Home » Posts tagged 'President Donald Trump'

Tag Archives: President Donald Trump

kleef&co on Twitter

Trump and Putin Change the U.S. – Russia Conversation

by John Brian Shannon

Q: What could be worse than another Cold War between the United States and Russia?

A: Nothing. There isn’t anything that could be worse than another Cold War breaking out between nuclear armed superpowers that could conceivably destroy all life on the planet many times over. At the push of a button.

Boom! In an instant we’d be blinded by a flash and our bodies would heat up to 3 million degrees within seconds and everyone on Earth would end up floating around as carbon dust at 100,000 feet before finally settling down on top of the nuclear-winter snow that would cover the entire planet for about 40-years. (Nuclear weapons experts call that snow/radioactive carbon dust mixture, ‘grey goo’)

It’s a miracle it didn’t happen during the 40-year long Cold War, but we came within seconds of such annihilation many times over the course of those perilous four decades.


What the Helsinki Meeting Represents

For some people, the meeting between America’s President Trump and Russia’s President Putin represents an opportunity to catch either president in some sort of verbal gaffe, or to capture a sound-bite and milk it for all it’s worth — while for others, a meeting between the two major nuclear powers represents the best opportunity in the 21st-century to reverse the downward spiral in relations between the two nuclear hyperpowers.

That’s what is at stake here.

Anything else (and that means everything else!) just isn’t important when you’re playing at that level.

Whether 12 or 13 Russians may or may not have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election is orders of magnitude less important than the chance of nuclear war breaking out between the nuclear superpowers.

Also orders of magnitude less important is the purported (but not proven) collusion between Trump’s people and certain Russian citizens who may, or may not be spies or some kind of fixers or operators, and also orders of magnitude less important is Hillary’s purported carelessness in using a non-government (and therefore, non-secure) server to send or receive classified emails that Russian agents (purportedly) were able to hack and read. (That’s a lot of ‘purportedly’s’ — but everyone in America is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law)

And yes, those are all very interesting stories that will probably have a long shelf life and keep reporters buzzing until a bigger story replaces them.

But let’s not get distracted by sensational headlines, nor should we be complacent and forget what’s really at stake.

The leaders of two nuclear powers met, apparently had a businesslike and friendly meeting, and important matters were discussed. That in itself was almost a miracle after the goings-on between the two superpowers over the past decade, which between them, possess over 13,300 nuclear warheads, while the rest of the declared nuclear powers in the world account for a total of 1065 nuclear weapons.

G7 comparison: Estimated Nuclear Warhead Inventories, 2018. Federation of American Scientists

Estimated Nuclear Warhead Inventories, 2018. Federation of American Scientists


Building On A Successful Helsinki Meeting

Rather than let the present momentum lapse, President Trump and President Putin must ‘strike while the iron is hot’ and schedule some arms control talks.

“If not us, who? If not now, when?” — President John F. Kennedy

In 1963, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (which banned atmospheric atomic and nuclear bomb testing) was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union and in 1996 was passed by the UN General Assembly.

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) was signed and ratified by both sides in 1972 which paved the way for SALT II in 1979 which was signed by both parties in 1979 but not ratified due to unrelenting bad press in the United States. However, both sides decided to adhere to the terms of SALT II even though it was never ratified. Which is the only reason we see near-parity in nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles between the United States and Russia today.

To keep the present momentum going, SALT II could be re-signed and ratified to pave the way for a SALT III treaty to be created — as per the original plan.

The logic of the SALT agreements is clear: The SALT I treaty limited Anti-Ballistic Missile sites and froze the number of missiles each side could possess, while SALT II established numerical equality in nuclear weapon delivery systems and also limited the number of Multiple, Independent Re-entry Vehicles (bombs) per missile, while the proposed SALT III was designed to draw down and place firm and verifiable caps on the nuclear bomb arsenals of both the United States and the Soviet Union to around 2400 each.

Before the present momentum between the two leaders fade, both men should push their respective administrations to re-commit to SALT II (as a formality) and ratify it before the end of 2018.

That would allow the necessary time to author a fresh SALT III agreement and schedule a signing ceremony for both SALT II and SALT III at the same time.

It’s not rocket science, it’s politics. But previous leaders just couldn’t get it done. Both sides have wanted to do this for almost 40-years, but (very suspiciously) something always cropped-up at the last minute to prevent forward progress on this most important of geopolitical issues.

“Things don’t happen, things are made to happen.” — President John F. Kennedy


Turning Nuclear Bombs into Electricity

At the end of the Cold War a deal was struck between the United States and Russia whereby excess nuclear bombs (remember; any number of nuclear bombs higher than 2400 for the United States and for Russia is complete overkill from a strategic defense perspective) were sold-off to nuclear power plants and used to produce many years worth of high grade, clean electricity.

The program was called the Megatons to Megawatts program and was called one of the greatest diplomatic achievements ever by Harvard’s Matthew Bunn.

The problem is that it had just begun to hit its stride when President Barack Obama cancelled the program unilaterally, and after not much fanfare (only one NPR article) M2M ended.

Assuming both superpowers want to pare-down their nuclear arsenals to 2400 each, that leaves them with 4050 bombs (United States) and 4450 (Russia) to dispose-of. That’s 8500 bombs-worth of clean nuclear power, folks! For example, that’s enough nuclear fuel to power America until the year 2100 at present rates of nuclear fuel usage.

It’s a shame that this noble program was ended long before the most amount of good could be obtained from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

Right now, President Trump could phone President Putin and offer to resume this super-successful program — and he might find a willing partner in Putin who seemed fine with M2M until it was suddenly cancelled in 2013.

Building on success is so much better than re-inventing the wheel, as the saying goes.


A Plug for the Big 5 – as Opposed to the G7

The trouble with the G7 is that the United States GDP, military, number of nuclear bombs, and balance of trade (and in many other metrics) is bigger than all the other G7 nations combined! The U.S. is just too big! It’s the proverbial elephant in the room. The other countries just can’t relate, so they overcompensate.

The recent problems between the U.S. and other G7 members at the recent Charlevoix G7 summit are systemic — the fault isn’t with any of the members. Whatsoever.

And now is as good a time as any for the United States to champion the creation of a new organization, an organization dedicated to superpowers and near-superpowers like Russia, China, Japan, and the EU. Alternatively, if one of those countries or blocs didn’t want to join, The Commonwealth of Nations bloc could join instead.

In such an organization, members would find that the problems that superpowers and near-superpowers encounter would be similar problems and that solutions might also be found to be similar. At best, the world’s major powers could work together on their common problems, while middle powers could create the middle-power ‘Next-20’ Group, or N20.

In that way, superpowers and near-superpowers would be grouped together (logical) and middle powers would be grouped together (also logical) and the previously noted systemic problems would disappear, allowing politicians to roll up their sleeves and get to work on common issues instead of struggling with one giant stuck in a group of middle powers.

Read about the astonishing differences between the U.S. and the other G7 powers here.


Geopolitical Momentum is Vital and Precious – It Must Never Be Wasted

Now that the two presidents have had their first major meeting that seemed to go very well, it’s time to capitalize on the goodwill before events sweep away those good feelings and opportunities bigger than the sky are (again) allowed to slip away!

Whether the next phone call between the two men is about restarting the highly-successful Megatons to Megawatts program, or plans to meet with President Xi Jinping to discuss the Big 5 organization, or build onto the world-changing SALT treaties — or to discuss some other plan the two presidents discussed — now is the time to build on the initial meeting success and thereby positively change the conversation between superpowers and change the entire conversation that is happening in the global media because no other, better story appears to replace all that sniping.

One of the ways leaders lead effectively is to know when it’s time to change the conversation the media is having with itself and with its viewers.

I respectfully suggest, that time is NOW.

How President Trump Could Win the Tariff War

by John Brian Shannon

As we launch into the 2018 summer season of punishing tariffs and counter-tariffs and with the present bad feelings between the global powerhouses, perhaps a second look at what we are *actually* trying to accomplish is in order — and if a better way of accomplishing our goals appears — would today’s leaders be bold enough to employ such a change-up?

Taking the American position as an example; U.S. President Trump feels that American steel and aluminum are at a competitive disadvantage to countries like, well, every other country in the world, which is why he has instituted import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. Different tariffs have been levied by Trump on other imported items. All of which is supposed to help American steel and aluminum companies compete in the international marketplace and overcome decades of less-than-stellar reinvestment in U.S. rust belt industries such as steel and aluminum mining and smelting.

The pushback from exporting countries has been considerable and is expected to be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Trade war, much?


The First Rule in Every Crisis: Don’t Make it Worse!

While there is plenty of angst to go around, President Trump must remember that the entire situation was created by every U.S. president since President Carter, and that countries were never told to stop or slow the exports to the United States, nor told to lower their exports to other Western nations.

That means it’s time for President Trump to ‘play nice’ with exporting countries — which have done nothing more than play by the rules that America itself had set.

The problems of the $862.2 billion balance of trade deficit that America is trying to draw-down can be made worse via bad communications, additional tariffs, or clumsy handling of the situation. Let’s not do that.

Rather, let’s try to improve on trade deficit elimination as time rolls forward.


How to Make it Better

Apart from not making it worse, the present uncomfortable situation could be solved to every party’s satisfaction by designing a tariff regime to solve the fundamental problem instead of trying to address each good or service individually — creating a pathway, not only to solve immediate concerns — but to provide additional revenue to assist the above-noted and other American industries stung by poor vision, poor leadership, and poor management of U.S. trade policy from the 1980’s onward.

Instead of piecemeal (and high) tariffs that are seen as exorbitant in some quarters, President Trump should institute a standardized 5% across-the-board tariff on every single good imported into the United States.

The gross total revenue of that 5% tariff would far exceed the revenue that would be collected by the present bric-a-brac collection of deeply unpopular tariffs.

With an annual tariff revenue pool that would far exceed that of the present tariff regime, the United States could allocate generous and proactive funding to several of America’s poorly-performing economic segments, which spending would be completely at the discretion of the Trump Administration and its successors.

That’s an extra $120 billion (approx) for America annually.


Invite America’s Trade Partners to Drop Their Existing Tariffs and Match the New 5% Standardized Tariff

And then, pour yourself a nice cool drink Mr. President because you’ve won.

End of the trade war, the beginning of accumulating billions of dollars that can be directed to American industries that have suffered as a result of heretofore unrestricted imports from economies that benefit from low-cost labour and lower environmental standards.

Be part of the solution.

Nothing would put a salve on the present air of hurt feelings like a major signing ceremony between the U.S. and China where both countries see it’s in their best interests to drop the existing punitive tariffs and support and abide by a standardized 5% tariff regime.

No doubt that the EU, The Commonwealth of Nations, Russia, and other global exporters would enthusiastically sign a matching and standardized 5% tariff agreement with the Trump Administration.

Problem solved. And everyone makes more money!

That’s how to employ the ‘Art of the Deal’ to turn a negative into a positive.

Hitting the Right Note with President Trump: Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland

As trade tensions rise between the United States of America and its traditional allies, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland hits the right note in responding to U.S. President Donald Trump as she accepts the Diplomat of the Year Award from Foreign Policy magazine.

Below are both the full video and transcript of her speech courtesy of ForeignPolicy.com



TRANSCRIPT


“Tonight, I would like to speak about a challenge that affects us all: and I believe worries us all, and that is the weakening of the rules-based international order and the threat that resurgent authoritarianism poses to liberal democracy itself.

I’d like to start on a personal note. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I studied and worked as a reporter in what was first the USSR and while I was living there [it] became independent Ukraine and Russia.

My experience of watching from the inside as this vast authoritarian regime crumbled, profoundly shaped my thinking. It was a euphoric moment, and one in which it was tempting to imagine that liberal democracy was both inevitable and invulnerable.

As Francis Fukuyama put it, we seemed to have reached the ‘end of history’.

Fukuyama wasn’t, of course, arguing that history had ground to a halt. Rather, he was saying that the half-century-long competition between liberalism and authoritarianism had been settled and that liberal democracy had won. What a seductive argument.

Now, we harbored no illusions then, that institutions such as the WTO, or the IMF, or the World Bank, or the U.N. were perfect. Or that that our own democracies at home with their sausage-making methods of legislating and governing were without flaw.

But there was a broad consensus that the Atlantic nations, plus Japan, led an international system of rules that had allowed our peoples’ to thrive and which would surely continue to do so. Crucially, this was built as a system that other nations, emerging powers could join, and join they have.

The past 25 years have seen the rapid rise of the global south and Asia, most prominently China, as major economic powers in their own right. We created the G20, with Canadian leadership I might add. Russia was invited into the G7 making it the G8 in 1998, and the WTO in 2012. China has been a WTO member since 2001.

In Latin America, in the Caribbean, in Africa, and in Asia, developing countries have joined these institutions and accepted their rules, and that has delivered ever-greater living standards to their people.

But although this was and remains a broadly positive evolution, with extraordinary gains, in reducing extreme poverty, lengthening lives and decreasing infant mortality, one assumption about this great global shift turned out to be wrong: that was the idea that as authoritarian countries joined the global economy and grew rich, they would inevitably adopt Western political freedoms too. That hasn’t always happened. Indeed, in recent years, even some democracies have gone in the other direction and slipped into authoritarianism, notably and tragically, Venezuela. And some countries that had embarked on the difficult journey from communism to democratic capitalism have moved backwards. The saddest personal example for me is Russia.

Even China, whose economic success in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty is one of the great accomplishments of recent times, stands as a rebuke to our belief in the inevitability of liberal democracy.

And within the club of wealthy Western nations, we are seeing homegrown anti-democratic forces on the rise. Whether they are neo-Nazis, white supremacists, incels, nativists, or radical anti-globalists, such movements seek to undermine our democracies from within. Liberal democracy is also under assault from abroad. Authoritarian regimes are actively seeking to undermine us with sophisticated, well-financed propaganda and espionage programs. And they seek to suborn smaller countries, those wavering between democracy and authoritarianism.

Now, the idea that democracy could falter or be overturned in places where it had previously flourished may seem outlandish. But other great civilizations have risen and then fallen. It is hubris to think we will inevitably be different. Our Prime Minister likes to say about our country that Canada didn’t happen by accident and it won’t continue without effort.

The same can be said of liberal democracy itself.

Now let’s set aside the external malevolent actors for a moment. Why are liberal democracies vulnerable at home?

Here’s why: Angry populism thrives where the middle class is hollowed out, where people are losing ground and losing hope, even as those at the very top are doing better than ever. When people feel their economic future is in jeopardy — when they believe their children have fewer opportunities than they themselves had in their youth, that’s when people are vulnerable to the demagogue who scapegoats the outsider, the other, whether it’s immigrants at home or trading partners abroad.

The fact is, middle-class working families aren’t wrong to feel left behind. Median wages have been stagnating. Jobs are becoming more precarious, pensions uncertain, housing, childcare, and education harder to afford. These are the wrenching human consequences, the growing pains, if you will, of the great transformative forces of the past 40 years — the technology revolution and globalization.

Now, of the two, technology is having the greatest impact. But even free traders like me need to recognize that globalization has contributed as well. So, what’s the answer?

I think we are agreed that it is not, as the Luddites unsuccessfully proposed at the start of the Industrial Revolution, to stop the march of technology. We all love our smartphones too much.

When it comes to trade though, we do need to introduce labor standards with real teeth as Canada and the EU have done in our free trade agreement, and as we are discussing as part of our ongoing NAFTA modernization negotiations. It is long past time to bring the WTO up to date with the realities of 2018 and beyond. We need to seriously address non-tariff barriers to trade and force technology transfers.

However, and overwhelmingly, the chief answer to the legitimate grievances of the middle class lies in domestic policies.

The middle class and people working hard to join it need the security that comes from educationing your youth, health care for your family, good jobs for your children, and dignity in your retirement.

We need to think about what the jobs of the future for our citizens will be, and ensure that those jobs will pay a living wage and that our people have the skills to do them. Perhaps most importantly, and this is work that would benefit from international cooperation, in a 21st century in which capital is global but social welfare is national, we need to ensure that each of our countries has the durable tax base necessary to support the 99 percent.

(applause)

But setting our own house in order is just one part of the struggle. The truth is that authoritarianism is on the march and it’s time for liberal democracy to fight back. To do that, we need to raise our game.

One device strongmen use to justify their rule is the Soviet trick of whataboutism. The strategy of false moral equivalency which holds that because democracies are inevitably imperfect, they lack the moral authority to criticize authoritarian regimes.

We heard this species of cynical rhetoric for example, from the Venezuelan foreign minister at the Organization of American States meeting in Washington just last week. We must be smart enough to see through it. It’s possible, indeed necessary, for us to acknowledge that our own democracies aren’t perfect.

The record of my own country’s relationship with indigenous peoples, for example, is one of tragic failure.

But admitting our mistakes doesn’t discredit us. On the contrary, it is one of the things that makes us who we are. Authoritarianism is also often justified as a more efficient way of getting things done. No messy contested elections, no wrenching shift from one short-termist governing party to another, no troublesome judicial oversight, no time-consuming public consultation. How much more effective the apologists argue for a paramount leader with a long-term vision, unlimited power and permanent tenure, to rule.

We need to resist this corrosive nonsense. We need to summon Yeats’ oft-cited passionate intensity in the fight for liberal democracy and the international rules-based order that supports it.

Remember those great words at Gettysburg. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. Preserving Lincoln’s vision means striking back. It means resisting foreign efforts to hijack our democracies through cyber-meddling and propaganda. It means outshining the other models and encouraging those who are on the fence. And it means governing with integrity.

Facts matter. (applause) Truth matters. (applause) Competence and honesty among elected leaders and in our public service matter. (applause)

Now, I’d like to speak directly to Canada’s American friends and to my own many American friends who are here in this room.

Let me begin by simply saying: Thank you.

For the past 70 years and more, America has been the leader of the free world. We Canadians have been proud to stand at your side and to have your back. As your closest friend, ally, and neighbor, we also understand that many Americans today are no longer certain that the rules-based international order of which you were the principal architect and for which you did write the biggest cheques, still benefits America.

We see this most plainly in the U.S. administration’s tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imposed under the 232 national security provision. We share the world’s longest undefended border. Our soldiers have fought and died alongside yours in the First World War, in the Second World War, in Korea, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq.

The idea that we could pose a national security threat to you is more than absurd, it’s hurtful.

(applause)

The 232 tariffs introduced by the United States are illegal under WTO and NAFTA rules. They are protectionism pure and simple. They are not a response to unfair actions by other countries that put American industry at a disadvantage. They are a naked example of the United States putting its thumb on the scale in violation of the very rules it helped to write. Canada has no choice but to retaliate with a measured, perfectly reciprocal, dollar for dollar response. And we will do so. We act in close collaboration with our like-minded partners in the EU and Mexico.

They too are your allies, and they share our astonishment and our resolve.


Chrystia continues her speech in Canada’s other official language (French) then reverts to English, as below…


No one will benefit from this beggar-thy-neighbour dispute. The price will be paid in part, by American consumers and American businesses and the price will also be paid by those who believe that a rules-based system is worth preserving.

Since the end of the Second World War, we have built a system that promoted prosperity and prevented smaller and regional conflicts from turning into total war. We’ve built a system that championed freedom and democracy over authoritarianism and oppression. Canada for one, is going to stand up in defense of that system. We will not escalate and we will not back down.

We remember a time when the United States believed great international projects like the Marshall Plan or the reconstruction of Japan were the path to lasting peace. When America believed its security and prosperity were bolstered by the security and prosperity of other nations. Indeed, that America could only be truly safe and prosperous when its allies were too. This vision, the greatest generation’s vision, was crucially dependent on the rules-based international order and the postwar institutions built to maintain it. It was based upon the willingness of all, especially the strongest, to play by the rules and be bound by them. It depended on the greatest countries of the world giving up, collectively, on the idea that ‘might made right’.

Now, the Second World War was over 70 years ago, it is reasonable to ask whether our grandparents’ hard-won wisdom still applies today. I am certain that it does and for some new reasons.

After the devastation of the Second World War, the United States was the unquestioned colossus, accounting alone for half the world’s economy. Today, the U.S. economy stands at just a quarter of the world’s. Together, the EU, Canada, and Japan, your allies in the G-7 and beyond, account for just a little bit more. China, meanwhile, produces nearly 20 percent of the world’s GDP. And in our lifetimes, its economy is set to become the world’s largest.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Americans, Canadians, and Europeans are much richer and healthier, and live longer than our grandparents did. The ‘rise of the rest’ has been a chapter in the story of our own increased prosperity. And it’s only natural that the 85 per cent of people who live outside the industrialized West should, over time, account for a greater and growing share of the world’s wealth.

But that shift leaves the Western liberal democracies with a dilemma. How shall we behave in a world we no longer dominate?

One answer is to give up on the rules-based international order, to give up on the Western alliance and to seek to survive in a Metternichian world defined, not by common values, mutually-agreed upon rules and shared prosperity, but rather by a ruthless struggle between the great powers governed solely by the narrow, short-term, and mercantalist pursuit of self-interest.

Canada could never thrive in such a world. But you, still the world’s largest economy, may be tempted. That, of course, is your sovereign right. But allow me, as your friend to make the case that America’s security amid the inexorable ‘rise of the rest’ lies in doubling-down on a renewed rules-based international order. It lies in working alongside traditional allies like Canada and alongside all of the younger democracies around the world.

From the Americas, to Africa, to Asia, to the former Soviet Union — who are so keen to join us and who yearn for leadership, you may feel today that your size allows you to go ‘mano a mano’ with your traditional adversaries and be guaranteed to win. But if history tells us one thing, it is that no one nation’s preeminence is eternal.

That is why the far wiser path and the more enduring one is to strengthen our existing alliance of liberal democracies. To hold the door open to new friends. To countries that have their own troubled past such as Tunisia, Senegal, Indonesia, Mexico, Botswana, or Ukraine.

To reform and renew the rules-based international order that we have built together. And in so doing, to require that all states, whether democratic or not, play by these common rules.

This is the difficult truth. As the West’s relative might inevitably declines, now is the time when, more than ever, we must set aside the idea that ‘might is right’. Now is the time for us to plant our flag on the rule of law so that the rising powers are induced to play by these rules too.

To explain my faith in you, in America, let me remind you of the ‘City on the Hill’ Ronald Reagan evoked in his farewell speech in 1989. It was a tall, proud city, built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace. A city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get there.

This city, open to trade, open to immigrants, speaks to Canada’s values too. Indeed, these are the values of liberal democracy. These values are under attack from outside our walls. Most corrosively, even inside the shining city some have begun to doubt them. My country, Canada, believes in these values. We are ready to defend them and the rules-based international order that unites all of the world’s cities on the hill.

Our friends among the world’s democracies in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, and here in the Americas are shoulder to shoulder with us. We all know we will be strongest with America in our ranks and indeed, in the lead. But whatever this great country’s choice will turn out to be, let me be clear that Canada knows where it stands, and we will rise to this challenge. Thank you.”  — As read by Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Minister for Canada, June 14, 2018