Clinton rules out 2020 run for presidency a win for Putin?

Hillary Clinton has ruled out another run for the US presidency in 2020. This may be seen as a win for Vladimir Putin, with it being pointed out “how much Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton” – the misogynist versus the sort of feminist.

Could Russia target Ardern and New Zealand democracy? Have they already done this?

CNN:  Hillary Clinton rules out 2020 run, but says ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Hillary Clinton said Monday that she is not running for president in 2020 but will continue to speak out about politics, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m not running, but I’m going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe,” the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee told CNN affiliate News 12 Westchester.

“I want to be sure that people understand I’m going to keep speaking out. I’m not going anywhere,” Clinton said.

When asked if she would consider running for governor, mayor or any elected office again, Clinton told News 12, “I don’t think so,” adding that she loves living in New York and is grateful for the time she spent as senator of the state.

“What’s at stake in our country, the kinds of things that are happening right now are deeply troubling to me.” She said the country has become “not just polarized, we’ve gotten into really opposing camps unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my adult life.”

Clinton said that “we’ve made a lot of progress” but “we still have a long way to go on women’s rights, on gay rights, on making sure that every person has the same chance to have their dignity and their identity respected.”

This may be why Russia got so involved in the 2016 US election. Whether Trump’s campaign ‘colluded’ with Russia, or whether Russia used Trump to dump on Clinton, are still unanswered questions. The Robert Mueller report may or may not provide answers.

More from Erynn Brook:

It’s basically impossible to say HRC’s name without being bombarded with memes and trolls and propaganda. And that’s all intentional. I’m not talking about her policies. I’m talking about the interpersonal dynamic between Putin and HRC playing out on a world stage.

Oh the dog incident with Merkel isn’t just “related”, it’s more evidence. It’s in the intelligence briefings that’s she’s afraid of dogs. He gave Merkel a stuffed dog the year before. It’s straight up psychological warfare.

Foreign Policy: Putin uses dog to intimidate Merkel

Remember that Hillary Clinton was First Lady when Putin became Prime Minister and then President. Remember that Hillary is widely cited as being the driving force behind her husband’s political career.

Remember that she had an objectively successful political career, AFTER her husband’s impeachment. I don’t mean a while after, I mean like while it’s happening she’s running for state senator in NY. Which she won. That should have been impossible.

Love her or hate her, that’s not what I’m talking about.

Hillary Clinton is demonstrably, a very, very good politician. It’s likely she decided she wanted to be president when she was a kid and that influenced a large majority of her life choices.

So Clinton becomes Secretary of State when Putin is Prime Minister for the second time, and she is a force to be reckoned with. AND she’s the wife of his former American counterpart. She’s the woman he used to tell his wife to entertain. She’s fucking decor to him.

I am begging you to get this: refusal to see the role misogyny played in all of this, in the state of our world right now, is making things worse.

Don’t take my word for it, do your own research. Do some real, substantial research.

And ask yourself: if the richest, most powerful, most dangerous misogynist in the world, thought that the woman who had been coming for him for decades, who saw through all his shit and wasn’t afraid of him, if she was about to get the one job she could get to take him down.

If he saw that coming towards him, if this dangerous man who built a career on crushing political dissidents iduring Cold War, if this “world class misogynist” felt threatened by a WOMAN…

What would he do? What could he do?

Here, I’ll even give you a few places to get started. By all means, if you can show me I’m wrong while still addressing all the Russia crap, without resorting to more misogyny, and with actual, demonstrable, critical analysis, I’d love to hear it.

Brook links to another thread:

And it’s a wider problem.

What are the implications for New Zealand? Jacinda Ardern has positioned herself in stark contrast to both Trump and Putin. New Zealand may not matter much to Russia, but it’s possible Putin could start taking potshots at Ardern. And at our democracy.

Has it already happened? Why did Cameron Slater and Whale Oil actively promote Winston Peters in our 2017 election?

A year ago Peters was in the news here for promoting a trade deal with Russia, and for fudging around while other Western countries condemned Russia for their involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attacks.

Noted noted: What’s with Winston’s crush on Russia?

With Winston Peters, it’s the Secret Samovar. He has this thing about Russia, and no one can explain why. There was the suggestion, when he began harping on about restoring full trade relations with Russia some years ago, that his close ties with the fishing industry had made him hyper-sensitive to lost trade opportunities in seafood.

This week, Peters has repeated his scepticism that Russia shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine in 2014 and expanded that refusenik-ism to cover the growing suspicion that Russia just poisoned a spy and his daughter in Britain.

He also averred that our getting a free-trade deal with Russia would be just as good, and should be just as big a priority, as scoring one with the European Union.

It may be that Peters admires Putin’s strongman approach in the way he shares some heartland electoral territory with Trump over immigration and protectionism. Among his startling comments as Foreign Minister this week was one expressing sympathy with the US’s proposed new tariffs on aluminium and steel – which had immediately to be contradicted by Trade Minister David Parker.

Anyway, Peters’ preoccupation with Putin’s Russia goes back years; it’s not something he’s just manufactured as a handy coalition prying bar. And dying in a ditch over Russia is hardly the gesture lost NZ First voters – or any other voters, for that matter – would rally around.

It may be a stretch to suggest a Russian-Peters-Slater conspiracy.

It could simply be that to different degrees Peters shares a similar misogynist view with Putin and Trump, seeing themselves as superior to female leaders, and attracted to each other in a ‘strongmen unite’ sort of empathy.

 

Russia suspends nuclear arms treaty after US threatens the same

In response to the US threatening to withdraw from the long standing Nuclear Forces Treaty if Russia didn’t comply with it, Russia has responded by withdrawing from the treaty.

I don’t know if this signals the reigniting of another nuclear arms race, or if Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are just playing some sort of brinkmanship.

Whatever it is, it looks like a sign of deteriorating relations between the US and Russia.

Reuters:  Russia suspends nuclear arms treaty after U.S. says to pull out

Russia has suspended the Cold War-era Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday, after the United States said it would withdraw from the arms control pact, accusing Moscow of violations.

The United States announced on Friday it will withdraw from the INF treaty in six months unless Moscow ends what it says are violations of the 1987 pact.

It would reconsider its withdrawal if Russia came into compliance with the agreement, which bans both nations from stationing short- and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe. Russia denies violating the treaty.

“The American partners have declared that they suspend their participation in the deal, we suspend it as well,” Putin said during a televised meeting with foreign and defense ministers.

Putin said Russia will start work on creating new missiles, including hypersonic ones, and told ministers not to initiate disarmament talks with Washington, accusing the United States of being slow to respond to such moves.

“We have repeatedly, during a number of years, and constantly raised a question about substantiative talks on the disarmament issue,” Putin said. “We see that in the past few years the partners have not supported our initiatives.”

During the meeting with Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of violating the INF and other arms deals, including the non-proliferation treaty.

Back to cold war style blaming each other for what they want to do themselves.

Trump seems to have had a night off Twitter so no response from him yet.

 

Mixed messages in US sanctions on Russia

Donald Trump has indicated he wants to improve relations with Russia, as the US have imposed fresh sanctions on Russia for cyber-related activities.

CBS News: Trump open to lifting Russia sanctions, “most likely” to meet Kim Jong Un again

President Trump on Monday said he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if Moscow were to take steps towards working with the U.S. on issues like Russia and Ukraine. Mr. Trump made the comments in an interview with Reuters.

It’s yet unclear exactly what kind of steps Mr. Trump would require to ease such sanctions. Mr. Trump insists he has been tougher on Russia than any other president, despite the laudatory way he speaks of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian response (Reuters):  Actions better than words, says Russia after Trump offer

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it welcomed statements by U.S. President Donald Trump indicating a desire to cooperate with Russia, but that it would welcome concrete steps to improve relations more.

Trump has repeatedly said he would like better ties with Moscow, but despite meeting President Vladimir Putin last month, relations have come under further strain as Washington announced new sanctions.

“We of course welcome statements that affirm a readiness to cooperate, but we would welcome even more some kind of concrete actions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Peskov said the Kremlin would like to hear more details from the United States on any proposed cooperation in Syria and Ukraine, and that Kiev should also take positive steps.

“We need to be specific about what is expected from Russia in terms of Ukraine, and why nothing is expected from the Ukrainian authorities,” he said.

But at the same time U.S. imposes fresh sanctions for Russian cyber-related activity

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two Russians, one Russian company and one Slovakian company for what Washington said were their actions to help another Russian company avoid sanctions over the country’s malicious cyber-related activities.

The U.S. Treasury said in a statement that the sanctioned companies, Saint Petersburg-based Vela-Marine Ltd and Slovakia-based Lacno S.R.O., and the two individuals helped Divetechnoservices evade previously imposed sanctions.

In a statement on the Russian foreign ministry’s website, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the latest sanctions groundless and promised a response from Moscow.

Ryabkov’s criticism extended to separate sanctions Washington imposed on Tuesday on two Russian shipping companies that it said were involved in transferring refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels in violation of Unite Nations restrictions.

IOt’s hard to see any progress on better US relations while more sanctions are being imposed. No wonder Putin asked for action rather than words from Trump on lifting sanctions.

Trump backs Putin over US intelligence on Russian interference in US elections

There has been widespread shock and condemnation after Donald Trump accepted Vladimir Putin’s word that Russia did not intefer in the US election in 2016. This is contrary to the views of the entire US intelligence community and most US politicians.

Fox News: Trump blasts Mueller probe, Putin denies meddling as leaders tout summit as ‘success’

President Trump and Vladimir Putin tackled allegations of election meddling in unprecedented terms following their one-on-one summit Monday, with Trump opening the door to an unusual offer of cooperation in the special counsel probe and the Russian president suggesting he indeed favored the billionaire businessman in 2016.

But Putin, emphatically and repeatedly, denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying there’s “no evidence.” And Trump, while saying they spent a “great deal of time” discussing the allegations, blasted the ongoing probe as a “disaster for our country.”

The two leaders spoke at a freewheeling joint press conference following a pair of meetings — one private — in Helsinki, Finland. Trump and Putin both touted the summit as a success, vowing to improve ties on a range of issues.

“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump declared.

NY Post: Trump refuses to accuse Putin of election meddling

President Donald Trump on Monday refused to accuse Vladimir Putin and Russia of interfering in the US election after their one-on-one sitdown in Finland.

Asked directly if he believed Putin or his own intelligence community, which concluded that the Russians were behind the hacking and other interference, the president did not directly answer.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” he said as Putin stood several feet away.

Trump then said he saw no reason why Russia would interfere in America’s elections.

Putin, meanwhile, admitted he had been rooting for Trump to beat Hillary Clinton.

“Yes, I did, yes I did, because he talked about bringing US-Russia relations back to normal,” Putin said.

Trump also praised the Russian strongman for offering to help special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigate the well-documented Russian meddling. “And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators. I think that’s an incredible offer,” he said.

Trump then launched a stunning series of political attacks on Democrats and Clinton while standing on foreign soil — and suggested that he believed Putin’s denials.

“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee. I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?” the commander-in-chief said.

“What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails, 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.”

He also said the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was poisoning relations between the US and Russia.

“It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. Virtually, none of it related to the campaign,” he said.

Trump then defended his campaign and hailed his surprise victory.

“They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her and I’m not even saying from the standpoint, we won that race,” he continued.

Fox News – Media slams Trump following Putin summit: ‘One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president’

The media came down hard on President Trump following Monday’s joint press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with pundits and anchors on both sides of the political aisle bashing the American leader’s performance.

Trump was primarily criticized for the way he handled questions about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S., claims that have been paired with allegations Russia and the Trump campaign colluded to win the election. Trump said he raised the issue of election meddling during their one-on-one meeting prior to the press conference, but ripped Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe during the news conference, declaring there was “no collusion.”

Trump also passed on a chance to side with the American intelligence community, which claims Moscow meddled in the election.

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire and Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason were both praised by journalists for asking tough questions, but Trump’s answers drew scorn.

“Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least,” Fox News’ Brit Hume tweeted.

NBC News’ online headline said Trump’s performance “advances conspiracy theories,” pointing to him bringing up 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that the president said are missing.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper called it “perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president” immediately after the press conference. Cooper’s name immediately began trending on Twitter after making the comment, which resulted in a variety of media members agreeing with the CNN star.

Former CIA John Brennan:

Reuters – U.S. Rep. Schiff: Trump comments give Putin OK on 2018 interference

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence panel said President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki on Monday essentially gave Russian President Vladimir Putin permission to interfere in November’s midterm election.

“President Trump just attacked our intelligence agencies and law enforcement for doing their jobs while standing next to a dictator who intervened in our election to help elect Trump. Putin will take this as a green light to interfere in 2018, and it is. Cowardly and shameful.”

It’s hard to find support or praise of Trump’s post-summit performance, but Rush Limbaugh manages to go against the flow: Comedy Gold As American Journalists Beclown Themselves

Hey, folks, parts of this joint press conference here between Trump and Putin were comedy gold. Parts of this press conference were some of the funniest stuff that’s been on American television since Trump was elected. I mean, I have been laughing myself silly. I don’t laugh out loud much watching television anymore. It’s a sad reality, but watching TV does not make any laugh anymore. But I have been laughing out loud — uncontrollably at times — watching this joint presser. What makes it is that the United States media regularly beclowns itself, makes fools of themselves because they really have it in their heads…

I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know if they really do believe that Trump and Putin colluded to steal the election, if they’ve been reporting that for so long that they actually now believe it. Because even with Mueller, there isn’t any evidence of it. Which reminds me, Mueller’s indictment… Wait ’til you hear what the Drive-Bys are trying to do with this indictment! It is craziest thing! It is laughable, because our media has become a collective joke.

That sounds like a manic sort of defence of Trump, resorting to the old ‘attack the media’ approach with a few conspiracy theories thrown in.

BBC: Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit

US President Donald Trump has defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said, adding that there was “no question” Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election.

“The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr Trump had sent the Kremlin a message of US “weakness”.

He tweeted: “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.”

Fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake – a staunch critic of President Trump – called his words “shameful”.

Trump succeeded in dominating the headlines, but he has been dominated by Putin and savaged by most in the USA. Including the Director of National Intelligence.

Putin-Trump meeting

One of the criticisms of Donald Trump’s meeting in Singapore with Kim Yong Un was that Trump was legitimising Kim and giving him significant international exposure and credibility.

The same is being said of the Trump-Putin meeting.

How Russia’s relationship with the rest of the world will be affected by the meeting.

But there is pressure on Trump to confront Putin:

Somehow I don’t think this is likely.

Trump is more likely to come away from the meeting saying that it was a great meeting, he got on very well with Putin and they would work well together in the future somewhat more embellished probably).

Nuclear posturing is a dangerous escalation

Nuclear posturing, and probably the threat of nuclear attacks or war, have escalated over the last year. In part this has been precipitated by North Korea’s intent on demonstrating a nuclear capability, real or not. The reaction of the large nuclear powers, the US via Donald Trump and Russia via Vladimir Putin, is of increasing concern.

There is a real risk that ego driven, macho, power protecting leaders from any of several countries may push one to a nuclear attack, and that may start a dangerous nuclear exchange, and potentially a chain reaction that could be devastating to the state of our world.

Financial Times: Vladimir Putin’s nuclear posturing is a dangerous escalation

There was a large element of posturing in the presentation that accompanied Vladimir Putin’s state of the union address last week, showing a mock-up missile seemingly heading for the coast of Florida. It is hard to know whether the weapons he boasts Russia has developed — including an “invincible” hypersonic missile, an underwater drone and a nuclear-powered cruise missile — really exist, or work as well as claimed.

Even if they do, they would hardly change the balance of power. Yet this is still a dangerous escalation in both rhetoric and military strategy.

The Russian president was addressing a domestic audience in the run-up to an election intended to demonstrate the enduring appeal of his strongman rule. But he was also putting the west on notice, that Russia is back as a global power and determined to keep pace with the US in any efforts to expand and modernise nuclear capabilities.

The return of the nuclear arms race.

https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat

Seen from Moscow, this is a reasonable response to western provocation. Mr Putin has never forgiven Nato’s encroachments on Russia’s sphere of influence. He is still bitter at George W Bush’s decision to pull the US out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, allowing it to press ahead with a land-based missile defence system that Russia views as a direct, deliberate threat.

Now the US administration has said explicitly that great power competition, rather than antiterrorism, will be the focus of national security. Donald Trump has pledged to spend freely on upgrading the US nuclear arsenal.

Last month, a review of nuclear “posture” set out US plans to equip itself with new “low-yield” nuclear weapons and for the first time consider nuclear strikes in response to non-nuclear threats — such as a devastating cyber attack. Russia has long possessed smaller nuclear weapons, with a military doctrine that conceives of their tactical use to counter conventional threats.

But this is a radical departure in US policy that could significantly lower the threshold for nuclear war.

Especially when an irrational reactive President is in charge.

This is all the more dangerous given the dismal state of US-Russian relations; Russia’s increasing international reach, in Ukraine, Syria and recent western elections; the growing number of third country nuclear forces; and the increasing risks of accidents or miscalculations given more frequent encounters between US and Russian forces.

It is worrying, then, that both Washington and Moscow show so little interest in maintaining and strengthening the arms control agreements that have helped to regulate relations between the world’s two main nuclear actors for the best part of 50 years.

It is also worrying that the leaders of both countries are into provocative posturing.

Putin and Trump have the power, both as leaders and as potential button pushers of huge nuclear arsenals, to destroy the world.

And the risks aren’t confined to them, a chain reaction could easily be started by Kim Yong Un, or the leader of another nuclear armed country. Nuclear retaliation could also be provoked by a non-nuclear country, or non-geographical entity.

Being the most remote country in the world from all of this risk is small comfort when all it may mean is we can survive a little longer than everyone else.

Image result for cartoon nuclear

That’s an optimistic outcome given the threats to other species without going nuclear.

Trump doubted intelligence, ignored advisers

A report from Washington Post that describes how Donald Trump was urged by close advisers to publicly acknowledge that there had been real Russian interference in the 2016 US election after being presented by the findings of country’ spy chiefs.

Trump did once publicly state “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. We also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

But Trump was so intent on being given the credit for his win he “scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma”.

In other words, his ego overruled high level advice from his own team and from the intelligence community.

Washington Post: Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian threat unchecked

In the final days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of his inner circle pleaded with him to acknowledge publicly what U.S. intelligence agencies had already concluded — that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was real.

Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers — including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus — prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan. 6.

They sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions. More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

…as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma.

Told that members of his incoming Cabinet had already publicly backed the intelligence report on Russia, Trump shot back, “So what?” Admitting that the Kremlin had hacked Democratic Party emails, he said, was a “trap.”

As Trump addressed journalists on Jan. 11 in the lobby of Trump Tower, he came as close as he ever would to grudging acceptance. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said, adding that “we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.

The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.

Trump’s stance on the election is part of a broader entanglement with Moscow that has defined the first year of his presidency. He continues to pursue an elusive bond with Putin, which he sees as critical to dealing with North Korea, Iran and other issues. “Having Russia in a friendly posture,” he said last month, “is an asset to the world and an asset to our country.”

His position has alienated close American allies and often undercut members of his Cabinet — all against the backdrop of a criminal probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Later in a lengthy article:

Putin expressed his own exasperation in early September, responding to a question about Trump with a quip that mocked the idea of a Trump-Putin bond while aiming a gender-related taunt at the American president. Trump “is not my bride,” Putin said, “and I am not his groom.”

The remark underscored the frustration and disenchantment that have taken hold on both sides amid the failure to achieve the breakthrough in U.S.-Russian relations that Trump and Putin both envisioned a year ago.

As a result, rather than shaping U.S. policy toward Russia, Trump at times appears to function as an outlier in his own administration, unable to pursue the relationship with Putin he envisioned but unwilling to embrace tougher policies favored by some in his Cabinet.

A Pentagon proposal that would pose a direct challenge to Moscow — a plan to deliver lethal arms to Ukrainian forces battling Russia-backed separatists — has languished in internal debates for months.

The plan is backed by senior members of Trump’s Cabinet, including Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who voiced support for arming Ukrainian forces in meetings with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in August. Mattis “believes that you should help people who are fighting our potential adversaries,” said a senior U.S. official involved in the deliberations.

A decision to send arms has to be made by the president, and officials said Trump has been reluctant even to engage.

“Every conversation I’ve had with people on this subject has been logical,” the senior U.S. official said. “But there’s no logical conclusion to the process, and that tells me the bottleneck is in the White House.”

It concludes:

Trump was forced to grapple with these complexities in September, when he met with Poroshenko at the United Nations. Volker met with Trump to prepare him for the encounter. Tillerson, McMaster and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who had replaced Priebus, were also on hand.

Trump pressed Volker on why it was in the United States’ interests to support Ukraine and why U.S. taxpayers’ money should be spent doing so, Volker said in an interview. “Why is it worth it?” Volker said Trump asked. As Volker outlined the rationale for U.S. involvement, Trump seemed satisfied.

“I believe that what he wants is to settle the issue, he wants a better, more constructive U.S.-Russia relationship,” Volker said. “I think he would like [the Ukraine conflict] to be solved . . . get this fixed so we can get to a better place.”

The conversation was about Ukraine but seemed to capture Trump’s frustration on so many Russia-related fronts — the election, the investigations, the complications that had undermined his relationship with Putin.

Volker said that the president repeated a single phrase at least five times, saying, “I want peace.”

A great aim, but it won’t just happen for Trump.

Those who can influence him (if anyone can) and foreign policy need to find a way to make progress towards peace, with Trump able to claim the praise.

Putin warns of ‘global planetary catastrophe’ over North Korea

Vladimir Putin has warned of a “global planetary catastrophe” if the North Korea crisis tips over into war.

CNN: Vladimir Putin warns world faces ‘global catastrophe’ over North Korea

President Vladimir Putin warned that the escalating crisis over North Korea’s weapons program risks developing into a “global catastrophe” with mass casualties.

But Putin, speaking in China on Tuesday, cautioned against “military hysteria” and said that the only way to resolve the crisis was through diplomacy.

He warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has calculated that the survival of his regime depends on its development of nuclear weapons. Kim had seen how western intervention in Iraq had ended in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein after which the country was ravaged by war, Putin warned, and Kim was determined not to suffer the same fate.

“Saddam Hussein rejected the production of weapons of mass destruction, but even under that pretense, he was destroyed and members of his family were killed,” Putin said.

Putin said that while Russia condemned North Korea’s latest actions, imposing any kind of sanctions would be “useless and ineffective.” Kim would rather starve his people than see his regime overthrown, he said.

“They will eat grass but they will not turn away from the path that will provide for their security,” he said.

Grass dripping with radiation will not be very palatable.

Fox News:

Trump’s obsession with himself

Another leak, this time of transcripts of President Trumps conversations with Australian and Mexican leaders early this year, have shown again how obsessed with himself and his image that Trump is.

He said “I am the world’s greatest person” to Malcolm Turnbull in January.

And recent reports show how he seems to have trouble understanding the difference between leading a company, where the boss can dictate what he likes, compared to the complexities of the US system of government.

Reuters:  Trump, frustrated by Afghan war, suggests firing U.S. commander: officials

During a July 19 meeting in the White House Situation Room, Trump demanded that his top national security aides provide more information on what one official called “the end-state” in a country where the United States has spent 16 years fighting against the Taliban with no end in sight.

The meeting grew stormy when Trump said Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, a Marine general, should consider firing Army General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, for not winning the war.

“We aren’t winning,” he told them, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some officials left the meeting “stunned” by the president’s vehement complaints that the military was allowing the United States to lose the war.

Trump seems to have a habit of firing if he isn’t ‘winning’.

CNN: Trump’s Russia statement proves he doesn’t understand separation of powers

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the Russia sanctions bill that the Republican-led Congress had approved overwhelmingly. But he made sure everyone knew he wasn’t happy about it — and in so doing revealed, again, that he has either little understanding of or little care for the separation of powers built into the US government.

What makes Trump’s derision of the division of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches different is both how brazen he is about it and how many times he has expressed sentiments in his first six-plus months in office that suggest he simply doesn’t understand the fact that everyone in the government doesn’t work for him.

And the latest leaks from Washington Post: The Post’s latest bombshell 

Produced by White House staff, the documents provide an unfiltered glimpse of Trump’s approach to the diplomatic aspect of his job, subjecting even a close neighbor and long-standing ally to streams of threats and invective as if aimed at U.S. adversaries.

With Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:

The Jan. 28 call with Turnbull became particularly acrimonious. “I have had it,” Trump erupted after the two argued about an agreement on refugees. “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.”

Before ending the call, Trump noted that at least one of his conversations that day had gone far more smoothly. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump said, referring to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. “This is ridiculous.” … “This is going to kill me,” he said to Turnbull. “I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people.”

With Mexican President Peña Nieto:

“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.” …

Peña Nieto resisted, saying that Trump’s repeated threats had placed “a very big mark on our back, Mr. President.” He warned that “my position has been and will continue to be very firm, saying that Mexico cannot pay for the wall.”

Trump objected: “But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that, and I cannot live with that.”

Jennifer Rubin at WaPo: Why the leaked presidential transcripts are so frightening

It is shocking to see presidential conversations released in this way. Some in the executive branch, as Anthony Scaramucci aptly put it, are intent on protecting the country from Trump. This is a good thing, by the way. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has obviously failed to plug the flood leaks.

These transcripts may have been leaked before Kelly took over.

Trump is frighteningly obsessed with himself and his image to such an extent that he cannot fulfill the role of commander in chief. He cannot frame logical arguments based on public policy, and therefore comes across as, well, a fool to foreign leaders.

His desire to maintain his own image suggests he’d be more than willing to make the country’s interests subordinate to his own need for personal affirmations.

Trump’s narcissism leaves him open to flattery and threats (to reveal embarrassing material, for example). That’s the worry in the Russia investigation — namely, that Vladimir Putin has “something” on Trump, which compels Trump to act in ways inimical to U.S. interests.

Trump’s interests are paramount, so a cagey adversary can easily manipulate him.

There is no easy solution.

One cannot be impeached and removed for being an embarrassment to the United States or an egomaniac temperamentally unfit for the job (that was the argument for not electing him). Unless he really goes off the deep end, invoking the 25th Amendment is not a realistic option.

That leaves members of Congress and his administration with a few options.

And Trump keeps blaming everyone else. He recently tweeted:

But he can’t fire Congress, nor the Senate. He is stuck with the political and judicial system that the US has got. And the US is probably stuck with him until he throws a major hissy fit for not getting his own way and chucks the job in.

In the meantime it is likely that Russia, China, North Korea, and much of the Middle East will be trying to work out how they can exploit Trump’s ego.

With the amount of fire power available to lash out with this has to be a major concern.

One slightly reassuring thing – Trump seems to be relying more on generals to run his administration. They may be the best chance of keeping his flaws in check.

Trump backs off joint cyber security suggestion

Another example of changing stories with Donald Trump, this time after he suggested a joint Cyber security unit with Russia. On Sunday Trump tweeted:

President Trump tweeted Sunday evening that a proposed “Cyber Security unit” operated by the U.S. and Russia “can’t happen,” an apparent reaction to criticism of the idea by Democrats and Republicans.

Trump tweeted:

A bizarre suggestion given all the claims of Russian hacker interference in the US election last year.

Fox News: Trump appears to back off joint ‘Cyber Security unit’ with Russia after criticism

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election campaign. Russian state actors have been linked to Wikileaks, which published stolen emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

The cybersecurity unit drew widespread ridicule from lawmakers, including two of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination last year.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham on NBZ’s Mett The Press:

“It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close”.

Graham also said that Trump has “a blind spot” when it comes to Russia, “and to forgive and forget when it comes to Putin regarding cyberattacks is to empower Putin and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”

Senator Marco Rubio:

Partnering with Putin on a “Cyber Security Unit” is akin to partnering with Assad on a “Chemical Weapons Unit”.

We have no quarrel with Russia or the Russian people. Problem is with Putin & his oppression, war crimes & interference in our elections.

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter…

…said the move was “like the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic Party member of the House intelligence committee…

…told CNN’s “State of the Union” that expecting Russia to be a credible partner in any cybersecurity initiative “would be dangerously naive for this country.”

“If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow”.

Trump staff tried to defend his suggestion.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley…

…stood up for the initiative, arguing that working with Russia on cybersecurity “doesn’t mean we ever trust Russia. We can’t trust Russia and we won’t ever trust Russia. But you keep those that you don’t trust closer so that you can always keep an eye on `em and keep them in check.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin…

…defended the plan on ABC’s “This Week,” calling the initiative a “very important step forward.”

“What we want to make sure is that we coordinate with Russia, that we’re focused on cybersecurity together, that we make sure that they never interfere in any democratic elections or conduct any cyber security. I think is a very significant accomplishment for President Trump.”

Stuff: Russia confirms Putin-Trump talk on joint cyber security unit

Russia confirmed that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had discussed forming a joint Russian-US group on cyber security, an idea that has provoked uproar in Washington, but said it was only a tentative proposal.

“The heads of state did talk about such a possibility,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters on Monday (Tuesday NZT).

“Nothing was promised to each other. What is positive, they stated their readiness to work in this direction.”

The conversation had been “about the possibility of forming such a group”, he said.

Svetlana Lukash, a Russian official who was at the Hamburg summit, told a news conference earlier on Monday (Tuesday NZT), Putin and Trump’s discussion of cyber security had taken up 40 minutes of their meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

“President Putin proposed creating a working group,” she said. “This does not mean it should start working immediately, virtually tomorrow.”

She added: “The main thing is, this matter was discussed, the United States is ready to consider cooperation in this sphere, and then we will see.

“Maybe this will be a working group, maybe this will be cooperation on the floor of the United Nations. But in any case, our two countries will need to discuss these questions. This is namely what the presidents agreed upon.” She said of the landmark talks between the two men in Hamburg: “Nobody, except the participants of that meeting, knows how that proposal was formulated and how President Trump reacted.”

But Trump seems to have changed his mind. He has at least changed his tune.

So why did he tweet what he did without qualification?

Why did Mnuchin and Haley defend and support his original tweet?

Why trust anything Trump tweets or says? His staff have been embarrassed by his changing ideas many times.