Tag Archives: nuclear weapons

Trump’s phantom ‘armada’ leads to mockery and distrust in South Korea

The Trump White House and the Pentagon were either deliberately deceiving the American people last week, or they were so incompetent that they just didn’t know what they were doing. It’s likely a combination of both. Amy Davidson of the New Yorker reports, Donald Trump, North Korea, and the case of the phantom armada:

Some degree of delusion always has to be factored in with Donald Trump: when he referred to “the aircraft carriers” and, in another interview, with Fox Business, said that “we are sending an armada, very powerful,” he was widely understood to be referring to a single aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, and its support ships. In fairness, the Vinson would have been powerful and provocative enough—if it had, in fact, been speeding toward the Korean Peninsula, or the Sea of Japan, or even just the Pacific Ocean, which it was not. It was in the Indian Ocean, headed in the opposite direction, for exercises with what might be described as the Australian Armada. Just when you think you see the contours of Trump’s phantom menace, he comes up with a Phantom Fleet.

[T]he movements of a carrier group can’t be so hard to conceal, except, perhaps, from the people in charge of America’s foreign policy. Trump wasn’t alone on this one; it’s not a case of him just causing trouble with his phone and Twitter account, rambling about bad hombres. As the timeline makes clear, it’s even worse. (The Wall Street Journal and the Times have good versions.) On April 9th, three days before Trump’s Wall Street Journal interview, the Navy had said that it had ordered the Vinson “to sail north”; H. R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, reiterated that news on the same day, framing it as a response to North Korea’s own provocative moves. Secretary of Defense James Mattis followed that up on April 11th by saying that the Indian Ocean exercises were off, and said that the Vinson was “just on her way up there.” That was false. The next day, the Navy said again that the Vinson had been “ordered north”; it added that the effects of that deployment on “other previously scheduled activities are still being assessed during the transit.” The Pentagon is now trying to sell that last bit as a quiet correction of Mattis, which the press mysteriously missed—but that is, simply put, ridiculous. For one thing, there’s the phrase “during the transit,” which assumes that transit had begun. Or is the idea that the Vinson was on its way to the Sea of Japan, in the sense that we are all on our way from cradle to grave, or that Trump is in transit from the Oval Office to choosing items for the gift shop in his Presidential library? A lot can happen in between.

Continue reading

North Korea – U.S. tensions could spin out of control this weekend unless cooler heads prevail

Things may get very real very fast on the Korean peninsula this weekend. The hermit kingdom of North Korea is about to celebrate a birthday bash on Saturday, with a nuclear test for the candle on the birthday cake. A U.S. Navy strike group is patrolling off the coast of North Korea to snuff out their birthday candle should they try to light it. If this scenario plays out, we are going to need a lot more than Team America: World Police.

The Los Angeles Times has a good introduction in North Korea says it’s ready for war, but Pyongyang remains a city of orderly calm:

North Korea is expected to test a missile or nuclear weapon as early as Saturday — the 105th birthday of the country’s late founder Kim Il Sung — and anxiety is mounting.

President Trump has moved a Navy strike group to the Korean peninsula. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to travel to South Korea on Saturday. Japan has issued a warning over North Korea’s suspected chemical weapons capabilities, with officials in Tokyo discussing how to evacuate the country’s 60,000 citizens from North Korea.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi warned Friday morning of “storm clouds” gathering over the Korean peninsula, saying that “tit-for-tat threats between the United States and North Korea with daggers drawn has created a dangerous situation worthy of our vigilance.”

In Pyongyang, vice minister Han Song Ryol accused the United States of fomenting the trouble and vowed, “We will go to war if they choose.’’

NBC News reports, U.S. May Launch Strike if North Korea Reaches for Nuclear Trigger:

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

North Korea has warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.

Continue reading

Trump embraces the ‘Madman in The White House’ foreign policy of Richard Nixon

This week Trump’s National Security Advisor, retired Lt. Gen.Michael Flynn, took a break from his regular stint on Russia Television (RT) to announce that the Trump administration is putting Iran “on notice” for a recent ballistic missile test.

“On notice” is not a diplomatic term of art, and no one knows what it means. Team Trump puts Iran ‘on notice,’ won’t explain what that means:

The trouble is, no one seems able to say what “on notice” means in the context of U.S. foreign policy. Sure, we remember Stephen Colbert’s “on notice” board, but when it comes to the White House, it remains an unexplained mystery.

* * *

Note, among those who are confused is CentCom. “We saw the statement as well,” a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which runs operations in the Middle East, told The Guardian. “This is still at the policy level, and we are waiting for something to come down the line. We have not been asked to change anything operationally in the region.”

So, the rookie White House is making vague pronouncements about the Middle East, while the amateur president tweets recklessly and his administration says nothing to the military personnel who need a heads-up about such things.

Stephen Colbert is sick of Donald Trump stealing his act, so he brought out the “On Notice” board and put the President on notice.

Continue reading

Donald Trump’s rhetoric embraces ‘Putin’s Real Long Game’

James Bruno, a former U.S. diplomat, writes at the Political Animal blog, Tinker. Tailor. Mogul. Spy?

Putin-Trump-KissThe United States has just endured a carefully planned, well-orchestrated assault against its democratic form of government in the form of a grand cyber-theft of information and targeted release of that information. After a thorough scrub of available intelligence, seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies concluded unanimously that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

* * *

But if Russia’s role in the 2016 election is basically undisputed, we’re still left with a separate, more troubling question for which there isn’t yet a clear answer: Could Donald Trump actually be a Russian intel asset?

The U.S. intelligence chiefs steered clear of this hot potato conjecture. Supporting the case in favor is Trump’s bizarre screeds against the U.S. intelligence community and his equally head-scratching and consistent praise of Vladimir Putin even as his nominees to head the CIA and Defense Department describe Moscow as a threat. “In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” former acting CIA Director Michael Morell wrote in the New York Times. An “unwitting agent” or “asset” in spy parlance is an individual who serves the interests of a foreign government without fully realizing it, or, what Lenin liked to call, a “useful idiot.” A “witting” asset is one who knows fully what he is doing.

Continue reading

The Kremlin’s candidate, Putin pal Donald Trump, has a pro-Putin inner circle

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes, As Trump prepares his kissy face for Putin, a glimpse into the dictator’s soul:

“Spare us the kissy-face.”

It was June 2001 and I was covering President George W. Bush’s trip to Slovenia, where he had just met Vladimir Putin for the first time. I and others were struck by Bush’s praise for the Russian leader as “trustworthy.” Said Bush: “I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

* * *

In retrospect, that moment in Slovenia defined the Russia relationship for years to come. Putin had seduced Bush, who only slowly came to understand he had misjudged this adversary’s soul. Putin opposed Bush in Iraq and was unhelpful with Iran. He shut down independent television, sent business leaders who criticized him into exile and prison, ousted democratic parties from government, canceled the election of governors and invaded Georgia.

* * *

Putin-Trump-KissNow it’s Donald Trump’s turn for kissy-face, and the president-elect is practically groping the Russian dictator. After Putin gloated Friday that Democrats need to learn “to lose with dignity,” Trump tweeted Putin a sloppy kiss: “So true!” he said of Putin’s comments.

Trump also celebrated a letter he received from Putin calling for more collaboration between the two countries. “His thoughts are so correct,” Trump said.

Trump’s blush-inducing embrace of the strongman has included repeated praise of Putin’s leadership, deflected questions about Putin’s political killings, and disparagement of U.S. intelligence for accusing Russia of election meddling. (See, Trump, Dismissive of Hacking, Says Americans Should ‘Get on With Our Lives’).

Continue reading

The parade of horrors of Trump cabinet picks continues

President-elect Donald Trump made it official this morning. Rex Tillerson, Exxon C.E.O., Chosen as Secretary of State:

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-10-00-13-amIn [nominating] Mr. Tillerson, the president-elect is dismissing bipartisan concerns that the globe-trotting leader of an energy giant has a too-cozy relationship with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia.

A statement from Mr. Trump’s transition office early Tuesday brought to an end his public and chaotic deliberations over the nation’s top diplomat — a process that at times veered from rewarding Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most loyal supporters, to musing about whether Mitt Romney, one of his most outspoken critics, might be forgiven.

Instead, Mr. Trump has decided to risk what looks to be a bruising confirmation fight in the Senate.

In the past several days, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had warned that Mr. Tillerson would face intense scrutiny over his two-decade relationship with Russia, which awarded him its Order of Friendship in 2013, and with Mr. Putin.

The hearings will also put a focus on Exxon Mobil’s business dealings with Moscow. The company has billions of dollars in oil contracts that can go forward only if the United States lifts sanctions against Russia, and Mr. Tillerson’s stake in Russia’s energy industry could create a very blurry line between his interests as an oilman and his role as America’s leading diplomat.

Continue reading