Wrongo and Ms. Right made it to Florida, and found his sisters doing well. We took our annual roundabout path to the Sunshine State, stopping first in Gettysburg, PA to visit Ms. Right’s sister. We drove slowly through parts of the Gettysburg battlefield on our way out of town.
When we drive south through Virginia, we always think about the penultimate battles of the Civil War. That is particularly true in and around Richmond.
We passed Civil War battle sites like Fredericksburg, where Chancellorsville was fought. And Spotsylvania. And Cold Harbor, where Grant lost to Lee in a battle that prolonged the war for another year. On June 2nd, the armies were arrayed on a seven-mile front. Grant was poised for a major assault on Lee’s right flank to cut off the Confederates from Richmond, but had to delay the fight for a day. Then they lost a bloody battle to an undermanned Confederate army. Grant later said:
“I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made… no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”
It is a tragedy that the Civil War is still living history in America. On to cartoons.
Cohen switched sides, and the GOP was pissed:
Trump didn’t like Cohen’s testimony, but was totally OK with Kim’s denial about Warmbier:
After the Kim summit, Trump now regrets what he said about McCain in Vietnam:
Coyote in Litchfield County CT – February 2019 photo by Sharon Shea
For more than 30 years, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) has been one of the cornerstones of the international security system. But, on February 1st, Trump announced that the US would suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty. Shortly thereafter, Russia’s President Putin announced that Russia will also officially suspend its treaty obligations.
Trump swings another wrecking ball! Defense One reported that Trump said that the US:
“Will move forward with developing…its own military response options and will work with NATO members and other allies to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct.”
This means that Trump will start the development, production and deployment of formerly INF-banned weapons.
Until the treaty took effect in 1988, the US had hundreds of nuclear-tipped ground-launched cruise missiles, or GCLMs all over Europe. Today, all cruise missiles are either air or sea-launched. New GCLMs are likely to be returning soon. Contenders include converting the sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missile, and the air-launched Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM.
Walking away from the INF Treaty opens the door to both sides building land-based nuclear capable missiles with a range beyond 300 miles.
There are two things to think about: Cost, and Strategic necessity. Kingston Reif, a policy director at the Arms Control Association, said the cost of the new missile systems would be much higher than the $6 billion or so it cost in the 1980s.
On the subject of necessity, he says:
“The United States can already…threaten the same Russian targets that new ground-launched missiles prohibited by INF Treaty would….In addition, no European nation has agreed to host such a missile, which could take years to develop. And even if one in Eastern Europe did, such a deployment would be a significant source of division within the alliance—one Russia would be eager to try and exploit—be hugely provocative, and put missiles in a place where they would be especially vulnerable to Russian preemption…”
The downside to the US withdrawing from the treaty is that we currently have no strategy to prevent Russia from building and fielding even more and new intermediate-range missiles.
Some believe that the INF treaty is obsolete, because many nations are developing effective missiles and launching capabilities that will be outside the limitations of the INF. Since we all will continue to develop these technologies, maybe the best we can hope for is to negotiate new treaties that address this increasing lethality down the road.
OTOH, Trump and his neocons are doing everything they can to encircle Russia with missile bases while claiming the moral high ground. We should expect them to utilize Poland, the Baltic states, and possibly Ukraine (if they can get away with it), as forward missile bases.
They figure that since geography favors them, why negotiate if you can win? Russia already called our bluff. For this strategy to work, the US must threaten Russia from Europe while simultaneously putting Europe under our new missile thumb. It might work, but there are many moving parts.
Republicans of course supported Trump, cheering about the breakup of a treaty signed by Ronald Reagan. When Wrongo grew up, the threat of nuclear annihilation was real. We drilled for it in school. He then ran a nuclear missile unit in Europe at the height of the Cold War. These were formative experiences that implied very dangerous consequences.
And think about our domestic politics: If someone were to run in 2020 as anti-Cold War II, they would have to say we need to work with the Russians to find a peaceful way out of this mess. Trump will then run to their right, saying Russia must be stopped.
Scared yet? A presidency based on disruption will do that to you.
Time for your Saturday Soother. Try to unplug from all the data that are streaming into your life for a few minutes. Start by brewing up a strong cuppa Hula Daddy Kona Coffee ($45.95/half pound) from the Big Island of Hawaii. You can see their plantation here.
Now settle back and listen to Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All” performed as a guitar instrumental by Gabriella Quevedo:
For those who may have forgotten the lyric, it includes this:
The winner takes all
It’s the thrill of one more kill
The last one to fall
Will never sacrifice their will
Think there will be winners in the new Cold War?
Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.
Autumn near Walpole, NH – October 2018 photo by knale
Happy Monday. Over the weekend, Trump announced that the US will be exiting the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which Reagan and Gorbachev signed in 1987. The INF banned all US and Soviet land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The weapons ban resulted in the destruction of 2,692 missiles. Washington demolished 846, and Moscow 1,846.
But the pact has also constrained the United States from deploying new weapons to respond to China’s efforts to cement a dominant position in the Western Pacific and to keep American naval forces at bay. Because China was not a signatory to the treaty, it has faced no limits on developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, which can travel thousands of miles.
While the treaty was seen as effective, it’s hard to argue that the US is somehow obligated to remain in the INF treaty since we know that Russia has been pushing the edge of envelope for the last few years.
But, Russia’s behavior is just part of Trump’s calculation: His administration would like to develop a larger and more diverse portfolio of nuclear capabilities. It also has concerns about China, which isn’t subject to any arms control agreement, and they specifically rejected joining the INF.
As a result, Beijing has deployed a large number of intermediate and short-range conventional ballistic missiles, pointing them at US allies, including Taiwan.
Washington has focused on ballistic-missile defenses, but it seems that the Trump administration would prefer to respond with next-generation intermediate and short-range weapons. The US has done preliminary work on a new intermediate-range nuclear missile, and if deployed, it would also violate the INF.
It’s also far from clear where such new land-based weapons might be deployed. None of our European allies appear willing to accept them.
And there isn’t enthusiasm for US land-based missiles among our Asian allies. Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, India, and Vietnam all are unlikely to host new US intermediate range missiles. That would leave Guam, which sits 2,400 miles from Beijing and 1,800 miles from Shanghai, not a decisive strategic counter-move.
The only argument for Guam is that those missiles would reach targets in China much faster than weapons sent via Guam-based bombers, but they would still be slower than sea-based cruise missiles.
Walking away from weapons treaties has had adverse diplomatic and strategic consequences in the past. When the GW Bush administration announced its withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, the Kremlin responded by withdrawing from the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and its prohibition on land-based missiles carrying multiple warheads.
The Kremlin is now moving forward with deployments of new “heavy” land-based missiles that can carry ten or more warheads. Their purpose is to defeat US missile defenses. Likewise, the demise of the INF Treaty would only reinforce the current nuclear competition.
Is Trump doing a smart thing?
The INF Treaty was less about hobbling the US than it was about hobbling Russia. The treaty only covered land- and air-based systems. So the US and NATO held a strategic advantage with its navies.
The only advantage Russia had, and still maintains, is its large land mass that can hide huge numbers of mobile launchers. By withdrawing from the treaty, the US actually plays right into Moscow’s hands. Mobile launchers are notoriously difficult to track down. We can’t do it in North Korea, and we couldn’t do it in Iraq.
Trump thinks he’s playing hardball, but Wrongo thinks his business acumen has been sadly overplayed. Exiting the INF isn’t so good for the Americans. Republicans used to think that fewer international entanglements would allow the US to keep its defense budgets low.
The Trump-Bolton idea turns this on its head. In fact, when it comes to American military security, Trump’s idea relies on magical thinking. It’s not just that his plan isn’t good for national security, it’s also that the Trump administration aims to make the US a military powerhouse while cutting taxes.
Bolton’s aim seems to be to create the conditions that could lead to war, an extraordinarily dangerous game, considering the flakiness of his boss.
Wake up America! Here’s another reason why turning out to vote in November, and then voting to turn out as many of these Republican chicken hawks in DC as we can, is of ultimate importance.
Swan Lake, by Tchaikovsky, performed on September 26, 2018 at the Alexandrinsky Theater, St.Petersburg – iPhone photo by Wrongo. Russians didn’t like the original ending of the ballet, where Sigfried and Odette die, so in their preferred performance, Sigfried and Odette live happily ever after.
A few random thoughts about the US and Russia: We often forget that all countries have their own history, all of which is ongoing in parallel to our own:
America’s colonial history was underway while Russian history was being written. For example, Wrongo’s home town was founded in 1709 on the banks of the Housatonic River. By 1720, the town was a rough collection of small farms, churches and commercial buildings, connected by dirt roads to other towns in Connecticut and New York, but it depended upon the Housatonic for connection to the sea, to the old world, and to the rest of the new world colonies.
In 1703, Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg on its current site. He built the city with conscripted peasants, starting by reclaiming the marshlands on both sides of the Neva River. Tens of thousands of serfs died while building the city. The Neva was important, because it was Russia’s only ocean port, their connection to the rest of the world. The land around St. Petersburg was ultimately raised by nearly 10’. It became the capital of Russia in 1712.
We all know that President Lincoln freed about 4 million slaves in the US in 1863. In 1861, Tsar Alexander II freed 23 million Russian serfs, who also were slaves.
Alexander had to pay compensation to the nobles who had lost their supply of free Russian labor. In 1867, he raised the necessary funds by selling Alaska to the US for $14 million.
Now, a few observations about Russia today.
Below is a photo of the Obukhov State Plant in St. Petersburg. It makes surface-to-air (SAM) missile systems, including the world-famous Russian S-300 and S-400 air defense systems that are employed around the world including in Syria and India. The S400 system will soon be in the hands of our somewhat belligerent ally, Turkey. Wrongo was told that it is currently subject to the US sanctions regime, although he couldn’t immediately find it on the US Treasury’s sanctions list. Here is Wrongo’s iPhone photo of the missile plant:
Why does the US place sanctions on a state-owned arms manufacturer in Russia? Russia is #2 to the US in global arms sales, and we can be sure that if Russia sanctioned Honeywell or Northrup, we would be screaming that they had no right to interfere in our commercial relations with other countries.
Next, everyone knows that the legendary Hermitage, formerly the Winter Palace, has an amazing art collection. The collection was started by Catherine the Great in 1764, when she purchased 255 paintings from the city of Berlin. Today, the Hermitage houses over a million works of art. It is a truly remarkable museum to visit.
So imagine Wrongo’s surprise when he noticed many paintings had been marked with an inventory control number, painted on the visible canvas! Inventory control numbers routinely appear on the back of paintings, but to see numbers, painted in red, on the canvas itself? Here is an example of what Wrongo saw:
Is this desecration of an art work by an overzealous Bolshevik accountant? Did the powers that be eventually discover the error of their ways? Most likely yes, because only relatively few paintings from the 15 and 16th century were marked, but all seemed to be in the same script. Wrongo asked several people if the red numbers interfered with their enjoyment of the painting, and none said it did, but it sure did piss off Wrongo.
Perhaps it’s simply a different way of looking at things. Like how each country views the Syrian president: is he a tyrant, or the savior of his people?
So wrapping up, based upon Wrongo’s observations, we have many similarities with the Russian people, and a few similarities with their government.
Of course, each country has an easy-to-criticize bureaucracy. Ours wouldn’t paint numbers on oil paintings, but it will happily perform other desecrations without being asked.
Geopolitically, we have voluntarily placed ourselves in a competition with the Russian state. We have been directly competing since the 1940’s, and it hasn’t delivered either side a more secure homeland, or world.
Instead, it has positioned us on opposite sides in many third world countries. It has made our defense contractors very rich, while causing the deaths of many young people in America’s military.
Wake Up! It’s way past time for both countries to re-think this competition.
Unusual cloud formations, pre-dawn at Mt. Fuji, Japan – photo by Takashi Yasui
Wrongo lived in Japan while working for the big multinational bank, back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. During his three-year stay, he learned enough Japanese to navigate in business meetings, and bars. When he was there, it had only been 30 years since the end of WWII, and the nuclear-ravaged parts of Japan still had scars, some of which intentionally remain visible today.
One impact of losing the war was that Japan got a new constitution, helpfully provided by us, the conquerors. Enacted in 1947, it made the Emperor a constitutional monarch, where before the war, the Emperor was an absolute ruler. Japan’s constitution is known to some as the “Peace Constitution“. It is best known for Article 9, by which Japan renounced its right to wage war.
No amendment has been made to it since its adoption, but that could be about to change.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is seeking to revise the constitution in the very near future, including changing Article 9. In May, Abe announced that he wanted to add Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to Article 9. The Nikki Asian Review quoted Abe: (brackets by Wrongo)
Over the past year, discussion of [constitutional] revisions has grown much livelier and more specific….The document currently includes absolutely no provision for our self-defense….We must put an end to debate over [the JSDF’s] constitutionality…
This is on top of evolutionary changes to the use of the JSDF over the past two years. Revised laws authorized military action that previously would have been unconstitutional, including actions in response to “an infringement that does not amount to an armed attack”, or actions outside of Japan, such as minesweeping in the Straits of Hormuz, near Iran.
The key point is that the new changes lower the threshold for the use of force outside Japan.
Nevertheless, even these [recent] changes allow Japan to act more assertively as a coalition partner in its region. This means acting in either a direct or supportive role for allies or coalition partners threatened by China (or some other international actor). The reasons for such a shift lay in both the increasing power of China, and in uncertainty about the United States.
The world’s power balance is changing. It is totally unclear if the US can be counted as a reliable partner in mutual defense for Europe, or in Asia. Our allies fear that moves towards isolation by the current or any future administration, could leave Japan swinging in the wind.
Add to this the looming threat from North Korea. Japan’s total reliance on the US to blunt that threat, means that Japan feels it must look at a more assertive ability to use military force. Japan has recently purchased the Ageis Ashore system from Lockheed Martin to help partially protect it against North Korea.
Another consideration is Japan’s rapidly shrinking population. The birthrate in Japan is just over 1.3. It needs to be 2.1 to maintain its current population. The Japanese skew quite old, but Japan also refuses to allow immigration. Estimates are that its population will drop from 130 million today to 80 million by 2050.
Japan is likely to become very insecure about the declining population and the increasing regional threats. And that insecurity will be reflected in their next-generation military strategies.
In fact, today’s JSDF is sort of legal fiction. It is said to be an extension of the national police force. But the JSDF has several hundred tanks, 26 destroyers and 19 submarines. Since they already have a military, it doesn’t seem like changing the constitution to allow them to have and use its military should really matter.
OTOH, there is a residual fear of a militarized Japan in Asia and in the West. Some think that Japan, like Germany, is among the countries that shouldn’t be taking on expanded military roles. This is why the US has large, permanent bases in both countries.
Wrongo thinks that this is a superficial reading of today’s issues. Obviously Japan hasn’t fully apologized for its actions in WWII, or earlier, and both the Koreans and Chinese work to ensure that we never forget.
In the real world, Japan is an amazingly under-defended country. It has traditionally relied on the US to fund its defense, and make most of the hard choices about its defense.
Well, now that we’re no longer totally reliable, they really have no plan at all.
We shouldn’t have a particular problem if Japan or Germany decide they want to avail themselves of the full range of diplomatic and yes, the military options available to sovereign nation-states.
Do you know about the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF)? The EEF was started by Russia in 2015, as part of Moscow’s push to revitalize its ties with Asia after its relations with the West began to sour. The US doesn’t attend, although CA governor Jerry Brown attended in 2017.
Now, it attracts heads of state from around the East Asian region. President Xi of China attended this year for the first time. It was the third time that Xi and Putin have met in 2018, and the outcome of the EEF meetings could have significant implications for the US.
At present, China-Russia relations are at their best in history…the two heads of state attending significant events held by each other are important manifestations of the high-level bilateral relations.
So, why now? What’s behind China’s and Russia’s fast-developing relationship? It seems to be the US tariff war. The Asia Times says:
Xi defines the partnership as the best mechanism to ‘jointly neutralize the external risks and challenges’. For Putin, ‘our relations are crucial, not only for our countries, but for the world as well.’
The world and global economy are coming up against new forms of protectionism today with different kinds of barriers which are increasing….basic principles of trade — competition and mutual economic benefit — are depreciated and unfortunately undermined, they’re becoming hostages of ideological and fleeting political situations, in that we see a serious challenge for all of the global economy, especially for the dynamically-growing Asia-Pacific and its leadership…
Reuters reported that Xi also appeared keen to foster closer relations with Russia:
Together with our Russian colleagues, we will increase fruitful co-operation in international affairs and intensify co-ordination…to oppose the policy of unilateral actions and trade protectionism…
Their relationship will continue to improve, since the Trump administration plans to continue ratcheting up its trade war. Trump recently threatened placing tariffs on all Chinese exports to the US.
All of this is largely a giant signal to the US, since Russia can’t come close to replacing the US as a major trade partner for China. Sino-Russian trade is less than $100 billion per year, while trade between the US and China was more than $630 billion last year.
China’s strategy is to start by reducing its dependence on US agricultural imports. One example is soybeans. Econbrowser reports:
The Chinese plan is — in addition to relying on Brazil and Argentina — to switch to other sources, like palm mill, rapeseed, sunflower seed, and other countries, such as Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, for soybeans. Obviously, the development of other countries’ ability to grow soybeans will take time. But that was also true for Brazil.
More broadly, attending the EEF gave Xi another platform from which to attack the US trade war, and pledge to defend rules-based trade. Our partners, the presidents of South Korea and Japan, also are watching closely. South Korea is looking to build a rail connection across Siberia, which requires help from China and Russia. The South China Postreported on Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, who attended the conference, and agreed to a summit with Russia:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Monday on further details of joint economic activities on disputed islands off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido
They also confirmed their close cooperation toward the denuclearization of North Korea ahead of the third summit between North and South Korea, scheduled for September 18.
The message is that the nations of Asia no longer see us as a reliable partner, and are walking toward forging new alliances with both China and Russia.
Our walking away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, which included all Asian countries except China in a free trade zone, seems to have been a geopolitical error. Trump’s tariff war seems to be another.
The US is alienated from Russia over US election interference, cyber warfare, Ukraine, Crimea and Syria. We have responded with sanctions, and truculence.
The US is alienated from China over trade, and the Trump administration’s perception that China isn’t helping our negotiations with North Korea.
We are at risk of being sidelined in Asia, and our allies are watching.
What’s this administration’s plan to succeed on all of these fronts in Asia?
Cordillera Huayhuash, Peruvian Andes – photo by mh-travelphotos. The area has very few people, and is a popular trekking destination. It includes six peaks above 6,000 meters.
Whenever Wrongo writes about Syria, the Wrongologist Blog records its fewest reads. Maybe people think that what’s happening in Syria just doesn’t mean much to America. Maybe people think that we’ve already given up on our original goals, and we’re already letting the Russians run the place.
President Trump, who just five months ago said he wanted “to get out” of Syria and bring U.S. troops home soon, has agreed to a new strategy that indefinitely extends the military effort there and launches a major diplomatic push to achieve American objectives, according to senior State Department officials.
Although the military campaign against the Islamic State has been nearly completed, the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community.
You remember al-Qaeda, the guys who took down the NY World Trade Center? (We’ll remember that tomorrow). Well, the first step in the new US “diplomatic push” is to prevent an imminent Syrian army operation against al-Qaeda aligned groups in Syria’s Idlib province:
While the US agrees that those forces must be wiped out, it rejects “the idea that we have to go in there…to clean out the terrorists, most of the people fighting….they’re not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator,” as well as millions of civilians, said US special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey. Instead, the US has called for a cooperative approach with other outside actors.
He went on to say that:
The US will not tolerate an attack. Period.
Jeffrey had just visited Turkey to consult with Turkish president Erdogan about the upcoming Idlib attack by Syria, Russia and Iran. The result of the meeting was a plan that Erdogan presented at the Tehran summit that Erdogan attended with President Putin of Russia and President Rohani of Iran.
The parties didn’t agree to the US/Turkish plan, and the attacks on Idlib have already begun.
Jeffery said that the Trump administration’s plan for Syria involves more than the defeat of ISIS. It also was focused on reducing Iranian influence, and preventing Assad from controlling all of Syria’s geography. Jeffery said that Trump supports the strategy, contrary to Trump’s previous statements about withdrawing US troops after defeating ISIS:
…we’re no longer pulling out by the end of the year….That means we are not in a hurry…
America needs to wake up. Those who voted for Trump did so in part because he wasn’t the warmonger that Hillary was. At some point, they’ll have to admit that Trump’s new Syria policy puts us in direct conflict with Russia and Iran on the ground in Syria. That isn’t something that could be implemented without Trump’s agreement, and with less than 60 days to the mid-terms, is this just a political calculation?
You know that all the neocons around him, like Bolton and Pompeo, will goad him on. And after that, it could be game on.
Perhaps Trump is bluffing. We have no realistic means to prevent the operations against Idlib by Russia, Iran and Syria. The US military understands that an attack on Syrian and Russian forces would likely escalate into a direct conflict between nuclear powers.
We can’t assume that the “resistance” inside the White House either agrees with the US military, or is capable of averting such a risk.
Wrongo’s solution? Not one more drop of American blood should be wasted in either Iraq or Syria.
Withdraw completely from Syria. Hand over our in-country bases to the Syrians. Encourage and assist the Kurdish insurgents and the Syrian Defense Forces to reintegrate into Syria. Pass the intelligence we have on the jihadis we have assisted over the years to Damascus.
Then we have to hope that Trump moves on to focus completely on more important issues, like Colin Kaepernick’s shoes.
US Secretary of State Pompeo visited North Korea (NK) to further the agenda President Trump and Chairmen Kim had agreed upon in Singapore. The visit did not go well. As Bloomberg reports, there were issues from the start:
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Pyongyang at 10:54 a.m. on Friday, he had few details of his schedule in the North Korean capital — even which hotel he and his staff would stay in.
Pompeo didn’t stay at either of the hotels where he thought he’d be. The North Koreans took him, his staff and the six journalists traveling with the delegation to a gated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital.
It was the start of a confused 27 hour visit, including a pair of banquets that the secretary and his staff appeared to dread for their length, and the daunting number of courses presented by unfailingly polite waiters. And a meeting with Kim Jong Un never happened, despite strenuous efforts by Pompeo’s staff.
More from Bloomberg:
The lack of US control clearly rankled Pompeo. A former military officer accustomed to short, focused meetings, he was made to sit through multi-course meals with Kim and his staff, as waiters brought plate after plate of food — foie gras, turkey, pea soup, boiled oak mushrooms, kimchi, watermelon and ice cream, plus a drink branded “American Cola.”
By the morning of his second day, Pompeo had enough. Instead of the elaborate breakfast prepared for him, he ate toast and slices of processed cheese.
The specifics of what happened behind closed doors remain unclear, but there was a clear difference of opinion about the results of the brief meetings:
As he was leaving, Pompeo told reporters the conversations were “productive and in good faith.” Hours later, North Korean state media issued a statement that did not mention him by name but called the demands he presented “gangster-like.”
One North Korea watcher, Duyeon Kim, Senior Fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum and a columnist for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, had this tweet describing Pompeo’s and the Trump administration’s failure to understand even the basics of its joint Singapore communique with Kim Jong Un:
Duyeon Kim thinks that Pompeo and the Administration have the cart before the horse on the path to denuclearization.
In another tweet in her thread, Duyeon Kim says that NK sees denuclearization as part of a package that happens only after the military threat the US poses is removed, in other words, after items #1 and #2 above are negotiated. She makes the point that NK’s reaction to the Pompeo visit reaffirms that its priorities remain in that order.
Confirming her viewpoint, the statement released by the NK Ministry of the Foreign Affairs said in part:
The U.S. side never mentioned the issue of establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, which is essential for defusing tension and preventing a war…
Let’s take a close look at the Singapore Joint Statement signed by Trump and Kim. It included the following: (emphasis by Wrongo)
The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
[3a] to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and [3b], The DPRK commit to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
As far as we know, Pompeo didn’t talk about item #1, which would include the opening of embassies and economic engagement. He did not talk about item #2, i.e. a peace treaty. He also did not talk about Item #3a, the “security guarantees to the DPRK”. The only item he talked about was 3b, the last item on the list.
Pompeo came to Pyongyang and tried to go all gangster on Kim by asking for details about NK’s nuclear program, and its plans to abandon it. But NK wanted to talk about embassies and diplomatic relations.
The scorecard after Singapore: Kim 1, Trump 0
The scorecard after Pompeo’s visit: Kim 1, Trump 0
60% of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities. That complicates racial integration because there aren’t enough white kids to go around.
Stringer helpfully explained what happens when there aren’t enough white kids:
And when you look at that 60% number for public school students, just carry that forward 10 or 15 years. It’s going to change the demographic voting base of this state…..Immigration is politically destabilizing.
He says 60% of the kids are “minorities”, but the math says they are the majority. Maybe he’s using the “nonwhites are 3/5ths of a person” rule.
On to cartoons. It was difficult to know if Singapore was real, or a reality show:
Kim and Trump agreed on one thing:
Kim debriefed the team back home:
The big thing we have to fear:
Sessions fails bible study. The Boss wasn’t amused:
Sessions asks excellent question in bible study. Gets correct answer:
California’s referendum on whether to break into three states isn’t necessary:
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii – 2018 photo by Chaebi
North Korea made big news on Wednesday. From the WaPo:
North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting it “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.
The latest warning, delivered by former North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Gye Gwan on Wednesday, fits Pyongyang’s well-established pattern of raising the stakes in negotiations by threatening to walk out if it doesn’t get its way.
North Korea (NK) has been a challenge for several presidents, and Donald Trump will be no exception.
NK has nukes, and possibly, the means to deliver them as far as the east coast of the US. South Korea is armed, and our military backs them up. Neither side has a true advantage militarily. Whichever leader best uses diplomacy in the face of a military stalemate will win.
But that leader might not be Donald Trump. Kevin Drum notes this:
The upcoming summit meeting with North Korea has been orchestrated entirely by Kim Jong-un. It started with his outreach at the Olympics. Then he proposed the meeting with Trump. He halted missile testing. He met with South Korea and it was all smiles. He’s implied that he’s in favor of complete denuclearization. He released three American hostages. And he’s now planning a public spectacle of destroying North Korea’s nuclear testing site.
WALLACE: Now, the joint statement from the two Koreas on Friday called for…a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and some people have suggested the North Koreans will give up everything they’ve got. But in return, the U.S. would agree that we are not going to allow any nuclear-armed airplanes or nuclear-armed ships on the Korean peninsula.
Is that acceptable?
BOLTON: Well, we certainly haven’t made that commitment. And again, I’m looking at the Panmunjom declaration as they call it in the context of a series of earlier North-South Korean agreements. And again, looking at the 1992 joint declaration, when they said nuclear-free, they meant with respect to the two Koreas.
WALLACE: So, you don’t view this as involving any kind of commitment from the U.S.?
BOLTON: I don’t think it binds the United States, no.
Personnel is policy, and Trump’s recent personnel moves brought in new wacko hardliners in key positions. Trump seems to be under the impression that the Singapore meet-up is a surrender ceremony, while the NK’s see it as two nuclear equals attempting to negotiate a final peace deal.
And Bolton is playing his usual games. It’s been true since the 1990’s that Republicans have a reflexive need to press for whatever seems more “hawkish” than whatever the Democrats had tried when they were in control.
That includes Republicans saying that “regime change” is the only realistic option when states object to the US, or its objectives in their region. The GOP is always outraged that the feckless, effeminate Democrats haven’t backed regime change since Vietnam. Iran is the GOP’s latest experiment, where throwing away the JCPOA was their goal, and Trump delivered it.
Of course, all foreign policy troubles would be solved if only our Adversaries and Enemies were magically replaced by Friends and Fans, but for some reason, that never happens.
The NK’s are doing what they have always done whenever negotiations get to this point. What Kim is doing is so blindingly obvious and predictable that only pundits and politicians could be surprised by it.
Trump says his strength is that he is unpredictable. But, in the case of NK, he put all his cards on the table, assuming that his strongman tactics would lead to peace and a legacy. Instead, it looks like Kim simply upped the ante on being unpredictable. Kim may think Trump wants the deal more than NK.
Seventeen years ago, Clinton made a deal to give NK aid and trade in return for halting nuclear weapons development, backed by inspections and monitoring. It wasn’t a perfect deal, and NK broke it, at least in spirit. The US decided to break the deal explicitly because the incoming George W Bush administration wanted regime change. The Bushies blamed NK’s breaking the deal in spirit, and wouldn’t give NK the promised aid.
Remember when Trump flattered Kim, calling him “very honorable”? What’s a guy gotta do to unify a peninsula around here?
And Trump was THIS CLOSE to becoming president for a second term based on a foreign policy triumph and a Nobel, too. Such a shame. Well, there’s always Syria.