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 RUSSIAN DEBACLE, WIRETAPPING, UNDERMINING OF ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH, AND DIPLOMACY & USELESS EXPANSION OF DEFENSE SPENDING.
THE REAL TRUMP REVEALED!
Harry C. Blaney III
The last few days have revealed even more than the proceeding months of follies and the debacle that is the Trump regime. The series of tweets in which Trump accused former president Obama of wiretapping his Trump Tower offices before his election was one of the most bizarre acts by any president in memory and I go back beyond the Nixon administration. This was done without any proof and with denials by both the Obama staff and James Clapper the former Director of Central Intelligence.
It was made clear by former officials that Obama banned any such acts. These wiretaps take place when the court believes there was an actual illegal act committed. To carry out such wire tapping would require a court’s review and approval which would only be done with creditable evidence. This charge many be hashed out by a possible FBI public statement and the intelligence committees of Congress likely next week who will hold hearings on this and the Russian hacking of the Democrats.
The issue of Russian actions to undermine our election and democracy and include ties of Trump and his associates don’t seem to go away. This despite Trumps efforts to change the subject. So far they are not going away and are even viewed as deepening. There is something about the Russian “connection” that Trump fears and has responded to almost in a manic reaction. It upset his own staff and only highlighted his obsession or fear of this issue and the desire to push it aside with outlandish actions to change the subject according to some commentators.
Thus we see the focus on the “repeal and replacement” of the ACT (Obamacare), which in a odd way only seem now to further undercut his credibility on many levels and adds to his reputation of repetitive lies and dishonesty. Trump promised cheaper, better and wider coverage which the Bill in the House is the opposite, costing much more and covering millions fewer needed people and transferring the savings to the very very rich via tax breaks at the expense of health services. The culmination of Wiretaps by Obama, Russian ties and attacks on citizens health care and ordering dismantling of climate change regulations, are examples of how Trump manipulates the landscape to his own and our cost.
Other examples of his destructive bent are his action to in effect demolish agencies that are critical to the security, health, environmental protection, education, science research and truth. Yet he has on problem wasting taxpayer money on large additional spending for DOD without any real purpose. All at the expense of cutting massively assistance to the most vulnerable souls at home and not least now abroad by massive cutting back the assistance to threaten refugees and others in conflict zones that are facing mass starvation and certain millions of deaths.. This is making, as I have noted, not a “Great America” but a mean, authoritarian, and selfish “Small America.”
These events in any case, could be the possible start of the further unwinding of the Trump credibility. It furthers the view by some citizens of fear and unease and it has created a perception among some key leaders abroad already of disquiet and distance from American leadership.
Press reports state Trump showed a high level of anger at his staff, denounced Sessions recusal in the Russian hacking case, and along with Trump’s continued accusations against Obama, the intelligence agencies and the media.
So far these series of missteps indicate a leader without good judgment but also a person intent more on destruction of the fabric of a secure and compassionate society. Even in his arrangement of his White House staff there is more chaos and dysfunction as a result of his manic and often unpredictable rule on his own turf with a staff made of equally unbalance types. Creating chaos and his desiring to be the only story of the day by getting more and more bizarre and demoniac does not serve American interests.
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By: Harry C. Blaney III and Allison Gerns
The State and Foreign Operations Bill as well as the Defense Appropriations Bill have been moving through Congress this summer. Both bills have been heavily debated between the Democrats and Republicans, given the Republicans push to add more money to the military spending despite a mandated (largely by the Republicans) spending decrease the last five years under the sequester. The Republican-controlled House has tried to destroy programs to prevent and end conflicts, provide humanitarian assistance and target climate change. This has included cutting support for the vital work of international organizations, the Peace Corps, and limiting development aid. This year, a big issue is the budget caps, which were established in 2011.
Regarding the DOD appropriations bill the Republicans are now trying to work around those restrictions by allocating billions into the Defense Overseas Contingency Operations fund. The OCO is exempt from budget caps and was established for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but now Republicans are creating a slush fund under the guise that it will be used to help in Ukraine and against ISIL.
The State and Foreign Ops bill, which focuses on diplomacy, Foreign Service Embassy security, humanitarian assistance, public diplomacy, and other programs has made its way through the House and Senate committees. The House proposed a State and Foreign Ops budget totaling 47.9 billion dollars. 7.3 billion dollars of the budget was allocated for its Overseas Contingency Operations fund. This is 1.4 billion dollars below the 2015 budget and 6.1 billion dollars below what the President has requested. 7.3 billion dollars was allocated for the Global War on Terror, which is 1.9 billion dollars less than 2015. You can see just how much “preventive diplomacy” programs and capability has been cut to what are dangerous levels.
The Senate for the State and Foreign Ops bill has proposed a budget totaling 49 billion dollars. The budget is 2.8 billion dollars less than 2015 and 4.9 billion less than the President’s request. 39 billion dollars in base funding, 9.26 billion dollars was allocated for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, and 759 million dollars was for emergency spending. Highlights from this budget request include new measures to counter violent extremism.
Both the House and the Senate focused on Global Health, humanitarian assistance, diplomatic security, and major cuts from international organization funding. The bills have different approaches to UN peacekeeping, development assistance, family planning, and International Monetary Fund reform.
The Defense Appropriations Bill was also passed through the House and Senate committees. The House bill proposed a budget of 578.6 billion dollars. The budget is 24.4 billion dollars more than the budget in 2015 and 800 million dollars more than the President proposed. 88.4 billion dollars was earmarked for the Global War on Terrorism. The Senate’s budget totals 489.1 billion dollars with 86.8 billion dollars for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund. 36.5 billion dollars was moved from the base budget to the OCO to overcome the budget caps. The Senate budget made cuts to 486 programs but added money for other programs.
While the President and DOD is attempting to limit some budget increases for unneeded military programs which they feel are not directed to real needs, Congress’ budgets ask for more while overall military spending is increasing dramatically compared to the last five years. The biggest spending increases is the OCO fund which is turning into more of a slush fund for expensive and not needed high cost systems not related to OCO itself.
Both bills continue to be up for debate with the Democrats and the Republicans so far unwilling to negotiate a solution. This may lead to a government shutdown in the fall but not likely, as the DOD funding is a “must do” element and it is likely we might end again in a comprehensive budget bill which covers much of government or a “continuing resolution” for an unspecified period.
With the national election coming soon, members of Congress are using military contracts as political fodder to spend more on their districts and states. These contracts don’t respond to real-world threats but rather profit from “the military industrial sector,” as Ike called them. On the other hand the effort on the State Foreign Ops bill is just the opposite, the effort is to cut the capacity of American diplomacy including our payments to international organization that we ask to carry major burdens to deal with global and regional problems and crises in place of often inadequate individual national efforts.
Congress often criticizes international organizations that do not, in their eyes, carry out their mission to their liking, like the World Food Program, UNHCR, World Health Organization, IAEA, UNDP, UNEP, World Bank, IMF, and the other UN Agencies that, for example, carry out peacekeeping, crisis intervention etc. But the hypocrisy is that these Members deliberately eviscerate key institutions that keep the world secure and prosperous, just as they also cut aid to “the least among us” at home. But that does not stop them from saying that under President Obama we are withdrawing from leadership in world affairs, even as the administration has gone from one diplomatic success and bold action after the next, to make us safe and prosperous in a high risk world complex world.
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“In the United States, we get 1 percent of the entire budget of the United States of America. Everything we do abroad within the State Department and USAID is within that 1 percent–everything. All the businesses we try to help to marry to economic opportunities in a country, all the visas, the consulate work, the diplomacy, the coordination of DHS, FBI, ATF. I mean, all the efforts that we have to engage in to work with other countries’ intelligence organizations, so forth, to help do the diplomacy around that is less than 1 percent.
I guarantee you more than 50 percent of the history of this era is going to be written out of that 1 percent and the issues we confront in that 1 percent. And I ask you to think about that as you contemplate the budgets. Because we’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul and we’ve been stripping away our ability to help a country deal with those kids who may be ripe for becoming part of ISIL. We’ve been diminishing our capacity to be able to have the kind of impact we ought to be having in this more complicated world…”
To read more of Secretary Kerry’s Testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 25th, follow the link to the full text https://cipnationalsecurity.wordpress.com/resources/full-text-pieces/
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