Trump-Putin phone call

Question from Sputnik asking for thoughts on the phone call and what the two can do in Syria.

The White House “readout” of the call says it was a “significant start to improving the relationship” and both are hopeful that “the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern.” The Kremlin account is more detailed and speaks of hopes to improve “cooperation on a constructive, equitable and mutually beneficial basis”. The discussion touched on the Middle East, strategic stability, Iran, Korean Peninsula and Ukraine. But the big topic was “joining efforts in fighting the main threat” of “international terrorism”.

The call – one of several Trump made that day – took about an hour; therefore, allowing for interpreters, each president had about 15 minutes. Thus there was only enough time to communicate intentions and list problems. Therefore, only a beginning.

As to cooperation in Syria we have two stories going the rounds. One, from the Russian Armed Forces, that the US forces passed target data to them and – after checking: there’s still a distance to go before trust is assumed – Russian aircraft struck the targets. I would expect that the US military will be pleased enough to cooperate – there are already reports that US trainers know perfectly well that they are just training “the next generation of jihadis“. The other story, at the level of plausible rumour, is that Representative Gabbard took a message from Trump to Assad that US policy had changed and that “Assad must go!” was no more. Certainly Trump has in the past shown that he knows what’s really going on in Syria. And one should not forget what Flynn would have told him about the origins of ISIS/Daesh. So there is real hope that the US will stop arming and assisting ISIS/DAESH: a necessary step indeed.

Thus, there is much possibility for US-Russia cooperation in Syria.

But it’s only a start and there more to be done. But it is a good start.


TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY. In his inaugural speech he said that other countries were quite right to put their own interests first. Has any other US President in recent decades ever said that? The official site continues the echo of Adams’ policy to not go abroad to seek out monsters. All to the good – the world has suffered enough from the Exceptionalists – 26 thousand bombs in 2016. However, some things disturb me. I don’t like the hostility towards Iran from him and his team – Iran (much stronger today thanks to the inept machinations of Washington, by the way) may be a concern for Israel and Saudi Arabia, but it isn’t for us; to say Iran is “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism” while ISIS/Daesh is “the greatest threat globally” is not only idiotic but self-contradictory. Secondly, threats against China’s activity in the South China Sea are frivolous: in the final analysis there is nothing Washington can do about it short of a big war (which it would certainly lose) and no reason why it should. Finally, if he seeks a less interventionist foreign policy, why does he want even bigger armed forces? And, if, as some think, there is some notion of a Kissingerian separation of Russia and China, there will be disappointment. Xi Jinping recently emphasised the difference between China’s relations with the USA and with Russia: “We will strive to build new model of major country relations with the United States, a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination with Russia…“. Lavrov reinforced it by saying he considered Russia-China relations as “a model for responsible major powers“. The situation was very different in 1972 and the intervening years have taught Beijing and Moscow to put little trust in Washington’s promises or capacity to carry them out.

RUSSIAN HACKING. I hope – probably naively – that, now that it has failed in its purpose, we never hear anything more about this preposterous story. Although we do need serious investigations.

FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE. The Neocon Lament: Nobody wants them in Trump’s Washington.

MYSTERIOUS RUSSIA. Not the face you’d expect under a papakha, is it? Wikipedia on African-Abkhazians.


RUSSIAN MPs IN ALEPPO. Interesting video – most are Chechens but all of them are Russians. In this respect – the distinction between русские and россияне, Русь and Россия – Russians are better heirs of the Roman Empire than we are. Note the first-rate equipment and air of soldierly competence.

SYRIA. The Astana meeting, sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, took place. Nothing was decided, but it was another step in a necessarily slow process. Some developments in identifying the non-jihadist opposition; Turkey further distanced itself from the USA; Iran made another advance in importance. Russian and Turkish aircraft have conducted joint operations. As an earnest of the paragraph in America First Foreign Policy on defeating ISIS, the Russians report the US passed target information to them. There is reason to believe that the US military will be happy to cooperate: “they know they are just training the next generation of jihadis“. Remember what Michael Flynn, then DIA head, now National Security Advisor, said. (Remember the flapdoodle when Trump called Obama the “founder” of ISIS? That’s what he meant.) Tulsi Gabbard has visited Syriainterviews here.

SPEAKING OF WASHINGTON AND DAESH… “we were watching, we saw that DAESH was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened… We could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him.” And that’s after the US giving an “extraordinary amount of arms”. Kerry, thanks to Wikileaks at 22:25. Washington always thinks it can “manage that” and never does: a catastrophic record of self-deception and hypocrisy since 1979.

MH17. Don’t try investigating or challenging the official story yourself, you’ll get into trouble. Trump himself is unconvinced. There’s a call for a new investigation.

UKRAINE. Kiev had 460 troops killed in the Donbass last year – 55% from non-combat causes (63 of them ruled as suicides). Terrible morale. There’s a move to punish Pinchuk for daring to suggest it’s over.

WESTERN VALUES™. The Director of Human Rights Watch has decided that Trump and the others revolting against the established order are “a new generation of authoritarian populists [that] seeks to overturn the concept of human rights protections”.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Trump Day One

My interest, as a non-American, is, first and foremost, in Washington’s future foreign policy (which really means, these days, war – there hasn’t been much of anything else this century). As I wrote four months ago “To me, the choice in the US election is utterly simple: the most important thing is stopping the perpetual wars of the New American Century.” I believed then and believe more strongly today that US President Trump carries the hope that this will be so.

His inaugural address reinforces my belief. It was overwhelming directed towards rebuilding and repairing. His diagnosis: “a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost”; his theme: “a nation exists to serve its citizens”; his promise: “the oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans”. Whether he can deliver will be a matter for great speculation (most of it, amusingly, by the same people who so completely failed to understand the campaign) and wonderment. While we have learned that contemporary US Presidents can start wars ad libitum, it is less certain that they can build “roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways” or end the “American carnage”. But that is of more concern to Americans than to the rest of us.

The world knows America today almost entirely though destruction: to thousands and thousands today America is a drone strike, the bringer of random death, Abaddon.

But President Trump can avoid starting more wars and can end present wars. As he has implied he will, many times. The theme of his approach to foreign relations is this:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

The understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first“; when did we last hear an American President promise that? Indeed the theme of the Twenty-First Century has been that only “Exceptional America” has important interests. From a former Vice-President: “the most powerful, good and noble country in the history of mankind“; from a former President: “I believe America is exceptional, in part because we have shown a willingness… to stand up, not only for our own interests, but for the interests of all.” What other nation’s puny, erroneous and mundane interest can possibly stand against such glory, righteousness and sanctity?

President Trump echoes President Adams two centuries later:

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

In becoming the dictatress of the world, the United States has indeed lost the rule of her own spirit and her liberty has changed to force. Trump’s “benignant sympathy of her example” is

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

Much to hope for after the catastrophes, cataclysms and carnage the Exceptionalists have wreaked on us during the last decade and a half.

Shining instead of bombing.

Rotating on Your Tanks

(A question from Sputnik: what do I make of the US Army forces moved to Europe and what do I think US President-elect Trump will do about it.)

The first thing to do is calm down: I’ve seen headlines with “thousands”, “hundreds” or “scores” of tanks. What we are actually talking about, according to the US Army in Europe, is the “3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division” of “3,500 personnel, 87 tanks, 18 Paladins; 419 multi-purpose Humvees and 144 Bradley tanks”. (And why are they in desert tan and not European green, by the way?) In other words 87 actual tanks (120mm gun), 18 self propelled guns (155mm gun), 419 of the most expensive Jeeps ever made and 144 infantry fighting vehicles (not “tanks”) (25mm gun, two anti-tank missiles). These troops are the first of “back-to-back rotations of armored brigades in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve” – “rotations” gets NATO out of its 1997 pledge against “additional permanent stationing“. NATO is also planning to place a (rotating) battalion group in each of the three Baltic countries and Poland. In short, rounding everything way up: a maximum total of 10K soldiers, 100 tanks, 40 serious artillery pieces and 250 IFVs. That’s the high end. The actual reality will be smaller, under-equipped, very multi-national, always re-learning the ropes and therefore not very effective. In return Russia has reactivated the First Guards Tank Army. This Russian formation will have much more modern and more powerful kit than NATO’s and would brush aside the US brigade without pausing and ignore the battalion groups.

The purpose one assumes (if we ignore standard NATO-issue boiler plate about “security” “stability” “aggressor” and so on) is to emplace a “trip wire” – if you attack Estonia, you will be attacking us all. But that’s the point of the NATO alliance already: “an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” In theory that is. But there are plenty of polls showing that “NATO’s European Allies Won’t Fight for Article 5“. So I guess it’s supposed to be a reassurance to the little ones that NATO really really means it. So in that sense, it’s thought to be a deterrence.

But the assumption is quite idiotic. Moscow knows full well what the NATO Treaty means. The only circumstances under which it would attack any NATO country would be if it feared an attack on itself by all NATO countries. And then there would be no holding back: Moscow would know who it was fighting and why it was fighting and would go full out from the beginning.

This move – in the waning days of the Obama Administration – violates two Trumpian principles. First it is calculated to irritate Moscow and hobble US President-elect Trump in his stated intention to repair relations. Second it contradicts his ideas that NATO members should pay more for their own defence. (And a third: better relations with Russia obtained through diplomacy would eliminate the “threat” this deployment is supposed to be countering). Thus it is very probable that the whole thing will be reversed on the 21st. It should be remembered that Trump not only has a number of senior generals on his team but that there is plenty of evidence – “After 15 years of war, America’s military has about had it with ‘nation building’– that the US military are tired of endless wars. He’s not flying blind. And he’s not flying alone.


PREDICTION FOR 2017. The revolution will continue. And spread. And there will be more harbingers of that change – here’s this week’s.

RUSSIA HACKED THE ELECTION. Read the disclaimer – not even the authors of the DHS/FBI report believe it. (Were the Russians listening? Of course they were and so was everyone else. As soon as it was learned that the Ukraine coup was plotted on open cellphones and Clinton was wedded to her Blackberry, you can be sure that every hacker in the world started looking. And when they found an insecure private server, dopey passwords, phishable dupes and plenty of juicy information – a hacker’s paradise! Clinton’s decision to ignore State Department security procedures is one of the biggest security leaks in US history. Here’s Tuesday’s interview with Assange: not Russia and not a state.

PUTIN-ABE MEETING. While no breakthrough on the territorial issue (Moscow is not giving it up: if ever possible, the opportunity has passed), a number of agreements that will lead to others. Tokyo broke the G7 boycott of Russia, Washington will be next and then the rush. I bet Ottawa will be last.

FAILING RUSSIA. Remember all that stuff you were told by the “experts” about failing Russia? Very, very poor predictions – when not simply purchased to order, they were a mixture of wishful thinking and profound ignorance. Here are photos of major infrastructure projects of 2016. A lot is happening.

“THE RUSSIAN THREAT”. Gone: it’s not a priority. I like the Tillerson appointment and either of the two people said to be short-listed for Ambassador will be good too.

WADA. Since I learned about Therapeutic Exemption Certificates, I’ve stopped taking WADA seriously.

NEW FAKE NEWS RECORD. Anti-Russia fake news used to last a few days (NYT photos, WaPo PropOrNot) but the WaPo has managed to put out and retract a story on the same day! Even CNN’s fake news story about the Anglo-American School in Moscow lasted a bit longer.

NUKES, TRUMP AND PUTIN. New nuclear arms race!!! More fake news: here’s my take.

OIL CUT. The agreement has gone into effect; Russia’s share of the cut is 300,000 barrels a day.

SYRIA. I recommend the following antidotes to the rubbish in the Fake Stream Media (FSM): Aleppo didn’t “fall”, it was “liberated. Eva Bartlett. Vanessa Beeley. Andrew Ashdown. Carla Ortiz (watch incredulity from the CNN hairstyle at 4:00). They’ve all actually been there: they don’t report on Aleppo from the UK. MSF, formerly respected, has disgraced itself. A ceasefire negotiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey is operating (under current management the USA is недоговороспособны). Russian engineers continue to clear Aleppo. Russian aircraft support Turkish operations in northern Syria. I was very interested to see Erdoğan‘s statement that he had evidence that the US coalition supports Daesh (of course it does. As he very well knows. Stay tuned). I would expect, under the new circumstances, that Gabbard’s bill will pass. She is, BTW, someone to watch.

FROM LAPUTA’S KITCHENS (SYRIAN BRANCH) TO YOU. Mona’s magic pyjamas save her again and again and again. Aleppo’s twitter girl has amazing Internet service and doesn’t like to speak Arabic (see also Ortiz video above). Anybody remember “Gay Girl in Damascus“? Fake Syrian atrocity videos in Egypt and in Norway.

UKRAINE. It’s never easy to know what’s really going on there – for example the Privat Bank nationalisation has several interpretations. But of greater import is oligarch Viktor Pinchuk’s piece “Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace With Russia“. No EU or NATO membership, local elections in the Donbass and Crimea is Russian. It has the usual fantasies to sweeten the bitter medicine – Ukraine will be so rich in “15 to 20 years” that Crimea will beg to come back – and the usual claptrap blaming Moscow. But the recommendations remain. We will see whether anything comes of it but it’s momentous that a big player who thought he had secured his future (a BIG donor to the Clinton Foundation) realises his investment is gone and is trying to make another. Ukraine is pretty dysfunctional and there are a lot of people with guns who get extra votes, as it were, but the dream is over. Three years after Maidan Ukraine is ruined, in a civil war, overrun with nazis, as corrupt as ever, has got nothing from the EU and will get nothing from the USA. It will soon disappear off the West’s news pages joining Kosovo, Somalia, Libya and the other regime change triumphs nobody talks about today. USA Today discovers Crimeans like being in Russia. Expect more of this as the FSM adjusts to the new boss in town.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer