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22 February 2017

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Jack

Good news, Sir.

A rapprochement with Russia will be the best thing that can happen to the US. If we remove the possibility of nuclear war with a country that can destroy us and focus on collaboration then good can accrue. Defeating the jihadis, space exploration and other areas of mutual interest are all ripe for the picking. We can hopefully move beyond the Cold War past.

Putin could also provide sage counsel to President Trump on matters relating to the ME and China.

Charles Michael

Good news, thanks
and that my impression too about Syria.

Alas, the MSM in Europe don't seems to even start atuning their propaganda, LeMonde and The Guardian leading the pack.
If the much talked about meeting in Slovenia is to take place it would be like a cold bucket on these euro-neocons.

Pundita

1. If I recall it was Gen. Dunford who led the U.S. military project to go around Obama and provide intel to the Syrian military via 3 other militaries (German, Israeli, and I forget the third). My hope is that Gen. Mattis puts stock in what Dunford has to say about Syria.

2. Re #3 -- that could be temporary and according to Reuters (which broke the story yesterday in an exclusive), it had nothing to do with the new admin, and there is no indication from the sources that the CIA program has been shut down:

BEGIN QUOTES

Rebel officials said that no official explanation had been given for the move this month following the jihadist assault, though several said they believed the main objective was to prevent arms and cash falling into Islamist militant hands. But they said they expected the aid freeze to be temporary.

The halt in assistance, which has included salaries, training, ammunition and in some cases guided anti-tank missiles, is a response to jihadist attacks and has nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump replacing Barack Obama in January, two U.S. officials familiar with the CIA-led program said.

The freeze reflects the troubles facing Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels in the almost six-year-old revolt against Assad, who now appears militarily unassailable in his core western region largely thanks to direct intervention on his side by Russia and Iran.

"The reality is that you have changes in the area, and these changes inevitably have repercussions," said an official with one of the affected FSA rebel groups. He said no military assistance could "enter at present until matters are organized. There is a new arrangement but nothing has crystallized yet.".

[...]

Before assuming office, Trump suggested he could end support for FSA groups and give priority to the fight against Islamic State (IS), whose well-armed jihadists hold large tracts of eastern and central Syria.

But Trump's administration has yet to declare a firm policy towards Syria and Iraq, despite his repeated vows to eradicate IS, so it has been "business as usual" with covert and overt training and military support programs, one U.S. official said.

Some FSA groups hope Trump's animosity towards Iran could yet result in enhanced U.S. support.

END QUOTES

I skipped several paragraphs to get to the part about President Trump, and there is much more to the report.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-rebels-idUSKBN1601BD

3. Trump gave Mattis a month to come up with a battle plan for dealing with IS (I assume in Iraq and Syria). So we should know soon how much sanity reigns in the war-fighting part of the Trump admin.

David Lentini

Happily in agreement, Colonel! I've been hoping that much of the recent reporting is fake news, noise, and the usual diplomatic dancing needed to bridge a bad policy that has been heavily invested with a sane policy.

turcopolier

pundit

No, not Dunford, Martin Dempsey did that and he got away with it. plp

Chris Chuba

Col, along the lines of what you are talking about ... https://consortiumnews.com/2017/02/20/trumps-foreign-policy-retreat-or-rout/

The gist of the article goes like this, and I hope Gilbert Doctorow's analysis is correct, that Trump was taken by surprise by what many are calling the 'deep state' which in this context just means entrenched bureaucrats married to the status quo. That Trump recognizes his error so now he is sending out overly hawkish signals until he purges the bad guys and regains control of his agencies. Only time will tell but you don't beat 14 primary opponents, win an election over a favorite, and become a billionaire by being stupid.

Ramojus

Colonel,

Though TTG has shot this proposal down, I will restate...

... Crimea for Königsberg (er, I mean Kalingrad).

As a member of the Baltic tribe, I will gladly take credit, if it ever happens.

Outrage Beyond

"The military’s indirect pathway to Assad disappeared with Dempsey’s retirement in September. His replacement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, two months before assuming office. ‘If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,’ Dunford said. ‘If you look at their behaviour, it’s nothing short of alarming.’ In October, as chairman, Dunford dismissed the Russian bombing efforts in Syria, telling the same committee that Russia ‘is not fighting’ IS. He added that America must ‘work with Turkish partners to secure the northern border of Syria’ and ‘do all we can to enable vetted Syrian opposition forces’ – i.e. the ‘moderates’ – to fight the extremists."

-Seymour Hersh, "Military to Military"

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n01/seymour-m-hersh/military-to-military

Sylvia D

Kaliningrad probably won't be given up or traded. It's the site of the Russian Baltic fleet and the only Russian port on the Baltic that doesn't freeze in winter. I would say something similar about Crimea. Sevastopol is the home base of the Black Sea fleet, plus a majority of Crimean's are ethnic Russians. Ukraine is now very nearly a failed state. Why would Crimea want to be part of Ukraine? Plus, Russia has now extended electrical lines and built a bridge to provide land support to Crimea. I doubt Crimea is going back the Ukraine any time soon.

Bandolero

pl

I agree that the stars look good for more US-Russian cooperation. The sanctions are not an important issue for Russia. They have even done a lot of good to the Russian economy, like the development of a powerful Russian agro sector. What is important for the prospect of better US-Russian cooperation is the relation with Iran. And here things look not bad neither under Trump.

Having better relation with the US on condition that Russia drops the close relationship with Iran would be a complete non-starter for Russia since Iran is besides China Russia's most important ally in many respects, and especially for the safety of the long and soft southern Russian border. And the most important thing here is to stick to the Iran deal. If Trump would unzip the Iran deal and restart practical hostile behaviour against Iran - like Avigdor Liberman and Adel Al Jubair argued for in Munich - it would spell further disaster for the US-Russian relationship.

But despite hostile rhetoric like "terrorist state no 1" Trump seems to be sticking to the status quo with Iran. After Iran's recent ballistic missile test - on which text in the Iran deal has some ambiguity - Trump waged loud rhetoric and a quiet transfer of the issue into a commission by the UN security council, which shall determine whether it was legal under the Iran deal. Russia, China and the EU said it's legal for Iran under the agreement to test non-nuclear ballistic missiles, while Israel, Nikki Haley and Senate Republicans said it's not. And then Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer went on MSNBC, as reported by Reuters, quote begin:

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the missile test did not violate the nuclear agreement. "It's not a direct violation ... I think there is no question that it violates the spirit of that," Spicer said in an interview with MSNBC.

Quote end. Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-usa-idUSKBN15H253

I'm sure businessman Trump notes what it means when you legally argue that your opponent didn't violate the written terms of a tough deal, but just the "spirit" of it. It means you concede the case. I think for the spokesman of a Republican President that was an extraordinary statement paving the way for US-Russian rapprochement. And that Mike Flynn is gone may further help Trump to get the relationship with Iran right, thereby moving the Iranian problem out of the way for better relations with Russia.

And regarding Syria there was also a very good statement from Tillerson in Bonn, as reported by RFE/RL, quote begin:

Tillerson Lays Out Condition For Syria Military Cooperation With Russia

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the United States will not agree to cooperate with Russia's military in Syria until Moscow recognizes that not all Syrian opposition groups are terrorists, European allies say. ...

Quote end. Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/secretary-state-tillerson-lays-out-condition-military-cooperation-russia-syria-opposition-terrorists/28316865.html

Of course, everybody following the conflict in Syria knows that Russia long works with various opposition groups and does not consider all opposition groups, even armed ones, as terrorists, and neither does the Syrian government. Russia has nothing to do to fulfill that except repeating that this is the Russian position. So, the prospects of the US-Russian relationship looks all quite fine on course to me.

And though I know how hard this is politically in the US, especially among Republicans, I think it would be fine if Trump and McMaster would find a way to get along with Iran. I think US cooperation with Iran in Afghanistan to fight against terrorism and drugs there could well be possible since the Iranian government hates the poppy fields just across the border in Afghanistan like almost nothing else. I think Trump could explain such a move to cooperate with Iran in Afghanistan to his base by saying that it's needed to win the fight against the drug epedemy in the US, and his voters would understand it, if it's framed this way.

Razor

Never going to happen.

Thomas101st

In your scenario, who exactly is supposed to end up with Kaliningrad ? Kaliningrad, like Crimea, is populated primarily by Russians. Your exchange would be equivalent to the United States giving Vermont to Canada in exchange for Canada "allowing" the United States to keep New Hampshire.

Eliot

Ramojus,

A grand proposal!

Cheers,

Eliot

Babak Makkinejad

No chance of it.

Russia will absorb much of Ukraine in the coming years and decades and nothing can be done to stop it.

The Balts should be happy if Russia leaves them alone; one ethnic incident of violence againt Russians and the President of the Russian Federation, emulating Bulent Ecevit, will be sending Russian troops to "save" the Russians living among the Balts.

NATO will not go to war in that case.

Cee

All,


Additional info on McCain and Russia may make him sit on his hands and keep his mouth shut.

http://truepundit.com/wikileaks-exposes-john-mccains-illegal-request-for-campaign-cash-from-russian-ambassador-who-suddenly-died-monday-in-nyc/

Sharac

Why trade something that is yours for something that is yours?

There already was a referendum in Crimea and as previous practices in Kosovo for example show it is the "new international norm" established by the west. I know double standards are common practice but those can only be enforced on weaker enemy not someone who can vaporize you.

Will Ukies go in force to "return" Crimea, will US?, will EU? It would be hilarious to watch Russian diplomats reactions if such proposal came through official channels. EU is toothless old hag spewing poison, US has some serious internal problems and basically nation split in two with one part fighting for old ways and survival and another part actively destroying what made US great in the first place.

Pundita

Colonel
Right, right; brain blip brought on by too much hoping. I couldn't understand how he got away with it. But then in response to the news you told about generals going around FDR during WW2 to share information because it was hard for him to keep a secret, and that this military-to-military comm wasn't breaking any law.

LeaNder

Triggers the Teutonic Knights. On second thought. A member of the Baltic tribe? Admittedly I wondered if you are Polish.

Escaped my attention at the time:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaliningrad#Diplomatic_missions

Strictly it reminds me of parallel passport activities the infamous Ukraine related Visa Affair:

http://www.dw.com/en/fischer-establishes-german-outpost-in-kaliningrad/a-1112879

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Visa_Affair_2005

Pundita

I don't know how I got Dunford confused with Dempsey; brain blip, I joked. But I'd also forgotten the passages you quoted from Hersh's report, which I had read at the time it was published. I seem to be forgetting a lot these days, blanking out statements and events connected to countries where the USA is taking military action.

Maybe I'm trying to stave off the feeling that prompted Rhett Butler's final words to Scarlett. I love my country, I benefit from its protection, I don't want to turn my back on it, I don't want to get to the point where I don't care. I got there once, some years into following the Vietnam War. Tuned out. Then terrible guilt after 9/11, and since then I've lived and breathed war reporting and tried to take all the war-related propaganda in stride.

But the lies the United States military and its civilian overlords have told about Russia are not about war. They're about something else. What are they about? I lose sleep thinking about the question.

Bill Herschel

Additional comment on 3).

All you need to know about the "refugee crisis":

Tass headline--"
Russia Opposes Sharing Responsibility for Fate of Middle East Refugees
February 22, 20:36 UTC+3
The responsibility for providing assistance to refugees should be borne by those who instigated destabilization in the vast region of the Middle East and North Africa, Russia's Foreign Ministry stated
http://tass.com/politics/932495

turcopolier

sharac

You don't think Russia would like to have US sanctions lifted? Don't outsmart yourself. pl

turcopolier

Razor

If you want to comment here you must explain your position and not just make cryptic statements like this. pl

kooshy

IMO, dropping, opting out of the Iran nuclear deal JCPOA is much costlier to US, then it would be to Iran and other signatories of the agreement as well as Europe and Asian trading countries. IMO Trump administration will keep the rhetoric on and going for domestic reasons, but will not take serious steps to dismantle the agreement. This was the best nuclear arms control deal US, Israel, Arabs, European and Russians cold get, without redoing North Korea all over again.

Chris Chuba

Regarding Trump's future approach with Iran, this remains to be seen. While just about everything out of his mouth has been extremely negative, I read one article that suggested that he might take a more pragmatic approach in the future (sorry I don't have the link).

Basically, they speculated that Flynn's resignation was related to his comments on Iran's ballistic missile testing because it created a 'Red Line' moment for Trump and he didn't want to get boxed in. Also, that he later realized that it didn't actually violate any UN resolutions so that eroded some trust that he had with Flynn. I can see that, he pours out a stream of consciousness where facts are more 'symbolic' rather than literal, but perhaps he wants his top level staff to be more sharp.

I don't know but it was an interesting theory, I am susceptible to wishful thinking although I try not to be.

kooshy

Iran’s problem with regard to western major powers in past couple of centuries is been, that she was used as a buffer zone (a pawn) between West’s eastern power (Russia) and west’ western powers (UK, and later US). Iran revolution put an end to that, the words used to describe Iran’s foreign policy, written above the entrance to Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is “No eastern, No western” I don’t believe Iran will let to be used as a bargaining chip, between this same old western power arrangements, that was obvious during the 12 years of Iran nuclear issue.

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