Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Trump administration was not discussing a military response to the Nov. 25 incident in the Kerch Strait, in which Russia’s coast guard seized three Ukrainian ships that Moscow said had veered into its territorial waters.Related Slideshow: News In Pictures (Provided by Reuters)
“It says a lot about Russia’s respect of international norms and standards,” Dunford said during a Washington Post Live event. “What took place in the Sea of Azov is consistent with a pattern of behavior that really goes back to Georgia, the Crimea and the Donbass in the Ukraine,” he said, referring to Russia’s steps to assert itself beyond its borders over the past decade.The incident, which occurred as the Ukrainian ships sought to enter the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea in an area where Russia has built a bridge linking the Crimean peninsula to mainland Russia, was a stark illustration of Moscow’s military superiority over Ukraine. It also raised the prospect of further conflict between Russia and Ukraine, at odds over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.The Ukrainian government responded to the incident by imposing martial law and demanding the release of the ships’ crews.“We refer to this as a competition that falls short of armed conflict, where what the Russians are really doing is testing the international community’s resolve in enforcing the rules that exist, in this case clear violations of sovereignty,” Dunford said.Some sort of international response — which could be exclusively diplomatic and economic — was needed or Russia would continue to take such actions, Dunford said. More than 10,000 people have died in fighting in Ukraine since 2014.The response from Dunford and other military leaders, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, illustrates the balancing act Washington faces in its desire to support Ukrainian sovereignty and check Russia’s extraterritorial ambitions while also seeking to avoid a military confrontation with Moscow.While the United States has introduced tough sanctions on Russia, President Trump has embraced the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.Late last year, the Trump administration approved the sale of certain weaponry including antitank missiles to Ukraine. Today, Dunford said, the Pentagon continues to seek to help Ukraine restructure its defense sector and empower Kiev to defend itself.Dunford said he had not discussed the incident with his counterpart, Valeriy Gerasimov, with whom he speaks periodically.Separately, Dunford said the United States and its allies continue to make progress against the Islamic State in Syria, where small bands of extremist fighters have proved a stubborn challenge for U.S.-backed Syrian fighters.Dunford suggested that the U.S. force in Syria could be in for an extended mission. He said American service members had trained and equipped about a fifth of a force of about 35,000 to 40,000 local troops that would be required to stabilize parts of Syria once occupied by the Islamic State.email@example.com
Donald Trump Goes On All-Caps Twitter Rant About ‘NO COLLUSION’ President Donald Trump went on an almost all-caps Twitter tear SaturdayPresident Donald Trump went on an almost all-caps Twitter tear Saturday morning as he yet again criticized special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION! “AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!” Trump wrote.His claim that the investigation has already cost more than $30 million jars with this tweet from November, in which he claimed it had cost $10 million more:
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end-or will it just go on forever? After wasting more than $40,000,000 (is that possible?), it has proven only one thing-there was NO Collusion with Russia. So Ridiculous!Politifact estimates the current cost of the investigation to be around $27 million.Trump’s all-caps tweet follows Friday’s filing of documents in court pertaining to Mueller’s probe — one of which related to the admission by Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that he’d made payments, at Trump’s behest, to two women that Trump had allegedly had affairs with.Trump railed against France, The Paris Agreement on combating climate change, the idea of a European military, NATO and Germany in other posts.He also claimed, without offering any evidence, that protesters in Paris who are campaigning against President Emmanuel Macron and the country’s high taxes were chanting “We Want Trump!”
Most protesters tend to be white and many are from the provinces — sharing anxiety over dwindling purchasing power and what they see as Macron’s aloof style.Unlike the United States, France provides its citizens with a generous amount of social services, but the median national salary is approximately 20,520 euros ($23,350), sometimes with additional charges to pay, according to the most recent statistics. Even if, for example, the country’s health system is largely free, the average citizen does not enjoy a high level of disposable income.By contrast, the median personal income in the U.S. is slightly higher, but without the sweeping state benefits.[France suspends fuel tax after protest wave]Macron has been repeatedly portrayed as insensitive to people struggling in France’s economy. One of his first orders of business was slashing France’s famously steep wealth tax and introducing a flat tax on capital gains.His labor restructuring has made it easier for certain companies to hire and fire employees, largely to streamline an economy in which unemployment is still relatively high. He has also set his sights on welfare spending.
Severine Faucher, 43, stood with her 10-year-old son on the Champs-Elysees outside a cavernous Louis Vuitton store, whose towering glass windows were covered with a protective layer of steel lattice. Some of the brand’s famous printed purses were still visible inside. As police fired an early round of tear gas on the other side of the street, she helped her son with a gas mask.“We no longer have the fruits of our labor,” she said, noting that she and her husband, who are from Brittany, earn 2,000 euros ($2,276) per month to support a family of five. Both have jobs that require at least 55 hours of work per week, she as a medical aid assistant in a retirement home.“I’m 43 years old, and this only is the second time in my life that I’ve seen Paris, but we wanted to be here,” she said, noting that they had come 500 kilometers from far western France.[Macron shuffles cabinet in effort to quell political unrest]When asked if she feared for her son’s safety, she shook her head: “If it gets really bad, we’ll take him away.”For Corinne Letondeur, 55, Macron — a former investment banker — has insulted the lives of working people too many times.“He is only interested in the rich,” she said, noting that she was an off-duty police officer in the Paris region. “For the little people, there’s nothing to do but this. He’s not a president who wants anything to do with us.”She said she voted for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the 2017 presidential election and would do so again. But this was hardly the political profile of everyone who gathered on the Champs-Elysees on Saturday.Catherine Van Mikel, 66, a retired clerk at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris, said she had proudly voted for Macron in 2017. “I feel genuinely deceived,” she said, standing toward the back, far from the jeering crowds.“There’s a real arrogance to him,” she said of Macron. “I have never seen a president like that.”
As it has been at many of the previous yellow vest marches, the crowd in Paris on Saturday was largely white. Although France’s rural and provincial communities are far less diverse than its cities, many from minority communities also suffer socioeconomically but have been little seen in recent demonstrations.The yellow vest protests have drawn immediate comparisons with even larger protests in October and November 2005, when many young French citizens of North African and African origins protested what they considered to be racially motivated police brutality in the Paris suburbs and elsewhere. Although not in central Paris, those riots saw more violence, more arrests and a stronger government response, including an official “state of emergency.”“There were protests in 2005, and actually nobody cared,” said Rokhaya Diallo, a filmmaker and prominent French activist for racial and gender equality.“I think the feeling is that people from the suburbs don’t feel like they would be heard if they protested this way,” Diallo said.“Justice for Adama,” a movement launched after the 2016 death of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man killed by police, joined forces with the yellow vests on Saturday.
Approximately 290,000 people protested during the first weekend of demonstrations last month, fewer than half that amount took to the streets last weekend and even smaller crowds turned out Saturday. By evening, the Interior Ministry said about 125,000 people joined protests across France, with approximately 10,000 demonstrators in Paris.Yet the images of violent clashes have riveted attention around the world. “Protests and riots all over France,” President Trump wrote Saturday on Twitter, claiming that the demonstrations reflected a rejection of global climate change action.But another protest — the March for the Climate — was also slated for Saturday. Some in yellow vests were seen among the gathering, and more people turned out for the climate march than for the yellow vests.According to statements by organizers, as many as 25,000 marched for the climate, more than three times the number of those in yellow vests.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left meets China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (Fred Dufour/Pool Photo via AP)North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left meets China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (Fred Dufour/Pool Photo via AP)BEIJING (AP) — North Korea’s foreign minister said his country remains committed to ending its nuclear weapons program in talks Friday with his Chinese counterpart, according to China’s foreign ministry.The talks in Beijing between Ri Yong Ho and Wang Yi came amid a lack of progress in international efforts to persuade North Korea to reverse its drive to build a nuclear arsenal.China is North Korea’s most important ally, but has agreed to increasingly strict United Nations economic sanctions over its programs to develop nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.Ri told Wang that North Korea is „committed to realizing denuclearization and safeguarding the peace and stability of the (Korean) peninsula,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a daily briefing.In the talks, Ri was also expected to have been briefed on discussions last week between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, who recently said his next meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would likely happen in January or February.Ri later paid a courtesy call on Xi, who told him, „The international and regional situation as well as the situation on the Korean Peninsula remains in flux.””So timely exchanges and the coordination of positions between China and North Korea are still extremely essential,” Xi said.Despite initial optimism generated by Kim and Trump’s June summit meeting in Singapore, diplomacy has since come to a halt amid disputes over a U.S. demand that North Korea first produce a full inventory of its nuclear weapons and take other denuclearization steps before winning significant outside rewards.China, which fought on North Korea’s behalf in the 1950-53 Korean War, has suggested a more staggered approach, including a suspension of large-scale South Korean and U.S. wargames on the peninsula.In addition to sanctions relief, North Korea wants a declaration on a formal close to the war, which ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, and other reciprocal measures from the United States. North Korea has argued that it has taken some steps, like dismantling its nuclear testing facility and releasing American detainees.While traditionally close ties between China and North Korea have frayed somewhat, Xi hosted Kim for three summits in China this year, both before and after his Singapore meeting with Trump.However, Xi did not attend celebrations of the 70th anniversary of North Korea’s founding in September, seen as a sign that Beijing expected more concrete steps by Kim toward denuclearization.Despite that, Geng said bilateral relations had „entered a new historic stage,” and the sides would „continue forging ahead with the development of the peninsular situation in the direction of denuclearization.”Ri’s visit also comes amid intense speculation over the possibility that Kim will visit South Korea this month, in what would be the first such trip by a North Korean leader since the war.
BRUSSELS — With Britain and the European Union’s carefully crafted divorce deal headed for likely failure in the British Parliament this week, European leaders are bracing for more Brexit chaos — and warning they have little to sweeten the bargain for London.
The landmark 585-page agreement, a thicket of legalese that extracts Britain from the European Union after more than four decades of membership, has proved politically toxic in Westminster. Everyone from hardcore Brexiteers to pro-E.U. Brits finds aspects to dislike. But both British Prime Minister Theresa May and E.U. leaders warn that the deal is the best on offer, given the red lines on both sides of the negotiating table.
Europeans have gone slackjawed at London’s political chaos, with normally demure diplomats comparing the process there to a slow-motion car wreck. They say they can offer little other than cosmetic tweaks that might help May save face with her own Conservative Party. And they have begun to accelerate their emergency planning to prepare safety nets that could avoid some of the humanitarian and economic chaos that might happen if Britain crashes out of the European Union on its deadline of March 29, with no other plan in place.
“It’s taken many people time to understand that things really are as bad as they are in the U.K.,” said Lotta Nymann-Lindegren, a former Finnish diplomat who focused on Brexit issues and now works at the Miltton consultancy. “It’s been a real eye-opener that an issue like this can cause such domestic political chaos.”
Although May could still pull off an upset victory, discussions in both London and Brussels revolve around the expected margin of her defeat on Tuesday. Scores of Conservative lawmakers have already declared their plans to rebel against May.
“I believe the government is going to lose this vote next week, I hope — I’m afraid to say — the government loses the vote next week. And then either this prime minister or, if she will not do it, another prime minister must take it back to the E.U. and change it,” said Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative lawmaker.
The deal reflects a delicate balance on the island of Ireland, where Dublin has sought to maintain an open border with Northern Ireland to avoid reigniting the violent conflict there. London, in turn, has pressed to avoid any border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. If negotiators fail to craft a different deal during a 21-month transition period, Britain would be locked into a customs union with the European Union, subject to many E.U. regulations and unable to strike most trade deals with other countries.
The compromise is painful, but May and her allies say it is necessary.
“This deal is the best deal to exit the E.U. that is available or that is going to be available. The idea that there’s an option of renegotiating at the 11th hour is simply a delusion,” British Chancellor Philip Hammond told Parliament this week.
If May loses, she could go back to Brussels, cap in hand, and ask for further concessions, as early as next Thursday at a previously scheduled summit. She would hope that any tweaks to the deal, plus perhaps panic from the markets, would be enough to persuade lawmakers to support it at a second vote.
If that fails, there could be a leadership contest, a general election, a new government, even a second referendum. There is also the possibility — as May likes to point out to the hard Brexiteers — of no Brexit whatsoever.
In Brussels, officials say they are willing to keep discussing the deal — just so long as nothing of substance changes. They could offer nonbinding declarations to make clearer that the remaining E.U. members do not want to lock Britain into an economic marriage against its will. They could tweak the part of the Brexit deal that lists the aspirations for their future partnership, which does not have the force of law. If talks seem to be on track, they could nudge the Brexit deadline from March to late June, when a British-free new European Parliament will be seated.
“Usually there are some — I can joke — tricks,” the frank-talking Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said last month of the way the European Union finds consensus among its many members. “We promise to promise.”
Advocates of a hard Brexit claim that they still have leverage in Brussels because the chaos of a deal-free British divorce would also snarl European economies.
The ardent Brexiteer and former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who quit May’s government over his disgust with her Brexit plan, continued to urge May to threaten the E.U. that Britain would crash out of the trade bloc with no deal — to give the country more leverage.
“But what people I think want to see is a bit of gumption from this country and a bit of willingness to tackle those problems, and a bit of leadership,” Johnson told the political website ConservativeHome on Friday.
E.U. negotiators say the British are badly deluded and that their own business leaders actually fear a no-deal Brexit less than concessions that could give British businesses advantages in the vast E.U. market without the obligations of E.U. regulations and taxes. Both sides are now drawing up emergency plans about how to minimize chaos if the worst happens. On the E.U. side, preparations have accelerated in recent weeks, as the depth of the British chaos becomes clearer, according to diplomats involved in the discussions. And on Friday, the British government warned of border disruptions for up to six months if the United Kingdom crashes out of the E.U. Within a matter of days, the E.U. and Britain could impose measures to allow planes to keep flying, medicine and food to continue flowing into the United Kingdom, and British citizens living in Europe to remain there. But any plans will be temporary, analysts say, leaving deep uncertainty. William Booth and Karla Adam in London and Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed to this report.
Israel’s Netanyahu hails UN Hamas vote despite defeat