EUROPE’S DISCONTENT AND CHALLENGES IN A HIGH RISK WORLD: AMERICA’S PROBLEM TOO!
Harry C. Blaney III
This post is about the perspective of the remaining 27 members of the EU and especially the nations of the main continent as they await the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, face difficult negotiations on Brexit, and face the reality of the serge of Fascists groups and parties with elections in France and Germany looming this year. At the same time try to deal with the immigration crisis and the danger of further erosion of unity and not least the threat of Putin’s Russia and its active measures to undermine the democracy and unity of members of NATO and the EU.
All this is compounded by the indifference and even threats of the Trump administration towards the key institutions that have comprised the source of the continent’s prosperity, unity and security. Th treat by both Donald Trump and the Secretary of State Tillerson that they have to pony up the 2% of GDP to “pay America” is outrageous given that the threat is accompanied with the further implicit threat of not defending countries that do not make that mark.
From the perspective of the EU nations and the EU public servants and NATO here in Brussels the unity of the West is in considerable disarray. They are threaten by and fearful of the U.S. under an unpredictable even malicious president and a myopic Republican Congress. Both of which ignore or want to cut funding for diplomacy and foreign assistance and international institutions. These acts inevitably lead to a more dangerous world and less security for America and other nations. They see such moves as forces that move the world towards more conflict, global poverty, and disastrous climate change. They also see the pending funding cut of programs that make the world a safer place for all nations as a common threat to global stability and security.
No wonder they are worried that we are driven by and act on the isolationist concept of “America First,” the same concept that Hitler used to gain his power in the phrase “Deutschland über alles.” They are concerned about the likes of the Alt-Right and racist Stephen Bannon and Trump in American politics. Some are worried by their proclaimed ideology of raw unfetter capitalism, with policies aimed at supporting of brutal and undemocratic governments and bullying of other nations for its own personal selfish interests.
Looking to their East Europe they see an aggressive and predatory Russia under Putin. Their concern is great about efforts of Putin to impact on elections in Europe. The most glaring is that of France.
Among the leading French candidates. Le Pen, of the National Front, conservative nominee Francois Fillon and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon have a positive view of Trump and want to bring Russia into normal relations and want lifting sanctions imposed over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The three have also expressed some of support for Russia intervention against anti-regime rebels in Syria’s civil war. On the other hand Macron and Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon has a more skeptical view of Putin. Two candidates back continued sanctions on Russia and have insisted that Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.
In February, the moderate center Macron aide accused Russian state media of a “smear campaign” against the 39-year-old defender of open borders and immigration, whom polls show ultimately beating Le Pen. Macron’s team also pointed a finger at Russia over a flurry of cyberattacks on his campaign website. The recent sight of a smiling Le Pen clasping hands with the Russian rankled France’s Socialist government. “It’s not up to Russia to decide who will be the next president of France,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday. The outcome of the election will determine the future of Europe.
The end result is a Europe feeling alone and no longer respecting American leadership that is no longer being what it has been since the end of WW II. It is seen now as a force that not only does not support doing good and seeking peace and democracy in the world but one that is prone to acting in ways that make our world worse. That is dangerous. Some of the issues and problems of the U.S. relationship with Europe need immediate attention and major rethinking and signs of strong support for a strong and united Europe.
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MORE DIVISIONS IN EUROPE AND US NOT HELPING BUT HURTING!
Harry C. Blaney III
In the days following the announcement on April 27th of the activation of clause 50 of the EU foundation law by Prime Minister Theresa May we have seen again as much mendacity as I observed earlier in the depressing debate London during the fateful referendum last June.
It is with great sadness is that these issues of what a exit from the EU will really mean and these impacts have been little discussed and addressed. This includes in Wednesday’s Commons debate and in Prime Minister May’s statements and her restricted letter to the EU where there was little recognition of these major internal and external dangers. There were and no concrete or specific ideas on how to minimize the wider destruction that this act will entail. It is not enough to say that “It is time to come together” or speak about “liberal democratic values,” while acting in ways that counteracts those values. I heard voices of narrow nationalism and myopic perspectives when Britain and the EU needs badly more enlightened leadership and courage.
Brexit is for Great Britain, for Europe and not least for America’s interest in an Europe where for we had a collective decades old goal that Europe be “whole, free at peace and secure in unity.” Now we are face with an enormous set of threats by common myopia on both sides of the Atlantic about our larger interests and indeed on our security.
On the side of disunity is Trump, Mrs. May, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, and not least Putin. These together represent a threat to a peaceful and democratic Atlantic community. We need now a sense of common interests and goals. We are headed on a trajectory towards even greater disunity that weakens the fabric of collective security in the face of multiple attacks to institutions that came out of the post WW II. I am not sure that when we see Theresa May and Donald Trump both on the same side with glee at the sight of a weakened Europe including the EU and NATO that one can sleep easily.
What is happening day by day and I expect week by week, month by month the reality of how truly difficult will be the reality of the final break. Just the effort to pass legislation which will for the transition period put all the EU rules and legislation into the employees framework of a UK Parliament legislation is an almost impossible task. And on top of that Scotland’s government has requested a vote to exit Great Britain and wants an early vote before the final Brexit date, and Northern Ireland is quite upset over the danger of Brexit creating some barriers on the North Ireland-Republic of Ireland border. Also already some businesses have indicated that the exit will create major problems for their industries including staffing of a number in business sectors where EU nationals make up 20%-45% of their base employees.
On the EU side more and more the EU governments do not want Britain to have the same or better terms by leaving than they have as a full members.
In discussions here in Britain and especially among the people that want to get out of the EU there is no acknowledgment of the larger strategic risks. Their response is simply they want freedom to run their own country, and keep the “foreign” immigrants out and preserve their “way of life.”
The EU is still taking a somewhat hard line on the coming negotiations and want the terms of leading first to be addressed and then what the relationship would look like after that. Hard months ahead for both sides. But British leaders are still taking unrealistically too much of a better life after Brexit.
Finally, the downward trajectory towards even greater disunity weakens the fabric of collective security in the face of multiple attacks to institutions that came out of the post WW II that have kept the peace in Europe and beyond – institutions that hold “the center” together.”
In the meantime newspapers and other media here in London are reporting on the Trump-Russia collusion issues and the wonder at what former NSC head Lt. Gen. Flynn with say before congressional panels and indeed asking what Donald Trump is hiding.
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BREXIT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR WESTERN UNITY:
UNITED EUROPE AT A TIME OF HIGH RISK
Harry C. Blaney III, Dateline: London
The year 2017 will likely turn out as a watershed of European unity but filled with potential disruptions and divisions which may create a fundamental shift in European politics, economy and security. The risks are in large, part self created and could have been avoidable. But they were also due to extraordinary poor UK political management, myopia and narrow nationalism. These are perspectives that kill the fundamental idea of the EU and a cooperative sharing community – namely the key idea of one for all and all for one.
On Wednesday Britain takes formally the foolish step of evoking Article 50 of the EU Treaty for withdrawal from membership. A step it did not have to take but a step driven by the worst of motivations. It will result in many dangerous outcomes even beyond the economic one, or concern over immigration, that has been so much talked about among many actors in this debate on leaving the EU.
The argument is that now Britain can be free to seek more business on a global scale and all will profit from the EU exit! The phrase used here in London by the right-wing Tory “leavers” is “Global Britain.” This slogan has about as much meaning or truth as Trump’s “Make American Great Again.”
The racist and far right nationalists like the UK Independent Party and not least dishonestly by Tory Prime Minister Teresa May along with her flaky new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who helped lead the campaign for leaving. They all touted a great new prosperity and national freedom after they leave the EU.
Of course this was a nonsense. If one were to do a fundamental analysis Britain already was making “maximum” efforts to extend its business reach, and to think of markets out side the EU. That to think it could do better in net world trade with less market access than it has in the EU, was a myth perpetrated by the right-wing racist Tories and the UKIP. The judgement here was that outside the EU, Britain would have a better chance to make global profits than it is trying to do inside the EU. In fact, it would have to negotiate individually with each and every nation and without the advantage of the massive economic power of the EU market and already advantageous agreements they have with these nations.
On Tuesday, as part of a tour around the country to try to defend the exit, Prime Minister Theresa May said, in words without content: “historic opportunity to get out into the world,” as if Britain never tried to reach the rest of the world. Each day her statements have less and less content.
With the signature now on the Article 50 document by Mrs. May, the clock will start ticking towards leaving but there is no clue on what any “deal” on leaving will really look like. The only outcome will not be what Britain wants and there are to be no free lunch.
Newspapers here are reporting from EU members that their prime goal is to preserve European unity and not to give any incentive for others to leave and gain advantages equal to membership without any cost or commitment to common unity. EU leaders, German and French politicians have made it clear that a “free” access is not on offer. But also say that they do not seek a confrontation or will try to “punish” Britain. But the EU position, as much as we know, is not in the ballpark of what Mrs. May has so far set forth as her aim. Thus we may see very hard negotiations over the next two years with little hope Britain will come out totally whole given what has been promised by the “leave” campaign or Tory government.
The truth is that EU holds the cards not the UK in the coming negotiations. But this has not been explained to the British voters.
The more fundamental issue is the impact of this Brexit on the already fragility of Western European unity and security. We are seeing the growing growth of far right and Fascist parties with key elections in France and Germany and possibly other nations. Add to this the threat of Scotland holding a referendum on leaving again and their stance on staying in the EU. The Scottish assembly has just voted to have a referendum on independence but this must have the approval of PM Theresa May, which will not be given. But this act will only contribute to the sense of resentment by many Scots and reinforce their desire to remain in the EU.
Add the breakdown of the North Ireland Government coalition of “shared government.” that has just taken place which has been exacerbated by the Brexit with deep difficult implications for the North-South border and cooperation for both sides and for social peace.
The total cost of the Brexit is for Great Britain, for Europe and not least for America’s interest in a Europe that is “whole, free at peace and secure in unity” is enormous. It is under severe threat by the idiocy and myopia and frankly immorality of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. On the side of disunity and “deconstruction” is Trump, Mrs. May, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, and not least Putin. These together represent a threat to a peaceful and decent world community and for a sense of common interests and goals.
More from Europe on the implications of this act shortly, and especially a look at the perspective of the 27 nations that will be left in the EU. Also an examination of the Putin-Trump cooperation issue and its implications.
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THE RUSSIAN-TRUMP CONNECTION: GETTING TO THE TRUTH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
By Harry C. Blaney III
The perspective from London: the news that both the Director of the FBI James Comey and the head of the National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rogers have confirmed two key points has given some light here on America’s own disarray: the most important revelation is that of Comey in affirming that an investigation of the connection between the Trump team and Russia is taking place. The other statement by the NSA head, at the congressional committee, is that they could not find any evidence that Obama or his administration called for a wiretap on Trump Tower and affirmed that such a request would be illegal by Obama or any president. This severely undercut the Trump White House assertion that such wiretapping was ordered. They are looking at whether there was any collusion between Trump’s team and Russia to influence the election.
Russian Interference in the 2016 election is the other key issue and the need to look more at this seem on the agenda and will have still public profile until more if revealed and this is also a finding which Trump fears.
Here in London this Russian connection story was given wide coverage especially on BBC News and in the quality newspapers. The question was also raised here whether the Trump unproved accusations that the UK GCHQ, the counterpart of the American NSA, had spied on the Trump camp. This only added to the unease about American leadership. The GCHQ stated that any idea of their spying was nonsense. In fact, at the US House Intelligence hearings on these issues, the NSA head confirmed that such an order was expressly counter to the so-call “5 eyes” of nations with special access to and sharing of intelligence information, and was contrary to its firm rules and no such order was ever given.
With all of that, the White House totally denied any reality of collusion with Russia and stood on their untenable positions, with no indication of any apology or refutation of the now totally denied chargers.
With the affirmation of the FBI Trump-Russian connection inquiry, the possibility of some connection between the Trump people and Russian, before the election and before taking office grows more worrisome. It is clear that something odd was at work in that Trump’s staff. The Trump associates did approach the Russians before the election and that the former NSC head Flynn felt he had to lie to the American Vice president about his talk to the Russian Ambassador. Also US intelligence did report that at least 3 or possibly more members of the Trump team also had contacts with Russians. There were also hints that some of these Russians were from Russian intelligence agencies.
Another disheartening news for Europe is that Secretary of State will not be coming to the forthcoming NATO Council meeting of Foreign Ministers and news reports confirm that he supports the drastic cutting of the State Department and USAID budget which will cost million of vulnerable lives. This only adds to the unease here in Europe and brightens Putin’s efforts to divide the West.
One other element is that UK Prime Minister May has set Wednesday March 27th as the date she will invoke Article 50 to leave the EU. This plays into also Putin’s goals and it seems, that the British right-wing is in its ascendancy and the Labour Party here is in even more disarray than earlier which is saying a great deal given its critical internal turmoil. There seems, as noted before, a rush of the lemmings over the clef.
Finally, the combination of Trump fighting with our allies and pushing, it seems, for their disunity, along with the UK Prime Minister May also on board with the Brexit plunge into even greater isolationism and nationalism, add also lurking economic crisis upon actual breakup. One then must mix in the ascendancy in Europe of the Alt-Right-neo-Fascist parties and groups, despite the Dutch vote, along with the factor of Putin’s Russia playing a not so secret effort to weaken and divide Europe and undermine democracy, result: we have a very dangerous landscape.
All this exacerbated by a very foolish, uninformed, and clearly malevolent man. Not a very good picture for those that prize peace, democracy and security. The costs here are too great to imagine.
More in the coming days from Europe and it’s “discontents” and America’s role in all this.
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AMERICA MADE SMALL AND THE WORLD MORE DANGEROUS!
THE TRUMP AND BANNON WAR ON AMERICAN GLOBAL LEADERSHIP.
Harry C. Blaney III
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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THE STUPIDITY OF THE TRUMP MUSLIM REFUGEE AND VISIT BAN
Harry C. Blaney III
There are few acts by a uninformed and clearly not balanced Donald Trump which have an immediate horrendous impact both at home and abroad. The ban on seven Muslim majority nations is just such an act and it has already enlisted major reactions by people around the world. It is simply a disgrace for America and it is dangerous to our security.
What this executive order on immigration and refugees does is bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half effectively the number of refugees we can admit. It halts all travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The reaction at home includes demonstrations around the nations especially at universities and colleges and by churches and civil liberty groups. Harvard and Yale presidents and other academic leaders have denounced this act Many experts believe is counter to our constitution, our laws, and treaty obligations. Already a judge has in effect said so…but without so far Trump complying.
In reaction is an open letter to Trump top national security officials by over 100 National Security Leaders on the Refugee Executive Order. The signers include Madeleine Albright, Janet Napolitano, and Susan Rice, and many others including high level former officials and military from Republican and Democratic administrations. The headline statement was:
“As former cabinet Secretaries, senior government officials, diplomats, military service members and intelligence community professionals who have served in the Bush and Obama administrations, we, the undersigned, have worked for many years to make America strong and our homeland secure. Therefore, we are writing to you to express our deep concern with President Trump’s recent Executive Order directed at the immigration system, refugees and visitors to this country. This Order not only jeopardizes tens of thousands of lives, it has caused a crisis right here in America and will do long-term damage to our national security.”
In Washington even some Republicans are concerned, and the Democrats are considering opposition to this on a number of fronts. Chaos prevails at our airports and airlines and in governments around the world. It was denounced by leaders in Germany and France and on the floor of the House of Commons.
It is clear to me that this action was without much doubt the deliberate act of designed chaos and cruelty by Donald Trump likely aided and abated by Stephen Bannon the Alt-Right racist, bigoted Trump campaign leader and past editor of the white power media outlet Breitbart News and now counselor to the President with equal status to the White House Chief-of-Staff and now a member of the highly sensitive and powerful National Security Council and the committee of Principles (Cabinet and agency heads) which he will attend as a full member – in effect perhaps a spy on other member views, or voice for the far racist right at home and abroad and enforcer of Trump’s crazy far right policies and lies.
This act is a test of what we may see going forward in foreign and national security policy. Already Trump has upset and weakened our ties to our key allies that are aghast at his recent statement, tweets and actions which undermine NATO, EU and the UN. In particular, they have undermined our allies and embolden Russia’s Vladimir Putin to hope he can destroy Western unity and strength and prosperity and weaken its defense. All this hardly lifting a finger but letting Trump do his dirty work. Already trump has helped Putin by supporting disunity in Europe by his encouragement of Brexit and putting down NATO, and favoring of far right fascist groups in Europe.
We need to ask quickly why and at what cost to peace and security for us and our allies?
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