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Munich Security Conference in Munich
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is seen during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

February 18, 2019

By Robin Emmott and John Irish

MUNICH (Reuters) – In 2009, then U.S. Vice President Joe Biden came to Munich to “press the reset button” with Russia. A decade later he came again to offer the world better relations, this time with his own country.

Promising that “America will be back” once Donald Trump leaves office, Biden won a standing ovation at the Munich Security Conference from delegates who find the president’s brusque foreign policy stance hard to like.

But their elation also exposed the weakened state of Western diplomacy in the face of Trump’s assertiveness, according to European diplomats and politicians who were present.

Biden’s successor, Mike Pence, was met with silence at a reception in the palatial Bavarian parliament on Friday evening after he delivered his signature line: “I bring you greetings from the 45th president of the United States, President Donald Trump.”

His four-day trip to Europe succeeded only in deepening divisions with traditional allies over questions such as Iran and Venezuela and offered little hope in how to deal with threats ranging from nuclear arms to climate change, diplomats and officials said.

Misgivings about Washington’s role in the world are being felt by ordinary people as well as foreign policy specialists. In Germany and France, half the population see U.S. power as a threat, up sharply from 2013 and a view shared by 37 percent of Britons, the Washington-based Pew Research Center said in a report before the Munich foreign policy gathering.

Asked about European anxiety over Trump’s leadership style, a senior U.S. official on Pence’s Air Force Two plane said the vice president’s Munich conference speech on Saturday at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof would “help give them a different perspective”.

“TIT-FOR-TAT”

But if the Europeans did not like the “America First” message, there was no concerted response to it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on her own after a last-minute cancellation by French President Emmanuel Macron.

That caused some to lament the failure of the West to uphold the rules-based international order that Washington itself championed in the 70 years that preceded the arrival of Trump in the White House.

“The tit-for-tat logic is unfortunately prevailing … I think that takes us back to the question of enlightened leadership,” said Thomas Greminger, secretary general of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a security and human rights watchdog.

“We need leaders again who do not believe exclusively in short-termism,” he told Reuters.

It fell to China to aid Merkel in her defense of the post-World War Two order, as the country’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, spoke in flawless English for over 20 minutes about the virtues of open trade and global cooperation.

Pence’s message was, in fact, that the pillars of U.S. foreign policy were being rebuilt on a different foundation: isolating Iran, containing China, bringing American troops home and requiring European powers to fall into line.

BROKEN NARRATIVE?

After using a speech in Warsaw on Thursday to accuse Britain, France and Germany of trying to undermine U.S. sanctions on Iran, Pence called in Munich for the European Union to recognize Venezuelan congressional leader Juan Guaido as president over Nicolas Maduro, whom he called a dictator.

That drew an angry response from Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who said the European Union could acknowledge Guaido as interim president until new elections, in line with the Venezuelan constitution.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves LeDrian said he was mystified by U.S. policy on Syria after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops because it would only benefit Iran, which Washington wants to be tough on.

European diplomats and officials also took issue with Pence’s insistence that EU governments stay away from Chinese telecoms companies as they build the latest generation of mobile networks, preferring first to have an internal discussion about the potential risks and U.S. claims of Chinese espionage.

“U.S. pressure has a tendency to make us do the opposite. U.S. pressure is counterproductive. It’s best that they don’t try and pressure us,” a senior French diplomat said.

Whatever the threats, officials seemed to be mainly talking past each other.

Kumi Naidoo, global head of Amnesty International, said security was often defined too narrowly, failing to address the wider dangers of climate change.

“The narrative here at the Munich Security Conference is broken. They are talking about the right topics but in the wrong language. The mentality here is that security is only a national issue,” Naidoo told Reuters.

Leaving for Washington, Pence was unfazed, telling reporters his trip had been very successful. “We’re advancing the interests of the free world, and we’ve made great progress.” 

(Additional reporting by Paul Carrel and Andreas Rinke; Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza responds to questions in the press briefing room at the United Nations Headquarters in New York
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza responds to questions in the press briefing room at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, U.S. February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

February 18, 2019

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela denied a group of European Parliament deputies entry into the country on Sunday, arguing they had “conspiratorial motives” for flying to Caracas in the throes of a political crisis.

The European Parliament last month joined a slew of Western nations in recognizing Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaido as interim head of state after President Nicolas Maduro won a second term in an election last year that critics denounced as a sham.

The four deputies from the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) were traveling to Venezuela to meet with Guaido, one of them said in a video distributed via social media.

“They have retained our passports, they haven’t communicated the reason for our expulsion,” Esteban González Pons said.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on his Twitter account that the lawmakers had been advised several days ago they would not be allowed entry into the South American country.

Venezuela would “not permit the European extreme right to disturb the peace and stability of the country with another of its rude, interventionist actions,” he wrote.

There is growing pressure on Maduro at home and abroad to step down so that Guaido can head an interim government to organize free elections. Maduro, who retains the backing of Russia and China, says he is the victim of a coup.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: OANN

Alexis Mrachek | Heritage Foundation

Five years ago this month, while the world’s eyes were glued to the Sochi Olympics, Moscow mobilized “little green men” onto the Crimean peninsula to begin its short, illegal process of annexing it from Ukraine.

At first, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied these soldiers were Russian and called them “local self-defense units.” But later on, he proudly admitted they were Russian troops.

In April 2014, Russian soldiers, many of whom were also little green men, began seizing buildings in the Donbas region of Ukraine. This only heightened tensions in the region since Russian dissidents and separatist forces had started fighting Ukrainian soldiers in prior months. A full-scale war broke out in eastern Ukraine that continues to this day. It has claimed more than 10,000 lives, at least 2,800 of whom were civilians, and displaced over 1.5 million. And there appears to be no end to the war in sight.

Conflict between Russia and Ukraine has continued over the past five years, ebbing and flowing. Russia essentially treats the Black Sea as a Russian lake through its strong militarization of it. And in November 2018, conflict in the Black Sea boiled over.

On Nov. 25, 2018, Russian FSB border-patrol boats blocked three Ukrainian navy ships’ passage through the Kerch Strait, a narrow body of water separating the Azov Sea from the Black Sea. Russian forces then opened fire on the ships, boarded and seized them, and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors in the process.

The sailors hadn’t violated the law. The 2003 Treaty on the Legal Status of the Sea of Azov provides both Ukraine and Russia legal access to the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. Yet Russian authorities charged the sailors with “illegally crossing” Russia’s border on the Black Sea.

After placing the sailors in a Moscow detention center, Russian authorities said they would detain the sailors for two months, but on Jan. 16, the Lefortovo District Court extended their detention to April 24.

A couple of the sailors’ mothers were able to briefly see them on their court date in mid-January, but other than that instance, the sailors have been kept in seclusion in Moscow.

The soldiers’ detention is a reminder that Russia’s war with Ukraine continues on.

Ukraine holds its presidential elections next month, and Russia likely will attempt to meddle in any possible way. Thus, especially now, Western support for Ukraine is vital.

The Western community so far has taken action in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In the days following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the U.S. and EU imposed economic sanctions on Russia, and Canada followed suit just after. These Crimea-related sanctions remain in place today.

Furthermore, the U.S. Coast Guard this year will be providing two patrol boats to Ukraine in order to deter further Russian aggression in the Black Sea.

But today, 24 Ukrainian soldiers remain in Russian custody, and the West has been all but silent in addressing it. Russia’s detainment of them is a violation of human rights. The West must speak up about it, because it is what a true ally would do.

Alexis Mrachek is a research assistant for Russia and Eurasia in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

AP Explains: What are India's options after Kashmir attack

With India’s national elections barely months away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under heavy pressure from his supporters to punish nuclear-rival Pakistan for a suicide attack on an Indian paramilitary convoy that killed at least 41 soldiers in disputed Kashmir.

India placed the blame for Thursday’s bombing squarely on neighboring Pakistan, which India accuses of supporting rebels in Kashmir. Pakistan denies the charge. A look at some of the steps India is likely to consider:

DIPLOMATIC ISOLATION

India’s first public reaction to the attack was to withdraw the most-favored nation trade status given to Pakistan and take all possible diplomatic steps "to ensure the complete isolation from international community of Pakistan." New Delhi insists "incontrovertible evidence is available of (Pakistan) having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist incident." The Greater Kashmir newspaper reported that a militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, headquartered in Pakistan, claimed responsibility. India’s foreign ministry on Friday briefed New Delhi-based diplomats of key countries, including China, which has in the past blocked India’s proposal to list Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist by the United Nations. The ministry demanded Pakistan take "immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control to create conducive atmosphere in the region free of terror."

MILITARY STRIKES

After a 2016 attack on an Indian army base that killed 19 soldiers, India’s army said it carried out a campaign of "surgical strikes" against militants across the highly militarized frontier that divides the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. Pakistan dismissed the reports that India’s military had targeted "terrorist launch pads" inside the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. Islamabad said instead that two of its soldiers were killed in "unprovoked" firing by India across the border. Following the latest attack — the worst in Kashmir’s history — Modi warned that those behind it would pay a heavy price and that security forces have been given a free hand to act against terror. The Times of India newspaper reported Saturday that the military options — short of two nuclear-armed rivals going to war — could range from "shallow ground-based attacks and occupation of some heights along the Line of Control (cease-fire line) to restricted but precision airstrikes against non-state targets in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir." G.Parthasarthy, India’s former high commissioner to Pakistan, said a possible military response can’t be discussed in public. "We have said that Pakistan will pay a price. For obvious reasons we are not going to spell out how that cost would be imposed." Paul Staniland, a political science professor and South Asia expert at the University of Chicago, said that the Pakistan army is assuming it will be attacked and that Indian forces are preparing for a serious incursion of some sort.

DOMESTIC PRESSURE

Indian analysts say no political party could afford to neglect public opinion ahead of Indian elections. Already, protesters chanted "Attack Pakistan" and fiery debates on television channels demanded retaliation. "’I think the situation is extremely tense. The mood in the country is extremely angry at what has happened. And moreover there are elections in the offing. No party could afford to neglect public opinion,’" said Amitabh Mattoo, professor of international studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. Staniland said the stakes were too high for India to do nothing at all. "Modi is in a tricky position. Indian forces are quite capable but it’s not obvious what kinds of strikes would accomplish the core goal. Kashmir and Pakistan are among the few foreign policy topics that have real electoral resonance." Elections are scheduled to be held before May.

US RESPONSE

The U.S. singled out Pakistan in a statement condemning the attack and said it strengthened U.S. resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation with India. To improve India’s military capabilities, the U.S. has offered to sell it unarmed Guardian surveillance drones, aircraft carrier technologies and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft. There are sticking points, however, including the purchase by India of Iranian oil and the Russian S-400 ground-to-air missile system, which could trigger U.S. sanctions on India.

THE HIMALAYAN PUZZLE

Indian-controlled Kashmir has remained a challenge for India’s policymakers ever since the Himalayan territory was split between India and Pakistan shortly after the two archrivals gained independence in 1947. The territory has been at the heart of India’s two wars out of four the country fought against Pakistan and China. Human rights groups say India has been responding to public protest with disproportionate force while treating the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as Islamabad’s proxy war against New Delhi. New Delhi initially grappled with largely peaceful anti-India protests. However, a series of political blunders, broken promises and a crackdown on dissent led to Kashmir’s eruption into a full blown armed rebellion against India in 1989 for a united Kashmir, either under Pakistan rule or independent of both. The conflict has intensified since Modi came to power in 2014 amid rising attacks by Hindu hard-liners against minorities in India, further deepening frustration with New Delhi’s rule in the Muslim-majority Kashmir. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharitya Janata Party-led government has toughened its stance both against Pakistan and Kashmiri separatists. Policy experts say such an approach is intended to project the party as strong and uncompromising. But Modi’s policies have also had the unintended consequence of strengthening the resolve of those fighting for an end to India’s rule in Kashmir.

VIEW FROM PAKISTAN

After Imran Khan took over as Pakistani prime minister last August, he promised to take two steps forward for India’s one step to forge friendly ties. He said Kashmir is at the core of their differences and they have to end the tit-for-tat accusations. But the peace initiative remained a non-starter with violence rising in the Indian portion of Kashmir and India asking Pakistan to stop supporting insurgents. Khan has now proposed to hold talks with India after the Indian elections. The former cricketer is very popular in India. He recently offered to open a Sikh religious shrine for Indian visitors on the Pakistani side of the border in Punjab province as a peace gesture. But in September, India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a U.N. summit — a move that was termed "arrogant" by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides. India says it has not seen any constructive approach from Pakistan.

___

Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News World

National Emergencies not unprecedented

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 1:32 PM PT — Friday, February 15, 2019

The first declaration under the National Emergencies Act of 1974 came during the Iran hostage crisis, which is a national emergency that is still active today. Former President Jimmy Carter blocked Iranian government property from entering the country, a move which has been renewed each year by all presidents since then.

“The steps I’ve taken today are those that are necessary now, other action may become necessary if these steps don’t produce the prompt release of the hostages,” President Carter stated the day he declared it.

President Trump has already issued three national emergency declarations during his tenure. The most prominent one is meant to punish foreign actors who interfere in U.S. elections. He’s also invoked his emergency powers to slap sanctions of human rights abusers around the world as well as on members of the Nicaraguan government amid corruption charges.

In his eight years office, former President Barack Obama declared 12 states of national emergency. These declarations touched on subjects from the H1N1 virus and blocking property transfers to people with connections to certain countries. Nearly all of his national emergencies are still active today.

Before that, former President George W. Bush declared 13 emergencies and former President Clinton declared 17 national emergencies, most of which are still active today.

President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

In President Trump’s case, there’s two statutes that come to mind which allow the redirection of military construction funds. Questions remain as to whether building a border wall is actually a military construction project or whether the president can declare eminent domain over private property. However, even Democrat lawmakers have said he does, indeed, have the power to do so.

“Well unfortunately, the short answer is yeah, there is a provision in law that says the president can declare an emergency, its been done a number of times, but primarily its been done to build facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq,” stated Representative Adam Smith.

The problem for Democrats is many legal scholars aren’t sure who, if anyone, would have the legal standing to challenge such a declaration with a lawsuit.

Source: OANN Top News

“DARK MONEY” by Liberal Groups vs Conservative Groups : Guess who outspent who Liberal groups outspent Conservative ones in so-called “dark money” during the 2018 midterm election, for the first time since 2010. A report from Issue One, a bipartisan advocacy group, shows that liberal groups spent over half of the $150 million of dark […]

Not a Rickroll, honest.

Looks like this is it. I’ve been blogging here at the Daily Caller since the site launched, all the way back on January 11, 2010. But now it’s time for me to go.

Daily blogging can be a fun job, but it can also be a grind. Living on the Internet 24/7 has turned out to be kind of a bad idea. It seems to have driven everyone utterly insane. Everyone except me, of course! But spending every waking moment online, for years at a time, has taken its toll on me. Wading nostril-deep through the endless hostility and madness and dishonesty, being expected to have an instant “take” on every single thing that happens, every minute of every day, is exhausting.

I’m tired. Aren’t you tired?

I plan to keep writing, because otherwise I’ll need to get a real job. But I just can’t maintain the manic, unrelenting pace required to keep a blog viable in 2017. At the beginning of the year I was told to go from three posts a day to five (I did), on the theory that it would boost my traffic (it didn’t). I just don’t know how else to get more clicks. Recently I was given a month to do so, but I can’t crank out even more posts in a day, day after day, without sacrificing the minimal level of quality my readers expect.

And one month isn’t nearly enough time for me to get swole, so my “leaked” nude pics will drive traffic.

So, two weeks ago I gave my two weeks’ notice. I’m jumping on the ice floe before I’m pushed. But thanks to my old buddies at the State Department, I can still pay my bills for a while as I figure out what to do next. Who knows, I might even write something that I get a chance to think about first. Something that people might remember for more than five minutes. I’d like to give it a try, at least.

But I’m proud to have been a part of the Daily Caller since the beginning. I toughed it out through one ruined knee and two ruined elections. Many thanks to Neil Patel and Tucker Carlson for the opportunity they’ve given me. In return, I’ve done my best to express my honest point of view for almost 404(!) weeks. I’ve even tried to throw in a few laughs now and then. I hope you’ve enjoyed at least some of it.

If not, that’s fine too.

It’s for the best, really. I’m too old for this stuff anyway. I’m like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, but with much less handsome facial hair. Seven years is a long time, especially in an age where the average attention span is so short that you’re one of the few people still reading this.

If my Daily Caller e-mail address is no longer in service after today, you can reach me at jimtreacherLOL at gmail dot com. Drop me a line if you want to tell me how great I am, or offer me a job, or gloat at me, or whatever. It might be a while before I get back to you, though. As soon as I click Publish on this last post, I plan to take a break from the Internet for a while. I need to detox.

By the way, don’t go looking for me at jimtreacher dot com, because I no longer own that domain. I accidentally let it lapse a few months ago, because I’m a forgetful idiot, and recently somebody else snapped it up. Whatever you read on that site, which I will not link to, I’m not responsible for it. (I guess it’s karma for keitholbermann.com, which wasn’t my idea but has been my pleasure to help maintain.)

Maybe it’s a sign. I’ve been thinking about abandoning this dumb pen name anyway. I mean, “Jim Treacher”? Really? It started as a message-board pseudonym, and it just got way out of hand. I guess I should be glad I didn’t go with my first choice: “Hugh Jiddiot.”

Well, I guess that’s it. Thank you very much for reading the DC Trawler. I appreciate it more than I can say. It’s been an honor, a privilege, and sometimes even a hoot.

So long for now.

Your pal,
Sean Medlock, AKA “Jim Treacher”

Source: DC Trawler – The Daily Caller


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