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Trump’s Vow to Target China’s Currency Could Be First Step to Trade War

The Wall Street Journal  /  November 10, 2016

Unlike Mr. Trump’s many other policy promises, his commitment to sanction Beijing for its currency policy has been one of his most explicit

Donald Trump’s pledge to declare China a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency raises the prospect of U.S. tariffs on the Asian giant that figure to push their relationship onto new, contentious ground.

The threat, which Mr. Trump has made repeatedly, risks sparking a trade war with China that would complicate negotiations on a host of other strategic and economic issues. It also risks sparking a legal backlash by U.S. importers.

Unlike Mr. Trump’s many other policy promises, his commitment to sanction China for its currency policy has been one of his most explicit, and was included in his Gettysburg, Pa., speech that outlined his first-100-days action plan.

By itself, the currency-manipulation designation has little practical effect. It requires an escalation in negotiations with currency offenders and gives the White House power to preclude countries from some U.S. financing and trade deals. If used in conjunction with other laws that give the president broad authority to unilaterally sanction trade partners, however, Mr. Trump could use the designation to justify costly fees on imports from China, as he has also promised.

“Trump has a lot of legal authority to intervene in trade,” said Michael Gadbaw, a former U.S. Trade Representative attorney who is now a Georgetown University law professor.

Under the Foreign Trade Act of 1974, for example, “he could determine that this is an unreasonable and unjustifiable restriction on trade, and use that authority to impose tariffs on China,” Mr. Gadbaw said.

Few economists would dispute Beijing kept the value of its exchange rate artificially low for more than a decade to gain an unfair export advantage against trade competitors. That competitive devaluation helped transform the nation into the world’s second-largest economy at the expense of manufacturers in the U.S. and other countries.

But over the past two years, Chinese authorities have burned through nearly $1 trillion of the country’s foreign exchange reserves to prop up the yuan against heavy downward pressure on the currency.

A fast-cooling economy has led to an unprecedented exodus of capital out of the country, tugging the currency down with it.

“The fact is that China has not manipulated for over two years,” said Fred Bergsten, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a longtime advocate for stronger trade sanctions against Beijing for its yuan policy. “It would be highly inappropriate and inaccurate to label them a manipulator at this time.”

Still, Mr. Trump could use his authority in the Treasury Department’s semiannual currency report to Congress, due out in April next year, to censure China as part of a broader strategy to leverage trade concessions from Beijing.

Gregory Daco, an Oxford Economics economist, says he thinks Mr. Trump will most likely refrain from imposing 45% trade tariffs on China, as he proposed many times during the campaign. But he could threaten to use more targeted and limited protectionist measures.

China’s finance and commerce ministries didn’t respond to questions about the potential for a more protectionist U.S. under Mr. Trump, or of Washington labeling China a currency manipulator. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday that Beijing was still waiting to assess the new administration’s policies toward China.

Chinese exporters and economists, meanwhile, warned of a backlash for U.S. firms. “If there really is a 45% tariff, I don’t think Boeing will sell any more airplanes in China,” said  Lawrence Lau, an economics professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Investors, analysts and economists are uncertain whether Mr. Trump’s policies as president will match his campaign rhetoric as a candidate. Many say they are counting on his move into the White House, with the burden of responsibility that comes with leading the world’s largest economy, to moderate his most controversial economic proposals.

Even if Mr. Trump’s trade sanctions were temporary, many experts believe Beijing would respond in kind. That is one reason why the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook in October a surge in global protectionist measures could sap global gross domestic product by more than 1.5% over the next several years.

“China probably would retaliate and that’s problematic for us,” said Matthew Goodman, a top Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Besides the economic fallout from a trade war, imposing punitive tariffs could also endanger Washington’s already strained diplomacy with Beijing on many other economic and strategic issues.

The U.S. has been trying to negotiate greater access for U.S. companies into Chinese markets, including through a bilateral investment treaty. American firms want to be able to take advantage of the business opportunities that a billion-plus population moving into the middle class represents. Washington has also been encouraging Beijing to wind down a massive overhang of excess industrial-production capacity swamping global markets, pushing down prices and forcing U.S. layoffs.

U.S.-China relations have also been on edge over escalating cybersecurity tensions, Beijing’s reluctance to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions, and maritime border conflicts that threaten to turn into dangerous regional conflagrations.

The new president could also find himself embroiled in a legal challenges from U.S. companies such as Apple Inc. that rely on Chinese imports as part of their global product supply chains.

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Trump doesn’t see Israeli land grab as ‘obstacle for peace’ with Palestine

The Wall Street Journal  /  November 10, 2016

Mr. Trump does not view the settlements as being an obstacle for peace,” says Jason Greenblatt, Trumps advisor for Israel, marking a stark departure from the long-time American stance that Israeli construction in areas captured in the 1967 war makes it more difficult to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“The two sides are going to have to decide how to deal with that region, but it’s certainly not Mr. Trump’s view that settlement activity should be condemned and that it is an obstacle to peace. It is not the obstacle to peace.”

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Giuliani: Defeating ISIS Is an Early Focus for Trump

The Wall Street Journal  /  November 14, 2016

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Monday that President-elect Donald Trump would likely focus much of his initial foreign-policy strategy on destroying ISIS, setting aside more vexing problems in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Mr. Giuliani is one of the leading candidates to become Mr. Trump’s first secretary of state.

On Monday, Mr. Giuliani suggested several times that he would be interested in the post.

“ISIS, short-term I believe, is the greatest danger and not because ISIS is in Iraq and in Syria, but because ISIS did something al Qaeda never did—ISIS was able to spread itself around the world,” he said.

In the Middle East, Mr. Giuliani painted a picture of a collection of countries that are at odds with each other and on the brink of spilling into a broader regional war. He said Iran had exerted its control over Iraq and Syria.

On Iraq, Mr. Trump has said the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 was one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in U.S. history, but Mr. Giuliani had a different take.

“I think the way we exited Iraq was the worst decision made in American history,” he said, saying it allowed ISIS to flourish in the vacuum that was created.

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Reuters  /  November 14, 2016

Despite his opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, President-elect Donald Trump is considering two advocates of that war for top national security posts in his administration.

Former top State Department official John Bolton is under consideration as Trump's secretary of state.

Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey is under consideration for U.S. director of national intelligence.

Both men championed the Iraq invasion.

Top Bolton aide Frederick Fleitz, who earlier worked at the CIA unit that validated much of the flawed intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, is involved in transition planning.

A return to power for the three officials would represent a change of fortune for them and other "neoconservatives" who provided the intellectual backing for the invasion of Iraq. The group saw its clout wane in Bush's second term, as U.S. troops in Iraq found themselves mired in a sectarian civil war, and has watched from the sidelines during Democratic President Barack Obama's eight years in power.

Trump has said he opposed the invasion of Iraq, in which more than 4,000 U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, and which led to the creation of al Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner to ISIS.


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Rand Paul: I oppose both Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton for secretary of state

The Guardian  /  November 15, 2016

Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul reiterated his opposition to both former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former UN ambassador John Bolton as secretary of state in an interview with the Guardian on Tuesday.

Paul condemns Bolton as “out of touch”.

He said Trump should “pick people who agree with his foreign policy”.

Trump repeatedly argued on the campaign trail that the Iraq war was a mistake and condemned what he saw as an overly interventionist foreign policy from Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

As Paul phrased it, Trump was “standing up not just to Woodrow Wilson” but also “a whole line of neocons in both parties”, and the senator believed such policies were “a big part” of Trump’s campaign.

Paul, who serves on the Senate foreign relations committee, insisted “there is no way I could vote for someone who is an unrepentant supporter of the Iraq war and regime change. I think that is a disaster for the country. It has made us less safe and so categorically I can’t support anybody that supports regime change.”

He noted in particular that Bolton, who wrote an op-ed in support of bombing Iran in 2015, was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the Iraq war and pointed out that Giuliani agreed with the former UN ambassador on Iran.

Instead, Paul suggested Senate foreign relations committee chair Bob Corker as an alternative. He’s “much more of a realist, not likely to be loading the bombs to go to Iran tomorrow”. In contrast, he suggested that Bolton’s hawkish stance was perhaps because he was trying to “assuage guilt” over “not serving in combat”.

Paul, who has been one of the leading advocates for privacy issues in the Senate, also expressed concern about Giuliani as a potential attorney general, pointing out the former New York mayor had far fewer disagreements with the president-elect on the subject than he did.

Paul noted that while “Trump wasn’t as concerned about privacy as I am, he still very consistently said regime change was a mistake”. The result was that Paul found Giuliani as attorney general to be “less objectionable but still a concern for civil liberties”.

When asked if private companies should purge user data in advance of a Trump administration, Paul said: “I just don’t know yet, but having Giuliani or Chris Christie in charge of information would be very worrisome.”

Paul also made clear he would continue to work across the aisle with Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the intelligence committee, as bipartisan privacy watchdogs. One privacy battle taking shape early in the next administration concerns the reauthorization of a critical surveillance provision, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that permits the widespread collection of Americans’ international communications. Paul said he was preparing to contest the reauthorization of 702, the legal wellspring of the NSA’s controversial Prism program.

The Kentucky senator’s criticisms of Giuliani come nearly a decade after the former New York mayor attacked Rand Paul’s father, Ron, when they both ran for president in 2007. During a presidential debate, Giuliani interrupted Ron Paul and attacked him after Ron Paul suggested that the United States’ interventionist foreign policy was a contributing factor to the terrorist attacks of September 11.


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Why the West's right wing admires Vladimir Putin

France 24  /  November 15, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin is widely admired by right-wing leaders in Western democracies – including Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen – a stark reversal from when conservatives were the staunchest of Cold Warriors.

Autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin has garnered much admiration in recent years from a bevy of right-wing politicians who have praised everything from his single-minded pursuit of Russian national interests to his rejection of “elitist” liberal values.

Republican US President-elect Donald Trump, UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen have all expressed varying degrees of appreciation for the Russian leader’s approach to international affairs.

This would seem to mark something of a reversal from previous decades, when Western conservatives took a more adversarial approach to Russia and its interests, shoring up international support for the alliances and agreements that isolated and contained Moscow.

And while many on the right have traditionally favored robust interventionist foreign policies, the “new right” appears to be veering toward isolationism and a rejection of internationalism, preferring go-it-alone strategies of national self-interest that undermine support for both the EU and NATO, much to the Kremlin’s delight.

At the same time, identity politics have come to the fore in the form of a preoccupation with questions of national identity and the challenges posed by multiculturalism, the pursuit of liberal secularism and a sharp rise in immigration.

Nationalist, Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, National Front leader Marine Le Pen was unequivocal in rejecting the global status quo, telling BBC presenter Andrew Marr that it is the EU and not Vladimir Putin that poses the real threat to Europe.

Le Pen characterised the EU as an "oppressive model" of “unfettered globalisation that has been imposed upon us”, expressing the hope that one day it would be replaced by a "Europe of free nations".

In a further rejection of internationalism, she said NATO had lost its raison d’être. “NATO continues to exist even though the danger for which it was created no longer exists,” said Le Pen, laughing off the suggestion that Moscow poses a threat to Europe.

“What is NATO protecting us against, exactly? Against a military attack from Russia? … In fact, NATO today has become a tool to ensure that its member countries comply with the will of the United States.”

This is “unbearable” for someone who values independence and sovereignty, she said.

Le Pen hailed Putin’s approach to global affairs as an example of "reasoned protectionism", saying he is understandably “looking after the interests of his own country and defending its identity”.

Asked about her views on immigration, Le Pen said France was simply not capable of handling any more arrivals. “We cannot take care of hundreds of thousands of people arriving here, because our first obligation is to protect the French people,” she said.

The National Front leader, who is a candidate for the French presidency next year, said the UK’s vote for Brexit in June and the recent election of Donald Trump in the US had been part of a "global revolution".

Le Pen expressed the hope that France would join this revolt by rejecting elitism when it votes for a new president in April. She said the election would offer a choice between a "multicultural society, on which fundamentalist Islam is encroaching" and an "independent nation where people are able to control their own destiny".

‘We want our country back’

For UKIP leader Nigel Farage, sovereignty is also at the heart of his political philosophy. He told Fox News in the days following the June 23 Brexit vote that the decision to leave the EU was not based on economic concerns, as many had surmised. "It was decided by a basic argument of sovereignty," he said. "Should we make our own laws in our own country, and crucially, should we control our own borders?"

In the following days, Farage hailed the Brexit result in an address before the European Parliamant in which he warned that Britain might not be the last to leave the union. He called the vote “a seismic result, not just for British politics [and] for European politics but perhaps even for global politics”, saying that “ordinary people” had sent a clear message: “We want our country back. We want our fishing waters back. We want our borders back. And we want to be an independent, self-governing, normal nation…”

This renewed focus on sovereignty while questioning current international norms echoes some of the views expressed by the Russian president.

Farage shocked many when he was asked by GQ magazine in a 2014 interview which world leader he admired most. "As an operator, but not as a human being, I would say Putin," he replied. After coming under fire, he later defended his statement in London at a Chatham House event. "I said I don't like him, I wouldn't trust him and I wouldn't want to live in his country, but compared with the kids who run foreign policy in this country, I've more respect for him than our lot.”

Farage, has expressed strong disdain for the European Union, once telling RT that EU leaders "are not undemocratic. They are anti-democratic. These are very bad and dangerous people. They are the worst people we have seen in Europe since 1945."

'At least he's a leader'

US President-elect Donald Trump has also been criticized for praising Putin and remains under scrutiny over allegations that either he or his advisers had inappropriate contact with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On a US morning talk show on December 18 last year, Trump defended Putin over allegations that he has had numerous political opponents and journalists murdered. "He's running his country, and at least he's a leader. Unlike what we have in this country," Trump said, in a reference to US President Barack Obama.

America is at a great disadvantage. Putin is ex-KGB, Obama is a community organizer. Unfair.

— Donald J. Trump  /  April 17, 2014

At an NBC News forum on national security in September, Trump doubled down on these sentiments, saying that Putin "has been a leader far more than our president has been".

"I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing – the man has very strong control over a country.’ Now, it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader."

NBC moderator Matt Lauer reminded Trump that Putin had annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine, supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is suspected of being behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails.

"Well, nobody knows that for a fact," Trump interrupted.

Rejecting 'cosmopolitan' values

Many on the political right view Putin as an ally in defending Western civilization against an excess of multiculturalism and the “cosmopolitan” beliefs that they feel threaten more traditional values. Moreover, his pragmatic view of world affairs suits those who prefer a realpolitik approach over grandiose visions of spreading democratic values, with often questionable results.

“Putin supports conservative values and puts his country's interests above international concerns or political correctness, without being apologetic for doing so,” says Liliya Karimova, a Russia and Eurasia expert at the Kennan Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

A South Caucasus expert at Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Programme who declined to be named pointed out that the Western right wing and Putin also “agree on a number of common enemies”, including “Islamic extremism, the liberal left [and] ‘cosmopolitan’ values”.

He said the global interests of the right wing and Russia are also beginning to merge. There is now a strong affinity between their worldviews that includes “rejecting universalist values and insisting on national specificity/isolationism”.

“Right-wingers in the West don't see the point of getting involved in conflicts in faraway countries where US or European interests are not clear, or of wasting resources investing in grand projects to democratize other parts of the world,” the analyst said. “This [jibes] with Putin's basic concept of spheres of influence – Putin appears as a partner in ‘taking care’ of parts of the world in which right-wingers see no vital interest.”

Russia is no longer the “ideological rival” that the Soviet Union once was, he noted. “[And] without ideological issues at stake, Putin appears to be a transactional politician – a ‘dealmaker’ that we can do business with. This suits the kind of post-truth politics that Western right-wingers are currently embracing, and fits with the idea that Putin can be trusted and relied upon in a world where the US no longer wants to be a global policeman.”

“He is your ideal realpolitik* partner.”

A system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations.

Karimova said Trump “was able to capitalize on the idea of strong – if not authoritarian – leadership in the likes of Putin”, a position that marked “a departure from a stance that Republicans in the US have traditionally taken toward authoritarian leaders”.

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Reuters  /  November 16, 2016

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is now the leading candidate to become President-elect Donald Trump's secretary of state, but even some Republicans say his tough-guy personality and global business ties may be at odds with international diplomacy.

Giuliani, 72, one of Trump's most vocal and high-profile supporters, is eager to become the top U.S. diplomat and expects a decision by Trump as early as next week. The other top candidate is former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, a foreign policy hawk.

New York mayor at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, Giuliani is also considered a hard-liner on national security matters, but he has little diplomatic experience.

Still, some prominent Republicans said he is qualified to take command of U.S. diplomacy at a time of chaos in the Middle East, rising nationalism in much of Europe, and growing challenges from Russia and China.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a respected conservative voice on defense and foreign policy who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Tuesday called Giuliani "competent and capable" of being secretary of state.

"Rudy is an internationally-known figure. He's a personal friend. He has dealt with the unimaginable, which was 9/11. He's a loyal supporter of President Trump. He should be rewarded in my view," said Graham.

Giuliani hs himself extolled his foreign policy credentials.

"I've been in 80 countries, 150 different foreign trips," says Giuliani. "A lot of it for different reasons. Speeches. Security consulting, where I helped bring down crime."

Critics, however, said they are troubled not only by Giuliani's combative nature and lack of experience, but also by his international business ties and his lucrative speaking engagements for an Iranian exile group that was on the U.S. terrorism list until four years ago [???].


After serving as New York mayor for eight years, Giuliani founded management and security consulting firm Giuliani Partners in 2002, which he left in 2007 when he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination and questions were raised about his foreign business ties.

The firm's clients have included Colombia and the government of Qatar.

Giuliani appears to have resumed work with the firm after his 2007 failed presidential bid, and is listed as chairman and chief executive officer of Giuliani Partners on the Giuliani Security and Safety website.

He joined a Texas law firm as a name partner [???] in 2005. The firm did lobbying work for Citgo, a U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, which at the time was controlled by President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's late socialist ruler. At the time, Giuliani's office claimed he was not personally involved in the lobbying and Giuliani believed that "Chavez is not a friend of the United States."

Giuliani's dealings in Russia may face scrutiny in Senate confirmation hearings. His ties to TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, a consulting firm that helps Western clients advance their business interests in emerging markets of the former Soviet Union, date back to 2004, when Giuliani visited Moscow to meet Russian businessmen and politicians.

The consulting firm's president, Vitaly Pruss, has "created and developed strategies" for companies including Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft and has "worked closely" with Giuliani Partners. State-owned Transneft was among Russian oil companies targeted with sanctions by Western powers following Russia's annexation of Crimea under President Vladimir Putin.

Giuliani also has spoken in support of the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran, a group of Islamic leftists who opposed Iran's late shah, but fell out with the Shi'ite clerics who took power after the 1979 revolution and later aligned itself with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The U.S. government considered it a terrorist organization until 2012.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky says he is worried about Giuliani's ties to foreign governments.

"Whether or not you have divided loyalties obviously is very important," Paul said. "I hope Donald Trump will pick somebody consistent with what he said on the campaign trail - Iraq war was a mistake, regime change in the Middle East is a mistake.

"You want to have a diplomat in charge of diplomacy," he said.

Critics say the bottom line is that Giuliani is no diplomat, either personally or professionally.

"The challenge for Giuliani if he becomes secretary of state would be to move beyond the tough guy persona he cultivated as prosecutor and mayor and instead stand up for some of the basic principles of human rights, democratic accountability, and the rule of law that enhance rather than shrink America's influence abroad," said Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, who worked for Giuliani when he was a federal prosecutor between 1983 and 1987.

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US urged to ban acquisitions by Chinese state-owned companies

The Financial Times  /  November 16, 2016

Report to Congress is latest sign of sensitivity of rising investment from China

Chinese state-owned companies should be barred from acquiring companies in the US, a congressional panel warned on Wednesday in the latest sign of the political sensitivity of increasing Chinese investment.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said that Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) could use technologies they acquired to benefit Chinese national interests “to the detriment of US national security”.

The annual report by the commission to the US Congress carries no legal power and is only a recommendation. However, it underscores a growing tide of political opinion that is wary about incoming Chinese investment.

It also comes as the incoming Trump administration has pledged to take a tougher stance on China on economic issues, including trade and currency.

A commission member, former Missouri senator Jim Talent, has been mentioned as a candidate for one of the senior national security positions in a Trump administration.

“There is an inherently high risk that whenever a state-owned enterprise acquires or gains effective control of a US company, it will use the technology, intelligence and market power it gains in the service of the Chinese state to the detriment of US national security,” the commission said in its report.

“Chinese firms, which often receive state funding, have been particularly active in bidding for US technology assets.”

Although there has been discussion about using restrictions on investment by Chinese companies as a tool to win greater market access in China for western multinationals, the report goes considerably further in asking for all acquisitions by state-owned groups to be blocked.

The report recommends that Congress bars acquisitions by companies owned by the Chinese state by changing the statute authorizing the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (Cfius), which has veto power over investments in the country if it finds that national security is being placed at risk.

Cfius is led by the US Treasury and brings together officials from around the government, including from the Pentagon and state department.

“Chinese state-owned enterprises are arms of the Chinese state,” said Dennis Shea, chairman of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“We don’t want the US government purchasing companies in the United States, why would we want the Chinese Communist government purchasing companies in the United States?”

The US has received $18 billion of Chinese foreign direct investment in the first six months of the year — almost three times more than the year before.

Last month, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, another bipartisan panel, recommended that the US places curbs on investments by Chinese entertainment, media and internet companies in response to censorship and restrictions that western media and internet companies face in China.

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CNN  /  December 2, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump spoke with the President of Taiwan Friday, in a move that threatens to trigger a diplomatic showdown with China.

"President-elect Trump spoke with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations," Trump's transition team said in a statement. "During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year."
Trump's conversation marks the first "publicly reported" call between a US President or President-elect and the leader of Taiwan since Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1979.
The telephone call is certain to incense China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province. It is the first major sign of the unpredictability that Trump has vowed to bring to long-held US relations with the rest of the world.
China's state-run CCTV issued a statement saying Trump made "an unprecedented break with the One-China Policy and accepted US-Mainland protocol. The Mainland says it firmly opposes official contact in any form between Washington and Taipei."

The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016

Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2016
"He either will disclose or not disclose the full contents of that conversation but he's well aware of what US policy has been," said  Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.
By Friday night, China has already contacted the Obama administration. White House officials refused to comment on diplomatic discussions. Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said "there is no change to our longstanding policy on cross-Strait issues. We remain firmly committed to our 'one China' policy based on the three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. Our fundamental interest is in peaceful and stable cross-Strait relations," Price said.
Stephen Yates, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who is an adviser to Trump's transition, is in Taiwan and helped facilitate the call. Yates was an Asia adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney and is supportive of Taiwan.
The President-elect vowed in his election campaign to take a tough line toward China. He vowed to brand the country a currency manipulator and warned China is committing "rape" against American workers with its trade policy.

The Guardian  /  December 4, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump railed against China on Sunday, only hours after his transition team denied that his call with Taiwan’s president signaled a new US policy toward Pacific power.

“Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the US doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?” he tweeted. “I don’t think so!”

Earlier on Sunday the vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, had tried to downplay the possibility that Trump could threaten a diplomatic rift with Beijing through his actions last week. Trump’s 10-minute phone conversation on Friday with Tsai Ing-wen – the first time a US president or president-elect has [officially] spoken to a Taiwanese leader since 1979 – and subsequent reference to Tsai as “presidentthreatened such a breach, and implied he might be making up policy on the hoof.

In damage-control mode, Pence sought to dismiss the row as “a tempest in a teapot”, contrasting it with Barack Obama’s rapprochement with communist Cuba.

“He received a courtesy call from the democratically elected president of Taiwan,” said Pence. “They reached out to offer congratulations as leaders around the world have and he took the call, accepted her congratulations and good wishes and it was precisely that.”

Later, in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Pence again used the term “the president of Taiwan”, suggesting it was no slip of the tongue.

China views self-ruling Taiwan as part of its own territory awaiting reunification, and any US move implying support for independence – including use of the word “president” – is likely to offend Beijing.

Chinese state media said Trump’s “inexperience” led him to accept the phone call but warned that any breach of the “One China” stance would “destroy” relations with America.

Asked if he understood China’s objections, Pence replied: “Yes, of course.”

Asked if there were implications for the “one China” policy, Pence said “We’ll deal with policy after 20 January.”

“I mean, it’s striking to me that President Obama would reach out to a murdering dictator in Cuba and be hailed as a hero. And President-elect Donald Trump takes a courtesy call from the democratically elected president of Taiwan and it becomes something of a thing in the media,” said Pence.

Senior Trump aide Kellyanne Conway said her boss was “well aware” of Washington’s “one China” policy.

“The Chinese government is not assuming that Trump is ignorant of the Taiwan issues,” said Shi Yinhong, an expert on US-China relations at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“I know China has a perspective on it,” she said. “The White House and state department probably have a perspective on it. Certainly Taiwan has a perspective on it.

“The president-elect’s perspective is he accepted a congratulatory call. When he’s sworn in as commander-in-chief, he’ll make clear the fullness of his plans. But people shouldn’t read too much into it.”

Some conservative foreign policy specialists being considered for senior positions in the Trump administration have long pushed for the US to provide a more vocal defence of Taiwan and its democracy.

John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN, who visited Mr Trump in New York on Friday, told Fox News at the weekend: “Honestly, I think we should shake the relationship up [with China]...Nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to. It’s ridiculous to think that the phone call upsets decades of anything.”

Since his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton on 8 November, Trump has accepted congratulatory calls from dozens of world leaders including the prime ministers or presidents of Israel, Singapore, Japan and China, Conway said.

Secretary of State John Kerry said it would be “valuable” to Trump if he took advice from state officials before such calls. However, Conway said the president-elect was “not really a talking points kind of guy”.

“We have not been contacted before any of these conversations. We have not been requested to provide talking points,” said Kerry. “I do think there’s a value, obviously on having at least the recommendations, whether you choose to follow them or not is a different issue.”



The Washington Post  /  December 4, 2016

Donald Trump’s protocol-breaking telephone call with Taiwan’s leader was an intentionally provocative move that establishes the incoming president as a break with the past, according to interviews with people involved in the planning.

The historic communication — the first between leaders of the United States and Taiwan since 1979 — was the product of months of quiet preparations and deliberations among Trump’s advisers about a new strategy for engagement with Taiwan that began even before he became the Republican presidential nominee, according to people involved in or briefed on the talks.

The call also reflects the views of hard-line advisers urging Trump to take a tough opening line with China, said others familiar with the months of discussion about Taiwan and China.

Trump and his advisers have sought to publicly portray the call the president-elect took from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen ­on Friday as a routine congratulatory call. Trump noted on Twitter that she placed the call.

“He took the call, accepted her congratulations and good wishes and it was precisely that,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

That glosses over the extensive and turbulent history of U.S. relations with Taiwan and the political importance the island and its democracy hold for many Republican foreign policy specialists.

Some experts said it appeared calculated to signal a new, robust approach to relations with China.

China reacted sternly to the Taiwan call, suggesting that it shows Trump’s inexperience.

Trump sent two Twitter messages Sunday that echoed his campaign-stump blasts against China.

“Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn’t tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?” he asked. “I don’t think so!”

The United States does impose a tax on Chinese goods — 2.9 percent for non-farm goods and 2.5 percent for agricultural products.

Some of the GOP’s most ardent Taiwan proponents are playing active roles in Trump’s transition team, and others in the conservative foreign policy community see a historic opportunity to reset relations with Taiwan and reposition it as a more strategic ally in East Asia.

Several leading members of Trump’s transition team are considered hawkish on China and friendly toward Taiwan, including incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Indeed, advisers explicitly warned last month that relations with China were in for a shake-up.

In an article for Foreign Policy magazine titled “Donald Trump’s Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia-Pacific,” Peter Navarro and Alexander Gray described Taiwan as a “beacon of democracy in Asia” and complained that its treatment by the Obama administration was “egregious.”

The article, flagged to China experts as a significant policy blueprint, described Taiwan as “the most militarily vulnerable U.S. partner anywhere in the world” and called for a comprehensive arms deal to help it defend itself against China.

Friday’s phone appears to be the first sign of a recalibration by a future Trump administration, experts say.

It was planned weeks ahead by staffers and Taiwan specialists on both sides, according to people familiar with the plans.

Immediately after Trump won the Nov. 8 election, his staffers compiled a list of foreign leaders with whom to arrange calls. “Very early on, Taiwan was on that list,” said Stephen Yates, a national security official during the presidency of George W. Bush and an expert on China and Taiwan. “Once the call was scheduled, I was told that there was a briefing for President-elect Trump. They knew that there would be reaction and potential blowback.”

Tsai’s office said she had told Trump during the phone call that she hoped the United States “would continue to support more opportunities for Taiwan to participate in international issues.”

Tsai will have sympathetic ears in the White House. Priebus visited Taiwan with a Republican delegation in 2011 and in October 2015, meeting Tsai before she was elected president. Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lee called him a friend of Taiwan and said his appointment as Trump’s chief of staff was “good news” for the island, according to local news media.

Edward J. Feulner, a longtime former president of the Heritage Foundation, has for decades cultivated extensive ties with Taiwan and is serving as an adviser to Trump’s transition team.

At the Republican National Convention in July, Trump’s allies inserted a little-noticed phrase into the party’s platform reaffirming support for six key assurances to Taiwan made by President Ronald Reagan in 1982 — a priority for the Taiwan government. Also written into the 2016 platform was tougher language about China than had been in the party’s platform in its previous iteration four years ago.

“We salute the people of Taiwan, with whom we share the values of democracy, human rights, a free market economy, and the rule of law,” the platform said, adding that the current documents governing U.S.-Taiwan relations should stand but adding, “China’s behavior has negated the optimistic language of our last platform concerning our future relations with China.”

Yates, who helped write that portion of the platform, said Trump made clear at the time that he wanted to recalibrate relationships around the world and that the U.S. posture toward China was “a personal priority.”

About the same time, Navarro, one of Trump’s top economic and Asia advisers, penned an op-ed saying that the United States must not “dump Taiwan” and needs a comprehensive strategy to bolster what he termed “a beacon of democracy.”

The United States maintains a military relationship with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a province, but closed its embassy there in 1979. Republican administrations since then have emphasized Taiwan’s democracy and flirted with the idea of a shift in policy, but none have held public discussions with a Taiwanese leader.

“There are a lot of things that previous Republican presidents, and Democratic presidents, would do that Donald Trump won’t do,” Grenell said. “He’s a man that understands that typical Washington rules are not always best for our foreign policy.”

During the campaign, Trump’s fiery rhetoric against China resonated with his supporters, especially those in the economically beleaguered Rust Belt states where he registered unexpected wins. Trump accused China of “raping” the United States by stealing trade secrets, manipulating its currency and subsidizing its industries. He vowed to institute tough new policies designed to crack down on the Chinese and extract concessions, such as by imposing higher tariffs on goods manufactured there.


Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Donald Trump, defended the President-elect's recent call with the president of Taiwan.

"Taiwan is our ally. That is a country that we have backed because they believe in freedom. We oughta back our ally, and if China doesn't like it, screw 'em. We gotta stand by Taiwan, we see what's happening in China the way they're sabre rattling out there in the East, it's about time we do what Reagan did, we stand up to these bullies, we say we're not gonna let you do this, and we're gonna stand with our allies. I love the fact that Trump did that. Too many mamby-pamby people in the foreign policy shop are saying 'oh my gosh we can't do this, we might insult the Chinese.' I don't care if we insult the Chinese!"


Fox News  /  December 5, 2016

Less than a week before President-elect Donald Trump spoke with Taiwan’s president over the phone, China flew a pair of long-range nuclear-capable bombers around Taiwan for the first time, two U.S. officials have now revealed.

On Nov. 26, two Chinese Xian H-6 bombers, along with two escort planes, a Tupolev Tu-154 and Shaanxi Y-8, flew around the island of Taiwan from mainland China, taking off and landing from two separate Chinese military bases.

The escort jets were used to collect radar information and conduct other surveillance on American allies such as Japan, according to U.S. officials.

The Chinese bombers stayed in international airspace.

At different points of the flight, Chinese J-10 and Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets performed escort duties for the bombers.

Japan scrambled eight F-15 fighter jets to intercept the Chinese flight at one point in the skies somewhere northeast of Taiwan.



The New York Times  /  December 6, 2016

Former Senator Bob Dole, acting as a foreign agent for the government of Taiwan, worked behind the scenes over the past six months to establish high-level contact between Taiwanese officials and President-elect Donald J. Trump’s staff, resulting in last week’s phone call between Trump and Taiwan’s president.

Dole, a lobbyist with the Washington law firm Alston & Bird, set up a series of meetings between Trump’s advisers and officials in Taiwan.

Dole also assisted in successful efforts by Taiwan to include language favorable to it in the Republican Party platform.

Over the last year, Alston & Bird has been paid $200,000 to lobby for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, and is on retainer for at least $20,000 per month this year, according to the disclosure forms. The office serves the function of a Taiwanese embassy in the US, which it does not have as it is not recognized as a country independent from China.

The disclosures indicate Trump’s decision to take a call from the president of Taiwan was less a ham-handed diplomatic gaffe and more the result of a well-orchestrated plan by Taiwan to use the election of a new president to deepen its relationship with the United States — with an assist from seasoned Washington lobbyist Dole.

Dole, 93, a former Senate majority leader from Kansas, said he had worked with transition officials to facilitate the conversation.

“It’s fair to say that we had some influence,” he said. “When you represent a client and they make requests, you’re supposed to respond.”

In a letter in January, Dole laid out the terms of his agreement to represent the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, Taiwan’s unofficial embassy, including a $25,000 monthly retainer.

That letter and the document detailing Dole’s work for the Taiwanese were filed at the Justice Department, which requires foreign agents to register and detail their efforts at influencing the United States government.

Among his duties were helping Taiwan achieve its “military goals” and obtain membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation trade deal that Trump has promised to withdraw from. Dole was also to arrange for Taiwanese officials to meet with members of Congress from both parties and arrange access to Republican presidential contenders and to the party’s national convention.

The government of Taiwan has retained a powerful bipartisan constellation of former members of Congress to promote its interests in Washington. Richard A. Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat and former House majority leader, also signed a $25,000-a-month contract to represent the Taipei office this year, as did Thomas A. Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota, a former Senate majority leader, in 2015.

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Donald Trump: 'We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes'

The Guardian  /  December 7, 1941

Donald Trump has laid out a US military policy that would avoid interventions in foreign conflicts and instead focus heavily on defeating the Islamic State militancy.

“We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with,” the president-elect said on Tuesday night in Fayetteville, near Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina.

“Instead our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying Isis, and we will.”

Trump’s remarks came a few hours after Barack Obama delivered what was billed as the final national security address of his presidency.

Speaking in Tampa, Florida, Obama did not mention Trump by name – but implicitly warned his successor to dispense with overheated rhetoric in favor of a nuanced approach to the war on terror, and to avoid actions that could give false legitimacy to Isis as the “vanguard of a new world order”.

Obama told a room of service members at MacDill air force base: “Rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs or deploying more and more troops or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy than can be sustained.”

During the course of his campaign, Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” Islamic State and routinely declined to offer a counter-terrorism strategy by claiming that doing so would reveal the country’s plans before the enemy.

He also suggested terrorists were streaming across the US border disguised as refugees, and proposed aggressive policies that included a ban on all Muslim immigration to the US.

Trump introduced his choice for defense secretary, General James Mattis, to a large crowd in Fayetteville, near the Fort Bragg military base, which has deployed soldiers to 90 countries around the world.

He vowed a strong rebuilding of the US military, which he suggested had been stretched too thin.

Instead of investing in wars, he said, he would spend money to build up America’s aging roads, bridges and airports.

But he also wanted to boost spending on the military. To help pay for his buildup, Trump pledged to seek congressional approval for lifting caps on defense spending that were part of “sequestration” legislation cutting spending across the board.

“We don’t want to have a depleted military because we’re all over the place fighting in areas that we shouldn’t be fighting in. It’s not going to be depleted any longer,” he said.

Trump said any nation that shared his goals would be considered a US partner.

“We don’t forget. We want to strengthen old friendships and seek out new friendships,” he said. But the policy of “intervention and chaos” must come to an end.

While US armed forces are deployed in far-flung places around the globe, they are only involved currently in active combat in the Middle East – Iraq and Syria for the most part.

“We will build up our military not as an act of aggression, but as an act of prevention,” he said. “In short we seek peace through strength.”

Trump used similar rhetoric during the election campaign when he railed against the war in Iraq. Unusually for a Republican, Trump not only loudly expressed his dismay at George W Bush’s 2003 intervention but falsely claimed that he opposed it at the time and accused Bush of lying about the presence of weapons of mass destruction.

Trump has long expressed his skepticism about US foreign intervention in activities that he has labeled “nation building.”

He told the Guardian in October 2015: “We’re nation-building. We can’t do it. We have to build our own nation. We’re nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries.

“Assad is bad,” Trump added of the Syrian president. “Maybe these people could be worse.”

In Fayetteville, Trump did not explicitly repeat his pledge to bar Muslims from coming to the US but maintained he would “suspend immigration from regions where it cannot be safely processed”.

He described James Mattis as the right person for the job and urged Congress to approve a waiver to let him take on the civilian position of defense secretary. Under US law a military leader must be retired for seven years before becoming eligible for the post.

Taking the microphone, Mattis said: “I look forward to being the civilian leader as long as the Congress gives me the waiver and the Senate votes to consent.”

“We’re going to get you that waiver,” Trump replied, returning to the microphone. “If you don’t get that waiver there are going to be a lot of angry people.”



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Trump hints US 'One China' policy could end

"I fully understand the 'one China' policy, but I don't know why we have to be bound by a 'one China' policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”

"I mean, look, we're being hurt very badly by China with devaluation, with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don't tax them, with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn't be doing, and frankly with not helping us at all with North Korea."

"You have North Korea. You have nuclear weapons, and China could solve that problem, and they're not helping us at all."

"I don't want China dictating to me and this was a call put into me. I didn't make the call, and it was a call, very short call saying 'congratulations, sir, on the victory.”

"It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say I can't take a call. I think it actually would've been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it."

President-elect Donald Trump

December 11, 2016


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"Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only "stupid" people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
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Trump says Europe is in trouble. He has a point.

Sebastian Mallaby, The Washington Post  /  January 17, 2017

Germany’s foreign minister reports “astonishment and agitation.” The French president protests indignantly about unsolicited “outside advice .” Even Secretary of State John F. Kerry sees behavior that is “inappropriate.” President-elect Donald Trump’s weekend interview, in which he casually predicted the breakup of the European Union, has certainly attracted attention. But despite the consternation, there is some truth in Trump’s message. The E.U., he observed, is dominated by Germany. “People, countries want their own identity,” he said.

The most obvious vindication of Trump’s warning comes from Britain, whose prime minister, Theresa May, has just laid out her plans for a hard break with the European Union. May could have interpreted June’s Brexit referendum differently, seeking the “Norway model” of continued membership in the E.U.’s Single Market even while withdrawing from the E.U.’s political structures. But, to paraphrase Trump, the prime minister evidently believes that Britain must have its own identity. She is determined to curb E.U. migration, even though migrants contribute positively to the economy; she wants out of the European Court of Justice, even though that court has upheld British commercial interests in the past. Combined, these two positions rule out continued Single Market membership. The E.U. is losing its second-biggest economic power.

Britain has always been a semi-attached member of the European Union, so the malaise at the heart of continental Europe is even stronger evidence that Trump is on to something. Ironically, all the pressures that are commonly wheeled out to explain Trump’s election are far more evident on the other side of the Atlantic: sluggish growth, poor prospects for workers, a backlash against migrants, disaffection with elite governance.

Americans may feel that their recovery since the financial crisis has been anemic. But, adjusted for inflation, the U.S. economy has actually grown by a cumulative 12 percent since 2008. In contrast, the 28 countries in the European Union managed combined growth of just 4 percent . And in the subset consisting of the eurozone minus Germany, output actually fell. Even though the strong dollar may help Europe this year, most of the Mediterranean periphery has suffered a lost decade.

Naturally, this horrible performance has taken an enormous human toll. The unemployment rate in the euro area stands at 9.8 percent, more than double the U.S. rate. Unemployment among Europe’s youth is even more appalling: In Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal, more than 1 in 4 workers under 25 are jobless. America’s ability to put its economic house in order after 2008 shows that there was nothing foreordained about this. Europe has suffered an optional catastrophe. It has a lost generation to match its lost decade.

The decisions that delivered this destruction were made overwhelmingly in Germany, just as Trump seems to suspect. Angela Merkel, the country’s sober, deliberate and altogether un-Trumpian chancellor, systematically slow-walked measures that could have accelerated Europe’s recovery. Budget stimulus, bank recapitalizations and, at least early on, monetary policy were sluggish because of German resistance. At some points in this process, Merkel was protecting German taxpayers, which is both reasonable and yet at the same time supportive of Trump’s view that national interests beat euro cohesion. At other points Merkel has been protecting nothing more vital than Germans’ phobia of even modest public borrowing and inflation — and never mind the plight of Mediterranean youth.

Merkel’s cautious leadership of Europe has sown the seeds of a populist backlash. This has been a surprisingly long time coming: For several years after the onset in 2010 of the euro crisis, austerity and mass unemployment did remarkably little to turn voters against establishment leaders. But a recent Italian poll suggests that, if an election were held today, the anti-globalization and anti-euro Five Star Movement would take as many votes as the leading establishment party. In France, polls have the anti-E.U. Marine Le Pen as the joint front-runner in this spring’s presidential election. In Merkel’s Germany, support for the anti-migrant AfD party has jumped from about 5 percent in 2013 to 16 percent now.

If you take Trump literally, his recent comments on Europe were exaggerated and confused. Populists may be on the rise, but we are a long way from a crackup of the European Union. But if you take Trump seriously rather than literally, then it has to be admitted that the president-elect has a point here. Europe is in deep trouble. It is time for its leaders to recognize that incremental policies are failing the continent’s people.

Sebastian Mallaby is a Post contributor and Paul A. Volcker senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is author of “The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan.”

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This is hardly the biggest issue on the dinner plate. But that said, I thought we were going to eradicate swamp-like antics.

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen billionaire New York Jets' owner Woody Johnson, one of his campaign’s top fundraisers, to serve as the US ambassador to the UK.

Johnson was vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee, helping to raise millions of dollars for Trump's campaign.

As many here know, big political donors, fundraisers and "friends" of successful presidential candidates have frequently been given US ambassador posts around the world, rather than people who are actually “qualified” to be ambassador in particular countries.

A football team owner is not remotely qualified to be an ambassador. Johnson has never even lived in the UK. He is a spoiled rich kid always with money to burn, the great-grandson of the co-founder of Johnson & Johnson. Trump couldn't have chosen a more unqualified individual.

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People in Africa continue to pop out kids faster then a PEZ dispenser, creating a population far larger than the situation at any time can support, and the U.S. taxpayer is supposed to feed them ?

There’s always a “famine” going on in Africa. It’s standard operating procedure.

It’s not our job, and we can no longer afford it anyway. We need legislation that allows the U.S. taxpayer to “opt out”, disallowing our tax money to be spent as foreign aid.


Trump’s plan to slash foreign aid comes as famine threat is surging

The Washington Post  /  March 1, 2017

President Trump has proposed large cuts to foreign aid at a time of acute need across Africa and the Middle East, with four countries approaching famine and 20 million people nearing starvation, according to the United Nations.

It is the first time in recent memory that so many large-scale hunger crises have occurred simultaneously, and humanitarian groups say they do not have the resources to respond effectively. The United Nations has requested $4.4 billion by March to “avert a catastrophe,” Secretary General António Guterres said last week. It has so far received only a tiny fraction of that request.

The details of Trump’s budget proposal have not been released, and large cuts to foreign assistance will face stiff opposition from Congress. So far, U.S. funding for the hunger crises has come out of a budget approved last year under President Obama. But the famines or near-famines in parts of Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen underscore the reliance on continued U.S. assistance to save some of the world’s most desperate people.

In Nigeria, millions have been displaced and isolated by Boko Haram insurgents. In Somalia, a historic drought has left a huge portion of the country without access to regular food, as al-Shabab militants block the movement of humanitarian groups. In South Sudan, a three-year-old civil war has forced millions of people from their homes and farms. In Yemen, a civil war along with aerial attacks by the Saudi-led coalition have caused another sweeping hunger crisis.

In 2016, the United States contributed about 28 percent of the foreign aid in those four countries, according to the United Nations.

“Nobody can replace the U.S. in terms of funding,” said Yves Daccord, the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who said of the current crises: “I don’t remember ever seeing such a mix of conflict, drought and extreme hunger.”

U.S. aid officials said they were still trying to discern what the White House was planning to allocate to humanitarian assistance. Even though foreign aid is typically around 1 percent of the government’s budget, that is enough to make the United States by far the world’s largest donor.

Last year, the United States contributed $6.4 billion in humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations, more than a quarter of global funding.

“We remain committed to a U.S. foreign policy that advances the security, prosperity and values of the American people,” said a USAID spokesman, who added that he was not authorized to speak on the record.

But asked whether the United States planned to contribute to the new U.N. appeal for hunger relief, the USAID official said, “We have no new funding to announce at this time.”

Early reports said Trump planned to propose 37 percent cuts to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development budgets. Many experts said they expected that those cuts would exclude U.S. contributions to security assistance.

“That leaves a much smaller component, which takes us directly to cuts in humanitarian assistance,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

The four hunger crises pose an enormous challenge for the humanitarian community, which is now torn between those emergencies. The last time a famine was declared in Africa was in Somalia in 2011. Nearly 260,000 people died, and aid groups later determined that they had waited too long to act. Famine is only declared when at least 30 percent of a population is acutely malnourished, and two adults or four children per every 10,000 people are dying each day.

Humanitarian groups have tried to apply the lessons from the 2011 disaster by moving quickly at the signs of deepening food crises. But the number of countries at risk of famine simultaneously makes a swift, thorough response to each of them very difficult.

“The donors are struggling left, right and center with their own allocations,” said Silke Pietzsch, the technical director for Action Against Hunger. “There are just too many fires to take care of.”

The United Nations was, by its own admission, late to recognize the scale of the crisis in northeastern Nigeria. Last year, when aid workers from Doctors Without Borders began traveling to parts of the country that had been blocked by Boko Haram fighters, they found soaring malnutrition rates and scores of people dying of preventable illnesses. Now, huge swaths of the region are still inaccessible to aid workers.

“No one can go 15 miles outside of the local government capitals,” said Yannick Pouchalan, the country director for Action Against Hunger. “There are still many people without any access to humanitarian assistance.”

USAID has been the largest provider of assistance in the crisis, Pouchalan said.

“If that aid stops, it means we won’t reach the people in need,” he said.

None of the crises are strictly about a lack of food aid or humanitarian funding.

“These are man-made crises in need of political solutions,” Pietzsch said.

In South Sudan, where two counties are already in the midst of famine, continued clashes between government and opposition forces have restricted the access of aid workers and kept people from farming on their land. The United Nations and other humanitarian groups have frequently been targeted by armed groups affiliated with both sides of the conflict. During fighting in July, government forces stole 4,500 metric tons of food from a World Food Program compound in Juba, the capital, enough to feed more than 200,000 people.

More than 1 million children in the country are malnourished and could die without a rapid intervention, according to UNICEF.

The United States has given more than $2.1 billion to South Sudan since the start of the conflict in December 2013. USAID claims that American food donations reach 1.3 million people every month and “has saved lives and helped to avert famine for three consecutive years,” according to a State Department statement last week.

Yet as the situation there worsens and food prices continue to rise as a result of an unusually bad harvest across much of Africa, the need for humanitarian assistance is expected to grow. In South Sudan, 700,000 people are already in “phase four” of the hunger crisis, the last stage before famine.

In Somalia, Save the Children has warned that the country has reached a “tipping point” and could quickly enter a famine “far worse than the 2011 famine.”

Of the four crises, Somalia’s is the most clearly linked to drought conditions, but insecurity caused by al-Shabab militants frequently keeps humanitarian workers from reaching civilians.

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Tillerson was ‘stunned’ to be offered US secretary of state job

The Financial Times  /  March 22, 2017

Rex Tillerson says he did not seek to be US secretary of state but was persuaded to take the job by his wife, who told him “God’s not through with you”.

“I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids,” the 64-year-old former oil executive told the Independent Journal Review in his first full-length interview since taking office.

The man charged with framing US foreign policy for the next four years said he had never met Donald Trump before the then president-elect invited him to New York for a conversation “about the world”. “When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned,” he told the IJR.

Tillerson said when he got home his wife shook her finger in his face and told him: “God’s not through with you.” “My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”

The admission in the IJR, a little known media operation founded by a former Republican party official, comes as Tillerson prepares to host a big international counter-terrorism conference in Washington on Wednesday.

In the interview, conducted behind his desk in the back cabin of the state department’s Boeing 737 on the way back from Beijing, Tillerson gave few hard details on how his approach to foreign policy would differ from that of the Obama administration. But he strongly defended Mr Trump’s mantra of putting “America First”.

“In Bonn, it came up in every discussion I had,” Tillerson said, referring to a series of meetings he had with foreign ministers at a G20 summit last month.

He also argued it was the Obama administration’s foreign policy that represented a “dramatic shift” and what he was working on was more consistent with US diplomacy of previous decades.

He said the Trump approach was about “simply bringing back to a point where you can believe once and for all that you can win”.

But Tillerson also warned: “Every administration knows it only has so much time.”

Trump has attacked the cautious approach of the Obama administration in tackling Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Tillerson signalled the administration would take a more activist stance in the Middle East.

“We can’t get to deconflicting the rest of the region with Isis in the way,” he said.

Tillerson was critical of the Obama administration’s strategy against ISIS, pointing out the original term they had used was “degrade”. “All that did was drag out the agony for everyone,” he said.

Tillerson has been criticized in the US for his low profile since taking office. Detractors say he was left out of the loop of several critical foreign policy decisions made in the administration’s early days, including the travel ban for refugees and visitors from a list of Muslim-majority countries.

“I would hope that people can maintain their patience in these early days and recognize I’ve only been at it six weeks,” he said.

Critics also note he has not gone out of his way to woo the influential Washington press corps, as previous secretaries have done. But Tillerson indicated the administration was working on achieving results.

“I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it. I understand it’s important to get the message of what we’re doing out, but I also think there’s only a purpose in getting the message out when there’s something to be done.”

Last week the Trump administration announced it was cutting the state department budget by 28 per cent. Tillerson says spending was at a record high last year. But in an oblique criticism of the budget cuts, he acknowledged that more spending would be needed if the US hoped to tackle some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

“In the context of the budget, the fiscal year 2017 was a record high for the State Department,” he said. “Looking at ongoing conflicts, if we accept that we’re just going to continue to never solve any of these conflicts, then the budget should stay at the current level.”

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I’m thinking that dropping the 21,000lb MOAB bomb in Afghanistan on a cave complex was more of a way to send a message to North Korea than to effect results in Afghanistan.

At a cost of $16 million, 36 ISIS militants were allegedly killed (a cost of $444,444 per head).

Bomb or no bomb, I’m sure Afghanistan will remain a success story, a major global heroin supplier and the men will continue sexually abusing young boys.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is a large-yield conventional bomb that cost over $300 million to develop and is estimated to cost $16 million each.

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1 hour ago, TeamsterGrrrl said:

Reminds me of the Vietnam War, somebody did the numbers on that mistake and figured out that it would have cost less to put the Viet Cong on the federal payroll and order them home on paid leave then what we spend killing and maiming them.

I always look forward to what you have to say.  Never ceases to amaze me what you will put your name to.  Keep it coming.  Who started that damn thing anyway?

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3 hours ago, Keith Pommerening said:

I always look forward to what you have to say.  Never ceases to amaze me what you will put your name to.  Keep it coming.  Who started that damn thing anyway?

Ike sent a few advisors in 1954 but had less than 150 in country when Kennedy won in 1961. JFK sent troops to stop the Domino Effect as he called it.  LBJ  ramped it up in 1964 to 24,000 combat troops and by the end of his presidency had close to 4 times that including the Navy and Air Force.

At least she didn't include all the monies "wasted"  (in her words when she was gearheadgrrl) on us Vietnam Veterans in this post.


 “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’


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