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Former Congressman Ron Paul remarks on declining American global influence

Trump is single handedly repolarizing the world’s balance of power

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As I’ve been commenting on America’s decline in influence, and the shifting of the poles of global power and influence, its been interesting to watch how these perspectives have been independently cropping up elsewhere. Lately, one of the most recent of these is a piece published by former American congressman Ron Paul at the Ron Paul Institute:

Just two weeks after President Trump pulled the US from the Iran nuclear agreement, his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued 12 demands to Iran that could never be satisfied. Pompeo knew his demands would be impossible to meet. They were designed that way. Just like Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia in July, 1914, that led to the beginning of World War I. And just like the impossible demands made of Milosevic in 1999 and of Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003, and so many other times when Washington wanted war. These impossible demands are tools of war rather than steps toward peace.

Secretary Pompeo raged at Iran. The mainstream news media raged at Iran. Trump raged at Iran. But then a strange thing happened: nothing. The Iranians announced that they remained committed to diplomacy and would continue to uphold their end of the nuclear agreement if the Europeans and other partners were willing to do the same. Iranian and European officials then sought out contacts in defiance of Washington in hopes of preserving mutually-beneficial emerging commercial relations.

Washington responded to the European snub by threatening secondary sanctions on European companies that continued doing business with an Iran that had repeatedly been found in compliance with its end of the bargain. Any independent European relationship with Iran would be punished, Washington threatened. But then, again, very little happened.

Rather than jump on Washington’s bandwagon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made two trips to Russia in May seeking closer ties and a way forward on Iran.

Russia and China were named as our prime enemies in the latest National Security Strategy for the United States, but both countries stand to benefit from the unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran deal. When the French oil company Total got spooked by Washington threats and pulled out of Iran, a Chinese firm eagerly took its place.

It seems the world has grown tired of neocon threats from Washington. Ironically the “communist” Chinese seem to understand better than the US that in capitalism you do not threaten your customers. While the US is threatening and sanctioning and forbidding economic relations, its adversaries overseas are busy reaping the benefits of America’s real isolationism.

If President Trump’s canceled meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un remains canceled, North and South Korea have shown that they will continue with their peacemaking efforts. As if Washington was no longer relevant.

I’ve often spoken of the unintended consequences of our aggressive foreign policy. For example, President Bush’s invasion of Iraq only helped Iran – our “enemy” – become more dominant in the Middle East. But it seems new consequences are emerging, and for the neocons they must be very unintended: for all of its bellicosity, threats, demands, sanctions, and even bombs, the rest of the world is increasingly simply ignoring the demands of Washington and getting on with its own business.

While I am slightly surprised at this development, as a libertarian and a non-interventionist I welcome the growing irrelevance of Washington’s interventionists. We have a far better philosophy and we must work hard to promote it so that it can finally be tried after neocon failure becomes obvious to everyone. This is our big opportunity!

But America’s decline isn’t something that had to happen, at least not right now. What is happening right now can be directly traced to Donald Trump and the policies that he has pursued.

On his own, Trump is an anomaly. His staff and cabinet are like a revolving door. Having a job in his administration is not a secure thing, which in itself doesn’t have to be seen as a sign of inconsistency, but can lead to that conclusion when paired with other factors.

His ‘Twitter diplomacy’ is a novelty, and is regarded as unprofessional, and certainly can be perceived as not well-advised on numerous grounds, whether it is the giving away of his thought processes to giving the impression that he makes decisions on the spur of the moment without carefully considering them and proceeds to blurt them out on the internet, presumably for the attention.

And then, there are the repeated off the cuff comments from Trump and his staff which are oftentimes harmful of international relations, and a sign that Trump’s policies are not always well devised.

Trump threatens nations that he is supposed to be engaging in peace talks with, wavers on commitments to diplomatic talks, and even casually threatens, on numerous occasions, to unleash nuclear annihilation on their nation.

Trump goes about fanning the flames of war by arming dissident governments and militias, as may be viewed through the backing of the Kurds in Syria, regardless of the consequences for Syria and for relations with NATO allies, namely Turkey, and the arming of militants in the Ukraine, further stoking conflict in the war torn country.

He has no qualms about bombing other countries, as might be seen by the manner in which his first strike against Syria was conducted over dessert while at a resort. His second bombing on Syria was based on spurious information gathered from a tweet.

All of these things cast some doubt on the reliability of Trump as an individual and head of state, but isn’t necessarily something that might damage America’s influence on the global level. America’s international clout is enough to withstand issues like this.

After all, Bush and Obama did their fair share of meddling in other countries’ affairs and in waging wars, as noted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia, Syria, etc. But America still held its place in the world, almost unquestionably.

The Kicker

What is really doing damage to America’s position in the world, and the influence that it has traditionally held in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere is not Trump’s warmongering or his threats, or his inconsistent manner, no, it is the way that his foreign policy has been affecting so much of the globe.

Trump has violated numerous multilateral pacts with its allies, and other nations, including the TPP, the Paris Climate Accord, and the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement, as well as threatened NAFTA, and having threatened other members of NATO.

Against the advice of the international community, Trump fanned the flames of the conflict in Palestine by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State, in transferring the American embassy there from Tel Aviv.

He engaged in a negative stance towards Pakistan, withdrawing US foreign aid to the Middle Eastern Country, which has since become a part of China’s One Belt One Road Initiative.

Trump’s new defense posture considers both China, once again its biggest trade partner, and Russia, as adversaries. How else would such a move be received? Even some of Trump’s top military brass has been spouting rhetoric painting China as a threat, while warning congress to be prepared for a possible war with China. A similar outlook was enunciated relevant to Russia.

On the economic level, where Trump has done the most damage to present multilateral world order, Trump seems to have broken the camel’s back. Trump seemed not too concerned about the economic interests of countries that trade using American currency or using American banking systems, or happen to be trade partners, as apparently, his only mission at the Davos Economic Forum was to parrot his ‘America First’ foreign policy.

He notified the world at this forum, that his only real concern was America, that America gets the best end of the stick, the best position in all agreements, etc. He made it no secret there that he viewed the interests of the nations of the world as entirely dispensable, as long as America capitalizes on its own interests.

Towards this end, Trump’s aggressive trade policies have become manifest. He has levied tariffs on the nations of the world, mainly as regards to metals like aluminum and steel, and just about initiated a trade war with America’s largest trading partner, China.

China responded in kind in each case before a cease fire was negotiated over several days by Chinese diplomats visiting Washington. But Trump has since again levied more tariffs on China, this time worth only about $50 billion, but nonetheless a new economic provocation after just dialing back on what was escalating to a real trade row with his biggest trade partner.

But it was Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA that seems to have done the most damage, in one fell swoop. He sought to kill the deal with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program, a deal designed to aid non proliferation efforts in the region, a move which was condemned seemingly by the entire world.

In addition to withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, however, Trump has also called for regime change in Iran, using coded language, and his Secretary of State has imposed demands which have no real chance of being met in order to avoid adverse action from America, hence, Trump is still working for the destruction of the deal, as the European work as hard as they can to try to save it. Trump has, on these efforts, gone on to propose a coalition against Iran, mainly consisting of Israel and the Gulf States.

The move dealt a blow to Europe’s security, as well as the looming threats of economic sanctions on any country that does business with Iran. This meant threatening America’s partnership and alliances in Europe with sanctions for following through on a multilateral agreement that they had committed to, which unilateral action is perceived as a threat to the multilateral nature of the present world order. From this point, America’s down hill slide has become more like an avalanche.

The European Response

Nations around the world have increasingly condemned America’s foreign policies as of late, and denounced the unpredictability of not only the Trump administration, but of America’s role in global affairs. In words, we glean this from those of EU Chief Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker as he addressed the Flemish Regional Parliament in Brussels “At this point, we have to replace the United States, which as an international actor has lost vigour, and because of it, in the long term, influence.” 

The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Frederica Mogherini, came out critical of Trump’s policy towards his allies just a matter of days after Juncker’s remarks and Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, saying
“It seems that screaming, shouting, insulting and bullying, systematically destroying and dismantling everything that is already in place, is the mood of our times. While the secret of change — and we need change — is to put all energies not in destroying the old, but rather in building the new. This impulse to destroy is not leading us anywhere good,” she added. “It is not solving any of our problems.”

Speaking at an EU summit in Bulgaria, EU Council President Donald Tusk remarked “We are witnessing today a new phenomenon: the capricious assertiveness of the American administration. Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, some could even think, ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?’”

At a dinner with EU members, he elucidated these comments, saying “I have no doubt that in the new global game, Europe will either be one of the major players, or a pawn. This is the only real alternative. In order to be the subject and not the object of global politics, Europe must be united economically, politically and also militarily like never before. To put it simply: either we are together, or we will not be at all.

“But, frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of old illusions. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.

“Europe must do everything in its power to protect – in spite of today’s mood – the transatlantic bond. But at the same time we must be prepared for those scenarios where we have to act on our own.” 

“The [Iran] deal is good for European and global security, which is why we must maintain it.”

“The EU and US are friends and partners, therefore US tariffs cannot be justified on the basis of national security,” he said. “It is absurd to even think that the EU could be a threat to the US. We need to bring back reality in this discussion, which is not the case today.”

Europe, then, seems to be growing a bit of a backbone, as these statements by three important European officials are not all there is to the European Trump response. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have recently made similar comments.

Macron, before an audience in Aachen gathered for an awards ceremony, remarked “Other powers, just as sovereign as us, have decided not to respect their own word,” Macron added. “Should we renounce our own choice? … We must choose, speak with everybody to succeed in building our own sovereignty which, in this region, will be a guarantee of stability.”

 “If we accept that other major powers, including allies… put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy, security for us, and sometimes even make us run the worst risks, then we are not more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion,” Macron said.

Merkel, at the same event, stated “It is no longer the case that the United States of America will simply protect us — Europe must take its fate in its own hands.”

In Münster, speaking to the Catholic Convention, she observed “If we always step away from multilateral agreements as soon as we don’t like something about them, that would be a bad message for the world. We want to strengthen multilateralism.”

Both Merkel and Macron went on to pursue meetings with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who had been the boogeyman of world politics up until Trump’s attempted destruction of the JCPOA, tariffs, and threats of sanctions. But Angela Merkel demonstrated that her regard for Washington’s sanctions was not what it used to be.

She went to Russia to help move along the North Stream 2 project, which Washington has since responded to with further threats of sanctions, not just to buck a deal between the Germans and Russians, but also in a bid to advance America’s own interests in the LNG market by attempting here to strong arm the Germans into purchasing their gas from America, which is openly a bad deal for the Germans.

On this point, Germany is looking to find a way to cooperate with Russia on the Ukraine issue, as well as the conflict in Syria. Germany’s Energy Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister have also made trips to Russia this month, all in a bid to seek further cooperation with Russia, primarily regarding the preservation of the JCPOA that Trump has tried so hard to kill.

Macron went on to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum as a guest of honor, with a goodwill gesture towards the Russians of economic cooperation deals worth around $15 billion. The Forum included many other heads of state and international investors, and a major topic of the forum was America’s foreign policy, its aggression, unreliability, unilateralism, etc.

On top of actions and words by Macron and Merkel, EU foreign ministers have gather together on two occasions in order to affirm their dedication to the Iran deal, in opposition to the will of Washington, and their defiance of American sanctions.

But these sorts of words and actions are not limited to Europe. Multiple other countries have condemned Trump’s policies, threatened to retaliate against Trump’s tariffs, and to ignore his sanctions against Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. But most of all, Trump’s move has been consolidating national interests into blocs of sorts which share common regional political, economic, security, and energy concerns.

Russia is weaning itself of any reliance on America by developing its own alternative to the SWIFT banking system and seeking to get away from the American dollar, which has already begun as Russia is already trading with some of its partners using national currencies. Russia is demonstrating the pole shift as might be seen by what has happened at the SPIEF, as well as new agreements signed by the EAEU with China and Iran.

China is developing its own markets, and its own Petroyuan as an alternative to the American Petrodollar, together with its international economic initiative which envisions economic cooperation and transit from Beijing to Europe. Venezuela is also looking to get around the Petrodollar by developing its Petro, a cryptocurrency with which to conduct oil transactions. Europe is also considering getting away from using the dollar in limited circumstances, namely, in conducting business with Iran, with the proposal being that the currency of use would be the Euro.

Trump is single handedly repolarizing the world’s balance of power, by destroying America’s influence while organizing the interests of just about everyone else in a manner that focuses on China and Russia, which is partly why one might wonder if the Russians had a hand in putting Trump in office [a fiction used by his political opposition, albeit], when one considers the way in which he is tearing down America’s hegemony.

 

 

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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