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5 ways Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson have changed US foreign policy

Rex Tillerson has offered insights into the pragmatic trajectory of US foreign policy under Donald Trump.

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Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said that a week is a long time in politics. After months of Donald Trump’s foreign policy being something of a mystery, Secretary of State Rex Tilleron’s glob-trotting journey has made things a lot clearer.

The language of American foreign policy has changed significantly under Trump and Tillerson via-a-vis Obama/Clinton and Kerry. Ideology is and a kind of heavy handed but at times, surprisingly cordial pragmatism is in.

Here are the five ways this has manifested itself.

1. No More Lectures

The Obama administration had a tendency to lecture other nations about how they ought to run their countries, using diplomatic avenues to deliver the message. Diplomacy is not about speaking down to other nations but about speaking respectfully to others in the pursuit of cooperation and understanding in areas of mutual self-interest.

Thus far, the two most important countries in terms of regional and geo-political influence that Tillerson has visited, have been China and Turkey.

In both cases, Tillerson used the language of good will, cooperation and respect in order to emphasise the nature of the relationship.

This is a stark contrast to the Obama administration who often offered provocative and disrespectful remarks to China and who consigned Turkey to the realm of an unimportant, distant regional player. Although, Turkey’s regional role has been overwhelmingly negative, it has nevertheless been very prominent. Turkey cannot be ignored, even though Obama tried his best to ignore it.

Obama’s approach was both foolhardy and objectively wrong. China is a superpower and the US depends economically on China far more than many in the west let on. If anything, China has the upper hand in future negotiations with the US.

Therefore approaching China with anything other than a position of respect is insulting to this key superpower. Obama’s approach was  the antithesis of diplomacy.

In respect of Turkey, Washington and Ankara no longer see eye-to-eye in Syria. Turkey lists the Kurdish forces in Syria as terrorist groups while the US now firmly backs them both in their fight against Salifism and more importantly, in their ambitions for Kurdish autonomy inside Syria or moreover for a Kurdish state carved from legitimate Syrian territory.

In spite of these diametric differences, Tillerson’s language in Ankara was that of cooperation and friendship. Although not entirely honest, diplomacy is about rhetorically minimising differences rather than exaggerating them. In this sense, perhaps Tillerson has learned from Russian diplomats who in spite of vast differences with Turkey, always refer to the Turks (and not just the Turks) as partners.

2. No More Russian Bear-baiting

During the Obama years, Russia was the consistent target of double-standard laden lectures and overt provocations. Making matters worse, the Obama administration participated in the overthrow of the legitimate President of Ukraine, installing the current fascist regime in its place.

Under Trump, the lectures have mostly stopped. Apart from a few attempts by Nikki Haley to do her best impersonation of Samantha Power, when it comes to Tillerson and Trump himself, the insults directed towards Russia have stopped.

The fact that South Korea, China and Turkey have taken precedence for Tillerson is not a sign that Russia is unimportant, but instead it is a sign that the Trump administration is willing to ‘live and let live’ with Russia. Any more substantive diplomatic talks may have to wait until the rapidly disintegrating ‘Russiagate’ fake-scandal dies down.

That being said, rumours of Rex Tillerson visiting Moscow persist and yesterday Putin gave a clear indication of where and when he is ready to meet his US counterpart.

By allowing Russia to slip on the diplomatic back-burner, Trump is easing relations by omission, his only realistic option given the anti-Russian domestic political climate in Washington.

3. The Big Stick Is Back 

Although Rex Tillerson’s bellicose language against North Korea was highly inappropriate, especially as it was delivered in South Korea, it is an indication that under Trump, the US is more concerned with their perceived views of the ‘balance of power’ than about using ideology to frame, shape and form geo-political relations.

Washington and Pyongyang have for decades engaged in cat and mouse rhetoric, but even the most paranoid war-hawks on the Korea issue, privately concede that reviewed violence on the Korean peninsula is a remote possibility at best.

Tillerson’s Korean remarks were part of Donald Trump’s ‘tough guy’ approach to perceived threats. Thus far, it is all big stick rhetoric, probably designed for domestic US consumption and to assuage hawkish parties in Seoul.

4. All Quiet On Russia’s Western Front…sort of

The sheer amount of remarks  by key US officials on Donbass and Kiev’s conflict has gone remarkably down. Whereas for Obama’s state department, one got the feeling that the US was prepared to risk wider world war to prop up the disgraceful regime in Kiev, Trump’s people increasingly seem to just want to totally ignore it, as though to wish the headache away.

Against this backdrop, the US Congress has cut funding to Kiev.

The NATO troops ordered to Poland and the three Baltic states under Obama are still there, but Trump’s remarks to Angela Merkel about NATO members needing to pay up, again confirms that Trump does not possess the ideological zeal for a heavily armed, anti-Russian Europe that his predecessor was more or less obsessed with.

5. Leaving Assad Be

Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley have, in less than 24 hours, confirmed that regime change in Damascus is no longer an avowed US policy. The US still has designs for Syria involving Kurdish separatism, but the direct threat of removing President Assad through force, is now off the table.

Clarity is emerging in respect of Donald Trump’s foreign policy. It was never going to be ideal, but in more ways than one, the diplomatic language of Rex Tillerson is all ready far preferable to that of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

 

 

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Peace on Korean Peninsula within reach, if only Trump can remove Pompeo & Bolton (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss the results of the Putin-Kim summit in Vladivostok, Russia, aimed at boosting bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, as well as working to contribute to a final peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.

Putin’s meeting with Kim may prove to be a pivotal diplomatic moment, as North Korea continues to work towards normalizing ties with the U.S. amidst ongoing denuclearization talks with the Trump White House.

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Via the BBC…

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un needs international security guarantees if he is to end his nuclear programme.

Such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, he added, following talks near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east.

Mr Kim praised the summit as a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange”.

Mr Putin said North Korea’s leader was “fairly open” and had “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda”.

The meeting followed the breakdown of talks between the US and North Korea in February, when Mr Kim met US President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Those talks reportedly stalled over North Korea’s demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearisation commitments – a deal the US was not willing to make.

Speaking after the talks on Thursday, Mr Putin said he wanted to see full denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

But he said this could only be achieved through respect for international law.

“We need to restore the power of international law, to return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” he said.

Mr Kim greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived in Russia on Wednesday.

The North Korean leader was entertained by a brass band in Vladivostok before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.

What do we know about the summit?

According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.

“There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”

What do both sides want?

This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of the talks with the US in February.

The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.

The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US. Mr Kim may try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.

Analysts say the summit is an opportunity for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.

President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.

Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.

How close are Russia and North Korea?

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.

Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.

While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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Putin meets Kim for the first time (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at the historic meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

The meeting marks the first ever summit between the two leaders.

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Via RT…

Leaders of Russia and North Korea sat down for a historic summit in Vladivostok, expressing hope it will revive the peace process in the Korean Peninsula and talks on normalizing relations with the US.

The summit on Russky Island, just off Vladivostok, started a little late because President Vladimir Putin’s flight was delayed. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made the trip by train, arriving on Wednesday.

In brief public remarks before the talks, the two leaders expressed hope the summit will help move forward the reconciliation process in the Korean Peninsula. Putin welcomed Kim’s contributions to “normalizing relations” with the US and opening a dialogue with South Korea.

Kim said he hoped the Vladivostok summit would be a “milestone” in the talks about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, but also build upon “traditionally friendly ties” between Russia and North Korea.

The North Korean leader also made a point of thanking Putin for flying all the way to Vladivostok for the meeting. The Far East Russian city is only 129 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

The historic summit takes place less than two months after Kim’s second summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi fell apart without a breakthrough on denuclearization. The US rejected North Korea’s request for partial sanctions relief in return for moves to dismantle nuclear and missile programs; Washington insists on full disarmament before any sanctions are removed.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main subject of the Kim-Putin summit, but there will also be talks about bilateral relations, trade, and humanitarian aid. The first one-on-one meeting is scheduled to last about an hour, followed by further consultations involving other government officials.

Following the summit, Putin is scheduled to visit China.

 

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Kim And Putin: Changing The State Of The Board In Korea

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


Today is a big day for Korea. The first face-to-face summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un takes place.

At the same time the 2nd annual Belt and Road Forum kicks off in Beijing.

This meeting between Putin and Kim has been in the works for a while but rumors of it only surfaced last week. But don’t let the idea that this was put together at the last minute fool you.

It wasn’t.

The future of Korea could be decided by these two men today.

I know that sounds bold. But hear me out.

And while no one seems to think this meeting is important or that anything of substance will come from it I do. It is exactly the kind of surprise that Putin loves to spring on the world without notice and by doing so change the board state of geopolitics.

  • Russia’s entrance into Syria in 2015, two days after Putin’s historic speech at the U.N. General Assembly
  • 2018’s State of the Union address where he announced hypersonic missiles, embarrassing the U.S. Militiary-Industrial Complex which accelerated the Bolton Doctrine of subjugating the world
  • Flying 2 TU-160 nuclear-armed bombers to Venezuela, creating panic in D.C. leading to the ham-fisted regime change operations there.
  • Nationalization of Yukos.
  • The operation to secure Crimea from U.S. invasion by marines aboard the U.S.S Donald Cook during the Ukrainian uprising against Viktor Yanukovich.

Both Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are angry at the breakdown of the talks in Hanoi back in February. It was clear that everyone expected that meeting to be a rubber stamp on a deal already agreed to by all parties involved.

In fact the two meetings between Kim and Trump were only possible because Trump convinced them of his sincerity to resolve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea which would clear a path to rapid reunification.

It’s why they went along with the U.S.’s increased sanctions on North Korea as administered through the U.N. in 2017.

That John Bolton and Mike Pompeo destroyed those talks and Trump was unwilling or unable (who cares at this point, frankly, useless piece of crap that he is) to stop them embarrassed and betrayed them.

They are now done with Trump.

He’ll get nothing from either of them or Kim until Trump can prove he’s in charge of his administration, which he, clearly, is not.

And they will be moving forward with their own agenda for security and Asian economic integration. So I don’t think the timing of this meeting with that of the Belt and Road Forum is an accident.

And that means moving forward on solving the Korea problem without Trump.

It is clear from the rhetoric of Putin’s top diplomat, the irreplaceable Sergei Lavrov, that Russia’s patience is over. They are no longer interested in what Trump wants and they will now treat the U.S. as a threat, having upped their military stance towards the U.S. to that of “Threat.”

If Bolton wants anything from Russia at this point he best be prepared to start a war or piss off.

This is also why Russia took the gloves off with Ukraine in the run up to the Presidential elections, cutting off energy and machinery exports with Ukraine.

To put paid Putin’s growing impatience with U.S. policies, he just issued the order to allow residents of Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics to apply for Russian passports.

This will send Bolton into apoplexy. Angela Merkel of Germany will be none too pleased either. Putin is now playing hardball after years of unfailing politeness.

It’s also why Lavrov finalized arms and port deals all over the Middle East in recent weeks, including those with Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and India.

Bolton, Pompeo and Pence are ideologues. Trump is a typical Baby Boomer, who lives in a bubble of his own design and believes in an America that never existed.

None of them truly understand the fires they are stoking and simply believe in the Manifest Destiny of the U.S. to rule the world over a dim and barbaric world.

Putin, Xi, Rouhani in Iran and Kim in North Korea are pragmatic men. They understand the realities they live in. This is why I see Putin willing tomorrow to sit down with Kim and flaunt the U.N. sanctions and begin the investment process into North Korea that should have begun last year.

Putin would not be making these moves if he didn’t feel that Bolton was all bark and no bite when it came to actual war with Russia. He also knows that Germany needs him more than he needs Germany so despite the feet-dragging and rhetoric Nordstream 2 will go forward.

Trade is expanding between them despite the continued sanctions.

Putin may be willing to cut a deal with President-elect Zelensky on gas transit later in the year but only if the shelling of the LPR and DPR stops and he guarantees no more incidents in the Sea of Azov. This would also mollify Merkel a bit and make it easier for her politically to get Nordstream 2 over the finish line.

There are moments in history when people go too far. Bolton and Pompeo went too far in Hanoi. He will pay the price now. Putin and Kim will likely agree to something in Vladivostok that no one is expecting and won’t look like much at first.

But the reality is this summit itself marks a turning point in this story that will end with the U.S. being, in Trump’s transactional parlance, a “price taker” since it has so thoroughly failed at being a “price maker.”

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