Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Coming Wars And Rumors Of War

Swinging between armed clash and dialogue, Washington is sending out mixed messages toward North Korea as tension flares following Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missile test and ahead of a major South Korea-US annual military drill. 

US President Donald Trump has raised the possibility of war with North Korea during a conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, the politician said Tuesday, floating the idea of a military strike on the communist country as a policy option. 

“If there’s going to be a war to stop (Kim Jong-un), it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here. And he has told me that to my face,” the Republican lawmaker said in an interview with NBC’s “Today.” “And that may be provocative, but not really.” 

Graham said Trump would not let the Kim regime master the technology for a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the US, urging China to step up in its role in reining in its recalcitrant ally’s unbridled military testing. 

“There is a military option to destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself. I prefer the diplomatic approach, but they will not be allowed to have a missile able to hit America with a nuclear weapon on top,” he said. 

“I’m saying it’s inevitable unless North Korea changes because you’re making our president pick between regional stability and homeland security.” 

Shortly after the ICBM liftoff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen of South Korea and the US had a phone call and discussed “military response options,” the militaries said. 

The situation could further escalate as the allies are expected to kick off their annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises later this month, while speculation persists that Pyongyang may detonate another nuclear device.

Beijing has made no secret of its displeasure with South Korea’s deployment of the American-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system - and now that the deployment has resumed, China may seek to retaliate against Seoul.

When liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May, Chinese leadership likely breathed a sigh of relief, as he announced a forestalling of the THAAD deployment for up to 15 months while the South Korean government undertook an environmental impact analysis of the system. Two of the six platforms had already been rolled out and Moon lacked the authority to suspend or dismantle them — but he could stall for time on the rest.
But after North Korea tested what many are calling an intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday, July 28, Moon changed his mind and gave the US the go-ahead to continue the THAAD roll-out by installing the four other platforms. Beijing responded by summoning South Korean Ambassador to China Kim Jang-Soo to protest Seoul's decision.
"Chinese experts warned that the diplomatic and economic relations between China and South Korea will suffer long-term damage if the latter insisted on deploying the …THAAD missile defense program regardless of China's strong opposition," read a Tuesday article on the Chinese government-owned Global Times.

But if Korea has been deterred by the Chinese protests, they aren't showing it: THAAD is being rolled out with all due haste. "We are certainly ready to bring additional pieces in as quickly as we can," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday. He reminded reporters that the THAAD is "strictly a defensive weapon system," with the purpose of "intercepting ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight."

New sanctions on Russia which U.S. President Donald Trump has signed into law are tantamount to a "full-scale trade war", Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday.

Medvedev also said in a Facebook post that the sanctions showed the Trump administration was utterly powerless.

"The hope that our relations with the new American administration would improve is finished," he wrote. 

Several hours after President Trump officially signed the new Russian sanctions into law - despite his reservations and his statement that while he favors "tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed" - Russia responded when moments ago Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on his FaceBook page that any hopes of improving Russian relations with the new US administration are dead, that the Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence by transferring executive power to Congress "in the most humiliating manner", and most notably, that the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia.

The signing of new sanctions against Russia into law by the US president leads to several consequences. First, any hope of improving our relations with the new US administration is over. Second, the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration demonstrated it is utterly powerless, and in the most humiliating manner transferred executive powers to Congress. This shifts the alignment of forces in US political circles. 

What does this mean for the U.S.? The American establishment completely outplayed Trump. The president is not happy with the new sanctions, but he could not avoid signing the new law. The purpose of the new sanctions was to put Trump in his place. Their ultimate goal is to remove Trump from power. An incompetent player must be eliminated. At the same time, the interests of American businesses were almost ignored. Politics rose above the pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has turned into a key part of not only foreign (as has been the case many times), but also domestic US policy (this is recent). 

The sanctions codified into law will now last for decades, unless some miracle occurs. Moreover, it will be tougher than the Jackson-Vanik law, because it is comprehensive and can not be postponed by special orders of the president without the consent of the Congress. Therefore, the future relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States will be extremely tense, regardless of the composition of the Congress or the personality of the president. Relations between the two countries will now be clarified in international bodies and courts of justice leading to further intensification of international tensions, and a refusal to resolve major international problems. 

Separately, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia retains the right to impose new counter-measures, adding the US sanctions are short-sighted, and risk harming global stability. He concludes that and attempts to pressure Russia will not make it change course.

“Those who invented this bill, if they were thinking that they might change our policy they were wrong, as history many times proved. They should have known better that we do not bend and do not break,” Nebenzia told journalists in New York.

A whiff of trade war is in the air. Donald Trump used Twitter to express his disappointment with China and its efforts to pressure North Korea into abandoning the nuclear program and missile launches. US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that Washington would not seek UN Security Council action following North Korea's latest missile test. According to her, the «the time for talk is over». The ambassador believes it’s up to Beijing who «must decide if it is finally willing to take this vital step» of challenging Pyongyang.

According to Politico, President Donald Trump’s top advisers are huddling behind the scenes in a bid to craft a set of economic measures meant to punish China. There is a range of options on the table, including trade restrictions. Other possibilities include economic sanctions. During his election campaign, President Trump complained many times about China’s «unfair trade practices».

The language was changed in April after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife for a diplomatic visit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Now, the criticism is back. North Korea’s missile launches have poured more fuel on fire.
President Trump appears to have no China policy. He swings from promises to get closer to Taiwan challenging Beijing to the friendly talks in Mar e Lago and then back to the plans to introduce punitive measures.
The measures may target Chinese steel imports with tariffs, quotas or a mix of both. In theory, Chinese transactions on US soil could be frozen and joint economic programs could be curtailed. In early 2016, Trump also threatened to raise the tariff on imported Chinese goods to 45% and close America’s market for Chinese goods.
China could fight back by restricting American imports and squeezing American goods from the Asian market. If a trade war sparks, Beijing would take advantage of the fact that it was the US who started it to tell its One Belt, One Road project partners that Washington is untrustworthy and its policy gives priority to threats, not negotiations. No doubt, China will use the tools offered by WTO membership to protect its interests. Beijing now holds over $1tn in US Treasury bonds (5.5 per cent of the total amount of T-bonds). It can sell them off.

Russia flies 2,000 mercenary troops into Syria

Russia is engaged in a major buildup in Syria, both in support of the de-escalation zones established in conjunction with the United States, and in order to solidify its military control of the country.

 2,000 mercenaries had just been airlifted into the country, boosting to a total of 5,000 the number of mercenaries on hire from the Wagner Group private contractors for service under the Russian flag in Syria. They are all retirees from elite units of the Russian ground forces, air force or navy.

In another new Russian project, our military sources also report the arrival in the past few days of Muslim troops from the republic of Ingushetia. Although clad in Russian military police uniforms, they are actually commandoes trained in anti-terror warfare. They have been posted as “ceasefire monitors” at the three de-escalation zones established by Russia and the United States along the Syrian borders with Israel, Jordan and Iraq.

The placement of Russian Muslim forces or hired mercenaries on Israel’s northern border - in the guise of ceasefire monitors - poses a serious problem for Jerusalem. Russia’s record for keeping its promises and commitments on its military moves in Syria is far from good. The US has confirmed that Russia gave Israel a commitment that Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, including Hizballah, would not be allowed to approach the Syrian-Israeli border. But Israel can’t be certain how the Ingushets or the mercenaries will react if confronted with such troops. Will they resort to arms to evict them or let them stay?

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