Tag: President Trump

Guam, Japan prepare for possible North Korea missile launch

SANTA RITA, Guam. An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam. Naval Base Guam supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Hagatña, Guam (CNN) North Korean military figures are putting the final touches on a plan to fire four missiles into the waters around the US-territory of Guam, to be presented to leader Kim Jong Un within days.

In a statement last week, Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, said the plan to fire “four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets … to signal a crucial warning to the US” would be ready by “mid-August.”

Recent days have seen a significant escalation of tensions in the region as preparations are put in place for a possible launch in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

A notice put out by Guam’s Joint Information Center Saturday warned residents how to prepare “for an imminent missile threat.”

“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the note said. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.”

Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser George Charfauros said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.

Japan missile defense deployed

On Saturday, some of Japan’s land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors began arriving at Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) bases in three of the four prefectures any North Korean missiles would likely fly over en route to Guam.

Pyongyang identified three of those areas — Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures — in its statement last week.

A spokesman for SDF said the missiles were being deployed not to intercept missiles, but rather “just in case.” He did not elaborate.

Sim Tack, a senior analyst for private intelligence firm Stratfor, said the Japanese batteries are designed for protecting the area where they are deployed, “(they are) not meant to shoot missiles out of the sky as they pass over Japan at high altitude.”

“So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn’t have a function to serve in this particular case,” he said.
Japanese Ballistic Missile Defense Scenario

The SDF spokesman said the country’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system was deployed in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, but would not give a specific location.

Aegis is able to track 100 missiles simultaneously and fire interceptors to take out an enemy’s ballistic projectiles.

In South Korea, where both the military and civilians are used to facing threats from North Korea, Defense Minister Song Young-moo warned the country’s armed forces “to maintain full readiness” to “immediately punish with powerful force” any action against the South.

“Recently, North Korea made its habitual absurd remarks that it will turn Seoul into a sea of fire and that it will strike near Guam,” Song said according to ministry official. “North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the international community.”

Meanwhile, US-South Korean joint military exercises are due to begin later this month. The annual exercises, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, are expected to run from August 21 to 31.

Calls for calm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders have called for calm as both Pyongyang and Washington upped their saber-rattling rhetoric.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump doubled down on his statement that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued its threats, saying in a tweet that “military solutions” were “locked and loaded” for use against North Korea.

According to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xi told Trump in a call between the two leaders Saturday all “relevant parties parties should exercise restraint and avoid words and actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described escalation as “the wrong answer,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump’s statements were “very worrying.”

Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English criticized Trump’s “fire and fury” comments as “not helpful in an environment that’s very tense.”

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the international community to work with North Korea to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions,” following a call with Trump Saturday.

Washington has previously said it will consider talks with Pyongyang if it agrees to give up its nuclear weapons program, a pre-condition North Korean officials have described as a non-starter.

Guam waits for news

At a church in central Guam Sunday, parishioners sang “Lord, we pray for world peace” after discussing the potential North Korean threat.

“There’s a lot of disbelief going on, there’s a lot of anxiety,” Father Paul Gofigan told CNN after the mass.

Gofigan said there is not a lot of panic in Guam, and that people’s faith — the island has been overwhelmingly Catholic since the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 17th century– has been on display in recent days.

“Faith is so deeply rooted into our culture,” he said.

The territory’s governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, said he spoke with Trump and the President’s chief of staff, John Kelly, on Saturday.

“Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe,” Calvo wrote on Facebook. “In the President’s words they are behind us ‘1,000 percent.’ As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe.”

As an unincorporated US territory, citizens of Guam cannot vote in general elections. The island is also home to a large US military presence, a fact that has led to tension with some local residents, particularly those of the indigenous Chamorro community.

“Nobody really deserves to be caught in the middle of these games,” said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, an activist who campaigns for a lowered military presence.

“You’re playing with people’s lives. We just want peace, we just want to continue to enjoy our lives here.”

 

Russian plane makes observation flight over CIA, Pentagon and White House

Marina Listyeva/TASS

WASHINGTON, August 10. /TASS/. A Russian aerospace force plane on Wednesday performed an observation flight over central Washington and the suburbs of the US capital city, including Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Congress and the White House, CNN said later in the day citing two anonymous sources informed about this flight made under the Open Skies Treaty.

The flight’s route

According to CNN and Politico, it was a regular observation flight under the Open Skies Treaty. A Russian Tu-154M plane flew over over the Joint Base Andrews in Maryland which is used to receive aircraft of foreign leavers arriving in the United States and organize flights of the US leader. After that, the Russian plane was to fly over Bedminster, New Jersey, where President Donald Trump is spending his vacations. And finally, the Tu-154M allegedly flew over the countryside residence of US leaders in Camp David, Maryland, near the Wright-Patterson air force base in Ohio and near the Mount Weather emergency operations center in Virginia.

Reaction of US administration

Meanwhile, a US State Department official confirmed to TASS that the path of the observation flight had been completely agreed by Washington and Moscow. Moreover, the US side took part in the development of the flight’s route, she said.

“The United States is notified ahead of time of the intended flight path of observation flights, participates in the development of agreed flight plans, has U.S. observers on the aircraft during the flight, and receives a copy of the imagery taken by the Russian aircraft at the conclusion of the mission,” she stressed. “The Treaty does not preclude an observed State Party from taking mitigation measures at sensitive sites on the ground.”

According to the official, since 2002, when the Open Skies Treaty came into force, “over 1,300 flights have been conducted.” “The Open Skies Treaty is a confidence and security building measure that seeks to enhance military transparency by allowing the 34 States Parties to conduct observation flights over other Treaty partners,” she said. “It contributes to Euro-Atlantic security by allowing the collection of imagery and information on military forces and supporting the verification of compliance with arms control agreements.”

About the treaty

Developed with Moscow’s active participation, the Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and came into force in 2002. It currently has 34 member states. The treaty establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. Observation flights are made over the territories of the United States, Canada, European countries, and Russia. The main purposes of the open skies regime are to develop transparency, render assistance in monitoring compliance with the existing or future arms control agreements, broaden possibilities for preventing crises and managing crisis situations within the scope of the Organizations for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other relevant international organizations. Subsequently, it is contemplated to apply the open skies regime to new fields, such as environmental protection.

In practical terms, the treaty allows signatory states to perform observations flights over any part of the observed state party’s territory to monitor military activities in conformity with the agreed quotas of such missions. The treaty regulates observation flights procedures, establishes a mechanism of control over its observance, sets requirements to the aircraft and observation equipment.

This year, Russia and Belarus have the right to conduct 42 observations missions over the territories of the treaty’s member states. Over signatories to the treaty plan to perform 34 observation missions over Russia in 2017.

Despite the fact that the treaty in general has proved to be an efficient instrument of building up trust and exercising control over the implementation of weapons reduction agreements, its efficiency has been going down in the recent time due to the decision of NATO member states to conduct no such flight over each other’s territories, the Russian foreign ministry said, adding that now Russia has to rely only on its own capacities of getting required information concerning the territory of these countries. Such situation, according to Moscow, tilts information balance and harms the treaty and runs counter to its spirit.

 

North Korea threatens missile strike on Guam that will create an ‘enveloping fire’

North Korea said it is “carefully examining” plans to attack Guam with medium- to long-range ballistic missiles, state-run media reported Wednesday.

The rogue nation’s statement follows President Donald Trump‘s comments hours before, during which he warned North Korea that any threats to the U.S. “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”

The North Korean army made the announcement in a statement distributed by its state-run news agency that the military is reviewing a plan to create an “enveloping fire” in areas around the U.S. territory, located in the Pacific Ocean about 2,100 miles from North Korea.

The statement said the decision to review such plans is in response to a recent ICBM test.

There are 7,000 US military personnel on Guam.

The main base on the island is Andersen Air Force Base that is home to long-range B-1 bombers that have recently been used for “show of force” missions to South Korea following North Korea’s two ICBM missile launches.

A pair of B-1B Strategic Bombers based in Guam

Andersen Air Force Base is just one of the installations on Guam; Naval Base Guam also has a significant number of personnel.

Guam’s offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense said in a statement that its threat level remained unchanged, and that it will “continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and their threatening actions.”

Homeland Security adviser George Charfauros said in a statement, “As of this morning, we have not changed our stance in confidence that the U.S. Department of Defense is monitoring this situation very closely and is maintaining a condition of readiness, daily. We will continue to keep the public updated on any changes or requests for action. For now, we advise the community to remain calm, remember that there are defenses in place for threats such as North Korea and to continue to remain prepared for all hazards.”

Charfauros is in regular contact with the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. He has not received any guidance that there is an imminent threat, Guam Homeland Security said.

Still, the speaker of the Guam Legislature told The Associated Press he hopes the island can defend itself in the event of a North Korean attack.

“We’re just praying that the United States and the … defense system we have here is sufficient enough to protect us,” Benjamin J. Cruz said.

Cruz said the threat is “very disconcerting,” adding, “It forces us to pause and to say a prayer for the safety of our people.”

Guam’s governor, Eddie Calvo, released a two-minute video message to the island’s residents, in which he said, “I want to ensure that we are prepared for any eventuality.”

 

 

 

 

Germany’s SPD rejects NATO 2 percent defence spending target

European Parliament President Martin Schulz (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats on Sunday rejected NATO’s target of spending 2 percent of economic output on the military, and blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives for kowtowing to the demands of U.S. President Donald Trump.

With just over a month to go before national elections, SPD leader Martin Schulz and Thomas Oppermann, who heads the SPD in parliament, issued their strongest criticism to date of Merkel, the NATO spending target and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen in an essay for the Funke Mediengruppe newspaper chain.

“We say a clear no to the ‘two-percent target’ of Trump and the CDU/CSU,” the two leaders wrote, referring to Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party.

“It’s not only unrealistic, it is simply the wrong goal.”

The comments put the SPD on a collision course with U.S. officials, who have began pressing Germany long before Trump’s election last November to increase its military spending.

The SPD leaders, whose party is lagging Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the polls by 15 percentage points, said Germany would have to nearly double current defence spending to meet the NATO target. That would make it the largest military power in Europe – a goal they said “no one could want” given Germany’s Nazi history.

Instead, they said, Germany should focus on building a strong European defence union and ultimately, a European army – a stance that may resonate with a deeply pacifist German public that remains sceptical of military engagements.

“Merkel and the CDU/CSU make themselves small vis-a-vis Donald Trump when they answer his provocations around the two-percent target by saying, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll put in more money,’ as if we didn’t have any better ideas what to do,” they wrote.

They said increased military spending should be matched by higher outlays for diplomacy, humanitarian aid and crisis prevention.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a former SPD leader, has also questioned the NATO target, but the Schulz-Oppermann essay was far more explicit, driving a further wedge between the parties in Merkel’s right-left coalition.

Merkel, who is poised to win reelection on Sept. 24, insists that Germany is committed to reach the two percent target. She has also chided Gabriel pointedly, noting his predecessor signed off on the NATO commitment when it was first made years ago.

Merkel’s conservatives have about 38 to 40 percent support in the polls, and hope to form a coalition government with one or more of the smaller parties, after the election.

In June, the SPD also reversed course and rejected plans to lease Israeli drones that can carry weapons to protect German soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Mali, sparking sharp criticism from von der Leyen and the top officer in the German air force.

The essay also criticised von der Leyen’s leadership as defence minister since late 2013, citing continued problems with equipment, a lack of planning, and challenges in recruitment.

 

Pence and Estonian PM discuss deploying the Patriot anti-missile defence system

The vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, and the Estonian prime minister, Jüri Ratas, discussed the possibility of deploying the Patriot anti-missile defence system in Estonia.

Ratas, having met Pence, who was visiting the tiny Nordic NATO member from 30-31 July, told the main news programme of the Estonian public broadcasting that he discussed the deployment of the Patriot anti-missile system, but there were no talks about a potential date when the system would be deployed.

“We discussed it today,” Ratas said, replying to a reporter’s question about the defence system. “We didn’t discuss specifically when it would happen,” he added.

“The main messages from both sides were that both Estonia and the United States are active allies in NATO,” Ratas told the public broadcasting.

“We also discussed the [Russian] military exercise to take place at the Estonian border – Zapad – and how Estonia, the United States and NATO monitor it and exchange information,” Ratas added.

Increased cooperation in cyber security

The two leaders also discussed opportunities for increased cooperation in the digital field and cyber security. Pence praised Estonia as a model for innovation and the use of technology to develop solutions for global economic, security and social challenges, and he thanked the country for hosting the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn.

After meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Tallinn on 31 July, the US vice president again offered reassurances.

“Under President Donald Trump, the United States stands firmly behind our Article 5 pledge of mutual defence – an attack on one of us is an attack on us all,” Pence told reporters.

In Tallinn, he also met allied troops from France, the UK and the US that are stationed in Estonia.

 

Putin expels 755 diplomats in response to US sanctions

(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, pool)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that 755 U.S. diplomats will be expelled from Russia by Sept. 1, according to an interview on Russian television.

The expulsions had been announced Friday in response to a new law passed in Congress that expanded sanctions, but Sunday’s statement was the first time a large number of Americans were confirmed as involved.

It was “a regrettable and uncalled for act,” a State Department official told The Associated Press. Earlier, a State Department official told Fox News, “It is our policy to not comment on the number of individuals serving at our missions abroad.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy to reduce the number of embassy and consular employees in the country to 455.

“I decided it is time for us to show: We do not intend to leave U.S. actions unanswered,” said Putin, according to Interfax News Agency.

The U.S. has taken an “unprovoked step towards worsening bilateral relations,” Putin added.

He also said that Russia could consider other options in response to the U.S., but that he hoped it would not come down to that.
Putin noted the recent creation of a de-escalation zone in southern Syria as one example of how the countries have worked together.

However, in terms of general relations, Putin said: “We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better. But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it’s not for anytime soon.”

The new American sanctions were in retaliation both for Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014 and Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: FOX News.

John Kelly brings military bearing to White House staff

US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly speaks during a press conference at the Interior Ministry on July 7, 2017. (Bernardo Montoya/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is a battle-hardened commander who would bring a background of military discipline and order to President Donald Trump’s roiling White House as the new chief of staff.

Read more of this article by clicking on the link below:

US sanctions against Russia are ‘illegal’ says Putin in Finland [VIDEO] In Russian with English Text

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the proposed US sanctions against Russia violate international law, speaking at a joint press conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Savonlinna, yesterday.

“Sanctions are illegal from the point of view of international law, they violate the principle of international trade by World Trade Organization,” Putin said, adding that Russia “is very patient now, but at some point we will have to answer to this.”

Putin is on an official visit in Finland to mark the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence. Later on the day Putin and Niinisto will attend an opera production from the Bolshoi Theatre at the Olavinlinna Castle.

President Sauli Niinistö and President Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin, Russian President (Russian):

“I don’t consider it as an investigation. The investigation implies getting the full consequences and studying the reasons, listening to different sides. All we see now is the increase of anti-Russian hysteria, most probably they are using Russophobia in an internal political fight, in this case the fight between President Trump and his opponents inside the United States.”

“It is a pity that Russia – Our relationships are being sacrificed for solving issues inside the US. Do I regret the worsening of relations with the US? I can answer directly. Of course, we deeply regret it.”

“When we are talking about the borders of US legislation, I should say, I have been talking about it for a long time, since 2007 in Munich, I think. That is exactly what I said. This practice is not acceptable; it destroys international relationships and international law. We have never agreed on that, and never will agree on that. And it depends on other states’ sovereignty and readiness to protect their own interests, how they react on that themselves.”

“If the same will happen in this case, it will be even more regretful, since it will be aggravated action and especially cynical, as I would say.”

“It is a clear attempt to use the geopolitical advantages in competitive fight with the goal to serve its economic interests at the expense of its partners.”

“We can see that we have been constantly provoked during the last few years. A lot of our diplomats have been expelled with no reason. Diplomatic property has been taken away, which is unthinkable as it contradicts the basic norm of international law in diplomatic relationships.”

“Sanctions are illegal from the point of view of international law, they violate the principle of international trade by World Trade Organization. As you know we are being very patient now, but at some point we will have to answer this. It is impossible to endlessly accept the rudeness directed at our country.”

“In any case, regardless of what is happening now, we will have to achieve some elements of cooperation and agreements.”

Defying Trump, Putin puts North Korea ties before missile threat

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) – In retrospect, said Vladimir Bogdanov, it was not the best time to start the first passenger-ship service between Russia and North Korea shortly before Kim Jong Un shocked the world by announcing he’s successfully tested a missile capable of striking the US mainland.

“We were in a hurry, thinking we’d be too late. We should have slowed down,” said Bogdanov, who’s organised nine trips since May between Russia’s far east port of Vladivostok and Rajin in North Korea’s Rason special economic zone.

“Still, there’s no turning back” for the service, which is loss-making so far after filling at best a quarter of its 193 places each time, he said.

The North Korean ferry, the Mangyongbong, is docked in the port of the far eastern city of Vladivostok, Russia, May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev.

Economic ties between Russia and North Korea, which share a narrow land border, are similarly beleaguered, with trade down for a third year to just US$77 million (S$105 million) in 2016, according to the Russian customs service.

While the volume is small, it’s becoming a point of tension between President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump, who’s pressing Russia and other powers to ramp up opposition to the Communist regime’s nuclear-missile programme. Russia regards the trade relationship as a means to safeguard its position with Kim in diplomacy to try to defuse the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean Workers’ Party Secretary Choe Ryong-hae in Moscow in November 2016.

“We can’t afford to argue with North Korea because it will completely cast Russia to the sidelines,” said Georgy Toloraya, head of the Russian Academy of Science’s Center for Asian Strategy.

“Our interests will not be considered” if North Korea sees Russia siding with the U.S., he said.

Just as with Iran, when Russia maintained ties amid U.S. and European Union pressure on Tehran over its nuclear ambitions, Putin’s unwilling to isolate North Korea completely. He opposes tougher sanctions because he believes they won’t affect the North Korean leadership, said two senior Kremlin officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal policy.

The U.S. is pressing Russia to end a programme for taking 30,000 to 50,000 North Korean migrant workers, in order to “deprive Kim Jong Un of all his money,” Toloraya said.

“This is what they demand from Russia right now, very actively.”

Any country that hosts North Korean workers “is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime” that’s “a global threat,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after Kim announced the successful missile test on July 4. Some US officials say it could conduct another missile test to mark the July 27 anniversary of the end of Korean War.

“Russia has never been a supporter of dialogue by sanctions,” which is a “futile approach,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in April. That position hasn’t changed after Putin and Trump met at this month’s Group of 20 summit, he said.

US President Donald Trump (R) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB/Getty Images.

While Trump and Putin had “a pretty good exchange on North Korea,” they differ in tactics and pace for dealing with the threat, Tillerson said after the Hamburg talks.

Russia, China Russia and China, which is North Korea’s closest ally and accounted for nearly 90 per cent of its US$6 billion trade last year, urged restraint and renewed dialogue in a joint statement after the missile test. Kim boasted he’d send more “gifts” to the U.S., which held joint drills with South Korea in response.

Russia and China blocked US-led efforts to expand penalties against North Korea in a draft United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the missile test. While Trump has accused China of doing too little to pressure its neighbor, officials in Beijing said they’ve been “strictly abiding” by UN sanctions and that imports from North Korea fell 13.2 per cent to US$880 million in the first six months of 2017 compared to a year earlier.

“No one has any real leverage on North Korea to convince them to give up nuclear weapons, including the Chinese,” Alexander Gabuev of the Moscow Carnegie Center said. Kim’s regime may earn US$30-US$50 million a year from the migrant workers, who labor in remote Russian forest camps or on construction sites, he said.

DPRK-Russia-trade-2015.

Russian imports from North Korea slumped to just US$421,000 in the first quarter of 2017 from the same period last year, while exports, mainly of foodstuffs and fuel, more than doubled to US$31.4 million, according to customs service data.

Nobody knows the real level of trade since many goods go via third countries, though it may be worth $500 million, according to Toloraya.

Migrant workers take the boat between Vladivostok and Rajin alongside Russian and Chinese visitors, according to Bogdanov, who said his business was contracted to run the route by a Hong Kong-registered company through an entity in North Korea that he didn’t identify. The service may break even in a few months and will continue even amid the U.S. demands for isolating North Korea, he said.

“We’re not afraid of Trump,” said Bogdanov. “We see the unanimity of Russia and China in pursuing the route to peace. And our poorly-painted little ship is also a path of peace.”

Source: The Straits Times.

US House of Representatives passes bill to toughen sanctions on Russia

AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

The House of Representatives of the US Congress on Tuesday passed a bill to toughen unilateral US sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

A total of 419 lawmakers supported the bill, with only three votes against.

The bill brings to the legislative level the anti-Russian sanctions, imposed by executive orders of former US President Back Obama over the political crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s reunification with Crimea.

The amendment will also concern restrictions that Obama imposed in late 2016 against the Russian citizens, whom Washington suspected of cyberattacks on US political institutions.

The document will be passed to the Senate, where it enjoys widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans.
If approved by the parliament, the bill will be forwarded to US President Donald Trump. If the US president signs it into law, it would be possible to remove the sanctions only by adopting another legislation.

The US administration won’t have the right to lift sanctions independently.

The US leader has previously voiced his readiness to sign the document.

Source: TASS Russian News Agency.

 

 

Former NATO Supreme Commander Backs New Russia Sanctions

FILE – U.S. Admiral James Stavridis answers a question during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in 2011.

With U.S. lawmakers expected to finalize new sanctions on Russia this week, former NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis told VOA that would be a positive move, since he believes President Donald Trump’s administration has taken too weak a stance on Russia.

In an interview Tuesday with VOA’s Jela De Franceschi, Stavridis, now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said additional sanctions on Russia would be “appropriate, measured and make enormous sense, given the level of egregious behavior we have seen from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“Strong sanctions are necessary,” Staviridis said, listing Russia’s offenses: interfering with the U.S. election; supporting Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad, whom he calls a war criminal; and, “worst of all,” invading Ukraine and annexing Crimea.

FILE – A billboard with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin is displayed on a street in Kerch, Crimea, April 7, 2016. The board reads: “Crimea. Russia. Forever.”

Trump “has not been sufficiently strong in his approach to Putin, to Russia,” Stavridis said, and thus it is appropriate for Congress to levy new sanctions.

Asked about how the United States and Russia can cooperate, Stavridis said the two superpowers could still collaborate on counterterrorism, fighting Islamic State and suppressing the illegal narcotics trade. Afghanistan might also be an area where Washington and Moscow can cooperate, he added.

The United States and Russia also can improve relations through their mutual membership in international organizations, Stavridis said, such as the NATO-Russia Council; the Arctic Council, which promotes better coordination among the Arctic states; and the United Nations Security Council.

The more the United States and Russia interact, he added, the better the chances that they can prevent a recurrence of the Cold War.

“On the other hand,” Stavridis noted, “the United States has fundamental interests and a global leadership goal that would require it, at times, to confront Russia on inappropriate international behavior.”

FILE – A separatist rebel guards a check point at the village of Luhanska, Ukraine, March 7, 2017.

The most important area where the United States and Russia can find common ground, the former Western alliance commander said, is in Europe, where NATO faces Russian activity on its borders, beginning in Ukraine. The top challenge is avoiding a confrontation between NATO and Russian military forces, he added.

“We need to avoid anything that would lead to escalation,” Stavridis said.

Ukraine represents a particular challenge, he told VOA: “We’ve seen here an invasion [of eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian forces], an annexation [of Crimea]. Unless the Minsk agreement is fully implemented, I see very challenging times ahead for Russian-European relationships, and the United States is very much a part of that because of the trans-Atlantic relationship.”

Admiral Stavridis discussed these issues in an interview with VOA’s Serbian service.

Source: VOA.