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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: Potential Partners – Not Allies or Even Friends

Far from being Putin’s Stooge Donald Trump is a pragmatic realist. However that is not enough for the Beltway’s insiders who have a pathological hatred of the Russian leader.

George Szamuely

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Reporters and pundits covering the presidential campaign of Donald Trump have been torn between two conflicting narratives: The first is that Trump is a reckless amateur and, as president with his finger on the nuclear button, he would bring the world to the brink of catastrophe. The second is that Trump is a cat’s paw for Russian President Vladimir Putin and, as president, he would, advertently or inadvertently, work to implement Moscow’s agenda for world domination.

The first narrative is a familiar one. Past Republican presidential candidates—Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan—have all had to fight off accusations that, if elected, they would waste no time before launching World War III. The second narrative however is somewhat unusual. It is not often that Republicans are accused of acting as witting or unwitting tools of the Kremlin—at least not by so-called liberals.

For it is liberal media outlets that are the most enthusiastic purveyors of this tale of Putin, the manipulative mastermind, and Trump, his would-be hand puppet. Most of these stories depict Trump as a buffoonish narcissist, easily susceptible to the empty flattery doled out by a predatory Putin. In a story titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Franklin Foer in Slate claimed that Putin “has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.” Foer set the Red-baiting tone by announcing that Trump’s campaign is “the moral equivalent of Henry Wallace’s communist-infiltrated campaign for president in 1948….A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.” Trump’s ambition doesn’t go beyond fulfilment of a “longtime dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline.” Putin’s dream is far more sinister:

If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to serve his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump. The Republican nominee wants to shatter our military alliances in Europe; he cheers the destruction of the European Union; he favors ratcheting down tensions with Russia over Ukraine and Syria, both as a matter of foreign policy and in service of his own pecuniary interests. A Trump presidency would weaken Putin’s greatest geo-strategic competitor. By stoking racial hatred, Trump will shred the fabric of American society.

“Trump is Vladimir Putin’s stooge,” Jonathan Chait claimed in New York in a story headlined “Why Is Donald Trump a Patsy for Vladimir Putin? The New York Review of Books also chimed in: Under a Trump presidency, “American policy to [sic] Europe will be guided by Russian interests,” wrote its resident “Russia expert” Timothy Snyder. Until “the rise of Trump the idea of an American who would volunteer to be a Kremlin client would have seemed unlikely. Trump represents an unprecedented standard of American servility, and should therefore be cultivated as a future Russian client.” Putin likes “weakness, which is what Trump offers…. an American president who shuns alliances with fellow democracies, praises dictators, and prefers “deals” to the rule of law would be a very easy mark in Moscow.” For Putin, “Trump is a small man who might gain great power. The trick is to manipulate the small man and thereby neutralize the great power. In another article, Snyder claimed that the Russian elite is rooting for Trump because of “their conviction that Trump will destroy U.S. power.” 

Most media outlets however didn’t waste time hiring experts. Standard-issue political operatives sufficed. Time ran a column titled Meet the Tyrant Donald Trump Loves the Most by Elise Jordan, speechwriter to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who now serves as MSNBC’s in-house Republican, ready at the drop of a hat to express the appropriate outrage at the latest pronouncement of Donald Trump’s. The Russian leader, according to Jordan, “senses that Trump’s rise portends weakness for America. No wonder Putin is openly excited by the prospect of facing off against an ignorant reality star whom he could easily dominate in the international pecking order.” Trump’s “attacks on strong women, [echo] Putin’s pathetic attempts at machismo.” Jordan’s fact-free rant culminated in the prediction that “It’s not too far-fetched to imagine Trump going full Putin and starting a war with Mexico, like Putin’s Crimea grab, if they don’t build the wall.” (Well, actually, it is too far-fetched. Trump has explained in some detail how he would persuade Mexico to pay for the wall. He said he would threaten to cut off the flow of money immigrants send back to Mexico via remittances. He would rescind the threat if Mexico made “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to pay for the border wall. Whatever one might think of the advisability or feasibility of this plan, it involves no threat of war.)

Another political operative who weighed in on the Putin-Trump relationship, this time at Politico, was one Evelyn Farkas, a former official in Obama’s Pentagon. Her screed, Trump and Putin: Two Liars Separated at Birth?, was notable in that she appears to hold Americans in as much contempt as she holds the Russians. The Russian people’s indifference to truth, she wrote, has enabled Putin “to secure and retain power, to run the Russian Federation as an autocratic, Mafia-style capitalist state, to pursue a neo-imperial foreign policy for its own sake.” As for Trump, “he is fostering and exploiting indifference toward truth in the service of fear, hatred and a mishmash of poor foreign and domestic policy ideas.”

Not terribly sophisticated but media outlets that make their living through clickbait were even less sophisticated. Salon, for example, has run innumerable stories suggesting a homoerotic relationship between the Russian leader and the American businessman. Donald Trump’s revealing man-crush on Vladimir Putin screamed a typical headline. The man-crush is mutual apparently. On another occasion, we were told that Putin has a “man-crush on Donald Trump.” On yet another occasion, Salon spoke of a “bromance”: “Donald Trump is a big fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Big fan. Huge fan.” Just in case readers still didn’t get the message, two days after the appearance of that story, Salon ran yet another  story on this theme, headlined Donald Trump’s got Putin fever. This was soon followed by yet another story telling us that Russian president Vladimir Putin has continued to sing Donald Trump’s praises.” Trump “can’t help but gush with praise at those who use violence to oppress their people,” Salon claimed more recently, “At the top of the list, of course, is Vladimir Putin, who Trump repeatedly swoons over like he’s a 12-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert.” Putin is aware that “Trump goes to sleep snuggling a photo of the Russian dictator every night, and are seeking ways to support Trump’s run, knowing that nothing would destabilise the United States and strengthen Russia’s position like a Trump win.”

Even the New York Times has picked up on the bromance” theme, running a story titled “Vladimir Putin Praises Donald Trump, Sealing a Long-Distance Bromance.” “Bromance” also featured on CNN. Many of the articles prominently feature a recently-painted mural on the wall of a bar in Vilnius, Lithuania, showing Putin and Trump locking lips.

The $1-a-word-anti-Putin-diatribe crowd would not be left out of the mix. The ubiquitous Julia Ioffe offered her usual venomous observations, this time laced with erotic suggestions: Russians were supposedly “salivating at the prospect” of a Trump presidency. There is “something Russian about Trump the man: he likes gold-plated opulence and surgically-perfected Eastern European women.” Anna Nemtsova wrote in The Daily Beast  that “The Kremlin hates everything about America except for Donald Trump.” Ivan Krastev in a New York Times op-ed titled “Why Putin Loves Trump,” explained that Putin’s “enthusiasm” for Trump was “rooted in the fact that they both live in a soap-opera world run by emotions rather than interests.”

What is remarkable about this abundance of lurid verbiage is the flimsy foundation on which it is based. Trump and Putin have in reality exchanged nothing more than a few pro forma compliments. Trump’s “man crush” is nothing more than an acknowledgment of something that even Putin’s critics don’t dispute: The Russian is a strong leader. “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader,” he told a TV interviewer. In addition, Trump has said many times that he believed—or hoped—that he would get on well with Putin. During the second presidential debate in September 2015, Trump declared that he “would get along with Putin.” But then, he added, “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.” He returned to this theme in another presidential debate: “Wouldn’t it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?”

It is extraordinary that a statement promising improved relations should cause so much fury. In his National Interest-hosted foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016, Trump again reiterated that the United States and Russia “are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible.”

Putin, for his part, has also not gone beyond expressions of hope that the next U.S. president would seek better relations with Russia. To be sure, Putin has expressed himself positively about Trump. In December 2015, after pledging to work with “whomever the American voters choose,” Putin described Trump as “a very lively man, talented without doubt.” Putin went on, “He’s saying he wants to go to another level of relations—closer, deeper relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.” Of course, they do. After enduring years and years of verbal abuse from U.S. politicians and pundits, particularly at election time, Russians are understandably happy to hear that there is one political candidate who appears to be free of the usual animus toward Russia. Trump responded to Putin’s words by saying that it was “a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

In June 2016, Putin again pointed out that “We don’t back anyone, it’s not our business.” He however welcomed Trump’s promise to “restore relations with Russia.” While Russia would work with anyone the U.S. voters choose to lead them, his hope was that “this individual will want to improve relations with Russia and help build a more secure world.”

Interviewers have repeatedly baited Trump over his positive words about Russia. How could Trump not be appalled by a man who “kills journalists that don’t agree with him”? Trump responded, not unreasonably, that “our country does plenty of killing too.” This comment led to predictable spluttering and howls of outrage. Failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted: “Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.”

The terrorists and enemy combatants to whom Romney referred evidently include members of the media. At least 16 journalists have been killed by U.S. armed forces in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Trump could have mentioned—but didn’t—the April 2003 bombing of Al Jazeera’s Baghdad headquarters that led to the killing of its correspondent Tareq Ayyoub. That same day, the United States shelled the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, home to most of the foreign correspondents in Iraq, killing two cameramen, Reuters’ Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso of Spain’s Telecinco. The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed many other such incidents: There was Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman, who was killed by machine gun fire from a U.S. tank on Aug. 17, 2003, while he was filming near Abu Ghraib prison. There was cameraman Ali Abdel Aziz and reporter Ali al-Khatib, both of the United Arab Emirates-based news channel Al-Arabiya, who were shot dead near a U.S. military checkpoint in Baghdad in March 2004. Then there was Asaad Kadhim, a correspondent for the U.S.-funded Al-Iraqiya TV, and his driver, Hussein Saleh, who were killed by gunfire from U.S. forces near a checkpoint close to the Iraqi city of Samara. There was also Maha Ibrahim, a news producer for Iraqi television station Baghdad TV, who was shot and killed on June 25, 2005, by U.S. forces as she drove to work with her husband, also an employee of the station. Then there was the notorious videotaped 2007 Apache helicopter attack that led to the deaths of two Reuters news correspondents. 

Moreover, in 2015, the Pentagon published a law of war manual in which it declared that “journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorised to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.” In other words, not only are journalists to be considered legitimate military targets but, if captured, they would not be entitled to any protections under the Geneva Conventions.

To return: While Trump has promised to seek better relations with Russia, he has not yet indicated awareness of Russia’s security concerns, particularly those arising from NATO’s eastward expansion. On Ukraine, for example, Trump has not addressed the 2014 armed overthrow of the legitimate, elected government in Kiev and the role this played in the subsequent conflict in Ukraine. While Trump has eschewed the usual noisy Washington bluster that blames Putin for the spectacular failure of the policy of trying to muscle Ukraine into the Western alliance, Trump’s criticism of Washington’s Ukraine policy has not gone beyond demands that other countries take the lead: “I think maybe we should do a little following and let the neighbors take a little bit more of an active role in the Ukraine.” Americans have been the most aggressive on Ukraine, he complained in on another occasion. Why can’t others do a little more? “I never hear any other countries even mentioned and we’re fighting constantly. We’re talking about Ukraine, get out, do this, do that. And I mean, Ukraine’s very far away from us. How come the countries near the Ukraine, surrounding the Ukraine, how come they’re not opening up and they’re not at least protesting? I never hear anything from anybody except the United States.”

On the question of Ukraine’s membership of NATO, Trump has not gone beyond saying that he doesn’t care about the issue. “Whether it goes in or doesn’t go in, I wouldn’t care. If it goes in, great. If it doesn’t go in, great.” On Crimea, Trump has been non-committal, declaring it to be Europe’s, rather than America’s, problem. Trump has not been an enthusiastic about providing arms to Ukraine. Recently, the Trump campaign succeeded in making sure that the Republican platform rejected calls for sending lethal weapons to the government of Ukraine.

Trump’s approach toward Russia is in line with the general thrust of his proposed foreign policy. The only question he deems worthy of asking is: “What’s in it for us?” In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, he wrote that “Pulling back from Europe will save this country millions of dollars annually. The cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous, and these are clearly funds that can be put to better use.” These days, the gravamen of his complaints about NATO is that its members are getting a free ride. Only four NATO member-countries, besides the United States, are “spending the minimum required 2% of GDP on defence.” The United States spends “trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defence for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defence, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.”

However, there are more serious problems with NATO than other countries not pulling their weight. NATO’s reckless policies such as involvement in the war in Syria, overthrow of the legitimate government of Libya and the provision of weapons and training for the government of Ukraine, have seriously jeopardized the security of Western nations. Trump has studiously avoided asking the more fundamental question whether it is the continued existence of NATO that poses the most serious threat to world peace. 

To be sure, alone among today’s politicians, Trump has urged a reconsideration of NATO’s mission. NATO is obsolete, he has argued, unwilling to address the issues of today such as migration and Islamic terrorism. “We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism,” he has  said.  “NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism.” NATO needs to change. It will either be “readjusted to take care of terrorism or we’re going to have to set up a…new coalition, a new group of countries to handle terrorism because terrorism is out of control.”

Trump follows the unthinking consensus on missile defence. He has echoed the familiar neo-conservative complaint that Obama has supposedly “gutted” the program and “abandoned our missile defence plans with Poland and the Czech Republic.” Trump appears to be unaware of the components of the U.S. missile defence plans that have been implemented in recent years. In 2009, Obama announced the deployment on AEGIS warships of interceptors against short- and medium-range missiles. The following year NATO announced deployment of SM-3 missile interceptors. This land-based missile defence system became fully operational in May 2016, much to the annoyance of Moscow. NATO has already begun construction of an additional anti-missile platform in Poland. Today, NATO defensive shield includes a command-and-control center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a radar installation in Turkey and four ships capable of identifying enemy missiles and firing their own SM-3s based in Rota, Spain.

Trump, in other words, has deviated fairly mildly from Washington foreign policy orthodoxy. That is has elicited such a frenzied response illustrates the extent to which the U.S. foreign policy elite, especially its liberal wing, is committed to continuing, and even escalating, the conflict with Russia. Not only that, given the elite’s almost hysterical animus toward Putin, it is likely to be working overtime under a Clinton presidency trying to effect regime change in Moscow. Trump as a businessman has imbibed none of the pathology of the U.S. policymaking elite. Before entering politics, Trump was a builder who naturally saw Russia as an enticing source of business opportunities. As a neophyte politician, he is understandably baffled why he is expected to begin mobilising the nation to confront Russia. Trump may not have fully grasped that for U.S. policymakers the natural order of things is U.S. hegemonic rule over the entire planet. The role of the much-touted U.S. “friends and allies” is to serve as cheerleaders for U.S. rule. Russia however stands in the way. Hence, the extraordinary vitriol directed at Moscow.

As far as U.S. policymakers and their media acolytes are concerned, the goal of a liberal, rational foreign policy is to contain Russia and to sponsor opposition to its government. However, this policy, consisting as it does of NATO expansion, missile defence systems on Russia’s borders, growing NATO military presence in Eastern Europe, regime change operations in Russia isn’t terribly rational. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. Trump is one of the few politicians in the United States who has expressed concern about where this policy is leading. However, now that Trump is the official Republican presidential nominee, will he have the strength to resist the entreaties of his new Republican allies to provoke conflict with Russia?

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The End Of The US Unipolar Moment Is Irreversible

The United States is in the terminal phase of its unipolar moment.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The past weeks have shown how part of the American establishment is weighing the pros and cons of the Trump administration’s strategies around the world. I have a strong feeling that in the coming weeks we will see the destabilizing effects of American politics, especially towards its closest allies.

A disastrous flip of events appears to be on its way, in case Trump were to lose the November midterm elections (the House and Senate elections). If this were to happen, the Trump administration would probably exploit the Russia gate conspiracy claiming that Moscow had now acted in favour of Democrats. Trump could argue that Moscow was disappointed by the lack of progress in softening US sanctions against Russia; indeed, by Trump’s measures against Russia (expulsions, sanctions, property seizures) and its allies (China, Iran and Syria).

Trump would not hesitate to claim Russian interference in the midterms to aid the Democrats, citing intelligence reports. He would say that Russia aims to create chaos in the US by placing roadblocks in the way of attempts to “Make America Great Again” and handing the House and Senate to the Democrats. He would use the electoral defeat to blame his accusers of getting aid from Russia. In doing so, he would be accelerating the implosion of his administration in an all-out war with the establishment. The mainstream media would dismiss Trump’s accusations against the Democrats of collusion with Russia as a conspiracy theory of an unravelling presidency. All this, summed up, would lead to the Democrats having majority in both houses, easily proceeding to the impeachment of Trump.

Italy is piggybacking on the US, operating side by side with Washington to expand its role in North Africa, especially in Libya. However, Rome will have to offer something in return to please Trump. Evidence points to the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) as the quid pro quo, the US encouraging Italy to complete it in order to put pressure on Germany’s North Stream II project and undermine Russian gas deliveries to the EU. I have the impression that the only card available for Italy to play (and which interests Trump) is an endorsement of Washington’s positions on Iran, given that Italy already shares in common with Washington differences with Paris and Berlin on many issues. In this sense, Conte’s words about US intelligence info on the JCPOA paves the way for further decisions:

“”I didn’t take a specific stand. I said we are willing to evaluate the necessity to take more rigorous stances if the (nuclear) accord is shown to be ineffective. We are waiting to have elements of intelligence, Italy would like to evaluate it with its EU partners”

As evidence of Washington’s failed strategy towards Iran, India continues to buy crude oil from Iran, increasing the amount in the last month by 52%. China is also increasing its importation from Iran. Meanwhile, Iran is working with other countries to circumvent the US dollar in order to sustain their mutual trade within a new framework of agreements. Washington is especially disappointment with New Delhi, with American officials continuing to reiterate that India’s intentions align with Washington’s. Since November, with the imposition of counter-sanctions on countries that continue to work with Iran, Washington’s bluff will become evident to everybody, much to the disappointment of the Trump administration.

In the meantime, relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia have almost completely broken down on account of human rights. Ambassadors have been expelled and there is a continuing war of words, with trade between the two countries being brought to a stop. This is the latest example of the divisions manifesting themselves within the Western elites, with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration being in opposition to the likes of France, Germany and Canada.

What is also clear is that the issue of energy is central to Washington’s strategy. Between criticism of the German Nord Stream II and invitations to Italy to finish the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, it is clear that both the Trump administration and the policy makers of the deep state are strongly concerned about what actions allies and enemies could take to overcome the pressure brought to bear by Washington on the issues of energy, Iran, and sanctions. This shows that the US is very fearful of de-dollarization, especially coming from its allies.

Bypassing sanctions with currencies other than US dollar, or creating creative finance structures that bypass the SWIFT payment system, are the only means of maintaining relations between countries in spite of Washington’s sanctions. The US strategy is limited in the short term and certainly harmful in the long term for US Dollar financial hegemony.

That Washington’s allies are even entertaining such possibilities places US financial hegemony at great risk in the long run. This worries the American deep state a great deal, even without Trump, who in any case will not be in charge past 2024 (should he be re-elected in 2020).

One of the points of greatest tension is precisely this strategic difference between the Trump administration and the policy makers in the deep state (AKA Langley and Foggy Bottom). While the former can increase the pressure on allies (through NATO, the JCPOA, TTIP and TPP) to obtain immediate solutions and benefits, the latter must above all consider the effects in the medium and long term, which are often harmful for US interests. The imposition of sanctions on Iran, and the obligation of European allies to comply with this directive, is a prime example.

Another of Washington’s strategies revolves around the price of oil. The United States would have no problem seeing the price of crude oil skyrocket. Secretly, many in the administration hope that Iran will take the first false step by closing the Strait of Hormuz (Teheran will not make this move as things stand now); some even hope that the crisis between Canada and Saudi Arabia will have some impact on the cost of crude oil.

Even trade war and tariffs should be seen as part of Trump’s short-term strategy to demonstrate to his base that something is being done against countries that he thinks are taking advantage of the United States. In reality, Trump knows, or should know, that there is no way of stopping China’s growth, a result of globalization that has been the engine of free-market capitalism, making the western elite richer than ever before. Trump deceives his base with trade wars and tariffs, but in the long run the costs will be borne by American consumers, many of whom are Trump’s voters.

Trump thinks in the very short term, constantly aiming to present himself before his electors with a list of ticked boxes ( Peter Lavelle of Crosstalk gets trademark of this definition), confirming that he is fulfilling his electoral promises. In this way he hopes to win the midterms in November. To succeed in this endeavor, the economy must pick up to a gallop (for now this is happening thanks to a series of tax cuts and the continuous pumping of easy money from the Fed) and he must put pressure on his allies as well as aggressively confront Iran, Russia and China through sanctions, cutting energy supplies and forcing Tehran to negotiate once again the nuclear agreement.

What many analysts struggle with when trying to analyse Donald Trump is that there is no overarching strategy uniting his actions into a coherent policy. Trump acts extemporaneously, often with a very short strategic outlook and for internal political motivations.

Nevertheless, if there is something that worries the deep state, it is the long-term impact of tariffs, trade war, sanctions and impositions on allies; or, to put it most simply, de-dollarization. If there is anything that scares the Trump administration, it is remaining entangled in a destabilizing war with Iran that would lead to the early end of the Trump presidency and destroying its legacy, as Bush’s legacy was destroyed by Iraq.

In all this uncoordinated and inconsistent behaviour, there is the hope of a major rise in the price of oil that would help slow down China’s growth and transform the US shale-gas industry into an ultra-profitable business, further boosting the US economy and allowing Trump to present further evidence to his base of his ability to improve their lives.

The United States is in the terminal phase of its unipolar moment and is struggling to come to terms with the downsizing of its role in the world. Its ruling elite cannot accept the prospect of sharing power, preferring to oppose by all means possible the transition to a world order involving more powers. If this situation is already complex for any superpower enough to manage, a president has been elected who has little regard for compromise and mediation.

Ultimately, in addition to an obvious problem in defining Washington’s role in the world over the next few years, the United States finds itself with a president who is in almost open warfare with an important part of the US establishment. The deep state is still living on the hope of impeaching Trump to halt the loss of US influence, deluding themselves that things can return to how they were at the height of the unipolar moment in the 1990s.

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America’s Lengthening Enemies List

17th years in Afghanistan and America’s list of enemies continues to grow.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick J. Buchanan


Friday, deep into the 17th year of America’s longest war, Taliban forces overran Ghazni, a provincial capital that sits on the highway from Kabul to Kandahar.

The ferocity of the Taliban offensive brought U.S. advisers along with U.S. air power, including a B-1 bomber, into the battle.

“As the casualty toll in Ghazni appeared to soar on Sunday,” The Wall Street Journal reported, “hospitals were spilling over with dead bodies, corpses lay in Ghazni’s streets, and gunfire and shelling were preventing relatives from reaching cemeteries to bury their dead.”

In Yemen Monday, a funeral was held in the town square of Saada for 40 children massacred in an air strike on a school bus by Saudis or the UAE, using U.S.-provided planes and bombs.

“A crime by America and its allies against the children of Yemen,” said a Houthi rebel leader.

Yemen is among the worst humanitarian situations in the world, and in creating that human-rights tragedy, America has played an indispensable role.

The U.S. also has 2,000 troops in Syria. Our control, with our Kurd allies, of that quadrant of Syria east of the Euphrates is almost certain to bring us into eventual conflict with a regime and army insisting that we get out of their country.

As for our relations with Turkey, they have never been worse.

President Erdogan regards our Kurd allies in Syria as collaborators of his own Kurdish-terrorist PKK. He sees us as providing sanctuary for exile cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan says was behind the attempted coup in 2016 in which he and his family were targeted for assassination.

Last week, when the Turkish currency, the lira, went into a tailspin, President Trump piled on, ratcheting up U.S. tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel. If the lira collapses and Turkey cannot meet its debt obligations, Erdogan will lay the blame at the feet of the Americans and Trump.

Which raises a question: How many quarrels, conflicts and wars, and with how many adversaries, can even the mighty United States sustain?

In November, the most severe of U.S. sanctions will be imposed on Iran. Among the purposes of this policy: Force as many nations as possible to boycott Iranian oil and gas, sink its economy, bring down the regime.

Iran has signaled a possible response to its oil and gas being denied access to world markets. This August, Iranian gunboats exercised in the Strait of Hormuz, backing up a regime warning that if Iranian oil cannot get out of the Gulf, the oil of Arab OPEC nations may be bottled up inside as well. Last week, Iran test-fired an anti-ship ballistic missile.

Iran has rejected Trump’s offer of unconditional face-to-face talks, unless the U.S. first lifts the sanctions imposed after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.

With no talks, a U.S. propaganda offensive underway, the Iranian rial sinking and the economy sputtering, regular demonstrations against the regime, and new sanctions scheduled for November, it is hard to see how a U.S. collision with Tehran can be avoided.

This holds true as well for Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Last week, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Russia for its alleged role in the nerve-agent poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British town of Salisbury.

Though the U.S. had already expelled 60 Russian diplomats for the poisoning, and Russia vehemently denies responsibility — and conclusive evidence has not been made public and the victims have not been heard from — far more severe sanctions are to be added in November.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is warning that such a U.S. move would cross a red line: “If … a ban on bank operations or currency use follows, it will amount to a declaration of economic war. … And it will warrant a response with economic means, political means and, if necessary, other means.”

That the sanctions are biting is undeniable. Like the Turkish lira and Iranian rial, the Russian ruble has been falling and the Russian people are feeling the pain.

Last week also, a U.S. Poseidon reconnaissance plane, observing China’s construction of militarized islets in the South China Sea, was told to “leave immediately and keep out.”

China claims the sea as its national territory.

And North Korea’s Kim Jong Un apparently intends to hold onto his arsenal of nuclear weapons.

“We’re waiting for the North Koreans to begin the process of denuclearization, which they committed to in Singapore and which they’ve not yet done,” John Bolton told CNN last week.

A list of America’s adversaries here would contain the Taliban, the Houthis of Yemen, Bashar Assad of Syria, Erdogan’s Turkey, Iran, North Korea, Russia and China — a pretty full plate.

Are we prepared to see these confrontations through, to assure the capitulation of our adversaries? What do we do if they continue to defy us?

And if it comes to a fight, how many allies will we have in the battles and wars that follow?

Was this the foreign policy America voted for?

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In Private Meeting, Facebook Exec Warns News Outlets to Cooperate or End Up Dying in ‘Hospice’

“Anyone who does care about news needs to understand Facebook as a fundamental threat.”

The Duran

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Via Common Dreams


During a closed-door and off-the-record meeting last week, top Facebook executive Campbell Brown reportedly warned news publishers that refusal to cooperate with the tech behemoth’s efforts to “revitalize journalism” will leave media outlets dying “like in a hospice.”

Reported first by The Australian under a headline which read “Work With Facebook or Die: Zuckerberg,” the social media giant has insisted the comments were taken out of context, even as five individuals who attended the four-hour meeting corroborated what Brown had stated.

“Mark doesn’t care about publishers but is giving me a lot of leeway and concessions to make these changes,” Brown reportedly said, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “We will help you revitalize journalism… in a few years the reverse looks like I’ll be holding hands with your dying business like in a hospice.”

As The Guardian reported on Monday, Facebook is “vehemently” denying the veracity of the comments as reported by The Australian, referring to its own transcript of the meeting. However, Facebook is refusing to release its transcript and tape of the gathering.

Brown’s warning about the dire prospects for news outlets that don’t get on board with a future in which corporate giants like Facebook are the arbiters of what is and isn’t trustworthy news comes as progressives are raising alarm that Facebook’s entrance into the world of journalism poses a major threat to non-corporate and left-wing news outlets.

As Common Dreams reported in July, progressives’ fears were partly confirmed after Facebook unveiled its first slate of news “segments” as part of its Facebook Watch initiative.

While Facebook claims its initiative is part of an effort to combat “misinformation,” its first series of segments were dominated by such corporate outlets as Fox News and CNN.

Reacting to Brown’s reported assertion that Zuckerberg “doesn’t care about publishers,” Judd Legum, who writes the Popular Information newsletter,argued, “Anyone who does care about news needs to understand Facebook as a fundamental threat.”

“In addition to disputed quote, there are also Facebook’s actions, which are fully consistent with the quote,” Legum added. “We desperately need to develop alternative delivery mechanisms to Facebook.”

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