Trump invites Putin to White House meeting

Donald Trump seems to have decided to double down on his Helsinki debacle. He says he has invited Vladimir to another meeting, this time in Washington.

It’s hard to know whether eyebrows have been raised again, they stayed raised, or they have just given up oand been plucked.

Reuters: Trump invites Putin to Washington despite U.S. uproar over Helsinki summit

President Donald Trump has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington this autumn, the White House said on Thursday, a daring rebuttal to the torrent of criticism in the United States over Trump’s failure to publicly confront Putin at their first summit for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election.

NY Times: Trump Invites Putin to Washington, Blindsiding His Intelligence Chief

President Trump plans to invite President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to visit Washington in the fall, the White House said Thursday — an invitation that stunned the nation’s top intelligence official, who said he was still groping for details of what the two leaders had discussed in their encounter this week in Helsinki, Finland.

Reuters: Russia ready to discuss Putin Washington visit: Ifax

Russia is ready to discuss a proposed new meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, Interfax news agency cited Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, as saying on Friday.

Meanwhile: Sanctions law behind Putin’s request to Trump for former U.S. officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request to U.S. President Donald Trump for a joint investigation of former U.S. officials sought by the Kremlin for “illegal activities,” including a U.S. ambassador to Russia, is just the latest effort in a years-long campaign to undermine a U.S. law that imposes financial sanctions on Putin’s officials.

The Hill: White House Rejects Putin Proposal to Interview American Citizens

The White House on Thursday backed off a proposal from Russian President Vladimir Putin to question U.S. citizens over alleged crimes in Russia after initially indicating President Trump would consider the matter.

“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”

Trump was widely criticised for being a pussy with Putin, so in typical fashion tries to sound like he is really tough: Trump: I’ll Be Putin’s Worst Enemy If Relationship Doesn’t Work Out

  • President Donald Trump vowed in an interview with CNBC that if his dealings with Russian leader Vladimir Putin don’t “work out, I’ll be the worst enemy he’s ever had.”
  • But he also said that, “Getting along with President Putin, getting along with Russia is postive, not a negative,” Trump said.

Also typically, he is all over the place, saying something for everyone in his support base.

Also typically he tries to portray Obama as weak (he was) in comparison to himself.

  • Trump blasted his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for having been a “patsy for Russia” — while claiming he has been “far tougher on Russia than any president in many, many years. Maybe ever”.

Image result for trump russia

“People at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki”

A typically bizarre claim about his Helsinki press conference and more claims in conflict with US Intelligence are features of the aftermath of the Donald Trump statements and ‘clarifications’ about Russian interference in US elections.

By Rainer Hachfeld / Neues Deutschland, Germany

Most of the immediate reaction was shock and derision. Even close support Newt Gingrich was critical, saying the comments were the “most serious mistake of his presidency”.

Trump’s attempt at clarification just muddied things more, as did subsequent statements.

What Trump actually said at the Helsinki press conference (transcript posted by the White House):

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.  My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia.  I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.  But I have — I have confidence in both parties.

A day later back in the US Trump said (transcript):

So I’ll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies. Always have. And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also; there’s a lot of people out there.

So he says he accepts his intelligence community’s conclusion of Russia’s meddling, but then immediately muddies that.

There was no collusion at all. And people have seen that, and they’ve seen that strongly. The House has already come out very strongly on that. A lot of people have come out strongly on that.

On that perhaps the man doth protest too much.

I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript. Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, “What is going on? What’s the big deal?” So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is need for some clarification.

It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn’t.

It was not obvious to just about everyone, even his strongest supporters, that he meant the opposite to what he said.

In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t — or why it wouldn’t be Russia. So just to repeat it, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.”

And the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — the sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative.

So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.

So he now claims black was white. This switch from “would” to “wouldn’t” doesn’t fit with what he said in Helsinki. This is what he claims he meant to say:

‘With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.  My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia.  I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

‘I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.  But I have — I have confidence in both parties.’

Would/wouldn’t could become an often repeated confusion marking Trump’s presidency, similar to Winston Peters’ No sign (or was it a yes sign?).

And Trumps contradictions haven’t ended there. Reuters: Trump says Russia is no longer targeting U.S.

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not believe Russia is still targeting the United States, contradicting U.S. intelligence assessments that Moscow was continuing its attempts to meddle in American elections.

Trump on Tuesday tried to walk back comments that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin over American intelligence chiefs on Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying that he had misspoken a day earlier after a summit meeting with Putin in Helsinki.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday if Russia was still targeting the United States, Trump shook his head and said, “No.”

U.S. intelligence officials have said Russian election interference efforts are continuing and now target the upcoming congressional elections in November.

NY Times: Russia Is No Longer Targeting the U.S., Trump Says, Contradicting His Own Intelligence Director

Mr. Trump’s comments were the latest in a dizzying collection of conflicting statements from Mr. Trump since he emerged from a private meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday in Helsinki, Finland. And they directly contradict assertions from Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, who has repeatedly said that Russia continues to try to interfere with American democracy.

Who of those people at the higher ends of intelligence wouldn’t have loved his press conference performance in Helsinki and afterwards?

I think you’d have to be an idiot to take anything he says seriously, especially single statements, given how much his stories change.

Image result for cartoon trump derangement

 

Who would know who is the most deranged in the US? Or is that wouldn’t?

Ardern disarmament aims versus Turnbull, Putin and Trump

Three days ago Jacinda Ardern promoted disarmament and arms control, and announced that she would reinstate the Cabinet position of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control (with Winston peters responsible).

Disarmament and arms control are issues we need to take more action on in today’s global climate, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington this morning.

“We will ensure New Zealand’s voice is heard on disarmament and arms control issues by reinstating the Cabinet position of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“The portfolio responsibility will be given to Rt Hon Winston Peters, and is an acknowledgment of the emphasis this government places on our long held anti-nuclear stance, and the role we must play now and in the future,” says the Prime Minister.

The portfolio will include considering the spread of nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons.

“We must recommit ourselves to the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament, and to the norms and rules which support those endeavours,” says the Prime Minister.

The government is also looking at the early ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which New Zealand signed last year.

Today Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull disagreed:

New Zealand is seeking an early ratification of a United Nations nuclear weapons treaty ban, which Australia has refused to sign.

Mr Turnbull maintains the treaty is flawed because it doesn’t cover the world’s nuclear powers.

He said Australia also relies on the deterrent protection from the United States’ nuclear weapons arsenal.

“Everyone would like to aspire to a world which is free of nuclear weapons but we have to focus on the here and now,” Mr Turnbull said.

And the here and now: Putin unveils new Russian nuclear missile, says it renders defenses ‘useless’

Russia has a new array of nuclear-capable weapons including an intercontinental ballistic missile that renders defense systems “useless,” President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday.

The ICBM has a longer range than any other and can reach almost any target in the world, Putin said in his annual address to lawmakers and political elites.

Other new technologies he highlighted included supersonic missiles and drone submarines that he said cannot be stopped.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development … you have failed to contain Russia,” he said.

He accused the West of “ignoring us. Nobody listened to us. Well listen to us now.”

He boasted that Russia’s new ICBM is “powerful and modern and defense systems will not be able to withstand it,” he said. “Missile defenses will be useless against it.”

“We are not going to take anything away from anybody. We have everything we need,” he said. “Russia’s strong military is a guarantor of peace on our planet.”

However, he warned: “Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies … any kind of attack … will be regarded as a nuclear attack against Russia and in response we will take action instantaneously no matter what the consequences are. Nobody should have any doubt about that.”

America’s nuclear strategy had “raised concerns in Russia,” he said.

Trumps nuclear proclamations have raised concerns in the US and around the world (as will Putin’s):  We need a backup plan for Trump’s nuclear button

For too many Americans, the past year has awoken fears that had faded over the past 30 years. President Donald Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” down upon North Korea. He has announced a program to build new and more “usable” nuclear weapons. A recent false alarm in Hawaii of an incoming missile attack sent thousands of families running for cover. Anxieties have risen to the point that a majority of Americans do not trust the president to handle a nuclear crisis.

NBZ:  Putin’s bravado over Russian nukes is emboldened by Trump, analysts say

President Vladimir Putin’s assertion Thursday that Russia is testing a range of new nuclear-powered weaponry reveals a Kremlin that has become increasingly emboldened by the Trump administration and skilled at stoking East-West tensions, analysts say.

“It’s back to the bad old days of Russia trying to claim its glory through having weapons of mass destruction,” said Jeremy Bash, a former chief of staff in the Department of Defense and CIA.

Bash said Putin’s latest campaign to bolster Russia’s military might, announced during his annual state of the nation speech, is loaded with Cold War undertones.

“You see an American foreign policy of weakness about Russia,” he added. “Putin is exploiting that weakness, and he tries to assert strength.”

All this macho bravado might need more than a Vogue puff piece if Ardern is going to stop the world going up in a puff of nuclear smoke.

Trump is a brat and the world is his sandpit

President Donald is inconsistent, unpredictable and seems to react to influence from his children, what he sees on television, and has an intolerance of feeling pushed around or found to be wrong.

What he says cannot be taken as a fixed view or position on anything.

RealClear politics: Trump: “We’re Not Going Into Syria”

In an interview Wednesday morning, President Trump promised that “we are not going into Syria,” but said that he will respond if Assad continues to use weapons of mass destruction. He also warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is backing the wrong guy.

“We’re not going into Syria,” Trump told Maria Bartiromo during an exclusive interview on FOX Business. “But when I see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons… and see these beautiful kids that are dead in their father’s arms, or you see kids gasping for life… when you see that, I immediately called General Mattis.”

“What I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it,” Trump also said. “I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been.”

“If Russia didn’t go in and back this animal [Assad], you wouldn’t have a problem right now,” Trump said later:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Putin is backing a person thatis truly an evil person, and I think it is very bad for Russia, it is very bad for mankind, it is very bad for this world. But when you drop gas, or bombs, or barrel bombs — they have these massive barrels with dynamite and they drop them right in the middle of a group of people. And in all fairness, you see the same kids with no arms, no legs, no face. This is an animal.

What Trump says here should be taken with a sack of salt.

He had condemned Obama for considering actions in Syria and warned him it would be nothing but trouble for the US if they intervened.

It is very ironic that Trump even seems to be raging against dropping bombs and ‘dynamite’.  Civilian deaths in Syria are reported to have risen significantly since Trump became president.

And the missile attack that Trump ordered last week was ‘influenced’ by his daughter’s outrage.

Stuff: ‘Outraged’ Ivanka influenced Donald Trump’s decision to strike Syria, Eric Trump says

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily press briefing on Wednesday that “there is no question that” Ivanka Trump and others “weighed into him” on the decision.

The president’s son, Eric Trump, told The Daily Telegraph in an interview that the president had been influenced by his sister’s reaction to the gas attack that killed dozens last week.

Eric Trump said his sister was “heartbroken and outraged” by the attack.

So what if Ivanka is heartbroken by something else she sees on TV and influences her father again?

Eric Trump told the Telegraph his father’s decision to attack Syria proved that he is not in league with Russia and will not be “pushed around” by Vladimir Putin.

“If they disrespect us and if they cross us, fine. There will be no one harder – he has got more backbone than anybody. We’re no worse off than we were before. Maybe we’re finding that we can’t be.”

Asked about Putin’s threats of military escalation over Syria, he told the Telegraph his father was not easily intimidated. “I can tell you he is tough and he won’t be pushed around. The cards will shake out the way they do, but he’s tough.”

So if Ivanka becomes outraged and Trump feels pushed around by Putin it seems that anything could happen, as long as it doesn’t involve chemical weapons or dynamite.

Trump is a brat and the world is his sandpit.

Has Trump been sucked in to Syrian attack?

Who was responsible for the attack in Syria using chemical weapons? And why were chemical weapons introduced?

The President Trump and the United States have blamed the Syrian government, and launched a missile attack on a Syrian airfield and have warned the US is “prepared to do more.”

The Telegraph: US strikes on Syria: Nikki Haley tells UN: ‘We are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary’

US missile strikes on a Syrian air base have reportedly killed nine civilians – including four children – as Donald Trump launched the first direct American attack on Bashar Assad’s regime.

Four children are reported to be among nine civilians killed in the “targeted assault” on the air base, from where Mr Trump said a devastating nerve agent strike was launched earlier this week. Six servicemen are believed to have also been killed.

Mr Trump was reacting to the attack on Tuesday that killed at least 72 people, including 20 children, which he said was launched by Syrian president Assad.

Why would Assad use a nerve gas, knowing that it would be internationally condemned, and would risk an unpredictable reaction from President Trump. It was certain to complicate an already very messy multi-country situation in Syria.

Trump ordered a missile strike, and it seems to have provoked the Russians

Russia called the attack an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”, with President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman saying he believed the US had carried out the strikes under a “far-fetched pretext”.

Vladimir Safronkov, the deputy Russian ambassador to the UN, accused Britain of “colonial hypocrisy” in supporting the US air strikes, and said the rational was based on “lies”.

He warned Britain: “don’t get into fights in the Arab world”, and accused the US of “facilitating terrorism”.

Russia has diverted a warship to protect the Syrian coast and vowed to bolster Bashar al-Assad’s missile defences against more US strikes, risking a confrontation between the former Cold World foes.

The Kremlin also announced it was immediately suspending its air safety agreement with the US in response to missile strikes on a Syrian air base.

The memorandum, signed in October 2015, is designed to avoid clashes in the crowded airspace over Syria, with each side giving the other warning over planned strikes.

So that raises risks of escalation.

Mr Assad’s office denounced US strikes as a “rash”  action, describing the attack as “reckless, irresponsible behaviour” and that Washington was “naively dragged in by a false propaganda campaign”.

Has Trump been sucked in to the Syrian attack? If so by whom?

There are three certainties in war, death, destruction and propaganda. And a fourth – mistakes.

There are reports emerging suggestion at least some Russian responsibility for the chemical attack, and possibly complicity.

NY Post: Pentagon probes whether Russia had part in Syrian gas attack

Senior US military officials say the Pentagon is looking into whether Russia participated in the Syrian chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town, according to the Associated Press.

A drone belonging either to Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site of the chemical weapons attack Tuesday after it happened, the officials told The AP.

The unmanned aerial vehicle returned later in the day as people sought treatment at a local hospital, which was bombed a short time later.

The officials say they believe the hospital strike may have been an effort to cover up evidence of the chemical weapons attack.

A Syrian Air Force Su-22 warplane was monitored dropping a chemical weapons bomb that landed in Khan Sheikhun, where 86 people were killed, including 28 children, The Washington Examiner reported.

Two officials who briefed reporters at the Pentagon Friday said the US had no evidence of Russian complicity, but that any leads would be followed up.

“Any implication or lead that would indicate Russian involvement, we’ll investigate that lead,” one official said, the paper reported.

The officials said Russia has failed to control the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.

Russia may or may not have been directly involved, but the fact that it is being reported that the Pentagon is investigating will increase tensions between the US and Russia even more.

Whoever used the gas in an attack in Syria will have known there was likely to be serious consequences and most likely an escalation of an already very messy and high tension situation.

International brinkmanship and war often has unintended consequences, and high-ego leaders often start down paths that they won’t reconsider, at least not until serious damage has been done.

A few Syrian kids getting gassed may be a relatively minor consequence of this escalation.

During last year’s presidential campaign Donald Trump was asked if he could “look children aged five, eight, ten, in the face and tell them they can’t go to school here”.

He responded: “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come’. I’ll look them in the face.”

He looked into dead children’s faces a few days ago and used that horror as a reason to actively involve the US in the Syrian war.

He won’t get to look most of the children that die as a result of this. Neither will Assad. Nor Putin.

It seems certain that someone, whether it was Assad or Putin or one of their opponents, used the gas attack to deliberately provoke Trump, and it got a result. But that was just one short battle in what has already been a lengthy war. And it could get worse. Possibly a lot worse.

It was fairly obvious that Trump would be easily provoked. He has already proven to be an unpredictable reactionary irrational egomaniac.

Does it matter now who sucked trump into Syria? The fact is it has happened. Now the Middle east and possibly the world has to live with the consequences.

But not everyone – how many children won’t get to live to see how bad it gets?

Gorbachev: ‘world is preparing for war’

Mikhail Gorbachev writes in Time ‘It All Looks as if the World Is Preparing for War’

The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.

But no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race. Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.

The current situation is too dangerous.

Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.

He looks back at the 1980s.

In November 1985, at the first summit in Geneva, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S. declared: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Our two nations will not seek military superiority. This statement was met with a sigh of relief worldwide.

But there has been a deterioration since then.

Today, however, the nuclear threat once again seems real. Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now. The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands.

We must break out of this situation. We need to resume political dialogue aiming at joint decisions and joint action.

Gorbachev suggests:

I urge the members of the U.N. Security Council — the body that bears primary responsibility for international peace and security — to take the first step. Specifically, I propose that a Security Council meeting at the level of heads of state adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought.

I think the initiative to adopt such a resolution should come from Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — the Presidents of two nations that hold over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenals and therefore bear a special responsibility.

That looks very unlikely given Trump’s moves to reduce US involvement in the UN.

The world could really do without the sort of war Gorbachev is warning about.

Putin Trump

It surprised me to see this from Swiss newspaper Tags Anzeiger, but it encapsulates what are probably common international impressions:

topelement

 – Trumps Kandidaten warnen vor Russland

The image on the left became established during the election campaign, and damaged Donald Trump’s chances until things were turned around by James Comey of the FBI, which turned out to be a false alarm but too late to rescue Hillary Clinton.

Well before the dossier controversy the right hand image was already established as a potential risk with Trump.

Fair or not the hand of Putin is likely to hover between the legs of Trump’s presidency.

To a large extent Trump is responsible for putting himself in this position.

Sweden sees Russian threat

It has been reported that Sweden has become increasingly anxious about a possible threat of Russian attack.

This alongside rising tensions between the US and Russia over allegations of interference in the recent election could be cause for some concern.

The Telegraph: Swedish towns told to ‘make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict’ with Russia

Sweden’s towns and villages have been ordered to make preparations for a possible military attack in the latest sign of the country’s growing anxiety at its newly belligerent Russian neighbour.

The country’s Civil Contingency Agency (MSB) last week sent a letter to local authorities across the country asking them to maintain operations centres in underground bunkers, ensure that a system of emergency sirens is in place, and to be open to cooperating on war exercises with the Swedish Armed Forces.

“In a state of war,  civil defence for municipalities is no different from any of the other services they should provide,” the letter read, instructing local governments to “ensure their ability to maintain their functions during disturbed situations, and at the most extreme, in a war scenario.”

The dramatic call comes as Sweden returns to the Total Defence Strategy it maintained during the Cold War, reconstituting its old coastal anti-ship missile system, placing an armoured division on the exposed Baltic island of Gotland, and making plans to restart compulsory conscription as early as 2018.

“This strategy is not new. We used it during the Cold War and we are going to now strengthen coordination regarding civil defence,” Magnus Dyberg-Ek, who is leading the civil defence operation for MSB, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“What is new is that the security situation in our neighbourhood has worsened, and that we must therefore make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict.”

This must be quite concerning for people in Sweden and Scandinavia.

“There is nothing to suggest that war is likely, but we have been given an order from the government to plan for it,” Svante Werger, the press officer for MSB, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

That sounds a bit contradictory.

In 2013, the Russian air force conducted a mock nuclear strike against Sweden during war games which saw a contingent of Russian aircraft approach Swedish airspace after crossing the Gulf of Finland.

This was one of several examples of dummy nuclear attacks against Nato and its allies in recent years, according to a Nato report.

During the election Trump suggested the US under his rule may not support NATO countries if they became involved in conflict.

Does Russia see an opportunities in expanding it’s influence with Donald Trump’s rise to power in the US? Maybe there is no threat to Sweden there could be a few countries in eastern Europe with increasing apprehension.

After the US election Time asked Can NATO Survive a Donald Trump Presidency?

Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Trump has suggested that the world’s most powerful military alliance should be run like an insurance scheme or a protection racket. In a typical remark on the issue this summer, he said allies that don’t “reasonably reimburse” the U.S. for the costs of defense should expect to be told, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

An emerging consensus in Europe has called Trump’s remarks the beginning of the end of the global order that has kept the West united since World War II. At best they mark the start of a bruising renegotiation of the transatlantic friendship. But it’s hard to tell which is closer to Trump’s true intention, because like so many of his policy positions, the statements he has made on NATO have come with plenty of caveats and room for retreat.

During the primary race this spring, he repeatedly called the alliance “obsolete.” But after winning the Republican nomination, he told the New York Times in July that he would like to preserve it, adding that only “fools and haters” would suggest Trump does not want to protect U.S. allies.

The ambiguity has left some room for optimism, at least among the defense experts who are willing to discount Trump’s apparent disdain for the idea of mutual defense. “I think this was politicking,” says Lord David Richards, the former head of the British Armed Forces. “I have every confidence that he will be as resolute on this issue as all U.S. presidents have since the formation of NATO,” he tells TIME.

I think that it’s too soon to have confidence in what Trump may or may not do.

Perhaps more importantly, what Putin may do, taking advantage of Trump’s ambiguity and possible lack of resolve in helping allies in NATO.

If Russia made any more military moves in Europe it’s difficult to guess whether Trump would try to stay uninvolved, or play tough guy and risk escalation, or shock the world with strong, principled and careful standing up to any Russian aggression.

If Trump continues to push the notion that NATO is a commercial enterprise – reliant less on the mutual trust and commitment of its members than on the question of who is picking up the check – he could alienate his European partners so completely that they will have no alliance left to defend. “Everybody will be so frustrated and disappointed with the other side that they will not feel a desire to continue,” says Shapiro. “NATO will become a hollow shell, because nobody will be contributing.”

A lot of that frustration has already begun to show. Even Europe’s typically cautious and understated officials have begun warning that NATO could split down the middle. “It might be that [Trump’s] policy priorities will lead America far away from some of the European basic principles or interests,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top official for foreign and security policy, said in an interview televised last week.

International relations are complex and difficult enough in better times. Superpower uncertainty under Trump’s presidency may be opportunistically exploited, and history has proven, escalations can quickly get out of hand.

Especially perhaps when you have egos like Putin’s and Trump’s involved.

Back to Sweden versus Russia – war between them may seem unlikely in the modern world, but in the last Millennium there have been twelve major conflicts between Sweden and Russia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_between_Russia_and_Sweden

Panama papers, Putin and the US

Vladimir Putin was implicated by recently released Panama papers, but Putin claims the release was part of a US plot to weaken Russia.

The US State Department has rejected Putin’s allegations

NZ Herald: Putin says Panama Papers part of US plot to weaken Russia

President Vladimir Putin has denied having any links to offshore accounts and described the Panama Papers document leaks scandal as part of a U.S.-led plot to weaken Russia.

Putin also defended a cellist friend named as the alleged owner of an offshore company, describing him as a philanthropist who spent his own funds to buy rare musical instruments for Russian state collections.

Speaking at a media forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said Western media pushed the claims of his involvement in offshore businesses even though his name didn’t feature in any of the documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm.

Putin described the allegations as part of the U.S.-led disinformation campaign waged against Russia in order to weaken its government.

“They are trying to destabilise us from within in order to make us more compliant,” he said.

The Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said the documents it obtained indicated that Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin acted as a front man for a network of Putin loyalists, and, perhaps, the president himself.

The ICIJ said the documents show how complex offshore financial deals channeled as much as $2 billion to a network of people linked to the Russian president.

Putin said Roldugin, a longtime friend, did nothing wrong. He said he was proud of Roldugin, adding that the musician spent his personal money to advance cultural projects.

The US State Department has responded.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner rejected the notion that the U.S. is behind the allegations. “I would reject the premise or the assertion that we’re in any way involved in the actual leak of these documents,” he told reporters in Washington.

The lack of prominent Americans named so far in the Panama papers raised some suspicions that the papers may have been filtered by someone with targeted interests. An explanation has been put forward – Mossack Fonseca simply didn’t have many US clients.

Washington Post reports:

One nagging question since the Panama Papers story broke is why so few prominent Americans have so far shown up holding offshore accounts.

The lawyer at the center of the scandal has an explanation: he prefers not to have them as clients.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ramon Fonseca said that he and his German-born partner at Mossack Fonseca like to vacation in the U.S., but they have longstanding ties to Europe and have always focused their business there and Latin America. The few American clients the firm has taken are mostly to handle visas and other requests from Panama’s burgeoning expatriate retirement community.

Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the newspaper that first obtained the 11.5 million confidential documents that make up the Panama Papers, said the files included copies of 200 American passports and 3,500 shareholders in offshore companies listed U.S. addresses. That’s a small fraction of the more than 220,000 offshore companies Mossack Fonseca says it has created in the past four decades.

No doubt there is a lot to come out yet.

 

Prime Minister resigns over Panama papers

A major casualty already after the release of the Panama papers, with the prime Minister of Iceland resigning.

Iceland Prime Minister resigns over scandal

Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson is to step down after leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm showed his wife owned an offshore company with big claims on collapsed Icelandic banks, his party says.

On Tuesday night, Gunnlaugsson had asked Iceland’s president to dissolve parliament in the face of a looming no-confidence vote and mass street protests over the revelations. Such a move would almost certainly lead to a new election.

The spotlight will continue on other leaders.

With the fallout from the leaks reverberating across the globe, British Prime Minister David Cameron also came under fire from opponents who accused him of allowing a rich elite to dodge their taxes.

And in China, the Beijing government dismissed as “groundless” reports that the families of President Xi Jinping and other current and former Chinese leaders were linked to offshore accounts.

The more than 11.5 million documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Among those named in them are friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the leaders of China, Britain and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

Newe Zealand has been implicated as a tax haven – see “New Zealand is not a tax haven”

Meanwhile the source of the leak, the motivation and the timing of the leak also raise interesting questions.