State of the Union: Did it unite or divide?Francis Whittaker Editor•President Donald J Trump gives his second State of the Union (SOTU) address as President. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence sit behind him in the US Capitol House of Representatives. (Patsy Lynch/ MediaPunch /IPX/AP)Speed ReadWho: President Donald Trump What: Trump delivered a State of the Union speech for the second time in his presidency Tuesday night — and for the first time before a majority Democratic Congress.The president’s address had been described by aides as a call for unity across party lines — but hours before his speech, at a lunch with journalists, Trump set a more combative tone when he reportedly called Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer a “nasty son of a b****” and ridiculed former Vice President Joe Biden as “dumb.”Trump did broadly call for bipartisanship several times in his speech, and there were moments of unity, but Trump also repeatedly touched on the issues that have left lawmakers most divided. He attacked what he called “ridiculous partisan investigations” in a veiled jab at special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, pushed for a border wall to stem the “tremendous onslaught” of migrants, and dove into the abortion debate, slamming the recent legislative changes in New York and Virginia that reduce the restrictions governing when women are allowed to have abortions.When: Trump finally delivered his speech Tuesday. It was initially scheduled for Jan. 29, but was delayed during the partial government shutdown amid a spat with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she would not authorize the president to deliver his address until the government reopened.What next: A large part of Trump’s speech emphasized the ongoing battle over his wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, and lawmakers are now negotiating a deal to avoid another shutdown. Their deadline: Feb. 15.As the president continues his negotiations, Democrats have so far shown little sign they are likely to heed his call for bipartisanship and to arrive at a compromise with him on the issueThe morning after Trump’s speech, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “You can’t talk about comity and working together and give a speech that is so divisive — that just doesn’t fly.”Fact check *Fact check reporting from APBorder wall Trump: “These (border) agents will tell you where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down. … Simply put, walls work, and walls save lives.”The facts: It’s complicated and there’s no clear way to measure how the existence of barriers affect security.Middle East wars Trump: “Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years.”The facts: The president exaggerated the length of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States sent troops to Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks in September 2001, more than 17 years ago, and the war in the Middle East per se, in Iraq, began in March 2003, almost 16 years ago.Tariffs Trump: “We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our treasury is receiving billions of dollars.”The facts: This is misleading. The revenue is coming largely from from U.S. businesses and consumers.Wages Trump: “Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue-collar workers, who I promised to fight for. They’re growing faster than anyone else thought possible.”The facts: This is an unsupported statement, since records for hourly wages for private workers go back only to 2006, not for decades.Economy Trump: “In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before. There’s been nothing like it. … An economic miracle is taking place in the United States.”
The facts: This is a vast exaggeration. There has been a mild improvement in growth and hiring during the president’s term in office.Women in the workforce Trump: “We have more women in the workforce than ever before.”
The facts: True, but this is due to population growth, not something Trump can take credit for.Energy Trump: “We have unleashed a revolution in American energy — the United States is now the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas in the world.”
The facts: True, if “we” is taken to include Trump and his recent predecessors.Perspectives–He struck a unifying tone. For now.“When President Donald Trump’s speech ended Tuesday night, there had to be a question shared in living rooms and saloons throughout the country: Where has this been? … Before Republicans get too excited, they need to remember this is still Donald Trump. What Trump giveth in a 90-minute speech, he can easily sabotage with a 3 a.m. tweet. Someone should take his phone.” – Editorial Board, Colorado Springs GazetteA home run for Trump“Last night’s State of the Union address was terrific. A home run. … But we’ve learned that the tone of Trump’s State of the Union addresses and the tone of the rest of his presidency are, at most, distant cousins. … If Trump stayed off Twitter for a week, just as an experiment, it would be fascinating.” – Jim Geraghty, National ReviewThere was logic behind Trump’s zigzagging speech.“President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, as it unfolded, was a dizzying and even disorienting experience, a cascade of rhetorical passages that seemed to contradict each other every few moments. … At first blush this all may have seemed like incoherence, as though the speech was a composite of recommendations from warring factions, every zig offset by a whiplashing zag. But taken as a whole, the address revealed a clear strategic purpose — one designed to revive and strengthen the ideological connection between the Trump of 2019 with the Trump who first began his astonishingly effective takeover of the Republican Party four years ago.” – John F. Harris, PoliticoHe almost appeared almost presidential.“Despite some jarring moments, he made a passable attempt at a presidential tone, calling for governing ‘not as two parties but as one nation,’ and speaking of a ‘new opportunity’ in U.S. politics for those with the courage to seize it. The question is whether these gestures are to be taken seriously.” – Editorial Board, BloombergCompromise — on his terms“The state of Donald Trump is unrepentant and defiant. And while he says he’s open to compromise and national unity — it must be on his terms. … The question now is whether the President did anything to help his precarious political position or to narrow entrenched political battle lines.” – Stephen Collinson, CNNRobert Mueller looms large.“It was one paragraph in this long, odd, terrible speech that gave away the game. … Trump knows his legal peril grows by the day, and he’s struggling to pry it off him while there might still be time. Robert Mueller wasn’t in the House chamber tonight, but Trump’s odd performance and shambolic affect tells you the president felt the special counsel’s presence.” – Columnist Rick Wilson, The Daily BeastHe failed the challenge.“The State of the Union address is one of those moments that allows Mr. Trump to play the role of president, with pomp, standing ovations and, sweeter still, a captive audience of his opponents. Even Mr. Trump grasps that, for this one night, he is called upon to rise above partisanship and address the entire nation rather than merely his rump political base.
Beyond the general theme, he nonetheless failed this challenge.” – Editorial Board, New York Times How can anyone believe a word he said?“Trump’s incompetent, lurching, scandal-ridden administration wasn’t able to get a unified Republican government to agree on how to repeal Obamacare in 2017— how is anyone supposed to believe that he’s going to be able to follow through on anything he outlined Tuesday night? … Maybe there is one way that Trump united the country during his speech: No one from either party, least of all the president himself, likely believed a word of it. And by next week we’ll have forgotten the episode entirely.” – Harry Cheadle, ViceThe same old demagoguery.“In a speech that reflected endurance if not eloquence, Mr. Trump offered a thin sheen of ‘unity’ over large helpings of the same old polarizing demagoguery. …’We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions,’ Mr. Trump declared. If those were truly his goals, he would have committed not to declare a phony state of emergency in order to build his wall against congressional wishes.” – Editorial Board, Washington PostA wall of resistance from the women in white. “It was the night that Donald Trump, preaching unity but practising divisiveness found his white minority rule under siege from Nancy Pelosi’s women in white. … When it was over, after an epic 82 minutes, second only in length to Bill Clinton in 2000, Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell patted Trump on the back and Brett Kavanaugh – one of only four supreme court justices in attendance – appeared to say ‘Good job.’ But, by then, the women in white had bolted to the exits with momentum on their side.” – David Smith, The Guardian
‘She knows’: Nancy Pelosi’s daughter reacts to mother’s viral clap at Trump during SOTU
An image showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi clapping during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night went viral, and soon Pelosi’s daughter provided her insight on the moment.The image shows Pelosi grinning mid-clap, locking eyes with Trump. The exchange happened after the president called for the end of „the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution.”Christine Pelosi posted to Twitter Wednesday that the image reminded her of her teen years: „She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she’s disappointed that you thought this would work. But here’s a clap. #youtriedit”The interaction comes weeks after a standoff between Trump and congressional Democrats led by Pelosi which led to a partial government shutdown that lasted for more than a month.As Trump demanded funding for a border wall, Pelosi insisted negotiations must occur while the government was open. Trump ultimately agreed to temporarily end a 35-day government shutdown in late January, even though the short-term funding bill included no money for his border wall. Nancy Pelosi #youtriedit clap 👏🏽
More: President Donald Trump says he wants bipartisanship, but is it possible?More: Pelosi says Trump threatened Democrats during State of the UnionContributing: Ryan W. Miller, Eliza Collins and John FritzeUS President Donald Trump arrives to deliver the State of the Union address, alongside Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence ,at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 5, 2019.This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘She knows’: Nancy Pelosi’s daughter reacts to mother’s viral clap at Trump during SOTU
Tom Embury-Dennis • Donald Trump is to visit London for a Nato summit in December, it has been announced.The US president’s trip comes after his stay in the UK during July was met with large protests, which he was largely kept away from.Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Mr Trump, who has mused about pulling the US out of the alliance, was due to attend along with other leaders to ”address the security challenges we face now and in the future”.“It is the ideal setting to mark 70 years of transatlantic cooperation, as the home of Nato’s first HQ back in 1949. Grateful to UK for hosting,” Mr Stoltenberg tweeted.Mr Trump’s last UK visit, which cost taxpayers £18m, saw the largest police mobilisation effort since the 2011 riots, as thousands of officers were deployed over three days to cope with the president’s security demands.[[gallery-0]]The trip was met with mass demonstrations, including one in central London thought to have been attended by more than 100,000 people, while roughly 50,000 gathered in Edinburgh.A six-metre tall “baby balloon”, a caricature of Mr Trump depicting him as orange-faced and dressed in a nappy, was flown over Parliament Square during the London protest following a crowdfunding campaign by organisers.Theresa May said she was “very pleased” Britain had been asked to host the meeting.“December’s meeting is an important opportunity to determine the steps we must now take to modernise the Alliance and ensure its continued success,” she said in a statement.Mr Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on America’s continued membership of Nato, blaming European allies, notably Germany, for lagging behind military spending goals the president has set.In the days around a tumultuous Nato summit meeting last summer, the New York Times reported, Mr Trump told his top national security officials he did not see the point of the western military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the US.The annoucement of the London summit came the same day Nato paved the way for Macedonia to become the 30th member of the alliance.Mr Stoltenberg and Macedonian foreign minister Nikola Dimitrov led the “accession protocol” signing ceremony on Wednesday at the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.Greece had blocked Macedonia’s Nato membership for a decade over a name dispute, though last month the parliament in Athens backed a deal which named the country the Republic of North Macedonia.The accession protocol must still be ratified by all 29 Nato members. Greece is set to become the first to do so this week.Macedonia will then start calling itself North Macedonia and will join under that name, possibly later this year or in early 2020.Additional reporting by agencies
Donald Trump set to visit UK in December for Nato summitNick Allen•Donald Trump and Theresa May at Chequers last year – AFP Donald Trump is expected to visit the UK for the second time in his presidency to attend a Nato summit in December. Mr Trump is set to join other leaders at the event, which takes place in the year of the alliance’s 70th anniversary.Nato said it was „highly likely” the US president would be at the meeting, although there was no immediate confirmation from the White House.It is set to be Mr Trump’s first appearance in London following Britain’s departure from the European Union in March – although on his first trip he avoided spending much time in the capital city while anti-Trump demonstrations were held.At a Nato summit in Brussels last year Mr Trump demanded that allies commit more to military spending, calling them „delinquent”.By the end of 2020 US allies in Nato will have added an extra $100 billion to its coffers.Donald Trump with the QTrumueen Credit: PAOn the same trip last year Mr Trump made his first official visit to the UK, which included meeting the Queen at Windsor Castle, and being hosted by Theresa May at Chequers.In a newspaper interview at the time he was critical of Mrs May’s handling of Brexit.Protests against the visit led to a policing bill of $14.2 million.Mrs May’s official spokesman said she „looks forward to welcoming all Nato leaders” in December.Mr Trump’s attendance at the summit would be separate from a proposed state visit, for which no date has been fixed.Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, said: „We are grateful to the United Kingdom for agreeing to host this meeting in Nato’s 70th anniversary year.”Brexit will change the United Kingdom’s relationship to the European Union, but it will not change the United Kingdom’s relationship to Nato. For me it’s perfectly natural that the UK is hosting the leaders’ meeting.”
CUCUTA, Colombia (AP) — The Venezuelan military barricaded a bridge at a key border crossing with Colombia, issuing a challenge Wednesday to a U.S.-backed effort by the opposition to bring humanitarian aid into a nation plagued by shortages of food and medicine.
The Tienditas International Bridge was blocked the day before with a giant orange tanker, two large blue containers and makeshift fencing near the border town of Cucuta, Colombian officials said.
The bridge is at the same site where officials plan to store humanitarian aid that opposition leader Juan Guaido is vowing to deliver to Venezuela. The Trump administration has pledged $20 million in aid and Canada has promised another $53 million.
The aid squabble is the latest front in the battle between Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro, who is vowing not to let the supplies enter the country. Maduro argues Venezuela isn’t a nation of „beggars” and has long rejected receiving humanitarian assistance, equating it to a foreign intervention.
Venezuelan Jose Mendoza stood at the entrance to the Colombian side of the bridge holding a sign that said: „Humanitarian aid now.” Mendoza, 22, said he is tired of seeing Venezuelans suffer from food and medical shortages and that the military should stand on the side suffering Venezuelans.
„They have to be by the side of the people and support us,” Mendoza said. „They have family members who are dying of hunger. The call is for them too.”
Roughly 40 countries around the world have backed Guaido, who swore himself in as president in late January contending that as head of the opposition-led National Assembly he is Venezuela’s rightful leader because Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.
Guaido says the emergency shipment is a „test” for Venezuela’s armed forces, which will have to choose if they allow the much needed aid to pass, or if they instead obey orders. No details have been released on exactly how the opposition plans to get the shipments into Venezuela.
Soaring hyperinflation has forced millions of Venezuelans to flee or go hungry as they struggle to find or afford basic goods and medicine.
Maduro appeared on state TV Wednesday evening wearing a white lab coat demonstrating what he considers Venezuela’s modern health care system in clinics countrywide — without mentioning attempts to block medical supplies at the border.
„The revolution is more alive than ever,” Maduro said. „We’re advancing in the development of health care for the good of the people.”
An emphatic U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Venezuelans desperately need the emergency supplies that the U.S. and other countries are preparing to provide.
„Venezuela’s military under Maduro’s orders is blocking aid,” Pompeo tweeted. „The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE.”
Guaido on Wednesday accused Maduro’s government of rejecting the assistance because officials often handed out imported food and medicine in exchange for bribes.
Speaking to farmers, Guaido said the transitional government he’s mounting to replace Maduro is taking steps to make Venezuela self-reliant.
„We don’t want to depend more on a food subsidies than is necessary today,” he said, calling the blockade an „absurd reaction from a government that doesn’t have the interest and well-being of Venezuelans” in mind.
Maduro has clung to power with the support of Venezuela’s highest-ranking military officers. He dismisses Guaido as a puppet of the United States, which he says is seeking to colonize Venezuela and exploit its vast oil resources.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump vowed to ratchet up pressure on Maduro, saying that the U.S. stands with the people of Venezuela.
„We condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair,” Trump said.
In a trip to Washington on Wednesday, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that any attempt to block aid from entering Venezuela is tantamount to „a crime.”
„Committing such a crime would give even more reason for the unified countries to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Maduro,” Trujillo told reporters after a meeting with the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro.
In the very moment he started to speak, President Donald Trump split his State of the Union address in two.
Before giving the annual address to Congress, the president is traditionally introduced by the Speaker, whose chamber he’s visiting. It’s a nicety, a nod to the separation of powers being ceremonially set aside for the speech.
But either accidentally or intentionally, Trump began his speech before Pelosi could introduce him. An otherwise by-the-book opening with tips to “Madam Speaker, Mr. Vice President” and his fellow Americans was marred by a slight against his archrival.
It was symbolic of the entire State of the Union, which veered so wildly between soaring calls for unity and pitched partisan jabs that he may as well have given two different speeches.
In one State of the Union, Trump called on Congress to set aside petty grievances and work together to cure childhood cancer, lower prescription drug prices, rebuild America’s roads and airports and end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. within a decade. He highlighted American heroes like pioneering astronaut Buzz Aldrin, reminisced about the defeat of the Nazis in World War II and called on America to reject anti-Semitism.
In another State of the Union, Trump belittled congressional oversight as “ridiculous partisan investigations,” continued to call for a border wall that led to a partial government shutdown and argued inaccurately that Democratic governors in New York and Virginia had all-but endorsed infanticide with recent abortion bills. He referred to a “Democrat agenda,” a minor but annoying tic to the opposition party, and failed to congratulate Pelosi for becoming Speaker.
Trump seemed to almost accidentally create a genuine moment of goodwill and warmth in the chamber when, while listing off the high water marks of the economy, he said women have filled 58% of the new jobs created in the past year. Dozens of Democratic women dressed in white in honor of the suffragette campaign for women’s equality stood and clapped. “You weren’t supposed to do that,” Trump joked. “Don’t sit down,” he added, “you’re going to like this.” Trump went on to say, “We also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” sparking a series of “USA” chants from the Democratic side of the aisle.
At other times, the shifts in tone were abrupt, and undercut what had just happened.
At one point, Trump highlighted Holocaust survivor Judah Samet, who survived the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, briefly noting that it was his birthday on Tuesday. In one of the most touching moments in a State of the Union ever, lawmakers began singing “Happy Birthday,” and Samet shouted “Thank you!” to the president. Trump responded, jokingly but with a telling sense of grievance, “They wouldn’t do that for me, Judah.”
At another point, Trump highlighted the bipartisan criminal justice reform he signed into law in December, singling out two former inmates who were his guests. In a moment made for the State of the Union, Alice Johnson — whose sentence of life in prison Trump commuted after lobbying from Kim Kardashian West — wiped away tears as the tough-on-crime president spoke about disparities in sentencing and the possibility of redemption.
“When I saw Alice’s beautiful family greet her at the prison gates, hugging and kissing and crying and laughing, I knew I did the right thing,” Trump said.
Then, in a pivot so sharp it would turn a figure skater’s ankle, Trump shifted to calling on Congress to approve money for him to build a border wall or potentially face another painful government shutdown. In a play to the Republican base, the president returned to his standard dark talk of “ruthless coyotes,” “the savage gang MS-13” and “the very dangerous southern border.” At the mention of “large, organized caravans” a murmur of boos even started to surface among some Democrats before Pelosi signaled with her hand to stop.
The contradictions were not just limited to the speech itself.
In the days and hours leading up to the State of the Union, White House staffers previewed it for reporters, sharing excerpts and telling allies to call the president’s words “inclusive,” “inspiring” and “unifying,” among other things. But even as he prepared to deliver an address calling on lawmakers to “reject the politics of revenge,” Trump was practicing that very art in an off-the-record meeting with TV anchors where he reportedly called former Vice President Joe Biden “dumb,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer a “nasty son of a bitch” and again referred to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”
I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn’t seen it yet. He’s just upset that he didn’t win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren’t given more credit for the Senate win by the media!
Before the speech, many political observers noted that it could be Trump’s last chance for a big reset in his relationship with Democrats in Congress before House oversight, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the looming 2020 presidential race intervene.
President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to appeal for political unity, offering Americans a choice between „greatness and gridlock” while claiming to have shown strength facing down international threats from Iran to North Korea.
But political scientists said the speech masked an essential point: Trump’s foreign policy has exacerbated many of the problems he’s trying to solve, claimed credit for progress to which it is not entitled and alienated key allies along the way. And those foreign partners – and even the foes – from Asia to Europe, from Latin America to the Middle East, voted with their rhetoric Wednesday by meeting Trump’s speech with silence.
In fact, with the exception of a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who welcomed Trump’s announcement of a second summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam, Feb. 27 and 28, few said it warranted paying close attention.
„My review of Trump’s second SOTU? Mostly the usual spurious assertions related to foreign policy,” said Karin von Hippel, a former senior counterterrorism adviser in the U.S. State Department and now director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank that specializes in defense and military affairs.
Hippel noted Trump’s speech did not even really mention his national security strategy and assertions such as that NATO members were spending more on defense because of pressure on the military alliance by his administration failed to acknowledge that non-U.S. spending on NATO has been increasing since 2015, before he took office.
„Trump said the U.S. would be at war with North Korea if it weren’t for him, even though it is hard to imagine another leader ratcheting up the rhetoric to such a dangerous level,” Hippel said, referring to various incendiary barbs traded between Kim and Trump before they agreed to pursue face-to-face diplomacy over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions. She added that Trump’s claim in the speech of a new approach to fighting the Islamic State group as being responsible for its defeat was also misleading.
„He has largely followed the Obama playbook,” she said. „And by the way, ISIS still poses a significant threat, even if it has lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq.”
Late last year, Trump declared that ISIS had been defeated and announced plans to withdraw troops from Syria.
Martin Bialecki, who edits „Internationale Politik” and „Berlin Policy Journal,” two Germany-based publications with a focus on international affairs, said Trump’s address was an „America Alone” speech.
„He made a lot of reference to World War II and the great history of the U.S. in that regard. He also made it crystal clear that the U.S. will not be reclaiming political leadership any time soon. Trump preferred to look backward. From a European point of view, this is still deeply troubling,” Bialecki said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel? British Prime Minister Theresa May? French President Emmanuel Macron? None of the offices of these traditional close U.S. allies released messages of support or dissent in reaction to Trump’s remarks.
In other words: How is Trump’s speech playing overseas? Well, it’s not even playing.
„Trump mentioned his policies of withdrawal from multilateral agreements like NAFTA and the Iran nuclear deal, and the planned force reductions in Syria and in Afghanistan as expressions of the ‘America First’ paradigm, claiming success across the board,” said
Henning Riecke, a foreign affairs expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations think tank. „Yet, he gave little outlook on how he would turn that into political strategies.”
Riecke added: „One exception was North Korea and the announcement of the new summit. Trump praised a tyrant and overestimated his own diplomatic skills.”
There was pushback from Iran’s government, after Trump said the country does „bad, bad things” and then appeared to not only obliquely link Tehran to an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last year by an American anti-Semite in which 11 people were killed, but asserted that Iran has threatened „genocide against the Jewish people.”
„Iranians – including our Jewish compatriots – are commemorating 40 yrs of progress despite US pressure, just as @realDonaldTrump again makes accusations against us,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Wednesday. This month, Iran is marking 40 years since its Islamic Revolution overthrew Iran’s U.S.-backed monarch.
Barbara Slavin, an expert on the country who directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, called Trump’s Iran remarks „relatively brief and entirely predictable.”
„He once again defended his decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, claiming this would insure that ‘this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons,'” she said.
Slavin warned that Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ and sanctions could lead to Iran no longer complying with the 2015 nuclear agreement because it hasn’t received the promised benefits.
Slavin noted that Trump also distorted Iran’s policies toward Jews.
„While it is true that Iranians are obliged to chant ‘Death to Israel’ at government-organized rallies and that Iran supports militant groups that have killed Israelis, Iran has never threatened ‘genocide against the Jewish people’ as Trump asserted. In fact, Iran still has about 10,000 Jews – the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel – Jews are free to worship in Iran, unlike Saudi Arabia, and there is an appointed Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament,” she said.
During the speech, Trump expressed his continued support for Juan Guaido, a Venezuelan opposition leader who last month declared himself interim president, a move characterized by disputed President Nicolas Maduro as a „coup.”
Gladys McCormick, a history professor at Syracuse University, said Venezuela’s specific mention in a speech short on many direct mentions of foreign nations could reflect the „U.S. asserting its supremacy among its neighbors.”
She had a warning, too.
„The U.S. has a long track record of leaving places worse off than before, most recently Honduras, Haiti and Nicaragua. President Trump’s hawkish exhortations and his order for countries to take sides on the Venezuela crisis is reminiscent of a return to the Cold War and this policy of military interventions,” she said.
Maduro has previously warned Trump that he risks turning Venezuela into a new „Vietnam War” and „staining” American „hands with blood” if his administration, and military, intervenes in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
Maduro and Guaido offered no reaction to Trump’s speech Tuesday night.
In the speech, Trump also made clear that he believed he was on the winning side of aggressive trade negotiations with China.
„We are now making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end,” Trump said.
Beijing’s retort: the sound of tumbleweed in a windy desert.
„Trump repeated familiar criticisms against China,” said Thomas Bernes, an economist at the Center for International Governance Innovation, a Canada-based think tank. „As such, it misses an opportunity,” he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How is President Donald Trump’s State of the Union playing overseas? It’s not even playing
Though he had his moments on Tuesday night, it was clear by the end that no reset was coming.
Iran has unveiled a new cruise missile with a range of 800 miles (1,300km), state television reported, as the Middle Eastern country displays its achievements during celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution
„With a range of more than 1,300 km … this cruise missile needs a very short time for its preparedness and can fly at a low altitude,” Iranian defence minister, Amir Hatami, said in remarks carried by state television during the unveiling ceremony.
Mr Hatami said the new surface-to-surface missile, named Hoveizeh, was from the Soumar family of cruise missiles, which were unveiled in 2015.
Western experts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, although there are concerns about its long-range ballistic missiles.
Iran said in January its bid to launch a satellite failed after Tehran ignored US warnings to avoid such activity.
Washington warned Tehran this month against undertaking three planned rocket launches that it said would violate a UN Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.
The US is concerned that the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit could also be used to launch warheads.Reuters
This system would automatically launch missiles—without the need for a human to push the button—during a nuclear attack.
Dead Hand: This Might Be Russia’s Scariest Doomsday Weapon
Here’s what we know.
Russia has a knack for developing weapons that—at least on paper—are terrifying: nuclear-powered cruise missiles, robot subs with 100-megaton warheads.
Perhaps the most terrifying was a Cold War doomsday system that would automatically launch missiles—without the need for a human to push the button—during a nuclear attack.
(This first appeared several months ago.)
But the system, known as „Perimeter” or “Dead Hand,” may be back and deadlier than ever.
This comes after the Trump administration announced that the United States is withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated the once-massive American and Russian stockpiles of short- and medium-range missiles. Donald Trump alleges that Russia has violated the treaty by developing and deploying new, prohibited cruise missiles.
This has left Moscow furious and fearful that America will once again, as it did during the Cold War, deploy nuclear missiles in Europe. Because of geographic fate, Russia needs ICBMs launched from Russian soil, or launched from submarines, to strike the continental United States. But shorter-range U.S. missiles based in, say, Germany or Poland could reach the Russian heartland.
Viktor Yesin, who commanded Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces in the 1990s, spoke of Perimeter/Dead Hand during an interview last month in the Russian newspaper Zvezda [Google English translation here]. Yesin said that if the United States starts deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will consider adopting a doctrine of a preemptive nuclear strike. But he also added this:
Zvezda: „Will we have time to answer if the flight time is reduced to two to three minutes when deploying medium-range missiles near our borders? In this version, all hope is only on Perimeter. And for a retaliatory strike. Or was Perimeter also disassembled for parts?
Yesin: „The Perimeter system is functioning, it has even been improved. But when it works, we will have little left – we can only launch those missiles that will survive after the first attack of the aggressor.”
It is not clear what Yesin meant when he said the system has been “improved,” or even exactly what he meant by “functioning.” Perimeter works by launching specially modified SS-17 ICBMs, which transmit a launch signal to regular nuclear-tipped ICBMs in their silos.
David Hoffman, author of “The Dead Hand,” the definitive book on Perimeter, describes Perimeter in this way:
“Higher authority” would flip the switch if they feared they were under nuclear attack. This was to give the “permission sanction.” Duty officers would rush to their deep underground bunkers, the hardened concrete globes, the shariki. If the permission sanction were given ahead of time, if there were seismic evidence of nuclear strikes hitting the ground, and if all communications were lost, then the duty officers in the bunker could launch the command rockets. If so ordered, the command rockets would zoom across the country, broadcasting the signal “launch” to the intercontinental ballistic missiles. The big missiles would then fly and carry out their retaliatory mission.
There have been cryptic clues over the years that Perimeter still exists. Which illustrates one of the curiosities of this system, which is that the Soviet Union kept its existence secret from the American enemy whom it was supposed to deter.
What is unmistakable is that Perimeter is a fear-based solution. Fear of a U.S. first-strike that would decapitate the Russian leadership before it could give the order to retaliate. Fear that a Russian leader might lose his nerve and not give the order.
And if Russia is now discussing Perimeter publicly, that’s reason for the rest of us to worry.
Image: Creative Commons.
FILE PHOTO: Oil facilities are seen on Lake Maracaibo in Cabimas
By Corina Pons and Mayela Armas
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition on Wednesday said it would use a U.S.-based fund to receive some of the country’s oil income in a key step to bankroll its efforts to dislodge President Nicolas Maduro.
The fund would receive income accrued by state-run oil firm PDVSA’s U.S. unit Citgo Petroleum Corp since last month, when U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, opposition legislator Carlos Paparoni told Reuters.
Guadio, head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, last month declared himself to be the South American country’s interim ruler.
White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday the United States would consider lifting sanctions on senior Venezuelan military officers if they recognize Guaido as interim leader. „If not, the international financial circle will be closed off completely,” Bolton wrote on Twitter.
Aside from one senior general, who recognized Guaido in a video and urged others in the military to do the same, most of Venezuela’s top military officers have not defected from Maduro.
Citgo, the eighth-largest U.S. refiner and Venezuela’s top foreign asset, is in the middle of a tug of war as the United States has made aggressive moves to remove it from Maduro’s control and imposed sanctions on OPEC-member Venezuela’s oil industry.
„This is already quite advanced, I hope that next week it can be announced by our representative in the United States,” Paparoni said, though he did not give details about the nature of the U.S.-based fund or the financial institution involved.
Pressure is building on Maduro, a socialist, to resign amid an economic crisis marked by widespread shortages and hyperinflation. Maduro was re-elected last year in a vote critics have called a sham.
Yon Goicoechea, a member of Guaido’s policy team, told Reuters that Guaido was in contact with PDVSA’s international partners and they were willing to keep operating in Venezuela. He did not identify the partners.
Guaido’s team is planning for a post-Maduro government with an emergency arrangement to supply fuel domestically, given widespread shortages across Venezuela, Goicoechea said.
Most Latin American and European countries also recognize Guaido, although Italy so far has not. Guaido has reached out to Italy’s ruling coalition seeking its support.
Maduro, who retains control over the state, denounces Guaido as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup against him. He is supported by China and Russia, while Slovakia on Wednesday joined Italy in defying the coordinated action of European Union nations and the United States.
The opposition has also sought to prevent the government from selling gold, believing that it is using the proceeds to try to stay solvent as the sanctions cut off other revenue streams.
But Maduro’s government last year sold 73 tonnes of gold to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates without the required approval of the opposition-led National Assembly, Paparoni told a news conference. Abu Dhabi investment firm Noor Capital bought the largest amount, 27.3 tonnes of gold, and a Turkish firm bought 23.9 tonnes, Paparoni said.
„We will keep working so that not one more gram of gold can be sold,” Paparoni said.
Venezuela had gold reserves of 132 tonnes between the central bank’s vaults and the Bank of England at the end of November, according to central bank data.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Noor Capital said it „does not engage in any illegal or prohibited transactions.”
In recent days, at least five tankers carrying gasoline, gasoil for power generation and naphtha have been ordered to unload at Venezuela’s ports as fuel inventories dwindle. PDVSA issued court orders for most of the tankers to discharge, according to shipping and PDVSA sources.
Guaido asked Italy’s ruling coalition leaders in a letter to meet with his representatives as he seeks their explicit backing. Italy’s hard-right League has expressed strong support for Guaido, but coalition partner the 5-Star Movement has not, making Italy the only major European Union nation not to recognize him as Venezuela’s interim head of state.
League leader and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s office on Wednesday said he would meet Guaido’s envoys on Feb. 11.
As the world’s countries line up to support either Maduro or Guaido, the United Nations warned against using aid as a pawn. The United States has sent food and medicine to Venezuela’s border, even though it is unclear how it will get past the objections of Maduro.
„Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has doubled its budget in Venezuela in recent weeks and is also helping Venezuelan migrants in neighboring Colombia and Brazil, ICRC President Peter Maurer said in Geneva.
(Reporting by Corina Pons and Mayela Armas; Additional reporting by Angus Berwick in Caracas, Tatiana Jancarikova in Bratislava, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Michelle Nichols in New York, Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Makini Brice in Washington, and Steve Scherer in Rome; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Alistair Bell)
Coming soon: Kiev’s navy-killer missiles.
Ukraine Is Building Anti-Ship Missiles (In Part Thanks to Russia)
Kiev has been quietly developing their own arms manufacturing industry since 2013.
The goal was two-fold: to supplement aid from Washington with domestically-produced equipment, and to become a player in the export markets. How have they fared five years down the line? One of their most ambitious undertakings, homemade anti-ship cruise missiles, provides a clear window into Ukraine’s progress and ongoing challenges.
The “Neptune” project, announced in 2013 by Ukrainian manufacturer Luch Design Bureau, was meant to provide Ukraine with a deterrent against Russian sea power in the Azov region. Neptune uses a150-kilogram high-explosive fragmentation (HE-FRAG) warhead and can be deployed on air, sea, and land platforms, though initial deployments are slated for Ukraine’s Azov Sea coastal missile defenses. The missile boasts a maximum effective range of just under 300 kilometers and is designed to destroy vessels with a displacement of up to 5,000 tons; frigates, generally.
If these specifications sound familiar, it’s because Neptune is a lightly modernized variant of the Russian-made Kh-35 anti-ship cruise missile. Introduced in 2003, the Kh-35 is distinguished by its shorter body and range while retaining the core design principles of its Neptune counterpart. Neptune also adds a new inertial guidance system with active radar seeking.
Ukraine was extensively involved in the production of the Kh-35, especially its R95-300 engine; it is therefore unsurprising that they would tap into their existing base of expertise to pursue a Kh-35 derivative rather than sinking R&D expenditures into an entirely new design. This does not mean, however, that the Neptune project has not been without its setbacks.
First, Ukraine must contend with an increasing, but still modest defense budget of $3.1 billion as of 2018. This problem has been partly offset with a large stream of US foreign aid– and more recently, direct lethal aid— but Kiev’s resources remain thinly stretched across a wide range of expensive projects. To the extent that external aid has fueled Ukrainian military modernization, prospective aid decreases in the future could just as easily force Kiev to shelf some of these key modernization projects.
Secondly, Ukraine is still coping with the rift in its supply and production chains left by its diplomatic break with Russia. Whereas the Kh-35 and its predecessors were created with the USSR’s massive economies of scale, Ukraine must now invest in new, potentially less efficient production processes while repurposing Soviet-era components whenever it can. The latter is particularly salient for Neptune, given that it runs on a close derivative of the Soviet-era TRDD-50engine.
Nonetheless, Ukraine has forged ahead with Neptune. Last year, Kiev announcedthat they had conducted Neptune’s first successful flight: “During the successful tests, the missile’s flight efficiency and systems operations were checked,” according to National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov. “Today’s tests have opened a new stage of the missile program, according to which our Armed Forces must receive powerful high-performance cruise missiles that can accurately strike hostile targets at great distances,” Turchynov added.
On the heels of this highly-publicized test, defense expert Serhiy Zgurets toldUkrainian news that Neptune will be deployed within the next three years. This would put Neptune at a ten-year development cycle, roughly the same interval as the creation of the original Kh-35 in 2003 and the introduction of its Russian “Uranus” successor in 2015.
If successful, Neptune would be a key technical and symbolic milestone in Ukraine’s missile development program. At the same time, the Neptune project is an apt illustration of the complex challenges and uncertainties awaiting Kiev on the path to military modernization.
Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor toThe National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University.
Image: Creative Commons.
Washington (AFP) – Kosovo’s leader said Tuesday that Serbia’s traditional backer Russia had promised to support eventual reconciliation between Belgrade and Pristina, removing one potential obstacle in stalled talks.
President Hashim Thaci said that he spoke to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in November, in the first-ever meeting between the two sides, on the sidelines of centennial commemorations for the end of World War I.
„I asked him very directly — what would Russia’s reaction be if Kosovo and Serbia reach an agreement? His reply was that he will support it,” Thaci said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
„His reply was that we cannot be greater Serbs than the Serbs. I cannot say I was impressed, but I would really welcome if he keeps his word,” he said.
Russia enjoys veto power on the UN Security Council and has strong cultural and political ties to Serbia, which has campaigned to shut Kosovo out of the United Nations and other international organizations since it declared independence in 2008.
Kosovo, whose population is mostly ethnic Albanian, broke away from Serbia after a bloody 1998-99 guerrilla campaign and bombing by NATO, which continues to station a peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
EU-led talks for reconciliation have made little headway. US President Donald Trump recently wrote a letter offering US assistance to broker a deal.
But Thaci also faces opposition at home, with Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj rejecting the president’s idea for territory swaps with Serbia.
In Washington, Thaci said that land swaps would be „part of a broader peace agreement” and insisted: „There will be no borders based on ethnic lines.”
„I am convinced that this will close once and for all the war between Kosovo and Serbia and open a safe way for membership in NATO and the EU” for both countries, he said.
He pointed to the recent resolution of the decades-old name dispute between Greece and Macedonia, which agreed to rename itself the Republic of North Macedonia, as a sign that deep feuds can end.