Harry C. Blaney III
Last June and earlier this year I reported from London and Brussels on the issues, problems and trends of the critical issue of the unity of Europe and the fragility of also the Atlantic Community in the face of far right and Fascist forces. These corrosive forces would undermine and indeed destroy unity, democracy, and the key elements that have kept the peace, prosperity and democracy in Europe. The next great test for Europe will be the French final election between the two leaders of the first round election who will vie for the Presidential role on Sunday.
This Sunday election round will comprise first the moderate centrist (center-right) candidate who is without a traditional party Emmanuel Macron, who some polls show winning by about 20 percent. Against him is Marine Le Pen who’s party The National Front, has neo-Nazi origins and expresses deep hatred of immigrants and the EU. These two have left behind all of the candidates for the presidency of the traditional French parties after the result of the first round of voting.
Now in France however, these values are again threatened by the Neo-Fascist and racist National Front Party and by its leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. She threatened to, in effect, blow up Europe by getting out of the Euro Zone and perhaps even the EU and has attacked Germany who in the past has been the key partner on European unity and accused Chancellor Merkel as “dominating” Europe.
Le Pen has a close association with Russia’s Putin who is trying to undermine the unity of Europe and separate it from American cooperation. A Russian associated bank has loaned her far-right anti-Europe party money to help her campaign of hatred for immigrants, for liberal democracy, and really decency. As a indicator of her intentions and affinity to far right “disruptive” forces she has been praised by Donald Trump who also seems to want a disunited Europe (he supported Brexit and admires the British Alt-Right racist politician Nigel Farage, and clearly has an anti-EU perspective and questioned in the past NATO.
This election is so important to the unity of the West that former President Obama has made his views known via a video in support of Macron. Here is some of the text:
“The French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” … “Because the success of France matters to the entire world. … (Macron) has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world, and he is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears. … Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward. En Marche! Vive la France!”
There are many possible outcomes from this election given the fractured nature of the French political landscape. There is no assurance, despite the polls, that Macron will win since many do not want to declare their public support for a far-right xenophobic party. And Le Pen has campaigned with venom against Macron.
Sadly the left candidate who came in third did not endorse Macron. If Macron wins he must at some early point reconcile with enough members of parliament and the key parties to govern with some effectiveness and authority. The outcome could either set a direction of cooperation within Europe despite Brexit or the start of the dismantlement of European stable peace, security, and unity and cooperation with the full Western democracies. And also effective dealing with the underground anti-democracy activities of Putin and his gang of hackers and “false media”of the Russian “active intelligence.”
In contrast, center right and left traditional parties and others seeking responsible and decent goals could ensured if an alliance can be worked out with Macron, that there would be a strong voice in Europe for decency and cooperation around the world. Given in the West (and elsewhere) the disruptions of the last year or so and dysfunctional response of some governments to the needs of our citizens, with the rise of racial and national division, as well as moves towards in some cases hate filled political leaders, some united response by forces dedicated to democracy, justice, and true democracy is now required on both sides of the Atlantic.
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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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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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BETWEEN TRUMP, BREXIT, AND PUTIN – WILL THE WEST MAINTAIN ITS UNITY AND SECURITY?
Harry C. Blaney III
In the last post I tried to empathize that our key focus now should be that “there is a lesson to all of us who worry about the direction that humanity is moving and not less what direction America will go in the future.” Recent events have already reinforced this concern and need for all of us to recognize the challenges we will be facing in a likely Trump and Putin dominated world. The declarations in the inaugural address and other statements have not changed the judgement that we are in for a very risky era and especially dealing with Russia.
As we move into Trump’s presidency he has, even before being president, created more chaos and disunity and doubt among our dearest allies and friends and given joy to those that wish us ill. He has acted as if his main and only goal is to be a major disputer of our shared international democratic and security framework that has held our common values and security together. Already there is talk that his main strategy is to create chaos and thus increase his control as his management style.
The 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. day “massacre by tweets” from Donald Trump, and his interviews with European publications, has already severely damaged our relationship with our allies. His actions include the degrading of the key institutions upholding decades of peace, security and cooperation in Europe.
These institutions and our promises of collective security and maintaining peace for all are underpinning the essence of global stability and unity. The Atlantic community ties are key and even hinting that we could do away with them and indicating his disdain for the EU and NATO have set in motion confusion among our friends and empowered dark authoritarian forces in Europe.
I believe this was a deliberate act of sabotage of existing key institutions that have kept the peace in Europe and kept America as the respected and undisputed leader among free nations. That confidence no longer exists. In the Trump world of support for the racist and fascists factions in far right parties of Europe the result is we have deeply hurt the shared values on both sides of the Atlantic.
These parties that Trump has praised are themselves calling for disunity, hate for immigrants, adapted extremist views, denounce democracy, and advocate conflict and disunity within Europe and in society. In some nations they have already taken actions contrary to democratic norms, undermine media independence, and the rule of law. Not much difference than the tact Trump increasingly has taken here – witness his attack on the press and opposition leaders like Rep. John Lewis.
The one person who has gained the most from all this disunity is Putin. The gambit for as early summit portends possible decisions which might further undermined security in European and beyond. Europeans wonder if Trump would sell out their security for a “mess of porridge.” This with the background of the consequences of the disastrous Brexit which seems now to run on autopilot, thanks to UK Prime Minister Theresa May who now directs her nation off the cliff of influence in Europe and the world.
Frankly, Trump has done in just one or two days of tweets and interviews with European publications more damage to the security and unity of Europe and of the Atlantic community, than Putin, in decades with all his underhanded efforts to subvert European democracy and unity by promoting far right fascists groups and subverting European media. Either this is from madness, stupidity, or something even more dark and terrible?
Can the damage be undone? The prospects of Trump wanting to be a positive and stable voice in global affairs looks very dismal as it does here at home after the John Lewis debacle. This is demonstrated in his continued desire to undermine our fundamental American values of justice, racial and social tolerance, our need for strong public education which is key to our democracy, the protection of our environment, and not least a strong social and health safety net. These actions at home and those we cited abroad divide rather than unite. They also diminish America’s image among our allies and decent people everywhere.
The only ray of hope was in President Barack Obama’s last press conference, where he indicated his faith in the good judgement and decency of a majority of the American people to persevere and in the end win out against our worst instincts.
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By Harry C. Blaney III & John Gall
The American people have spoken as has Donald trump and Hillary Clinton and already our newspapers and social media are having their say. But like it or not America is but about 4% of the world’s population and we depend on our allies and partners. We are not an island standing alone. The path ahead remains uncertain to say the least. Darkness lurks at every wrong turn and bad or reckless decision.
One judgement can be that rationality and kindness has lost and hate and stupidity is on the rise. We are all in disbelief and shock. It is a time however for better thinking, courage, and the forces of good to work together as they never did before.
It is not just America, but as I said, Europe is also on the edge of the forces of darkness with the rise of the far right groups. Britain and Europe and our allies in Asia will also need to keep their heads. Leaders abroad are mulling what all this means as you will see from the quotes below. The structure of the post-WWII security order is now in shambles and the question is whether the elections here will make it even more in disarray.
It is a testing time and we are seeing only now a bit of the implications and these quotes will give us just an initial look at how the world now sees what can only be descried as untested and dangerous waters.
- UK Prime Minister Theresa May – “I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on being elected the next president of the United States, following a hard-fought campaign. Britain and the United States have an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise. We are, and will remain, strong and close partners on trade, security and defence. I look forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump, building on these ties to ensure the security and prosperity of our nations in the years ahead.” (BBC)
- French President Francois Hollande – The election of Donald Trump as US president “opens a period of uncertainty…We must be aware of the concerns provoked by the disorders of the world in all the peoples, including the American people. We must find answers that are capable of overcoming fears.” (EuroObserver)
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel – “Whoever the American people elect as their president in free and fair elections, that has a significance far beyond the USA. Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position. On the basis of these values I offer the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation.” (DW)
- Russian President Vladimir Putin – “We realize and understand that this will not be an easy road given the level to which our relations have degraded,” Putin said in congratulating Trump on his electoral victory. A moment later, he added, “We know this will not be easy…It is not Russia’s fault that our relations with the United States have reached this point,” (Time)
- UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn – An economic system that “isn’t working for most people” had been rejected. (BBC)
- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – urged Mr Trump to “reach out” to those feeling “marginalised” by his campaign. (BBC)
- Former UKIP Leader Nigel Farage – drew parallels with the Brexit campaign and said he would “hand over the mantle” to the Republican. (BBC)
- Crispin Blunt, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Britain’s House of Commons – “We are plunged into uncertainty and the unknown.” (NYTimes)
- Gérard Araud, French ambassador to the United States – “After Brexit and this election, everything is now possible. A world is collapsing before our eyes.” (NYTimes)
- Henrik Müller, journalism professor at the Technical University of Dortmund – “It would be the end of an era. The postwar era in which Americans’ atomic weapons and its military presence in Europe shielded first the west and later the central European states would be over. Europe would have to take care of its own security.” (NYTimes)
- Vladimir Frolov, a Russian columnist and international affairs analyst – “Trump’s presidency will make the U.S. sink into a full-blown crisis, including an economic one. The U.S. will be occupied with its own issues and will not bother Putin with questions. As a consequence, Moscow will have a window of opportunity in geopolitical terms. For instance, it can claim control over the former Soviet Union and a part of the Middle East. What is there not to like?” (NYTimes)
- Kunihiko Miyake, former Japanese diplomat – “The question is whether you will continue to be involved in international affairs as a dependable ally to your friends and allies. If you stop doing that, then all the European, Middle Eastern and Asian allies to the United States will reconsider how they secure themselves.” (NYTimes)
- Izumi Kobayashi, vice chairwoman of Keizai Doyukai, a Japanese business group – “He has been focusing on the negative side of the global markets and globalization. But at the same time it is really difficult to go back to the old business world. So how will he explain to the people that benefit and also the fact that there is no option to go back to the old model of business?” (NYTimes)
- Shen Dingli, professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai – “If he indeed withdraws the troops from Japan, the Japanese may develop their own nuclear weapons. South Korea may also go nuclear if Trump cancels the missile deployment and leaves the country alone facing the North’s threats. How is that good for China?” (NYTimes)
- Agustín Barrios Gómez, former congressman in Mexico and president of the Mexico Image Foundation – “All bets are off,” (NYTimes)
- Rossana Fuentes-Berain, director of the Mexico Media Lab, a founder of the Latin American edition of Foreign Affairs – “I see a clear and present danger. Every moment will be a challenge. Every move or declaration will be something that will not make us comfortable in the neighborhood — and that is to everyone’s detriment.”(NYTimes)
- Yohanan Plesner, former member of the Israeli Parliament, president of the Israel Democracy Institute – “Decisions cannot be postponed. The situation in Syria is very chaotic. The unrest in the region is continuing. America has to decide whether it wants to play an active role in shaping the developments of the region.”(NYTimes)
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