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How much does Trump love Putin?

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Does USA love Russia or Russia love USA? Can an American President love a Russian counterpart any time in future? USA and Russia are strongest foes with largest terror arsenals and their missiles target each other. The only plus point for them is that both are UN veto members, strategically controlling the world.

American media is filled with unbelievable stories about US presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s reverence for Russian president Vladimir Putin – former KGB intelligence officer who later in his career worked for KGB in Germany before he was handpicked by the new and first post-Soviet Russian president Boris Yelstsin to succeed him. Russia, Americans say, is frequently at odds with American interests on the world stage.

Is Trump all that committed on his pronouncements on Russian policy? Is there any creditable evidence that he has received Russian money? Are Trump’s business interests in Russia really all that significant?

Basically, Trump is an American hawk while Putin is a Russian variety of this character. Trump may have business interests in Russia that Puitn may back. Apart from that, Trump may have liked the boldness, stubbornness and thoroughness of Russian president.

Recently Republican Donald Trump said he is not sure what kind of relationship he would have with Russian President Putin if he is elected US president.

Democrats have consistently mocked Trump’s past remarks in praise of the Russian strongman, the latest instance coming from vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine.

Donald Trump pushed back on Hillary Clinton’s accusation that he’s cozying up to Putin after the charge put Trump’s running mate on the defensive during the vice presidential debate. The billionaire Trump sought to take away an argument that Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, have ramped up in the final weeks of the campaign as they work to portray Trump as dangerous for American interests overseas. While US-Russia relations nosedive over failed diplomacy in Syria, Trump has complimented Putin, calling him a strong leader and even encouraging him to track down Clinton’s missing emails, though Trump later said he was being sarcastic.

The celebrity businessman said his relationship with Russia’s leader would be determined by how Moscow responds to strong US leadership under a Trump administration. “They say Donald Trump loves Putin. I don’t love, I don’t hate. We’ll see how it works,” Trump told a rally outside Las Vegas. Speaking before an estimated crowd of 7,000 in Henderson, Nev., a Las Vegas suburb, Trump said he could not predict the type of relationship he would have with Putin.

Trump was on the campaign trail, making several stops across Nevada. Taking the stage in Henderson, Nev., Trump took his own victory lap for Pence’s performance, which he called “phenomenal.”

Clinton shrugged that off, saying Trump has weird fascination with dictators. “My opponent seems not to know the difference between an ally and adversary,” Clinton said at an evening fundraiser in Washington. “You guys love Russia,” Democratic VP candidate Kaine said in Tuesday’s debate. In a forceful rebuke, Pence described Putin as a “small and bullying leader” but blamed Clinton and President Barack Obama for a “weak and feckless” foreign policy that had awakened Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and meddling in the Middle East. Pence’s cool demeanor contrasted with Trump’s bluster during his own, top-of-the-ticket showdown against Clinton. However strong Pence’s performance, Trump made clear he considers it a reflection of himself.

During the debate, Trump’s running mate Gov. Mike Pence, who has defended Trump’s praise of Putin, backed away from Trump’s previous praise for Putin, calling the Russian president a “small and bullying” leader.

Trump and Russia

Russia, by whatever yardstick is in vogue, prefers Trump if for no other reason than it hates Hillary Clinton because of her alleged foreign policy interventionist views. But Russian officials are also worried by the disruptive potential of a Trump presidency, specifically about his fulfillment of even some of his chaotic promises.

Vladimir Putin clearly is pleased with Trump’s praise of him, such as saying that Putin has been a better leader than Barack Obama. And the Kremlin is thrilled by Trump’s statements deriding NATO, applauding the British decision to leave the European Union and suggesting that America might not defend allies threatened by Russia.

Stylistically Trump is Putin’s type. Trump seems to Moscow at this point unlikely to put politically correct talk of “Western values” ahead of “our mutual and shared interests.” That he may well harm the Western alliance in the process is a most welcome bonus. Trump will smash America as the Russians currently perceive it. There is little doubt (at least as expressed on Radio Moscow) that Trump’s use of advisers who are sympathetic to Moscow is welcome.

Trump’s views on America’s role in the world completely align with the very fervent hopes Russia has. If reports on Radio Moscow are any guide, there is some understanding of Trump’s unpredictability — that is, just about everything is unknown. While Hillary Clinton is viewed as fiercely anti-Russian, she is nonetheless a familiar figure, and there is some grudging respect. She if elected would just pursue the Bush-Obama imperialist policies abroad.

Donald Trump shows himself to inhabit a fantastical realm where Barack Obama’s birth certificate was faked, the president founded ISIS, the Clintons are killers and the father of a former rival was with Lee Harvey Oswald before he assassinated John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

Americans feel depressed that their president Obama does not enjoy the benefits of hard power like Turkish or Russian presidents do. The deeper worry, therefore, is for Russia and Turkey, where “autocrats” use the techniques of post-truth to silence opposing opinions deemed unacceptable by some. In USA, the Congress itself is a hoax, behaves like a collective autocrat.

The USA and Russia back opposing sides in Syria’s civil war but both are fighting the Islamic State group there. The USA cut off talks with Russia about Syria this week after the latest cease-fire collapsed, blaming Russia for failing to fulfill its commitments under the deal. “I can say this: If we get along and Russia went out with us and knocked the hell out of ISIS, that’s OK with me folks,” Trump said, using an acronym for the extremist group.

Democrat Kaine acknowledged that even his wife gave him a hard time for his constant interruptions during the debate. But Kaine said he was effectively able to block Republican VP candidate Pence from attacking Clinton. “I’ve never played hockey but I think I’d be a good goalie, based on last night,” he said.

Vice-presidential debates don’t typically change the course of an election, but this one could be different if Trump heeds its lessons in his next debate. The Republican has slid in the polls since the first debate by getting lost in dead-end issues and self-indulgent Twitter bursts. Pence are a former radio talk show host, and it showed with his cool, articulate delivery. His earnest, low-key demeanor was a notable contrast to Tim Kaine, whose strategy seemed to be to interrupt Pence at every opportunity.

Foreign policy

Foreign policy remains the key area of US interests but it is strange foreign policy maters have not yet entered the debates of the presidential hopefuls. Only Trumps love for Russia has been debated in a vague manner without any perspectives.

Hillary and Trump have not discussed the rationale for the permanent war agenda of USA and NATO. Nor do they say anything in detail about the US aid to third world underdeveloped nations. Disarmament or denuclearization issues have not come up in debates and speeches even by mistake.

The most notable substantive exchanges occurred on foreign policy, with Republican VP candidate Pence offering a ¬detailed critique of Barack Obama’s record and growing global disorder. Democrat VP mate Kaine kept saying Clinton was part of the team that killed Osama bin Laden, but that is old anti-terror news. Pence replied that the main terror threat now was Islamic State, which he said grew out of “the vacuum” left when Obama withdrew all US troops from Iraq.

Notable was the debate on Russia, with Kaine claiming that Trump has business ties with “oligarchs” that cause him to apologize for Vladimir Putin. Trump’s admiration for Putin is mysterious and worrisome. But Pence pointed out Clinton’s hawkishness-come-lately on Russia follows years of weak ¬policy that invited Putin’s aggression. Pence reminded the audience what a classic Republican security policy sounds like — if only Trump would adopt it.

For the most part Pence dodged this trap, going back on offence against the Clinton-Obama record rather than ¬defend every Trump statement, many of which are indefensible. This is a useful lesson for Trump to take into the next debate, a town hall in which audience members will ask the questions. People want to like their presidents.

At least henceforth the presidential candidates must discuss the future war plans of USA and when they should end terror wars for fun and resources, declare a credible plan to withdraw all its terror troops from foreign soils.

Observation

The big moment for their running mates behind them, both Democratic Hillary and Republican Trump are shifting focus back to each other — and to Sunday’s debate, the second of three showdowns between the nominees. The debate is very critical for Trump. Since last week’s debate, Trump has faced a barrage of questions over a leaked tax return showing he lost more than $900 million in 1995. In turn, he’s sought to reframe his life story as a comeback tale he hopes to recreate on behalf of a faltering nation. “America needs a turnaround. American needs a comeback. America needs a change. And that’s why I’m running,” Trump said.

If Republican Trump could make the case for Donald Trump half as well as his ally Mike Pence makes the case for Donald Trump, the New Yorker would be well on his way to the White House.

Also, a latest opinion poll suggests that Republican Trump is ahead of Hillary by 2. 5 points and this trend is likely to go up as poll date approaches. These days, possibly in order to help shoot up the rating of Obama and Clinton Hillary, many TV channels relays Hollywood movies where Black Americans play lead hero role or positive rules to help the White American heroes, among others and naturally the rating of Obama is sound.

Russia gives every appearance of hoping that the presidential run by Republican Donald Trump will prove successful and there is every indication that the Kremlin wants to give him a boost. Russia has made a lukewarm confession of hacking the emails from the Democratic National Committee that appeared on WikiLeaks. Surely this must be a covert Russian operation designed specifically to sow distrust in our elections. Put another way, Trump may well have become an agent of the Russian Federation.

Being cast adrift in ever expanding ocean of American lies spread and “democratize” in order to invade Muslim nations, the American people may well end up with nothing to cling to. This in itself may well end up in old-fashioned oppression in USA. Ukraine’s ex-president Vicktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, recently made a speech in which he denounced America’s hypocritical focus on democratization in all its forms.

The point Democrats are busy driving to the public is to remind Americans that Trump can be crude, nasty and untutored. This fits the Clinton strategy to delegitimize Trump personally as a ¬potential president. His affirmative case for Clinton and her agenda were ¬almost afterthoughts.

Regardless of who takes the White House come November, Russia’s very presence at the center of American electoral politics is celebrated in Moscow. here is wholesale denying of meddling in Moscow; the accusations nonetheless reinforce the sense of Putin’s power. The focus in Russia on the presidential campaign in America is construed to be a true and lasting acknowledgement that Russia has returned to the international arena. That surely must be what Putin really craves.

All said and done, if Trump is elected US president the limping US-Russian relations would develop smoothly. Putin and Trump could find a common language.

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Americas

In Praise of the Lioness of Law: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her Jurisprudence

Punsara Amarasinghe

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image credit: Wikipedia

The death of the US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created an abyss in the court for the liberal voice where justice Ginsburg was seen as the linchpin of the liberal block of the Supreme Court at a time when that block was shrinking. Especially late judge had vociferously advocated for women ‘rights, environmental issues and often came up with unique dissents in delivering her judgements which were propelled by her jurisprudence which embodied the solemn ideal in American legal system “Equal Protection under the Law “. She was on a quest to defend the delicate balance between honoring the timelessness of American Constitution and recognizing the depth of its enduring principles in new centuries and under new circumstances.

She grew up in an era where men held the helm in every aspect of social life and especially the legal profession was utterly dominated by men. Recalling her legal studies at Harvard law school in the 50’s judge Ginsburg had stated later how she was once asked by the Dean of Harvard law school to justify her position as a law student that otherwise would have gone to a man. Yet she had the spunk to overcome all the obstacles stood on her way and excelled as a scholar becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

In tracing her legal career that it becomes a salient fact, Judge Ginsburg marked her name in American legal history even decades before she joined the bench. While at the American Civil Liberties Union in the early seventies she made an upheaval in American in legal system in famous Supreme Court Case Reed Vs Reed. In Reed Vs Reed the brief drafted by Ginsburg provided an astute analysis on the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause. Ginsburg’s brief changed the aged long practice existed in the State of Idaho on favoring men over women in estate battles by paving the path for a discourse on gender equality rights in the USA.

Judge Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1994 during Clinton administration marked the dawn of new jurisprudential chapter in the US Supreme Court. Two terms later, in the United States v. Virginia (VMI), Justice Ginsburg applied her lucid perspective to a sharply disputed constitutional claim. The United States challenged Virginia’s practice of admitting only men to its prestigious military college, the Virginia Military Institute. Writing for six Justices, Ginsburg held this policy unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. In reaching this result, Ginsburg adroitly cut away potentially confounding issues about women’s participation in the military or the advantages of single-sex education.

Her robust activism in securing gender equality often attracted the admirations of the feminist scholars and activists, but it should be noted that her contribution was not only confined to the protection of gender equality. She was a robust critique of racial dissemination which still pervades in American society and she frequently pointed out how racial discrimination has marred the constitutional protections guaranteed to every citizen. Especially in the case of Gratz Vs Bollitnger, she stressed on the commitment that the state ought to fulfil by eliminating the racial biases existing employment and education. Moreover, disabled citizens. In Olmstead v. Zimring, she held that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.45 She elaborated a two-fold concept of discrimination, noting that unneeded institutionalization both “perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life”.

In remembering the mortal departure of this prudent judge that one cannot forget her keenness in incorporating international law into her judgements regardless of the disinclination shown by conservative judges like Antony Scalia. Going beyond the mere textualism approach to the law, Ginsburg’s jurisprudence was much more akin to using international law to make substantive decisions. For instance, in her concurring verdict in Grutter Vs Bollinger, Justice Ginsburg relied upon international human rights law, and in particular upon two United Nations conventions, to support her conclusions.

Indeed, the demise of Ruth Ginsburg is a major blow for the liberalists in the USA, especially in an era where liberalist values are at stake under the fervent rise of populist waves propounded by Donald Trump. Especially late judge had been one of the harsh critics of Trump even before ascendency to the Oval office. The void created by the demise of judge Ginsburg might change the role the US Supreme Court if the successor to her position would take a more conservative approach and it will fortify the conservative bloc in the US Supreme Court. Trump has already placed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the third pick would more deeply entrench the conservative views in the US Supreme Court, which would inevitably undermine the progressive policies taken during Obama’s administration towards issues such as the environment. The political storm appeared after the death of the late judge has already created a tense situation in US politics as president Trump is determined to appoint a judge to fill before the presidential election in November.

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The Politics of (In)security in Mexico: Between Narcissism and Political Failure

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Security cannot be that easily separated from the political realm. The need for security is the prime reason why people come together to collectively form a state. Providing security is, therefore, one of the most basic functions of the state as a political and collective entity.

Last Friday, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) laughed during his daily morning press briefings over a national newspaper headline about 45 massacres during his presidency. This attitude summarises in a macabre way his approach to insecurity: it is not his top priority. This is not the first time that AMLO has showed some serious and deeply disturbing lack of empathy for victims of crimes. Before taking office, he knew that insecurity was one of Mexico’s biggest challenges, and he has come to realise that curbing it down will not be as simple as he predicted during his presidential campaign.

Since the start of the War on Drugs in 2006, Mexico has sunk into a deep and ever-growing spiral of violence and vigilantism as a result of the erosion of the capacity of the state to provide safety to citizens. Vigilantism is when citizens decide to take the law into their own hands in order to fill the vacuum left by the state, or to pursue their own very particular interests. Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Veracruz have over 50 vigilante organisations that pose substantial danger to the power of the state.

Vigilantism is not the only factor exacerbating the security crisis in Mexico: since 2006, young people have also started to join drug cartels and other criminal organisations. There are important sectors of the population who feel that the state has failed to represent them. They also feel betrayed because the state has not been able to provide them with the necessary means to better themselves. These frustrations make them vulnerable to the indoctrination of organised crime gangs who promise to give them some sort of ideological direction and solution to their problems.

As a result, it is not enough to carry out a kingpin arrest strategy and to preach on the moral duties we have as citizens as well as on human dignity. People need to be given enough means to find alternative livelihoods that are attractive enough to take them out of organised crime, Mexico can draw some important lessons from Sierra Leone who successfully demobilised and resettled ex-combatants after the armed conflict. Vigilantism, recruitment by organised crime, and insecurity have also flourished because of a lack of deterrence. The judicial system is weak and highly ineffective. A large proportion of the population does not trust the police, or the institutions in charge of the rule of law.

A long-term strategy requires linking security with politics. It needs to address not only the consequences but also the roots of unemployment and deep inequality. However, doing so requires decisive actions to root out widespread and vicious corruption. Corruption allows concentration of wealth and also prevents people from being held accountable. This perpetuates the circle of insecurity. Mexico has been slowly moving towards a borderline failed state. The current government is starting to lose legitimacy and the fragility of the state is further perpetuated by the undemocratic, and predatory governance of the current administration.

Creating a safer Mexico requires a strong, coherent, and stable leadership, AMLO’s administration is far from it. His popularity has consistently fallen as a result of his ineffective policies to tackle the pandemic, worsening insecurity, and the economic crisis. Mexico has reached over 72,000 Covid-19 deaths; during his initial 20 months as incumbent president, there has been 53,628 murders, among them 1800 children or teenagers, and 5888 women (11 women killed per day) This criminality rate is double than what it was during the same period in the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012); and 55% higher than with the last president, Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). Mexico is also experiencing its worst economic recession in 90 years.

Insecurity remains as the issue of most concern among Mexicans, seeing the president laughing about it, can only fill citizens with yet more despair and lack of trusts in the government and its institutions. AMLO’s catastrophic performance is not surprising, though. Much of his failures and shortcomings can be explained by both ideology and a narcissistic personality. Having someone with both of those traits ruling a country under normal, peaceful times is already dangerous enough, add an economic crisis and a pandemic to the mix and the result is utter chaos.

AMLO embodies the prototypical narcissist: he has a grandiose self-image; an inflated ego; a constant need for admiration; and intolerance to criticism. He, like many other narcissists, thinks about himself too much and too often, making him incapable of considering the wellbeing of other and unable to pursue the public interest. He has a scapegoat ready to blame for his failures and mistakes: previous administrations, conservatives, neoliberalism, academics, writers, intellectuals, reporters, scientists, you name it, the list is long and keeps getting longer.

AMLO keeps contradicting himself and he does not realise it. He has been claiming for months that the pandemic is under control: it is not. He declares Mexico is ready to face the pandemic and we have enough tests and medical equipment: we do not. He says Mexico is on its way to economic recovery: it is not. He states corruption is a thing of the past: it is not. He says Mexico is now safer than ever before: it is not. When told the opposite he shrugs criticism off and laughs, the behaviour of a typical narcissist.

AMLO, alike narcissists, due to his inability to face criticism, has never cared about surrounding himself by the best and brightest. He chose a bunch of flunkies as members of his cabinet who try to please and not humiliate their leader. A further trait of narcissistic personalities is that they love conflict and division as this keeps them under control. The more destabilisation and antagonism, the better. AMLO since the start of his presidency has been setting states against states for resources and for pandemic responses, instead of coordinating a national response. He is also vindictive: playing favourites with those governors who follow him and punishing those that oppose him.

Deep down, narcissistic leaders are weak. AMLO is genuinely afraid to lead. He simply cannot bring himself to make decisions that are solely his. This is why he has relied on public referendums and consultations to cancel projects or advance legislation. He will not take any responsibility if something goes wrong: It was not him who decided, it was the people, blame them. He inherited a broken system that cannot be fixed during his term, blame the previous administrations, not him.

AMLO is a prime example of a textbook narcissist, unfortunately he is not the only one: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte are only a few more examples of what seems to be a normalised behaviour in contemporary politics. Every aspect of AMLO’s and other leaders presidencies have been heavily marked by their psychopathology. Narcissism, however, does not allow proper and realistic self-assessment, self-criticism, and self-appreciation therefore such leaders will simply ignore the red flags in their administration and have no clue how despicably and disgracefully they will be remembered.

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Americas

Minor Successes And The Coronavirus Disaster: Is Trump A Dead Duck?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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That reminder from the Bible, ‘He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone’ may give us pause — but not journalists who by all appearances assume exemption.  And the stones certainly bruise.

Evidence for the bruises lies in the latest poll numbers.  Overall, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 50 to 43 percent, a margin that has continued to increase since January.  It is also considerably wider than the few points lead Hillary Clinton had over Trump four years ago.  It gets worse for Trump. 

In the industrial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Trump in 2016 won by razor thin margins, he is losing by over 4 percent.  Also key to his victory was Wisconsin where, despite his success in getting dairy products into Canada, he is behind by a substantial 7 percent.  Key states Ohio and Florida are also going for the Democrats.

Trump was not doing so badly until the coronavirus struck and during the course of his news conferences he displayed an uncaring persona larded with incompetence.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man he fired for correcting Trumpian exaggerations became a hero and Trump the bully.

If that bullying nature won him small rewards with allies, he hit an impasse with China and Iran … while bringing the two closer to each other.  Then there is the border wall, a sore point for our southern neighbor Mexico.  President Lopez Obrador made sure the subject never came up at the July meeting with Trump,   Thus Mexico is not paying for it so far and will not be in the foreseeable future.

The United Arab Emirates, a conglomeration of what used to be the Trucial States under British hegemony. have agreed to formalize its already fairly close relations with Israel.  In return, Israel has postponed plans to annex the West Bank.  Whether or not it is in Israel’s long term interest to do so is a debatable question because it provides much more powerful ammunition to its critics who already accuse it of becoming an apartheid regime.  However, it had become Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sop to the right wing who will have to wait.  Of course, the reality is that Israel is already the de facto ruler.

If Mr. Trump was crowing about the agreement signed on September 15, although it is akin to someone signing an agreement with Puerto Rico while the United States remains aloof.  As a postscript, the little island of Bahrain also signed a peace deal with Israel.  Bahrain has had its own problems in that a Sunni sheikh rules a Shia populace.  When the Shia had had enough, Saudi and UAE troops were used to end the rebellion.  Bahrain is thus indebted to the UAE.

How many among voters will know the real value of these historic (according to Trump) deals particularly when he starts twittering his accomplishments as the election nears?

There things stand.  As they say, there is nothing worse than peaking too early.  Bettors are still favoring Trump with their money.  The longer anyone has been in politics the more there is to mine, and for an opponent to use to his/her advantage.  Time it seems is on Trump’s side.  

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