AMERICA MADE SMALL AND THE WORLD MORE DANGEROUS! THE TRUMP AND BANNON WAR ON AMERICAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP.

 

AMERICA MADE SMALL AND THE WORLD MORE DANGEROUS!

THE TRUMP AND BANNON WAR ON AMERICAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP.

By

Harry C. Blaney III

DATELINE: LONDON

Donald Trump’s recent budget is an attack on America’s vital role in ensuring global security, prosperity, and continued cooperation with the rest of the 94% of humanity. Trump’s budget is nasty, myopic and downright dangerous to America and the rest of the world.

It will make not “America Great” it will make America Small” isolated and weaker in every metric that matters. It would make the world more dangerous both for itself and for all. It would undermine world peace and create greater risks and insecurity for mankind.

Their budget which cuts at home and abroad programs that have proved their worth for decades are derided by Trump and his new clueless and far right OMB Director. They have chosen again and again at home and abroad to cut our most needed and vital programs that help humanity, advance shared prosperity, and protect security while further enriching the extremely rich and increasing inequality. They advance polices that promote narrow and dangerous war like programs and rhetoric along with new weapons systems that only enrich the military-industrial sector and it’ s executives, but do not really advance our security, or work for a more peaceful world, just the opposite.

On specific implications, these deep nearly 30% cuts eviscerate our diplomacy, foreign assistance, the United Nations and its vital bodies and programs that maintain international cohesion necessary for needed collaboration to solve our global challenges. Together they help safeguard our fragile and conflict ridden world. They safeguard vulnerable refugees, they feed the desperate poor and children who otherwise would have no hope for health or even life. They advance non-proliferation of dangerous nuclear weapon. And yes, their work is relevant and needed. It does good where most needed. The proposed immanent cuts will bring disastrous impact especially on the most vulnerable and even in my native Manhattan and beloved London, let alone to billions of others in less prosperous lands!

Through our State and USAID programs we save millions of lives and I have seen personally the good they do around the world. The lives of our most threatened populations and the poorest in the world would die without our full assistance bilaterally and through international organizations.

The Trump budget would totally cut funding, for the UNHCR, and greatly reduce payments to UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and World Food Organization programs that are the first line of protection for the millions of refugees and displaced persons fleeing from conflict, famine, and natural disasters. This would increase not decrease the growth of conflict and terrorism that Trump says he will conquer.

We can’t defeat ISIS or religious, ethnic or inter-communal conflict by just bombing and killing or denigrating a religion or ethnic groups. But we can through diplomacy and “soft power” including a show of concern and support for “the least among us.”

Trump’s policies and budget cuts call for just the opposite of what we need to win against our greatest threats and to protect our nation’s values. This trajectory must be stopped and immediately before it does total harm to the fabric of a responsive and cooperative international community and global security.
I am now in London and can attest to the dismay from our closest ally and even a sense of a deep alienation from Trump’s policies. The TV screens here are filled with the unhappy meeting of Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House which was seen here as not helping convince Europeans and specifically the British, that Trump cares for the unity of the West. This includes seeing the EU, and specifically NATO as vital interests, despite of some reassurances, as binding long-term unquestioned commitments especially in times of possible conflict. The sense is that many Western leaders can’t depend on Trump’s words or that of his officials, has given a deep chill and anxiety to our European partners. That sense has never existed in the decades I have been active as a diplomat and analyst with concentration on these issues.

Cruelty and indifference to human suffering or to authoritarian rule are not American values either at home or abroad. Yet these attributes  appear from his actions as unquestionable values of Trump and his alter ego Stephen Bannon, and it appears most of the GOP in Congress. Even in my still early encounters here in London the view of Trump is one of fear and worried.

. More on this development in coming posts.

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NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There seems to be no act by Donald Trump that does not endanger American and global security. We had the undermining of the EU and NATO, the beating up on America’s allies, and the threat to tear up the Iran nuclear and not least the still unknown relationship between Trump and Putin with overtones of selling out to Putin and rewarding him for helping in Trump’s election.  But in the most recent words by Trump in an interview Thursday, he said he thought an arms control treaty with Russia is a “bad deal” and that the United States should build up its nuclear arsenal to be the “top of the pack.” This, is my top pick of dangerous acts by this clearly clueless man on issues of war and nuclear matters.

As every knowledgeable person knows the American nuclear arsenal and capability tops that of any other nation on this earth and has for a long time. Our nuclear weapons can destroy much of the world almost instantaneously. Much of that nuclear capability is deployed in essentially invulnerable American ballistic missile submarines. That is why there is no reason for us to add to them or try to “modernize nukes” them beyond basic maintenance and safekeeping.

Contrary to Trump’s call for added military expenditure just adds to the overwhelming resources and war fighting capability we already have over either Russia or China. Any conflict with them would be as they use to say MAD –mutual assured destruction. That means they should never be used in any circumstance and their existence is purely as deterrence.

American experts and our allies know that a new arms race would not be to the interest of any nation either friend or potential foe. But now both Russia under Putin and Trump seem to not understand the importance to our security of past and present arms control treaties and agreements. The last was the New START treaty between America and Russia which capped the number of nuclear warheads by both nations. And under the Non-proliferation Treaty we and other nuclear nations are bound and promised to work toward elimination of these weapons. The treaty’s aim by this promise is to stop other nations from building their own nuclear weapons. Top leaders, Secretaries of State and Defense, etc. with great experience on nuclear issues, Republicans and Democrats have called for their eventual and timely elimination, known as “going to zero.” A worthy cause but requires all to moderate their own ambitions and work very hard on a true mutual reduction accompanied by other safeguards to ensure security for all nations.

US and Russian escalation of these weapons would undermine greatly the incentive of others to forgo their own weapons. Trump’s words and actions so far have only given other nation reasons to be frightened,  uncertain of our support, or  go alone in developing these weapons. The end being a world of chaos and destruction which Trump for some reason seems to relish.

What is at work in Trump mind or his real goals? Is it an initiative, not of gaining good and fair arms control agreements and seeking confidence building measures bringing security for the world population that make us all safer, or is it Trump’s chaos theory at work of unlimited and high risk blindness to an “arms race” that itself is massively dangerous?
What is needed is less such weapons, better training and practical equipment to ensure American defense, support of our allies, and safety of our people in the world we have today. We need not more money in weapons with no purpose in our time but the near elimination of humanity and global civilization.

Trump in this field has continue his exaggerations and reinforced his habitual lies in claiming the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” There is NO nation on earth that can match America’s modern nuclear force or for that matter conventional war fighting and the safeguarding of our nation. To say otherwise is to deceive out people, waste our needed resources for building back our civilian infrastructure, ensuring our children get the best education in the world, and protecting our environment, not least addressing the massive threat of climate change.

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AN ASSESSMENT OF 2016 CAMPAIGN AND ITS GLOBAL AND SECURITY IMPLICATIONS

By Harry C. Blaney III

Looking back on this election day there are several basic assessment one can make in terms of the debate and its foreign affairs and national security implications.

The first impression is that there was too little real serious debate about the reality of the challenges we faced around the world and exactly how we should manage our policies and engagement with others. The most serious statements were clearly made by Hillary Clinton which is not surprising given her service as Secretary of State and a one time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and being in the White House for 8 years. The other assessment sadly is the complete ignorance and even destructive approaches and utterances of Donald Trump which not only exposed his lack of fitness for any serious public office let alone Commander-in-chief, but also that he has already before this election diminished the faith and respect of America abroad among those that have been paying any attention to our presidential campaign.

The second impression is that while not the highlight of most of the debates, foreign affairs was a topic that had more space than in earlier presidential elections when we were not directly at war. Those debates and some key statement by the candidates showed a wide divide between Clinton and Trump. They were wider than ever seen before and bordered in some cases to the absurd –  like building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, praising Putin by Trump, declaring that our defense of our NATO and other allies would depend on their “payments” for defense. Not least in this area was Trump’s praise of the worst dictators on the face of the earth.  Much of this, like his absurd domestic statements, did little to dent his popularity among his adherents but caused fear to most of the world.

The third impression, follows from the second impression, that is we have a massive job of educating our citizens and our students about the world beyond our borders. This is seen most obviously on issues of existential dangers on a global scale like nuclear weapons and climate change.  Here the refusal of Trump and most Republicans to accept that our climate is changing and that it is due to human intervention, but indeed he advocated for policies which will hasten catastrophic impacts on most of the earth’s surface in the lifetime of those living. We have already seen many areas that are paying heavily a price in terms of weather disasters. There are even some U.S. states that are discouraging information to their citizens of the reality of this risk. This must change no mater who wins this election.

The second area of nuclear weapons clearly did not resonate enough with our citizens even as polls showed people concerned about them. Too many ignored the obvious conclusion that Trump would put the entire globe at mortal risk with his threat to use them and our military in a cavalier manner including suggesting that other nations might like to have them! Nuclear nonproliferation has been a keystone in our efforts to make sure these weapons are never used.  His positions could spur unneeded arms races.  His lack of even being attentive to or desiring to learn about hard complex strategic issues and a lack of sane character or temperament which such a large responsibility requires is abundantly manifest.  Further, the media on both these issues and others was clearly derelict to press deeply either Trump or Clinton on these issues or analyze the difference between them.

The basic conclusion is clearly we are near an historical and societal crisis tipping point at home and abroad with this election no matter who will win.  In a world of enormous high risks that need urgent attention the Republicans mindlessly have in effect said they would oppose almost anything that Clinton would propose domestically or in foreign affairs. Should Trump win, we are in for undermining the confidence of our allies including NATO, likely encouraging Putin to press his aggression even harder, giving leeway the most dictatorial and ruthless rulers around the world, alienating our relations with Mexico, and creating a trade war with most of the world. The list goes on.

Clinton, if she would win, will be faced with horrendous set of domestic and international challenges. But at least she knows them, is smart, and is more likely to search cooperatively with other nations and international organizations to seek solutions and reduce strategic risks and cement our alliances. She has a history on human rights especially women and children’s rights which always need attention. We can also expect her attention to the global trend toward even greater inequality which has spurred so much upheavals and conflicts around the world and is unlikely to be a concern in a Trump presidency.

Tonight Americans will be watching their TV, or other devices, with no small amount of tension and much apprehension about the results. But around the world there will be equal fears and doubts about the future of our globe and its prosperity and security over the outcome. Despite all words to the contrary, America remains still the major lead actor for addressing our many critical global challenges. Obama has already proved, despite all the opposition by the Republicans, that America is “great” with his Iran nuclear agreement, the Paris Climate Change Agreement, his nuclear arms limitation New START 2011 treaty agreement, and not least, helping to rescue our global recession from total disaster, and bringing new respect for America around the world. Now the question is who will best follow him and do likewise and hopefully be as wise?

One thing is clear: we can not and should not be estranged from the rest of the world!

Stay tuned, after the election we will do an analysis of what a new administration will look like and its impact at home and abroad, as well as likely our engagement around the world!

We welcome your comments!

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American-Russian Cooperation: The Lynchpin to Effective Nuclear Nonproliferation

By John Gall

               This month has been marked by Russia’s decision to withdraw from a plutonium disposal agreement and a uranium research agreement with the United States in response to the American end of bilateral efforts in Syria. These actions continue a trend of Russia stepping away from nonproliferation activities with the United States. Earlier this year, Russia argued that its decision to not attend the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington was based on concerns that hosting countries received an unfair advantage against dissenting opinions. However, such a reason may simply be a convenient excuse to not commit to nuclear material reductions. Regardless, in order to effectively combat the spread of nuclear arms to more countries and dangerous non-state actors, Russian involvement is essential in both bilateral action with the United States and collaboration with the international community.

               As the two states with the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, the United States and Russia have the greatest capacity, and arguably obligation, to lead the global effort against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the partnership of these nations was crucial in deterring the threat of proliferation by dismantling the weapon stockpiles and securing the fissile materials within the other former Soviet states. Recent cooperation was initially successful, as the Obama administration’s ‘Reset on Russia’ produced the New START treaty in 2010. However, the increasingly hostile relations between Russia and the United States resulted in the cancellation of multiple nuclear cooperation agreements and caused the current halt to any future arms-reductions negotiations.

            The strain placed on the American-Russian relationship by the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine by Russia in 2014 and competing interests in the Syrian civil war are well known and impacted tensions in the bilateral relationship. Nevertheless Russia’s deteriorating nuclear collaboration also warrants serious concern.

            The 2013 reworking of the Nunn-Lugar agreement scaled back inspections of nuclear weapon and fissile material storage facilities. With the Russian economy suffering from low world fuel prices and economic sanctions, there are doubts that it can ensure the security of its radioactive material and less international oversight of these facilities raises the risk of undetected smuggling activity.

            Nuclear modernization efforts from both sides have also created a sense of competition rather than cooperation. The United States current modernization plan calls for an estimated $1 trillion over the next thirty years. Russia’s announced modernization efforts are part of a broad military buildup by Putin to project national strength and as a response to American innovations in missile defense systems. Although these efforts won’t change the number of nuclear weapons each of the two countries have, a sense of an arms race may deter future efforts to negotiate additional arms reduction treaties.

            But the development that could inhibit nonproliferation efforts the most would be the lack of arms reduction negotiations since the New START Treaty was signed and ratified half a decade ago. As the owners of the two largest nuclear stockpiles in the world, arms reductions send a signal to the other nuclear states of their commitment to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons; an important message to send to deter other growing stockpiles or aspiring weapon programs. One would think the fiscal costs of modernization would be an incentive to further reduce stockpiles, but the current icy relations between the US and Russia have put a halt to any potential talks.

            It would be disingenuous to claim that Russia has been absent in recent
nonproliferation efforts, as Moscow has played a crucial role in the negotiation and implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. As a member of the P5+1 negotiations, Russia agreed to take Iran’s low-enriched uranium as part of the state’s obligations to drastically reduce its enrichment ability. Russia and Iran’s previous nuclear fuel dealings gave the five permanent security council members and Germany some diplomatic goodwill to reach a deal. The JCPA was an important achievement in worldwide nonproliferation efforts, and while it’s currently a fragile success, it does show that Russia is willing to contribute in some ways to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

            A lack of cooperation with Russia may not harm the United States’ nonproliferation efforts in some cases, when a more suitable nuclear power partner may be better suited. In the case of North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, China has an exceptional amount of leverage, but not yet willing to fully use it for fear of North Korea instability. The DPRK is economically dependent on official and illicit trade with its neighbor to the north and if China exerts new pressure on North Korea, a breakthrough might be reached where previous sanctions from the international community failed. Russia was involved in the six party talks that previously attempted to curb North Korea’s nuclear efforts and may do so in future negotiations. However, success in this major challenge won’t rely on the United States’ relationship with Moscow, but rather Beijing.

            The growing diplomatic distance between the United States and Russia doesn’t jeopardize all international non-proliferation efforts, but it does seriously hinder many worthwhile bilateral efforts. Even if the two governments refuse to work together on major projects such as new arms reduction treaties, some thawing could take place through third channel talks between respective academics. Smaller obligations, such as the return of bilateral inspections, could improve rapport between the two states on at least this crucial policy sector. Unfortunately, if such possible routes aren’t viable, American and Russia non-proliferation activity may be limited to multilateral methods until changes in national leadership occur. In the mean time, a major concern is that such an arms race could lead to taking higher risks from both sides from miscalculation, misjudgment, and high risk behavior.

          

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The First Clinton-Trump Debate; National Security Or Insecurity?

By Harry C. Blaney III and John Gall

Image result for 1st Presidential Debate

There were “crimes” committed during and after the shambles of a debate. This was a debate where the realities of the global security landscape were given the same lies and distortions as in the domestic side with Trump’s crude remarks, evident lies, and even stupidities. But in the international and security side, words do matter and our allies and our adversaries are listening and look on in wonder.

Yet the one similarity between the domestic and security side was the avoidance of facts and understanding of the implications of proposed policies.  Those were kind words for what were in reality ignorant sound-bites, lies, and distortion. Trump  demonstrated no comprehension of the dangers and catastrophic consequences of not just his statements as a candidate now, but of his likely action should he become president. His statements about nuclear weapons, his Middle East policies including his earlier anti-Muslim rants, stance on Israeli-Palestinian peace, and not least building a wall on our Mexican border and rolling back our advances in climate change, Cuban relations, and the Iran nuclear deal are just examples of a mind gone wacky.

After the debate the press followed Trump and gave him a billion dollars worth of advertising to push his views and with more lies with no fact check but not showing Clinton’s people in a equal level. It was a big misjudgment and sadly not surprising. The media crowd following Trump was after not substance but rather wanted a piece of a celebrity and TV eyeballs of a person who just moments ago said more lies and displayed much ignorance of the basic facts of our global world and its many challenges.

Yes, there could have been a more detailed and deep set of questions and answers from both Trump and Clinton, but the difference between her and Trump was as they say “legion.” That Trump was out of his depth, which was clear to all, including many Republicans in their reactions and the fact that after the debate many traditional Republican newspapers endorsed Clinton rather than Trump.

We have focused in this post below on some specific areas dealing with national security and foreign affairs with candidate quotes and commentary.

DEFEAT OF ISIS:

Clinton- ” I have put forth a plan to defeat ISIS. It does involve going after them online. I think we need to do much more with our tech companies to prevent ISIS and their operatives from being able to use the Internet to radicalize, even direct people in our country and Europe and elsewhere.  But we also have to intensify our air strikes against ISIS and eventually support our Arab and Kurdish partners to be able to actually take out ISIS in Raqqa, end their claim of being a Caliphate.” … ” But it’s like his plan to defeat ISIS. He says it’s a secret plan, but the only secret is that he has no plan.”

Trump – “But they wouldn’t have even been formed if they left some troops behind, like 10,000 or maybe something more than that. And then you wouldn’t have had them.  Or, as I’ve been saying for a long time, and I think you’ll agree, because I said it to you once, had we taken the oil — and we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form either, because the oil was their primary source of income. And now they have the oil all over the place, including the oil — a lot of the oil in Libya, which was another one of her disasters.” .. ” But I will tell you that Hillary will tell you to go to her website and read all about how to defeat ISIS, which she could have defeated by never having it, you know, get going in the first place. Right now, it’s getting tougher and tougher to defeat them, because they’re in more and more places, more and more states, more and more nations.”

Commentary: Trump repeats some of his past scripted statements but no plan. Clinton does talk about use of “air strikes” and other support which is largely the Obama administration’s consensus of what they can do to defeat ISIS without putting more on the ground combat forces which would only put them in deadly danger in areas and landscape we know little about and where our strategy seems to be garnering gradual results.

ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS (AND A BIT ON OUR ALLIES AND GLOBAL WARMING):

Clinton- ” … of what we heard Donald say has been about nuclear weapons. He has said repeatedly that he didn’t care if other nations got nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia. It has been the policy of the United States, Democrats and Republicans, to do everything we could to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He even said, well, you know, if there were nuclear war in East Asia, well, you know, that’s fine… And, in fact, his cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling. That is the number-one threat we face in the world. And it becomes particularly threatening if terrorists ever get their hands on any nuclear material. So a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes, as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned.”

Trump- ” The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you think and your — your president thinks.  Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune.” … ” But Russia has been expanding their — they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint. We are not — we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike.  And [Iran is] going to end up getting nuclear. I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day. Believe me, he’s not a happy camper.”

COMMENTARY: It is clear that an unbalanced and “cavalier” man should not have the nuclear codes and cause the destruction of the globe’s civilizations. The question of a nuclear first strike, an issue I have been following for decades, is one of great importance and sensitivity, none of which is shown by Trump. At the moment our policy, supported by the military, is to leave open the first use issue, but our policy must be not to do so in any conflict case that is likely short of immediate certain knowledge of nuclear weapons being used against us.

ON CYBERWARFARE:

Clinton – “But increasingly, we are seeing cyber attacks coming from states, organs of states. The most recent and troubling of these has been Russia. There’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyber attacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really… tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee…And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information.”

Trump – ” As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?… So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. …. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.”

COMMENTARY: Although both candidates agree on the growing danger posed by cyberwarfare, neither side presented any tangible policy suggestions to address the challenge. Clinton used the question to cite the DNC cyber attack and once again Trump took the bait to shield any hint of Russian involvement, despite US intelligence sources stating with certainty that the attack came from Russia. It’s surprising that Trump didn’t use the topic of cyberwarfare to take more potshots on Clinton’s email scandal, but that could be credited to the Republican candidate’s lack of preparation and at this point in the debate he was on full tilt.

ON NATO AND OUR ALLIES:

Trump – ” Number one, the 28 countries of NATO, many of them aren’t paying their fair share. And, number two, I said, and very strongly, NATO could be obsolete, because… they do not focus on terror. And about four months ago, I read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal that NATO is opening up a major terror division. And I think that’s great…. And that was — believe me — I’m sure I’m not going to get credit for it — but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO.”

Clinton- ” You know, NATO as a military alliance has something called Article 5, and basically it says this: An attack on one is an attack on all. And you know the only time it’s ever been invoked? After 9/11, when the 28 nations of NATO said that they would go to Afghanistan with us to fight terrorism, something that they still are doing by our side.”

Clinton – ” Well, let me — let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.  It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.”

Trump – ” And it’s a big problem. And as far as Japan is concerned, I want to help all of our allies, but we are losing billions and billions of dollars. We cannot be the policemen of the world. We cannot protect countries all over the world…”

COMMENTARY: One of the most divisive and harmful statements Trump has made was his questioning our NATO alliance, especially when it is under threat from Russia on many fronts and our Europe allies need encouragement rather than blind and short-sighted nasty criticism. Putin must be delighted and Trump seems even to encourage Russian aggression.  A dangerous mix.  The same must be said of our other allies especially in Asia given what was not debated, the threat of North Korea and how to deal with it diplomatically.

ON IRAN:

Trump – ” But you look at the Middle East, you started the Iran deal, that’s another beauty where you have a country that was ready to fall, I mean, they were doing so badly. They were choking on the sanctions. And now they’re going to be actually probably a major power at some point pretty soon, the way they’re going… One of the great giveaways of all time, of all time, including $400 million in cash. Nobody’s ever seen that before. That turned out to be wrong. It was actually $1.7 billion in cash, obviously, I guess for the hostages. It certainly looks that way… The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems. All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don’t have to do much.”

Clinton- ” With respect to Iran, when I became secretary of state, Iran was weeks away from having enough nuclear material to form a bomb. They had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle under the Bush administration. They had built covert facilities. They had stocked them with centrifuges that were whirling away.  And we did drive them to the negotiating table. And my successor, John Kerry, and President Obama got a deal that put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot. That’s diplomacy. And we had sanctioned them. I voted for every sanction against Iran when I was in the Senate, but it wasn’t enough.  The other day, I saw Donald saying that there were some Iranian sailors on a ship in the waters off of Iran, and they were taunting American sailors who were on a nearby ship. He said, you know, if they taunted our sailors, I’d blow them out of the water and start another war. That’s not good judgment.  And Donald never tells you what he would do. Would he have started a war? Would he have bombed Iran? If he’s going to criticize a deal that has been very successful in giving us access to Iranian facilities that we never had before, then he should tell us what his alternative would be. “

COMMENTARY: One can’t go beyond Clinton’s critique of the consequences of Trump’s approach to Iran. Except that it underplayed Trump’s true dangers to our national security interests and how to deal with major crisis situations.

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THE STRATEGIC PARADOX OF AMERICAN & RUSSIAN CONFRONTATION

THE STRATEGIC PARADOX OF AMERICAN & RUSSIAN CONFRONTATION

By: Harry C. Blaney III

20120618-putin

Photo via the White House


In my look at the global landscape for 2016, I addressed the critical issue of the future of US-Russian relations in a section titled “Russia:  A Disaster in Waiting.”  I promised to look again at this question over the course of the year and focus on key risks and opportunities while also adding a bit to a possible long-term “grand strategic perspective.”

I began the section dealing with American-Russian relations with the following:

“If it is true that President Putin’s game is enhancing his and Russia’s strategic and geopolitical standing and he wants to be seen as a major international power, he will be seriously disappointed.  If his game is to make “mock war” with the West, this path and this goal lies in failure and possibly mutual calamity….. If it is to be a responsible state looking to help peacemaking and constructively dealing with the many global challenges we face, he can win that game for Russia’s long term interests.”

The question underlining my analysis was does Putin prefer a “win-win” outcome or a “zero sum game.”  The other issue, which is an unanswerable question, is whether or not Putin is seeking to be a military equal and aggressive global power, or even to intimidate the United State or Europe?  Is he seeking to create regional hegemony along the lines of the old Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact – what are described by Russians as the “near abroad” nations and those over which Putin believes Russia should hold sway.

On the other side, is Putin simply on a the path of irrational conflict with the “West” and in particular America due to both his distaste of the fall of the Soviet Union and his need for political survival?  By creating an external “enemy,” Putin wants to keep his authoritarian regime not only in power but totally dominating all of Russian society.  It was the model under Stalin.  Indeed, as some observes have speculated, is he simply somewhat “mad” and a prisoner of his own “idée fixe.’

Putin has developed, absent a largely discarded Marxism, an attitude that induces hatred of the West and Western democratic culture while at the same time reigniting extreme Russian nationalism and xenophobic emotions.  These are tactics used by Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, some of the modern European far right groups like The Alternative for Germany and Le Pen’s National Front , in growing authoritarian countries like Egypt and Turkey, and now in the U.S. by Trump.

Within the cadre of Russian scholars and watchers, there appears to be two schools of perception about the nature of the rise of “Putinism” and its goals as well as what the stance the West – in particular the U.S. – should be.

In one group we find the largely discredited Neo-Cons, the ideological militaristic “super-hawks” of several stripes who believe that war is the only answer.  Included in this category are the Republican adherents to the cries of our ever-greedy “military-industrial complex” as President Eisenhower put it and those who simply adhere thoughtlessly to the cry of American dominance.  They leech onto, as I have said, to the Cold War argument that Russia is “ten feet tall.”  This group believes that there is no real accommodation we can make with Putin and that conflict of some kind is largely inevitable.

On the other side, there are those who think that the “bogeyman” image of Russia is overdone and that we can live in peace with Russia by giving Putin much of what he wants in his “sphere of influence.”  They hold to the theory that this will calm his lust for aggression and revenge.  In particular, they feel that the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe was and continues to be wrong.  Some hold that we do not need to fear a Russian rise of power, and that a reasonable accommodation with Putin is not only possible but also desirable for global peace.

Let me be clear I have set deliberately up some straw men/women to make a general and I think valid point about the how different groups want to deal with Russia and its actions. Frankly, neither school is completely right and neither is completely wrong, and history will largely judge and provide some fair assessment of this strategic question.

Part of our problem is that these two “right-wing and “left wing” assessments alone cannot be a good long-term strategy for dealing with Russia that we see today because of their rigid nature. Each side selects their own “facts” to paraphrase my old boss Pat Moynihan. And thus each is a prisoner of a narrow prism that seems not to include the full reality of the Russian condition and landscape and its threats and opportunities.

So what should be the strategy of the rest of the world towards the challenge that Putin has clearly laid down in the last few years?

The short answer is we must employ a variety of tools to deal with a very dangerous, complex, and highly unpredictable adversary.  The larger goal is to avoid a war and to prevent/deter Russia from acting in ways that would necessitate military conflict.  We need also to protect our allies from attacks and invasions.  Most importantly, over the long run we need to provide significant incentives that create an environment in which Russia will perceive that cooperation with the West is in its fundamental long-term interest given recognition of their restricted and moribund economy compared to our own growing strength.

An upcoming post will give more details on how this might be done and what policies and strategies – diplomatic, economic, and military – might bring this “win-win” outcome to fruition.  But it will take great unity and capacity among the West to make sure our democratic nations remain strong, grow, and are seen by Russians as a better model for their own society.

We welcome your comments!

 

TRUMP AND MORTAL DANGER TO OUR NATION AND WORLD: CRITIQUE AND ANALYSIS

TRUMP AND MORTAL DANGER TO OUR NATION AND WORLD: CRITIQUE AND ANALYSIS

By: Harry C. Blaney III

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Courtesy Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

“The countries in our world, our beautiful world, have been absolutely abusing us and taking advantage of us…So if they’re rattled in a friendly way, we’re gonna have great relationships with these countries. But if they’re rattled in a friendly way, that’s a good thing.” – Donald Trump, Press Conference in Bismarck, ND, May 26, 2016

“It’s clear he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. So we can’t be certain which of these things he would do. But we can be certain that he’s capable of doing any or all of them. Letting ISIS run wild. Launching a nuclear attack. Starting a ground war. These are all distinct possibilities with Donald Trump in charge.” – Hillary Clinton, Speech in San Diego, CA, June 2, 2016.  See full text here.

One of the main issues that needs greater examination and attention in this campaign, not just by professionals but also by every citizen, is the issue of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, the entire world should have an interest in what Donald Trump might do as president. Could he begin a nuclear winter with a foolish nuclear exchange that would wipe out much of humanity around the world also? It is crystal clear that Trump’s temperament and inexperience could make him a bomb waiting to go off, as exemplified by the cartoon at the top on this post.

His positions not only on nuclear weapons and their role are at best absurd and at worst in the realm of the preposterous and irrational. Beyond the specific view of nuclear weapons in their traditional strategic role as deterrence, Trump has moved to the imbecilic level of seeing them as a viable threat or bullying tool, and even has proposed that other nations – like Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia – have these weapons (though he has more recently walked back these statements). For decades, the leading nations and most of the world have worked to keep these weapons in check with reductions, confidence building measures, early warnings, and arms control agreements and efforts that move to their eventual elimination.

The problem is compounded by Trump’s total ignorance, not just of the national security and foreign policy issues of the most gravity, but also of anything other than how to get others to fund his construction projects, other efforts and schemes like Trump University, and degrading others.  The other concern has to be his temperament and his congenital habit of lying or just eschewing factual accuracy, which shows a total disregard of truth, rationality, and respect for decency.

Hillary’s speech on June 2nd says much of what needs to be said. She went as far as to say that: “Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies…This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes – because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin. We cannot put the security of our children and grandchildren in Donald Trump’s hands. We cannot let him roll the dice with America.” The problem she has – and we all do – is how to get the average citizen to grasp how serious it is to our security to have a man like Trump, who has implied that he would bully our allies while admiring our authoritarian adversaries, with his hands on “The Button.”

Some of the newer and most outrageous Trump quotes on foreign and national security issues and more can be found on this blog here.  Below we have listed a series of Trump’s policy positions and how Hillary combatted them in her speech.

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families” – Donald Trump on Fox & Friends, December 2, 2015

“So it really matters that Donald Trump says things that go against our deepest-held values. It matters when he says he’ll order our military to murder the families of suspected terrorists. During the raid to kill bin Laden, when every second counted, our SEALs took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety. Donald Trump may not get it, but that’s what honor looks like.” – Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy Speech, June 2, 2016

“I think NATO is obsolete. NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger — much larger than Russia is today. I’m not saying Russia is not a threat…But we have other threats. We have the threat of terrorism. And NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism. NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism…And what I’m saying is that we pay, number one, a totally disproportionate share of NATO. We’re spending — the biggest alliance share is paid for by us, disproportionate to other countries…What I’m saying is NATO is obsolete. NATO is — is obsolete and it’s extremely expensive for the United States, disproportionately so. And we should readjust NATO” – Donald Trump, ABC’s This Week, March 27, 2016

“That’s the power of allies.  And it’s the legacy of American troops who fought and died to secure those bonds, because they knew we were safer with friends and partners.  Now Moscow and Beijing are deeply envious of our alliances around the world, because they have nothing to match them. They’d love for us to elect a President who would jeopardize that source of strength. If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin. We cannot let that happen.” – Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy Speech, June 2, 2016

“Look, nuclear should be off the table. But would there be a time when it could be used, possibly, possibly?” – Donald Trump on the use of nuclear weapons to combat ISIS in the Middle East or even in Europe, MSNBC Town Hall, March 30, 2016

“He also refused to rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, which would mean mass civilian casualties.” – Hillary Clinton, Foreign Policy Speech, June 2, 2016

Please stay tuned to our new posts on the campaign and international issues and send  any quotes of the active candidates on security and foreign affairs with their citations that we may have missed to nationalsecurity@ciponline.org  Sign up at the upper right for regular but not often updates on this and related issues.

We welcome your comments below!