Bolton in Moscow

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov smiles as he speaks to Madagascar's Foreign Minister Eloi Maxime Alphonse Dovo during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lavrov will meet with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton for high-tension talks in Moscow, after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov smiles as he speaks to Madagascar's Foreign Minister Eloi Maxime Alphonse Dovo during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lavrov will meet with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton for high-tension talks in Moscow, after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

US adviser Bolton in Moscow after Trump aims to exit treaty


Associated Press

Monday, October 22

MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton held talks with top Russian officials Monday after President Donald Trump had declared an intention to pull out of a landmark nuclear weapons treaty.

The Kremlin expressed disappointment with Trump’s announcement on Saturday that the United States would walk away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would “make the world a more dangerous place.”

He added that Russia will have to take countermeasures to “restore balance” if the U.S. opts out of the agreement.

Trump alleged that Russia violated terms of the treaty that prohibit the U.S. and Russia from possessing, producing or test-flying ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles.)

Peskov reaffirmed Moscow’s strong denial of any treaty violations.

“We categorically disagree with the claim that Russia has violated the INF Treaty,” he said. “Russia has fully adhered to the treaty’s provisions.”

He noted that Russia long has voiced concern about what it sees as U.S. violations of the treaty.

U.S. officials have accused Russia of testing and deploying a land-based cruise missile in violation of the treaty. Russia has denied the claim and charged that U.S. missile defense facilities in Romania could be modified to house ground-to-ground intermediate-range cruise missiles.

Bolton met with Security Council chairman Nikolai Patrushev early and they discussed a broad range of issues including arms control agreements, Syria, Iran, North Korea and the fight against terrorism.

The Security Council said in a statement after the talks that “the parties discussed prospects of developing a dialogue on strategic issues between Moscow and Washington,” and noted the importance of maintaining regular contacts.

Bolton is set to hold talks later in the day with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Monday that NATO has repeatedly expressed concern about Russia’s nuclear-capable 9M729 missile. She added that “in the absence of any credible answer from Russia on this new missile, allies believe that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty.”

Lungescu didn’t comment on U.S. President Donald Trump’s weekend threat to withdraw from the treaty, saying only that the “allies continue consultations.”

The European Union warned Trump to assess the potential impact on American citizens and the world of the U.S. withdrawing from the INF Treaty.

The EU said in a statement that beyond urging Russia to stick to the treaty it also expects “the United States to consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF on its own security, on the security of its allies and of the whole world.”

The bloc noted that the treaty had been an essential cornerstone of Europe’s security structure for more than three decades, adding “the world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary, would bring even more instability.”

Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Ties between African countries and China are complex. Understanding this matters

October 15, 2018


Yu-Shan Wu

Foreign policy researcher and doctoral candidate, University of the Witwatersrand

Chris Alden

Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science

Cobus van Staden

Senior Researcher: China Africa, South African Institute of International Affairs

Disclosure statement

Yu-Shan is affiliated with the Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP), Department of Journalism, University of Witwatersrand

Chris Alden is affiliated as a senior research associate with the South African Institute of International Relations

Cobus van Staden 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.


University of the Witwatersrand provides support as a hosting partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

The complex relationship between Africa and China has become even more complicated this year. Initially, 2018 was set to reaffirm the bond through the latest Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit held in Beijing in September. The summit delivered its usual pageant of African leaders, side deals, and the announcement of a USD$60 billion financing package. The year also saw the recurrence of misgivings about the relationship.

The most explicit theme of this conversation was debt. Donald Trump’s US administration added fuel to smouldering anxiety, and China found itself having to defend its lending to Africa – at home and globally. At the same time, African governments are battling rumours that they are about to hand over state assets to the Chinese.

The debt debate is flawed – not least for underestimating Western contributions to African debt. Nevertheless, it is revealing. In particular, the debate reflects an anxiety that has haunted relations between China and the continent since the beginning of this century: the massive power gap between China and individual African countries.

Power imbalances

The constant rhetoric of win-win cooperation between China and Africa has never adequately answered the simple structural question at the heart of the relationship. That is: how is an economy the size of Benin’s or Togo’s, for example, supposed to meaningfully engage with the Chinese behemoth? It’s a bit like trying to speed up your bicycle by grabbing on to a passing jumbo jet. It can take you to the next level, or it can simply rip off your arms.

The fundamental economic and power imbalance between China and African countries has led to the relationship being criticised as neocolonial. The truth, however, is that African governments exercise more agency than they are given credit for. This includes frequently playing China and traditional Western development partners off against one another.

The word “agency” is key here: to what extent is Africa able to freely make its own decisions and drive the best deals with China?

Our new research focused on this issue. We looked at two emerging areas shaping African agency in relation to China. These are reforms to the African Union (AU) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initiative involves a massive infrastructure rollout aimed at linking China to Europe and beyond. The aim is to set up a zone of shared development that encompasses Central and Western Asia and Africa.

The AU and the Belt and Road initiative

The AU has proposed a set of reforms to streamline African negotiations at events like the FOCAC under the auspices of the continental body. This could be seen as a step towards the frequently repeated goal of Africa negotiating collectively with China. But, in fact, we show that it faces significant resistance from within the continent. This comes both from powerful states worried about losing control of their bilateral relationships with China, and from smaller states worried about being excluded.

China’s BRI reveals other aspects of African agency. It’s structured by numerous bilateral agreements, but is also subject to regional as well as local pressures. The way the initiative’s projects have been pulled into national debates involving opposition politics shows that the range of actors constituting African agency is potentially much wider than national governments.

We argue that before African agency can be maximised, this aspect of relations between China and particular African governments needs to be taken into account. Thinking about the issue has so far fixated on the role of national governments, to the exclusion of other actors. The biggest include regional economic communities such as Nepad and the AU. The smaller ones comprise opposition parties, civil society, local businesses and communities. All contribute to and constitute African agency.

What is this agency, how does it work and how can it be strengthened?

Understanding African agency

We identified three key areas where African agency can be located.

Firstly, African agency is expressed in the frameworks and documents that govern bodies like the forum. For example, in the early days arrangements paid relatively little attention to the issue of industrialisation. That changed after the formal adoption in 2015 of the AU’s Agenda 2063 – its blueprint for Africa’s sustainable development. The forum held that year saw an uptick in how many times the issue was mentioned.

By 2016, African industrialisation had become a key initiative of China’s presidency of the G20. Beijing directed an unprecedented level of G20 attention to the continent.

By 2018, the Beijing summit ended with fewer declarations of intent relating to industrialisation. Instead, it had become integrated into the continental and bilateral planning processes. In particular, it features regularly in discussions on development financing. Likewise the word “training” was mentioned over 40 times and in virtually every section of the Beijing Action Plan.

This suggests there is a shift from declarations of intent to more specific engagement towards industrialisation. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee the success of Africa’s industrialisation. But it shows that China responds to African agenda-setting.

Secondly, African agency is diffused across various levels and among various actors. Any analysis of African agency has to consider the complex interactions between continental bodies like the AU, regional economic blocs, national governments, civil society, business, and local communities. Each plays a role in shaping African decision making in relation to China. Partnerships that cut across the state-business-civil society divide are as important as state led initiatives in articulating policy initiatives in relation to China.

Thirdly, it’s important to think of the changing terms of agency as African governments face growing debt burdens via such initiatives as the BRI. For instance, rumours that the Zambian government offered its national electricity supplier as collateral in exchange for a new tranche of Chinese loans have reportedly caused political division at home.

Critics have focused on debt as diminishing African agency. What they’ve ignored are the significant financial and reputational risks to China.

Maximising African agency

As Africa becomes more involved in global initiatives, and as it moves towards greater continental integration via AU reforms and the Continental Free Trade Agreement, the need increases to think harder and more creatively about what African agency means. It isn’t enough to simply reiterate the call for Africa to negotiate collectively with China – not least because this disregards the complex interactions between African governments.

Rather, it’s time for more comprehensive thinking about how African agency manifests across actors and geographic scales. Only once we have a firmer handle on this can we move towards maximising it.

The Conversation

Trump sees opportunity in Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis as midterms approach

October 18, 2018


Marco Aponte-Moreno

Assistant Professor of Global Business, St Mary’s College of California

Disclosure statement

Marco Aponte-Moreno 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.

President Donald Trump has spoken forcefully about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, calling it a “human tragedy” at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis – which began in late 2014, when a drop in oil prices deprived the government of its primary income source – has worsened to previously unimaginable levels. People are now dying from shortages of food and medicine.

Noting that 2 million Venezuelan refugees have escaped “the anguish inflicted by the socialist Maduro regime,” Trump asked world leaders to join forces and “seek the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”

Vice President Mike Pence, who visited Latin America in June, described the situation in Venezuela as “heart breaking.”

This sounds like strong support for my ailing native country. My academic research on political rhetoric, however, has taught me that politicians’ words often deceive.

Close analysis of Trump’s Venezuela policy shows that his administration is doing much less than it could to ease Venezuelans’ suffering. But that hasn’t stopped the president from using the country’s crisis for Republicans’ political gain ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Sanctions that don’t work

Venezuela was once Latin America’s richest nation. Now inflation may reach 1 million percent and a recent poll found that 30 percent of Venezuelans eat only once a day.

To pressure Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro to “restore democratic order,” the U.S. in September imposed sactions on his wife, the country’s defense minister and the head of its Constituent Assembly, an all-powerful body created in 2017 to supersede the opposition-led legislature.

This is the fourth round of sanctions on Venezuelan leadership since Trump took office in 2017.

President Barack Obama also targeted Maduro’s regime, passing sanctions in 2015 and declaring Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security.

Latin America’s crisis

Despite repeated sanctions, the authoritarian Maduro regime remains firmly in power.

As conditions in Venezuela worsen, a massive and growing number of people are fleeing to neighboring nations. The UN High Commission on Refugees estimates that 5,000 people leave every day.

The Venezuelan exodus “is on the scale of Syria,” said Matthew Raynolds, of the United Nations refugee agency.

The influx of migrants is straining resources in Brazil and Colombia, where border cities have seen flare-ups of xenophobia and violent attacks on refugees.

The U.S. says it will allocate an additional US$48 million in humanitarian aid to fund U.S. agencies that are providing disaster and food relief to Venezuelan migrants in Latin America.

Combined with the $46.8 million already earmarked as humanitarian aid for Venezuelan refugees this fiscal year, U.S. foreign aid for the South American nation totals $94.8 million – up from $14 million in 2017.

But even with that big boost, foreign assistance for Venezuela is just a fraction of the $475 million given last year to Colombia and only slightly higher than the Latin American regional average of $62 million in annual aid.

Closed borders

Despite Trump’s statements of sympathy for Venezuelan refugees, they are not exempt from the his administration’s immigration crackdown.

Nearly 260 Venezuelans were deported from the U.S. in the first half of 2018 alone, up from 248 deportations in all 2017 and 182 in 2016.

And though Vice President Pence’s recognized that “violence and tyranny” rule the country, Venezuelans are routinely denied political asylum. Over the past five years, immigration judges have denied nearly 50 percent of all Venezuelan asylum applications.

Venezuelans now represent the biggest group of asylum-seekers in the U.S., surpassing Central Americans in 2016. Last year Venezuelan refugees filed 27,629 asylum claims, more than 10 times the 2,181 petitions made in 2014.

Immigration attorneys in Miami say the U.S. Consulate there has also been revoking tourist visas from Venezuelans, and the federal government has drastically reduced the number of non-immigrant visas issued to Venezuelans, from 239,772 in 2015 to 47,942 last year.

In Florida, home to the United States’ largest Venezuelan community, politicians from both parties – including Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio – say they would support giving Temporary Protective Status to Venezuelans. That policy would allow migrants to remain legally in the U.S. until Venezuela stabilizes.

Previous administrations have granted TPS to Nicaraguans, Hondurans and Sudanese during similar times of crisis.

But the Trump administration, which is in a court fight over its termination of TPS for most immigrant groups, says Venezuelans do not qualify for protected status.

The military option

Trump seems more interested in military action in Venezuela.

Administration officials met secretly with dissidents from Venezuela’s armed forces over the last year to discuss plans to overthrow Maduro, according to a New York Times story.

Ultimately, the U.S. declined to participate in a coup. But Maduro’s regime “could be toppled very quickly by the military,” Trump has said, evidently referring to the Venezuelan armed forces.

Navy Vice Adm. Craig Faller, nominated to lead the U.S. military’s Southern Command, recently told a Senate panel that he was unaware of any plan for military action in Venezuela.

“We are not doing anything other than normal prudent planning … to prepare for a range of contingencies,” he said.

The lack of serious American efforts to address Venezuela’s migration crisis has left Latin American governments alone in dealing with this historic migration crisis.

Eleven nations in the region, including refugee-saturated Brazil and Colombia, recently agreed to accept more Venezuelans, including those whose documents have expired. Many Venezuelans cannot obtain a passport or renew their national identity cards because of the Maduro regime’s slow, dysfunctional and corrupt bureaucracy.

‘They want to turn American into Venezuela!’

The White House’s failure to act on Venezuela has not stopped Trump from using its crisis for electoral gain in November’s midterm elections.

“The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela,” Trump wrote in an Oct. 10 USA Today op-ed.

And at an event to in Tennessee earlier this month, Trump insisted that Democrats “want to shut down American energy and replace freedom with socialism.”

They “want to turn America into Venezuela!” he yelled.

Bellicose rhetoric against Maduro’s regime coupled with expressions of compassion for its victims may play well with Trump’s base.

But it will not help those living through the worst humanitarian crisis the Americas have ever seen.


Terrence Treft: thanks for the article.

venezuela today seems like a pretty nasty place, but not for one moment can it be assumed that a man who has never demonstrated a concern about anyone, politically/economically, but himself is now flushed with compassion for a people whose ancestry he decries.

this is a confrontation between the nascent neo-fascist trump and the socialist world, be it venezuela or his recent renderings of the democrat party. trump’s demands at the u.n. for populist patriotism and sovereignty as the only path to world peace underscores his ambition to be america’s sovereign, president for life.

an incursion into venezela, a war of populist nationalism, would, in his mind, work to solidify his grasp on a trajectory to installing himself as president for life and his children as hereditary dictators.

far fetched? just look in the rear view mirror to his candidacy, when no one, not the pollsters, the pundits or he himself thought he could/would win. do not underestimate the wolf in a fool’s orange skin.

Nuns on the Bus Continue Holding GOP Accountable for Their Tax Law, Halfway to Rally at Mar-a-Lago

Sisters Hosting 54 Events in 21 States Ahead of Midterm Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Nuns on the Bus are on the road, traveling across the country to educate the public about the deceitfully-named “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” and organizing against the Republicans who supported it.

Covering 5,633 miles, the Nuns on the Bus will host 54 events in 21 states over the course of 27 days, launching today in Los Angeles and ending at Mar-a-Lago with a “Fiesta for the Common Good.”

Joining Sister Simone Campbell and the 30 Catholic Sisters heading out on the road include: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), James Clyburn (D-SC), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Brian Higgins (D-NY), and Lois Frankel (FL-21); former Representatives Tom Perriello (D-VA) and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA); former Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling; Health Care Voter Co-Chairs Elena Hung and Laura Packard; and 30 Catholic Sisters from across the country. The tour is also partnering with more than 54 local organizations, places of worship, and social service agencies for events.

“There is no justice in this tax law—it’s a disgrace,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “This isn’t about politics, this is about faith in America. As Sister Simone and the Nuns head out on the road, when it comes to the health and well being of our nation, our hopes are riding on them.”

“It is crystal clear who the Republican Members of Congress serve, and it is not the men, women, and children that Jesus championed,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and Leader of Nuns on the Bus. “Nuns on the Bus is headed on the road today to expose the lies about the Republican Tax Law and hold the people who voted for it accountable ahead of the 2018 midterms. We have to end the unpatriotic lie of individualism, and instead recognize the constitutional truth of ‘We the People’.”

“Tax and budget policy is not just about numbers: it’s about our values, priorities and sense of justice,” said Gene Sperling, Former Director of the National Economic Council. “The efforts by this White House and Republican-led Congress to slash healthcare for seniors, working families, and those with disabilities while giving huge tax windfalls for the most well-off individuals and corporations is a betrayal of those most basic values of fairness and caring for each other. I am proud of Nuns on the Bus for leading the charge by taking that message on the road and directly to this President.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov smiles as he speaks to Madagascar’s Foreign Minister Eloi Maxime Alphonse Dovo during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lavrov will meet with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton for high-tension talks in Moscow, after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov smiles as he speaks to Madagascar’s Foreign Minister Eloi Maxime Alphonse Dovo during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Lavrov will meet with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton for high-tension talks in Moscow, after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
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