Kremlin calls treaty exit without new deal offer ‘dangerous’
By NATALIYA VASILYEVA
Tuesday, October 23
MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin said Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump took “a dangerous position” by deciding to abandon an existing nuclear weapons treaty with Russia without offering anything to replace it.
As Trump’s national security adviser prepared to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Putin’s spokesman acknowledged the 1987 arms control deal had “weak spots.” But Dmitry Peskov warned Washington against withdrawing from the agreement without proposing improvements or a substitute treaty.
“Right now, we don’t have any prospects whatsoever for a new deal,” Peskov said. “It’s important to figure out if it’s possible or not.”
Trump on Monday restated his threat to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because of alleged Russia violations. He said the United States would start developing the type of ground-launched nuclear cruise and ballistic missiles the treaty banned until “people come to their senses” and then “we’ll all stop.”
In Moscow, Peskov said that sacrificing the landmark pact for a hypothetical better deal was “a dangerous position.”
The treaty was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibiting the U.S. and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles.)
China was not a party to the original agreement, and Trump said Monday it should be included in the treaty.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton is scheduled to meet with Putin in Moscow on Tuesday. Bolton struck a conciliatory note in his talks with senior Russian officials earlier in the day.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu lauded Bolton for making a two-day visit and said that “even small steps will benefit our relations and help restore trust” between the two countries.
He also said that Russia and the U.S. should build up their cooperation in Syria that helped to prevent major incidents in the sky or on the ground.
Bolton told Shoigu he was in Moscow to work on Trump’s commitment to improve security cooperation with Russia.
“We certainly share your view that the U.S.-Russian discussions with respect to Syria have been useful, productive and professional, and we hope we can extend those conversations through a number of other ways that you mentioned, and even more,” he said.
In televised comments, neither Bolton nor Shoigu mentioned Trump’s announcement on the INF treaty.
In an interview with Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy on Monday, Bolton made it clear the Trump administration had its mind made up about leaving the treaty.
“If Russia says it’s not violating the INF treaty, what are they going to do to change their behavior to comply?” he said.
When signed in 1987, the treaty was lauded as a major safeguard for global security since with no shorter-range missiles in use, the nuclear superpowers would in theory have more time for decision-making if faced with a nuclear attack.
The European Union warned Trump of a potential impact on European security if he decided to go ahead and leave the INF treaty.
An EU statement on Monday described the pact as an essential cornerstone of Europe’s security structure, adding, “the world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary, would bring even more instability.”
Separately, Bolton told Ekho Moskvy that he raised the issue of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections in talks with Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev on Monday. He said that he did not believe the meddling had any effect in the U.S. 2016 election, though the accusations created “enormous distrust of Russia.”
Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact
By ZEKE MILLER and MICHAEL BALSAMO
Sunday, October 21
ELKO, Nevada (AP) — President Donald Trump says he will exit a landmark arms control agreement the United States signed with the former Soviet Union. He says Russia is violating the pact and it’s preventing the U.S. from developing new weapons.
The 1987 pact, which helps protect the security of the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Far East, prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Trump said Saturday that “Russia has violated the agreement. They have been violating it for many years.” The agreement has constrained the U.S. from developing new weapons, but Trump said America will begin developing them unless Russia and China agree not to possess or develop the weapons.
Saudi Arabia is a repressive regime – and so are a lot of US allies
October 22, 2018
Author: Jeffrey Fields, Associate Professor of the Practice of International Relations, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Disclosure statement: Jeffrey Fields does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul has put the United States’ relationship with the wealthy Gulf power under intense scrutiny.
After weeks of denying any knowledge about Khashoggi’s fate, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman now says that Saudi agents strangled Khashoggi after a fistfight. Eighteen men have been arrested.
The Khashoggi affair highlights a persistent oddity in American foreign policy, one I observed in many years working at the State Department and Department of Defense: selective morality in dealing with repressive regimes.
A panoply of dictators
President Donald Trump praised the arrests as “good first steps” in the case, despite Turkey’s claim to have audio and video evidence that the Saudis tortured, assassinated and dismembered Khashoggi. Many of those arrested have close links to Salman.
Trump’s reluctance to confront Saudi Arabia over the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who lived in the U.S., has spurred global outrage.
He and other White House officials have reminded critics that Saudi Arabia buys billions of dollars in weapons from the U.S. and is a crucial partner in the American pressure campaign on Iran.
The comment highlights why the U.S. has for decades maintained close ties with some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.
Ever since the country emerged from the Cold War as the world’s dominant military and economic power, consecutive American presidents have seen financial and geopolitical benefit in overlooking the bad deeds of brutal regimes.
Changing allegiances in the Middle East
Before the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran was a close U.S. ally. Shah Reza Pahlavi ruled harshly, using his secret police to torture and murder political dissidents.
But the shah was also a secular, anti-communist leader in a Muslim-dominated region. President Nixon hoped that Iran would be the “Western policeman in the Persian Gulf.”
After the Shah’s overthrow, the Reagan administration in the 1980s became friendly with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The U.S. supported him with intelligence during Iraq’s war with Iran and looked the other way at his use of chemical weapons.
And before Syria’s intense, bloody civil war – which has killed an estimated 400,000 people and featured grisly chemical weapon attacks by the government – its authoritarian regime enjoyed relatively friendly relations with the U.S.
Syria has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1979. But presidents Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all visited President Bashar al-Assad’s father, who ruled from 1971 until his death in 2000.
Why Saudi Arabia matters
The alleged assassination of Khashoggi by Saudi operatives may seem surprising because of the 31-year-old crown prince’s reputation as a moderate reformer.
Salman has made newsworthy changes in the conservative Arab kingdom, allowing women to drive, combating corruption and curtailing some powers of the religious police.
Still, Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s most authoritarian regimes.
Women must have the consent of a male guardian to enroll in college, look for a job or travel. They cannot swim in public or try on clothes when shopping.
The Saudi government also routinely arrests people without judicial review, according to Human Rights Watch. Citizens can be executed for nonviolent drug crimes, often in public. Forty-eight people were beheaded in the first four months of 2018 alone.
Saudi Arabia ranks just above North Korea on political rights, civil liberties and other measures of freedom, according to the democracy watchdog Freedom House.
But its wealth, strategic Middle East location and petroleum exports keep the Saudis as a vital U.S. ally.
President Obama visited Saudi Arabia more than any other American president – four times in eight years – to discuss everything from Iran to oil production.
Trump inherited the Obama administration’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia. AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
This kind of foreign policy – one based on practical, self-interested principles rather than moral or ideological concerns – is called “realpolitik.”
Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under Nixon, was a master of realpolitik, which drove that administration to normalize its relationship with China. Diplomatic relations between the two countries had ended in 1949 when Chinese communist revolutionaries took power.
Then, as now, China was incredibly repressive. Only 17 countries – including Saudi Arabia – are less free than China, according to Freedom House.
But China is also the world’s most populous nation and a nuclear power. Nixon, a fervent anti-communist, sought to exploit a growing rift between China and the Soviet Union.
Today Washington retains the important, if occasionally rocky, relationship Kissinger forged with Beijing. President Trump may be critical of Chinese trade practices, but he is largely silent on China’s ongoing persecution of Muslim minority groups.
American realpolitik is not limited to the Mideast. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the U.S. regularly backed Latin American military dictators who tortured and killed citizens to “defend” the Americas from communism.
US not ‘so innocent’
U.S. presidents tend to underplay their relationships with repressive regimes, lauding lofty “American values” instead.
That’s the language former President Barack Obama used in September to criticize Trump’s embrace of Russia’s authoritarian president, Vladimir Putin, citing America’s “commitment to certain values and principles like the rule of law and human rights and democracy.”
But Trump defended his relationship with Russia, tacitly invoking American realpolitik. “You think our country’s so innocent?” he asked on Fox News.
I can’t say he’s wrong.
The U.S. maintains close ties to numerous regimes whose values and policies conflict with America’s constitutional guarantees of democracy, freedom of speech, the right to due process and many others.
It has for decades.
Saudi Arabia’s brutal treatment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is causing international outcry and hand-wringing within the U.S. government.
But American realpolitik suggests the tight U.S.-Saudi relationship will continue.
Academic freedom: I spent four months at UAE’s national university – this is what I found
October 22, 2018
Author: John Nagle, Reader in Sociology, University of Aberdeen
Disclosure statement: John Nagle does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Aberdeen provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
The case of the Durham PhD student, Matthew Hedges – who has been arrested and placed in solitary confinement on the charge of spying – exposes the extreme limits on academic freedom in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But Hedges’s plight, while outrageous, is not altogether shocking for seasoned observers of the oil-rich Gulf monarchy.
This year I spent four months as a visiting professor at the UAE’s national university. I found much to admire in their universities. Staff conduct research in campuses endowed with world-class facilities that arouse awe and jealousy from visiting academics. Highly motivated students make teaching rewarding.
These benefits however come at a price – academic freedom. Academics are often banned from entering the country because they are classified as security threats. Academics find themselves arbitrarily imprisoned for human rights activism. Censorship is regularly applied to academics and scholarly events. During my time in the UAE, restrictions were placed unannounced on internet and Skype use.
These limits on academic freedom are motivated by the authorities’ obsession with clamping down on any activity considered threatening to security and authority. The state is unnerved by the chaos unleashed by the protests and demonstrations of the Arab Spring, and will do anything to stop this being exported to its shores.
Any hint of dissent directed at the Emirati elites, or demand for greater liberties, predictably results in a security crackdown. The potentially democracy-promoting spaces of the internet – and especially social media – are of particular suspicion. In 2012 the law on cyber crimes made imprisonment acceptable for any speech seen as damaging the state.
The Qatari spat
It is its neighbour Qatar that particularly vexes the UAE at present. The UAE accuses Qatar of sponsoring terrorists to destabilise the region. These claims are currently elevated to a full-blown diplomatic crisis involving sanctions and a major blockade against Qatar – with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, the UAE, and the internationally recognised Yemeni government severing diplomatic relations.
But what really drives UAE’s antagonism towards Qatar is its state-funded media network, Al Jazeera. The broadcaster represents a thorn in the side of the Gulf monarchies by broadcasting embarrassing stories about them. And in pursuit of taking down its rival, the UAE courts help from allies.
In the US special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have probed for information about possible attempts by the UAE to gain political influence by siphoning money into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. And in March this year, the BBC obtained emails of a lobbying effort by the UAE to get the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, sacked for failing to support the UAE against Qatar.
This returns us to Hedges’ case. The UAE’s attorney general announced that the PhD student is accused of “spying for and on behalf of a foreign state” and jeopardising “the military, economic and political security of the UAE”. Matthew Hedges’ research, which investigates the impact of the Arab Spring on the UAE’s security strategy, clearly hits a tender nerve. His arrest additionally acts as a powerful message that the state is willing to curtail the free speech of academics.
The limits to academic freedom
As an academic working in the social sciences, I have been brought up to think perhaps optimistically of universities as bastions of free speech and critical thinking. In spending a number of months based at the UAE’s national university I soon learned that education here served a rather different function. Rather than encouraging critical thinking, education in the UAE rests on a technocratic logic. Education is supposed to help its society resolve tricky social problems and maintain the status quo.
For example, up to 90% of students at the national university are women and the university is segregated into male and female campuses. By studying at university, women are supposed to gain practical skills that help them integrate into the labour force without losing their traditional roles as mothers and wives.
But the state may be fighting a losing battle. Marriage rates are decreasing and the UAE has the highest divorce rate in the region, as women demand more independence. In teaching, I found the female students to be incredibly hardworking, engaging and ambitious driven by increasing openings in employment. The issue of free speech may well come next from students.
The lure of the UAE
Given that there are many wealthy students keen on gaining qualifications from world-ranking institutions, the UAE is an attractive destination for cash-strapped UK universities. In September, for example, the University of Birmingham opened a campus in Dubai. But academic freedom is an inescapable issue confronting these institutions. A number of high-profile cases have plagued New York University Abu Dhabi since it opened in 2008.
I enormously enjoyed my time as an academic in the UAE and I can’t complain of any bad personal experience. But I very quickly learned the limits of academic freedom. I would love to return, but I fear that even writing this piece could see me fall foul of the UAE authorities.
Some UK-based academics have already been banned from entering the UAE for penning critiques of the Gulf state. And as can be seen in Hedges’ case, doing research on topics deemed to be sensitive leads to frightening consequences.
Opinion: U.N. Report Shows Everything Wrong With Climate Alarmism
By Ross Marchand
For those unable and unwilling to wait for Chicken Little’s coming sequel, the United Nations’ latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report provides a heavy helping of unnecessary alarmism and hysteria. The report’s authors warn that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are inevitable absent a radical, World War II-level effort to ratchet down fossil fuel usage to zero by 2050. At a U.S. taxpayer-funded level of $8 billion, the United Nations has an obligation to provide a levelheaded accounting of the facts, instead of jumping to fear mongering.
The report says that the Paris Climate Agreement to limit the increase in global warming by 2 degrees Celsius simply won’t cut it; a 1.5 degree increase is the new red line. While the 133 report authors are undoubtedly well accomplished in their scientific fields, they fail to understand the unintended consequences and high taxpayer and consumer costs that come with “ambitious” climate action. Going all in to limit warming to a degree and a half will mean bilking the global poor while increasing other environmental harms.
How does the United Nations propose that we drastically cut down on carbon emissions over the next few decades? The report authors envision a world, where, “By 2050, renewables (including bioenergy, hydro, wind and solar, 32 with direct-equivalence method) supply a share of 49–67% (interquartile range) of primary energy.”
Given that renewables accounted for less than 4 percent of global consumption in 2017, the world has its work cut out. States like California offer a window into drastic efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Currently, the Golden State has a renewable portfolio standard of 50 percent for green energy, and Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a bill to accelerate the target to 60 percent by 2030. California’s increased utility costs also mean bad news for taxpayers. With thousands of federal and state buildings, the increased utility costs for those buildings will translate into higher public operating costs.
On top of that, California implemented a cap-and-trade program in which industries need to buy allowances for the right to emit carbon. Unsurprisingly, California electricity bills are more than 50 percent higher than the national average. This disproportionately affects the state’s mammoth poor population, who spend a higher percentage of their income on electricity bills than their wealthier neighbors. In fact, around 1 million California households “faced energy expenditures exceeding 10 percent of household income,” according to a 2015 Manhattan Institute study.
Climate “action” has an especially negative effect on poorer countries, which rely heavily on fossil fuels to keep the gears of industrialization spinning. In a country such as Nigeria, the intermittency of renewable electricity would only add to the country’s grid unreliability. Also, cutting off Nigeria from fossil fuel revenues would mean layoffs and pay cuts for millions of workers in the oil sector. Rather than destroying the fortunes of the global working poor, developed countries should consider embracing the free-market as a means of curbing pollution.
By all accounts, slashing corporate tax rates in 2017 bolstered the economy and helped businesses looking to make new investments. Researchers at the University of Illinois and the Nature Conservancy found that funding and manpower for conservation organizations are strongly tied to stock market performance. As society grows richer, more funds will be available to fund ecological preservation and adaptation efforts.
Efforts to protect the environment must also hold governments accountable. Researchers at Indiana University and Texas A&M found that publicly owned power plants, hospitals and water utilities were 15 percent to 20 percent more likely to have violated federal air and water standards than their private counterparts. Unsurprisingly, government entities have less of an incentive to avoid the liability and public relations mess that comes with pollution.
If America took bold, further steps toward privatization and deregulation, the United States could set a powerful example for other countries to follow. That is to say, we cannot tax and regulate our way out of pollution and climate change. The IPCC shows everything that is wrong with current environmental thinking, and embracing their “pathways” to limiting carbon would only inflict widespread suffering. But we can foster prosperity and heal the planet at the same time.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.