Category Archives: Geopolitics

World leaders react to the Trump presidency


And their takes are hardly surprising, with fear from the center and left and glee from the right.

From Deutsche Welle:

EU Parliament President Martin Schulz said the result “must be respected” as he said that Trump “managed to become the standard-bearer of the angst and fears of millions of Americans.”

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called Trump’s victory “a warning for Germany and Europe,” urging policy makers to listen more closely to people’s concerns. “Trump is the pioneer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement. He is also a warning for us,” Gabriel told German publisher Funke Mediengruppe.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain and the US would remain “strong and close partners on trade, security and defence,” while French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France would work with the new president, but warned: “We don’t want a world where egoism triumphs.” France’s Socialist government had openly endorsed Clinton. Ayrault also said he wanted clarification on US policy issues such as the conflict in Syria, Iran’s nuclear deal and climate change before a hastily arranged meeting of EU leaders in the coming days.

Hardliners embolded

the first French presidential candidate to comment on the US election was populist, anti-immigrant politician Marine Le Pen, congratulating Trump even before the final results are known. Le Pen, hoping to ride anti-establishment sentiment to victory in April-May French presidential elections, tweeted her support to the “American people, free!”

Britain’s EU exit campaign leader Nigel Farage, meanwhile, said he would “hand over the mantle” to Donald Trump as he congratulated the Republican on his win. “This is a year of two great political revolutions,” Farage said, drawing parallels between the US vote and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in June.

In turn, Turkey — a key player on several fronts, from its stance on Syrian refugees and its own EU entry to its role in NATO and in relation to the Syrian conflict — said it wants US policy under Trump to recognize the strategic importance of the country and its “main priority is an effective fight against terrorism,” President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday.

Another democratically elected hardman, the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte — a fierce critic of Barack Obama who attacked his harsh anti-drug crackdown — was also quick to congratulate Trump.

Reactions from one quarter were as expected

From the Russian government-sponsored RT:

Russia is ready and looks forward to restoring bilateral relations with the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, commenting on the news of Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.

“We heard [Trump’s] campaign rhetoric while still a candidate for the US presidency, which was focused on restoring the relations between Russia and the United States,” President Putin said, speaking at the presentation ceremony of foreign ambassadors’ letters of credentials in Moscow.

>snip<

Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has also expressed hope that Trump’s victory in the presidential election will help pave the way for a more constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

“The current US-Russian relations cannot be called friendly. Hopefully, with the new US president a more constructive dialogue will be possible between our countries,” he said.

“The Russian Parliament will welcome and support any steps in this direction,” Volodin added on Wednesday.

The London daily Mirror adds this:

The Russian Parliament also burst into applause after Donald Trump’s victory was confirmed, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

The view from China

From the Independent:

Chinese state media says that Donald Trump as president is what happens if people have democracies.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency has said that the election of the controversial Republican candidate just shows how America’s democracy brings about crisis, in contrast to the stability of China’s authoritarian rule.

The campaign – and Donald Trump’s ascension to the highest office in the world – shows how “the majority of Americans are rebelling against the US’s political class and financial elites”, the paper wrote.

The official Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily says in a commentary that the presidential election reveals an “ill democracy.”

>snip<

Like Russia, China was seen as favouring Trump because he appears less willing to confront China’s newly robust foreign policy, particularly in the South China Sea.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, was disliked in Beijing for having steered the US “pivot” to Asia aimed at strengthening US engagement with the region, particularly in the military sphere.

Abby Martin tackles John Podesta and his emails


In one of her most important efforts yet, Abby Martin digs beneath the rhetoric to show the real importance of the cache of Wikileaked emails from the account of Democratic National Committee chair John Podesta.

What she reveals is the heart of darkness beating beneath the skin of the American political system, the same system that has given us a presidential race pitting the two most unpopular candidates since polling began.

In an attempt to discredit the emails and what they reveal, the mainstream media have presented without questioning claims that the hack was executed at the behest of the Russian government without offering any verification for their assertion.

But no less than James Bamford, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst and attorney who became the most distinguished journalist ever to cover and blow the lid off illegal spying programs by the National Security Agency, Bamford questioned the government’s claims in an incisive essay for Reuters, where he writes:

The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.

Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.

There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction.

Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment.

But what is certain, beyond question, is that John Podesta represents everything that’s wrong about American politics, where claims of democratic openness are belief by secret deals in which big banks and powerful corporations, not workers and their families, are the real beneficiaries.

And Abby Martin is on the story.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Abby Martin Exposes John Podesta

Program notes:

With the Wikileaks release of thousands of emails belonging to John Podesta, very little is known in US society about Podesta himself. While he’s maintained a low profile, John Podesta is actually considered one of Washington’s biggest players, and one of the most powerful corporate lobbyists in the world.

In this episode of The Empire Files, Abby Martin explores John Podesta’s political rise, his vast network of corporate connections and his think tank “Center for American Progress.” Learn why the Podestas and the Clintons are a match made in ruling class heaven.

Charts of the day: A tragic Bush/Obama legacy


Since George W. Bush launched his “Global War on Terror [Terra?]” and Barack Obama expanded it with even greater zeal, the flood of refugees in the Mideast has turned into a raging torrent, with millions fleeing their homes for temporary refuge both in their own and in other countries.

Two charts from a sobering new report from the Pew Research Center illustrates the scope of the problem.

First, the overall rise in refugees throughout the Middle East:

blog-migrants-all

 

And then the rise of refugees displaced from their homes and still living in their own countries:

blog-migrants-internal

Headline of the day: Suspicions finally confirmed


From the London Daily Mail, another revelation from Hillary’s emails:

Israel has ‘200 nukes all pointed at Iran’, former US secretary of state Colin Powell  says in leaked private email that has Washington on edge

  • The detail is the latest revelation to emerge from a cache of leaked communications
  • The former US secretary of state revealed the information in an email he sent to a colleague last year
  • Israel has a policy of nuclear ambiguity and has never talked openly about the type or size of its weapons 
  • The email was being sent to business partner and democratic donor Jeffrey Leeds regarding Israeli PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress 

U.S. bombers up the ante in the Game of Zones


Tensions are once again ratcheting up in the Asia waters around China, as nations makes claims and counterclaims for vast swathes of the Japan and China seas [see today’s earlier post].

The U.S. has been pushing its Asian allies to block Chinese moves, and in the process the Pentagon is rearming Vietnam and pushing Japan towards a more aggressive military policy.

And now the U.S. is making a new military move of its own, simultaneously with moves in Europe which are bring NATO forces right up to the Russian border.

From the Japan Times:

In an apparent bid to reassure Asian allies and deter potential adversaries, the three types of U.S. Air Force strategic bombers — B-1, B-2 and B-52 — will fly simultaneously in the Pacific for the first time.

The B-1s, which arrived at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Aug. 6, will replace the B-52s in support of the U.S. Pacific Command’s so-called continuous bomber presence mission. The swap is expected to wrap up at the end of this month as the B-1s return to Guam for the first time since April 2006.

In addition, three B-2 stealth bombers also arrived in Guam for “a bomber assurance and deterrence deployment,” Pacific Command said in a statement on its website. It said both the B-1 and B-2 deployments “are part of a long-standing history of maintaining a consistent bomber presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in order to maintain stability and provide assurance to U.S. allies and partners in the region.”

“For the first time ever a B-52, B-1 & B-2 are simultaneously in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility conducting integrating operational missions,” U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James wrote on Twitter last week.

Expect for things to get even hotter as China responds.

Another Game of Zones front heats up again


While most of the world’s attention on the rising tensions of rights to the resources of the China Seas and the Sea of Japan has focused on the conflict between China and Japan, another front is also heating up.

A planned Monday visit to a disputed site by South Korean legislators has upped the tension between that Seoul and Tokyo.

From The Japan Times:

Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, phoned a minister at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo and said the plan is regrettable and totally unacceptable in light of Japan’s position on the sovereignty of the islands.

The rocky islets, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, are controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo.

A Japanese diplomat in Seoul also protested to Chung Byung-won, director-general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau.

According to South Korean media reports, both ruling party and opposition lawmakers are planning to make the visit on Monday, the 71st anniversary of the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

UPDATE: Japan makes an escalation of its own

With the Obama administration backing the rearming of Japan, the first American government to do so since World War II, Japan has been ramping up its armed forces, and now it’s making a provocative move directly aimed at at China.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

The government intends to develop a new surface-to-ship missile for reinforcing the defense of remote islands, including the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The government aims to deploy the missile, which will have a maximum range of 300 kilometers, on Miyakojima and other major islands of the Sakishima islands. This will put the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands within its range.

Funding for the development will be included in the Defense Ministry’s initial budget requests for fiscal 2017. The government aims to deploy the missiles around fiscal 2023.

Game of Zones heats up, confrontation looms


From BBC News, one of the venues for the Game of Zones in Asian waters.

From BBC News, one of the venues for the Game of Zones in Asian waters.

The Game of Zones, our term for the escalating multinational confrontations in the China Seas, are reaching the boiling point, with military encounters between China, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines occurring on a daily basis as a nuclear-armed North Korea watches from the sidelines.

The looming crisis is the result of the Asian Pivot, a strategy created by Barack Obama and his then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Five tears ago, Michael T. Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, dissected the Obama/Clinton Asian policy for The Nation:

The South China Sea has had increased prominence in Washington’s strategic calculus in recent years as China has asserted its interests there and as its importance as an economic arena has grown. Not only does the sea sit atop major oil and natural gas deposits—some being developed by US companies, including ExxonMobil—it also serves as the main route for ships traveling to and from Europe, Africa and the Middle East to China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Chinese say the South China Sea is part of their national maritime territory and that the oil and gas belongs to them; but Washington is insisting it will fight to preserve “freedom of navigation” there, at whatever cost. Whereas Taiwan once topped the list of US security challenges in the western Pacific, Hillary Clinton said on November 10 that “ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” is now Washington’s principal challenge.

Focusing on the South China Sea achieves several White House goals. It shifts the emphasis in US security planning from ideological determinism, as embedded in the increasingly unpopular drive to impose American values on the Middle East and fight a never-ending war against Islamist jihadism, to economic realism, as expressed through protecting overseas energy assets and maritime commerce. By dominating sea lanes the United States poses an implied threat of economic warfare against China in any altercations by cutting off its access to foreign markets and raw materials. And, through its very location, the South China Sea links US strategic interests in the Pacific to its interests in the Indian Ocean and to those of the rising powers of South Asia. According to Secretary Burns, a key objective of the administration’s strategy is to unite India with Japan, Australia and other members of the emerging anti-Chinese bloc.

Chinese officials following these developments must see them as a calculated US effort to encircle China with hostile alliances. How, exactly, Beijing will respond to this onslaught remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that it will not be intimidated—resistance to foreign aggression lies at the bedrock of the national character and remains a key goal of the Chinese Communist Party, however attenuated by time. So blowback there will be.

Perhaps the White House believes that military competition will impede China’s economic growth and disguise US economic weaknesses. But this is folly: China has far greater economic clout than the United States. To enhance its position vis-à-vis China, America must first put its own house in order by reinvigorating its economy, reducing foreign debt, improving public education and eliminating unnecessary overseas military commitments.

Ultimately, what is most worrisome about the Obama administration’s strategic shift—which no doubt is dictated as much by domestic as foreign policy considerations, including the need to counter jingoistic appeals from GOP presidential candidates and to preserve high rates of military spending—is that it will trigger a similar realignment within Chinese policy circles, where military leaders are pushing for a more explicitly anti-American stance and a larger share of government funds. The most likely result, then, will be antagonistic moves on both sides, leading to greater suspicion, increased military spending, periodic naval incidents, a poisoned international atmosphere, economic disarray and, over time, a greater risk of war.

The Obama/Clinton push for a remilitarized Japan

The push for a Chinese confrontation has only grown stronger, and a key element is Japanese militarization, a full reversal of longstanding U.S. policy that began with the Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the U.S.-imposed military governor of Japan after World War II.

MacArthur’s chief accomplishment was a new national constitution, embraced by the Japanese, in which the nation was barred from creating all but a token military, one designed only for self-defense — hence the name, the Japanese Self Defense Forces.

But no more, as Roll Call’s Rachel Oswald reported in May:

In recent years, Japan, eager to show its commitment to working with the U.S. military, has moved past the strictly pacifist security posture it adopted after World War II. A little over a year ago, the United States and Japan finalized new defense cooperation guidelines allowing deeper military collaboration.

In September, Japan’s parliament, the Diet, approved legislation that would, in the words of the Abe government, “reactivate Japan’s innate right to collective self-defense,” authorizing the country’s Self-Defense Forces to come to the defense of threatened allies, namely the United States.

Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for East Asia, said “2015 was a historic year for us and for the alliance,” and the United States wants “to ensure that momentum continues.”

Japanese officials are trying to demonstrate to Washington they are working overtime to modernize their regional defense posture.

“Japan is the most determined military partner of the United States,” said Yoji Koda, a retired vice admiral of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. But Koda and others worry there is little awareness of Japan’s role in world security efforts. “Washington always complains, ‘free rider.’ But if there were no Japan, U.S. world strategy doesn’t function.”

The crisis begins to boil

The confrontation between China and the Japanese/U.S. partnership is heating up, with the latest developments especially troubling.

From BBC News:

Japan’s foreign minister has warned that ties with China are “significantly deteriorating”, after Chinese vessels repeatedly entered disputed waters in the East China Sea.

Fumio Kishida said he had called China’s ambassador to protest against the “incursions”.

On Friday, about 230 Chinese fishing boats and coast guard vessels sailed near islands claimed by both countries.

Beijing has been increasingly assertive about waters it believes are Chinese.

The Japan-controlled, uninhabited islands – known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China – are the source of a long-running dispute.

The Japanese coast guard said on Monday that about 13 Chinese coast guard ships, some of them armed, had been seen near the islands, higher than the usual number.

“The situation surrounding the Japan-China relationship is significantly deteriorating,” Mr Kishida told Cheng Yonghua, Beijing’s envoy to Tokyo, according to a statement on the foreign ministry website.

“We cannot accept that [China] is taking actions that unilaterally raise tensions.”

Much more, after the jump. . . Continue reading