CHARLOTTESVILLE: A DISASTER HEARD AROUND THE WORLD

By

Harry C. Blaney III

We have tried to focus on foreign and security policies and issues in this blog but the reality is that what happens in the United States in terms of our leadership and our society and governance is a main driver of out engagement with the world. This is the case with the confrontation recently in Charlottesville and especially the follow on of how Donald Trump dealt with this domestic divisive crisis and his corrosive and demoniac perspective on dealing with racism, the KKK, White Nationalists and neo-Nazis.

The picture of Americans marching with guns an other weapons, in mock military uniforms and with the Nazi flags and shouting Nazi and racist, anti-Semitic slogans and acting in threatening ways including the killing of a woman and attacking others who were counter protesting against such evil beliefs. All over the removal of a stature of a general who supported slavery and was a traitor his nation who took the oath of office to defend that nation. The image of this tragic and brutal event that defies all American value, was broadcast over the world. In Berlin people organized donations for the victims of the brutality and murder and maiming of those who simply sought justice.

In response, the American media, by and large, saw this event for what it was and Trump’s response especially on Saturday and on Tuesday as a desecration of our values, our constitution, and our unity as a people seeking the perfection of democracy.  Already the world sees Trump and this administration as destructive and is fearful and this only adds to their despair.

David Gergen, former advisor to both Republican and Democratic presidents on CNN noted that we have a more dangerous situation for our country than before and questioned of how we could come to grips with the anger in this man that is our President and its dangerous implications for our nation. The military leaders our Chiefs-of-Staff are now on record in support of American tolerance, inclusiveness, and against racism in our military and our nation. Their statements are in contrast to the Trump relative pro-racist sympathy and equation of Alt-Right and White Racists with that of those who opposed them was a moment of a fearsome turning point in trust in Trump as a rational decent leader for many. But clearly not all.

If we see a President that is unhinged so does our allies who frankly are frighted and worried that America is a more dangerous force in the world than even Russia. Even our adversaries think they can take advantage of these stupid and depraved acts by Trump.  People overseas see Trump defending evil which disheartens any decent person here or abroad.

On a positive side, the Wednesday night vigil in Charlottesville was a massive act of its citizens and showed via a peaceful march a hope to our global community that the force of justice and democracy against racism and territory is still strong. Towards the end of the candle light march they sang the songs of the civil rights movement, and ballads of inclusiveness of folk singers of that generation of the 60;s that I knew so well in my own life. If the world could see that public act of concern and support for justice in our nation, perhaps they would give us some day a second change to help provide positive leadership to face together our world’s many challenges.

But to address our own faults and tendencies towards evil such as Trump has given voice to, requires a truing point in our politics in which the vast majority of our nation recognizes our dilemma and dangers of a government that seems intent to destroy our constitution, democracy, and fairness to all our citizens. They will need to act to change our direction and push back to those who preach selfishness, racism and destruction.

The world is watching us and the vast majority of the world wants us to once again to assert our values and not endanger them with lies, hate and racism. This may be a key moment of decision and bravery. Our security and our values are at stake.

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NORTH KOREA: TRUMP’S AND OUR BIGGEST TEST AND DANGER.

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Don’t get it wrong this time! So far both sides both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have played this most dangerous game of their lives like spiteful boys armed with their most dangerous weapons and their largely untutored and uninformed brains. Thus we are all at risk.

The other problem is simply neither side at this moment seems to have a strategy to get out of this confrontation of existential magnitude. Their egos are bigger than their brains and neither seems to care for others. They live int heir own very selfish worlds. The hope is that one of them might want to survive this cataclysm. Kim for his life and Trump for his presidency. For the latter he even might, in his madness, want to see a war as a distraction from the Russia-Trump Gang collusion and obstruction of justice inquiry. This seems apparent in his crazy “Fire and Fury” statements which indeed did distract us from talking about Robert Mueller III and his investigation.

Today Wednesday, Trump is being tested again by an equally new escalation of invective and outrange from President Kim who has threatened to send four intermediate range missiles towards the American island of Guam where some 160,000 US citizens and military personal inhabit. We have no idea where they might land and no idea whether they contain any weapons. Probably the North Koreans are not even sure that they will be accurate. They will be hard to defend against. They also will have to travel over Japan as well to get to their target.

Kim’s government’s statements seemed almost to try to out “Trumpian” Trump with his invective and threats at a much higher and more specific escalation. But they noted that a war might not be a good idea but made war more likely given Trump’s own combative and instinctive bullying ego. I hope this time Trump’s advisors will push him towards a diplomatic option. Tillerson seems to moderate but supports Trump’s basic stance.

The sad item is that there are some of the usual suspects who are declaring Trump is doing the right thing by playing tough guy and threatening will win by such bombastic tactics. But of course they never mentions the cost of failure of a strategy of “red lines” and extreme threats. In contrast, what President Kennedy did to avoid a nuclear cataclysm was by negotiations and inventive deals. But Trump is no Kennedy for sure.

As Senator Ed Markey said on CNN today, Trump does not even have a plan or strategy and acknowledged what we all know that there is no good solution. One worse case solution is the loss of hundreds of thousands or perhaps many millions of lives. The other better solution for both sides is to back down and start to talk to each other to find common acceptable solutions. We can try what we did with Soviet Union: an effort at “confidence building” strategies and efforts. But that may be too much to ask of leaders that see the world only though a win for me and lose for him lens?

We will see likely in the next few days when Kim’s missiles are scheduled by the North Korea to be launched, as hard decisions by both sides will have to be taken either to reach out or to act with high abandon of rationality and in self-destruction.

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TRUMP’S “FIRE AND FURY” RESPONSE TO NORTH KOREA: HOW CAN IT END?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Donald Trump at press event today in while on vacation in NJ: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.” “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

This is an very scary preview of Trump’s view of how to “deal” with a contending and critical conflict situation that may escalate the trajectory towards catastrophic destruction rather than moving toward de-escalation. Words matter on both sides as do threats especially by those that have the power of nuclear weapons.

The background is of a long history of negotiations by the U.S. with North Korea whose formal name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Past negotiations and short lived agreements failing, have resulted with a dangerous stalemate created by both sides. Past administrations trying to open new talks with North Korea rejecting the pre-condition of stopping building and testing of these weapons.

Recent intelligence reports indicate North Korea is more advanced in both nuclear weapons and ICBM’s than assessed earlier. Thus indicating that North Korea was getting close to having its long range intercontinental missiles reaching mainland U.S. Most recently after a series of missile tests and threatening statements from North Korea President Kim Jong Un Kim, the United Nations Security Council acted this last weekend with new sanctions after North Korea carried out recently two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions it is predicted would reduce North Korea’s annual export revenue by about a third and hopefully hindering its ability to raise resources for added developing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Just after the threatening statement by Trump, North Korea President Kim replied by threatening the ability to strike the U.S. territory of Guam. What each side needs is to avoid being drawn into a very stupid tit-for-tat escalation – the last thing anyone with sense would want to see. We now have late tonight an added threat by President Kim.

Almost all experts, who are not dire war hawks on this issue, are saying this is an unnecessary escalation now which would be best approached by intensive diplomacy. Not by bluster and threats on either side. This means the need by top leaders to work to tone down that harsh rhetoric by all sides. For America, if neither the White House Chief-of-Staff General Kelly or the head of the NSC General McMaster, can tone down Trump. If on China’s side, they can’t accomplish that end, our already fragile world will be in even deeper perilous trouble. The last thing China wants is a war on their borders.

We need to work closely with South Korea as they have the most to lose with total destruction, given the alignment of North Korea forces on their border. This is not often understood by Trump.

What then are the paths forward? Alternative options include a preemptive strike, a response second strike….all of these would be catastrophic given any normal fairly known scenario for all sides and even for the world. It would be reckless beyond imagination. We can again try direct contact and direct negotiations which would be our first likely option if both sides were sane.

That is sadly not a sure thing. North Korea has said they will not give up their nuclear weapons of missiles under any conditions. We have said we would not talk unless they stood down on their nuclear and missile program. Thus our existing stalemate. Their goal is to get American forces out of South Korea. We are committed to staying and defending South Korea – and for that matter Japan. Yet there have been innovative diplomacy ideas, like we have worked on in the Middle East, to find some way to decelerate the conflict and create a more stable situation. Whatever outcome, both sides would need to see that this diplomacy would achieve better security and peace than the status quo.

My own thought should these options not work, is we try what is called close “indirect mediation or negotiations”close in the same hotel or city, via a third neutral but very able person(s) that both sides can trust. We have used this mechanism, as have others in talks, for example between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Henry Kissinger also has used a version of this approach. There is also the more clumsy long distant bilateral mediation or “good offices” where a mediator would fly from one capital to another back and forth trying different solutions, seeking common ground and some level of agreement. One other related inducement for both sides may be for North Korea to offer to temporarily “stand down” on any new work on weapons and the other interested parties to temporarily to not enforce the new sanctions that were recently imposed. We need perhaps also a “sticks and carrots” approach.

In any case, the sad part is that the first truly existential challenge Trump has faced has shown a level of recklessness, stupidity, and created greater danger to peace. All in a critical region that requires the greatest attention, patience, deep knowledge and expertise Trump is wholly lacking and unwilling to consult and use. Sad for us!

We welcome your comments!

 

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THE TRAJECTORY OF TRUMP’S BEHAVIOR HAS ACCELERATED TOWARDS SELF DESTRUCTION!

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Adding to the commentary of my last post, unbelievably Donald Trump has just doubled down in the last three days or so going yet further towards a very dark zone where our nation’s integrity, constitution and laws are at risk. There seems no ceasing of his aberrant and threatening behavior toward especially the institutions and officials carrying out the necessary requirements of our constitution, the process of justice and laws in America and protecting our security.

Here is a brief list of some of Donald Trump’s actions which reinforce that the man has lost or never had any level of rationality that he might have had before becoming president.

Here is a brief list without any doubt, shows a man with complete disrespect for morals, the rights of others, our laws and most scary tendencies to act as if he were America’s authorized elected dictator:  He has continued an even higher level attacks on AG Sessions and now Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he did with former FBI Head James Comey. He has now threatened “a red line” if Mueller looks at Trump’s financial dealing which he needs to do to see what connection exists with Russian financing and is within his authority of his Department of Justice mandate. Trump and his family have hired a large team of outside lawyers not to just defend Trump and his people but to attack Mueller and his staff, a sign of a desperate man.

He has, not least, suggested that he has complete unquestioned rights of pardons….hinting that includes himself. He continues to attack “Fake News” about Russian contacts and still refuses to tell us what he said to Putin in his G-20“solo” meeting. His family has repeatedly held back information on their security clearance application forms on meetings with Russian agents. But now he seems to promise pardons for others like those of his campaign staff, including all those who took part in the June 2017 meeting with Russian agents to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton and meetings with the now-former Russian Ambassador. One must now wonder if this statement is a way of getting silence or inducing lies from these individuals about his own role in all of this which is also being discussed?

Thus it is hard to not interpret these as the acts of a cornered guilty man.

All this, especially the Trump Tower meeting in June, with the background of a promise to tilt the election towards Trump are not going away. That event could raise the specter of possible felonies combined with questions about what secrets or deals he might have again shared with Putin that we know not of.

But also our national security is equally at great risk over Trump’s questionable and poorly thought through dealing with our allies some who he has insulted. The same goes with his approach to North Korea, on climate change, on degrading democracy at home and abroad. This is now old hat but we need to ask how can we repair the damage he has done to our respect and leadership?

In place of reaching out to Russia to restore peace and to reduce the chance of nuclear war, Trump has focused on statements of aggression towards Iran, withdrawing US support for our Syrian allies and ignoring Syrian President Assad and Russian deliberately killing of innocent civilians. He continues supporting the most brutal dictators in the world, and undermining democracy of our allies and our own democratic institutions.

No progress has been made, or it seems even attempted, to negotiate a reduction of nuclear weapons and address the problem of accidental war and use of such nuclear weapons. This should be the main priority of both sides. Some believe our show of “weakness and unilateral gifts’ to Trump will encourage Russia towards further acts of infamy and destruction, and continued efforts aimed at America losing its global influence. But engaging with them in an open way on reducing risks must be tried.

 His recent statements, tweets and further revelations of a number of new areas of possible collusion or shady dealings with Russians reinforce these views. Recently, even against his own views, he has had to accept a just slightly watered down version to get his agreement, of a new Congressional bill that takes some of his power to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia, perhaps for fear that it would be an acknowledgment of Congresses’ lack of trust in him to act in America’s interest.

The totality of Trumps acts and statements and the now unquestionable actual meetings of his people with Russian agents combined with lies about these contacts and their multiplicity may not yet be the last word we will hear. These all have led now to the more often raised questions of possible criminal indictment or even impeachment as now not a totally outlandish outcome.

So much for “making America great.” We need a leader that will move toward a stable and cooperative future for both nations and supporting our democratic allies, not one that is bent on inflecting even more conflict and instability and more authoritarian rule abroad….and even here in the USA.

We welcome your comments

RUSSIA AND THE WEST AND WHERE DO WE GO NOW? AN ADVERSARY AND NECESSARY ENGAGEMENT PARTNER!

By

Harry C. Blaney III

The recent events, including Trump’s Poland speech with its destructive “Clash of Civilizations” and subsequent  meeting of Putin and Trump  has put the world into not only turmoil but towards dangerous trajectories on many levels and into many conflict zones which heighten risks for all. But we still need to talk to Russia but with a lot more focus and sense of the reality of the challenges we face. Some of this due to our own and especially Trump’s foolishness combined with Putin’s malevolent goals which are not helpful to peace or security especially for Europe and Russia’s neighbors and for Western Unity.

The following are among the most serious elements after G-20 and Hamburg meetings that have created high levels of concern by Western governments and people but also even some indicators for worry for some Russians. Even after the Putin-Trump talks the reality remains of a wide disparity between Russian intentions and American values and interests. The simple fact nevertheless is that both the West and Russia have more to gain from cooperation than they have to continue dangerous paths.

RUSSIAN-UNITED STATES RELATIONS AND FUTURE TRAJECTORY:

There is a great debate going among engaged American  experts and citizens over the short and long-term implications of an America headed by Donald Trump and Russia headed by Vladimir Putin.  Both have values and a world view that is detrimental to their own country and to world stability and security. The flaws of each indicate truly dangerous scenarios are likely to be forthcoming. Yet we should seek accommodations that make for a safer world but not be lured to act against our values and strategic interests. The ending of the bilateral meeting did not signal that Putin has changed in any way his efforts to undermine democracy in America, Europe, or disparage Western values or give up any of his Ukrainian taken territory. The denial by Putin that he interfered with our 2016 election only reinforces the deceit and cunning by Putin which also was shown by his further denial of any Russian troops in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  These Trump did not challenge.

THE MIDDLE EAST, TERRORISM, ISIS, SYRIA AND IRAQ & TRUMP – PUTIN MEETING

Some have thought especially in the Middle East we could engage in a military clash between the US and Russia.  Both sides seem to recognize that possibility.  But a question is whether military deescalation was fully addresses in Hamburg at the key meeting with Putin and Trump which took place over two hours with the presence of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson  the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The outcome as much as we can see was a nebulous, “ defined agreement” using Sec. Tillerson’s words, on lowering violence in southwest Syria which is not the center of much of the brutal fighting.  In principle,this is a good idea. But the lake of some of its specifics, and given that past agreements on cease fires by Russia and Russian ally the brutal Assad have failed.  Thus, we need to have a bit of skepticism. Possibly too optimistically, Tillerson also said re the accord, “This is our first indication of the US and Russia being able to work together.” Forgetting how many such accords were agreed in the Obama administration and then immediately broken by the Russians.

There are reports that the Russian military will be the force on the ground to police the “cease fire” or safety area, but they are partisan combatants on the side of Assad and his Sunni forces and not a neutral party. One must ask what these forces might do to American supported anti-Assad forces also fighting ISIS, and civilians who are majority Shia seeking safety from Assad’s mass killings and bombing? Will there be UN observers to monitor this zone, will humanitarian groups be able to provide assistance, food and shelter and protection? In the past these safeguards were denied by Assad and Russia. Were they even fully thought  about when they created to this “accord?” The stand down is supposed to start on Sunday. I hope there is more substance to and oversight of this “agreement” than meets the immediate eye.

There are other antagonistically “hot spots” that are not likely to go way soon unless both sides change their behavior and adjust their goals and agree that cooperation is in both country’s interest. At the moment, Putin is clearly not standing down in some key areas and Trump is almost impossible to predict given lies and often acts in contradictory ways given individual contexts. Has he for example, given up Assad on the butcher of his Syrin people? There was some talk that Assad might not be there forever. That makes for a very confused situation.

The problems of Syria are complex with Russia, Iran and the U.S. and others involved militarily. The Ukraine problem still festers with continuing conflict in the East with Russian backing of the rebels. There are increasing tension also on the military side with Russia reinforcing their armed forces close to their borders with NATO countries. NATO allies are doing the same to reinforce the commitment to defend them. Trump finally acknowledged in his Poland visit the NATO commitment to come to the aid of an attacked party.  Did also Trump bring up violations by Russia of our treaty with them on intermediate nuclear force basing in Europe?  It was not mentioned in the debriefs.

MORE FALL OUT FROM PUTIN-TRUMP MEETING:

The most simple assessment would be that Putin won and Trump capitulated to him on interference in our election. There remains much ambiguity about the specifics of a still undefined or “shadow” cease fire in a non-key area where Russia will, by plan, be made more dominant in Syria. Was there, hopefully, a long term strategy to stop the carnage or bring real peace but keep for now Assad in power?

Afterwards, Tillerson also said in a press briefing that the Syrian agreement was a “defined agreement” and could be a precursor to further cooperation in Syria.”  Secretary Tillerson added that “This is our first indication of the US and Russia being able to work together in Syria.” Remarkably he also stated they had a lengthy discussion of other areas in Syria where we can work together. Let us hope it will lead to progress, but the odds seem very high against it if Putin does not change his strategic objectives.

The Russian press spin on the meeting was the leaders discussed the situation in the Ukraine and Syria, the fight against terrorism and cybersecurity. Putin’s own take on the talk was more general and he said: “I had a very lengthy conversation with the president of the United States, there were a lot of issues such as Ukraine, Syria other problems, some bilateral issues.” The Russian Foreign Minister said that Trump had accepted the statement that Russia did not interfere with the 2016 election!

All of this on the surface seems positive until we remember that under Obama and Kerry we came to many “agreements” about cease-fires in Syria and even Ukraine that fell apart as Russia and its allies violated them in both cases a number of times.

One disturbing element of the outcome of the talks is that a Russian representative, as we noted above, said that Trump “accepted” Putin statement that he did not interfere with US elections, while an unnamed US official said he did not accept that statement. Thus at the end of the meeting there was already a major conflict in how both sides see or interpret what happen in the meeting on the a vital issue of Russian interference in the US election. Both leaders clearly wanted to get rid of this “bothersome issue.” But it will not go away in America as it is fundamental to our democracy and security.

On the North Korea threat, which was also a side issue in this bilateral context, albeit an important one, it was reported that Russia pushed back on more economic sanctions on North Korea even after the recent missile test which is banned by the UN Security Council. Which raises another example of Russia trying to undermine American action, security interests and influence across the global space.

The harsh reality is that there is not likely yet any change in Putin’s strategic stance regarding Russian dominance in the region they call “The Near Afar” which includes the old Warsaw Pact nations, like Ukraine, the Baltics, etc. And now beyond, to areas that Putin considers constitute regions of new interest and new suitability to influence including Syria, Iran, China and Eurasia and elsewhere.

G-20 GROUP MEETING:

This platform largely served as a way for global leaders to meet their piers and hash out the key problem areas and find some consensus and solutions. They talked to one another most likely of how bad Trump is for the global order and despaired over what they experienced.

There were sidebars with the heads of China, South Korea, and Japan and with the key European leaders. In these meetings the Paris Agreement, global trade, and sanctions on Russia came up. There was deep anger at Trump pulling out of the Paris Accord. 

Basically, on the question North Korea, a key focuses of the G-20 nations, the key unsolved problem was how to initiate strong diplomatic pressure with the key actors and possible added sanctions. Clearly this problem has no simple solution. And clearly the key actors have different views and interests which make a concerted response to solve this challenge highly problematic.  Back of the mind of all leaders was the danger of the unacceptable option of taking the various paths that can only lead to catastrophic conflict.

THE UNITY OF THE WEST, “COMMON VALUES” AND INTERESTS THREATENED:

Perhaps sadly, the best statement coming out of the G-20 Meeting was by President Emmanuel Macron when he said: “Our world has never been so divided.” He added “Centripetal forces have never been so powerful. Our common goods have never been so threatened.” There was overwhelming consensus among most G-20 leaders that Trump was directing a deliberate effort to divide the West and demean the EU and the idea of international common cooperation or multi-lateralism. They saw him trying to destroy the post WW II framework that America established to unify the global democracies.

Trump made no real effort to help unify the West, just the opposite. In keeping with the ideas of his top strategist the far Alt-Right Stephen Bannon, who holds that one needs to destroy or “deconstruct” our global institutions and recreate a world of what one can call “Trumpism.” Or better described, “the survival of the fittest” with the key element being hatred of “the other” including immigrants, and supporting super authoritarian nationalism.  These account also for Trump’s support of European neo-Fasists parties who share the same prejudices and racism.  As a result, the meeting was adding to disunity, a result that Trump seemed to take pride in.

In keeping with these views, the decision to pull out of the Paris Accord was one of the most stupid destructive acts by an American president in our history. I think it was a deliberate effort to sow disunity. Trump also took the occasion to threaten global trade including with Europe on steel exports. This did nothing to heal any of the wounds he already had caused.

Meeting with other leaders especially of Europeans were not happy affairs including with Angela Merkel who must have wondered how he picked a similar key Nazi phrase in his campaign that Germans know only too well. In the end, Trump’s “America First” did not go over and people, including the protesters in Hamburg, saw it as a threat to global economic, European unity and democracy.

Finally, the winner in all this is Putin as planned.  He help create “destructive Trump” and all he had to do is shake hands, make some gestures of friendship, and continue his aggressive actions at no cost. Trump was doing it for him.  He gained recognition as a big global player. Trump got the spotlight of the media and loathing by most of the world. He got nothing not, even a promise  to work towards more nuclear arms control agreements, stop violating treaties,  decrease major military threats, build new confidence building efforts, and move towards reducing especially hair trigger nuclear weapons.

In sum, a bad two days for the world’s population. More on the significance of the meetings and analysis on follow-though  and impact in our future posts.

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TRUMP’S HARMFUL “PILGRIMAGE” TO DISGRACE, DISCREDIT AND DISUNITY

TRUMP’S HARMFUL “PILGRIMAGE” TO DISGRACE, DISCREDIT AND DISUNITY

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Trump is back from his first trip as president but the harm he did on that trip has not ceased. Indeed it has increased with the recent decision to leave the Paris climate change accord. The reverberations from Europe and the Middle East continue. There is no place that he set font on tht did not create for security, unity ans stability of the global commons and our nations position in the world. Now it is far worse by Trump’s ignoring the great danger to the world which almost all nations recognize and followed the leadership of President Obama and many other nations. America has been diminished greatly by Trump’s incredible actions.

Given the reading I have done of European reactions both government and media and my recent visit to Europe we have lost greatly by Trump’s actions. We lost more in those short days than all the efforts of Putin and his Russian minions in the last decade trying to divide the West. One top headline of a writer for the Financial Times (a conservative paper) said ” Erratic Trump is destabilising the world.” Another affirmation of our loss is Germany’s leader Angela Merkel who has recently said, in effect, that Europe can’t trust the U.S. because of Trump. So much for “Making America Great.”

The recent dishonourable global travels of Donald Trump have resulted in more disgrace for America. The subtle and sometimes not so subtle rejection of Trump’s vision of a world enhanced by chaos through Trump’s often embrace of the worst behavior of dictatorships and brutal people of the world is but one example that has striped America of its credibility and respect.

This after revelations of more evidence that there could be evidence of collusion between the Trump associates and Russian agents, reports of efforts by him to sabotage the federal investigation of himself and his gang of incompetents. We see his continued lying and display of madness. We have him cutting American diplomacy and assistance budgets some 30% which belie anyone who thinks he takes our global challenges seriously. No interlocutors on this trip and his action on global warming can take what he says with believability and act on them and expect support.

His first stop in Saudi Arabia was a demonstration of the power of the mutual connivance between two forces of disruption, authoritarian rule and brutality. Not since the infamous Hitler-Stalin Pact before WW II have we rarely seen such discredited leaders see their mutual interest in support of killing others, in ignoring discrimination against woman, and disparaging of democracy. On the part of Trump we saw acceptance of national Saudi leaders who’s funding and actions have help to fuel the spread of the extremist Islamist Wahhabi Salafist ideology that Trump once so vied against. Yes, we can call that hypocrisy.

While accepting the lavish opulence and honors of this dictatorial regime behind the brutal murder of thousands of civilians in Yemen via mostly in-discriminative bombing, which is against the law of war and humanitarian norms, Trump signed a $460 billion, ten year arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This will mean even more bombing, more conflict. It will help lead a mad arms race against Saudi Arabia’s main nemesis Iran. This will do nothing to assist a conciliation of the two main lines of Islam Sunni and Shia. This brutal theocracy oppresses its people and has spent billions of dollars exporting their extreme Wahhabi Islamic ideology around the world—the very same ideology fueling terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. His efforts to make worse the Sunni-Shia divide is putting America into a dark caldron of taking sides in Middle East religious conflict. His actions only support the concept that his aim is to create total chaos and keep the world off balance and demoralized.

The visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority was with the stated aim of bring the two together but it was clear that Trump was far more on the side of Israel but he recognized if he could create some agreement between the two sides it would be a “big win” for him but he does not have a clue of the key issues and does not seem to want to learn in any depth on this complex problem. In fact he walked away without a truly any specific breakthroughs.

The NATO Brussels visit was a total disaster and Trump talks and behavior was seen as causing much hurt to the alliance, which clearly frightened or allies and was criticized throughout European media. Not least is Trump’s decision not to mention NATO’s Article 5 of supporting a member country under attack. His nasty hectoring our allies on financial support for “NATO” was likely counter productive in the long run. The result was growing distrust of Trump thus of American commitment. One of the great historic blunders in the face of the Russian active efforts to undermine democracy and divide the Atlantic community.

His visit to see the Pope was almost surreal with Francis asking Trump, the instigator of actions and views antithetical to Christian beliefs let alone those of the Catholic church especially on dealing with the calamitous impact on all humanity of coming climate change. Nor was there any sign that Trump would respond to any peas for humanitarian actions to assist refugees.

The meeting in Sicily of the G-7 of the most powerful nations which include heads of state or Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission who on their own without the United State reaffirmed their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, “as previously stated at the Ise-Shima Summit.” This division was largely a first for the group and a sign of the disunity that will likely ensue. It was here that the disunity of the world community was most glaringly shown due to Trump rejection of action on climate change.

The sum of Trump’s action is that he has made America diminished and in greater danger from the external forces at work and made our adversaries more powerful and certainly Putin acts like he has a ”puppet” that has helped him achieve all he could not do on his own to advance Russian agenda to destroy the unity of the West.

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THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION: TRUMP AND FIRING OF FBI DIRECTOR COMEY: WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT? (UP-DATED)

By  Harry C. Blaney III

Clips from The New Times editorial May 10th:

“Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president. Though compromised by his own poor judgment, Mr. Comey’s agency has been pursuing ties between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates, with potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.

With congressional Republicans continuing to resist any serious investigation, Mr. Comey’s inquiry was the only aggressive effort to get to the bottom of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign. So far, the scandal has engulfed Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump’s campaign managers; Roger Stone, a longtime confidant; Carter Page, one of the campaign’s early foreign-policy advisers; Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in March from the Russia inquiry after failing to disclose during his confirmation hearings that he had met twice during the campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

We have said that Mr. Comey’s atrocious handling of the Clinton email investigation, which arguably tipped the election to Mr. Trump, proved that he could not be trusted to be neutral, and that the only credible course of action would be the appointment of a special prosecutor. Given all that has happened ……. his dismissal of nearly all United States attorneys — the need for such a prosecutor is plainer than ever. Because Mr. Sessions is recused, the decision to name a special prosecutor falls to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose memo, along with a separate one by Mr. Sessions, provided Mr. Trump with the pretense to fire Mr. Comey.

This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates…..”

Added to this commentary is the reality that the most serious threat to the security of the United States and indeed the world is Donald Trump. As each day, each week and each month unfolds, this is increasingly apparent.  The cumulative impact of his actions directives, lies, and tweets only reinforce this conclusion. What is even more frightening is that so many of our leaders and institutions are unwilling to speak up or act to mitigate and halt this mortal danger to American security and democracy.

What was said in the NY Times editorial is a what both Democrats and some Republicans are now saying or wondering — most in disbelieve, wonder and yes fearfulness.

There are no better questions for our justice system, Congress, media, and citizens than to ask deep and serious questions about  the “Russia connection.” Getting honest truthful answers from Trump, Flynn, James Comey, and James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and all those associated with and under Trump who had connections with the Russians and a role in the firing of Comey, to wit: what did they know and when did they know it? An ancillary, and just as important, is to find out how dependent Trump, his family and organization are on Russian money, and contacts?

The firing of the head of the FBI who was leading the FBI effort investigating the contacts between Trump’s staff and associates, and, it is assumed, the Russian hacking of American political parties, has all the hallmarks of the Saturday Night Massacre under Nixon.  I witnessed this up front while at the State Department under then Secretary of State Kissinger.  I knew well the integrity of Elliot Richardson who stood with courage. Where now are such men of courage in the Republican Party?

At issue is the legal concept of “obstruction of justice” which should apply to all citizens including the president. There is a growing consensus that Trump’s aim is to demolish the FBI investigation and put in place in the Justice Department those who would stop or impede any further effort to fairly determine the truth  about Trump and his associates’ role in possible collusion with Russia — especially before he become president, and now after.

Each day there appears to be much more to the Russian influence story and Trump’s role than has so far surfaced. The recent White House Trump Meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. in closed doors adds to the perplexity. The odd truth is that Trump’s own actions and words tend to confirm that there is more to learn — perhaps not comforting for the security and well being of our nation. Clapper’s statement that he could not comment on the investigation of Trump regarding Russia was not a clearance of him. It was rather the opposite, it is that indeed Trump was an object of interest, given some of the evidence as part of the larger inquiry. And Clapper under those circumstances could not comment.

There is one simple assertion one can make: the appearance is an effort by Donald Trump to again squash and divert possible investigation of the “Russian Connection.“ To fire James Comey is clearly an act to set up a barrier in the Justice Department against any further action to investigate Trump and his team.  This includes if Trump was involved in initiating or knowing about, before he was president, the contacts with Russian agents and officials — especially aimed at making “deals” on withdrawal of sanctions and on collusion of hacking of Democratic files. There is also the question of the lies by Flynn about his contacts when he headed of the NSC. To this day Trump defends Flynn.

Another key question is Trump’s strange urging during the campaign of Russia to continue to hack the Democratic Party and Hillary and if that statement was a “signal” to the Russians to continue their efforts.

The revelation that Comey, before being fired asked for additional resources for the Russian inquiry and that Trump was informed about it,  and first said it was a decision based on the “recommendations” of AG Sessions (who should not have been involved,) and his deputy Rod J. Rosenstein. This has now been proved false. Recently, the Senate testimony by the now Acting FBI head Andrew McCabe, rejected Trump’s rationale for firing Comey. He defended the agency’s “significant” Russian counterintelligence investigation, and praised his former boss as a respected FBI leader contrary to the criticism of Trump that called him a a “showboater” and “bad” and not respected at the FBI. All lies.

In short, it sounds like Trump is trying to obstruct the process of justice to protect his associates and perhaps even himself from legal action prosecution, or impeachment. There are a number of serious questions about the corruption of the legal process by recent events. Our allies and Russia and others are looking at this with either dismay or rejoicing.  For friends hopes its America coming out of this still a cooperative and constructive democracy, for our  adversaries its pleasure seeing the dismemberment of Western law based justice, morality, and a further fracturing of Western unity and resolve and America in disarray.

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