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Trump-Putin Summit Meets Expectations: Reviving Hopes for Better Future

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 17.07.2018

There is no doubt that the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki is a significant step forward. As expected, there were no breakthroughs and the tide was not exactly turned but guardrails to the bilateral relationship were restored to pave the way for substantial progress.

Evidently, only a full-fledged summit could stop further deterioration of the bilateral relations and it happened. True, it was too brief to produce strides but it created a positive atmosphere for launching the process of repairing the damage. The meeting met the expectations of those who wanted the bilateral ties to improve.

The importance of cooperation between the militaries was emphasized. No doubt, it will become closer and more intensive from now on. National security teams will revive the much-needed dialogue on a range of burning issues, including separate talks on cyber security. The fate of the New START Treaty will be addressed to prevent the erosion of arms control. This is a very important and timely development. The parties will coordinate their actions in Syria. President Putin stressed the need to resume public diplomacy to boost contacts between the peoples. These are tangible results. As President Trump said at the news conference, the relationship was at the rock bottom but it has changed now.

The lawmakers’ support is a must for implementation of the president’s plans. Will Donald Trump have congressional backing for his “hit it off with Putin” policy? It brings to the fore the issue of GOP prospects for the US midterm elections on November 6, which are a kind of referendum on Donald Trump’s performance. On this date, Americans will answer the question whether they trust President Trump, including his Russia policy.

Alabama already held its primary run-off elections on July 17 launching the countrywide process to last till mid-September. The party in power normally loses seats in Congress as a result of midterm elections. That’s what Democrats are banking on. Since the days of the Civil War (1861-1865) the incumbent president’s party has lost ground in 36 out of 39 midterm elections to the House. Over the past 21 midterm elections, the GOP has gained seats in both houses only twice.

If Democrats score a win to get a majority in one of the houses, the “election meddling story” will be a drag on the development of the relationship. With Democratic majority in Senate, treaties with Russia will have a slim chance to be ratified and new snags on the way of normalizing the relationship may be codified, even if it means encroachment on president’s prerogatives.

Today, the GOP has the 236-193 majority in the House and the 51-47 majority in the Senate. Two senators are independent. They tend to side with Democrats. According to the Cool Political Report issued just a few days ago, Republicans have a good chance to win the House. There are lower chamber 36 seats in the “toss up” or “lean” category. Another report published this month says the GOP will preserve the current majority in the Senate. Republicans can afford a loss of only one Senate seat to preserve the lead. Democrats have 26 seats in the Senate for re-election out of 35. This is a chance to increase the advantage. The GOP candidates are leading in North Dakota and Florida. A Republican victory would give a chance for Senate’s approval of Trump-nominated Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice to strengthen the president’s position.

Indeed, a GOP success will be unprecedented but it looks quite achievable at present. Many things can sway the public opinion but today most Americans want to see the relations with Russia improved. They see it as a feather in President Trump’s cap. Despite all the ballyhoo raised about “election meddling” and other things, the percentage of all Americans who view Russia is an ally or friendly to the US rose to 31% from 26% in 2014. There has been no change in the percentage of Americans identifying Russia as an enemy or unfriendly to their country. The number of Republicans who say Russia is an ally or a friendly state rose from 22% to 40% since 2014.

The economic outlook under Trump is positive to increase the Republican chances. “Over the first half of this year, overall economic activity appears to have expanded at a solid pace,” the Federal Reserve concluded in its recent report.

With a Republican majority in Congress, President Trump could do much more for improving the relations with Moscow. A GOP win would pave the way for arms control and security agreements to be approved by Senate.

Hopefully, the summit results are not just a flash in the pan to disappear with another president taking office. The facts adduced above indicate the main thing – Donald Trump is far from being a lamp duck. He is a serious interlocutor who can advance his cause and do it with solid support in Congress and among voters. Improving the relations with Russia was Donald Trump’s pre-election promise given to American people who voted for him. As one can see, the US president remains true to his word.

July 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Russia threatens to quit START as US deploys Aegis destroyer to Spain

RT | February 2, 2014

The US has deployed a ballistic missile defense destroyer to Spain to boost NATO’s anti-missile shield in Europe. The move, allegedly aimed at curbing the Iranian threat, has sparked talks about Russia possibly scrapping the START nuclear treaty.

The deployment of the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook, equipped with the Aegis shipboard integrated combat weapons system, was announced by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“An important posture enhancement is European missile defense in response to ballistic missile threats from Iran,” Hagel said, adding that the US is committed “to deploying missile defense architecture there,” as a part of Phase 3 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

Hagel also said that over the next two years, three additional Aegis-enabled missile defense-capable destroyers will join the effort to protect NATO countries on the European continent.

“Despite fiscal constraints, the budget that we will release next month fully protects our investment in European missile defense,” Hagel said, reiterating views he also expressed on a visit to Poland earlier last week.

“There are some capabilities that the United States military will continue to invest heavily in,” Hagel told the Munich conference. “We will continue to be the world leader in those kinds of capabilities.”

In his Munich speech, Hagel also mentioned that China and Russia “are rapidly modernizing their militaries and global defense industries, challenging our technological edge and defense partnerships around the world.”

The USS Donald Cook will become the first of four ballistic missile defense (BMD)-capable ships based in Europe. It will be joined by the destroyer Ross in a few months, while Carney and Porter will reach European waters in 2015.

The US Navy estimates that 1,239 military personnel will move to Spain’s port of Rota as part of the EPAA plan, according to the Congressional Research Service. The move will cost $92 million, with another $100 million being spent annually on maintaining the ships in Spain.

The Obama administration claims this deployment will serve to protect US allies in Europe from Iranian and possibly North Korean missile threats.

The movement of the four destroyers to Spain and a creation of a ground-based radar is Phase 1 of the EPAA. Phase 2 is the installation of the Aegis Ashore armed with Standard SM-3 IB interceptor missiles in Romania. Phase 3 of EPAA is the creation of Polish Aegis Ashore installation, armed with SM-3 IIA missiles. Phase 4, involving deployment of SM-3 IIB missiles, was canceled by the US in March 2013.

The destroyers in Spain are known as “forward deployed naval forces” (FDNF), as they enable the US Navy to provide more forward-based presence with fewer ships, and also cut down on the transit time when tackling a wide range of threats.

“Permanently forward-deploying four ships in Rota will enable us to be in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said, Defense News reported.

Russia may consider withdrawing from START treaty

In the meantime, if the US continues boosting its anti-missile capabilities through developing its missile defense system in Europe, Russia may eventually be forced to withdraw from the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Russian Foreign Ministry’s top disarmament official, Mikhail Ulyanov, has warned.

“We are concerned that the US is continuing to build up missile defense capability without considering the interests and concerns of Russia,” Ulyanov told Interfax. “Such a policy can undermine strategic stability and lead to a situation where Russia will be forced to exercise [its] right of withdrawal from the [START] treaty.”

Ulyanov said that the legal basis for Moscow to scrap the START treaty is legislated for within the text of the agreement, which Russia says it has so far fully implemented. In certain exceptional cases, involving a known threat to national security, both Russia and the US have the option to quit the treaty.

“The statement on missile defense made by the Russian side on April 8, 2010, at the signing of the START Treaty, explicitly states that such exceptional circumstances include the build-up of missile defense systems by the United States, which threatens the potential of Russian Federation’s strategic nuclear forces,” Ulyanov said. “A similar [regulation] is contained in the Federal Law on the Ratification of the New START treaty.”

Ulyanov said that “at the current stage” Russian experts estimate that the US missile defense system “has not yet reached a level that would represent a threat to the efficiency of Russian strategic deterrence forces.”

Moscow hopes to eventually come to terms with Washington on the issue of European missile shield, Ulyanov said. “Such a chance, of course, remains, but everything depends on the political will of the US.”

The New START Treaty was signed between US and Russia in April 2010 and entered into force after ratification in February 2011. It is planned to last until at least 2021.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment