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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TRUMP AND A NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA AND THE LARGER STRATEGIC PICTURE:
Harry C. Blaney IIi
After the statements about what Trump might do to North Korea if it does not stand down on its nuclear weapon programs, there seems to be a great debate about Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy and even if there is one. As with his missile strakes on Syrian the question is what is next and is there any strategic vision or even reflection?
As best we can discern is it remains just based on “transactional” and “intuitive” feelings. We need to remember this is the man who said he knew more than the generals and who is cutting by about 30% our diplomacy and global assistance budget.
Among the key issues we face we still do not have a clue what ends he want including dealing with China, confronting North Korean nuclear ambitions, fixing the middle East conflicts, keeping our alliances intact, and dealing with Putin’s Russia.
We do know that on climate change he has cut the budget for almost all US programs in to address this existential and disastrous reality. He would take us out of the Paris Accord the only effective instrument we have to gain global cooperation.
An editorial in the New York Times on May 17th entitled “Mr. Trump’s lose talk on Korea” noted that Trump’s approach is more likely to endanger some peaceful solution than solve peaceably the conflict with North Korea. There is real reason to question where are we going with this and to what end?
Both nuclear weapons and the idea of a “preemptive strike” and harsh threats on both sides are dangerous elements.. This is especially true when both side are led by somewhat unhinged leaders who like to demonstrate their powers and egoism. The time has come to bring us back to a more rational approach before we start a game of “chicken.”
Surely at some point the leaders of China, North Korea and America must recognize in this option for an aggressive “game” the only end is destruction of all sides This is the worst case outcome when in reality there is a “win-win” outcome if only we all can recognize the harsh reality of nuclear conflict. There should be a point where all sides can accept gains for all sides with a diplomatic solution where Kim Jong Un, president, Xi Jinping, and Donald Trump control their fears and their egos. Any leader must look closely at the risks of mistakes and stupidity by the other..
The path of a better outcome is North Korea gains a de-nuclearize North and South Korea, food to feed his people. China gains added stability and security on its borders and eliminates the danger of a war that would be a total disaster for it and removal of nuclear weapons North and South. America gets rid of a nuclear threat to allies like Japan and South Korea and not least to America. Trump gets to enlarge his ego.
MORE ON THE TRUMP SYRIAN MISSILE STRIKES AND BEYOND & WEIGHING RISKS.
Harry C. Blaney III
Already there have been many comments on the impact of the missiles strikes and discussions of their implication and what they may mean going forward. The simple truth is that none of us know what risks may lurk ahead not even Trump, nor Putin, nor Assad. Trump has not indicated much in the way of his real aims and less about what hand he will play. Many bet he has no plan and others have surmised strategies from the more likely to the ridiculous. The one thing I think is true is that the old Trump we have seen is NOT a new Trump of a “grand sophisticate strategist.” I doubt he has little but a fuzze and probably ill-informed idea of what he must now do and what the future risks are.
Already after the initial Trump strikes, Syrian government warplanes were back bombing the same site that was hit by the sarin chemicals. And as sited in the Washington Post (4/9/17), reportedly there were more strikes also against civilians at Khan Sheikhoun, where Tuesday 68 people had been killed. Assad planes are still active in brutal killings. Thus nothing much has changed for the people as a result.
Not least of concern is the reaction of Putin to these actions and dangers of mistakes on both sides. Our larger approach with Russia must be an integral element of our strategy.
Trump’s national security team is about the worst I have seen in 50 years. Leaving aside the fractious White House still dominated by Alt-Right ideologists, one glaring weakness is the selection of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State without any previous knowledge or experience in foreign policy and national security areas. He is like a lost soul out of his depth. Worst he won’t talk to or listen to experienced hands at State according to reports. Part of that may be that he knows he may have to fire many of them to meet the demands of his harsh circus ring boss who has a desire to ensure that foreign affairs belongs exclusively in the White House and as a fiefdom of an incompetent family. Thus we see the Trump inspired 30% cut in State’s budget.
Trump said his motivation for the strikes were humanitarian for saving of lives, but his proposed State and USAID budget cuts will result in millions of added deaths including women and children in poor and conflict ridden nations around the world. Is that an act of a real “humanitarian?”
The results on the policy side of this action many end with no serious negotiations and with no strategic game plan behind them. This results in no long-term thinking or seeking peaceful win-win solutions. It seems the major fault is lack of respect of the tools of deep analysis and the concern and understanding of risks as well as end-game benefits for peace by Trump. That is dangerous for America and the world.
He has now made a “big bet” with a rather limited strike in Syria. He warned the Russians ahead which meant that the Assad air force had some kind of advanced warning. The damage done to the airfield and planes were modest in the extreme. He did not destroy all their planes and they can continue the killing of innocent civilians with what seems impunity with the protection of Russian arms. Did Trump foresee that outcome or even desire it?
The questions that many of us are asking is: given the military strategists have likely already developed complex scenarios for potential contingencies, has Trump given any consideration to both their analysis or recommendations or recognized the risks they may present? Another question is he even asking what options or problems they might have over looked. And does he have people around him with deep knowledge that can ask the right questions, note the pitfalls, weaknesses, and provide him with additional realistic options?
I hearken back to the recommendations by DOD, CIA and even State to President John Kennedy in the 1960s Cuba missile crisis to attack with nuclear weapons Cuba, when unknown to US, Russian forces there had permission to use nuclear weapons against the US should Cuba be attack. President Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy together ignored the “nuclear war option” and choose, rightly, the negotiation option which saved mankind from mass obliteration. Is there any sign of this kind of depth and serous thinking among the Trump gang?
Finally, I like senator Chris Murphy’s recent analysis of our Syria actions:
“As a theoretical matter, a targeted military strike in response to a major violation of non-conventional weapons norms is justifiable. Why have rules against chemical weapons use if no one is going to pay a price for violating the rules? International norms should be upheld by the international community–not the United States acting alone–but it’s hard to argue against Trump’s action last night when viewed in isolation as a response to Assad’s barbaric attack.
The problem is military strikes never happen in isolation–the before and after are arguably even more important than the strike itself. The actions Trump took leading up to Assad’s chemical weapons attack, as well as the all-important and totally unanswered question of what comes next, highlight the administration’s immoral and hypocritical approach to violence in the region.”
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EUROPE’S DISCONTENT AND CHALLENGES IN A HIGH RISK WORLD: AMERICA’S PROBLEM TOO!
Harry C. Blaney III
This post is about the perspective of the remaining 27 members of the EU and especially the nations of the main continent as they await the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, face difficult negotiations on Brexit, and face the reality of the serge of Fascists groups and parties with elections in France and Germany looming this year. At the same time try to deal with the immigration crisis and the danger of further erosion of unity and not least the threat of Putin’s Russia and its active measures to undermine the democracy and unity of members of NATO and the EU.
All this is compounded by the indifference and even threats of the Trump administration towards the key institutions that have comprised the source of the continent’s prosperity, unity and security. Th treat by both Donald Trump and the Secretary of State Tillerson that they have to pony up the 2% of GDP to “pay America” is outrageous given that the threat is accompanied with the further implicit threat of not defending countries that do not make that mark.
From the perspective of the EU nations and the EU public servants and NATO here in Brussels the unity of the West is in considerable disarray. They are threaten by and fearful of the U.S. under an unpredictable even malicious president and a myopic Republican Congress. Both of which ignore or want to cut funding for diplomacy and foreign assistance and international institutions. These acts inevitably lead to a more dangerous world and less security for America and other nations. They see such moves as forces that move the world towards more conflict, global poverty, and disastrous climate change. They also see the pending funding cut of programs that make the world a safer place for all nations as a common threat to global stability and security.
No wonder they are worried that we are driven by and act on the isolationist concept of “America First,” the same concept that Hitler used to gain his power in the phrase “Deutschland über alles.” They are concerned about the likes of the Alt-Right and racist Stephen Bannon and Trump in American politics. Some are worried by their proclaimed ideology of raw unfetter capitalism, with policies aimed at supporting of brutal and undemocratic governments and bullying of other nations for its own personal selfish interests.
Looking to their East Europe they see an aggressive and predatory Russia under Putin. Their concern is great about efforts of Putin to impact on elections in Europe. The most glaring is that of France.
Among the leading French candidates. Le Pen, of the National Front, conservative nominee Francois Fillon and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon have a positive view of Trump and want to bring Russia into normal relations and want lifting sanctions imposed over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The three have also expressed some of support for Russia intervention against anti-regime rebels in Syria’s civil war. On the other hand Macron and Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon has a more skeptical view of Putin. Two candidates back continued sanctions on Russia and have insisted that Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.
In February, the moderate center Macron aide accused Russian state media of a “smear campaign” against the 39-year-old defender of open borders and immigration, whom polls show ultimately beating Le Pen. Macron’s team also pointed a finger at Russia over a flurry of cyberattacks on his campaign website. The recent sight of a smiling Le Pen clasping hands with the Russian rankled France’s Socialist government. “It’s not up to Russia to decide who will be the next president of France,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday. The outcome of the election will determine the future of Europe.
The end result is a Europe feeling alone and no longer respecting American leadership that is no longer being what it has been since the end of WW II. It is seen now as a force that not only does not support doing good and seeking peace and democracy in the world but one that is prone to acting in ways that make our world worse. That is dangerous. Some of the issues and problems of the U.S. relationship with Europe need immediate attention and major rethinking and signs of strong support for a strong and united Europe.
We welcome your comments.
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.
We welcome your comments!
THE RUSSIAN-TRUMP CONNECTION: GETTING TO THE TRUTH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
By Harry C. Blaney III