10 July 2018   Leave a comment

If one has any questions about whether European states are exasperated with US President Trump, one need to go no further than to read the speech by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk:

“Speaking on the eve of the NATO summit here in Brussels, I would like to address President Trump directly, who for a long time now has been criticising Europe almost daily for, in his view, insufficient contributions to the common defence capabilities, and for living off the US. Dear President Trump: America does not have, and will not have a better ally than Europe. Today Europeans spend on defence many times more than Russia, and as much as China. And I think you can have no doubt, Mr President, that this is an investment in common American and European defence and security. Which can’t be said with confidence about Russian or Chinese spending.

“I would therefore have two remarks here. First of all, dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many. And, dear Europe, spend more on your defence, because everyone respects an ally that is well-prepared and equipped.

“Money is important, but genuine solidarity is even more important. Speaking about solidarity, I want to dispel the American President’s argument, which says that the US alone protects Europe against our enemies, and that the US is almost alone in this struggle. Europe was first to respond on a large scale when the US was attacked, and called for solidarity after 9/11. European soldiers have been fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in Afghanistan. 870 brave European men and women sacrificed their lives, including 40 soldiers from my homeland Poland. Dear Mr President, please remember about this tomorrow, when we meet at the NATO summit, but above all when you meet president Putin in Helsinki. It is always worth knowing: who is your strategic friend? And who is your strategic problem?”

Tusk’s language is unusually blunt and harsh.  But before taking off to the NATO summit in Brussels, there was little evidence that President Trump was affected.  Mr. Trump said:

“THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s going to be an interesting time in the UK, and it’s certainly going to be an interesting time with NATO.  NATO has not treated us fairly, but I think we’ll work something out.  We pay far too much and they pay far too little.  But we will work it out, and all countries will be happy.  With the UK, that’s a situation that’s been going on for a long time.

:So I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin.  Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.  Who would think?  Who would think?  But the UK certainly has a — they have a lot of things going on.”

When asked whether Russian President Valdimir Putin was a friend or foe, Mr. Trump said:

“THE PRESIDENT:  I really can’t say right now.  As far as I’m concerned, a competitor.  A competitor.  I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing.  I’ve said that many times for many years.  So we’ll see.  We’re meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday.  We’ll see how that goes.”

I am certain that the other NATO leaders are deeply troubled by these remarks, particularly the one about the meeting with Putin being “easier” than with the US’s most reliable and loyal allies.  Jonathan Chait has written a very detailed story on the links between Trump and Putin for New York magazine.  The article raises a large number of very troubling questions about Mr. Trump’s vulnerability to Russian influence.

 

Israel has closed the  Kerem Shalom border crossing to the Gaza Strip.  The move comes in response to the tactic of flying kites with flaming, oil-soaked rags that land on farming plots in Israel.  The move aggravates a dire situation in the Gaza Strip.  As Jessica Corbett notes:

“Israel and Egypt have maintained a naval, aerial, and land blockade of the occupied territory for more than a decade, the Kerem Shalom crossing is how most commercial goods and foreign aid reach Gazans. Under the new restrictions, only food, medicine, and “humanitarian equipment” can come through the entry point.

“The rules, Al Jazeera noted, “will also affect Gaza’s exports, further straining an already crippled economy brought to its knees by the 12-year blockade.”

The Gaza Strip only covers 17 square miles and roughly 1.7 million Palestinians live there.  The incendiary kites are unquestionably a hazard to Israelis who live within the range of an unguided kite.  But punishing an entire people with economic destitution is disproportionately harsh. The US has also halted all economic aid to the Palestinian Authority.  There is no end game for either the Palestinians or the Israelis–just more misery for each other.

 

Ethiopia and Eritrea have reached an agreement to end 20 years of hostility.  Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a five point agreement brokered by the African Union and the European Union.  According to africanews:

“At the end of the visit, the two leaders signed a five-point agreement ending twenty-year war and restoring relations between them. The summaries read as follows:

  • State of war has come to an end;
  • The 2 nations will forge close political, economic, social, cultural & security cooperation
  • Trade, economic & diplomatic ties will resume
  • The boundary decision will be implemented
  • Both nations will work on regional peace

“The ‘State of war that existed between the two countries has come to an end,’ Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, wrote on Twitter.”

The agreement is a great step forward but we should be only cautiously optimistic.

Posted July 10, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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