Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Leaker

This is a problem.

WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

Frankly, I’m far less concerned with the fact than people from an incoming administration may have been running their mouths with Russians than I am about the fact that “four current and former American officials” are leaking intelligence to the media for purely political purposes. Is it too much to ask that our intelligence agencies to be able to keep a secret?

Syrian Refugee Becomes Truly American

Yup.

A Syrian man who fled the war-torn city of Aleppo in 2014 after suffering torture and imprisonment is suing President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials over an executive order issued by Trump last month that still effectively bars the man’s wife and daughter from joining him in the U.S., where he was granted asylum.

The man filed the lawsuit anonymously, to protect the identities of his wife and daughter, who still live in hiding in Aleppo. It was filed Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge William Conley.

The lawsuit doesn’t state where the man lives, only that he’s a resident of the Western District of Wisconsin.

The 9th’s Dangerous Ruling

The National Review does a concise job of breaking down the 9th Circuit’s horrible ruling without giving the Trump Administration any excuses for their slipshod executive order. This part is downright disturbing:

Finally, and crucially, the court made a statement near the end of its opinion that is deeply, deeply troubling. In discussing the evidence before the court, the panel says this:

The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.

Putting aside, for the moment, the administration’s inexplicable failure to include in the executive order or the record the extensive documentation and evidence demonstrating the threat of jihad from the seven identified countries (including terror attacks in the U.S., plots in the U.S., and a record of plots and attacks abroad), whether an attack has been completed in this country is not the standard for implementing heightened security measures. The president doesn’t have to wait for completed attacks to protect the U.S. from dangerous immigrants. He can see the deteriorating security situation on the ground, evaluate the intentions and capabilities of the enemy, and then act before the enemy can strike. Indeed, that’s the goal of national defense — to prevent attacks, not respond after the carnage.

Illegal Alien Felon Finally Deported After 9 Years

Finally.

(CNN)Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos went to Mass and said a prayer before her immigration check-in Wednesday in Phoenix.

It was her eighth visit since she was arrested in 2008 for using a fake Social Security number. After each meeting, the married mother of two went back to her family.
This time was different. She was detained and within 24 hours she was deported to her native Mexico. She was turned over to Mexican authorities at a border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Her lawyers claim she is a victim of President Donald Trump’s tougher stance on illegal immigration.
[…]
“Ms. Garcia, who has a prior felony conviction in Arizona for criminal impersonation, was the subject of a court-issued removal order that became final in July 2013,” US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement. “(Her) immigration case underwent review at multiple levels of the immigration court system, including the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the judges held she did not have a legal basis to remain in the US.”
CNN is trying to portray this story as a bad thing and playing up the sympathy, but isn’t this exactly the kind of illegal alien that even Democrats said they wanted deported? You know… a felon?  The only thing outrageous about this story is that it took almost 9 years to get it done.

Trump Condemned Iran Treaty to Putin

Good.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced a treaty that caps U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a bad deal for the United States, according to two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call.

When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was, these sources said.

Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration, saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said. The White House declined to comment. It referred Reuters to the official White House account issued after the Jan. 28 call, which did not mention the discussion about New START.

The Iran treaty was horrible and a bad deal for America. I’m not sure in what context that came up, but the point is valid.

What is clear is that Trump has a serious leak in his administration. You’ll notice that it seems like almost every conversation he’s had with a foreign leader has had this kind of leak fishing for a “gotcha.” Someone – probably a hacked off insider at the State Department or White House staff – is leaking this stuff. And I don’t care who our president is, he or she needs to be able to have frank conversations with other foreign leaders with the assurance that the conversation will remain private. Trump needs to figure out who the leaker is and fire them. And if they have violated any laws by leaking these conversations (I imagine that they have), then they need to be prosecuted.

Islamic Terrorists Shift to Piracy

This truly is a global conflict against a hateful ideology.

Manila (AFP) – The Philippines is seeking US and Chinese help to guard a major sea lane as Islamic militants shift attacks to international shipping, officials said Wednesday.

Manila does not want the Sibutu Passage between Malaysia’s Sabah state and the southern Philippines to turn into a Somalia-style pirate haven, coast guard officials said.

The deep-water channel, used by 13,000 vessels each year, offers the fastest route between Australia and the manufacturing powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea, they added.

In the past year Abu Sayyaf gunmen from the southern Philippines have boarded ships and kidnapped dozens of crewmen for ransom in waters between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, raising regional alarm.

Indonesia has warned the region could become the “next Somalia” and the International Maritime Bureau says waters off the southern Philippines are becoming increasingly dangerous.

Putin Critic Sentenced for Embezzlement

How convenient for Putin.

Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been found guilty of embezzlement, local media report.

A judge was still reading the verdict in the city of Kirov, but news agencies said it was clear in his remarks that Mr Navalny had been convicted.

Even a suspended sentence would bar him from running for president next year.

An outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, Mr Navalny has denied the accusations, saying the case is politically motivated.

Romania Protests

Amazing. Something like 500,000 people in Romania took to the streets to protest a government decree to decriminalize certain levels of political corruption. Remember that Romania only has a population of about 20 million people, go a protest with half a million people in it is YUGE.

Sunday night’s demonstration in Bucharest was planned as the climax of the protest movement.

The government hoped that by scrapping the decree, calm would return to the streets of the country – but that hasn’t happened yet.

Many in the crowd don’t trust the government to keep to its word.

They are afraid that new legislation, promised by the prime minister when he abolished the decree, might contain some of the same elements in a different form.

The decree would have decriminalised abuse of power offences where sums of less than €44,000 (£38,000; $47,500) were involved.

Critics saw it as an attempt by the government to let off many of its own officials caught in an anti-corruption drive.

The government had argued that the changes were needed to reduce prison overcrowding and align certain laws with the constitution.

That last part is my favorite. The government is actually arguing that so many of them are corrupt that decriminalizing corruption was necessary to reduce prison overcrowding. 

Wow.

Haley Evaluates U.N. Peacekeepers

This is a good move.

Haley is setting up a mission-by-mission review of all 16 peace operations and is “relatively skeptical” of the value and efficiency of many of the blue-helmet deployments, said the diplomat, who spoke on background.

A senior Security Council diplomat told AFP that peacekeeping reform was “a priority” for the new US ambassador “who wants to work closely with key partners on the issue in the coming weeks.”

While the United States has few soldiers serving as peacekeepers, it is by far the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, providing nearly 29 percent of the $7.9 billion budget for this year.

During hearings at the US Senate last month, Haley made clear she was seeking to bring the US share of funding for peacekeeping to below 25 percent and said other countries should step in to shoulder the burden.

“We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game,” she said.

It is easy for the U.N. to send Blue Helmets all around the world when someone else is footing the bill. How often are the Blue Helmets actually keeping peace?

Brexit Bill Passes Hurdle

The vote in the Commons was much less close than the referendum vote.

MPs have voted by a majority of 384 to allow Prime Minister Theresa May to get Brexit negotiations under way.

They backed the government’s European Union Bill, supported by the Labour leadership, by 498 votes to 114.

But the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats opposed the bill, while 47 Labour MPs and Tory ex-chancellor Ken Clarke rebelled.

The bill now faces further scrutiny in the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.

The prime minister has set a deadline of 31 March for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting official talks with the EU started. The bill returns to the Commons next week.

Pro-Russian Rebels Launch Attacks in Ukraine

It looks like Putin is probing to see what kind of response he gets.

(CNN)Fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian armed forces is escalating, officials have warned.

A higher number of ceasefire violations were reported between Sunday and Monday evenings, compared with the previous 24 hours, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine said Monday.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said eight Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the Donbass region in two days.
“Russian occupation forces carried out massive attacks across the contact line using all available weapons, including (artillery, mortars and tanks) — all prohibited by the Minsk agreements — and small arms,” the ministry said. At least 26 troops were wounded.

Venezuela Delays Issuing Passports

Meanwhile, in Venezuela

EVERY weekday morning, a queue of several dozen forlorn people forms outside the dingy headquarters of SAIME, Venezuela’s passport agency. As shortages and violence have made life in the country less bearable, more people are applying for passports so they can go somewhere else. Most will be turned away. The government ran out of plastic for laminating new passports in September. “I’ve just been told I might need to wait eight months!” says Martín, a frustrated applicant. A $250 bribe would shorten the wait.

As desperation rises, so does the intransigence of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” regime, whose policies have ruined the economy and sabotaged democracy. The economy shrank by 18.6% last year, according to an estimate by the central bank, leaked this month to Reuters, a news agency (see chart). Inflation was 800%.

Russia Decriminalizes Domestic Abuse

Yikes.

But not in Russia, where the Duma (parliament) voted this week to decriminalise domestic violence against family members unless it is a repeat offence or causes serious medical damage. The change is part of a state-sponsored turn to traditionalism during Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term. It has exposed deep fault lines. Many Russians now embrace the liberal notion of individual rights, but others are moving in the opposite direction.

Activists warn that decriminalisation will legitimise abuse. “The overall message to Russian citizens is that domestic violence isn’t a crime,” says Andrei Sinelnikov of the Anna Centre, a violence-prevention charity.

Trump Temporarily Bans Travelers From 7 Nations

This seems significant.

The new Republican president on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise.

I admit that since the media and left has been in a constant state of outrage since Trump was elected, I have difficulty discerning what is truly worthy of outrage. In this case, I don’t see very much to be outraged about.

The ban is temporary as the DHS crafts more stringent vetting protocols. It only applies to nations that are rife with terrorists who want to kill Americans. OK, seems good so far. There is no inherent right for people to come to America and it is certainly prudent to do what we can to weed out people who want to kill us.

There does seem to be confusion over the reach of Trump’s order. It is being applied to prevent legal residents from reentering the U.S., but in reading the actual order, I don’t see any grounds for that application. If the intent was for it to apply equally to legal residents of the U.S., then that portion of it is wretched policy unworthy of our nation. If it is a misapplication of the order, then Trump needs to act quickly to make that clear.

The May Trump Axis

We are returning to a foreign policy more reminiscent of Kennedy or Reagan. I welcome it.

In her speech, Mrs May said: “It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.

“This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.

“But nor can we afford to stand idly by when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene. We must be strong, smart and hard-headed. And we must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests.

“And whether it is the security of Israel in the Middle East or Estonia in the Baltic states, we must always stand up for our friends and allies in democratic countries that find themselves in tough neighbourhoods too,” she said, to applause from her audience.

Trump Rejects TPP

Again… true to his word.

WASHINGTON — President Trump upended America’s traditional, bipartisan trade policy on Monday as he formally abandoned the ambitious, 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership brokered by his predecessor and declared an end to the era of multinational trade agreements that defined global economics for decades.

With the stroke of a pen on his first full weekday in office, Mr. Trump signaled that he plans to follow through on promises to take a more aggressive stance against foreign competitors as part of his “America First” approach. In doing so, he demonstrated that he would not follow old rules, effectively discarding longstanding Republican orthodoxy that expanding global trade was good for the world and America — and that the United States should help write the rules of international commerce.

Although the Trans-Pacific Partnership had not been approved by Congress, Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw not only doomed former President Barack Obama’s signature trade achievement, but also carried broad geopolitical implications in a fast-growing region. The deal, which was to link a dozen nations from Canada and Chile to Australia and Japan in a complex web of trade rules, was sold as a way to permanently tie the United States to East Asia and create an economic bulwark against a rising China.

 

China Strengthens Alliances in SE Asia

As America has intentionally stepped back from exerting her influence in the past several years, other large powers have filled the void.

But there are also two strategic benefits. First, Cambodia uses China as a counterweight to Vietnam. Among ordinary Cambodians, anti-Vietnamese sentiment runs deep. Many bitterly recall the Vietnamese occupation and some demand the return of “Kampuchea Krom”—the delta of the Mekong river, which today is part of Vietnam, but is home to many ethnic Cambodians and was for centuries part of the Khmer Empire. Since Vietnam harboured Mr Hun Sen, the opposition depicts him as a Vietnamese puppet. Closeness to China helps to defuse such claims.

Cambodia also uses China as a hedge against the West. Chinese money comes with no strings attached, unlike most Western donations, which are often linked to the government’s conduct. When Mr Hun Sen mounted a putsch against his coalition partners in the 1990s, Western donors suspended aid. China boosted it. Westerners may threaten to cut funding again if, as is likely, the government rigs elections next year (this week Mr Hun Sen again sued Sam Rainsy, the exiled leader of the main opposition party, for defamation, one of many steps seemingly intended to neuter his opponents). Chinese money will make it much easier for Mr Hun Sen to shrug off Western protests.

As for China, it gets a proxy within the ten-country Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Cambodia has repeatedly blocked ASEAN from making statements that criticise China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, even though they conflict with those of several other ASEAN members. Last year, less than a week after Cambodia endorsed China’s stance that competing maritime claims should be solved bilaterally, China gave Cambodia an aid package worth around $600m. (Mr Hun Sen insists the two were not related.)

It will be interesting to see if Trump’s new foreign policy is more like China’s than not.

Cambodia Cancels Exercises with U.S.

This is interesting

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman confirmed in an e-mail that the exercises for 2017 and 2018 have been canceled. He said military exchanges and training programs are not affected. After the local elections in June, Cambodia will hold a general election in 2018 in which long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to face a strong challenge.

Some analysts tied the cancellation more closely to China’s influence in the region, which they believe will be exercised more vigorously after Donald Trump becomes U.S. president. Trump’s rhetoric on China has been unfriendly, and he has suggested that the U.S. may reduce its involvement in the region.

Southeast Asian nations, even traditional allies of the United States such as the Philippines, have recently drawn closer to China as Beijing flexes its diplomatic and military muscle in the region. Cambodia depends on China as its most important ally and has demonstrated its willingness to do Beijing’s bidding in diplomatic initiatives in the region, especially regarding Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“China is going to test the United States,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “This is one of the early test signals. Cambodia is a bit part in the overall picture.”

Ruling Party In Turkey Continues to Consolidate Power

Sad to see this happen.

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s parliament has approved key measures allowing the president to be a member of a political party and issue decrees, part of a constitutional reform the opposition says will fuel authoritarianism.

The ruling AK Party, backed by the nationalist MHP, is pushing through legislation that President Tayyip Erdogan says will bring strong executive leadership needed to prevent a return to the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The three articles approved overnight set out parliament’s supervisory role, enable the president to retain ties with a political party and detail the president’s executive powers as head of state, including the power to issue decrees.

U.S. Deploys Troops to Poland

President Obama sure is making a lot of dramatic, far-reaching foreign policy moves right before he leaves office. If you think this move isn’t motivated by Obama’s selfish political calculations, just think… would he have done this (or slap Israel; or change Cuba policy; etc.) if Hillary had won?

U.S. and other Western nations have carried out exercises on NATO’s eastern flank in past years, but the new deployment – which includes some 3,500 U.S. troops – marks the first-ever continuous deployment to the region by a NATO ally.

It is part of a larger commitment by President Barack Obama to protect a region that grew deeply nervous when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then began backing separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east.

If we were going to do this, we should have done it in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine. It might have had a deterrent effect to stem Russia’s advance at that time. It’s too late now. All it does is set up political landmines for the incoming president.

Here’s how this will go down… Trump will pull back these troops because their deployment to Poland serves no purpose and aggravates Russia for no gain. Then the Democrats and media will jump on Trump and accuse him of being pro-Russia, a puppet for Putin, etc. Domestic political posturing ensues.