19 December 2019   Leave a comment

Readers of this blog know that I am concerned about the extent to which US President Trump and his Republican allies seem to be receptive to Russian influence, particularly Russian propaganda. Russian President Putin held his annual press conference and in that conference stated that he believed that the charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election were fabricated. That denial flies in the face of the strong belief in the US intelligence community that Russian interference was “extensive”. One of President Trump’s strongest supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), introduced a bill in the US Senate entitled “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act” (DASKA) last August. The bill makes clear that “the United States will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation” and that “No funds authorized or appropriated by any Act may be used to support, directly or indirectly, any efforts on the part of any United States Government official to take steps to withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty, done at Washington, DC, April 4, 1949, until such time as the Senate passes, by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of Members, a resolution advising and consenting to the withdrawal of the United States from the treaty.” CNBC describes the likely effect of the passage of the bill:

“If passed, it would completely prevent American entities from purchasing Russian debt securities, sanction Russian state banks and potentially issue secondary sanctions on investing in the country’s oil sector, something that would draw particular opposition from the European Union.

“Sanctions experts have described the measures as ‘extreme’ and ‘nuclear’ as well as broad-based and more likely to be effective than previous efforts to deter Russian election interference.

“While likely to be heavily debated and amended before going to a final vote, the measures detailed in the bill are expected to be a more powerful tool against Moscow.”

Needless to say, Russia firmly opposes the passage of the bill.

The US State Department has just sent a 22 page letter to the Senate opposing the bill. It is unfortunate that the State Department, led by Mike Pompeo, is in agreement with Russian President Putin. President Trump’s foreign policy seems to be predicated on determining which leader supports him personally as opposed to a determination of the national interests of the United States. The Washington Post has just published a disquieting story about the extent to which US President Trump believes Russian propaganda. According to the article:

“Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides: Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House.

“After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions.

“The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

“One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because ‘Putin told me.’

“Two other former officials said the senior White House official described Trump’s comment to them.

“The Ukraine theory that has consumed Trump’s attention has now been taken up by Republicans in Congress who are defending the president against impeachment. Top GOP lawmakers have demanded investigations of Ukrainian interference for which senior U.S. officials, including the director of the FBI, say there is no evidence.”

Unfortunately, President Trump has not allowed transcripts of his conversations with President Putin from being examined so we may never know the basis for his beliefs.

Australia is enduring an early summer heat wave which has broken all records–including a temperature of 107.4 degrees F. The situation has been aggravated by drought which, in combination with the high temperatures, has led to serious wildfires. These fires have led to emergency declarations in cities such as Sydney which has been blanketed by noxious smoke. Unfortunately, the weather forecasts suggest that even higher temperatures can be expected soon.

Posted December 19, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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