US Policy Changes Vol.26 (National Security Vol.2 – Key posts, Europe…)

Here are articles on national security including Eastern Europe. Excerpts are on our own.

Donald Trump’s national-security team takes shape (11/26/2016) | @economist
… Despite General Mattis’s nickname, “Mad Dog” (earned for his aggression in combat and a talent for cheerfully menacing quotes), he is regarded as combining military dash with intellectual seriousness.
Moreover his views, expressed during his time spent as a scholar at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think-tank, contrast with Mr Trump’s zero-sum, transactional concept of foreign policy. “Like it or not, today we are part of this larger world and must carry out our part,” he said in testimony to the Senate armed services committee in 2015. “We cannot wait for problems to arrive here, or it will be too late; rather we must remain strongly engaged in this complex world.”
Generals Flynn and Mattis do have one other thing in common, in addition to their military service. Both were dumped before they were due to retire by the Obama administration. General Mattis was relieved of his command of CENTCOM…
General Mattis has continued to be a critic of Mr Obama’s foreign policy which, he believes, has emboldened Russia, China and Iran, who have exploited the president’s reluctance to apply America’s military power. If appointed, he would attempt to steer Mr Trump away from isolationism and deals with Vladimir Putin.
General Flynn is likely to push in the opposite direction. “We’re in a world war against a messianic mass-movement of evil people, most of them inspired by totalitarian ideology: radical Islam,” he wrote in a book published earlier this year. “But we are not permitted to speak or write those two words, which is potentially fatal to our culture.” In another passage, he asks: “Do you want to be ruled by men who eagerly drink the blood of their dying enemies?…There’s no doubt that they [Islamic State] are dead set on taking us over and drinking our blood.” …
General Flynn believes he was fired from his post as director of the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2014 because of pervasive political correctness within the Obama White House, which disliked his conflation of Islam with terrorism. It was also infuriated by his insistence that the war against jihadists was being lost, even as Mr Obama was trying to put it behind him.

Who is Monica Crowley, Trump’s latest national security team addition? (12/16/2016) | @storyhinckley @csmonitor
… Lt. Gen. Kellogg and Crowley will serve under the council’s previously announced leaders: retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser and K.T. McFarland as deputy national security adviser. …
As director of strategic communications, Mr. Rhodes ran the Iran-deal messaging campaign and negotiated the reopening of American-Cuban relations. …

Web of deals compromises Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn (12/17/2016) | @davidkski @smh
…FIG – by adding one senior executive whose firm does extensive cybersecurity work for government agencies and another who was soliciting defence department aviation contracts.
… In 2014, he founded his company with Bijan Kian, a prominent Iranian-American banker who served on the board of the Export-Import Bank, was a senior fellow at the US Naval Postgraduate School and a member of the White House Business Council. …
FIG worked as a lobbyist for Inovo BV, a Dutch company with close ties to Turkish President Recep Erdogan. When that arrangement was reported last month by The Daily Caller, Flynn responded by having FIG leave the field of lobbying and said he would “sever ties” with his company. …
He was re-elected to his paid position on the board of Drone Aviation on December 6…
…Jordan Libowitz @CREWcrew…

Michael Flynn, Trump’s new national security adviser, loves Russia as much as his boss does (11/21/2016) | @yochidreazen @voxdotcom
…. Democrats would have lashed into Flynn because he broke with the longstanding tradition of retired officers avoiding direct criticism of presidents they had served. Republicans would have pressed Flynn about Trump’s stated Russia policy, which is predicated on building closer ties with Putin despite the Russian strongman’s human rights violations and annexation of Crimea.
Republican lawmakers would also likely have grilled Flynn about his decision to do a paid series of events in Moscow…
During his July 9 2015 confirmation hearing to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. said, “Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security” and “could pose an existential threat to the United States.” ISIS was fourth on his list, behind China and North Korea.
… “The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gülen, who is running a scam,” Flynn wrote in an op-ed in The Hill. “We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.”

Trump Picks General “Mad Dog” Mattis for Secretary of Defense (12/5/2016) | Patrick Martin @CRG_CRM
… Though this requirement was immediately waived to allow for the appointment of General George Marshall in 1950, no former general has occupied the post in the past 66 years.
There is, however, no commitment to the basic democratic issue of civilian control of the military within the US political establishment. There is little opposition in Congress, in either party, to the passage of a waiver for Mattis.
… Within these circles, Mattis—who has differed with Trump on Russia—is seen as a counterweight to any tendency of the incoming administration to move away from the anti-Russia policy.
The only real concern expressed by the Times is “whether General Mattis intends to roll back military personnel policy changes adopted during the Obama administration, including opening all combat roles to women, allowing openly gay troops to serve and accommodating transgender troops.” …
US imperialism has been at war for most of the past 25 years, and continuously since 2001. Barack Obama, when he leaves office next January 20, will be the first president in American history to have been a wartime commander-in-chief for an entire eight years in office. It is not an accident that under such conditions, the military has come to play such a decisive role in national-security policy.

How Defense Secretary James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Will Remake The Pentagon (12/5/2016) | @lthompsonlex @Forbes
… Mattis is one of the most gifted warfighters of his generation, a highly decorated officer who has led troops in every major U.S. military campaign conducted since the new millennium began. That includes the occupation of Afghanistan, where he was the first marine ever to command a Naval Task Force in combat, and the invasion of Iraq, where he led the 1st Marine Division and then went on to command in both battles of Fallujah.
… He not only has an unsurpassed understanding of combat, he actually enjoys engaging in it. …James Mattis is the closest thing in modern America to the hard-charging General George S. Patton of World War Two fame…
… The NSC was originally conceived as a venue in which the most senior officials in the cabinet could meet to discuss security matters, not an independent player. …
… It’s a longstanding tradition in American politics to select service secretaries and other senior appointees with an eye to shoring up domestic political constituencies…
… Much of the time, congressional involvement in managing the Pentagon consists of thinly-veiled efforts to assist district-level interests at the expense of warfighters and taxpayers. …
…none of the “leap-ahead” technologies being discussed would have made much difference there, but cultural and language training would have helped a lot. …
… He will be more inclined to see air power and sea power as means for supporting the primary battle on land, rather than as alternatives to ground combat. …
… He knows Europe is mostly an Army theater, but the handful of Army units that would face an invading Russian army are so lacking in force protection, air defense, electronic warfare and the like that they are an invitation to aggression.
… Mattis knows that preparing for war is the most effective way of keeping the peace. … “No better friend, no worse enemy.”

Putin’s Russia seeks to project power with modern military (12/6/2016) | ‏@visachenkov @washingtonpost
… While all men aged 18 to 27 still face a mandatory year of military service, Russia increasingly is attracting volunteers for at least two years and building a culture emphasizing the military as a career.
While conscripts are paid a paltry 2,000 rubles ($31) a month, those signing contracts for longer tours of duty receive 10 times the starting pay and extra privileges. Promotion to sergeant could mean a monthly paycheck of around 40,000 rubles ($620), better than average civilian wages.
… At the start of the decade, the Kremlin pledged to spend 20 trillion rubles (more than $300 billion) on defense through 2020…
Last year alone, Russia spent a record 3.1 trillion rubles ($48 billion) on defense, 25 percent higher than in 2014 and more than a fifth of Russia’s entire budget. Russian forces received 35 nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 240 warplanes and helicopters, and nearly 1,200 tanks and other armored vehicles — a growth in Russia’s arsenal unseen since Soviet times.
… @DmitriTrenin said the prospect of personal rapport between Trump and Putin “could mean a better way to manage a fairly difficult relationship.”
… (Pavel Felgenhauer) “The Russian military,” he said, “has a vested interest right now in having more and more confrontation with the West.”

Finland walks a 1,300 kilometer fine-line with Russia (10/30/2016) | @herszenhorn @POLITICOPro
… Finnish officials said they shared a desire for greater cooperation, but that joining NATO was not an imminent consideration and that they also planned to keep up their good relations with the big neighbor next door.
…Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö, said he would refrain from offering any specific advice, either to the West or to Ukraine…
Niinistö, however, said he believed NATO’s increased presence was helping, especially in calming nearby NATO members unnerved by Russia’s recent moves.
“Yes, we have relatively good relationship with Russia and Finland’s view on this enhanced forward presence is that we think it’s good for the security of the Baltic Sea region,” Niinistö said. “We hope it calms things down and there will be no escalation.”
… Niinistö said it was important for countries to remember that being a partner of NATO is not the same as being member of the alliance, which carries the protection of the common defense clause — Article 5 of the NATO treaty. …

Poland: Russia seeks ‘new empire’ in Europe (11/25/2016) | @apsyrtus @euobs
…Witold Waszczykowski, the Polish foreign minister… said the fall of the Soviet empire “to an ever greater extent appears to have been a temporary situation, and not a definitive end in history”.
He said Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and of Ukraine in 2014 showed that “Russia is ready to resort to military force against her neighbouring sovereign states”.
…@iiea…
… Flanagan, the Irish foreign minister, said Polish relations had “grown hugely in recent years” and that “the Polish community is an extremely valued and integral part of Irish society”.
Ireland and Poland also have special ties with the US. …

What are Moscow’s expectations for Slovakia and the EU? (7/9/2016) | Ruslan Kostyuk @Russia_Direct
… Even before the voting in the UK, the center-left government of Slovakia announced four key priorities of its future EU presidency…
The first of these priorities is the promotion of investment and the future economic development of the EU. … For this purpose, in particular, it is important to strengthen the European fund for strategic investments and activities, and move more quickly towards a common banking union.
Secondly… the formation of an Energy Union within the EU and the launch of a single digital market. The third… the immigration agenda.
The fourth priority, called “Europe, fully integrated into the global environment,” to a greater extent than the other priorities, should be of particular interest to Russian diplomats.
While the first three priorities are at least tangentially linked to the domestic political goals of the Slovak government of Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia, the foreign policy direction of the Slovak presidency has almost no specific goals.

… As Grigoriy Sejnikov, head of the Slovak Institute for Social Problems, noted, “Slovakia is part of the integration system created by NATO.” Therefore, the position of the foreign policy program during Slovakia’s presidency of the EU seems quite clear: The Slovak presidency will help strengthen the strategic partnership between the EU and the U.S.
…a few months before Slovakia assumed its new role in the EU, Alexey Ulyukaev, the minister of Economic Development of Russia, said that Moscow is expecting to improve relations with the EU during the period of the Slovak presidency.
… According to historian Yulia Tscherbakova, Slovakia “is of great importance to Moscow, in terms of the transit of Russian energy resources directly to the West.” This is true, but then again, Slovakia itself is almost 90 percent dependent on Russian supplies of oil, gas and nuclear fuel. …
Many Slovak businessmen, politicians and parliamentarians agree with Fico’s point of view – that sanctions are counterproductive for Russia, as well as for the entire European Union.
At the same time, the current president of Slovakia, center-right politician Andrej Kiska, is a firm supporter of maintaining the sanctions regime against Russia, considering that the Baltic countries and Ukraine are in need of protection by the “collective West” against the aggressive encroachments of…

Shootout raises fears over Russian ties to Hungary’s far right (11/27/2016) | @aqbyrne @FT
… What was less well known was the far-right militia’s multiple ties to Russian secret services. “We don’t believe this attack was a plot orchestrated by the Russian government,” said Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, a Budapest think-tank. “But there are strong suspicions…
… “It’s not about classical espionage, but rather manipulation of the press, the public and the political system,” he said, arguing that groups like the MNA can be used to destabilise politics. “The Russians are using totally different weapons to create an alternative reality. …
… Russian support to militants had been known for years but the government’s strong political links with Moscow and fears of an economic backlash had… Hungary’s heavy reliance on Russian gas and the €10bn in Kremlin funding to build two Russian-designed nuclear reactors in Paks, by far the largest investment in Hungary in years. Prime minister Viktor Orban, who enjoys cordial relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin…
… Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, said he would await a full report from authorities before making any formal diplomatic complaint. …

EU should recognise Romania as bulwark against Russian expansionism (12/8/2016) | @NTenzer (@CERAP_Paris) @EurActiv
… First of all, the new cabinet must reaffirm Romania’s willingness to remain faithful to NATO and the EU. …
We should not forget that Russia now encircles Romania with new puppet presidents and that Russian troops stationed in Crimea are just 250 kilometres from Romania’s Black Sea coast.
Secondly, the future cabinet must ensure that its economic program is ambitious enough to give hopes to Romanians suffering through low wages and pensions, without undermining the budgetary balance. …
Thirdly, the new cabinet should be truly committed to pushing forward European and liberal values. Any complacency on populism and illiberalism…
Fourthly… Romania should show a true concern to push for a sustainable reform of the EU in the context of Brexit and the threats to media freedoms and the values of tolerance and openness being aired in Hungary and Poland.
… Romania will chair the European Council’s rotating presidency in early 2019, exactly when the UK and the EU are expected to finish Brexit negotiations. …

Pro-Russian candidates win presidential votes in Bulgaria and Moldova (11/14/2016) | @RolandOliphant @telegraph

The new presidents of Bulgaria and Moldova are less pro-Russian than advertised (11/14/2016) | @economist
… Victoria Bucataru of the Foreign Policy Association, a Moldovan think-tank, suspects that Mr Dodon and Mr Plahotniuc had “a secret alliance” to stop Ms Sandu and her reform agenda. …
Mr Radev was supported by Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish community, whose main party has close links both to domestic oligarchs and to Russian businesses. Bulgaria’s Socialists are supported by conservative pensioners and the Moscow-linked Orthodox Church. Yet in previous governments, the party assented to hosting American military bases in Bulgaria and embraced NATO membership.
Dimitar Bechev of Harvard University says the country “can have its cake and eat it too,” by remaining a loyal member of the EU and NATO while reaching out to Russia… “Until recently, I flew a Soviet jet fighter. I graduated from an American academy. But I am a Bulgarian general. My cause is Bulgaria.”
… But the reality is that politics in both countries is driven by domestic forces, most prominently oligarchs’ efforts to secure their financial interests. Their leaders are well versed in the art of playing the West and Russia against each other. …

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