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The Trump – Putin call: summary and analysis

“Businesslike and substantive call” between the leaders of the US and Russia

Alexander Mercouris

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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin – blocked by the US bureaucracy from having a proper meeting with each other at the APEC summit in Vietnam – have instead had the detailed discussion they wanted with each other by telephone.

That is the conclusion one must draw from the unusually detailed summary of this conversation which has been provided by the Kremlin’s website

As agreed in advance, Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the United States of America Donald Trump.

Current Syrian issues, in view of the military operation to destroy terrorists in Syria which is winding down, were thoroughly discussed. Vladimir Putin stressed Russia’s willingness to actively facilitate a durable political settlement in that country on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and in keeping with the agreements reached as part of the Astana meetings and the provisions of the Joint Statement approved by the presidents of Russia and the United States on November 11 at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam. It was noted, in particular, that this statement met with a positive reaction in the Middle East.

There was discussion of the need to preserve the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, and to achieve a political settlement on the basis of principles that must be worked out as a result of the broadest possible intra-Syrian negotiation process. This is precisely the aim of Russia’s initiative to hold the National Dialogue Conference in Sochi soon.

Vladimir Putin informed Donald Trump about the main outcomes of the November 20 meeting with Bashar al-Assad, where the Syrian leader reaffirmed his commitment to the political process, constitutional reform, and presidential and parliamentary elections. In addition, emphasis was placed on the upcoming trilateral talks in Sochi on November 22 with the participation of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey, during which steps to further normalise the situation in Syria and various aspects of the political settlement process are to be coordinated.

More broadly, the President of Russia once again spoke in favour of joint antiterrorist efforts with the United States, noting the practical importance of coordinating efforts between the special services of both countries. The US President was supportive of this idea.

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump also exchanged views on the current state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula, emphasising that it would be advisable to find a negotiated solution to the problem by diplomatic means.

Regarding the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the President of Russia pointed to the lack of a real alternative to unconditional compliance with the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015.

The two leaders touched on the situation in Afghanistan, which is of concern due to the growing terrorist and drug trafficking threats.

The situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme was also discussed. Russia’s commitment to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was noted, as it is an essential factor in ensuring regional stability and overcoming the challenge of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Both sides expressed satisfaction with the businesslike and substantive conversation.

The Kremlin says the conversation was “agreed in advance”.  One would like to know when and by whom?

My guess is that Trump and Putin agreed it during one of their short encounters at the APEC summit, when they realised that a proper summit between them was being blocked.  If so then the conversation is the fruit of their encounters at the APEC summit.

The conversation covered an unusually wide range of issues:

Syria

This was unquestionably the most important topic discussed, and the one which would have taken up the most time.

The Russians are very much at the forefront of the Syrian negotiations, having together with the Iranians effectively won the war in Syria for President Assad.

That has put the Russians in a position of great strength, which they could in theory use to dictate the terms of the settlement at the forthcoming negotiations whilst seeking to exclude the US.

Had positions been reversed, and had the US found itself in such a position of advantage, it is a certainty that it would be not be involving the Russians in the negotiations.  The US after all did not involve the Russians in the negotiations which followed the US “victories” in the 2003 Iraqi war and the 2011 Libyan war.

The Russian approach is the diametric opposite.  Instead of seeking to exclude the US from the negotiations Putin briefed Trump fully on his discussions with President Assad – someone who remains persona non grata for the US and for Donald Trump himself – and set out for Trump the Russian approach to the negotiations.

In doing so Putin followed the classic Russian approach of carefully setting out for Trump the list of international agreements the Russians have negotiated and which they are using as the building blocks of the negotiations.

UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and in keeping with the agreements reached as part of the Astana meetings and the provisions of the Joint Statement approved by the presidents of Russia and the United States on November 11 at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam.

Of these the most important for Trump is the Joint Statement he made with Putin at the APEC summit in Vietnam.

Trump was not involved in the earlier agreements, but will feel that he has ownership of the Joint Statement, and by agreeing to it at the APEC summit and by referring to it in his telephone conversation with Trump, Putin is giving Trump a reason to feel that he is an actual participant in the negotiations and is not just a bystander.

In reality the most important of the agreements Putin referred to during the conversation is UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council on 18th December 2015 following lengthy negotiations between Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Kerry.

The full text of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 can be found here.

Why is it so important to Putin and the Russians to involve Trump in the negotiations?  The clue to that can be found in the topics which were discussed.  For example Putin used the conversation to reaffirm to Trump

the need to preserve the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria

(bold italics added)

This language is taken directly from the preamble of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which reads as follow

Reaffirming  [the UN Security Council’s] strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic

(bold italics added)

What lies behind this is Russian concern about what I recently called the US’s Plan C: the attempt by some in the US to maintain US influence in Syria by carving out a quasi independent Kurdish statelet in northern Syria.

Plan C is already in serious trouble as a result of the defeat of the Kurds in Kirkuk by the Iraqi army. However Putin used the telephone conversation to remind Trump that Plan C – because it threatens Syria’s territorial integrity – is incompatible with the commitments the US previously took on itself when it negotiated and voted for UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

Putin also used the conversation with Trump to remind Trump of his longstanding proposal – made most famously in his September 2015 UN General Assembly Speech – for a joint struggle by the US and Russia against Jihadi terrorism.

Trump has been consistently receptive to this idea – the Kremlin’s summary says he was “supportive of this idea” – but it has been consistently blocked by the US bureaucracy including especially the Pentagon.

For Putin the attraction of this proposal is not just that such a joint struggle will facilitate the global struggle against terrorism – something Putin cares about as much as Trump does – but because such a joint struggle might provide a tie between the US and Russia which might reverse the downward spiral in US-Russian relations.

Whilst Trump is “supportive of the idea” it remains to be seen whether the resistance to in Washington can be overcome.

In summary, Putin is keeping Trump informed of Russia’s Syrian diplomacy in order to limit as far as possible the danger of the US acting as a spoiler.  The idea is to get Trump to think that the US has some ownership over the eventual outcome, so that it does not act to wreck it.

At the same time Putin hopes to use this as a bridge towards improving relations.

Whether given the pathological hostility to Russia in the US these efforts can be successful is another matter.  However Putin doubtless feels that by trying he is doing his job.

Korea

The Kremlin’s summary tells us little about the discussion on the Korean issue, which suggests that this part of the conversation may have been brief.

It is quite likely that it was Trump who initiated this part of the conversation since he has made achieving a settlement of the North Korean issue the central focus of his foreign policy.

Putin will no doubt have sought an explanation from Trump of Trump’s recent decision to put North Korea back on the list of states sponsoring terrorism, and he will also have sought reassurances from Trump that the recent US fleet and troop movements near North Korea are not intended to set the scene for US military action.

Putin will also have briefed Trump about Russia’s recent negotiations with the North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui, and he will no doubt have reminded Trump of the Chinese-Russian proposal for a double-freeze.

Trump for his part will no doubt have sought – and received – reassurances from Putin that Russia will enforce the sanctions the UN Security Council has recently imposed on North Korea following that country’s intercontinental ballistic missile and hydrogen bomb tests.

Ukraine

Donald Trump hinted during the 2016 election campaign that for him the conflict in Ukraine came close to the bottom of his list of foreign policy priorities.  However he has encountered fierce resistance from his bureaucracy, which continues to be committed to Ukraine, and which continues to use the conflict there to mobilise opposition to Russia in Europe.

Recently hardliners in the US have been floating proposals to send weapons – notably Javelin anti-tank missiles – to Ukraine, whilst an article in the Wall Street Journal suggested that some US officials were trying to pressure the Russians into agreeing to a force of 20,000 “peacekeepers” to restore the Donbass to Ukrainian control.

Needless to say the Russians have emphatically rejected both proposals, and Putin followed this up by taking the unprecedented step of telephoning Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky – the leaders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – and having details of this call posted on the Kremlin’s website in what was clearly intended as a show of support.

The proposals to flood the Donbass with ‘peacekeepers’ and to send arms to Ukraine are actually inconsistent with the February 2015 Minsk Agreement as the Russians never tire of pointing out, and the Kremlin’s summary of Putin’s conversation with Trump shows that Putin used the opportunity provided by the call to point this out to him

Regarding the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the President of Russia pointed to the lack of a real alternative to unconditional compliance with the Minsk agreements of February 12, 2015.

My impression is that Trump is not interested in the conflict in Ukraine, in which he rightly sees no national or security interest for the US.  Left to himself he would probably gladly walk away from it, as would many of those who supported him in the 2016 election.

With the Russiagate affair still ongoing, that is politically impossible.

What that means in practical terms is that Trump will have listened to what Putin had to say and will have taken note of it, but this will have no immediate effect on US policy.

If Trump is one day able to put Russiagate behind him and consolidate his position in Washington that may change.  However that is not the situation now.

Afghanistan

The last few months have witnessed a drumbeat of accusations in the US that the Russians are covertly assisting the Taliban by sending arms and economic aid to them.  The Russians categorically deny these accusations, though they admit to holding talks with the Taliban who they are gradually coming to see as a bulwark against the spread of ISIS to Afghanistan.

The Kremlin’s summary suggests that the part of the telephone conversation between Trump and Putin which touched on Afghanistan was brief, and that these accusations were not discussed in any detail if they were discussed at all

The two leaders touched on the situation in Afghanistan, which is of concern due to the growing terrorist and drug trafficking threats.

The reference to “drug trafficking threats” possibly refers to the longstanding Russian complaint that the US is not doing enough to suppress heroin production and trafficking in Afghanistan.  A large part of this heroin is transported across Russia to Europe, causing a serious heroin problem in Russia, and the Russians have been placing the blame for this on the blind eye that they say that the US has been turning to heroin production in Afghanistan.

It is quite likely that Putin raised this issue with Trump whilst repeating Russia’s concern that ISIS, as it is being driven out of Syria and Iraq, is now starting to gain a foothold in Afghanistan.

Though these are concerns Trump is known to share, the terse part of the Kremlin’s summary of this section of their conversation makes it impossible to say what his reaction was.

It is not impossible that the reason this part of the summary is so terse is because there were disagreements, which the Kremlin does not want to publicise.

Iran

On the subject of Iran, Trump and Putin have diametrically opposite views.

Trump sees Iran as a hotbed of terrorism; Putin sees Iran as Russia’s strategic partner and ally in the struggle against terrorism.

Trump considers the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) which placed limits on Iran’s nuclear programme a “bad deal”, and has recently decertified Iran because of its supposed breaches of it.

Putin unequivocally supports the JCPOA and denies that Iran has committed any breaches of it.

The Kremlin’s summary makes no effort to hide the disagreement

Russia’s commitment to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was noted, as it is an essential factor in ensuring regional stability and overcoming the challenge of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

No word is said here of what opinions Trump expressed, though it is a certainty they were the opposite of the ones held by Putin and Russia.  Doubtless Trump and Putin had a forthright exchange of opinions on this issue.

General

Unusually, the Kremlin website tells us something of the atmosphere of the call.

Both sides expressed satisfaction with the businesslike and substantive conversation.

It is a commonplace in the US and Europe that Donald Trump is terrible at diplomacy.

In reality his interactions with world leaders during his recent Asia tour and his conversations with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping tell a different story.

Though Trump is extremely inexperienced and many of his ideas about foreign policy are frankly amateur, he nonetheless comes across as warm and approachable in a way that his cold and aloof predecessor Barack Obama never did.

The result is that other world leaders – especially those outside Europe – like him in a way that they never liked Barack Obama, and are prepared to cut him slack, even when they disagree with him.

That suggests that if the US bureaucracy was prepared to work with Trump and not against him, and instead of seeking to undermine him at every turn sought to help him gain the experience and understanding of world affairs he needs to do his job, then he could in time become an extremely effective foreign policy President.

Trump’s interactions with Xi Jinping and Putin are cases in point.  As the leaders of the two other Great Powers they are the two most important individuals in the world with whom the US and its President must deal.

Trump seems to understand this, and despite a catalogue of misunderstandings he seems to be gradually edging towards a better understanding of the Chinese leader.  As for Putin, Trump’s few interactions with him at a personal level have always gone well.  The “businesslike and substantive” telephone conversation he has just had with Putin is a case in point.

As for Putin, his conversation with Trump was just part of a day’s work.  That day was extremely busy.  As well as the conversation with Trump, Putin had meetings with President Assad of Syria and President Zeman of the Czech Republic, and also had telephone conversations with President Sisi of Egypt, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel.  Today (22nd November 2017) he will be meeting President Erdogan of Turkey and President Rouhani of Iran.

It will take many years of hard learning and hard work before Donald Trump can conduct diplomacy at that sort of pace.

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US media suffers panic attack after Mueller fails to deliver on much-anticipated Trump indictment

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

RT

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Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment.

The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Showing true integrity, journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. They are, after all, true professionals.

“How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on CNN’s ‘Hardball’.

Dilanian tried to comfort the CNN host with some of his signature NBC punditry.

“My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused.

Actually, there were several Serious Journalists who used their unsurpassed analytical abilities to conjure up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious.

Revered news organs were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings.

“What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s tragic announcement.

Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

But perhaps the most sobering reactions to the no-indictment news came from those who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Mueller’s investigation, aimed at uncovering a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, ended without digging up a single case of “collusion.”

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison.

“You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery.

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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Canadian Lawmaker Accuses Trudeau Of Being A “Fake Feminist” (Video)

Rempel segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career

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Via Zerohedge

Canada’s feminist-in-chief Justin Trudeau wants to support and empower women…but his support stops at the point where said women start creating problems for his political agenda.

That was the criticism levied against the prime minister on Friday by a conservative lawmaker, who took the PM to task for “muzzling strong, principled women” during a debate in the House of Commons.

“He asked for strong women, and this is what they look like!” said conservative MP Michelle Rempel, referring to the former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has accused Trudeau and his cronies of pushing her out of the cabinet after she refused to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.

She then accused Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”.

“That’s not what a feminist looks like…Every day that he refuses to allow the attorney general to testify and tell her story is another day he’s a fake feminist!”

Trudeau was so taken aback by Rempel’s tirade, that he apparently forgot which language he should respond in.

But Rempel wasn’t finished. She then segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career. This from a man who once objected to the continued use of the word “mankind” (suggesting we use “peoplekind” instead).

The conservative opposition then tried to summon Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Commons for another hearing (during her last appearance, she shared her account of how the PM and employees in the PM’s office and privy council barraged her with demands that she quash the government’s pursuit of SNC-Lavalin over charges that the firm bribed Libyan government officials). Wilson-Raybould left the Trudeau cabinet after she was abruptly moved to a different ministerial post – a move that was widely seen as a demotion.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he put in a good word on the firm’s behalf with Wilson-Raybould, but insists that he always maintained the final decision on the case was hers and hers alone.

Fortunately for Canadians who agree with Rempel, it’s very possible that Trudeau – who has so far resisted calls to resign – won’t be in power much longer, as the scandal has cost Trudeau’s liberals the lead in the polls for the October election.

 

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Why Joe May be Courting Stacey

Joe Biden has a history on compulsory integration dating back to the 1970s that Sen. Jesse Helms called “enlightened.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


Of 895 slots in the freshman class of Stuyvesant High in New York City, seven were offered this year to black students, down from 10 last year and 13 the year before.

In the freshman class of 803 at The Bronx High School of Science, 12 students are black, down from last year’s 25.

Of 303 students admitted to Staten Island Technical High School, one is African-American.

According to The New York Times, similar patterns of admission apply at the other five most elite high schools in the city.

Whites and Asians are 30 percent of middle school students, but 83 percent of the freshman at Bronx High School of Science, 88 percent at Staten Island Technical and 90 percent at Stuyvesant.

What do these numbers tell us?

They reveal the racial composition of the cohort of scientists and technicians who will lead America in the 21st century. And they tell us which races will not be well represented in that vanguard.

They identify a fault line that runs through the Democratic Party, separating leftists who believe in equality of results for all races and ethnic groups, and those who believe in a meritocracy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed anger and frustration at the under-representation of blacks and Hispanics in the elite schools. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have ignored his pleas to change the way students are admitted.

Currently, the same test, of English and math, is given to middle school applicants. And admission to the elite eight is offered to those who get the highest scores.

Moreover, Asians, not whites, are predominant.

Though 15 percent of all middle school students, Asians make up two-thirds of the student body at Stuyvesant, with 80 times as many slots as their African-American classmates.

The egalitarian wing of the Democratic Party sees this as inherently unjust. And what gives this issue national import are these factors:

First, the recent scandal where rich parents paid huge bribes to criminal consultants to get their kids into elite colleges, by falsifying records of athletic achievement and cheating on Scholastic Aptitude Tests, has caused a wave of populist resentment.

Second, Harvard is being sued for systemic reverse racism, as black and Hispanic students are admitted with test scores hundreds of points below those that would disqualify Asians and whites.

Third, Joe Biden has a history on compulsory integration dating back to the 1970s that Sen. Jesse Helms called “enlightened.”

Here are Biden’s quotes, unearthed by The Washington Post, that reflect his beliefs about forced busing for racial balance in public schools:

“The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with.

“What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That’s racist!

“Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?

“I am philosophically opposed to quota systems. They insure mediocrity.”

That was 44 years ago. While those views were the thinking of many Democrats, and perhaps of most Americans, in the mid-’70s, they will be problematic in the 2020 primaries, where African-Americans could be decisive in the contests that follow Iowa and New Hampshire.

Biden knows that just as Bernie Sanders, another white male, fell short in crucial South Carolina because of a lack of support among black voters, he, too, has a problem with that most loyal element in the Democratic coalition.

In 1991, Biden failed to rise to the defense of Anita Hill when she charged future Justice Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was a law-and-order champion responsible for tough anti-crime legislation that is now regarded as discriminatory.

And he has a record on busing for racial balance that made him a de facto ally of Louise Day Hicks of the Boston busing case fame.

How, with a record like this, does Biden inoculate himself against attacks by rival candidates, especially candidates of color, in his run for the nomination?

One way would be to signal to his party that he has grown, he has changed, and his 2020 running mate will be a person of color. Perhaps he’ll run with a woman of color such as Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia.

An ancillary benefit would be that Abrams on the ticket would help him carry Georgia, a state Donald Trump probably cannot lose and win re-election.

Wrote Axios this morning:

“Close advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.”


Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”

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