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
OIG did not substantiate any allegations of whistleblower retaliation related to Department contractors or grantees. However, OIG did substantiate an allegation of a security clearance revocation in retaliation for whistleblowing activity under PPD-19. As required by the Foreign Affairs Manual, OIG reported its findings to the Under Secretary for Management. The report recommended that the whistleblower’s security clearance be reinstated.
The brief note from State/OIG’s semi-annual report includes little details about a security clearance revocation, not suspension. According to 12 FAM 233.4, suspension is an independent administrative procedure that does not represent a final determination and does not trigger the procedures outlined in 12 FAM 234, which includes revocation. With revocation, the Department may determine that immediate suspension without pay from employment under 5 U.S.C. 7532 is deemed advisable.
After State/OIG’s referral to “M”, the Under Secretary for Management will reportedly transmit the IG materials to the Security Appeals Panel, “if one is convened in the matter, and to other Department officials as appropriate” according to the Foreign Affairs Manual.
Note that the State Department does not have a Senate-confirmed “M” as of this writing. We want to know if the security clearance is not reinstated per OIG recommendation.
State/OIG’s semi-annual report also does not include information on consequences for the individual/individuals who perpetrated the revocation of this whistleblower’s security clearance in retaliation for whistleblowing activity.
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
The State Department updated its Travel Advisory for Nicaragua on July 6, 2018 to Level 3 urging that U.S. travelers reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to crime, civil unrest, and limited healthcare availability. The update also includes the announcement that the U.S. government has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel in the country and that while the U.S. Embassy remains open, it can only provide emergency services for U.S. citizens.
According to the Miami Herald, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Human Rights Commission puts the number of dead since April 18 at 264, while Nicaragua’s Pro-Human Rights Association puts the figure at 309 people and thousands of wounded.
1/6 El gobierno de EEUU sancionó hoy, bajo la ley Global Magnitsky a 3 personas de Nicaragua que han estado involucradas en graves abusos contra los DDHH o actos de corrupción. https://t.co/cuVEK7Mo1y
Confirming the US government requested the #Nicaragua police return, or pay for, donated vehicles which violated the terms of agreement when used to violently suppress the voice of Nicaraguans peacefully protesting and the police complied. https://t.co/n92ZZhTgNWhttps://t.co/5ERZXPLhzS
We condemn ongoing #Nicaragua gov’t para-police attacks vs UNAN students in Managua, the residents of Masaya, & detention of campesino leader Medardo Mairena. This violence to intimidate and repress the people must cease immediately.
Horrific scene in Nicaragua, as government forces fired at students, priests, journalists and others trapped inside a church. WaPo’s @partlowj was inside, and is now out and safe. See Josh’s Twitter feed for his reports during the mayhem. https://t.co/0kGT4otyQM
On July 10, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate career diplomat David Hale to be the next Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (State/P). The WH released the following brief bio:
Ambassador David Hale, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career-Minister, is the Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a position he has held since 2015. He previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon from 2013 to 2015 and as the United States Ambassador to Jordan from 2005 to 2008. In Washington, D.C., he has served as the Special Envoy and Deputy Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009 to 2013 and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2008 to 2009. From 2001 to 2003, Ambassador Hale was Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs. He was Executive Assistant to the Secretary of State from 1997 and 1998. Mr. Hale received a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and he is the recipient of numerous senior State Department awards, including the Distinguished Service Award and the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Service.
The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (State/P) position is currently encumbered by Ambassador Steve Mull in an acting capacity. An unconfirmed second-hand source informed us that Ambassador Mull is registered for the retirement course at the end of August and will be leaving at the end of the fiscal year – that is, on or about September 30, 2018. With the Hale announcement, Mull’s retirement appears inevitable, the second hand info is likely true than not. Ambassador Mull is the last remaining career ambassador in active service. His departure will signal the first time in recent memory where the Foreign Service has no career ambassador in active service.
As of this writing, Secretary Pompeo has not released a statement about this nomination. If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed Ambassador Tom Shannon as “P”. He will also become the highest ranking career Foreign Service officer at the State Department. Here are his predecessors via history.state.gov:
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?
Pregnant diplomatic courier told to use a portable travel toilet, undress in the presence of LES driver and urinate in the back of the truck. This is the best accommodation her supervisor and DRAD* could come up with. Another example of **pregnancy discrimination that is running rampant in the State Department.
A Diplomatic Courier must have the physical endurance to withstand the physical stresses from working long hours, lack of sleep, extremes of heat or cold, and other discomforts and the physical strength to lift and move heavy and/or oversized items such as diplomatic pouches and crates that may weigh as much as 70 pounds or carry heavy equipment. A Diplomatic Courier is required to perform work that requires regular and recurring periods of prolonged sitting, standing, bending, and stretching and is often required to physically move and transport heavy items; that could involve climbing ladders and working in and around aircraft, trucks, trains, aboard ships, etc. Related activities include crawling, maneuvering, and working in cramped spaces.
3 FAM 3350 | LEAVE AND REASSIGNMENT OF DUTIES FOR MATERNITY AND PATERNITY REASONS
* HR/OAA/DRAD is the Disability and Reasonable Accommodations Division in the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations, Bureau of Human Resources at the State Department
** The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. See more: https://fam.state.gov/fam/03fah03/03fah030110.html#H112
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.