The first half of April will witness the first major forays by the United States into the foreign policy arena under President Donald Trump. The summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping is slated for April 6-7 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. On April 12, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be visiting Moscow.
There is much heartburn already in Washington and in some European capitals that Trump administration is showing preference for big powers and is ‘ignoring old allies’. The lamentation is factually baseless. There have been a string of visits by leaders of allied powers to meet with Trump in the White House – Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe and so on.
Interestingly, however, Tillerson showed disinterest in attending the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on April 5-6 and is instructing his deputy Tom Shannon to represent the US, pleading he will be preoccupied with Xi’s visit to Florida. The Reuters reported that NATO offered to re-schedule the Brussels meeting to suit Tillerson’s convenience, but that Washington ‘rebuffed’ the offer.
If so, it is a big statement on the Trump administration’s foreign-policy priorities. Possibly, Washington has decided to subject the alliance to a spell of benign neglect if only to show who calls the shots in the western alliance system. There were some testy exchanges between the US and Germany over Trump’s taunt against the backdrop of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent trip to the White House that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!” German Defense Minister Ursula von Der Leyen, a close associate of Merkel, promptly snapped back at Trump the next day saying, “There is no debt account at NATO.” (See my blog Trump hangs tough on Germany, eases on China.)
At any rate, the symbolism is profound when Tillerson signals that he has more important things to do than wasting time with NATO counterparts. The message Trump conveys here is that he doesn’t care to consult the NATO allies or to handle Russia ties on the basis of a unified policy toward Russia with the European allies. Trump would rather pursue US interests. In essence, it means he will not be held hostage by the European allies in the pursuit of his agenda to engage with Russia constructively and improve relations with Russia, western sanctions notwithstanding.
Interestingly, mutinous elements within the US state department – probably Obama-era holdovers – appear to have leaked the info regarding Tillerson’s intention to travel to Russia on April 12, presumably with a view to create a public controversy and somehow force the cancellation of the visit. (Guardian ) This, in turn, prompted the state department to formally announce on Monday within a few hours of the Reuters report that Tillerson proposes to travel to Moscow. It is extremely unusual for a VIP visit to be formally announced full 3 weeks in advance. In sum, Trump administration is creating a fait accompli. Curiously, Moscow learnt about Tillerson’s visit from the state department announcement!
In the Byzantine world of diplomacy, this presents itself indeed as one of those extraordinary spectacles where powerful interest groups or die-hard ideologues in Washington and holdovers from the Obama administration within the USG plus kindred souls in some European capitals — Britain and Germany, in particular — just do not want any easing of US-Russia tensions! They would rather have war drums beating! One is reminded of the famous slice of our own history in 1960 in Delhi when some of Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet colleagues demanded that the visiting Chinese Premier Chou-En Lai should not be allowed to have a private session with the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon, which, they feared, might lead to some amicable formula for border settlement! (Indira Gandhi apparently received Chou at Nehru’s reception at Teen Murti House clad in a Tibetan dress.)
Be that as it may, it seems Trump is beginning to force the pace of his foreign-policy agenda. What all this underscores is that Trump is finally asserting. His address to the US Congress, in retrospect, would have been the turning point. All the hoopla over the FBI investigation over alleged Russian interference in the November election in the US hasn’t affected him. Trump seems supremely confident of weathering the storm, and is going ahead on that basis.
One purpose of Tillerson’s visit to Moscow could be to prepare a summit meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As Rep. Adam Schiff tries out for the lead role in a remake of the Joe McCarthy hearings by maligning specific Americans as suspected Russian moles, some of the actual evidence argues against the Democratic notion that the Russians own President Trump and other key Republicans.
For instance, last week, Democrats circulated a report showing that retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, had received payments from several Russia-related entities, totaling nearly $68,000.
The largest payment of $45,386 came for a speech and an appearance in Moscow in 2015 at the tenth anniversary dinner for RT, the international Russian TV network, with Flynn netting $33,750 after his speakers’ bureau took its cut. Democrats treated this revelation as important evidence about Russia buying influence in the Trump campaign and White House. But the actual evidence suggests something quite different.
Not only was the sum a relative trifle for a former senior U.S. government official compared to, say, the fees collected by Bill and Hillary Clinton, who often pulled in six to ten times more, especially for speeches to foreign audiences. (Former President Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin, The New York Times reported in 2015,)
Yet, besides Flynn’s relatively modest speaking fee, The Washington Post reported that RT negotiated Flynn’s rate downward.
Deep inside its article on Flynn’s Russia-connected payments, the Post wrote, “RT balked at paying Flynn’s original asking price. ‘Sorry it took us longer to get back to you but the problem is that the speaking fee is a bit too high and exceeds our budget at the moment,’ Alina Mikhaleva, RT’s head of marketing, wrote a Flynn associate about a month before the event.”
So, if you accept the Democrats’ narrative that Russian President Vladimir Putin is engaged in an all-out splurge to induce influential Americans to betray their country, how do you explain that his supposed flunkies at RT are quibbling with Flynn over a relatively modest speaking fee?
Wouldn’t you think that Putin would have told RT’s marketing department that the sky was the limit in paying off Flynn because the ever-prescient Russian president knew from his Ouija board in 2015 that Flynn would be the future national security adviser under President Trump?
After all, it’s become one of Official Washington’s favorite groupthinks that RT is nothing but a Russian propaganda front designed to destroy the faith that Americans have in their democratic process – as if the sleazy and shameful political campaigns financed with hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires need any help from RT.
But RT-bashing is always in season. The Director of National Intelligence’s report on Jan. 6, with its evidence-free “assessments” that Russia was engaged in undermining American democracy included a seven-page appendix dating from 2012 that described how RT was contributing toward that goal by portraying “the US electoral process as undemocratic.”
The “proof” behind the DNI’s accusation included RT’s articles on “voting machine vulnerabilities” although virtually every major U.S. news organizations ran similar stories in that time frame. The DNI report also took RT to task for covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reporting on the environmental dangers from “fracking,” topics cited as further proof that the Russian government was using RT to weaken U.S. public support for Washington’s policies (although, again, these are topics of genuine public interest).
To further demonstrate how RT was carrying out the Kremlin’s goal of spoiling Americans’ faith in the U.S. democratic process, the DNI report noted that “RT broadcast, hosted and advertised third-party candidate debates.”
Apparently, the DNI’s point was that showing Americans that there are choices beyond the two major parties was somehow seditious. “The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham,’” the DNI’s report said.
Yet, polls have shown that large numbers of Americans would prefer more choices than the usual two candidates and, indeed, most Western democracies have multiple parties. But somehow RT’s suggestion that other voices should be heard constituted an assault on American democracy.
As for Flynn, the report on his finances showed that he also received payments of $11,250 from the U.S. subsidiary of Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cyber-security firm, and $11,250 from a U.S. air cargo company associated with the Volga-Dnepr Group, owned by a Russian businessman.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, who was the chief defender of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was subjected to the Republicans’ over-the-top Benghazi investigations, switched positions in publicizing the news about Flynn’s post-government work related to Russia. Cummings was suddenly the accuser.
”I cannot recall any time in our nation’s history when the President selected as his National Security Advisor someone who violated the Constitution by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from an agent of a global adversary that attacked out democracy,” Cummings wrote in a letter to President Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and FBI Director James Comey.
Heating Up the New Cold War
Cummings thus became another Democrat pouring gasoline on the smoldering tensions between nuclear-armed Russia and the United States. For the Democrats, any dealing with any entity that had some connection to Russia is now prima facie evidence of disloyalty.
The context of these contacts has become almost irrelevant, subordinated to the larger goal of ousting Trump, whatever the cost, even transforming the Democratic Party into the party of the New Cold War and the New McCarthyism.
Yet, further undercutting the new certainty that Putin lined Trump’s pockets with rubles as a way to ensure his allegiance to the Kremlin is the story of Trump’s failed luxury hotel project intended to be built in Moscow several years ago.
A source familiar with those negotiations told me that Trump had hoped to get a half interest in the $2 billion project but that Russian-Israeli investor Mikhail Fridman, a founder of Russia’s Alfa Bank, balked because Trump was unwilling to commit a significant investment beyond the branding value of the Trump name.
Again, if the Democratic narrative is to be believed – that Putin controls all the businesses in Russia and wanted to pay off Trump – it’s hard to understand why the hotel deal fell through. Or, for that matter, why RT was nickel-and-diming Flynn.
The other problem with the Democratic narrative is that it always assumes that Putin could foretell that Trump would rise in 2016 to win the U.S. presidential election and thus there was value in corrupting Trump and his entourage with money and other favors.
The fact that almost no political pundit in the United States shared that prediction even last year would seem to demonstrate the kookiness of the Democratic assumptions and the flaws in the U.S. Intelligence Community’s “assessments” about alleged Russian “hacking” and distribution of Democratic emails.
Those “assessments” also assume that Putin’s motives were to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign, boost Trump and – as FBI Director Comey added on Monday – turn Americans against their democracy.
But there is a counter-argument to that thinking: Assuming that Putin read the polls like everyone else, would he risk infuriating the likely next President of the United States – Hillary Clinton – by embarrassing her with an email leak that would amount to a pinprick? Clinton herself blamed her surprise defeat on FBI Director Comey’s decision to briefly reopen the investigation into whether she endangered national security by using a private email server as Secretary of State.
Unless one assumes that Putin’s Ouija board also predicted Comey’s actions or perhaps that Comey is another Russian mole, wouldn’t it be a huge risk for Putin to anger Clinton without ensuring her defeat? There’s the old saying that “if you strike a king, you must kill him,” which would seem to apply equally to a queen. But logical thinking no longer applies to what’s going on in Official Washington.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
Introduction: US militarism expanded exponentially through the first two decades of the Twenty-First Century, and was embraced by both Democratic and Republican Presidents. The mass media’s hysteria towards President Trump’s increase in military spending deliberately ignores the vast expansion of militarism, in all its facets, under President Obama and his two predecessors, Presidents ‘Bill’ Clinton and George Bush, Jr.
We will proceed in this essay to compare and discuss the unbroken rise of militarism over the past seventeen years. We will then demonstrate that militarism is an essential structural feature of US imperialism’s insertion in the international system.
Vast increases in military spending have been a constant regardless of who was President of the United States, and regardless of their popular campaign rhetoric to curb military spending in favor of the domestic economy.
Under ‘Bill’ Clinton, the war budget increased from $302 billion in 2000 to $313 billion in 2001. Under President George W. Bush (Jr.), military spending jumped from $357 billion in 2002 to $465 billion in 2004, to $621 billion in 2008. Under President Obama (the ‘Peace Candidate’), military spending soared from $669 billion in 2009 to $711 billion in 2011 and then apparently declined to $596 billion in 2017. Currently, the newly installed President Trump is asking for an increase to $650 billion for 2018.
Several observations are in order: Obama’s military budget in 2017 excluded spending in several ‘Defense-related’ departments of government, including a $25 billion increase for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program. Obama’s total for military spending for 2017 adds up to $623 billion or $30 billion less than Trump’s proposal. Moreover, Obama’s military spending for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which is not listed in the annual budget proposals, included the cost of US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and numerous other countries and had skyrocketed during his term. Indeed, Obama’s eight years in office exceeded George W. Bush’s military spending by over $816 billion dollars.
President Trump’s proposed increase in military spending is in line with the Democratic President’s trajectory – contrary to the claims of the mass media. Clearly both Republicans and Democrats have massively increased their reliance on the US military as the driving force of world power. While Obama’s 2017 budget included $7.5 billion for ‘ISIS operations’ (an increase of 50%) and $8 billion for cyber warfare and (counter) terrorism, the largest increase was for stealth warplanes, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, clearly aimed at Russia, China and Iran. The Navy and Air Force got three quarters of the budget.
Under Obama, the US escalation of weaponry was not directed at ‘terrorist groups’ but, instead, at Russia and China. Washington has been intent on bankrupting Russia – in order to return it to the vassalage of the pre-Putin decade. The CIA – Obama – and the Republican Party’s ferocious campaign against Trump is based on his overtures toward Russia. The centerpiece of the decades-long US quest for uni-polar domination now depends on stripping Trump of his power and appointments, which in part or whole, are seen as undermining the entire structure of US military-driven imperialism as had been pursued by the previous four administrations.
Trump’s increase in military spending is apparently intended to be a ‘bargaining chip’ in his plan to expand US economic opportunities – cutting deals with Russia, renegotiating trade with China, East Asia (Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea) and Germany, all of which comprise the bulk of the US trillion-dollar annual trade deficit.
Trump’s repeated setbacks, the constant pressure on his appointees and the toll inflicted by the mass media on every aspect of his persona and personal life, even in the face of a historic increase in the stock market across the board, indicates a deep division among US oligarchs over power and ‘who governs’. Not since the onset of WWII have we witnessed fundamental cleavages over foreign policy. Previous conceptions of partisan debates are out of date. The financial press (the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal ) is openly aligned with the militarists, while the financial marketers on Wall Street support Trump’s pro-business domestic policies and conciliatory overtures to Russia and China. Most of the propaganda mills, dubbed ‘think tanks’, with their stables of academics, ‘experts’, editorialists, and liberal and neoconservative ideologues promote military aggression against Russia. Meanwhile, the populist social media, grass roots Trump supporters, domestic manufacturers and the nation’s Chambers of Commerce press for domestic tax cuts and protectionist measures.
The Army is pro-Trump and favors his concept of regional wars for economic gains. In contrast, the CIA, the Navy and Air Force, which benefited significantly from Obama’s lopsided war budgets, pursue a policy of global military confrontations with Russia and China and multiple wars against their allies, such as Iran, regardless of the devastation such a policy will have on the domestic economy.
Donald Trump’s concept of imperialism is based on exporting products and capturing markets while attracting multinational corporation capital back to the US for re-investing their profits (currently over one trillion held overseas) in the domestic market. He opposes economic and military alliances that have increased US trade deficits and debt in contrast to the previous administrations of militarists who accepted crippling trade deficits and disproportionate US spending on military intervention, bases and sanctions against Russia and its allies.
President Trump’s goal of making Western Europe pay a greater share of NATO (and thus reduce Europe’s dependence on US military spending) has been rejected by both political parties. Every one of Trump’s small steps toward improving relations to Russia has aroused the ire of the uni-polar military imperialists who control the leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans.
Militarist imperialism has offered a few tactical concessions to Russia’s allies – the unstable agreements with Iran and Lebanon and the flimsy peace accords in Ukraine. At the same time Washington is expanding its military bases from the Nordic-Baltic regions to Asia. It threatens support for military coups in Brazil, Venezuela and Ukraine.
The strategic purpose of these bellicose moves is to encircle and destroy Russia as a potential independent counter-weight to US global dominance.
President Trump’s initial policy has been to build ‘fortress America’: Increasing the military budget, building up police and military power along the Mexican border and within the oil rich Gulf States. Trump’s agenda would strengthen the military in Asia and elsewhere in order to enhance the US’ economic bargaining position in bilateral negotiations with the aim of enlarging its export markets.
The United States is witnessing a deadly confrontation between two sharply polarized imperialisms.
Militarism, the established form of US imperialism is deeply entrenched within the permanent state apparatus. This includes the 17 intelligence agencies, the propaganda departments, the Air Force and Navy, as well as the high tech sector and the commercial capitalist elites who have benefited from foreign imports and foreign low cost skilled labor at the expense of US workers. Their record is one of disastrous wars, lost markets, declining wages, deteriorating living standards and the relocation of well-paid jobs abroad. At best, they have secured a few, weak vassal regimes at an enormous cost.
The Trump regime’s attempt to fashion a strategic imperialist alternative revolves around a more nuanced approach: He seeks to use military power to enhance the domestic labor market and secure mass support for overseas economic intervention.
First and foremost, Trump realizes that Russia cannot be isolated from its markets in Europe and defeated by sanctions. This led him to propose negotiating a global agreement for large-scale trade deals, which would favor US banks, oil, agriculture and upscale industries. Secondly, Trump supports ’social imperialism’, whereby US exports markets, based on local US industries, labor and banks, would lead to higher wages and profits for American businesses and workers. US imperialism would not depend on costly and failed military invasions, but on overseas ‘invasions’ by US industries and banks who would then return their profits to the US for investment and further boost the stock market already stimulated by his stated plans for deregulation and tax cuts.
President Trump’s transition to this new imperial paradigm faces a formidable adversary which has so far succeeded in blocking his agenda and threatens to overthrow his regime.
From the beginning, Trump has failed to consolidate state power, an error which undermined his administration. While his election victory gave him the Office of the Presidency, his regime is only one aspect of state power, which is vulnerable to immediate erosion and ouster by the independent coercive and legislative branches, intent on his political demise. The other government branches are filled with holdovers from the Obama and previous regimes – and are deeply committed to militarism.
Secondly, Trump failed to mobilize his elite supporters and mass base around an alternative media. His ‘early morning Tweets’ are a flimsy counter-weight to the concentrated mass media attack on his governance.
Thirdly, while Trump moved successfully to secure international support with Japan and England, he backed off from dealing with Russia– which will be central to undermining his imperial adversaries.
Fourthly, Trump has failed to connect his immigration policies with an effective new program of domestic employment and he failed to expose and capitalize on the draconian anti-immigrant policies waged under the Obama administration, during which millions were imprisoned and expelled.
Fifthly, Trump failed to clarify the link between his pro-market economic policies and military spending and how they are linked to a totally different paradigm.
As a consequence, the success of the liberal-neo-conservative militarist assault on the new president has put his central strategy in retreat. Trump is under siege and on the defensive. Even if he survives this concentrated onslaught, his original conception of ‘re-making’ American imperial and domestic policy is in tatters and the pieces will blend the worst of both worlds: Without expanding overseas markets for American products and a successful domestic jobs program, the prospects are for President Donald Trump to revert to overseas wars and usher in a market collapse.
A week after the Pentagon submitted its report to the White House on February 28 outlining a new strategy against terrorism, there are signs of a refreshing change of course in the US’ activities on the ground in Syria. It is extraordinary that President Donald Trump is proceeding on a novel track on Syria, according to his script, undeterred by the relentless assault on his citadel by recalcitrant groups of various persuasions in the Washington Beltway, especially the Russophobes and the Barack Obama era holdovers within the US establishment.
Trump, for sure, is proving to be a man of his words on Syria. Three things emerged in the past week. One, the US rejects its NATO ally Turkey’s pre-condition that it should cease the support for Syrian Kurds who are its allies in northern Syria. In fact, the US intends to wade deeper into the military operations in that region by beefing up the deployment of the Special Forces and stepping up arms deliveries to the Syrian Kurds, including deploying attack helicopters and artillery.
Two, Pentagon is concurring with the back-to-back deal reached by the Syrian Kurds with the government forces and Russia to jointly put a road block on the Turkish army’s plans to advance toward the strategic town of Manbij en route to the ISIS’ de facto capital, Raqqa.
This is turning out to be a curious joint enterprise with the US Special Forces having moved into Manbij town as a “visible sign of deterrence” (to quote Pentagon spokesman) against Turkey, while Russia is sending food and medical supply convoys to the town with the prior knowledge and coordination with Pentagon.
The US is indeed aware that the Russian convoy also brought “some armoured equipment” to Manbij. The Pentagon spokesman said on Friday, “We were aware of this. The Russian government has informed us of it as well. It has not changed anything we are doing.”
Three, stemming from the above stunning turn of events on the ground, clearly, the Trump administration seems to be edging away from the Obama administration’s overt and covert prioritization of the “regime change” agenda in Syria. Trump all along said he wanted the US military to train its sights exclusively on vanquishing the ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Now, we are, literally, witnessing this being implemented on the ground.
The “known unknown” here is as to when the US could turn to explicit cooperation with Russia on Syria, which is also something Trump has spoken about. Much depends on the space that Trump manages to create to push forward his independent foreign policies. To my mind, once the preparations begin for the daunting military operations to capture Raqqa, where the ISIS is well-ensconced, and when it transpires that a bloody drawn-out battle lies ahead, the US forces on the ground will need all the help they can get from like-minded quarters – Russia, in particular. Trump will count on Defence Secretary Gen. James Mattis to calibrate the shift.
The implications are going to be simply profound. For, if such cooperation is possible between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, what prevents a similar pooling of resources in Afghanistan as well? A curious US-China dalliance in Afghanistan recently sailed into view.
It is only through concerted US-Russia-China efforts on the ground alongside cooperation on the diplomatic and political turf that Afghanistan can be stabilized. Of course, this must be a spectre that is already haunting the Pakistani GHQ in Rawalpindi.
Read an insightful interview here by US Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely with Fox News (close to Trump’s circle) on what to expect in US-Russia relations. Interestingly, the general travelled to Moscow recently on Track 2 and had a “private meeting” with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (who also happens to be the Kremlin’s Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa.)
Everyone’s doing it
Those of us who voted for Donald Trump in hopes that he would turn out to be the peace candidate are facing disappointment. He has increased the already bloated military budget by $54 billion and has appointed an outspokenly anti-Russian and anti-Iranian active duty general as his National Security Advisor. A retired general with pretty much the same views heads the Pentagon. President Trump meanwhile vows to “extinguish” ISIS without presenting any plan regarding how exactly that might be accomplished.
The most important objective of all, resetting with Moscow to avoid World War 3, is in reverse gear, with the appointment of Fiona Hill, a critic of Vladimir Putin, as Russian specialist at the National Security Council. Meanwhile, our clueless United Nations Ambassador calls for Russia to withdraw from Crimea, where 58% of the population is Russian and only 24% is Ukrainian. Reports circulating in Washington suggest that the one phone call between Trump and Putin was a disaster, with the U.S. president demanding an end to the New START nuclear weapons reduction treaty, which the Kremlin wants to renew, before going off on a tangential monologue about his unexpected electoral victory.
In fact, even though the individual neocons have largely been outed from the foreign and security policy positions they once dominated it would not be completely inappropriate to suggest that their legacy of military interventionism lives on in terms of what the Trump administration has been so far promoting to keep America “safe.” Where all of this will go is anyone’s guess.
But if there is one constant in all of this it is the bright shining beacon of Israel, with Trump recently enthusing over the “unbreakable” bond between the two countries. One hopes that he misspoke and really meant “unbearable” or even “unspeakable” but it is clear from other indications that The Donald has succumbed to the inevitable Washington groupthink regarding America’s greatest ally and best friend in the whole wide world.
On Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss “trade and security issues” without anyone complaining that he was in violation of the Logan Act, which apparently only applies if you are talking to Russians. And a congressional delegation is in Israel right now studying the feasibility of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which most foreign policy pundits consider to be a very bad idea. Meanwhile at the United Nations, the U.S. has blocked the appointment of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad as special representative to Libya. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley explained the veto, saying irrelevantly “For too long the U.N. has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel. The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations.”
Ambassador Haley has also denounced the international body in general terms, stating that she was “underscore[ing] the ironclad support of the United States for Israel,” adding that “I am here to emphasize that United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.” And if anyone failed to understand, on March 1st, U.S. envoy to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Erin Barclay told the group that it must drop its “obsession with Israel” or risk Washington withdrawing from the organization. The suggestion that the U.S. might consider departing came, incidentally, directly from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who proposed such action to Donald Trump to “delegitimize” the U.N. body.
It is ironic that in the midst of a media and congressional feeding frenzy on foreign interference in the U.S., the one country in the world that consistently leads Washington by the nose is immune from criticism. The subservient role dutifully played by every U.S. president since JFK when dealing with Tel Aviv has resulted in defining United States national interests in terms of Israeli perceptions. The real irony is that even though Trump is giving the Israelis everything they want and is bowing to the Israel Lobby and Jewish groups at every opportunity, it is still not enough. It is never enough. That is because the neoconservatives, who are mostly Jewish and themselves complete Israel-firsters, hate him, having overwhelmingly favored Hillary Clinton as president due to their conviction that she would be the more aggressive president. They now believe that if they succeed in forcing Trump’s resignation or impeachment they will return to power in whatever new government formulation is put in place, so they continue to pile on.
Israel’s friends characteristically either run or have the ear of the media and they are supported by a formidable Washington based lobbying machine to get their point across. Whenever anything happens in the Middle East or elsewhere that is related to Israel’s perceived interests the machine goes to work with multiple position papers presented to every congressional office the next morning by runners from AIPAC, AEI, FPI, WINEP, JINSA and FDD. No one else has the clout of the Israel Lobby.
And Trump is also being battered by Jewish interests coming from the political left. France’s greatest living poseur-hypocrite Bernard-Henri Levy, described as a “philosopher, filmmaker and activist,” has hammered Trump twice recently, first in The New York Times on January 19th. Levy, who has described the brutal Israel Defense Forces as “a democratic army, which asks itself so many moral questions” and who was a war-on-Libya cheerleader, warns that Trump is a threat to all American Jews. Why? Because even though he has showered benefits on Israel his love for the Jewish people is “insufficient.” Levy explains, “This love is precisely what is required of an American president in dealings affecting Israel.”
The reader might well be astonished by the chutzpah of Levy in demanding love on top of the $38 billion already in the pipeline and wonder even more why the New York Times would print such garbage. But the French whiz kid does not really explain his remark, instead going on to denounce the “betrayal” of Israel by President Barack Obama at the United Nations before explaining that as Trump is “deeply unpopular” it would not do for American Jews to embrace him closely even if it appears he is doing good things for Israel. And Levy provides “evidence” that Trump might not be what he seems, citing inter alia his speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in which he said he didn’t need their money. Levy sees this as a precursor to genuine, full blooded anti-Semitism, and speculates that Trump will take revenge against Jews to show “that he is indeed smarter than they are.” Why would he do that? Because he “respects only power, money and the perquisites of the palace.”
Levy’s second foray second foray, on CNN a month later, took Trump to task for his “incredible slip” on January 27th, Holocaust Remembrance Day, when he did not single out Jewish victims of Nazi crimes and instead cited all of those exterminated by the Germans. For Levy, Jewish deaths are intrinsically more memorable and valuable than those of others and the failure to grant them special status is a “tell-tale trope of Holocaust deniers” and a “hallmark of the new anti-Semitism.”
Bernard-Henri goes on to cite more evidence of Trump’s closet anti-Semitism, including the assertion that he has failed to address the reality of “Jewish children who go to school full of fear.” While it is possible to dismiss Levy as a completely self-serving bullshit artist who badly needs a haircut and a bath, he is far from alone. Also on the left there is the renowned Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University.
Dershowitz, threatening to leave the Democratic Party if it elected Keith Ellison chair of the party’s central committee, appeared frequently on television and in the print media claiming that Ellison was an enemy of Israel and of the Jewish people. The threat to leave the Democrats produced numerous jokes directed at the abrasive and unpopular lawyer somewhat akin to those crafted at the expense of the Hollywood celebrities who promised to leave the country if Donald Trump were elected president. Unfortunately, I have to note that neither Dershowitz nor Barbra Streisand has yet departed.
Ellison was the preferred candidate of the Bernie Sanders liberal wing of the party and initial opinion polls suggested that he would likely win the position. While Dershowitz’s bombast could be regarded with some amusement, there was another, darker side to the campaign to sideline Ellison, who is black, a Muslim and not openly hostile to the Palestinians. This last attribute inevitably made it possible to start a whispering campaign labeling him as anti-Semitic and a number of Jewish Democratic fundraisers, to include Israeli Haim Saban of Hillary Clinton fame, privately made it known that they would end their donations to the party if Ellison were elected. Barack Obama and the Clintons also piled on, even working the phones to stop Ellison.
When Ellison lost in a close result, Dershowitz announced that he would not be leaving the party after all because the result was a “victory in the war against bigotry, anti-Semitism, [and] the anti-Israel push of the hard left within the Democratic Party.” As evidence of Ellison’s anti-Israel sentiment Dershowitz cited the congressman’s vote against funding Iron Dome, which is the Israel missile defense system. “Can you imagine any reasonable person voting against a missile system designed to protect innocent civilians against terrorist rocket attacks?”
Indeed Dersh, but maybe the Israelis should be paying for it, not the American taxpayer, which is actually the crux of the matter. I for one am tired of the perpetual whining of Alan Dershowitz and international professional Jews like Bernard-Henri Levi, who is frequently in the U.S. doing richly rewarded speaking tours on the so-called “Synagogue circuit.” And someone should wake U.N Ambassador Nikki Haley up to the fact that her job is to take care of the American people, not Israel. Quite frankly, if these folks are so much in love with Israel they should go live there and leave the rest of us as well as the U.S. Treasury alone.
If we are heading into yet another round of Israel-centric foreign policy we will be inevitably involved in new wars, starting with Iran which has always been Netanyahu’s enemy of choice. And then there is Syria, where the Israelis would prefer a continuation of chaos, presumably carried out by Washington which can pay the bills and take the casualties. As Bernard-Henri Levy has made clear and the Talmud asserts, Jewish lives are more important than those of gentiles, so it is fit and proper that Americans should fight and die to make sure that Israel might prosper.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that the United States has warned that annexing the West Bank would lead to an “immediate crisis” with President Donald Trump’s administration.
Lieberman sought to push back against those in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition calling for a declaration of Israeli sovereignty over all or part of the occupied territory.
He said annexation would provoke a crisis with Washington and result in steep costs for the Israeli government since it would be required to provide services to Palestinians in the West Bank.
“We have received a very clear, direct message from the United States stating that the application of Israeli law in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) would provoke an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Lieberman, who heads the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, said before a parliamentary committee.
Some 2.6 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, which the Zionist authorities occupied in 1967.
The latest call for annexation came on Sunday, when lawmaker Miki Zohar from Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a television interview that “the two-state solution is dead”.
Zohar advocated a single state, but said that Palestinians in the West Bank should not be allowed to vote in Israeli parliamentary elections.
Others have made similar calls, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett who heads the religious nationalist Jewish Home party.
Bennett advocates annexing most of the West Bank, and has said he hopes support from Trump’s presidency will spell the end of the idea of a Palestinian state.
In his comments on Monday, Lieberman also laid out an economic argument against annexation, saying Israel immediately “will be required to spend 20 billion shekels ($5.4 billion, 5.1 billion euros)” on various social services.
After a 3-year interlude, NATO and Russia resumed contact at the military level today. Back in April 2014, in the immediate aftermath of the ‘regime change’ in Ukraine, the NATO Council had made a decision to freeze relations with Russia. The Russian Defence Ministry announced today that Chief of Russia’s General Staff General Valery Gerasimov had a phone conversation with the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee General Petr Pavel. The announcement in Moscow said, inter alia,
- The Chief of Russia’s General Staff drew his interlocutor’s attention to the existing concerns related to the considerable build-up of the North Atlantic alliance’s military activity near Russian borders and the deployment of the system of the NATO united forces’ forward stationing… The sides confirmed the need of mutual steps aimed at reducing tension and stabilizing the situation in Europe. Army General Gerasimov and General Pavel agreed on continuing such contacts.
Such a major NATO decision – resumption of ties with the Russian military top brass – could only have been possible with a green light or prior clearance from Washington. Simply put, the Donald Trump administration is chipping away at the Barack Obama administration’s policy to “isolate” Russia. Trump’s speech at the US Congress on Tuesday eschewed any reference to Russia. This was also a break from Obama’s diatribes against Russia in his final address to the Congress last year. (See my piece Trump Can Be Good for World Peace — If Only He’s His Way.)
Interestingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel will visit Moscow on March 9 and that the agenda will have “a focus on multilateral efforts to resolve the Ukraine and Syria crises and normalise the situation in Libya.”
Three days back, on February 28, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov hinted at a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Trump. In Ryabkov’s words,
- There is no understanding yet on the date and the place of holding such a meeting but practical preparations for it have been launched and there is mutual understanding with the U.S. side on this score. Naturally, at this initial stage of a dialog with the new administration, it is difficult to make a conclusion about how work will proceed further on specific issues. The forecasts for a perspective will become possible when we see Washington’s practical actions.
Meanwhile, in an unbelievable twist of fate, Russia and the US find themselves on the same side in northern Syria in an effort to restrain Turkey from precipitating a “war within the war” in Syria. (See my blog Turkish army to march deeper into Syria – alone and defiant.) The Syrian Kurdish militia (which is the US’ ally in northern Syria) has struck a deal with the Syrian government forces to block the Turkish troops from advancing toward Manjib. (To jog memory, Manjib was captured from the ISIS in a joint operation between the US Special Forces and the Kurdish militia last August.) And, curiously, Russia mediated the deal today between the Kurdish militia and the Syrian army. (TASS ) .
So, what do we have here? Turkey is planning to go for the jugular veins of the Kurdish militia who are in control of Manjib, knowing full well that the latter is backed to the hilt by the US Central Command and that US forces are on the ground with the militia. As a Reuters analysis put it, Turkey and the US are apparently on a “collision course”. And at this point, Russia steps in and gets the Syrian government to take charge from the Kurdish militia over the western approaches to Manjib to block the advancing Turkish forces.
Suffice it to say, it is difficult to believe that there have been no contacts between the US and Russian militaries at the operational level as regards the dangerous situation developing around Manjib. When the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked earlier today about contacts between Russia and US on the Syrian crisis, he said, “There have been no substantial contacts.”
On February 28, Pentagon submitted to the White House its report on the strategy to fight the ISIS. A Moscow analyst on security issues Andrei Akulov has given a positive evaluation, visualizing the possibility of Russian-American cooperation and coordination in the fight against terrorism. The picture that emerges from a briefing given by the top US commander in Iraq Lt. General Stephen Townsend on Wednesday via a teleconference from Baghdad is also that
- US is unlikely to deploy a large number of troops in Syria;
- US will continue to regard the Kurdish militia as an indispensable ally in Syria;
- US military will not recommend any fundamental shift in strategy in Syria – namely, fighting “by, with and through our (US’) local partners”;
- Kurdish militia will have a significant role in the forthcoming operation to liberate Raqqa, ISIS’ de-facto capital in eastern Syria; and,
- US does not agree with Turkey’s perception that the Syrian Kurds pose a threat to its national security.
The transcript of Lt. Gen. Townsend’s teleconference is here. The big question is whether there could be prospects of US-Russia military cooperation in Syria. In a remark in mid-February, Defence Secretary James Mattis had ruled out such a possibility. But things can change. The resumption of high-level military contact today between the NATO and Russia signals that an overall easing of tensions in the West’s ties with Russia can be expected. Today’s phone call could be the harbinger of changes in the air. Let us call it the “Trump effect”.
Against this backdrop. German FM Gabriel’s talks in Moscow coming on Thursday assume importance. For the benefit of the uninitiated, Gabriel was a protégé of late Egon Bahr, the famous German SPD politician who is regarded as the creator of the so-called Ostpolitik – the foreign policy of détente with the former USSR and other Warsaw Pact member countries in general, beginning in 1969, which was promoted by the then Chancellor Willy Brandt.
Donald Trump’s speech on Tuesday to a joint session of Congress was a reasonably well-crafted and well-delivered exercise in communicating his case to the nation. The President opened with a description of the flurry of executive orders in his first 30 days in office, implementing promises made during the electoral campaign.
He then went on to describe the contours of legislation that his administration will send to Congress, starting with the budget and its scrapping of the cap on military spending, which is to enjoy a 10 percent rise in appropriations while domestic and other government spending is slashed. Then there was a review of his plans to repeal and replace Obamacare and a preview of his proposals for cutting taxes and regulations with the goal of creating more well-paying jobs.
In an emotional highpoint, Trump drew attention to the widow of a Special Forces soldier killed in a raid inside Yemen. He also presented a more compassionate – less combative – tone, calling on Democrats and Republicans to put aside their differences and work together. His 60-minute address was interrupted 93 times by applause, often standing ovations from Republicans but also some applause from the Democratic side, too.
Trump seemed to bask in the enthusiastic show of support, although such State of the Union speeches typically draw the same sort of surface adulation, with the members from the party in power cheering robustly and those from the other side offering sparser shows of support. Still, the televised images contrasted with the portrayal from the mainstream U.S. news media of an embattled leader caught in a Watergate-like scandal over supposedly illicit contacts with Russia, a narrative Trump mistakenly fed with the hasty firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Feb. 13 during a media frenzy about Flynn talking with the Russian ambassador during the transition.
Flynn became the target of elements inside the U.S. government and the press who opposed Trump’s plans for détente with Russia. Those anti-détente forces are now flexing their muscles, with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley sounding much like her hawkish predecessor Samantha Power, insisting that the United States will not recognize Russia’s takeover of Crimea and then, this week, co-sponsoring a resolution in the U.N. Security Council condemning the Assad regime in Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons, a move that provoked angry protests and a veto from Russia’s envoy.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis carried messages to Europe reaffirming the U.S. commitment to NATO allies and blaming Russia for the failure of the Minsk Accords to resolve the crisis in Ukraine (although a major obstacle was created by the Ukrainian government when it insisted that ethnic Russian rebels in the Donbass region effectively surrender before other steps would be taken). The U.S. statements could have been delivered by neoconservative and liberal-interventionist diplomats from the past several U.S. administrations.
Only the last five minutes of Trump’s address to Congress dealt with foreign relations. And his own words were consonant with what his cabinet officers had been saying. Trump’s campaign opinions about NATO’s obsolescence had disappeared. Russia was not mentioned by name once in the speech, while America’s allies in NATO and in the Pacific were reassured that “America is ready to lead.” That statement was a rare instance when the entire congressional audience rose to its feet in applause.
Back on His Words
Those who had feared that Trump’s populism and “America First” rhetoric spelled isolationism were reassured that “Our foreign policy calls for a direct, robust and meaningful engagement with the world.”
In fact, in the entire speech, there were only a few lines toward the end that might give heart to those who hoped that Trump might pursue a dramatically new foreign policy that drew back from America’s vast network of military bases and the tendency to intervene in other countries’ affairs.
Though sounding not unlike boiler-plate language that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama might have used, those words did contain the possible seeds of a less warlike strategy. Trump said: “America is willing to find new friends and to forge new partnerships where shared interests align. We want harmony and stability, not war and conflict. America is friends today with former enemies. We want peace, wherever peace can be found. America is friends today with former enemies. Some of our closest allies decades ago fought on the opposite side of these terrible, terrible wars.”
Depending on the strength of one’s powers of self-delusion, those last words might be construed as a hint: just wait, allow me to get my footing and establish my popularity in Congress and in the broad public and I will come back and deliver on my détente aspirations.
But it is an inescapable reality that the firing of Flynn and Trump’s retreat from his foreign policy intentions were precipitated by the powerful collusion between the intelligence services, particularly the CIA, and the mainstream media with a clear intent to either neuter Trump by forcing a policy reversal on Russia détente or remove him through some form of impeachment. The phoniness of the McCarthyite charges of Russian connections used to smear Trump and his entourage has been well explained in recent articles by Professor Stephen Cohen in The Nation and by Gareth Porter at Consortiumnews.com.
Those with a more conspiratorial turn of mind have long spoken of the Deep State, which ensures continuity of policy whatever the results of U.S. elections with this subterranean power residing largely in the intelligence services, especially the CIA and FBI, in the Pentagon, and in the State Department.
State is said to have been purged in its policy-making “seventh floor” during the week of Secretary Tillerson’s European travels. But the text that was placed before the inexperienced Ambassador Haley for delivery in the Security Council shows that not all the old actors have been sent packing. Any purge of the CIA and Pentagon has not even begun.
The ability of neocons and hardliners at the Pentagon to sabotage presidential policy was demonstrated last September when a promising collaboration between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over a cease-fire in Syria was torn to shreds by an “accidental” attack by U.S. and Allied fighter jets on a Syrian government outpost at Deir ez-Zor that killed nearly 100 Syrian soldiers.
If these recalcitrant Cold Warriors in America’s “power ministries” remain untouched, they will be in a position to create provocations at any time of their choosing to override Trump’s planned détente policies. To do so would be child’s play, given the close proximity of U.S. and Russian forces in Ukraine, in Syria, in the Baltic States, on the Baltic Sea and on the Black Sea.
Given the poor state of relations and the minimal trust between Russia and the U.S.-led West, any accident in these areas could quickly escalate. And then we might see the side of Donald Trump’s personality that his Democratic opponents warned us about, his short temper and alpha-male nature which could bring us into an armed clash the outcome of which is unforeseeable but surely not good.
There is another troubling issue for those who hoped Trump would rein in military spending to finance his promised domestic infrastructure investments. Instead, Trump has focused on expanding military spending even more, financed by cuts in domestic spending. There has not been a word to suggest he is considering restructuring the $600 billion military appropriations, for example by cutting the military bases abroad, which are configured to support precisely the global hegemony and American imperialism that he has denounced.
What is at issue is not only the tens of billions of dollars in savings that would come from slashing this overseas base structure but also removing an American presence from countries where it only serves to foster anti-Americanism and to embroil us either in defending hated regimes or intervening in regional conflicts where we have no vital interests.
Without restructuring and reducing the gargantuan network of foreign military bases, the U.S. will be condemned to a never-ending succession of wars abroad and the entire plan of investment in America is doomed to failure. These are not issues that allow for tactical retreats but rather must be addressed head-on. But who will explain this to a headstrong President with the fawning applause of Congress ringing in his ears?
Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.
Moscow refused to join issue with the US State Department’s strident statement on Sunday blaming Russia for the renewed violence in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Washington had stressed that it was “imperative” that the “combined-Russian separatist forces” in Donbass halted their attacks and “immediately” observe the ceasefire.
The Russian reaction came on Monday at the level of the presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov who was dismissive of the US allegation but wouldn’t be drawn into the blame game, either, and instead would call on Washington to be “more attentive in judging the situation.” Peskov said he’s reiterating for “a hundredth time” that Russia is not party to the conflict in Ukraine. It was a restrained reaction, albeit a rebuttal of the US charge – and just stopped short of offering Russia’s helping hand.
This puts Washington in a quandary: What next? The point is, the Donald Trump administration is still to put on track a Russia policy. Ukraine is a potential crisis on Europe’s doorstep which demands that Trump has a one-on-one with President Vladimir Putin as early as possible. But then, the Trump administration must also know what to discuss with Moscow.
Meanwhile, the Donbass situation is developing in a way that Washington needs to contend with newer and newer facts on the ground. Moscow announced a week ago its “humanitarian” move to recognize identity documents issued in the separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine. This followed a blunt statement by Moscow that “We’re not returning our territory, Crimea is part of Russian Federation” (which in turn was provoked by a remark by the White House press secretary that Trump had been taking a tough line on Russia and that he expected Moscow to withdraw from Crimea, which it occupied after a “full-scale invasion” in 2014.)
Putin ordered last week that the Russian government will temporarily recognize identification, education and qualification documents and other certificates as well as car licence plates issued in the self-declared “people’s republics”, ie., parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions that are not under the control of Kiev.
Europe is unsure whether or not see the Russian move as a warning shot by the Kremlin – although it will be a rush to judgment that Moscow is heading in the direction of granting recognition to the self-declared “people’s republics” in Donbass. Moscow maintains with a straight face that the move aims at facilitating travel and allowing Donbass residents to work and study in Russia and that it has a “strict temporary limit – until the implementation of the Minsk agreements.”
On Monday, Russian media reported that another new fact on the ground is struggling to be born in Donbass. This time around, the Lugansk “People’s Republic” has reportedly announced that from March 1, Russian Ruble will become the region’s official currency. Now, things are becoming serious, aren’t they?
And all this is unfolding against the backdrop of the far-right Ukrainian nationalist groups imposing a blockade for the past month on the movement of coal from Donbass to western Ukraine, which threatens serious economic dislocation. These “neo-Nazi” elements also captured a water purification plant with the intent to cut off water supplies to the Donetsk region under separatist control. The authorities in Kiev cannot or will not crack down on the far-right groups.
Pressure is mounting on Kiev from multiple sides. Importantly, President Petro Poroshenko doesn’t know where exactly he stands in the US foreign policy calculus in the Trump era. The popular mood in Ukraine is increasingly disenchanted with all that happened in the country through the 3-year period since the regime change following the ouster of the elected president Viktor Yanukovych in a “colour revolution” in February 2014.
A recent poll by the Kiev International Sociology Institute shows that in retrospect, a majority of people now see the 2014 “colour revolution” as more of a western coup d’etat and blame Kiev (rather than Moscow) for the lackadaisical implementation of the Minsk agreements. Evidently, the ground is shifting beneath the feet of the “pro-US” set-up installed in power in Kiev by the Barack Obama administration. Popular discontent is cascading with three-quarters Ukrainians estimating that living conditions have only worsened. The most worrisome factor is of course the ascendancy of the far-right groups – and they happen to be well-armed and include ex-servicemen.
With Europe preoccupied with own problems and the US caught up in a civil war – Trump told Fox News last night that he saw Obama’s hidden hand behind the media leaks and protests against him – the West is not paying attention to the dangerous drift in Ukraine. The point is, the Ukrainian political process is steadily becoming violent, threatening the country’s stability. Russia’s cooperation becomes a must to salvage the situation.
However, engagement with Russia is possible only if the Trump administration musters the steam to override the formidable resistance from the US foreign-policy and security establishment (and the US Congress), which is not going to be easy. What Obama visualized as his finest foreign-policy legacy in “post-Soviet” Eurasia is turning out to be a can of worms for the West. Read an overview of the developing crisis featured in The Duran.
This article is a warning – in November 2016, a vast system of agitation and propaganda was set up in order to destroy the reputation and the authority of President Donald Trump as soon as he arrived in the White House. It is the first time that such a campaign has been scientifically organised against a President of the United States, and with such resources. Yes, we are indeed entering a post-Truth age, but the distribution of roles is not what you may think it is.
David Brock is considered to be one of the masters of agit-prop (agitation & propaganda) in the 21st century. A personality devoid of scruples, he is able to defend a cause as well as destroy it, according to the needs of his employer. He is at the head of an empire of mass manipulation.
The campaign waged against the new President of the United States by the sponsors of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the destruction of the Greater Middle East is on-going. After the Womens’ March on 22 January, a March for Science is scheduled to be held not only in the USA, but also throughout the Western world on 22 April. It’s goal is to show that Donald Trump is not only a misogynist, but also an obscurantist.
The fact that he is the ex-organiser of the Miss Universe pageant, and that his third wedding was to a model, is apparently enough to prove that he holds women in contempt. The fact that the President contests the role played by Barack Obama in the creation of the Chicago Climate Exchange (a long time before his Presidency) and rejects the idea that climatic disturbances are caused by the expulsion of carbon into the atmosphere attest to the fact that he understands nothing about science.
In order to convince US public opinion of the President’s insanity – a man who says that he hopes for peace with his enemies, and wants to collaborate with them in universal economic prosperity – one of the greatest specialists of agit-prop (agitation & propaganda), David Brock, set up an impressive system even before Trump’s investiture.
At the time when he was working for the Republicans, Brock launched a campaign against President Bill Clinton which would eventually become Troopergate, the Whitewater affair, and the Lewinsky affair. Having changed his colours, he is today in the service of Hillary Clinton, for whom he has already organised not only the demolition of Mitt Romney’s candidacy but also her riposte in the affair of the assassination of the US ambassador in Benghazi. During the first round of primaries, it was Brock who directed the attacks against Bernie Sanders. The National Review qualified Brock as «a right-wing assassin who has become a left-wing assassin».
It is important to remember that the two procedures of destitution of a serving President initiated since the Second World War were set in motion for the benefit of the deep state, and not at all for the benefit of democracy. So Watergate was entirely managed by a certgain «Deep Throat» who, 33 years later, was revealed to be Mark Felt, the assistant of J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI. As for the Lewinsky affair, it was simply a way of forcing Bill Clinton to accept the war against Yugoslavia.
The current campaign is organised in secret by four associations:
Media Matters is tasked with picking up on Donald Trump’s mistakes. You read his bulletin every day in your newspapers – the President can’t be trusted, he got this or that point wrong.
American Bridge 21st Century has collected more than 2,000 hours of videos showing Donald Trump over the years, and more than 18,000 hours of other videos of the members of his cabinet. It has at its disposition sophisticated technological equipment designed for the Department of Defense – allegedly not in working order – which enables it to look for contradictions between their older declarations and their current positions. It should be extending its work to 1,200 of the new President’s collaborators.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — CREW is a firm of high level lawyers tasked with tracking anything that could create a scandal in the Trump administration. Most of the lawyers in this association work pro bono, for the cause. These are the people who prepared the case for Bob Ferguson, the Chief Prosecutor of the state of Washington, against the immigration decree (Executive Order 13769).
Shareblue is an electronic army which has already connected with 162 million internauts in the USA. It’s job is to spread pre-ordained themes, for example:
• Trump is authoritarian and a thief.
• Trump is under the influence of Vladimir Putin.
• Trump is a weak and quick-tempered personality, he’s a manic-depressive.
• Trump was not elected by the majority of US citizens, and is therefore illegitimate.
• His Vice-President, Mike Pence, is a fascist.
• Trump is a billionaire who will constantly be faced with conflicts of interest between his personal affairs and those of state.
• Trump is a puppet of the Koch brothers, who are famous for sponsoring the extreme right.
• Trump is a white supremacist and a threat to minorities.
• Anti-Trump opposition just keeps growing outside Washington.
• To save democracy, let’s support the democrataic parliamentarians who are attacking Trump, and let’s demolish those who are co-operating with him.
• Overthrowing Trump will take time, so don’t let’s weaken in our resolve.
This association will produce the newsletters and 30-second videos. It will base itself on two other groups – a company which makes documentary videos, The American Independent, and a statistical unit, Benchmark Politics.
The whole of this system – which was set up during the transitional period, that is to say before Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House – already employed more than 300 specialists to which should be added numerous voluteer workers. Its annual budget, initially calculated at 35 million dollars, was increased to the level of about 100 million dollars.
Destroying the image – and thus the authority – of the President of the United States, before he has had the time to do anything at all, can have serious consequences. By eliminating Saddam Hussein and Mouamar Kadhafi, the CIA plunged their two countries into a long period of chaos, and the «land of Liberty» itself may suffer severe damage from such an operation. This type of mass manipulation technique has never before been levelled at a head of state in the Western world.
For the moment, the plan is working – no political leader in the world has dared to celebrate the election of Donald Trump, with the exception of Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
With the departure of the Trump’s national security adviser, political crisis in the US has only depended and is likely to exacerbate into a full-fledged struggle for power and control between Trump and what some call ‘deep-state.’ While Donald Trump is an elected president of the United States of America, he doesn’t seem to be able to exercise power in actual terms. This is evident from the way a so-called ‘pro-Russian’ adviser has been forced to resign. Following this resignation an intense debate has emerged in the US, leading a considerable number of people, 48 per cent according to a recent poll, to reject the way Trump has performed in the first month of his presidency. Already Trump has retracted on Crimea. Accordingly, he is in no hurry to engage Russia in Syria nor does he consider NATO to be “obsolete.” In the same vain, his U-turn towards China is something that nobody could foresee during his election campaign. As of now, a great deal of Trump’s election rhetoric is dead and lies buried deep inside the rubric of deep structures of power, marking the very first instance of its sort when an American president has found himself deeply at odds with the system. And, there is no certainty that he can or may overcome this tussle and emerge as the American ‘knight in shining armour.’
While this may or may not happen, a lot of questions about Trump’s ability to steer the course of American foreign and domestic policies have emerged following Flynn’s resignation and with it the so-called crisis of legitimacy has deepened, leaving minimum to no space for Trump to freely determine the course of American policy making.
The crisis, or the power struggle, has deepened to an extent where an American elected president has been forced to publicly blame American intelligence agencies for feeding the media with information against him and claimed that today’s America was `just like Russia’.
The Russophobia campaign is, indeed, being fed to the American public and the declining support for Trump is more a direct result of this spread of false information than an outcome of actual ‘bad performance.’
The media leaks have already led to Michael Flynn’s resignation. The Washington Post has recently reported that Flynn had “discussed sanctions” with a Russian official during the transition period, although Flynn had assured Vice President Mike Pence that this did not happen.
In turn, The New York Times noted on February 14, 2017, that other officials of the Trump administration and his election campaign have had contacts with Russian intelligence agents as well.
Flynn’s departure just three weeks after Trump’s inauguration as president has allowed the media to claim that the White House was in total disarray.
The media’s propagandist claim has certainly irked Trump who went to his favourite medium of communication, Twitter, to fire off a series of tweets, attacking the media as well as the intelligence agencies. In at least two tweets, Trump named the agencies the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA) that he said were `running a campaign against him’.
`The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by `intelligence’ like candy. ‘Very un-American’, he tweeted. `Information is being illegally given to the failing New York Times and Washington Post by the intelligence community.
The crisis that has thus ensued and which is being fanned out by the mainstream US media is asking for changes in the policies, particularly towards Russia about Crimea and co-operation in Syria, that Trump had advocated during his election campaign.
We have already seen that some of it has already changed. What this retraction implies, in political terms, is that the establishment has also shown that it has the ability and the grit to undermine Trump if he were to deviate from their script—a script that is premised on the existence of an enemy (Russia) and which the establishment and the deep-state can use to protect, enhance and materialize its own political and economic interests in both domestic and global political and economic arenas.
The “Russophobia” based containment of Donald Trump is, however, not going to remain exclusive to the US’ domestic political circles. On the contrary, it is likely to, and already has, expanded into international political arena and is going to define and shape Trump’s relations with the US’ European allies, who in turn are neither comfortable with Trump’s foreign policy nor are going to allow him to retract the US-NATO security system (read: NATO is no longer “obsolete”).
Interestingly enough, this ‘trans-Atlantic Russophobia’ is being transformed into a new Cold War. The NATO defence ministers have been recently been discussing the presence of their fleets in the Black Sea in a closed summit in Brusells. Clearly, the western bloc on the whole loathes Trump, creating an unprecedented disequilibrium within the Western alliance wherein Trump leads the alliance, but the partners do not know how far he is to be taken seriously due to his inability to control things (read: establishment’s course of action is more appealing to the NATO allies for its anti-Russia, pro-sanctions commitments).
The Trump administration has lost, by losing Flynn, its authority and the ability to guide the American public to its vision. On the contrary, the media-establishment nexus has hijacked Donald Trump’s own vision, forcing him to forget his election rhetoric promises and come out in the open to fight for his political survival through social media.
Just as Trump’s confrontation with the American establishment is causing unease in the domestic and European political arena, Trump’s fight with the establishment is being equally fought in both domestic and European arenas. Whereas Trump has resorted to twitter to fight back against a sustained media campaign, in the European arena he has hit back by re-casting doubts over the US’ commitment to NATO.
That is to say, while he no doubt has willy-nilly accepted NATO as the “bedrock” of American security, Mattis’ remarks at NATO defence ministers’ meeting show that the crisis is not yet over and that it will remain unsettled unless the dust of the tussle between Trump and American establishment remains in the air—something that may not happen overnight—and unless the all-powerful American establishment succeeds in modifying Trump into a typical Neo-Con hawk.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.
Pat Buchanan – perhaps the U.S. politician with the greatest feel (as a thrice-times U.S. presidential candidate himself) for what President Trump is trying to achieve – tells us compellingly, just why Trump is now the US President:
[Simply,] …“He [Trump], read the nation and the world, better than his rivals. He saw the surging power of American nationalism at home, and of ethno-nationalism in Europe. And he embraced Brexit. While our bipartisan establishment worships diversity, Trump saw Middle America recoiling from the demographic change brought about by Third World invasions. And he promised to curb them.
“While our corporatists burn incense at the shrine of the global economy, Trump went to visit the working-class casualties. And those forgotten Americans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, responded. And while Bush II and President Obama plunged us into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Trump saw that his countrymen wanted to be rid of the endless wars, and start putting America first. [And] He offered a new foreign policy … Putin’s Russia is not ‘our number one geopolitical foe.’”
That’s it. That’s Trump’s domestic, and his foreign policy, in one.
What we all presently are obsessed with, is the bellicosity and hysteria to which Trump and his agenda has given rise: Is détente with Russia now effectively dead, as a consequence of the new Russo-phobic McCathyism? Or, is that which we are witnessing nothing more than “a mere tantrum by a clutch of ‘spooks’ whose jobs are under threat … along with the liberal press having a ‘parallel tantrum’: [not believing] that they lost the election to Donald Trump” – as one American commentator told MK Bhadrakumar? Or, are we seeing a brittle American Establishment splitting apart, in a more profound way?
We do not know the answer. The notion of removing Trump from office seems somewhat far-fetched (see here). Certainly, America is deeply divided: Trump plainly evokes strong, emotional reactions. Three-fourths of Americans react to him strongly – either positively or negatively.
The Pew Research Center’s latest survey shows that only eight percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents approve Trump’s job performance, which is the lowest rating for any new president from the opposing party in more than three decades. But interestingly, Pew also finds that 84 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners, regard Trump’s initial job performance as president “favorably.”
A Divided Administration
But then, Gilbert Doctorow relates, as the new Administration got underway, “came a stunning about-face in the early roll-out of Donald Trump’s new foreign policy, which looked a lot like Barack Obama’s old foreign policy. We heard presidential press secretary Sean Spicer say Trump ‘expected the Russian government to … return Crimea’ to Ukraine.
“Then we heard Defense Secretary James Mattis in Brussels (NATO headquarters), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Bonn (G20 Foreign Ministers meeting) and Vice President Pence in Munich (Security Conference) collectively pledge unswerving loyalty to the NATO alliance, insist that any new talks with Russia must be conducted from ‘a position of strength,’ and vow to hold Russia accountable for the full implementation of the Minsk Accords, meaning all sanctions stay in place pending that achievement which the Ukrainian government has consistently blocked, while blaming Moscow.
“Amid these signals of surrender from the Trump Administration – suggesting continuation of the disastrous foreign policy of the last 25 years – the newly revived enemies of détente on Capitol Hill added more anti-Russian sanctions and threats. In response to alleged violations by the Kremlin of the Treaty on Intermediate and Short-range Missiles (INF) dating back to 1987, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, introduced a bill enabling the re-installation of American nuclear-tipped cruise missiles in Europe. If enacted, this would undo the main achievements of disarmament from the Reagan years, and bring us back to a full-blown Cold War.”
This has unnerved Trump supporters; apparently disappointed some in Moscow; and also failed to reassure anxious Europeans at the Munich Security Conference. They are puzzling over which Administration faction to believe more correctly reflects future U.S. policy: the Pence/Mattis/Haley ‘wing’, that Europeans would like to hope is dominant; or, the Trump/Bannon/Miller triumvirate, which Steve Bannon hints views the European Union as a flawed construct, and who foresees conducting future relations with Europe, on a bilateral basis.
Which of these two, reflects America’s likely path, more accurately? Has the Establishment now succeeded in walking-back Trump’s agenda? Who now speaks for the President?
The answer is not hard to fathom: return to Pat Buchanan’s clear explanation of how Trump became President: “He saw the surging power of American nationalism at home, and of ethno-nationalism in Europe. And he embraced Brexit. While our bipartisan establishment worships diversity, Trump saw Middle America recoiling from the demographic change, brought about by Third World invasions. And he promised to curb them.”
Obviously, it is the Trump-Bannon wing. Were Trump to abandon his reading of the nation and of the Europeans that brought him to the Presidency, he might as well throw in the towel now. He will not be re-elected.
Weakening the Dollar
And Mr. Trump is showing no signs of reversing (for all the mixed messaging that has emanated from his diverse team). So, back to basics. What then is his foreign policy? Simply this: If President Trump wishes to keep his 84 percent (Republican) approval rating – and stay elected – there is only one way that he can do that: he must continue to carry “the working-class casualties and those forgotten Americans” (as Buchanan called them) of the Midwest, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
And the only way to do that is to bring back manufacturing jobs to this (white), Middle America, (hurting) constituency. And the only way you can bring those jobs back, is with a weak dollar. A strong dollar would be deadly to Trump’s project.
Today, the dollar is too strong to allow any real return of manufacturing to the U.S. Trump needs to staunch any propensity for the dollar to rise. And, in his very first interview upon taking office (with the Wall Street Journal), Trump’s main point, was that he wanted the U.S. dollar “down.”
Here it is, then: Trump’s main foreign policy objective is the return of jobs to Middle America – and that means, in practical terms, avoiding a strong dollar. Secondly, the ultimate point of détente with Russia – apart from Trump’s reading that Middle America is experiencing war fatigue – is that détente can release a “peace dividend” which would be vital for the task of rebuilding America’s frayed infrastructure. (His tax proposals ultimately will have to be revenue neutral if Trump is to avoid an ugly row with his Tea Party supporters, who are aggressively fiscal conservative.)
Again, détente with Russia is a domestic need, required to attend to the re-building of the frayed structures of the communities who voted him into office. It is not anchored in any particular foreign policy ideology, but merely in a sense of peoples’ fatigue.
Of course, wanting a weaker dollar and wanting détente with Russia, does not mean that Trump will get either; he will continue to face stiff internal resistance and filibustering. But these two aims, as it were, may be seen to constitute the overriding prism by which Trump views his foreign policy aims, in the longer term.
In the shorter term – perhaps – what we are seeing now, is a tactical pause, dictated by the malicious leaks from within the system, and by the unrelenting “war” being waged by the mainstream media – a pause to allow Trump to get on with sorting out his Administration – purging the leaks, putting in place his people, and contending with certain of the mainstream media.
It seems the purge is slowly happening (it must be a huge process, and be imposing a heavy demand on time). It is however, simply not very realistic for Trump to pursue an accord with either Russia or China while he is under siege, and when his very survival is being widely questioned. And, as is now widely known, Trump believes in negotiating from a position of strength, and not weakness. Pence and Mattis may well have been dispatched to Europe to apply some anaesthetizing balm, while the difficulties of the first month are being resolved.
So, how might this “foreign policy” be conducted in practice? Well, if Trump were to impose protectionist measures on other states (China, say), this would likely result in their currencies depreciating, as a consequence. A 30 percent tax might result in a 30 percent currency devaluation. We have seen something of the sort happening with the peso, in the case of Mexico. And, ipso facto, if the Mexican or Chinese currency weakens, the dollar appreciates (thus weakening U.S. capacity to compete).
There are two possible routes ahead: one is for Trump to negotiate bilaterally with (say) Germany, Japan, China and others, to warn them that either they revalue their currencies (or, at minimum, hold their foreign exchange value stable), or else to suffer the consequences of a U.S.-imposed protectionism, which would badly damage the health of their economies.
Or, Trump can revert to the Reagan tactic of the mid-1980s, when the then the U.S. President pulled together all the main global central banks and finance ministers in Paris, to instruct that the dollar was not to be allowed to rise in value any further (after its rapid appreciation in the early 1980s). This was known as the “Plaza Accord.”
Going with ‘Bilateralism’
It seems that Trump will pursue the first course (bilateralism), as he has already made it clear that he wants to negotiate on a fuller field than just the stability of foreign exchange values. Specific trade deals, and inward investment into the U.S., will be on the agenda – as well as his declared aim of leveraging U.S. defense provision as a bilaterally negotiated quid pro quo, in return further economic benefit to the U.S. – rather than having the U.S. defense umbrella being provided as a highly subsidized “good.”
The implications of this bilateral approach are significant. It does not imply, per se, that Trump should want to split Russia from China. Trump, by his own logic, would not want, ultimately, to resort to protectionism against China (other than as a negotiating ploy). Imposing punitive tariffs on China would likely lead to a strengthening of the dollar, and risk a devaluation of the yuan – even possibly a maxi-devaluation of the yuan. Rather, he wants a deal. One that would bring additional jobs and Chinese infrastructure investment to America.
The notion that America needs to divide Russia from China (or Iran) for strategic reasons (though one probably embraced by some of his team) is essentially “old think.” It belongs to the neoconservative era, which held that America must remain as a global defense and financial hegemon. And therefore must contain and weaken any contending rising power.
Russia will not, in any case, break with China. But in the Trumpian logic, why should that matter, so long as Trump has achieved satisfactory commercial deals with each? (Kissinger though, may try to persuade Trump otherwise.)
Again, pursuing the war on radical Islam (for which Trump has called for proposals from the Pentagon) would not necessarily call for decisive military U.S. interventions in the Middle East, on this logic. A change in policy, and in ethos, by a reformed CIA – away from using radical Islam as “a tool” by which to pursue its “interests” (as it has from Afghanistan in the 1980s to Syria in recent years), would in and of itself, bring about a profound change. It would quickly percolate through to European intelligence services – and more slowly – marinate Gulf thinking.
Changing the ‘Group Think’
Pat Lang, a former senior U.S. Defense Intelligence officer, notes how a small shift in bureaucratic “group think” from one paradigm to another can bring crucial change, simply by virtue of approaching a problem from a different direction:
“1. General Dunford, USMC, the uniformed head of the US armed forces, is meeting this week at Baku in Azarbaijan with General Gerasimov, the head of the Russian General Staff.
“2. My sources tell me that US and Russian air forces are increasingly coordinating and de-conflicting their air actions in Syria and Iraq. This can clearly be seen in USAF and US Navy air attacks on ‘moderate’ (in fact jihadi forces) in Idlib Province. These obviously have been coordinated with Russian air defenses.
“3. The CIA has stopped providing assistance to aforesaid ‘moderate’ jihadi and FSA forces in Syria. They would not have done that without instructions from outside and above CIA.
All of that tells me that sanity reigns in the Trump Administration no matter what lunatics like Schumer, Waters and McCain may do, think or say.” (emphasis added).
What then are the major risks to the Trump “paradigm”? They are not negligible. Any increase in international tension usually will lead to a flight to the “safety” of the U.S. dollar – thus to a “strengthening” of the dollar. (One good reason why Trump may stick with rhetoric against Iran, rather than action).
Secondly, although Trump has been trying to “talk down” the value of the U.S. dollar, most of his policies (de-offshoring of corporate cash, de-regulation and tax cuts) are seen as inflationary – and therefore are pushing the dollar upwards. So, too, are pronouncements by the Federal Reserve about the prospects for an interest rate hike next month. It is not clear that Trump will be able to keep the dollar weak, against a general sense that interest rates are heading upwards. David Stockman’s inflation index for the U.S., which uses more realistic values for energy, food, shelter and medical insurance than the official CPI index, is now rising at better than a 4 percent annual rate.
And thirdly, China may yet undo Trump’s plans. As one well-versed economic commentator notes:
“I strongly contend that a more than one-half Trillion ($) one-month Chinese Credit expansion in early 2017 will exert divergent inflationary impacts to those from early 2016…
“Inflationary biases evolve significantly over time… Liquidity will tend to further inflate the already inflating asset class(s); ‘hot money’ will chase the hottest speculative Bubble. Inflationary surges in Credit growth can, as well, have profoundly different impacts depending on inflationary expectations, economic structure and the nature of financial flows.
“I would argue that Chinese officials today face a more daunting task of containing mounting financial leverage and imbalances than just a few months ago. The clock continues to tick, with rising odds that Beijing will be forced to take the types of forceful measures that risk an accident.”
These inflationary risks threaten Trump, more than the unlikely prospect of impeachment. He has been consistent in warning that whomsoever won this Presidential election, would, sooner or later, face a financial crisis – and then possibly a concomitant social crisis. Like most revolutions, Trump’s revolution cannot afford to stand still: if it cannot, or does not, go forward, it will go backwards. We will return to the past. Trump, no doubt, grasps this.
Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.