

News that you have not seen reported on the network evening news programs this week . . . NPR reports Russia Seen Moving New Missiles To Eastern Europe:

In what could mark an escalation of tensions with the West, commercial satellite images suggest that Russia is moving a new generation of nuclear-capable missiles into Eastern Europe.

Russia appears to be preparing to permanently base its Iskander missile system in Kaliningrad, a sliver of territory it controls along the Baltic coast between Lithuania and Poland. Arms control experts shared fresh satellite imagery with NPR, which they say provides evidence that the Iskander will soon be housed in the Russian-controlled enclave.

The images show ground being cleared for tentlike shelters used at other Iskander bases, says Jeffrey Lewis, a nonproliferation expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “The pattern, and the size, and the location strongly suggest to us that this is the beginning phase of construction of the shelters for Iskander,” Lewis says.

Kalingrad

Lewis and Finnish defense analyst Veli-Pekka Kivimäki, a doctoral student on open-source intelligence, discovered the construction through digital sleuthing. First, they searched Russia’s Facebook, known as VKontakte, for images taken by military conscripts assigned to missile units (Russian grunts are prolific on social media, according to Lewis). Comparing the images posted by conscripts to the satellite imagery, they were able to pinpoint the missile base in Kaliningrad where the Iskanders have sometimes been sent on training exercises.

They then monitored the bases until they saw construction of what they recognized as permanent storage structures used for Iskander missiles.

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