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Trump’s Turn

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From Friday, January 20th 2017. the United States have a new President – for many, not only in America, still at least controversial and in the extreme version: totally unacceptable Donald John Trump. In a precise ceremony in front of the Congress Trump gave his oath and delivered his first speech as head of state. And for everybody who is not biased or has not become prisoner of prejudices, he announced a complete turn in regard to the US policy, as it was until now.

This turn can be detected in a couple of key messages which are, admittingly, populist, but not without a deeper political contents.

First of all, Trump confirmed that he is a convinced enemy of political elites, accusing them of prospering while ordinary Americans suffered. To the “forgotten men and women” of America he promised: “You are not forgotten any more and you will never be forgotten again”, adding that the day of his inauguration marks not the transfer of power from one political party to another, but from Washington DC to the people. Then, using – historically speaking – the slogan of American isolationists, he stressed that from this day in deliberating on any decision only one principle will be applied and that is: America first! (accepting that every state in the world has the right to put its interests above everything else). After that, more clearly than ever before, he repeated what he said for the first time accepting the nomination of the Republican party as presidential candidate. Last summer, namely, he announced that the US will stop imposing regimes. In his first presidential address he was even more precise: America will not impose her way of life to anybody. It is worth noting that the “American way of life” was until now sort of a sacred cow in the vocabulary of American politicians. Trump added that the US will be a shining example and the other will follow (if they want, of course). And finally he said something that European neofascists, who (wrongly!) think of him as “one of them” would never understand: “If you open your heart to patriotism, there is no place for prejudices.”

Had he said nothing more, this speech should be remembered. Therefore it is absolutely wrong when the reporter of the German public TV (ARD) says this was not a presidential speech at all, but only a continuation of the election campaign. By the way it would be interesting to hear what would this so called liberals say had he after the inauguration changed his rhetoric and contents. They would lament about hypocrisy and not-consistency. But, as Trump remained consistent, they wrote him off as somebody who did not grasp at all that he is the President and is just continuing his campaign. But, objectively speaking, the messages we mentioned have – for everybody willing to hear them – mark not only the beginning of what Trump described as the necessity to turn form empty words to deeds. The core of his economic policy can be detected from the short slogan “buy American and hire American”. And only after being 30 minutes in office he put into question the multilateral trade agreements for American continent and Pacific region, confirming what he announced during the campaign, namely that he prefers a net of bilateral trade agreements instead of those multilateral.

He did not mention any of the concrete problems he will confront as President, such as relations with Russia or health insurance system in the US. But, it was a programmatic speech, based on crucial messages and principles. He did, however, mention radical Islamism (not Islam, but radical Islamism), promising that he would eradicate it from the face of the Earth, for which he will without any doubt need cooperation from Russia.

He repeated that he will create new jobs in America, he spoke again about the decline of former US industrial centres (“inspiring” the German television to say that this is simply not true, but forgetting how many times we had seen the empty fabric hales in Detroit and empty streets in the now declining and many years ago prosperous American cities). And he promised, once again, that he will change this situation, that he will build new highways, new bridges, new railroads. Some objected immediately that he did not say: how. It would have been almost a miracle had he done so in a situation when many of his planned members of the US government still lack the Congressional approval and when even some of them voice opinions quite different in regard to his own.

Be it, as it is, Trump has his vision of the future and he outlined the corner-stones on which he intends to build his vision, despite his critics who were not hesitating to say that he does not understand today’s world. Some analysts heard in his words the echo of the inaugural speeches of the most famous American president of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and some said they had the impression that Bernie Sanders, the “apostle” of the democratic socialism in America is speaking through Trump’s mouth. We would dare to go even one step further. If we put aside Trump’s person and the fact that he is extremely rich, and if we forget his repeated mentioning of God at the end of his speech, we can come to one conclusion only: what was said by Donald Trump should be embraced by every liberal leftist in the world. Caring for ordinary, forgotten people, wealth for everyone, equality between all people (“we can be black, brown or yellow, but we all have the same red blood”), transformation of a system which benefited the politicians, while the middle class suffered, starting of new production, the transfer of power, it is worth repeating, not from one political party to another, but from the Washington elite to the people, all this can be seen, let us not deny this, as a populist, if not even a nationalist approach. But, at the same time it is closer to the left side of the political scene, than to the right one. These are the first impressions based on Trump’s inaugural speech.

But, let us make one thing crystal clear. This is not a noncritical pledoayer for Donald Trump, who has many minuses – from the total lack of political experience, the unnecessary and potentially dangerous antagonizing of the People’s Republic of China to the very dubious hints about his energy policy or his standpoints about the global warning phenomena. But, at the same time it is a pledoayer for much needed and long overdue change of American policy which made the world unstable and insecure and which made the global terrorism a real threat for everybody and everywhere by accepting the protagonists of this terrorism as allies in its projects of toppling the regimes in the Middle East. Yes, such a change, even if it would be Trump’s turn, would be mostly welcome. Of course, if he delivers, what he had promised: it stops here and it stops now. In only a few months we will know if he would be able to transform into reality his vision of America and its new role in the world. Not more: just a few months. After that we will know if Trump’s turn can become a success, or not. And his voters will know if he was right, when he promised them on the Inauguration day. “I will never let you down”.

Americas

Flip-Flops and Foreign Policy: How American Tourist Behavior Hinders U.S. National Security

Dr. Elise Carlson-Rainer

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photo: Duane Hanson

Dear American tourist,

When you are in great European cathedrals, palaces, and important historical sites, would it be possible for you to leave your flip-flops at home? Your shorts and T-shirts could stay as well. If you can afford to bring you and your family to a European palace, I am assuming you could also afford close-toed shoes and proper pants. I do not expect you to be fluent in German, or French. However, it is not too much to ask for you learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the native language. You are not at home: please reflect that you are in a different country, attempt to assimilate, and show a modicum of respect for where you are – it is in your national interest to do so.

Recently, in Vienna, Austria – one of the global centers of high culture, music, and art – I dined at the famous Belvedere Palace’s bistro. During the middle of my meal, a family sat down at the table next to me, with the telltale signs of coming from the United States. All four were wearing flip-flops, they spoke two decibels higher than anyone else at the restaurant, and all were wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Not used to Viennese cuisine, at one point the mother exclaimed loudly, “I believe this gazpacho has turned!” I am guessing many readers have had a similar experience while traveling abroad, as this is sadly not a unique encounter with American tourists. This overall attitude can easily make locals feel annoyed and insulted. While seemingly harmless, these types of interactions can leave a lasting impression about the United States and hurt U.S. diplomacy.

It is important for tourists to realize that they do not come as individuals. Rather, they are seen as “Americans.” As a former American diplomat, it is exhausting and hard to explain the unmeasurable time-consuming task public diplomacy programs spend in combating negative stereotypes of the United States[1]. Beyond showing respect for other nations in places such as Europe, these programs aim to explain to predominately Muslim nations that Americans do not hate Muslims, that our streets are not lined with gold, and that Americans value ethnic and cultural diversity. These efforts in diplomacy work to strengthen ties with would-be skeptical trade partners, and enable carrying out critical U.S. security interests. A nation must build trust to create allies. Currently, the U.S. is in an existential crisis regarding our national values. As tourists are informal representatives of our nation, they can help, or jeopardize, the complex project of American diplomacy in communicating who we are as a people.

When one is dressed properly, as I always do while traveling, one earns respect from locals. I take great pride when I am asked for directions, or locals start conversations with me in German, Swedish, or French, etc. It is a small victory when they realize that I too am an American, but present myself differently than the cafe neighbors I referenced above. It does not matter what you look like, your heritage, or ethnicity. It matters how you present yourself while traveling abroad. There is a universal quality that results in responding back positively when one feels respected. No matter the country, I work hard to give a different impression: that of an American who values local customs and mores. When American tourists show blatant disregard for the country they are visiting, at best it leads to annoyance, at worst, anger and a lasting ill-impression of whom we are as a people.

I recognize that this is a negative generalization of American tourists. Different, but similarly harmful norms can be seen from Australian, English, or German tourists, to name a few examples. Their behavior abroad can also hurt their counties’ national image. Also, it is important to recognize the many tourists – from America and beyond – that come to foreign countries and assimilate beautifully. Thus, tourists are like a toupee; you only see the bad ones.

Scholars such as Jonathan Mercer demonstrate how important reputation is for international relations[2]. Mercer and others argue that countries sign trade agreements, enter into peace deals, and trust the lasting impact of an international negotiation, largely based upon a countries’ reputation. While I recognize that it is not the foreign minister or secretary of state one is interacting with in a café, but rather likely a nice family from Florida, California, or North Carolina. Still, it is not necessarily high level people who carry out the lion-share of trade deals between the United States and foreign countries. It is small and large business partnerships on either side of the Atlantic. These interactions matter: they impact how, and to what extent, foreigners are willing to negotiate, trade, and make security partnerships with the United States.

While encounters like this are frustratingly common in tourist sites across Europe, many do not realize how much it hurts American public diplomacy. Diplomats spend years learning languages. Beyond language, they immerse themselves in local customs. There is a reason for this: understanding other cultures and languages importantly enables foreigners to understand us. It is a way to bridge cultures, discard stereotypes, and defeat ignorance about the fascinating and important peoples that are beyond our borders. When Americans show disregard for host nations and peoples, it makes our diplomatic efforts to build long-lasting bridges and permanent connections – whether for business, security, values, or broader international relations – monumentally more complex and difficult.

When traveling abroad, why not show locals great things about American culture? For example, our strong value of customer service, world class technology, or our ability to make connections and meet strangers openly? There is a plethora of wonderful things about American society that becomes hidden behind distracting Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. Therefore, leaving your cut-offs at home and learning a few words of the native language is in your country’s national interest. It will help foreigners you meet feel respected and valued. It is in all of our interests to communicate attitudes that inspire people to want to create partnerships with us across the Atlantic.

Dankeet Merci!

  • [1] U.S. Department of State. Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs https://www.state.gov/r/ Accessed on July 3, 2018.
  • [2] Mercer, Jonathan 1997.Reputation And International Politics. Cornell University Press | Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, New York.
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Americas

Trump’s and Putin’s Responses to Mueller’s Russiagate Indictments

Eric Zuesse

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In the July 16th joint press conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the question arose of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials for allegedly having engineered the theft of computer files from the Democratic National Committee and from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Here is that part of the press conference, in a question that was addressed to both Presidents (and I boldface here the key end part of Putin’s presentation, and then I proceed to link to two articles which link to the evidence — the actual documents — that Putin is referring to in his response):

REPORTER (Jeff Mason from Reuters): For President Putin if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election given the evidence that US Intelligence agencies have provided? Will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a US Grand jury.

TRUMP: Well I’m going to let the president [meaning Putin] answer the second part of that question.

As you know, the concept of that came up perhaps a little before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win, because the electoral college is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans.

[That allegation from Trump is unsupported, and could well be false.] We won the electoral college by a lot. 306 to 223, I believe. [It was actually 304 to 227.] That was a well-fought battle. We did a great job.

Frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question. But, just to say it one time again and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign. Every time you hear all of these 12 and 14 — it’s stuff that has nothing to do — and frankly, they admit, these are not people involved in the campaign. But to the average reader out there, they are saying, well maybe that does. It doesn’t. Even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories. In one case the FBI said there was no lie. There was no lie. Somebody else said there was. We ran a brilliant campaign. And that’s why I’m president. Thank you.

PUTIN: As to who is to be believed, who is not to be believed: you can trust no one. Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America and I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have interests that are common. We are looking for points of contact.

There are issues where our postures diverge and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences, how to make our effort more meaningful. We should not proceed from the immediate political interests that guide certain political powers in our countries. We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense — just like the president recently mentioned. Yes, the public at large in the United States had a certain perceived opinion of the candidates during the campaign. But there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it. That’s the normal thing.

President Trump, when he was a candidate, he mentioned the need to restore the Russia/US relationship, and it’s clear that certain parts of American society felt sympathetic about it and different people could express their sympathy in different ways. Isn’t that natural? Isn’t it natural to be sympathetic towards a person who is willing to restore the relationship with our country, who wants to work with us?

We heard the accusations about it. As far as I know, this company hired American lawyers and the accusations doesn’t have a fighting chance in the American courts. There’s no evidence when it comes to the actual facts. So we have to be guided by facts, not by rumors.

Now, let’s get back to the issue of this 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia. I don’t know the full extent of the situation. But President Trump mentioned this issue. I will look into it.

So far, I can say the following. Things that are off the top of my head. We have an existing agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, an existing treaty that dates back to 1999. The mutual assistance on criminal cases. This treaty is in full effect. It works quite efficiently. On average, we initiate about 100, 150 criminal cases upon request from foreign states.

For instance, the last year, there was one extradition case upon the request sent by the United States. This treaty has specific legal procedures we can offer. The appropriate commission headed by Special Attorney Mueller, he can use this treaty as a solid foundation and send a formal, official request to us so that we could interrogate, hold questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes. Our enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States. Moreover, we can meet you halfway. We can make another step. We can actually permit representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller, we can let them into the country. They can be present at questioning.

In this case, there’s another condition. This kind of effort should be mutual one. Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate. They would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States whom we believe have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia. And we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.

For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes. Neither in Russia nor in the United States. Yet, the money escapes the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent huge amount of money, $400 million as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

[He presents no evidence to back up that $400 million claim.] Well, that’s their personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself. But the way the money was earned was illegal. We have solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers guided these transactions. [This allegation, too, is merely an unsupported assertion here.] So we have an interest of questioning them. That could be a first step. We can also extend it. There are many options. They all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

REPORTER (Jeff Mason from Reuters): Did you direct any of your officials to help him [Trump] do that [find those ‘options’]?

PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the US/Russia relationship back to normal.

The evidence regarding that entire matter, of Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act, can be seen in the links and the other evidences that are presented in two articles that I published on that very subject, earlier this year. One, titled “Private Investigations Find America’s Magnitsky Act to Be Based on Frauds”, summarizes the independently done private investigations into the evidence that is publicly available online regarding Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act. The Magnitsky Act was the basis for the first set of economic sanctions against Russia, and were instituted in 2012; so, this concerns the start of the restoration of the Cold War (without the communism etc. that were allegedly the basis of Cold War I). The other article, “Russiagate-Trump Gets Solved by Giant of American Investigative Journalism”, provides further details in the evidence, and connects both the Magnitsky Act and Bill Browder to the reason why, on 9 June 2016, the Russian lawyer Nataliya Veselnitskaya, met privately at Trump Tower, with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner — the reason was specifically in order to inform them about the documentation on this case, so that Trump, if elected, would be aware of the contents of those documents. She had used the promise of dirt on Hillary so as to enable Trump, who effectively became the Republican nominee on 26 May 2016, to learn about the actual documents in this crucial case.

The Russian government has been legally pursuing Mr. Browder, for years, on charges that he evaded paying $232 million taxes that were due to the Russian government. These private investigations into this matter — regarding whether or not the Magnitsky Act was based on fraudulent grounds — have all found that Mr. Browder has clearly falsified and misrepresented the actual documents, which are linked to in those two articles I wrote. These might be the very same documents that she was presenting on June 9th.

So: this is a matter of importance not only to the validity (or not) of the Magnitsky Act economic sanctions against Russia, but to the Russiagate accusations regarding U.S. President Donald Trump. In my two articles, the general public can click right through to the evidence on the Magnitsky case.

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Americas

Delusions of U.S. Hegemony In A Multi-Polar World: Trump Visits Europe

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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To say that US foreign policy is delusional is not an exaggeration.  It seeks political hegemony and a relationship with China and Russia akin to what it has had with Japan and Germany, that is, go ahead and develop in the economic sphere but don’t try to flex political or military muscle.

There are at least two problems with this scenario:  China is now the world’s largest economy on a purchasing power parity basis, and the Russians have the nuclear capacity to make a wasteland out of the US.  Russian weapons systems can also be superior.

Take the S-400 in comparison with the US Patriot missile defense system — the purpose of these surface-to-air systems is to shoot down incoming missiles or aircraft.  The S-400 has a more powerful radar, double the range, is faster (Mach 6 vs Mach 5), takes five minutes to set up against one hour for the Patriot, and is cheaper.  China has just bought 32 launchers and is expected to buy more, thereby challenging Japan, Taiwan (which it claims) and other neighbors for control of the skies, as it is doing over the seas bordering itself.  NATO member Turkey has recently signed a purchase deal, and Iran wants to, as does Qatar after its recent spat with Saudi Arabia.  If Russia supplies Iran, any attack planned by the US or Israel would prove to be very costly and politically infeasible.

In our world of instant and continuous news feeds, one can imagine a bemused Vladimir Putin listening to Trump exhorting NATO members to increase contributions to NATO — an organization designed to counter the Russian threat — specifically castigating Germany’s Angela Merkel for being beholden to Russia with her country’s reliance on Russian natural gas.

Early next week he meets Mr. Putin in Helsinki, fresh from his soft power World Cup triumph as the world beat a path to Russia.  What does Mr. Trump tell the leader of the world’s largest country covering eleven time zones?  US political hegemony is a non-starter.

Europeans clearly want access to China, its labor, its markets, even finance, and with it comes Russia and their numerous initiatives together including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIE) their answer to the US-sponsored World Bank.  That Britain joined AIIB contrary to US wishes is a clear sign of China rising as the US declines comparatively;  Britain, having faced up to the US, was followed by a rush of European countries.

Russia wants sanctions lifted.  What does the US want?  Crimea is a non-starter.  Help with Iran?  For the Russians, it has become an important ally both with regard to Syria and as a Mideast power in its own right.  Mr. Trump’s instincts are right.  But what he achieves is another matter.  Childish petulance accompanied by a different story for different leaders would leave an observer with little optimism.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump manufactures and markets his own reality; this time on his popularity (‘I think they like me a lot in the UK’) despite avoiding roads and traveling by helicopter when possible during his pared down UK visit.  Hordes of demonstrators undeterred have a giant parade balloon several stories high of a bloated child with the trademark blonde hair.  It is one the largest demonstrations ever outside the US against a sitting president.

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