Scott Brown nominated as NZ ambassador

Ex-US senator and Trump campaign supporter Scott Brown has been nominated as the new US ambassador to New Zealand. This requires confirmation from the US Senate.

The previous ambassador, Obama appointee Mark Gilbert, had to leave New Zealand when Trump took office on 20 January.

Fox News:  Trump to nominate Scott Brown as New Zealand ambassador

President Trump announced Thursday he will nominate former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown as ambassador to New Zealand.

Brown, a moderate Republican and a Fox News contributor, burst onto the national stage in 2010 when he won the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat after Kennedy’s death.

His blue-state victory was of particular national significance as his election gave the GOP a 41st vote in the Senate, and with it the ability to filibuster legislation during the debate over then-President Obama’s signature health care law.

A version of the legislation passed anyway, and Brown later lost his seat in 2012 to current Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

A different headline from NZ Herald: Man tipped for US ambassador role in NZ a former nude model who supports waterboarding

The man tipped to be President Donald Trump’s US ambassador to New Zealand is a former naked centrefold and supports the use of waterboarding.

In 1982 he nailed Cosmopolitan magazine’s “America’s Sexiest Man” competition, with the former Army man then turning his hand to politics.

His Cosmopolitan past is hardly relevant 35 years later, and hopefully his support of waterboarding won’t impact in New Zealand. We have different water problems here, cow rather than bull related.

Last year avid cyclist Brown told GQ magazine “I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand or Scotland or Wales and just ride 100 miles, hit a pub, drink, eat, sleep, do some exploring, and then get up, ride another 100 miles, do that for a couple weeks.”

Washington Examiner has a more recent report: Trump names Scott Brown ambassador to New Zealand

President Trump on Thursday said he plans to nominate former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown as ambassador to New Zealand.

“If confirmed, Scott Brown of Massachusetts will serve as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to New Zealand,” the White House said in a release.

“Mr. Brown is a lawyer and former United States Senator. Mr. Brown served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard before receiving his law degree from Boston College Law School,” the White House said. “He then went on to serve in the Massachusetts legislature for over a decade before winning the special election for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat in 2010. Since serving in the Senate, Mr. Brown has been a political contributor for Fox News.”

Brown endorsed Trump for president before New Hampshire’s primary in 2016.

It’s normal for US ambassadors to be political appointments, often awarded for services or support rendered.

Controversial US ambassador pick for NZ

Some dismay and concern is being expressed about the person put forward as next US ambassador to New Zealand.

Stuff: ‘It’s an insult!’ Backlash against Trump’s pick for diplomatic post to New Zealand

Donald Trump’s pick to be the next United States ambassador to New Zealand has been labelled an “insult”.

Scott Brown, a former US Senator, is being vetted to become Trump’s representative in New Zealand, according to reports in the Boston Globe.

The 57-year-old supports torture, posed nude for a photoshoot, and was named as having groped and made sexually inappropriate comments towards former Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros. Brown denies the allegations.

Former US intelligence advisor Paul Buchanan said Brown’s appointment was an “insult”.

“It just shows you what importance we have to the Trump Administration.”

Buchanan said Brown’s support of waterboarding was “very troubling.”

Buchanan said Brown is “not the brightest bulb”, and while he could grow into the job, he was “pretty much useless as a Senator.”

He said that the Senator’s appointment would come as a reward for supporting Trump, because he knows nothing of New Zealand.

Brown has previously said he wants to come here to cycle, but that’s about it, Buchanan said. “It’d be an extended holiday. New Zealand deserves a little bit better, certainly better than this guy.”

‘A little bit better’ may be in short supply.

Brown lost his Senate position in 2014 and has been a contributor for Fox News.

Details at Wikipedia: Scott Brown (politician)

Many picks for ambassadorial positions in the US seem to be personal, political and paybacks rather than diplomatic.

Israeli ambassador recalled from NZ

After New Zealand helped get a resolution passed in the United Nations Securioty Council condemning Israeli settlements on disputed land Israel recalled their ambassador from New Zealand.

NZ Herald: Israeli ambassador recalled from New Zealand after UN resolution

The Israeli Government has recalled its ambassador from New Zealand after the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israel’s continued settlements.

New Zealand co-sponsored the resolution, which said the settlements violate international law and undermine a two-state solution in Israel’s conflict with Palestine.

The resolution was passed 14-0 at the last council meeting of the year, and New Zealand’s last meeting in its two-year term as an elected member of the Security Council.

Loud applause was heard in the packed chamber when the US ambassador, Samantha Power, abstained.

All remaining members of the security council, including Egypt, which had drafted the resolution and had been briefly persuaded by Israel to postpone the vote, voted in support.

Malaysia, Senegal and Venzuela also sponsored the resolution and are likely to face diplomatic reprisals too.

The US abstained but the outgoing and incoming Presidents are split on this.

Egypt was pressured by US President-elect Donald Trump and Israel to delay the resolution. It eventually dropped it but the co-sponsors ploughed ahead with it.

Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that the outgoing Obama Administration should veto the resolution – but it abstained, allowing it to pass.

The US decision to abstain was immediately condemned by Netanyahu’s office as “shameful”, which pointedly referred to Israel’s expectation of working more closely with Trump.

Following the vote Trump, tweeted: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20.”

He would support breaches of international law?

Is he going to drain the United Nations too?

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

Murray McCully was involved in this:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully told the Herald Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him before the vote ambassador Itzhak Gerberg would be recalled if the resolution passed.

McCully said he had been informed the ambassador had been recalled “for consultations”.

“It underscores the fact that Israel is strongly opposed to the council position on the issue. That is not a great surprise to us.

“But we hope that the friendship that has existed between the two countries will be able to endure regardless of different view on this issue.”

Asked if it was a victory, McCully said: “It is a victory for those who are keen to see the Security Council take some action on the Middle East peace process after eight years of complete inaction.”

It would have been inappropriate to take the Foreign Affairs portfolio off him just as this was going through the Security Council.

 

Russian provocation or UK over-reaction?

Some breaking news from the BBC is potentially a bit disturbing – Russian military jets ‘disrupted UK aviation’

Russian military planes flying near UK airspace caused “disruption to civil aviation” on Wednesday, the UK Foreign Office said.

It said the Russian aircraft did not enter UK airspace, but the manoeuvres were “part of increasing pattern of out-of-area operations” by Russia.

The planes were “escorted” by RAF jets “throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest”, officials added.

Russia’s ambassador has been summoned to “account for the incident”.

Diplomatic type language is used but for this to be reported and for the ambassador to be summoned it must be causing someone some concern.

More detail and comment from Reuters – Britain says fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers

British Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian Bear long-range bombers which had flown close to UK airspace, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Thursday.

The Russian planes were detected flying over the Channel, south of England, on Wednesday and typhoons were launched from Royal Air Force (RAF) bases at Lossiemouth in Scotland and Coningsby in eastern England, the MoD said.

“The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

Last year, NATO conducted more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft, about three times as many as in 2013, amid sharply increased tensions between the West and Moscow over theUkraine crisis.

Elizabeth Quintana, a senior research fellow at defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute said Wednesday’s incident was unusual however, and could be linked to Britain beginning an inquiry into the death nine years ago in London of Kremlin critic and ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko.

“Normally Russian Bears come past Norway and down the North Sea. It could have been used to probe the RAF speed of reaction south,” she told the Daily Mail newspaper.

“Flying any military aircraft in or close to the sovereign airspace of another country signals displeasure or at worst aggression.”

And another side to the story: Russia Says Air Force Flight Near UK Complies With International Law

MOSCOW, January 29 (Sputnik) — Two Russian Air Force strategic bombers spotted near British airspace were conducting a planned 19-hour flight over the North Atlantic and did not breach international regulations or any nation’s borders, a Russian Air Force spokesman said Thursday.

“Two [Tupolev] Tu-95MS [Bear] strategic bombers… successfully completed the planned air patrols. The flight route passed through neutral waters near the Barents and Norwegian Seas, [as well as] the Atlantic Ocean. The flight duration was over 19 hours,” Col. Igor Klimov told RIA Novosti.

According to Klimov, Russian strategic bombers were planned to be escorted by RAF Typhoon aircraft, Norwegian F-16s and French Mirage fighters at different stages on their route.

The spokesman reiterated that the flight had been performed with strict adherence to international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters without violating states’ sovereign borders.

Complying with international law doesn’t mean it wasn’t deliberately provocative.

Or is the UK making more of this than it warrants?