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The Trump-Putin informal meeting at G20 in Germany

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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’.”

 Uncomfortable inconsistency

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.

Campaign promises

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.   

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9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles: Outcomes in 2022

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Image source: U.S. Department of State

The 9th Summit of the Americas—delayed for a year by the pandemic—attracted unprecedented scrutiny of Latin American and global media, already at the stage of preparations. It was not only the matter of Washington’s “invitation campaign” and the (predictable) response of Latin American leaders to it. Rather, the White House had been expected to offer new ideas, showcase new approaches, initiate new proposals, which would make it possible to confirm and solidify U.S. leadership in the Western hemisphere, particularly given the growing competition with China in a region of America’s traditional interests. Joe Biden failed to achieve a breakthrough: the final declaration proved to have a far narrower scope than expected, while Latin Americans demonstrated their agency on the global stage once again. The Summit of the Americas never became Joe Biden’s diplomatic triumph, but it would not do to underestimate Washington’s ability to play “a long game”, achieving the goals set in circuitous ways. Recent history knows a number of such instances.

Record no-shows

The Forum’s main sensation was the pointed refusal of the leaders of five states (Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador) to attend the event in person. Some did not attend due to objective circumstances, but everyone who declined the invitation to appear at the summit had their own reasons, with the main being the White House’s high-profile decision not to invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Traditionally, the hosts of previous summits selected the invitees, and scandals had been known to happen. In 2018, Peru did not invite Nicolas Maduro, and previously, the US traditionally opposed Cuba’s attendance (the country participated in the summit only twice).

Many observers have deemed Joe Biden’s rigid stance on the three states illogical, particularly given Washington’s simultaneous efforts to normalize relations with Havana and Caracas that have recently manifested in the easing of sanctions. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the ideological component has traditionally been of key importance for the U.S. in its relations with the region. Nor could Joe Biden ignore the harsh stance of most American elites; an invitation extended to these three states would have had horrendous domestic political consequences for the current administration. Tellingly, the White House also refused to invite its Venezuelan “protégé” Juan Guaido—Joe Biden only had a telephone conversation with him.

The refusal of several Latin American leaders to attend the Summit in person should be interpreted with care. Frequently, such a decision looked like a desire to trumpet their stance in Washington’s face, creating an opportunity for publicity, especially since most heads of state that ignored the event still sent large delegations, closely following the course of the Summit closely.

Nonetheless, even many of those presidents or heads of government who chose to travel to Los Angeles openly expressed their disagreement with Washington’s approaches, condemning the non-invitation of the three states. Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez and Belize’s Prime Minister Johnny Briceño were particularly stark in this regard. They were diplomatic, yet open in personally telling Joe Biden their grievances during the first principal session. The two leaders condemned both the sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela and the exclusion of these states from the list of invitees.

In his response, Joe Biden had to make conciliatory statements on the need to search for common language despite existing differences. Many observers viewed Latin Americans’ demarche as a manifestation of the U.S. weakening regional influence and a symbol of new geopolitical realities in the Western hemisphere. In fact, U.S. partners in Latin America traditionally dish direct criticisms or disagreements to U.S. leaders. Suffice it to remember the famous 4th Summit of the Americas in 2005 in Mar del Plata, where three presidents (Lula da Silva, Hugo Chavez, and Nestor Kirchner) “buried” the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA/ALCA) initiative, right in the presence of George W. Bush. Condemnations of anti-Cuban sanctions and of Cuba’s exclusion from forums have also become a tradition with Latin Americans. But when Washington appears to face consolidated Latin American opposition, this has a knack for switching work in many areas into bilateral format where the U.S. has far more opportunities for pushing through its stances and interests. For instance, when the FTAA/ALCA project failed, the U.S. rather focused on bilateral free trade agreements—over the next decade, Washington did conclude them with most of states of the region.

The language of initiatives

Washington’s main drive at the Summit can be defined as an intent to limit the presence of external actors in the traditional area of U.S. interests. China was not in any way involved in the Summit, U.S. officials did not mention Beijing in any of their speeches—yet, it was invisibly present throughout the event. During his main speech at the Forum’s opening on June 6, Joe Biden articulated new suggestions concerning cooperation, stressing that the Western hemisphere has enough resources of its own to handle its principal problems. The U.S. is trying to contain China’s expansion into the LCA, but it has failed to snatch the initiative from China so far. The Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, a new Washington-proposed initiative, can be seen as an attempt to offer an alternative to Chinese proposals for Latin America that include the “New Silk Road” project. Proposing strategic initiatives is a traditional form of communication of the United States with Latin America (whether at the time of John F. Kennedy or George H. Bush). The U.S. lost initiative in the region during Donald Trump’s presidency, with Joe Biden now striving to respond to the principal challenges of development: post-pandemic recovery, migration and security, digitization, rebounding investment, the “green” agenda. Many elements in the new initiative are not yet entirely clear. The White House has noticeably been preparing these proposals “in haste,” without elaborating every item in a careful fashion. It is also obvious that the U.S. intends to retain its leadership in such areas as digitization (as a snub against the Electronic Silk Road), military assistance and cooperation, logistics, green technologies.

However, many experts exhibit understandable skepticism when it comes to Joe Biden’s proposals. What is striking is the openly small financing Washington proposes, particularly if compared to the aid the U.S. is currently extending to Ukraine. Emphasis on the environmental agenda and respect for democratic norms can be seen as an instrument of future restrictions against those who do not comply with these requirements, at least in the eyes of Washington. Such demands are already a standard feature of trade agreements spearheaded by the U.S. (for instance, USMCA).

Each Summit of the Americas traditionally ends with a thematically expansive final declaration to cover all the problems in social, economic and political development. The current Forum’s organizers were expected to produce something of the sort. However, the attendees only adopted the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection at the end of the Summit, a document that boils down to Washington’s desire to “share responsibility” for resolving the migration crisis with all the nations of Latin America, both countries of origin and transit states. Certainly, the issue of Latin American migrants is a burning problem for the U.S., Mexico and states of Central America. The situation may be further complicated by the expected food crisis, which is spurred, in the White House’s opinion, by Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. The declaration includes a large set of measures on ensuring security for migrant flows, on combating the root causes of their exodus, and on bolstering regional coordination and cooperation in this area. The document was signed by 20 states (some abstained), including all the Central American states whose leaders were not present at the Summit.

Recognizing the importance of interactions in the matter of migration, Latin Americans must have been expecting something greater than just a call for “shared responsibility” from the U.S. Initially, the organizers had ambitious plans on a far larger range of issues rather than mere migration. Preliminary discussions focused on environmental issues and environmental protection; however, since Brazil refused to sign such a declaration (under the pretext of Brazil’s relevant legislation being stringent enough already), the document was not submitted for final signing. Washington did preliminary bilateral work with key manufacturers calling upon them to ramp up oil production and exports of agricultural products to counteract the energy and food crisis. In his main speech, Joe Biden said that these crises were mostly caused by the situation in Ukraine and Russia’s actions in particular. Washington possibly planned for the final document to tie condemnation of Russia’s actions with plans for collectively counteracting the mounting crises (if the U.S. had succeeded in getting Latin Americans to support such decisions).

Many observers interpret problems with attendance as well as the openly limited final decisions and documents as Joe Biden’s unequivocal diplomatic defeat and proof of Washington’s weakening stance in Latin America. However, the Summit of the Americas is only the “tip of the iceberg” of the multitude of America’s extremely complicated and multilayered relations with the region. The U.S. remains Latin America’s principal trade and economic partner and a crucial source of technologies and investment. Indeed, there was a certain dip in trading in the 2000s. Recently, however, Washington succeeded at largely regaining its standing despite China’s active expansion into the region. The U.S. is the integral security factor in Latin America, the main recipient of migrants, and it would not do to underestimate the U.S. influence on most regional governments in spite of their growing agency.

Having drawn its conclusions from the Summit’s failures, the White House will continue to “push its agenda through” in bilateral formats as it keeps all of its influence resources. At the final press conference, a journalist asked Antony Blinken on the issue, and the Secretary of State’s response encapsulates this approach. Commenting on the refusal of some to sign the Los Angeles migration declaration, he was confident that all countries will accede to it sooner or later, pursuant to targeted work with each state. Washington has “strategic patience” in spades.

From our partner RIAC

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The Canal System and the Development of the Early American Economy

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The prosperity and development of the United States that it enjoys today did not come out of thin air. This is especially true in its early days of economic development which has a lot to do with the construction of the transportation system. In the beginning, it was the development of water transportation, then the railway, next followed by the highways. The construction of these major transportation systems supported the early development, prosperity, and rise of the U.S., laying the foundation for it to become a major world power.

The early water transport in the U.S. is rather interesting, and it mainly aimed to connect more places in the country by excavating and expanding the canal system. According to incomplete statistics, the total length of canals in the U.S. is 18,000 km. This 18,000 km long canal was of great significance to the early economic development of the country. This well-connected water transportation system has greatly enriched the exchange of commodities, promoted trade, and enabled the convenient transportation of raw materials, salt, whisky, energy coal, and many other products within the country. The domestic market of the U.S. had also expanded, and its national economy transformed from weak to strong.

The longest and the most well-known canal in the U.S. is the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal is named after the lake and starts from the Niagara River which originates from Lake Erie. It spans upstate New York and joins the Hudson River in Albany, the capital city of New York State, with a total length of 574 km. It is not only the longest canal in the U.S. but also the sixth-longest in the world. Back in the early 19th century, before the automobile existed, there was an urgent need for a transportation route from the Atlantic coast to the Appalachian region. A canal was proposed to run from Buffalo on the east shore of Lake Erie through the canyons of the Mohawk Valley to Albany on the upper Hudson River.

In 1817, the New York State Legislature approved the construction of the Erie Canal. After much arduous work, the canal was finally opened on October 25, 1825. Its total length is 584 km (363 miles), The channel was cut 12 m (40 feet) wide and 1.2 m (4 feet) deep. In order to solve the problem of water level drop, a total of 83 locks have been built in the canal, each lock is 27 m by 4.5 m, allowing the navigation of flat-bottomed barges with a maximum displacement of 75 tons (68 tonnes).

The Erie Canal was the first express transportation to provide the east coast and west interior of the U.S. much faster than the animal-pulled carts most commonly used at the time. Not only did it speed up transportation, but it also cut transportation costs along the coast and inland by 95%. Fast canal traffic made western New York more accessible, resulting in rapid population growth in the Midwest. The canal had as much impact on the development of the upper Midwest as it did on the development of New York City. Many pioneers flocked west through the canal, into Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, Indiana, from where they shipped agricultural products through the canal to be marketed in New York, and the return journey was loaded with industrial goods and supplies to the west. Manufacturing industries emerged on both sides of the canal, supplying a steady stream of products to New York City. From Buffalo to New York, land freight once reached $100 per ton, and it was only $10 by the canal. In nine years, tolls had paid back the cost of the construction of the canal. By the time the toll was abolished in 1882, the revenue from the canal had been used to pay for the construction of several canal spurs, and there was substantial tax payment as well.

The canal has been expanded several times. After its reconstruction in 1909, it has become 544 km long, 45 m wide, and 3.6 m deep. By the 20th century, New York had developed a network of canals connecting Lakes Champlain, Ontario, and Finger, and the Erie Canal remained the central route, capable of navigating barges with a capacity of 2,200 tons. The establishment of the Erie Canal connected the water transport of the Great Lakes with New York Harbor and became the main waterway of the navigable canal system in New York State. The freight from Lake Erie to New York only required the cost of one-tenth of the former, making the city, much smaller than Philadelphia and Boston at that time, rapidly developed into the largest port and city in the country. The construction of the Erie Canal played a major role in promoting the economic development of the eastern United States and New York. The population of New York in 1820 was 123,700, and the population of Philadelphia was 112,000. By 1860, the numbers rose to 1.08 million and 566,000 respectively. Consequently, New York thrived as a port city. In 1800, only about 9% of all foreign goods in the United States entered the United States through New York Harbor, yet by 1860, that percentage jumped to 62%. The strengthening of New York’s status too indirectly led to the gradual establishment of Wall Street’s status. In this regard, the Erie Canal contributed greatly to such progress.

In addition to changing urban patterns and the rise of industry, the Erie Canal had a far-reaching impact on the U.S. economy, gradually transforming it into a consumer-led economy that determined the subsequent U.S. economic landscape. Culturally, the opening of the Erie Canal also boosted the Protestant revival movement known as the Second Awakening. Western New York was one of the main areas of this movement, and a crucial reason for this was the opening of the Erie Canal. In the small towns emerging on both sides of the canal, various sects began to proselyte in places where their churches had yet to be common, and some emerging religious groups took root there and rapidly developed, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons.

Other than the evangelization along the Erie Canal, many new trends of thought also made their appearance there, such as the early feminist movement, the abolition movement, and utopianism, which all found their initial supporters in the emerging towns in that region. Hence, the construction of the Erie Canal played a driving role in the changes of the American cultural pattern.

From the day the Erie Canal was built, the vast area between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, especially the Midwest around the Great Lakes, was no longer the frontier of the United States, but was connected to the east coast and became the heartland of the country. The economic and social changes it brought about had put the U.S. on the first step toward becoming a great power. The central and western regions could industrialize swiftly, forming the Great Lakes industrial areas, mining areas, and urban belt. All of these were inseparable from the Erie Canal, therefore it is not unreasonable for many to consider the opening of the Erie Canal as the official beginning of the first industrial revolution in the U.S.

There are numerous canals within the U.S. According to incomplete statistics, the country has built a total of 18,000 km of canals. The entire country has also become an organic whole because of these canals, which not only effectively enhanced the ability to resist droughts and floods, but also greatly developed the American economy and market.

Final analysis conclusion:

The construction of the canal system played an important role in the early transportation improvement, trade flow, market expansion, cultural dissemination, and urban development of the United States. This, in turn, has greatly promoted the development of the American economy and played an important role for it to become a major power.

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Aligning values into an interest-based Canadian Indo-Pacific Strategy

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an explicit challenge to the post-WW 2 order. This order has brought peace and stability and created the conditions for economic growth in the global north and Global South. It has also brought relative peace and economic integration in the Europe and in the Indo-Pacific.

Today, this order is now being challenged by Russia today but also by China. The consequences could mean that a might-is-right approach and Machiavellian approach to foreign policy will become the new normal for countries like Canada, a self-described middle power.

A Machiavellian order is an order in which larger countries can bully, cajole and pressure, mid and small size countries to do what they are demanded is an explicit challenge to Canadian interests, as well as the interests of like-minded countries such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, European countries and countries in the Global South.

The Trudeau Government has clearly and explicitly criticized the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Ottawa has coordinated with other middle powers and as we speak through the G-7 Summit in Germany on how to handle Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

Unity will be important, especially as energy security becomes more and more critical of an issue for Central and Eastern European countries. The growing food crisis that has manifested as a result of the Russian invasion is also an area that the G-7 will need to coordinate to provide relief to many countries in the Global South.

This message will be further discussed at the NATO summit in Spain. Here, Japan, South Korea, Australia New Zealand will join the NATO members to demonstrate their shared commitment to a rules-based order to pushing back against aggression to change the current order and to find ways to work together to support the Ukraine and resist Russian aggression. Here, Canada has an important role in terms of energy security and food security.

With ample access to energy and food resources, there is a possibility for Canada and other partners such as the U.S. to divert some of its significant grain and energy resources to the Europe to help alleviate some of the stress associated with the invasion of Ukraine.

Coordinated military support as well will be important to ensure that the Ukrainians can resist and eventually take back territory that was taken by force by Russia.

There is an interesting paradox in Canada’s approach. While explicitly criticizing Russia’s might-is-right approach to foreign relations in Eastern Europe and particularly with Ukraine, Canada continues to waver in using the same language in the Indo-Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific region is also facing a might-is-right approach to reshaping the Indo-Pacific order. The use of lawfare, gray-zone operations, military force and belligerent threats all are aimed at reshaping the Indo-Pacific order in such a way that creates a Chinese centric regional order in which China’s neighbors as well as stakeholders that engage in the region will think about China’s interests before their own interests and their interest with Washington.

Canada needs to continue to invest in the Indo-Pacific. A good place to start will be to explicitly state Canada’s concerns about that Machiavellian approach to foreign policy in the region and the efforts by China to reshape the region such that states lose aspects of their autonomy. This will require an Indo-Pacific strategy to be built on a clear objective of how Canada sees the Indo-Pacific Region evolving forward and how Canada would like to contribute to that broader vision of the Indo-Pacific.

Japan, Australia, the United States, Germany, Denmark, and the E.U. have laid out their own Indo-Pacific strategies. They focus on maritime security, a rules-based order, transparency, development and importantly, good governance. We see little rhetoric concerning progressive issues as well as little mention of the core values such as democracy, human rights and freedom of press. This is intentional. These countries and associations understand the heterogeneity within the region.

The-Indo Pacific region is home to soft authoritarian regimes, socialist regimes, democracies and monarchies. Unfortunately, each has very different views about democracy, human rights and progressive issues.  

Where they are aligned is in their interests. Their interests are focused on trade, economic integration development, the digital economy, resolving territorial issues through dialogue and consensus-based decision making and not excluding any country region or political entity from the region’s political economy.

Simply, associations and regions like ASEAN, South Asia and the E.U.  see inclusivity as a key criterion to the Indo-Pacific peaceful evolution This means any Indo-Pacific strategy that emerges out of these countries does not exclude China or strive to eject non-democratic states.

Rather, their Indo-Pacific strategies focus on inculcating peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region through development, trade, infrastructure and connectivity, institution building, good governance and deterrence.

In the Canadian case, the broader vision for the Indo-Pacific should echo but not necessarily replicate the Indo-Pacific Visions of the country’s mentioned above. Canada’s priority should be peace, stability, open access, a transparent, rules-based order that ensures Canada can have free access to economies and societies throughout the region.

At the same time, Canada’s interests in the Indo-Pacific should include shaping the region such that traditional security issues such as territory issues in the South China Sea, East China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and the Himalayan plateau do not devolve into kinetic conflict that fundamentally disrupts the region’s development and stability.

Traditional security issues are not the only issue that can affect Canada’s interests in the region. Non-traditional security issues such as climate change, terrorism, transnational diseases, extremism are all potential concerns for Canada as it could create instability in the region, disrupt their economies, destabilize supply chains as well as create problems for trading partners.

As Canada celebrates another Canada Day, it should reflect upon what are the key elements of an Indo-Pacific strategy.

Here a six-fold approach may be a useful approach to creating an Indo-Pacific strategy that helps achieve Canada’s national interests in the Indo-Pacific region. A first pillar of an Indo Pacific strategy should be one of Inclusive Development.

Here, Canada can help build stability, improve governance and contribute to broad inclusive development in the region. Through support for NGOs, investment in infrastructure and connectivity, coordinating with regional stakeholders and ensuring that inclusive development results in sustainable and replicable development in the region. Importantly, inclusive development in the region should de-emphasize the progressive character of inclusivity found in the domestic context of Canada as it is less prioritized in the region. This does not mean that a progressive approach is absent but it is sensitive to the local cultures and societies.  

A second pillar should focus on Canada’s comparative advantages, Energy and critical mineral security. Based on improvements in environmental technology and technologies that are used to exploit both energy resources and critical minerals, Canada should make this the second pillar of their Indo-Pacific strategy as an open, reliable source of energy and critical minerals.

Canada could carve a position within the Indo-Pacific region in which it is the key provider of energy and critical minerals to industries that use both products. We’ve seen in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, that energy security has become timely and we expect that energy security and critical minerals to be subject to weaponization in the future in the build-up to or in a conflict.

Consequently, Canada can contribute energy and critical mineral significantly by making this a key pillar in their strategy.

A third pillar should focus on coordinating and investing in Middle Power Diplomacy. In short, Canada needs to coordinate with other middle powers such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand European powers to ensure that the US China Strategic competition does not shape them. Rather, coordination shapes the dynamics of the US China Strategic competition in such a way that it decreases and or attenuates the negative effects on countries we’ve already seen Canada engage in middle power diplomacy with some success.

The 2020 Agreement, in which Canada marshaled middle powers and other countries to join a Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations following the arrest of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China is a good example. We also saw Canada bring together middle powers and the United States to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in January 2018.

 More coordination of middle powers in the areas of good governance, transparency, energy cooperation and financial cooperation would be a unique but also important contribution by Canada in the Indo-Pacific.

Here, one could easily imagine Canada working with the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) to provide energy security, health infrastructure, good governance to the Pacific Island nations.

We could also see Canada contribute to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework by marshalling middle powers to support this standard setting agreement that will shape how we think about trade. The standards that we use to negotiate new technologies ,the internet, cyber as well as AI.

A fourth pillar should be supporting Economic security, infrastructure and connectivity. Here Canada needs to find ways to consolidate its own economic security so that is more resilient against economic shocls, outside Canada, as well as inside Canada.

The COVID 19 pandemic is a good example of an external shock to the Canadian economy. We had challenges in terms of acquiring personal protective equipment and other goods as China shut down their country to manage the initial Covid-19 outbreak.

The current COVID-19 policies in Shanghai and Beijing further consolidates the logic that Canada needs to build resilience into its economy, to invest and protect its own economic security.

Internally, the floods in the fall of 2021 in British Colombia also disrupted Canadian exports abroad.

Economic security, resilience and infrastructure and connectivity can help ensure that Canada’s economy remains online and integrated into the global economy and resilient against external and internal shocks. This will require bolstering infrastructure and connectivity at home so that we have world class infrastructure that is resilient against internal shocks.

Also, Canada has a role in contributing to infrastructure and connect to the within the Indo-Pacific region. While we have limited capacities, we have capabilities that can piggyback onto existing infrastructure connectivity programs that are associated with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. The Japan-India-Australia resilient supply chain initiative and bilateral and other multilateral infrastructure and connectivity initiatives that have come online over the past three or four years. All of this will be important for Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy in ensuring that Canada’s economic security is based on a resilient economy that is bolstered by infrastructure connectivity at home and abroad.

A fifth pillar for Canada will continue to be focused on security and in particular, Maritime Security in the Indo-Pacific region. With sea lines of communication in the Indo-Pacific responsible for about $5.5 trillion in trade every year and energy resources being transported through the key arteries located in the Indian Ocean, Malacca Straits South China Sea, Taiwan Straits as well as East China Sea, Canada has an interest in ensuring that the sea lines of communication remain open, governed by international law and free from coercion.

Cooperation in sea lines of communication will need to take place within existing frameworks or new frameworks. Quad plus arrangements have already taken place in January 2021 Canada participated in the Sea Dragon 21 exercises to provide an opportunity for Canada to monitor and observe Quad exercises.

We also see Canada engage in sanctions monitoring in the East China Sea in an effort to prevent sanctions invasions by North Korea. These activities continue to need to be expanded by working with like-minded countries within the region focused on maritime domain awareness search and rescue, humanitarian relief and disaster assistance and dealing with non-traditional security challenges such as illegal fishing, piracy and others.

While this is not an easy task, this pillar of a Canadian Indo-Pacific strategy is important to contributing to the region’s peace and stability as well it is important for protecting Canadian imports and exports to the region. In 2021, more than $21 billion of Canadian goods went through the region this sum continues to increase as Indo-Pacific nations look to Canada to secure energy as well as agricultural products. Ensuring that sea lines of communication remain open, stable and peaceful will continue to be a critical part of any Canadian Indo-Pacific strategy.

Lastly, a sixth pillar of a Canadian Indo-Pacific Strategy should focus on Climate Change.

The Indo-Pacific region is hosts the three most populated countries, Indonesia, India and China. It is also home to ASEAN. Collectively, the population of the Indo-Pacific region is at least 3.5 billion and the current development patterns suggest that they will have severe water and food security issues as their environment degrades do to climate change and global warming.

More extreme weather systems, the salination of the Mekong and Bangladeshi delta’s as sea levels rise will change the ecology of these critical production areas that that will create social instability, economic stress and likely political instability associated with economic refugees moving to find safer, more predictable geographic locations to leave and work.

We will also see tropical diseases and insects push north and southward disrupting agricultural and social systems.

Canada has a clear interest in investing in climate change mitigation, promoting environmentally friendly governance and business systems and technology transfer that lessen the negative impact of climate change. The scale of the problem will require Canada to pursue this sixth pillar through regional and global coordination.

With a pragmatic and realistic approach that is based on understanding the heterogeneity of the Indo-Pacific region, a Canadian Indo-Pacific Strategy should include but not be exclusive to: Inclusive development, Trade and Economic Residence, Climate Change, Maritime Security, Energy and Critical Mineral Security, and Middle Power Diplomacy.

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