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Trump and Geopolitics
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 2:17 pm    Post subject: Trump and Geopolitics Reply with quote

World Leaders Gather to Worry About Trump
At a top annual international security conference this weekend, Trump’s win—and uncertainty about how he’ll handle Russia, Syria, and various international threats—loomed large.


HALIFAX—Foreign leaders gathered in Nova Scotia this past weekend to talk high affairs of state, matters of war and peace—and what to do with a problem like Donald Trump.

The Halifax International Security Conference is one of the first opportunities for world leaders to huddle and exchange views on the American election. The shock results and the ambiguity of what Trump would do with his unexpected ascendency to power meant the prevailing mood of the world’s diplomats, academics, and politicians is one of utter uncertainty.

Many of the attendees reflect a pro-NATO, bipartisan Western order that has held together since the end of World War II, and they gathered for one of the calendar’s most important national-security conferences. The hundreds who met in Halifax—the experts, the experienced, the policy veterans—might have been dismissed by Trump during his campaign as so-called globalists or the “elite.”

But now many of them will be called on by their nations to fix the world’s challenges: the mass slaughter of civilians in Syria by Russian and Assad regime forces; the reemergence of nationalism; and the dangers of various cyberthreats.

Trump would have been a punchline when the annual Halifax summit gathered here last year—the serious money was on Jeb or Marco Rubio or Hillary. But the predictions and assumptions of these diplomats, ministers, and heads of state were shattered two weeks ago when Trump defied expectations to become the president-elect of the United States—and in turn, sent shudders down the spine of the leaders gathered here.

The shadow of Trump cut through every issue, as politicians like former Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean intermingled with a crowd that featured National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers, retired Gen. John Allen, and former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee Lillian Neville-Jones.

“There’s a whole series of threats to our stability. What the election of Donald Trump will mean for that stability is of course the newly-emergent central topic of every discussion,” Democratic Sen. Chris Coons told The Daily Beast.

Trump is no longer a joke to them, but instead a cause for profound alarm—especially his pronouncements on the NATO alliance, his talk of torturing prisoners, and his willingness to improve America’s relationship with Russia.

The Trump anxiety is most profound from countries in Eastern Europe who are terrified that Trump’s will usher in an era of Russian dominance and a resultant decline in their freedoms and independence.

“From my conversations with them, they’re very nervous. There have been mixed messages, obviously, and they’re continuing to get enormous pressure from Putin and the Russian propaganda machine,” Sen. John McCain, chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast. “We don’t really know exactly what President Trump will do. Some of it depends on who his selection for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense are.”

In the halls of the Halifax Westin, officials from countries like Ukraine and Estonia hustled from meeting to meeting to take the temperature of American support in this new age of Trump. Trump’s election has ushered in a moment of uncertainty for America’s allies. Will he withdraw from Asia? How will he address the Iran nuclear deal? Will he recognize the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea?

“There is a strong concern among many in Congress about any attempt by Trump to dramatically change our policies towards Russia, particularly with regard to recognizing [Putin’s] illegal occupation or his intervention in Syria on behalf of Assad,” Coons added.

The conference, which is sponsored in part by NATO, was particularly focused on what Trump’s election would mean for an alliance which has existed for nearly 70 years. During the campaign, Trump had suggested that the United States might want to distance itself from the organization—a major red flag for the diplomats and politicians assembled here.

“I think NATO may be obsolete,” Trump said in a March interview, adding that he would “certainly look at” getting rid of it.

But the conference’s participants are staying optimistic at what they see as positive developments by Trump since Election Day. In fact, as the conference was underway, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller announced that Trump and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had spoken by phone.

“Both agreed that we have work to do in the NATO alliance… but that we also have important missions going forward.”

Both Congressional and foreign leaders are trying to tread a fine line—not to needlessly antagonize Trump, but also to anticipate standing up to him at worthwhile moments.

“I believe that there’s every opportunity for us to work together. The approval rating of Congress is 14 percent,” McCain said. “It would be far better for all of us if we gave the president a honeymoon, and worked together, presented him with things like tax reform [and] a good solid defense bill.”

But McCain, who led the conference’s largest Congressional delegation ever, is also beginning to show flashes of the ‘maverick’ reputation that he developed during the George W. Bush administration for bucking the Republican Party on certain issues. In this administration, McCain said he will push back on issues such as torture—he had spent more than five years being tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Asked about Trump’s pledge to bring back waterboarding and “much worse” interrogation techniques, McCain’s response was fierce and adamant. There would be no “honeymoon” for that.

“I don’t give a damn what the president wants to do,” McCain said, pointing out that he helped passed legislation last year that prohibits torture. “We will not waterboard. We will not torture people.”

Ultimately, however, the assembled leaders were trying to find a silver lining in the American elections, which in some ways was a rebuke of the pro-Western, democratic ideals that are the cornerstone of the NATO alliance. Sen. Tim Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate, tried humor on for size, while receiving an award from the conference.

“A few years ago I went to a fortune teller, and she told me I was going to win something very big in November of 2016,” Kaine joked, upon receiving the award, to peals of laughter. But he quickly turned serious to point out a major positive that is missed in the negative news cycles of this year.

“With the ceasefire arrangement in Colombia, in the civil war between Colombia and the FARC, [North and South America are] two continents without war for the first time in recorded history,” Kaine said.

Alliances are more important now than they were 70 years ago, before the Marshall Plan was implemented and the Truman doctrine was described and NATO was formed, the senator argued, adding, “and that is why it is so important that we gather here.”
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 2:20 pm    Post subject: Trump's Towering Ignorance of Syria Reply with quote

Trump's Towering Ignorance of Syria
A Lesson for Trump in Syria: The Enemy of My Enemy Is… My Enemy
The president-elect’s view of the Syrian situation is so full of contradictions even Putin is backing away.
Michael Weiss
11.21.16 1:03 AM ET

The Russian presidential administration’s readout of the phone call was terse but telling. “Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump,” it stated, “both spoke of the need to work together in the struggle against the number one common enemy—international terrorism and extremism. In this context, they discussed issues related to solving the crisis in Syria.”

That marriage of true minds occurred on Nov. 14, exactly six days after the world began referring, however reluctantly, to Donald Trump as president-elect of the United States.

It was an unknown number of days after the New York real estate baron received what he described as a “beautiful” letter from his soon-to-be Russian counterpart, a man whose steadfast leadership he has professed to admire and whose regime is currently—although perhaps not for long—under U.S. sanctions owing to its invasion and occupation of parts of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s military is also responsible, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, for killing more Syrian civilians in a single year than ISIS has managed to do in three-and-a-half years—and all in the name of combating what Putin calls “international terrorism and extremism.”

Not that Trump is aware of that latter statistic (he has, at times, been unaware of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), and not that he would be much bothered by it even if he were. His Syria policy, such as it can be divined from his statements and claims on the hustings, and now in his turbulent transition period, has remained doggedly opposed to reality.

His handle on the contemporary Middle East is both a monochromatic caricature of the war on terror (“bomb the shit out of them”) and a semi-conscious regurgitation of authoritarian propaganda and disinformation, the sort of lies he doesn’t dismiss and many enemies of the United States have long hoped a Western leader such as him would swallow.

The so-called Islamic State, as Trump sees it, is the sole problem bedeviling a region teeming with intractable dilemmas and bloody conflicts. It is therefore the only natural security consideration for the United States. He told the Wall Street Journal that he does not trust the anti-ISIS Sunni Arab rebels the CIA and Pentagon have trained in Syria, whereas he places a lot of faith in the armies that have been killing both, often to the benefit of the ISIS fanatics.

“My attitude was you’re fighting Syria,” he said, “Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria. … Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.”

It scarcely matters that “Syria” is here represented by a mass murdering dictator who has in the past instructed his intelligence services to dispatch jihadists into Iraq to blow up American soldiers, and more recently released al Qaeda veterans from his prisons, as he continues to trade with ISIS in oil, natural gas, weapons and electricity.

Of no apparent consequence, either, is the fact that U.S. spies and military officials have drawn a straight line from scorched-earth tactics deployed by the Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran, and the successive waves of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe and North America. This is the most politically and socially destabilizing mass migration the likes of which have not been seen since World War II, and yet which Trump seems to think it’s the work of the caliphate, not his future friend Assad.

Indeed, Trump’s telegraphing of executive intent to the Journal was sufficient to earn a cautiously happy reply from Bashar al Assad himself. “We cannot tell anything about what he’s going to do,” Assad said on Portugal’s RTP television channel, in an interview that aired Tuesday, following a rather successful reputation laundering press junket he allowed into Damascus. “But if… he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be an ally, a natural ally in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries.”

Putin and Assad would surely welcome a realignment of the world’s only military superpower into the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow orbit—one which Trump blames the weakling Barack Obama for enabling even as he vows to work with it as a geopolitical fait accompli, making the United States a moral underwriter of that troika’s war crimes.

Trump’s worldview suffers from a major strategic contradiction: one cannot be both pro-Putin and anti-Ayatollah at the same time. Least of all in Syria.

“The Assad regime does not even have control over the military forces fighting in its name,” Jennifer Carafella, a Syria analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War told The Daily Beast. “Iran has disproportionate control over pro-regime forces. So if the U.S. is talking about entering into an alignment with Assad or Assad plus Russia, it’s actually talking about entering into an alignment with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Carafella said, referring to the elite expeditionary force of the mullahs. Trump has blamed the incumbent president for enriching that same group, to America’s peril, by way of the Iran nuclear deal.

Perhaps it is precisely because of uncertainty about how Trump will square this forbidding circle that the jubilant reception his dark-horse victory prompted in Moscow a few days ago now appears to be giving way to a “creeping sense of buyer’s remorse,” as Oliver Carroll, the managing editor of The Moscow Times, said.

Yes, it’s true that the Russians feel they’ve “got their man,” as Carroll put it, but the brighter bulbs in Putin’s inner circle know that a Trump foreign policy can swing wildly in either or both directions, depending upon his top cabinet picks. Naming former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton as Secretary of State, for instance, would be met with something less than delight in the Kremlin, according to Carroll, given Bolton’s hawkish consistency on both Iran and Russia.

As such, Putin isn’t waiting around to see how things shake out. He’s busying with his own transition.

On Nov. 15, some 24 hours after Putin’s congratulatory phone call to Trump Tower, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the start of a “large-scale operation to deliver strikes against terrorists” all across the Syria, relying both on Russia’s year-old Khmeimim air base in Latakia and its recent naval deployment in the Mediterranean. Kalibr cruise missiles have been fired from the Admiral Grigorivich frigate on targets in Idlib, Aleppo and Homs provinces. Su-33 and MiG 29K fighter jets have taken off from—and sometimes successfully landed on—Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.

Crucial to Putin, the design of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Assad is to retake east Aleppo, a redoubt held by mixed rebel and jihadist forces for several years. The enclave’s fall would constitute a decisive morale and propaganda victory for Damascus, albeit not an end to the anti-regime insurgency. That would chug along indefinitely, as even that perennial optimist Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, explained to the Guardian following Trump’s election.

Much of the state-sponsored heavy lifting, on the opposition side is being done by Qatar and Turkey, according to Carafella. In the continued absence of American ownership of the rebel cause, these U.S. allies have grown even bolder in their financing and arming of hardline Islamist and jihadist factions to beat back Iranian hegemony in Syria and/or Kurdish expansionism.

A U.S. cutoff of armaments and cash to various Free Syrian Army units would not necessarily affect the course of this hinge battle.

However, Aleppo’s fall would do the opposite of what Trump claims he wants to do: destroy international terrorism.

Jihadist recruitment would spike. Already it has been on the rise as a result of Russia’s year-long campaign, Carafella says. “Even when Russia has targeted terrain held by ISIS, they’re violating the laws of armed conflict. They’re targeting ISIS-controlled market places. They’re killing civilians. We don’t want the Russians to target ISIS-held terrain because it won’t be effective militarily.”

This is why both the CIA and Joint Chiefs of Staff have characterized the sacking of East Aleppo as an impending humanitarian catastrophe as well as an urgent U.S. counterterrorism threat. The area contains no known ISIS militants. What it has got a lot of is civilians, some 250,000, now facing extermination, internal displacement or radicalization.

According to the pro-opposition Local Coordination Committee (LCC), 82 people were killed on Wednesday in Aleppo alone. “Most of them,” the report noted, were hit by Russian and Syrian warplanes. In the last week several hospitals have also been destroyed, including a specialized pediatric one, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. The World Health Organization has claimed that all hospitals in the area are now inoperable—although the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights disputes that, saying that civilians are simply too terrified of being killed should they seek treatment at any of the still-functioning facilities.

Death from above can come quickly or slowly. Russian warplanes dropped parachute bombs on Hanano and Haidaria, two neighborhoods in Aleppo’s northeast, according to the LCC.

“It was the heaviest bombardment this month,” Monther Ekaty, an activist in the Seif al Dawla area of the city, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday, two days into the renewed campaign. “Tactical rockets, regular bombs, barrel bombs, cannon, mortars and surface-surface rockets” had all been fired on the city, which offers no escape from the inevitable slaughter. Other eyewitnesses say that chlorine-gas filled barrel bombs have been unleashed. Al Jazeera captured horrifying footage of an air raid striking on children’s hospital just as a father and his two children were being treated for asphyxiation from just such a chemical attack. The nurses scramble to rescue undernourished and near-lifeless infants from incubators, amid the smoke and debris.

“There is nowhere to run to,” said Ameen al Halabi. “We’re completely besieged and there are no routes out of the city.”

Contrast this claim of total encirclement with a text message sent to East Aleppo residents by the regime on Sunday, Nov. 13. The ill and wounded, it read, should flee the city or die as a “strategically planned assault using high precision weapons [would occur] within 24 hours.”

At the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, Sen. John McCain said that precision bombs are being used to purposefully target hospitals in Aleppo and characterized what Assad, Iran and Russia are doing as “one of the greatest acts of genocide in modern times,” for which the United States, through its fecklessness and inaction, is complicit.

“If Trump didn’t give them a green light, the Russian wouldn’t have started the Aleppo campaign again,” al Halabi said, echoing a widely held view.

The activists and rebels interviewed for this story responded to the prospects of a Trump presidency with a collective, “What else is new?” They’ve been through it all already.

“Okay, so look at what happened during the past week,” said photographer Fuad Hallak. “Trump got elected and more than 100 civilians were killed in Aleppo alone. If Clinton got elected instead, would these 100 be alive now? I don’t think so.”

Whatever hope may have once existed for American-led resolution to Syrians’ suffering ended in 2013, all interviewees said, when Barack Obama failed to punish Assad for using chemical weapons in Damascus. Instead, he cut a deal with Putin, which, East Aleppo residents believe, Trump is only likely to expand upon, with little or no bearing on how they live or die.

“Yesterday, Liwa Shuhada al-Islam were receiving ammunition from Turkey, via the Atmeh crossing,” said Suhel, a fighter with that unit of the Free Syrian Army. “So the arms did not stop yet, but I have no idea how Trump will affect us. I am not worried because the American government never really supported us. They are supporting us only with statements, but they act against us.”

“The unavoidable truth,” said Carafella, “is that al Qaeda has been fighting and dying in the trenches with the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime since the beginning of this war. If the U.S. enters into a partnership with Russia that is committing repeated war crimes—even if we manage to shift Russia’s campaign to anything productive—we still fail to recover legitimacy with the local population.”

“We’re in a competition with al Qaeda,” she added. “We have invested enough for our reputation to be on the line, but not enough to affect the outcome in any serious way. And that’s a terrible place to be.”

And there’s no guarantee that a President Trump could fix it even if he wanted to, and even if he had the remotest idea how to.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2016 4:58 pm    Post subject: This is where WWIII will start Reply with quote

This is where WWIII will start
New York Post

Donald Trump faces the dilemma of whether defending a Baltic NATO member against Vladimir Putin is worth sparking World War III, an influential defense expert has claimed. A third world war is set to be ignited in Latvia if the United States comes to the rescue of the Baltic country, according to Professor Paul D. Miller. The respected expert from the National Defense University in Washington, DC, predicted the invasion of Crimea in 2014. And now the professor believes Latvia or possibly neighboring Estonia is next on Russia’s hit list. But since the Baltic nations are in NATO, all members are compelled to come to its rescue under Article Five of an alliance treaty — which would spark World War III...

Read more at http://nypost.com/2016/11/22/this-is-where-wwiii-will-start/
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:54 pm    Post subject: Why Europe's populist revolt is spreading Reply with quote

Why Europe's populist revolt is spreading
With Trumpism advancing from the west and Putinism from the east, can Europe’s centrists survive the nationalist onslaught?

Is there really an international wave of a hard-right populism? Are the masses rising up around the world to topple corrupt elites? Or is talk of this colossal political shift just jargon, guff and cocktail chatter concocted by analysts searching for patterns when the victories of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election and Britain’s decision to leave the EU—to name the two most significant results in the West—could just be unconnected blips?

A year ago, the evidence for a global phenomenon was weak. Some midsize European countries, Hungary and Poland, had elected rightist, anti-globalization governments, and France, the Netherlands, Sweden and a few other European nations had parties that were beginning, maybe, to look like electoral contenders. The U.K. was heading for a vote on its EU membership, but few people thought the majority would vote for Brexit. At that point, Trump seemed to be just a whacky sideshow in a Republican primary.

As Newsweek’s Josh Lowe and Owen Matthews report in this week's cover story, the evidence of an international populist surge has grown since then. Trump’s victory has made it harder for centrists to close their eyes and hope nationalism will just disappear. His triumph was a shock in many ways, but one of the most sobering aspects of it is his warmth toward prominent authoritarian leaders and foreign politicians with alarming views. Trump’s counterparts in Europe, long confined to the margins of politics, will watch with admiration as Trump, soon to be the world’s most powerful person, takes office on January 20.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:28 am    Post subject: Trump, Farage and the far right Reply with quote

The Next Brexit
By Josh Lowe

Six days after Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, social media users in Britain awoke to a photograph of the president-elect standing beside another familiar face—Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). The two men, who both pitch themselves as champions of ordinary men and women, stood beaming before a glittering, gold-plated elevator door in Trump’s $100 million New York City penthouse. The image wasn’t just a sign of a budding bromance; it was evidence of a wider convergence. Like-minded figures from the populist hard right are looking across borders and celebrating one another’s successes. “They saw Brexit as an inspiration for their campaign,” a triumphant Farage tells Newsweek. “If you look at the last weeks of the Trump campaign, every single night at every single rally, he said this is going to be bigger than Brexit.”

Farage has traveled some way to reach the golden pinnacle of Trump Tower. It was only two and a half years ago that I waited in the freezing rain to watch him speak in a faded hall in the coastal city of Portsmouth on England’s southern edge. It was a spit-and-sawdust affair, with an eccentric merchandise stand selling comedy tea towels that described then–European Council President Herman Van Rompuy as a “damp rag.” Now Farage and other politicians in Europe with similar views think the movement has moved from the fringe to the center. In June, the British masses surprised the experts and voted to leave the European Union; then came Trump’s victory. As news of that sunk in, Florian Philippot, vice president of France’s hard-right National Front, tweeted his delight: “Their world is collapsing. Ours is being built.”

That may be an exaggeration, but across Western Europe, right-wing populists are preparing for battles against nervous progressive or centrist politicians. In Austria, which faces a rerun of its presidential election on December 4, Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the far-right Freedom Party, might win the largely symbolic but still important office. That would make him the first hard-right head of state in the EU. In March, the Netherlands will hold parliamentary elections in which the anti-Islam Freedom Party is set for a tight race against the incumbent center-right government. Later, France’s National Front also has a chance at victory in the presidential election. In Germany, which will have a federal election early in the second half of 2017, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a new anti-immigration and anti-Islam party, is likely to win its first seats in the national parliament.

Yet it’s far from certain that the hard right will prevail in all these contests. The Austrian presidential election is too close to call. Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s presidential candidate, is polling around 30 percent, enough to get her to the second round of voting in France but a long way below the 50 percent she’ll need to win the Élysée Palace. In the Netherlands, the Freedom Party and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right People’s Party swing between first and second place. None of that means moderates and progressives are safe. “If you had told me a year ago, ‘In one year’s time, you’ll be living in Brexit Britain while Trump is elected,’ I would have said, ‘Oh, but the likelihood is really low,’” says Daphne Halikiopoulou, an analyst of the European far right at the U.K.’s University of Reading. “Where we are now, I wouldn’t put anything past anyone.”

These parties are not identical, but they have all positioned themselves between the starched shirts of the center right and the swivel-eyed thugs of the extreme right. They all share a “put us first!” flavor of nationalism plainly visible in their slogans, from Farage’s “we want our country back” to the Austrian Freedom Party’s guiding principle, “Austria first,” to Trump’s swaggering promise to “make America great again.” Opposition to immigration is a cornerstone of their appeal, but where some give explicitly cultural or racial reasons for this, others couch it in more practical terms. The leading hard-right parties in Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands are explicitly anti-Islam, for example, while Geert Wilders is happy to refer to the Netherlands’ “mega Moroccan problem.” (Unlike its right-wing counterparts elsewhere in Europe, UKIP has focused more on immigration to Britain from other EU states.) These parties all draw some support from working-class communities, often in post-industrial areas, and are happy to take up causes like economic protectionism and even nationalization, which have been more associated in recent decades with the left than the right. But their support cannot be reduced to purely economic concerns.

Relationships between the rightist movements aren’t always warm; some of these newly empowered populists are rapacious opportunists with fractious personalities. Farage has sought to distance himself from Le Pen’s party, for instance, which he has accused of anti-Semitism. This denunciation helped him be seen as a legitimate political voice on British television and in the country’s established newspapers. If some of these parties win power, it’s not hard to imagine the friction as a collection of “put us first!” governments slug it out. But this is a criticism the parties dismiss. Farage sums up their reasoning with a disarming cliché: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

The personal links between these parties and movements are only deepening. Farage is linked to Trump’s White House via his former adviser and close ally, Raheem Kassam, editor of the London branch of the hard-right news site Breitbart. Kassam is a protégé of Breitbart’s former chairman Steve Bannon, whom Trump just appointed as his chief strategist, and whom Farage has known, as he puts it, “for some years.” Meanwhile, in 2015, the Dutch and Austrian Freedom parties, the National Front and others created a group in the European Parliament called Europe of Nations and Freedom; the parties will back one another in their upcoming contests. Farage tells Newsweek he does not rule out supporting these parties. Some may soon share a sympathetic media outlet too; Breitbart, whose abrasive and sometimes racist or Islamophobic content was lapped up by Trump supporters and has been unfalteringly pro-UKIP, is set to expand into France and Germany, potentially boosting Le Pen and the AfD.


Farage, Le Pen and others like them aren’t making the big decisions just yet. Rutte and former Prime Minister Alain Juppé* in France could easily win the Dutch and French elections respectively. Both are center-right moderates with deep experience, calm temperaments and international outlooks. But what both Trump and Brexit have demonstrated is that a promise of unfettered independence for a nation and cultural or racial homogeneity for its people can prove extremely compelling. As the tide of nationalism rises, centrists must find a way to make the opposite case better—or find themselves drowning beneath it.

* The author of the article hasn't followed the French primary. With Fillon winning with 44% against Juppé 27 or 30% (can't remember the exact figures), Juppé doesn't have a prayer of being the center-right nominee.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2016 6:43 pm    Post subject: Assad says Trump a 'natural ally' for Syria Reply with quote


Bashar al-Assad says Donald Trump a 'natural ally' for Syria alongside Russia and Iran
Syria's Bashar al-Assad said in an interview aired on Tuesday that Donald Trump will be a "natural ally" if the US president-elect fulfils his pledge to fight "terrorists".

In his first reaction to Trump's election victory last week, the Syrian president struck a note of caution and said he was unsure the American billionaire would be able to keep his word and step up the fight against jihadists.

"We cannot tell anything about what he's going to do, but if... he is going to fight the terrorists, of course we are going to be ally, natural ally in that regard with the Russian, with the Iranian, with many other countries," he told Portugal's RTP state television.

Asked about Trump's campaign comments suggesting the United States should focus more on fighting the Islamic State (Isil) group, Assad said he would welcome such a move but was cautious.

"I would say this is promising,..."

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 2:08 am    Post subject: Geopolitics Reply with quote

Looks like a marxist analysis.... M.

A Simple Tool for Understanding the Trump Presidency
By Reva Goujon

We hear all the time about how the world "should" work. Self-proclaimed liberals and conservatives, Keynesians and Reaganites, humanists and hawks, globalists and nationalists have crammed the airwaves and filled our Twitter feeds with policy prescriptions, promoting their worldview while scorning others'. But after the emotionally charged year this has been, I suspect many people are growing weary of big theories and cursory character assassinations. Instead, it may be time to replace the pedantry with something more fundamental — and less divisive — in which to ground our thoughts and make sense of the world.

Rather than focusing on what should happen, perhaps we would do better to turn our attention to what will happen. And in this, geopolitics can come in handy. It is a deceptively simple tool, one that won't bury you in academic pretension or require a fancy algorithm to model. But its simplicity doesn't make it any less powerful. When you boil down the frothy mixture of ideas, personalities and emotions that have bubbled up over the past year, what is left are some fairly obvious answers on how we got to this point and, more important, where we are heading.

Geography Doesn't Argue
It all starts with the map. And not just any map, but one that emphasizes topography over political borders. The beauty of such a map is that it doesn't leave much room for polemical debate. As the Dutch-American geopolitical thinker Nicholas Spykman once put it, "Geography does not argue. It simply is."

The map can tell us the basic facts about a particular nation or region. Is it massive or tiny, mountainous or flat? Is it a land power or an island? Is it stuck between bigger powers or does it loom over smaller neighbors? Is it enclosed by geographic barriers or split from within? Do its river systems run in a direction that unites or divides? The map will show whether a place has navigable waterways and coastal depth, where its biggest population centers are, how much rain its lands get and how many resources those lands contain, whether it rests in a temperate zone or an inhospitable wasteland, what infrastructure links it with others or isolates it, and so on.

Then, we layer on history. How has the map shaped a nation's behavior over the centuries? Regardless of the prevailing personality or ideology of the time, what were the constraints that limited that nation's options, or the compulsions that pulled it in a particular direction? What internal and external conditions existed when the nation was most celebrated in its history? When it entered its darkest days? Do the circumstances emerging today resemble a cycle of the past?

Time is important. Geopolitics is the study of the human condition, and human history is told through the passing of generations. On average, a new generational cycle is completed every 20 years or so. This means that the world we knew two decades ago and the world we will see two decades from now should look very different from the one we're experiencing today. If you're skeptical, consider 2016. Now subtract 20-25 years and see what picture you end up with. In the late 1990s, the United States was in the midst of an economic boom, and political theorists in a postwar euphoria boldly claimed that we had reached the "end of history" and that liberal, capitalistic democracy had triumphed over dangerous ideological thinking. Russia was still in shambles, and the European Union was convinced that closer integration would invite economic prosperity, positioning the Continent to better compete with America. Meanwhile, Japan was starting to feel the pain of its first Lost Decade, and China had begun its rapid ascent as the world's economic "miracle."

Now consider the cycle we are in today, one that began with a crisis that shattered the world. The 2008 collapse of the global financial system stripped away the prosperity that bound the European Union together, short-circuited China's low-end manufacturing boom and triggered a prolonged slump. Jobs were lost and disillusionment with the political establishments spread. At the same time, discontent began to boil over in the Islamic world as populations rose up against their ruling strongmen, all while the United States drowned in its Middle Eastern wars. Russia used these regional fires to blow smoke into Washington's eyes, distracting it while Moscow rebuilt its influence in the Russian borderlands. From this position of relative strength, the Russians squeezed Ukraine's energy supplies and warred with Georgia to remind its neighbors of Moscow's military might — and of the weakness of U.S. security guarantees.

Once we find our place in the generational cycle, we can look to the future and weigh the bigger structural forces at play. How will aging demographics, energy availability, climate change, migrant flows, expanding power vacuums, technological advances and China's economic evolution work together to compound global stressors, create opportunities and revive historical compulsions? This is where the "-isms" will rear their heads: Nativism, protectionism, populism and nationalism will flow easily from these broader forces as the world tries to steady itself from the hyperglobalization of the previous generation.

Only at this point do we add in the individual. If you skip ahead, as many intuitively do, and try to glean answers from what figures such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen or Rodrigo Duterte say, you risk falling into the deep chasm between intention and reality. But when you organize the world into generational cycles and base your understanding on a firm geopolitical foundation, individuals form but a thin film on what is already a thick body of analysis. The leaders in question are then revealed as products of their time, not aberrations in need of constant psychoanalysis. And the structural forces that brought them to power will be the ones to constrain, shape and bend their actions once in office, limiting the possibilities as to what may actually transpire.

Imperatives Laid Bare
We find ourselves today at a particularly compelling phase of this generational cycle. The election of straight-talking populists amid a stressful global environment has laid bare the basic imperatives of the nation-state. Whereas idealism in better, more prosperous times does a good job of cloaking unpleasant truths, hard survival instincts will drive behavior under more trying circumstances.

And this is where geopolitics matters most.

Russia's sprawling landmass and lack of natural defenses compel it to reach beyond its borders and build buffers against the West. As tension inside Russia increases, solidifying those buffers while Russia is still strong enough to do so will become a matter of urgency. Regardless of who sits in the White House, Moscow has no choice but to assume that the West will take advantage of Russia's inherent vulnerabilities to keep the Eurasian power in check. Should the Kremlin perceive the next U.S. president to be a more pliable negotiator, its biggest imperative will be to try to reach an understanding that rolls back NATO's encroachment in the former Soviet Union. But this also means Russia cannot be expected to make any concessions that fundamentally weaken its grip on the critical buffer territory it has seized in eastern Ukraine.

This is where it will become important to focus on the smaller powers squeezed between the bigger ones. These countries tend to have the most acute sense of their environment, and they often adapt to the shifting tides of geopolitics before anyone else sees them coming. The rim of states in Central and Eastern Europe will have to soberly calculate the course of negotiations between Russia and the United States at a time when core Continental powers such as Germany are trying to manage the fallout from the European Union's disintegration. For nations sitting on Russia's front lines, such as Poland, now is the time to band together and bolster their defenses. But for those such as Hungary that rest easier behind the shield of the Carpathian Mountains, now is the time to stay close to Moscow and keep their options open.

Russia will surely run into roadblocks as it barters with the Americans, but it can use the perception of a budding bargain with Washington to intimidate its neighbors while taking advantage of the geopolitical forces pulling Europe apart to weaken the West's resolve. As an island nation, the United Kingdom's instinct will be to distance itself from the Continent — and balance off of the United States across the Atlantic — as other European powers revive their age-old feuds. France, rooted in the southern Mediterranean, will become increasingly polarized from Germany and its allies in Northern Europe as nationalist forces chip away at their troubled union.

Questions over the United States' security commitments in the Far East have presented an opportunity for China as well. The nations stretching from the Indochina mainland to the island chains of Southeast Asia are caught between China's overbearing reach and Japan's reawakening. Even before the U.S. election, these countries were trying to chart a course forward without the firm assurances of their longtime U.S. protector. Seeking strength in numbers, these small, exposed nations will try to coordinate with one another, acting under the larger umbrella of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the hope that their collective voice will grant them some level of parity with their bigger and more powerful neighbors. But in the face of economic stress, political tumult, North Korea's nuclearization and uncertainty over Washington's role in the region, they will eventually break with one another to tend to their own needs. And when they do they will become more vulnerable, giving China ample space to assert its military dominance and extend economic concessions in an attempt to reshape the regional status quo in its favor.

The Middle East will be no less immune to this geopolitical test. Turkey is determined to reclaim its sphere of influence in the former Ottoman belt reaching from Aleppo through Mosul to Kirkuk. At the same time, Iran is trying to preserve its influence in the arc between the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. As the two countries collide amid the region's broader ethno-sectarian struggle, the volatile Middle East will continue to draw in the United States, as well as Russia, which will use these conflicts as bargaining chips in its negotiation with Washington. Strategically speaking, neither the United States nor Iran is in a position to renew tension in the Persian Gulf by throwing out their nuclear deal. But domestic politics could put that theory to the test. Meanwhile, Israel will wait and react to the larger rivalries unfolding around it. Though the United States will maintain its relationship with Israel, it is unlikely to go out of its way to support Israel in ways that could alienate the region's key Muslim powers. Regardless of the next administration's personal preferences for allies, they will not outweigh Washington's strategic interest in maintaining working relationships with the countries taking the lead in reshaping the region.

The fate of North America likewise hangs in the geopolitical balance. The United States rests at the heart of a continent endowed with many resources, navigable waterways, deep coastal ports and massive oceans that protect it from and link it to the rest of the world. The robust trade, infrastructure and cultural ties the United States shares with Mexico and Canada cannot be abruptly severed without creating significant turmoil at home. To be sure, the elemental forces currently fueling nativism, protectionism and anti-establishment sentiment in the United States will force Washington to recalibrate its policies somewhat. But the unique advantages that destined the United States to become a global empire will reduce the chances of a dramatic retrenchment in its foreign policy. The United States will still be driven to capitalize on revolutionary changes in technology to stay competitive and to build a North American economic powerhouse. And when it looks overseas, the United States will still be compelled to prevent larger powers such as China and Russia from dominating their neighborhoods and will have little choice but to rely on regional partners with often-colliding interests to manage developing crises.

Still, the nuances of the United States' policy adjustments and the time it takes to shape them will spread uncertainty in many parts of the world and drive nations to prepare for their worst-case scenarios. So now is the time to put our ears to the ground and feel the eart
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 5:00 pm    Post subject: Trump and the Economy Reply with quote

A Trump boom?

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:12 pm    Post subject: Trump and the country's security Reply with quote

Is this nepotism, or what? The man is nuts!!!


Reports: Donald Trump Wants His Adult Kids to See America’s Most Carefully Kept Secrets
The president-elect reportedly wants to be sure that the family members who will run his business while he runs the country know exactly what is going on.
Tim Mak, Gideon Resnick

Donald Trump is reportedly looking for top-secret clearances for his children, a sign that rather than entering the Oval Office with an eye for avoiding conflicts of interest he’s preparing to rush headlong into a minefield of them.

The president-elect has begun asking how he could secure high level clearances for Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr., his three adult children with first wife Ivana, as well as for Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, according to CNN and CBS. All four family members are members of his transition team, though Trump has said his children won’t serve formal roles in his administration but instead will run the family business while he runs the country.

“This is why we created the nepotism law in the first place. Huge conflicts of interest. You can’t have your kids being advisers. It has to be properly qualified officials who are experts in the fields,” Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in security-clearance law, told The Daily Beast. “It’s an issue of comfort for the President-elect because he’s relied on his children so much. But I don’t foresee a viable legal or ethical loophole or exception.”

It’s unclear exactly whether Trump’s request could even be fulfilled—at least legally. A 1967 law prohibits the president from hiring their immediate family members in the federal government, and to have a security clearance an individual must work the government in some capacity: as a civilian, as a military official or a contractor.

“Even if they came in as unpaid advisers, there’s no such thing as an informal government position that allows you to be sponsored for access” to classified information, Moss said. “There’s no exception. There’s no loopholes.”

And it would difficult to see how Trump could argue that his children have a “need to know” without a formal government role.

“This is not the family business, this is the presidency. The days of family nepotism are over, not just due to policy and practice but by law. Security clearances are not candies to be doled out like at Halloween. You must have a ‘need-to-know’ that is supposed to be taken seriously in advancing the business of the government rather than an individual,” said Mark Zaid, another national security lawyer.

But a former Obama administration official said Trump could simply be asking for them to be cleared so they can have unescorted access to parts of the West Wing. Even First Ladies have to be cleared to access that part of the White House, but that doesn’t mean they have access to top-secret areas like the Situation Room, the official said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the clearance process publicly. The level of clearance for people with unescorted access to visit the President in the West Wing is known as “Yankee White,” which could be what Trump is seeking.

CBS, however, reports that Trump wants his kids to be able to see top secret information, defined as information that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to the national security” if released.

If the Trump children ran the Trump Organization while also serving as high-level, informal advisers, their suggested dual roles would invite an unprecedented conflict of interest.

“If President-elect Trump seeks a security clearance for his children, it will show he either has no understanding of the potential conflict of interest problems he faces or doesn’t care,” said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center. “If he seeks a security clearance for his children who are running the businesses, it will undermine the credibility of any claim that his children will not be involved in advising him on government policies. It raises the real danger that his children will be able to influence government decisions to benefit Trump businesses and run those businesses with inside knowledge of actions and policies the government take.”

During an interview with Trump and his family on 60 Minutes taped last week, Eric Trump said that the children would remain in New York to run their father’s business. “So we’ll— we’ll— we’ll be in New York and we’ll take care of the business,” the younger Trump said. “I think we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. And we’re going to make him very proud.”

Ivanka Trump also said that she would not be interested in a formal role in the upcoming administration. “I’m going to be a daughter,” she said when asked about a possible role. “But I’ve— I’ve said throughout the campaign that I am very passionate about certain issues. And that I want to fight for them.”

Interestingly enough, while the law prohibits nepotism, it doesn’t require the president to give up his or her business holdings while serving in the Oval Office.

Eric, Ivanka, and Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to requests to comment for this story.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 11:00 pm    Post subject: TRUMP = JFK Reply with quote

In the field of sex and romance …

President-elect Donald Trump has an opportunity to establish "American leadership through innovation," BILL GATES told CNBC on Tuesday.

"A lot of his message has been about ... where he sees things not as good as he'd like," the billionaire Microsoft co-founder said on

"But in the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that," Gates continued, "I think whether it's education or stopping epidemics ... [or] in this energy space, there can be a very upbeat message that [Trump's] administration [is] going to organize things, get rid of regulatory barriers, and have American leadership through innovation."

Gates said he recently spoke on the phone with Trump, and discussed the power of innovation. "Of course, my whole career has been along those lines. And he was interested in listening to that. And I'm sure there will be further conversation."

Gates said it was the first time he had spoken with Trump, though he said they have mutual friend.
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