26 November 2018   Leave a comment

Russia has seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and opened fire on others in the Kerch Strait.   Ukraine is considering declaring martial law in order to reinforce its control over territory, but eastern Ukraine remains in the hands of separatists that favor Russia.  The Kerch Strait is an important access route for Ukraine to its eastern territories, and shutting down the Strait will diminish Ukraine’s ability to regain control from the rebels.   The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet on the crisis today.  Other European states are very concerned about the possibility of this crisis escalating, but the US has yet to make an official statement on the matter.  The Russians accuse Ukraine of provoking the attack, and there is little question that the government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been quite adamant about Ukrainian rights.  It seems unlikely that Ukraine would choose to provoke a crisis in the Black Sea where it is seriously outgunned.  International law clearly favors the Ukrainian position on the right of free passage through the Strait:

“Ukrainian Navy ships were using their freedom of navigation guaranteed under articles 17, 38 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and article 2 of the agreement between Russia and Ukraine on cooperation on use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait. Under the quoted articles, they are allowed to pass the Kerch Strait at any time taking into account safety of navigation is secured. Russia blatantly violated all mentioned articles.

 

 

Infographic: The Military Imbalance In The Black Sea | Statista                                                                 

 

 

President Trump has dismissed his own Administration’s climate report that was issued last Friday.  According to The Hill:  “‘Yeah, I don’t believe it,’ Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a campaign rally for Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith (R) in Mississippi, when asked about the predictions of economic devastation.”  His comment raises an interesting question.  The report was mandated by the Congress and released according to that law.  But Trump has now issued a report that he considers to be not true.  Science Alert has an excellent article that summarizes the report in good detail, although it is hard to summarize a 1600 page study.

 

 

ABC News has a very well-documented article on the arms deal with Saudi Arabia which conflicts with the assertions made by US President Trump on its monetary value.  President Trump has stated that the arms deal amounted to about $450 billion.  According to documents seen by ABC, the number is much smaller:

“Since the deal was signed by Mattis and bin Salman in Riyadh, there has been minimal activity toward purchasing the defense equipment and arms laid out in the arms agreements and signed. According to the Department of Defense, of the original $110 billion, Saudi Arabia has signed Letters of Offer and Acceptance valued at around $14.5 billion for equipment, including helicopters, tanks, ships, weapons and training.

“The memo of intent, seen by ABC News in a photograph and verified by a former White House official and first reported by the Washington Post last year, shows billion dollar price tags for what appear to be at vague deals far from being inked. Many of the details about the quantity and types of defense weapons to be purchased are not listed and are slated to be delivered after 2022 or have a ‘to be determined’ delivery dates and quantities.”

President Trump also asserts that the arms deal will create 500,000 new jobs, but that figure conflicts with the State Department’s own assertion that “tens of thousands” new jobs would be created:

“In short, 500,000 jobs Trump keeps bringing up is at least three to five times higher than what one could expect from the Saudi deal, given the estimates from the companies themselves, plus the most generous use of the indirect multiplier.

“By its own math, the U.S. State Department said in May 2017 that the Saudi deal could support ‘tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States.'”

The Saudi arms deal yields far fewer benefits to the US than President Trump assumes.

 

Posted November 26, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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