Tag: NATO

Join Jim and Greg as they welcome a new congressional map in New York that should give Republicans better chances to win more seats than the heavily gerrymandered version from Democrats that multiple courts have struck down. They’re also pleasantly surprised to see Russian President Vladimir Putin say Sweden and Finland joining NATO will not be seen as a direct threat to Russia. And Jim takes a deep dive into the skyrocketing cost of diesel fuel, what’s behind it, and what the consequences will be.

Join Jim and Chad as they analyze how China’s ‘zero-COVID’ strategy is having a tumultuous effect on it’s cities and economy. They also shake their heads at a new report that found as much as $80 billion was stolen from the Paycheck Protection Program. And in another press conference fumble, President Biden may have admitted that the U.S. is training Ukrainian troops in Poland.

NATO and Russia: A False Equivalence

 

One popular argument about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that Ukraine “had it coming” because of NATO expansion.  This is not a moral justification, and not a reason to consider Russia’s actions excusable or even reasonable.  This argument and its antecedents rest on a flawed equivalence between NATO and Russia, the “neo-USSR”.

The specifics of “not one inch eastward” are from a phone call between then-Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, and in a different context.  Even Gorbachev has said that this was not a binding agreement.  Naturally, Putin rejects this fact, as it is inconvenient to him.  So let us dispense with this “broken promise” rhetoric and focus on the qualitative difference between NATO, a voluntary defensive alliance against Russian expansion, and Russia, the expansive inheritor of the Soviet coercive prison-state.  There is no moral equivalence between the two systems, and forgetting that fact will lead to moral failures.

The Devil Made Him Do It?

 

Putin apologists and propagandists are channeling the late Flip Wilson, blaming NATO for Putin’s war against Ukraine. They’re ignoring a few things.

Those of a certain age may remember the late comedian Flip Wilson, who tragically died in 1998 at age 64 from cancer. He was the first successful black host of a television variety show in the early 1970s.

“Geraldine (Jones), with Wilson in wig, high heels and a colorful minidress, was perhaps his most famous character. Her spunky catchphrases “The devil made me do it” and “What you see is what you get!” became part of the national language,” CBS News described in announcing Wilson’s death.

Time for the West to Start Building Russia a ‘Golden Bridge’

 

As sanctions cripple the Russian economy and Ukraine bravely holds its own against Putin’s onslaught, it’s time for the West to prepare for a pivot. And they should do so by taking the advice of a 19th-century Russian general.

In 1812, Napoleon launched a full-scale invasion of the Russian empire, expecting a few big wins would force Czar Alexander I to capitulate. It had worked with other European leaders; should be wrapped up in a couple of months. But the old, obese, one-eyed General Mikhail Kutuzov had another idea.

As the invasion began, Napoleon took Smolensk, along with significant casualties. A victory nonetheless. He marched toward Moscow, adding far more French casualties (especially from disease). But he was still on the move. Kutusov and his generals heroically fought him at Borodino, about a day’s march from Russia’s old capital. They essentially fought the French to a draw in the bloodiest battle of the Napoleonic Wars, but surrendered the field and moved east of Moscow. A Pyrrhic victory for Napoleon, but technically a win.

Join Jim and Greg as they cover the rapid collapse of the Russian economy in the face of sanctions from the West. Due to the severity and rapid success of these sanctions, they also wonder if elongating them may provoke animosity toward the West within the Russian people. And despite the obvious benefits of American energy independence, White House officials like Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry continue to peddle “green energy”.

 

Join Jim and Chad as they cover the latest news on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They also are frustrated by the utter uselessness of sanctions against the Putin regime up to this point. And despite Russian malfeasance, NATO allies seem unwilling to respond in any substantial way.

Join Jim and Greg as they analyze a new  meta-study that finds COVID lockdowns were futile in preventing deaths. They exhale in relief as intercepted Russian military communications reveal a hesitancy on the part of some officials to launch a full scale invasion of Ukraine. And they criticize cowardly Republicans for allowing Democrats to gain an advantage in House of Representatives redistricting across the country.

 

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Remember when Trump offered the opinion that American debtpayers (my new word for taxpayers) shouldn’t be paying for the defense of Western Europe because wealthy countries like Germany weren’t coming close to paying their fair share? And remember how the Deep State and the Bush Republicans freaked out? “NATO is totes critical,  you guys. Of […]

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Vladimir Putin is a Russian leader, in the long line of the czars and their nominally communist successors. Calling him a KGB thug or using “tzar” as an epithet obscures the reality. Czar or tzar, a Russian ruler is a ruler in the context of Russian history and culture. Any czar worth his salt would […]

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Following are a series of links, excerpts, and brief comments relevant to the situation around Ukraine. We are getting a lot of smoke and fun house mirrors from politicians and pundits on all sides of the conflict. I went looking for sources, and here is a partial list. Ukrainian President to Western leaders and media: […]

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Trump’s Disruptive Foreign Policy

 

The following began its brief life as a comment on another recent post, but after reflection I thought maybe it was cogent enough to stand on its own. On the foreign policy front, I suspect I may be the only one here who has served in Embassies, including during the Trump era. This is what I will say about that.

  1. I’m sure I won’t break any news when I say that most of the foreign policy establishment leans left and is distressed when any Republican is elected but was especially so in 2016. This is not only true of our dear State Department friends but across the entire transnational community of foreign policy elites.
  2. Continuing as Captain Obvious, DJT is a norm-breaker, and the foreign policy community seriously loves it some norms–and resents when they are broken.
  3. Of course, some norms badly needed to be broken. In particular, the national and international foreign policy consensus on China urgently needed to move, and this administration succeeded in catalyzing that movement. The 2017 National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy were masterfully done. They met a critical need to generate a global awakening about the failure of the previous consensus on Beijing, probably best summarized by Robert Zoellick’s 2005 “Responsible Stakeholder” speech. Someone had to end the charade, and it’s worth wondering whether a more conventional administration of either party could have overcome the entrenched consensus to have boldly introduced major-power competition as the new normal–so successfully that even the professionals now agree that we can’t go back to the status quo ante on China.
  4. Israel and the Middle East is the other major area where the foreign policy consensus simply had to be sidelined. I recently spoke to a State Department official who–in the context of a discussion about normalization with the UAE and Bahrain–seethed angrily about how this Administration had trashed 70 years of foreign policy consensus on Palestine. Without irony. Sometimes the conventional wisdom must be firmly rejected.
  5. Getting our allies to finally invest in their own defense is also a plus.
  6. Having said that, we are paying a price for appearing capricious and unnecessarily dismissive of our allies. Sure, they can be difficult, but they remain our allies and we do need to keep them on our side. Those same national security documents make it clear that major-power competition is a team sport, and we have to bring the team along if we’re going to win. And we must win.
  7. Also, the incessantly revolving door of senior officials (especially SecDefs and National Security Advisors) has been extremely disruptive to getting important work done in the international space.
  8. Finally, there’s been a dearth of consistently strong and vocal leadership on our American principles (democracy, rule of law, human rights, etc.), particularly since Nikki Haley stepped down as U.N. Ambassador. Foreign policy requires salesmanship, and ours would benefit from some strength, steadiness, and consistency on these themes.

Bottom line, this administration has served as a corrective to some badly flawed policy. Disruption was absolutely necessary, but at some point should start to give way to stability and focused team-building.

Real Leadership, Real Statesmanship: President Trump at NATO

 

Trump and StoltenbergWhile lots of us engage in the guilty pleasure of watching selective clips of our favorite Congressional actors in the latest kabuki theater, we might profit more from considering some of the sights and sounds coming from the NATO 70th anniversary meeting of heads of state. I especially invite your attention to two official videos, one of President Trump meeting before the press with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and the other of the “2 Percenters” lunch meeting. Relevant excerpts from the transcripts appear below.*

Watch two mature adults have a real discussion before a real press corps. Notice that President Trump is defending NATO as a useful vehicle for the mutual defense of nations’ interests. Consider that Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is the former Prime Minister of Norway, not a career eurocrat. Listen to both men deal carefully with both the nature of threats and the natural disagreements even among friendly nations, where each nation operates from its own interests. President Trump says: “I love that you say that NATO is changing as the world is changing.” See Stoltenberg emphasis that NATO members have (under pressure from President Trump) made over 100 billion dollars worth of increases in military defense spending. Watch both men address the challenges of both China and Islamist terrorism.

Coming from a position of renewed resolve, shown in increased military defense spending, President Trump and the NATO Secretary-General both say that talking with Russia is important. President Trump may have made news at the end of the meeting with his confirmation that there is mutual interest in a new arms control agreement including not only Russia but also China. Secretary-General Stoltenberg affirmed that President Trump was right to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, because Russia violated it and we cannot have meaningful agreements where one party violates the terms. President Trump then coolly laid out the prospect of a new deal that addresses current realities, including the newest ICBM and high speed cruise missile forces in China.

“Interagency Consensus” DIME Not Worth a Plugged Nickel on NATO

 

NATO at 70Everyone in the vaunted “interagency,” is well aware of the concept of the instruments of national power. The old Army War College acronym is “DIME,” for diplomatic, informational, military, and economic tools. You will notice that each tends to rest primarily in different departments, different agencies in the “interagency.” This would be why you need multiple agencies to coordinate rather than always operating “in their own lane.”

Just as Madison Avenue is best at selling Madison Avenue, so too the permanent bureaucracy and its affiliates, allies, patrons, and petitioners all affirm competent and selfless expertise in the face of all evidence. Indeed, the reverence for the “foreign policy consensus” evokes the British Parliament’s ritual prostration before the NHS. Thank God that we finally have a president who feels no such compulsion, the first such since Ronald Reagan.

H.R. McMasters showed real professionalism in his honchoing of President Trump’s National Security Strategy. He actually ensured the “interagency” worked to produce a coordinated draft that conformed to the Commander in Chief’s clear intent, where “ commander’s intent” is a military term of art for guidance that must be fully supported. This baseline document was actually published within the first year of President Trump’s administration.

Truth and Lies About Ukraine

 

Ukraine in context mapWe were repeatedly treated to lies about Ukraine during the first week of the Democrats’ congressional clown show “impeachment inquiry.” The central lie was that Ukraine was a key security partner against Russia for many years. It is a lie that Ukraine has ever been a key security partner and it is a further lie that Ukraine has been the focus of US policy intended to check Russian re-expansion. Everyone knows this, you know this, at least in your gut. Here are the facts, which do not care about anyone’s feelings:

1991: Ukraine votes for and declares independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist States. Ukraine has over 1,000 nuclear warheads, allegedly without the control and arming codes, but with significant technical knowledge in-house. Weeks before the independence vote, President George H.W. Bush delivers an infamous speech in Kiev, written by Russia and Eastern Europe expert Condoleezza Rice, in which he warned about “suicidal nationalism.” William Safire branded this the “Chicken Kiev speech.” Bush feared that small states declaring their independence would provoke the Russian population, destabilizing the supposedly democratizing new Russia.

The elder President Bush’s most memorable foreign-policy blunder took place in Kiev in 1991, then under Communist rule. With the Soviet Union coming apart, the U.S. president — badly advised by the stability-obsessed “realist” Brent Scowcroft — made a speech urging Ukrainians yearning for independence to beware of “suicidal nationalism.” His speech, which he now insists meant only “not so fast,” was widely taken as advice to remain loyal to Moscow’s empire.

Turkish Trick or Treat?

 

A young veteran reminded me of the truly ancient roots of conflict in the Middle East, pointing to lines we do not even see on the sand and soil. This prompted me to return to a summary sketch I laid aside months ago, after fleshing out an account of what we now call Iran. Then the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution condemning the Ottoman Empire for committing the first genocide of the 20th Century…and 12 Republicans joined Rep. Ilhan Omar in opposing the resolution! What? Why? What follows is a single summary of the other three big players, historically, now known as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Iran and Egypt can point to the most ancient civilizations, as their progenitors were contemporary regional powers. The clash between them was captured in the ancient Hebrew texts, as the Jewish people were caught in the middle. Saudi Arabia comes next, with claims to punching far above their weight with armies fired by the fervor of a new faith, and more recently of being the secular and religious guardians of the faith. Finally, the Turks can claim to have been the most successful and latest power to rule the region for centuries after imposing final defeat on the (Christian) Eastern Roman empire.

Saudi Arabia:

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are happy to see Vice President Pence laud our NATO partners for contributing more to the common defense and building greater cohesion while also calling out Turkey for its troubling embrace of Russia and a more Islamist outlook on the world.  They also welcome the March jobs report, which shows greater gains than expected and is a major improvement from February.  And they discuss West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin openly longing to run for governor in 2020.

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Matt Schoenfeldt and Wyatt Harper are joined by British Army Officer, Dave Calder. Dave walks us through his NATO deployment to Estonia and helps us understand the role NATO is playing in the Baltics. He also shares with us a unique project he is working on at the British Staff Course. Follow us on iTunes […]

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U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Iran Sanctions Snapback, America’s Energy Competition with Russia in the EU, Chancellor Merkel U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell occupies one of the most critical positions in American diplomacy, not only because Germany represents the EU’s largest economy and has disproportionate influence on the continent, but because of […]

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