The one-on-one summit meeting between President Trump and Russian President Putin finally happened today in Helsinki with no American officials in attendance as observers or notetakers, only interpreters. The interpreter for the USG side is Marina Gross.
After a whole morning trapped in the vomitorium, we finally surfaced for air and some coffee. That joint press conference frankly was more bonkers than the SBC show we watched last night. After picking up our jaw from the floor, we saw that the Department of Justice this morning also unsealed a criminal complaint in the District of Columbia charging Maria Butina, a Russian national residing in Washington, D.C. with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States.
I’m still sick to my stomach. We’ll remember this Helsinki moment in the future.
Trump and Putin entered their one-on-one meeting two hours ago. It was scheduled to last 1.5 hours but is still ongoing,a Finnish official says. There are no other advisers or note-takers in the room, other than two interpreters. pic.twitter.com/ur9YIqKg6A
Reporter to @POTUS: Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? https://t.co/ayZoKGvWxkpic.twitter.com/b5ad79963g
"I think it's a good start. A very, very good start for everybody," said Pres Trump of his one-on-one with Pres Putin. US delegation includes @SecPompeo, WH Chief of Staff John Kelly, US Amb to Russia Jon Huntsman, NSC Dir of Russian Affairs Fiona Hill, interpretor Marina Gross. pic.twitter.com/oFqhEaxIjM
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia William J. Burns doesn't mince his words on the Trump/Putin summit: "I think that press conference was the single most embarrassing performance by an American president on the world stage that I've ever seen." https://t.co/tQzciloNCn
"Never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people," writes @JamesFallows: https://t.co/3yVghW9q9K
Brushback pitch from DNI Dan Coats saying IC had “been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election & their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy & we will continue to provide unvarnished & objective intel in support of our national sec.” pic.twitter.com/F5JaLnlpD6
As part of the "low expectations" that Pres Trump says he has for the Putin summit, US officials are admonishing reporters not to call it a "summit." US Amb to Russia Jon Huntsman told @MeetThePress "it isn't a summit. It's a meeting."
Heading to Helsinki, Finland – looking forward to meeting with President Putin tomorrow. Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia…
VIDEO: More than 2,000 people protest in Helsinki denouncing attacks on human rights, press freedom and dissent as the city prepares to host an historic US-Russia summit where Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are to meet pic.twitter.com/3TpqCIOKjO
Pres. Trump and Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin will meet Monday at Finnish presidential palace in Helsinki that overlooks the Baltic Sea — the same venue where two of their predecessors met in 1990. https://t.co/TqBvEuLSGnpic.twitter.com/D871SFX9ia
Ahead of the Trump-Putin meeting here, Finland’s largest newspaper has put up ads around Helsinki which are less than complimentary about the visiting leaders. The sign in Russian says: “Putin is trying again to bring the media to heel.” pic.twitter.com/Oy89XnP2WJ
President Trump left Washington for the seventh foreign trip of his presidency with stops in Brussels; London; Glasgow (Scotland); and Helsinki. Secretary Pompeo was on a visit to six countries in eight days with Brussels as the last leg of his trip where he joined President Trump in a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The Secretary’s swagger update continues telling his State Department employees that they “put a lot of mileage on the plane in a tight window of time. But our teams on the road, at posts, and at home delivered on the mission no matter where we were or what we were doing.”
He also informed employees that our new ambassadors to the Kingdom of Belgium, Ronald Gidwitz, and the European Union, Gordon Sondland “are off to a great start leading their respective missions” and that both are “working closely with our NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison.”
Apparently USNATO mission is now in the new NATO headquarters and there was a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by the Secretary, Ambassador Hutchison, and Secretary of Defense Mattis. The Secretary told employees that “In many ways, this building symbolizes a new era for the most successful Alliance in history. Our goal is to strengthen NATO by increasing shared contributions and adapting it to better confront both conventional and unconventional threats.”
After President Trump’s confrontation at NATO which left the Alliance according to the NYT “intact but distracted and shaken”, the Secretary of State apparently chaired a meeting of the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, along with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg and that he “encouraged greater stabilization assistance to support areas of Syria liberated from ISIS in Coalition-supported operations.”
He ended his report with the following inspiring words: “You showed your swagger on every leg of this trip. Keep working hard, keep delivering on mission, and keep proudly representing the United States of America.”
He forgot to add that you should not forget to keep a brown paper bag handy in case you need to hide from the moon and the sun.
America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.
Trump, in Orwellian spin, brands EU a foe. Our largest trade partner, largest investor in our economy, our ally in climate, human rights+protecting democracy. Most of its members our NATO allies. Trump dividing us from our true friends. https://t.co/w4ZQdlXaBt
And then this — reports that the Pentagon embarked on “damage-control” after President Trump’s departure, and then the Secretary of Defense called that report fiction saying, “That was fascinating. I love reading fiction.”
Hours after Pres. Trump departed NATO HQ Thursday, U.S. military leaders embarked on a full-scale “damage control” operation with calls to their counterparts across Europe to reassure them that America will abide by its defense commitments in the region. https://t.co/8pQOaStgef
But even before Trump’s belligerent foreign policy positions, America had been gradually losing its dominant role in world affairs.
A power shift among the nations of the world began at the end of the Cold War and has been accelerating this century.
It is not as simple as saying “America is in decline,” since America remains a powerful country. But American global power has been eroding for some time, as I argue in the Foreign Policy Association’s “Great Decisions 2018” volume. The power of other countries has grown, giving them both the ability and the desire to effect global affairs independently of U.S. desires.
I am a foreign policy scholar and practitioner who has studied U.S. foreign policy through many administrations. I believe this global trend spells the end of the “exceptional nation” Americans imagined they were since the nation was founded and the end of the American era of global domination that began 70 years ago. We are no longer the “indispensable” nation celebrated by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the end of the last century.
American diplomacy has been essential to multinational agreements on trade, climate, regional security and arms control. Americans could and did claim to be at the center of a “rules-based international order.”
Those days are gone.
Not only do China and Russia contest America’s global role, a growing number of other countries are asserting an independent and increasingly influential role in regional economic and security developments.
Neither American political party has come to grips with this sea change. Until they do, U.S. global actions are likely to be less effective, even counterproductive.
Who’s on top?
The power shifts are increasingly visible. In the Middle East, the U.S. hoped for decades to isolate Iran as a pariah and weaken the regime until it fell.
Today, that goal is unimaginable, though national security adviser John Bolton continues to imagine it.
Turkey, a rising regional power, acts increasingly independent of the preferences of the U.S., its NATO ally, playing its own hand in the regional power game.
The U.S. helped unleash these trends with the strategically fatal invasion of Iraq in 2003 – fatal, because it permanently removed a regional leader who balanced the power of Iran. The failure to create a stable Iraq stimulated regional religious and political conflicts and rendered ineffective subsequent U.S. efforts to influence current trends in the region, as the continually ineffective policies in Syria show.
The U.S. cannot slow Chinese economic growth nor contain its power. China is changing the rules, whether the U.S. likes it or not.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan moves toward a renewed nationalism and has removed restrictions on its defense spending and the deployment of its military in the face of growing Chinese power.
North Korea behaves more and more like a regional power, winning a direct meeting with the U.S. president while making only a general commitment to denuclearize. The prospect of a unified Korea would bring into being another major regional power center in the Northern Pacific.
President Vladimir Putin asserts Russia’s interests and role in the world, like any other great power. Russia is consciously and actively rebalancing the power of the United States, with some success.
Military power, the American global trump card, is not as useful a tool as it once was.
While the U.S. continues to have the world’s only global military capability, able to deploy anywhere, it is no longer evident that this capability effectively sustains U.S. leadership. Clear military victories are few – the Gulf War in 1991 being an exception. The endless U.S. deployment in Afghanistan carries the whiff of Vietnam in its inability to resolve that country’s civil war.
Meanwhile, the militaries of other countries, acting independently of the U.S., are proving effective, as both Turkish and Iranian operations in Syria suggest.
Abroad at home
The transition to this new era is proving difficult for American policy-makers.
The Trump “America First” foreign policy is based on the view that the U.S. needs to defend its interests by acting alone, eschewing or withdrawing from multilateral arrangements for trade, economics, diplomacy or security.
Liberals and many Democrats criticize Trump for alienating traditional allies like Canada, France and Germany while befriending dictators. Policy-makers once critical of confrontational policies now condemn Trump for failing to confront Russia and China.
A different president in Washington, D.C., will not restore the “rules-based” international order. The underlying changes in global power relations have already undermined that order.
A neo-conservative foreign policy, featuring unilateral American military intervention, as favored by John Bolton, will only accelerate the global shift. Liberal internationalists like Hillary Clinton would fail as well, because the rest of the world rejects the assumption that the U.S. is “indispensable” and “exceptional.” Barack Obama appeared to recognize the changing reality, but continued to argue that only the U.S. could lead the international system.
America will need to learn new rules and play differently in the new balance-of-power world, where others have assets and policies the U.S. does not and cannot control.
On June 7, the community editor of Malnutrition Deeply’s Amruta Byatnal reported about the attempt of the United Staes Government to derail a nonbinding resolution on breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.
Last week, I wrote about the politics of policy-making at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. The United States attempted to derail a resolution on breastfeeding from being passed, thus favoring private sector interests over health: https://t.co/pVXjINdodN#breastfeeding#WHA71
What should have been a non-controversial discussion on breastfeeding turned rancorous at the recent World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.Advocates at the event have accused the U.S. delegation of trying to stop a resolution on infant and young child feeding from being introduced. The U.S. representatives later pushed for diluted text that removes references to regulating aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes.
The first draft was originally supported by Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Nepal, and contained several references to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which outlines what levels of marketing are acceptable while seeking to protect the health of infants and young children.
This opposition made its way to the WHA, where the U.S. delegation allegedly threatened countries with trade retaliation if they introduced the resolution, according to civil society advocates. Ecuador, which had led the drafting of the resolution, actually pulled out from introducing it.
The United States also attempted to stall this passage, advocates say, by suggesting an alternative text that omitted any reference to the WHO code or any of the text relating to specific guidance around inappropriate marketing of infants foods.
Reports say that the U.S. delegation was led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who reportedly declined requests to provide on-the-record comments to news deeply. Remember this is the same guy who told Congress that he could find separated kids with basic keystrokes.
“There is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located,” said Azar during a Senate hearing Tuesday. “I sat on the ORR portal, with just basic key strokes and within seconds could find any child in our care for any parent available.”
Juliette, I'm young enough to remember when HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified that he could find the children "within seconds." https://t.co/iM2nhIsZAu
On July 8, NYT also reported the threats against Ecuador:
The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.
In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.
An anonymous HHS spox (not a blogger) provided a statement to the NYT:
“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S. spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.
So, it looks like there’s a growing list of cabinet secretaries and others who go on national TV, or speak from the podium to eternal, historical embarrassment … pray tell, who taped them to those lying microphones?
Happy 4th of July! Embassy staff and families joined Canadian friends on Parliament Hill this morning for a special Changing of the Guard ceremony in honor of Independence Day. #July4Canadapic.twitter.com/VLVhbdy5ha
Here is the economist on the abomination that is the Trump/Pompeo refugee cuts, the most atrocious policy this administration has executed before the child separation on the border. Hopefully a backlash will yield similar changes https://t.co/fHoPZSkYUl#WorldRefugeeDay2018
And then a cartoonist was fired for his catalog of brutal realities. If you’ve lived in developing countries ruled by dictators (who typically, take over media outlets in the name of protecting their people), you will quickly realize that media outlets run by pals and cronies is a perilous cliff. Before long, the only cartoons and news fit to print are friendly litanies of the life of the country. There are no dissenters in fairytales, of course. We don’t want to be that country. I don’t think we will … but it doesn’t help my troubled soul tonight.
Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS, Ret.)
Senior Fellow, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island, 17 April 2018
This is the third and last of three connected lectures on diplomatic doctrine. The series was preceded by an introductory presentation. This lecture deals with diplomacy as risk management. The first lecture described diplomacy as strategy; the second as tactics.
At its most basic level, diplomacy is the management of foreign relations to reduce risk to the nation while promoting its interests abroad. In this task, diplomacy’s success is measured more by what it precludes than by what it achieves. One can never prove that what didn’t happen would have happened if one had not done this or that. But, for the most part in foreign affairs, the fewer the surprises and the less the stress, the better.
The ideal outcome of diplomacy is the assurance of a life for the nation that is as tranquil and boring as residence in the suburbs. And, like suburban life, in its day-to-day manifestation, diplomacy involves harvesting flowers when they bloom and fruits and berries when they ripen, while laboring to keep the house presentable, the weeds down, the vermin under control, and the predators and vagrants off the property. If one neglects these tasks, one is criticized by those closest, regarded as fair prey by those at greater remove, and not taken seriously by much of anyone.
Viewed this way, the fundamental purpose of U.S. foreign policy is the maintenance of a peaceful international environment that leaves Americans free to enjoy the prosperity, justice, and civil liberties that enable our pursuit of happiness. This agenda motivated the multilateral systems of governance the United States created and relied upon after World War II – the Pax Americana. Secretary of Defense Mattis has called this “the greatest gift of the greatest generation.” Institutions like the United Nations. its specialized agencies, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organization, and related organizations like the World Trade Organization sought to regulate specific aspects of international behavior, manage the global commons, provide frameworks for the resolution of international disputes, and organize collective responses to problems.
In the aggregate, these offspring of U.S. diplomacy established and sustained widely accepted norms of behavior for many decades. International law drew on consensus to express these norms as rules. To the extent they were accepted internationally, these rules constrained state actions that could damage the common interests of the society of nations the rules had brought into being. Despite its uneven performance, the Pax Americana assured a relatively high degree of predictability in world affairs that facilitated peaceful international interactions. It did so on the same philosophical basis as the rule of law in domestic affairs – a belief that rules matter and that process legitimizes outcomes rather than the other way around.
Today, that philosophy and its ethical foundations are under attack both at home and abroad. For the time being, at least, Washington has set aside the rule-bound international order and the market-driven economic interactions it enabled. The United States is discarding the multilateral strategic framework that it built to restrain the behavior of lesser states in the last half of the 20th century. In its place, the Trump administration is experimenting with neo-mercantilist theories that seem to have been crowd-sourced to right-wing talk radio. Washington seeks to maximize U.S. leverage over trading partners by dealing with them only on a bilateral basis. Trade and investment are increasingly government-managed and hence politicized rather than freely contracted between private buyers and sellers. So far, it must be said, bird-brained bilateralism is proving no substitute for the complex regulatory regimes it is replacing and the supply chains it is disrupting.
With the fading of previously agreed codes of conduct and the principle of PACTA SUNT SERVANDA [“agreements must be kept”], what could once be taken for granted in managing relations with other states must now be repetitiously renegotiated and affirmed bilaterally. But Washington has demoted diplomacy as a tool of American statecraft in favor of primary reliance on military and economic coercion. Escalating uncertainties are driving nations toward unrestrained unilateralism and disregard for international law. As this century began, the United States popularized contemptible practices like the assassination and abduction for questioning under torture of foreign opponents. A lengthening list of other countries – China, north Korea, Russia, and Turkey, to name a few – have now brazenly followed this bad example. More issues are being deferred as intractable, addressed ad hoc, or dealt with through the threat or use of force.
In this new world disorder, the need for diplomacy to tend fraying relationships is manifestly greater than ever. The Congress and public, as well as the U.S. military, sense this. They have resisted efforts by the Trump administration to slash budgets for peaceful international engagement by the U.S. Department of State and related agencies. Still, the American diplomatic imagination has not been so myopic and enervated since before World War II. Nor have U.S. investments in diplomacy, Americans’ expectations of their diplomats, or international trust of the United States been so low.
Diplomatic preparedness requires constant attention to other nations and their views. Showing that one’s government is interested in and understands what others think encourages them to be more receptive to one’s own ideas. Attentiveness to their needs, views, and doubts signals willingness to work together and cultivates willingness to cooperate in defending common interests. The regular nurturing and reaffirmation of relationships is what makes it possible to call on a network of friends in times of need. Responding politely and considerately – in the least offensive way one can – to others’ messages conveys respect as well as substance. It invites their sympathetic study of the logic, intent, and interests behind one’s own messages.
Constant diplomatic intercourse promotes stability and predictability. It inhibits inimical change, reducing the risk that amicable states will become adversaries or that adversaries will become enemies. And it provides situational awareness that reduces surprise and enables governments to respond intelligently and tactfully to trends and events.
All this may seem obvious. But it takes a sustained commitment by national leaders, public servants, and well-trained diplomats as well as reliable funding to carry it off. In the contemporary United States, none of these is now assured. The safety net provided by routine diplomacy as I have just described is increasingly neglected. The resulting disarray in American international relationships is shaking our alliances, eroding cooperation with our international partners, raising doubts about U.S. reliability, causing client states to seek new patrons, and diminishing deference to U.S. national interests by friends and foes alike. Increases in military spending demonstrate eagerness to enhance warfighting capabilities. But greater capacity to wreak havoc does nothing to rectify the doubts of foreign nations about American wisdom, reliability, and rapport in our conduct of relations with them.
U.S. military power is as yet without effective challenge except at the regional level. But, on its own, it is proving consistently incapable of producing outcomes that favor our national security. It is a truism that those who cannot live by their brawn or their wallets must live by their wits. Neither war nor the threat of war can restore America’s lost political primacy. Only an upgrade in American competence at formulating and implementing domestic and foreign policies, coupled with effective diplomacy in support of credible American leadership, can do that.
In recent years, Americans have become better known for our promiscuous use of force and our cynical disregard of international law than for our rectitude and aspirations for moral excellence. U.S. foreign policy has featured unprovoked invasions and armed attacks on foreign countries, violations of their sovereignty through drone warfare and aid to insurgents, assassinations and kidnappings, interrogation through torture, the extrajudicial execution of citizens as well foreigners, universal electronic eavesdropping, Islamophobia, the suspension of aid to refugees, xenophobic immigration policies, and withdrawal from previously agreed frameworks for collective action on issues of global concern, like climate change. This sociopathic record inspires only the enemies of the United States. It is not a platform that wins friends, influences people in our favor, or encourages them to view us as reliable.
We’re days late on this but the United States opened the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. The event sparked protests at the Gaza border which resulted in the deaths of over 50 Palestinians and hundreds of wounded protesters.
With the Embassy officially moved to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv has not been designated as a consulate general but as a “Branch Office”. The State Department did update its 2 FAM 440 on Changing Post Status on May 18, four days late and it does not enlightened us on what happens to the Tel Aviv post, the consular districts, the role of the chief of mission to USCG Jerusalem or for that matter, what happens to place of birth names on passports as 7 FAM 1300 Appendix D has not been updated. Note that previous to this move, USCG Jerusalem’s consular districts include the West Bank, Gaza, and the municipality of Jerusalem while Embassy Tel Aviv’s consular district includes all other territory in Israel.
We understand that the Consul General in Jerusalem will continue to live in the chief of mission residence (CMR) on the Agron Road consulate site. It is also our understanding that USCGJerusalem — a separate post with its own chief of mission that reports directly to the bureau and was never a constituent post of then Embassy Tel Aviv — “will go on as usual” even after the ambassador and mission to the State of Israel move to Jerusalem. So the USG will have two posts in Jerusalem, each with a different mission? Are there going to be one or two separate consular sections? What’s bidding going to be like? We’re having a moment with FAM confusion, help would be appreciated from folks in the know.
Last December, @POTUS acknowledged Israel’s capital is Jerusalem. He directed @StateDept to move our embassy to Jerusalem as recognition of that reality. I'm incredibly proud that today, on Israel's 70th anniversary of independence, #USEmbassyJerusalem is open.
Son-in-law Jared Kushner speaks at US Embassy opening in Jerusalem: "The US stands with Israel because we both believe in freedom… in human rights… that democracy is worth defending." So far, 41 Palestinians protesters have been killed at the border. pic.twitter.com/whbk8bnBEF
US @statedeptspox says State had no role in picking the controversial pastor Robert Jeffress for opening ceremony for US Embassy in Jerusalem. Says Ambo Friedman picked him. Said of pastors views "we would certainly not agree with his remarks about some religious groups."
Robert Jeffress says “you can’t be saved by being a Jew,“ and “Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.” He’s said the same about Islam. Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.
New US Embassy building in Jerusalem plan unveiled. The new US Embassy will be inaugurated in Jerusalem next week, then construction works to be completed on coming years by American, Israeli firms. 🇺🇸 🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/vabYO3Yjtd
“[W]e are not facing a militarization of American foreign policy but the marginalization of diplomacy as the effective alternative to military force. The denigration and dismissal of soft power, even when it is renamed smart power, has led to a perception of diplomatic weakness and the concomitant rise of military influence on the policy process. It is a sad reality that there are more and more hammers in the policy toolbox and fewer alternative weapons. The result may be that a president anxious to make America great again and to demonstrate the effectiveness of American leadership and power may look for a place of his choosing to demonstrate American power. President Trump does not seem temperamentally interested in the prolonged and protracted process of diplomacy. His recent tweet questioning the utility of Secretary Tillerson’s efforts to engage the North Koreans in dialogue is an example of this skepticism. In these circumstances we should not be surprised if the United States were to decides to choose a target of opportunity in Iran or North Korea or Syria to show off its military might. This will not reflect the institutional militarization of American foreign policy but rather the emotional need of many Americans, frustrated by our loss of global standing to demonstrate that America can indeed be great again. Neither a resourced military nor an marginalized diplomacy should want that to happen.”
Secretary Tillerson Meets With Former Secretary of State Rice and Shultz U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in a luncheon event with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and George P. Shultz at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Stanford, California on January 17, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]