Entire world’s attention was focused on the first ever meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Germany where they had come to attend the G-20 meeting.
End of terror wars could lead to peace in the world. People across the globe think if USA and Russia come together, the world, living beings and human race could be saved. But USA and its allies like Israel do not want peace anywhere in the world as they cannot then sell their terror goods to the third world. The merchants of terror goods (death) consider peace the potential enemy of those nations that thrive in arms trade.
USA and its allies therefore, do not want any credible relationship with Russia and China. They seek only businesses and finances form these countries.
A new bilateral phase?
World is guessing if Trump would go for friendly relationship with Russia and China. Gossip mill reports are highly confusing in this regard.
The relationship between President Trump and President Putin has been under scrutiny amid allegations of Russian interference in the US election. US intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the election in Trump’s favour, something denied by Russia. Trump has rejected allegations of any collusion. The two world leaders had a couple of undisclosed conversations at this month’s G20 on……. The White House has confirmed that the leaders of rival super powers spoke towards the end of a formal dinner but the White House has not revealed what was discussed. President Trump has, in his characteristic say, condemned media revelations of the talks as “sick”.
An extra conversation also happened during a private meal of heads of state at the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier in the month. The an hour meeting, which came after a more-than-two hour formal sit-down the two men had earlier in the gathering, was previously undisclosed and, given the nature of Russia’s aggressive meddling in the 2016 election, is something we need to know more about.
The Kremlin said at the time that the two leaders had had “an opportunity to continue their discussion during the dinner”, but the extent of the meeting was not known. Trump had been seated next to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s wife, so the US interpreter at the dinner spoke Japanese, not Russian. No media were in attendance. Trump left his seat and headed to Putin, who had been sitting next to Trump’s wife, Melania, US media said. The US president was alone with Putin, apart from the attendance of the Russian president’s official interpreter.
Ian Bremmer, president of the US-based Eurasia Group, who first reported them in a newsletter to clients, said: “Donald Trump got up from the table and sat down with Putin for about an hour. It was very animated and very friendly.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders had “exchanged opinions and phrases in the margins of the visit on more than one occasion”. “There were no covert or secret meetings. It is absolutely absurd to claim this,” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency. Peskov also mocked the notion that the subject of a conversation between the two men could have been kept secret, saying that is a “manifestation of schizophrenia”.
The length of the talks has been disputed.
Bremmer had not been at the dinner but said details were given to him by unnamed attendees who, he said, were “flummoxed, confused and startled” by the turn of events. “At summit meetings you have little ‘pull-asides’ between heads of state to discuss business all the time – a one-hour pull-aside is highly unusual in any context,” he told the BBC. “A one-hour pull-aside between Putin and Trump where only the Kremlin translator is there, where we don’t know what’s discussed, given the uniqueness of the US-Russia relationship… makes the US president, surprisingly and disturbingly, not credible.”
Later, however, in a statement, a senior White House official said there was no “second meeting”, just a brief conversation after dinner. The official said: “The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd. It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders.”
Rising son and son in law
The Senate, the House and a Justice Department special counsel are all investigating whether Russia interfered in the election to try to tip it in Donald Trump’s favour. They are also investigating whether there was any collusion with the Trump team, which both Russia and Trump have denied. Trump Jr and Manafort have been called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Wednesday.
US President Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr, his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner and ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort are to testify before the Senate about their links to Russian officials, on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and , over a meeting they had with a Russian lawyer in June last year. One key subject will be their meeting with a Russian lawyer last year.
There are congressional investigations, and one by a special counsel, into the allegations of Russian interference in the US election and possible collusion with the Trump team. The Senate intelligence committee said it wanted to interview Trump Jr said he had attended the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya as he was promised damaging material on Hillary Clinton, but it did not materialize. Ms Veselnitskaya told Russia’s RT television channel she would be willing to testify before the Senate on the matter.
Two days earlier, Kushner is to answer questions in a closed-door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearings will be the most high-profile since sacked FBI head James Comey gave testimony in June. The three members of Trump’s inner circle attended a meeting in New York in June last year with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after being promised damaging material on Trump’s election rival, Hillary Clinton. A former Soviet counter-intelligence official, now a lobbyist also attended the meeting, Trump Jr, who confirmed the meeting in a series of emails, said that no information on Hillary Clinton was provided. The meeting is the firmest evidence yet of non-diplomatic interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russian figures. Ms Veselnitskaya told Russia’s RT television channel she would also be willing to testify before the Senate on the matter.
President Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, defended his son’s actions. He said he had spoken to a number of senators who agreed that if they had been called and offered information on an opponent, they would have attended such a meeting. In the same interview, Trump rounded on Sessions. The attorney general rescued himself from overseeing the Justice Department’s Russia investigation in March, after failing to disclose at his confirmation hearing at the Senate that he had met Russia’s ambassador to the USA. The president said: “How do you take a job and then recue yourself? If he would have rescued himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you’.”
Questions about what Trump and Putin talked about — we don’t really know since there was no a US official or translator present — need to be answered by this White House. Sadly, there’s little chance they will be. Instead, we’re likely to get more attacks on the media for their alleged role in the story.
Trump spoke about his conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner in Germany. The conversation came to light, with US media reporting it lasted an hour and was “animated”. But Trump said it lasted for only 15 minutes and was mostly “pleasantries”. He said the pair talked “about adoption”. Russia banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans as a reaction to US measures against Russian officials accused of human rights violations.
All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!” The dinner and its attendees have always been known. Only the Trump-Putin discussion had not been reported before. At the earlier, formal meeting, their first face-to-face encounter, Trump said he had repeatedly pressed Putin about the allegations of interference in the US vote. “I said, ‘Did you do it?’ He said, ‘No, I did not, absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, ‘Absolutely not.'”
Given the poor state of relations between Washington and Moscow since the onset of the so-called Cold War and the recent controversy surrounding Russia’s alleged efforts to interfere with the US presidential campaign, each and every encounter between Putin and Trump is bound to be carefully scrutinized. Thus the apparently impromptu discussion between the two men at the G20 dinner inevitably raises many questions. What was President Trump seeking to do in approaching the Russian president? Were matters of substance discussed? If so, why was it kept a top secret and no formal note taken? And why did the US president have to rely upon a Russian official for translation? This all may be highly unusual, especially at a time when relations between the two countries are laden with so many problems.
The US president has spoken about an undisclosed conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a G20 dinner, saying it was mostly “pleasantries”. President Trump also appeared unaware of another dimension – the message that his tete-a-tete would send to other leaders in the room, who must have watched the US president’s gambit with some unease. Trump’s spokesperson Sarah Sanders told reporters at the White House that the dinner was part of the president’s publicly released schedule. “You guys came and took pictures of it,” she told journalists. “It wasn’t like this was some sort of hidden dinner. To act as if this was some secret is just absolutely absurd.”
National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton said: “A conversation over dessert should not be characterized as a meeting.” Trump later said on Twitter: “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is ‘sick.’
Trump and Putin
US President Donald Trump comes face-to-face with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for the first time on Friday. The formal meeting will be scrutinized across the world, set as it is against the backdrop of US investigations into possible collusion between Russia and Trump campaign figures during last year’s election.
At the outset it should be noted that both the leaders have one important idea in common- both want to make their respective nation great. Neither man hides his ambition to recover some sense of lost grandeur for his country. That in itself is not a negative aspect. Putin famously called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century”. His moves in Ukraine and Syria are seen as attempts to bolster Russia’s power and influence, and hit back at the West for the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe that he so resents. And Western European officials accuse him of meddling in their elections to try and weaken the European Union.
First meetings between major world leaders can be unpredictable affairs. Trump has in the past suggested he could get along with Putin and praised him as a “strong leader” but it is unclear how he feels now.
In Moscow, the Kremlin is painting the meeting as an opportunity for the pair to “get acquainted and finally understand the true approach of each other”. But looking beyond the testy politics of US-Russia relations, what do Trump and Putin have in common, and what sets them distinctly apart?
If there’s one sharp difference between these two men, it is their back stories.
Vladimir Putin spent his early career in the world of Cold War espionage, and was working as a Soviet spy in East Germany when the communist state crumbled. He is used to operating in the shadows, and kept a low profile as an aide to the mayor of St Petersburg in the 1990s before taking the reins of the FSB intelligence agency and later the presidency.
Putin has been at the top of Russian politics since 2000 and has the reputation of a cunning street fighter, an image that can be traced back to his days growing up in a tough communal housing block in Leningrad. He has said those years taught him that “if a fight is inevitable, you have to throw the first punch”.
Donald Trump, in contrast, was born into wealth as the son of a New York real estate tycoon. He managed to avoid being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War, and got started in real estate himself with a $1m loan from his father, eventually building a property, hotel and Entertainment Empire.
Far from keeping a low profile like Putin, Trump shot to stardom as host of reality TV show The Apprentice’. He later used his fame and wealth as a springboard to make a bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2015. Yet though his public style is very different – brash and unpredictable where Putin is comfortable yet controlled – like the Russian leader he doesn’t shy away from a fight.
Trump refused to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand during an awkward March photo-op, and pushed past Montenegro’s prime minister at a NATO summit in Brussels in May to ensure he was front and centre. Vladimir Putin uses more calculated means to intimidate others, once letting his large labrador into a meeting with Mrs Merkel, who is afraid of dogs.
Both leaders the target of media and both criticize the media opportunism and hollow news and views. Trump might have popularized “fake news” as a pejorative term that politicians the world over can now hurl at journalists, but he’s not alone in describing critical coverage as false. Putin’s government keeps a public list of foreign press stories that it says contains “false information about Russia”. In dealing with the media, however, Vladimir Putin normally remains calm. Unlike Trump, he does not fire off angry tweets about coverage he doesn’t like – he is calculating and level-headed when taking questions from journalists.
For Trump this means boosting US military spending, putting pressure on allies to pay for more their own defense, and pulling out of efforts to fight climate change to protect jobs in domestic industries like coal.
The Trump White House is a family affair, something that certainly cannot be said of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, has an office in the West Wing and advises her father in an unpaid role. Her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to the president and a significant force in the White House. His responsibilities stretch from the Middle East and China to criminal justice reform and relations with Mexico.
President Putin, on the other hand, zealously shields his private life and family from scrutiny.. He and Lyudmila, his wife of nearly 30 years, announced their divorce in 2013, and his two daughters are kept well away from the public gaze.
Little was known about them until media reports in 2015 revealed his youngest daughter Katerina was living in Moscow under a different name and working in a senior position at Moscow State University. She is also an acrobatic rock and roll dancer. Maria, the elder daughter, is an academic specializing in endocrinology.
The differences in approach to family are stark. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s five-year-old daughter Arabella sang in Mandarin to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his US visit in April. Putin, meanwhile, recently refused to disclose the names and ages of his two grandchildren.
Donald Trump made a string of promises during his long campaign to be the 45th president of the United States. Many of them made headlines – from banning all Muslims entering the US, to building a wall along the border with Mexico. But as he and his White House team approach the 100-day mark of his presidency, it is clear he has shifted his stance on a number of key issues.
Trump said in September 2016 that he would reverse the deal President Barack Obama had struck to reopen diplomatic relations and improve trade. As president, he told an audience in Miami that he was “cancelling the Obama administration’s one-sided deal.” But in reality, he has only rolled back certain parts, placing restrictions on travel and business.
As a candidate, Trump derided climate change as a hoax concocted by China, and the regulations of Paris as stifling to American growth. After three months of prevarications behind the closed doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the president came down decisively on the side near the exits. Quitting the Paris deal, signed by nearly 200 countries, will take a few years but this is unequivocally a promise kept.
His vow to build a wall along the US-Mexican border was one of the most controversial of Trump’s campaign promises. Trump also insisted that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico maintains it will never pay for it, and even the president has conceded that the US will have to pay up front and then seek reimbursement in some way.
The US Congress is exploring funding options for the wall, but many Republicans will be unhappy about footing a bill which could rise to $21.5bn (£17.2bn), according to a Department of Homeland Security internal report.
That’s much higher than Trump’s estimated price tag of $12bn (£9.6bn). There are also landowners who protest against a “government land grab” – and a lawsuit from an environmental group launched in April. “We’re building the wall,” he said in February. “In fact it’s going to start very soon.”
Rhetoric and substance: Can we trust Trump?
Generally, most of the talks during the campaign is mere rhetoric meant to get votes of the majority community. Trump resorted this strategy to win the presidency against a very powerful Democratic candidate Mrs. Clinton with a lot of connections as former foreign minister of USA. And Trump won.
Trump initially promised to ban all Muslims entering the US – a “total and complete” shutdown should remain until the US authorities “can figure out what’s going on”. But he switched to “extreme vetting” after he became the party’s presidential candidate. As president, he has introduced two travel bans, which have both become ensnarled by legal challenges. The second was a slightly watered-down version of the first, but a judge in Hawaii said barring people from six mainly Muslim countries, even temporarily, violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination. Another judge in Maryland cited Trump campaign statements as evidence.
President Trump has railed against “judicial overreach” and hinted that he may take the case to the Supreme Court, but has said little on the matter in a round of media interviews this week.
Trump repeatedly told his supporters that every single undocumented immigrant – of which there are 11.3 million – “have to go”. As polling day approached, his stance began to soften slightly, then after the election he scaled it back to some two to three million deportations of people who “are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers”.
The Migration Policy Institute, a US-based think tank, has one of the higher figures for illegal immigrants with criminal records, which it puts at 890,000, including people charged with crossing the border illegally. The number of removals peaked in 2012 and has been falling since. It is too early to say if there has been an increase since President Trump’s inauguration.
During a speech in Iowa in November 2015, Trump warned that he would, using an expletive, bomb so-called Islamic State into obliteration. The president dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal on an IS-stronghold in Afghanistan.
Trump repeatedly questioned the NATO military alliance’s purpose, calling it “obsolete”. One issue that bugged him was whether members were pulling their weight and “paying their bills”. In one New York Times interview in July 2016, he even hinted that the USA would not come to the aid of a member invaded by Russia. But as he hosted Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House in April, the US president said the threat of terrorism had underlined the alliance’s importance. “I said the NATO was obsolete,” Trump said. “It’s no longer obsolete.”
Trump repeatedly pledged to label Beijing a “currency manipulator” on his first day in office, during an election campaign when he also accused the Asian powerhouse of “raping” the US. China has been accused of suppressing the yuan to make its exports more competitive with US goods. He told the Wall Street Journal in April that China had not been “currency manipulators” for some time and had actually been trying to prevent the yuan from further weakening.
Trump’s supporters want to see Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in prison over the use of her private email server while secretary of state. And Trump was more than willing to back their calls for, at the very least, a fresh investigation. During the debates, he told Mrs Clinton: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”
The president-elect’s tone changed almost as soon as he had won, describing the woman he had said was “such a nasty woman” as someone the country owed “a debt of gratitude”. Later, he said he “hadn’t given the prosecution a lot of thought” and had other priorities. On 22 November, Trump’s spokeswoman said he would not pursue a further investigation – to help Mrs. Clinton “heal”.
Apparently, Trump is not eager to punish Madam Hillary Clinton. He repeated his vow to spend big on the country’s roads, rail and airports, but no sign yet of action. The country’s infrastructure “will become, by the way, second to none, and we will put millions of our people back to work as we rebuild it”, he said in his victory speech in November. :
Trump pledged during his campaign to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a divided city which both Israelis and Palestinians claim. He approved a waiver to keep the embassy in place, but suggested in a statement that it would be eventually relocated. “The decision was taken in order to “maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians”.
His decision not to hurriedly move, as Israel has been directing Washington, the embassy to Jerusalem is noteworthy.
President Trump has not yet initiated any worthwhile step to the establishment of the State of Palestine deal to take place, although his decision to visit Palestine West Bank to meet PLO leader and President Abbas against the will and usual pressure tactics of Israel, gives us the hopes, however, meek they maybe, of his pro-active role and active participation in the establishment of Palestine. .
Trump, Putin could end terror wars, creation of Palestine and peace in Middle East
That President Donald Trump huddled with Russian President Vladimir Putin for almost an hour at a G20 dinner in Germany earlier this month is news, notwithstanding the confusion about the details. What’s as telling as Trump’s willingness to chat with Putin with no US translator or any other US official around, however, is the way in which the president responded to the news of the meeting. He did it via his preferred communication tool: Twitter.
This is not a media story. This is a story about an undisclosed meeting between the presidents of the United States and Russia at a time when relations are very much in flux between the two countries. Making it about anything else is a purposeful diversionary tactic by Trump. Simple and plain!
This is a classic bit of Trump misdirection. No media outlet reported anything about a “secret dinner.” No one is making the dinner look “sinister.” And, no one is suggesting that the media was unaware that the dinner was taking place. That is not the story. The story is that the president of the United States had a somewhat lengthy sidebar conversation with the president of Russia and with no other US officials present. And that we didn’t know about it until Ian Bremmer reported on it next night.
Trump, of course, knows all of that. The shrewd business magnet for all of his life time is also smart enough to understand that this is a bad story for him — particularly in light of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election and the drip-drip-drip of details about a meeting his son, Don Jr. had with a Russian lawyer in hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And Trump is working to change the story into one that he knows will score points with his hardcore base: “The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest!” The media is “sick!” That will, of course, work for some segment of people who take Trump’s words for, well, everything, or only get their news from the president’s most ardent media defenders. The media is terrible!
Meanwhile, the White House said Trump would nominate former Utah governor Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia, a key post for a president who promised to improve relations with Moscow. Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China and Singapore, needs to have his name confirmed by the Senate. The suspicions over Russian interference are likely to play a significant factor in his confirmation process, correspondents say.
Question is not how many times the two world leaders met in Germany at or on the sidelines of G20. But the outcome of the meetings significant if anything emerged. Any positive development, if any, would automatically get reflected in their bilateral ties from now on. Russia’s foreign minister said President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump may have met more than three times at the G-20summit, but he shrugged off the importance of the encounters Lavrov made light of the situation in the interview, comparing it to children mingling at a kindergarten.
Whether Trump will ever raise the issue of election hacking is the million-dollar question, given he has downplayed Russia’s alleged role.
They control their respective nation and also share a “strongman” style and macho attitudes which have shone through in meetings with world leaders.
Trump and Putin could work towards peaceful resolution of the worst global crises: Palestine in West Asia and Kashmir in South Asia. However, the immediate issue is to end the illegal terror war in Syria and make the West Asia a peace zone to make an impact on the global stability.
USA and Russia make it sure not to let fast growing Israeli fascist regime control their policies in West Asia. Both need to coordinate their efforts to get Israeli military regime punished by ICC and ICJ for its crimes committed humanity in Palestine and Mideast at large.
The perpetual clashes between the super powers let fascist regimes like Israel to become criminal states threatening the regional as well as global peace, stability and prosperity.
Russia Or China: Is Biden Right To Target Russia?
No one can disagree with President Joe Biden when he wants to overhaul infrastructure — although a single-minded concentration on one aspect is likely to be longer lasting and a legacy. Consider, for example, a high-speed rail link between New York and Los Angeles, True high-speed, that is, and truly modern like the new lines in China with a design speed up to 350 km/h (220 mph), or preferably higher by the time the rails are constructed in the US. It would make overnight coast to coast (3,000 miles) railroad trips a reality.
What is more difficult to fathom is Biden’s foreign policy. He appears to have identified Russia as an adversary or worse, starting with calling Vladimir Putin a killer and exposing several Russian companies that possibly support its intelligence services. Do American companies ever provide cover for the CIA? That is the obvious question coming to mind with an obvious answer. Have western intelligence services including the CIA ever carried out assassinations? If so, would the US president be called a killer?
At the same time, Russia is not the country with a stated goal of becoming the world’s leader in its economy, technology and military. No, that’s China. Russia only wants closer ties with the west but is being driven into the arms of China.
Given China’s stated goals and its progress towards them, it is transparent that its aims require the displacement of the US from its leadership position. Any prospect of thwarting China’s ambitions would impel the US to cordon the country to some extent or at the very least attempt to challenge its influence. Instead, China is signing treaties with neighbors. It is in Iran and it announced that it might send its own troops to Afghanistan to maintain its “peace” after the US departs. Afghanistan, by the way, is rich in minerals and rare earth elements.
So far Mr. Biden’s foreign policy initiatives appear tactical with a kind of tit-for-tat approach that is absent a coordinated (with allies) strategic plan to prepare the US for a confrontation politically and economically — not militarily, although as the US ramps up pressure, a skirmish here and there on the high seas could be a possibility.
A string of Chinese bases now ring the Persian Gulf extending west to East Africa and east along the Iran and Pakistan coast to Sri Lanka, across to Burma and then south to the western end of Indonesia. The recent treaty with Russia allows convenient Eurasian access while the new closeness with Iran permits an overland route to its oil riches. East of Iran is Pakistan which is a Chinese client state of long standing and where it has built the Gwadar port.
Given the circumstances, the US is obliged to reassess Iran from a geostrategic perspective but also Pakistan, a country that has been on the frontlines of the Afghan war since the beginning. Pakistan is also a key to long term peace in Afghanistan as its own Pashtun population is connected to Pashtuns there through family ties and a traditionally porous border. They also command a plurality as the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.
Further east China is increasing its influence in Sri Lanka, and is by far Burma’s largest trading partner. The recent coup in Burma is its own story and an oft-reported tale in that country without noting China’s silence.
Despite the local politics, the US can ill afford to surrender such a vast region to China without counter moves to ensure some freedom of movement within China’s tight embrace.
Playing Politics in Times of Covid: AMLO’s Whimsical Inoculation Programme
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has capriciously modified Mexico’s inoculation programme as he sees fit. He has followed an improvised strategy along the way that follow no logical approach.
The initial vaccination schedule was set up in 5 stages that placed frontline and essential workers as priority sectors; the rest of the population would be divided up by age ranges and inoculated accordingly. However, last January, AMLO announced the creation of 10,000 brigades who would oversee the vaccination programme. Each brigade is made up 12 people majority of whose are active members of the president’s political party MORENA. They also were prioritised for vaccination, even ahead, some key workers. This process alone took up 120,000 vaccines that otherwise would have gone directly to frontline workers or the elderly.
As of mid April, Mexico, with a population of 117 million people, has only vaccinated over 10 million people, roughly 8.5% of the population. Only 2.6 million have received the second shot, only 2.2%. The government also announced that it was prioritising the poorest citizens and indigenous communities. In a more recent announcement, he declared teachers would be also bumped up for priority vaccination ahead of the elderly. This again demonstrates the arbitrary standards of his vaccination schedule.
The government’s decision to inoculate teachers ahead of even health workers does not come as a surprise: they’re a key voting bloc. Mexico is holding mid-term elections this coming July, and vaccinating teachers so close to voting time is the latest evidence that the president is playing politics with the vaccinations. Just like in old times under the hegemonic party, unionised teachers are crucial for AMLO’s political party to win the most votes in the next elections.
Using certain sectors of the population to mobilise voters in favour of political party is not something new in Mexican politics. In Mexico, just like in many other unconsolidated democracies, political parties and candidates themselves can turn to political agents to ensure victory in elections through the use of patronage systems or vote-buying strategies.
To fully understand the role of the Teachers’ Union (SNTE and CNTE) as a political machine, it is essential to understand its history and role in elections over the last decades. The SNTE has more than 1.6 million members nationally, while the CNTE has over 100,000 members, it was founded in 1980 and has considerably less influence than the SNTE.
The SNTE was founded in 1949, and since then they served as a satellite organisation of the hegemonic party, PRI. Up until 1992, it was mandatory for all Union members to register as active party members. Therefore, throughout these years, the PRI, regularly received electoral support from the Union. The alliance between the hegemonic party and the SNTE strengthened in 1989 when Elba Esther Gordillo was appointed as the new leader of the Union.
What was behind the motivation of the SNTE in becoming an electoral agent? For many years, the Union received monetary incentives and access to political posts. Under this arrangement, political parties and even candidates may monitor the performance of such agents to make sure they are still aligned to those of the government, political party or candidate. As long as the interests of both sides are aligned, the electoral agent is expected to work efficiently to deliver the expected results either on election day or throughout the length of the administration.
In 2005, Elba Esther Gordillo was expelled from the PRI, ending the alliance between the SNTE and the hegemonic party. The leader of the Union founded her own political party, PANAL, and participated in the 2016 federal elections. However, due to the number of voters the newly created party attracted, it was only limited to proportional representation positions. Although PANAL, presented its own candidate for the presidency, Elba Esther offered the votes of the Union in the presidential elections to other political parties with greater possibilities of winning.
The SNTE supported Felipe Calderón, the PAN candidate in 2006 and in 2012 they backed the PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto. The SNTE’s geographical outreach and the role of teachers as community and educational leaders facilitate their role as electoral agents. They’re able to influence informally the vote of others as well as the opinions and voting decisions of students and their parents.
In many democracies, it is not unusual for teachers to have strong ties to political parties and their candidates, and this is critical when it comes to explaining their effectiveness as electoral agents. It is not uncommon also for teachers to be appointed as voting stations representatives. The combination of these institutional characteristics opens the door for teachers to continue to influence voters through either legal or illegal.
AMLO’s courting of the Teachers’ Union dates to his electoral campaign in 2018. José Alfredo González, son in law of Elba Esther Gordillo, was seen in a presidential campaign event to support AMLO’s candidacy. He is also an active member of Redes Sociales Progresistas, a newly created party with links to Elba Esther Gordillo. Soon after AMLO’s inauguration in 2018, AMLO set to dismantle the education reform that has been approved by Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012. This was well received by the 2 Teachers’ Trade Unions. In 2020, the SNTE expressed its support for the president, and they also ratified its adherence to the political programme of the president. AMLO also publicly asked Elba Esther Gordillo to talk openly about the (alleged) fraud of 2006. AMLO’s intentions in doing this are very clear: He wants the former leader of the Union to enter the political game by talking about the issue and taking a stance that would not be antagonistic towards the incumbent party.
There is no doubt that the president has an underlying agenda in prioritising the vaccination of teachers when mid-term elections will be held in less than 2 months in Mexico. The president has chosen CanSino as the vaccination to be used to inoculate teachers across Mexico to allow schools to reopen by the end of May in some states. Now, with only less proven vaccine options, CanSino has an efficacy rate of less than 65%, questions undoubtedly arise as to how effective the inoculation of Mexicans will be with the use of these vaccines over the already proven ones.
United States must rebalance its relationship with Russia
Hours after signing an executive order, on April 15, 2021, which imposed sanctions on Russia, US President Joe Biden stated that the door for diplomacy and engagement with Moscow was far from closed. Said the US President:
‘Throughout our long history of competition, our two countries have been able to find ways to manage tensions and to keep them from escalating out of control.’
Days before the imposition of sanctions, Biden had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the conversation with Putin, Biden had indicated that he would be taking action against Russia for interference in the 2020 US Presidential election (a US intelligence report had pointed to Iranian and Russian meddling in the 2020 election), as well as cyber attacks against the US government. While emphatically stating that the US would firmly safeguard its interests and not refrain from strong retaliation in response to any provocative actions by Russia, Biden also proposed a summit with Putin in Europe.
Significantly during his conversation with Putin, Biden according to a White House release:
‘discussed a number of regional and global issues, including the intent of the United States and Russia to pursue a strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues, building on the extension of the New START Treaty.
Soon after the Biden administration had taken over it had been decided to extend the treaty which came into force on February 5, 2011 and would have ended February 5, 2021. The treaty limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and deployed missiles and bombers to 700 for each country.
Sanctions imposed by Biden Administration
The sanctions imposed by the Biden Administration on April 15thinclude; expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats stationed in Washington DC, sanctions on six Russian technology companies which allegedly provided support to Russian hacking operations during US elections, barring US financial institutions from participating in the primary market for rouble and non-rouble-denominated sovereign bonds, from June 14, 2021 and individuals and entities associated with Moscow’s actions in Crimea.
Significantly, Biden’s predecessor Trump had defended Russia against allegations of interference in the US Presidential election of 2016.
Russia’s response to US sanctions
Russia responded to the imposition of US sanctions by expelling US diplomats, imposed sanctions on 8 US officials, and would put an end to the activities of US NGOs in Russia, since they interfered in Russia’s politics. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the US that Moscow would be compelled to take strong measures against Washington, if the latter adopts a ‘confrontational course’.
US Sanctions measured
According to many observers, the sanctions imposed by the US on Russia were not particularly harsh and underscore the point, that the Biden Administration while seeking to sending out a strong message to Russia, also realizes that it can not permit the bilateral relationship to slide down any further for a myriad of reasons. First, US needs to cooperate with Russia on a number of global issues, such as jointly battling the covid 19 pandemic, confronting challenges posed by climate change, working together to resolve the Iran and North Korea issue.
Second, it needs to prevent Moscow from moving closer to Beijing. Last month after Biden’s strong attack on Putin, Foreign Ministers of Russia, Sergey Lavrov and China Wang Yi, had held a summit in China in March, days after Biden had attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview. The Russian Foreign Minister criticised US for its role in ‘underming the world order’ and both sides also proposed the need for reducing their dependence upon the US dollar.
An anonymous paper published by the Atlantic Council had emphasised on the need for a pragmatic policy vis-à-vis Russia, and also to prevent Moscow from moving closer to Beijing. Said the paper titled the Longer Telegram:
‘..United States must rebalance its relationship with Russia whether it likes it or not.. Allowing Russia to drift fully into China’s strategic embrace over the last decade will go down as the single greatest geostrategic error of successive US administrations’
Third, a number of US allies have strong ties with Moscow, and the US can not expect them to make clear choices (this is an important point made by a large number of US commentators)
In conclusion, Biden’s approach vis-à-vis Russia so far has been a blend of diplomacy and firm measures. His focus on dialogue and finding common ground on important bilateral security issues and global issues is significant. Washington while giving precedence to its own interests needs to adapt to the changing geopolitical situation especially the increasing proximity between Moscow and Beijing.
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