Posted by DanielS on Saturday, 18 March 2017 22:51.
Visigrad Post, “V. Orbán: “Hungary is in a State of Siege”, March 2017:
Hungary – Migrants are detained, police and army reinforced, and a second fence set up at the border. There is less talk of migrants arriving through the Balkans, yet Hungary is getting ready for a new wave. For Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Hungary is in a state of siege.
Hungary “shouldn’t risk changing the basic ethnic character of the country,” he recently reaffirmed during an intervention at the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, convinced that this would lead to a ” depreciation of its value “and to “chaos “.
“How to do this?” he asked. “First, by preserving ethnic homogeneity. One can say such things now, which you would have been executed for during the past few years, as life has proven that too much mixing causes trouble,” he said.
However, the Hungarian Prime Minister is not opposed to immigration, despite everything. And he is even more in favor of immigration — if it comes from Europe. Whether it is Ukrainian from the Eastern part of the country, or Westerners in Budapest. His recent remarks inviting with a note of sarcasm the Western refugees in Hungary did not pass unnoticed.
On the other hand, Viktor Orbán is firmer than ever on non-European immigration, and in particular illegal immigration.
Hungary in a state of siege
The border barrier, erected during the summer of 2015, is being reinforced by a second fence. Equipped with various electronic devices to improve the surveillance and reactivity of the territorial protection forces, this second barrier should make the border impermeable. This is at least what the Hungarian government hopes, fearing a new wave of migrants.
“We can not take it easy, now we are also in a state of siege, and even if the migratory wave has diminished, it has not stopped,” said Prime Minister Orbán in front of new police recruits who took the oath to defend Hungary at the risk of their lives, if necessary.
For the strong man of Budapest, security is the precondition for Hungary and Europe to have a bright future. Security, and the rule of law.
“Laws must apply equally for everyone, also for those migrants who come here, and no kind of foolish human rights mumbo jumbo can overwrite this.”
“Immigration is the Trojan horse of terrorism,” recalled Mr Orbán. “We can not count on Brussels and on the European Union. They only make the task harder for us. We can only rely on ourselves,” he said in front of the young recruits of the border hunters.
New treatments of migrants
Hungary has also taken it upon herself to openly contravene certain international conventions, as evidenced by criticism from the EU and the UN. But this is fully assumed.
Henceforth, Hungary systematically expells any clandestine intercepted on her soil. Their return to Serbia is automatic. Asylum seekers are now detained in closed centers, where they are housed in containers, in order to prevent fraudsters from using this procedure only to enter the EU and then to continue their illegal journey, as did almost unanimously the “asylum seekers”.
Meanwhile, the globalist press is trying to pass off the Hungarian guards as sadistic and malicious torturers, using “proof” like photos and testimonies of migrants in Serbia. But this new, unfounded and disproportionate attack will not affect the government, strongly supported by the Hungarian population on the issue of migration.
According to Viktor Orbán, Hungary is today one of the safest countries in Europe. And he intends to preserve this asset in order to lead the country towards the economic revolution he intends to undertake.
Among many other colourful characters, Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments
include two protectionist and anti-China hardliners, Robert Lighthizer
and Peter Navarro, who sit at the helm of US trade and industry policy.
That decision confirms a belligerent change of tack in Sino–American
economic relations. But what are the implications for Australia?
A number of monetary economists, including
Saul Eslake, have warned that a potential escalation to a full-blown
China–US trade war poses the single biggest economic threat to Australia.
That position argues that the already struggling global economy can’t
face a superpower trade war, likely to be triggered by the Trump
administration at the monetary level, when the RMB/USD exchange rate
will reach the unprecedented level of 7 to 1 (it’s currently sitting at
around 6.9). Furthermore, a falling Chinese currency combined with
protectionist measures in the US will dampen the Chinese economy by way
of reduced volumes of exports and higher interest rates that will
spread across the Asia–Pacific. According to such reasoning, that could
have negative impacts for Australia’s economy; prices for iron ore,
coal and natural gas could possibly drop—we’ll know by the middle of
However, it’s questionable that such crisis would be
detrimental to Australia. In fact, focusing on monetary dynamics alone
fails to capture the role of industrial production and regulatory
arrangements in the global supply chain.
On the contrary, after triangulating the trade and
industrial data of the US, China and Australia and considering the
current trade regulatory framework, there are substantial reasons to
argue that Australia is well placed to fill the gaps left by a wrecked
US–China trade relationship at the best of its industrial capacity.
Australia is indeed one of a handful of countries to have solid free
trade agreements in place with both the US and China.
Australia’s rocks and crops economy—in particular the
growing productivity potential of its agricultural and mining sectors—is strong enough to
rise above global monetary tensions and falling commodity prices,
thanks to rising export volumes to both the US and China. It appears
that the harder the two superpowers use their trade relations as
leverage in their strategic competition, the harder they’ll need to
look for other sources to sustain their industrial production levels
and corporate supply chain.
In a trade war scenario, the possible initial hiccups in the
global supply chain will likely be short-lived. In fact, let’s consider
that about half of US imports are estimated to be made of intra-firm trade, and that
protectionist measures from abroad tend to have insignificant effects
on the production input of Chinese State-owned firms.
Thus, multinational corporations are proven to be particularly adept at
quickly replacing the flows of
their industrial production and distribution, as is shown by history.
In other words, in the event of a Sino–American crisis, the
major trading actors in both countries will be able and willing to
promptly move their business somewhere else.
Thanks to the existing spaghetti bowl of international
economic partnerships, Australia is in prime position to be this
“somewhere else” for both countries. In fact, Australia is the second
largest economy and Sino–American trading partner of the only six
countries that have in place free trade agreements with both the US and China, including South Korea,
Singapore, Chile, Peru and Costa Rica.
The LNG example clearly shows that Australia’s economy would
benefit from a contained US–China trade crisis. Nevertheless, should
that trade crisis escalate beyond the economy, Australia’s luck may run
The Chinese leadership doesn’t hide the fact that promoting
international economic integration outside of the US control serves the
purpose of carving greater geopolitical autonomy and
flexibility in the global decision-making processes. Beside
Trump’s trade policy, Xi Jinping’s diplomatic strategy may also speed
up the end of the US–China detente initiated by Nixon and Kissinger in
the 1970s. It remains to be seen whether China will also
pursue hard-line policies to push the US outside of the Asia–Pacific.
In that instance, Australia would be caught between a rock and
a hard place.
If the US–China trade war were to escalate to the
geopolitical level, the American order in the Asia–Pacific would enter
uncharted waters. For one thing, such an unsavoury development may
compel Australia to make a clear choice between trading with China and
preserving America’s security patronage.
Giovanni Di Lieto lectures International Trade Law
at Monash University.
One of the most interesting things about all this is that
while Australia is going to be compelled to make that choice, the
choice has essentially already been made through the pattern
of trade relationships which Australian politicians have chosen to
The only way that Australia would choose the United States in
that scenario, would be if Australians decided that they would like to
deliberately take a massive economic dive so that they can ‘Make
America Great Again’ even though that is not their country, and so that
they can avoid being called ‘anti-White’ by the legions of anonymous
Alt-Right trolls roaming around on Twitter using Robert Whitacker’s
‘mantra’ on anyone who won’t support the geostrategic and geoeconomic
intertests of the United States, the Russian Federation, and Exxonmobil
Given that we know that Australians don’t care about America
or Russia more than they care about the economic prosperity of their
own country, the outcome is already baked into the cake. AFR
carried an article last year which can be used to forecast what is
likely to happen, and I’ll quote it in full here now:
It has lifted living standards, grown Australia’s economy
and created thousands of jobs.
While it is becoming more popular to denounce globalisation
and flirt with protectionism, we cannot turn our back on free trade.
Australia’s economy has withstood global challenges and
recorded 25 years of continuous growth because we’re open to the world.
Since Australia’s trade barriers came down, we’ve
reaped the rewards.
Trade liberalisation has lifted the income of
households by around $4500 a year and boosted the country’s gross
domestic product by 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, creating thousands of
One in five jobs now involve trade-related activities. This
will grow as liberalised trade gives our producers, manufacturers and
services providers better access to billions of consumers across the
globe, not just the 24 million who call Australia home.
However, not everyone sees the value of free trade. Some see
it, and the forces of globalisation, as a threat to their standard of
living, rather than an opportunity to improve it.
When it comes to free trade, we often hear about the bad but
not the good.
The nature of news means the factory closing gets more
coverage than the one opening.
Chances are you heard about the Ford plant closing, but not
the $800 million Boeing has invested in Australia and the 1200 people
who work at their Port Melbourne facility.
You may have heard about Cubbie Station, but not heard that
its purchase staved off bankruptcy, and has since seen millions of
dollars invested in upgrades of water-saving infrastructure, a doubling
of contractors, more workers, and of course, money put into the local
economy supporting jobs and local businesses.
Key to attracting investment, jobs
The free trade agreements the Coalition
concluded with the North Asian powerhouse economies of China, Japan and
Korea are key to attracting investment and creating more local jobs.
The Weilong Grape Wine Company has said the China-Australia
Free Trade Agreement is the reason it’s planning to build a new plant
This is a story being played out across the country.
Businesses large and small, rural and urban,
are taking advantage of the preferential market access the FTAs offer
Aussie businesses into the giant, growing markets of North Asia.
Australian Honey Products is building a new factory in
Tasmania to meet the demand the trifecta of FTAs has created.
Owner Lindsay Bourke says the free trade agreements have
been “wonderful” for his business. “We know that we are going
to grow and it’s enabled us to employ more people, more local
people,” he said.
It is the same story for NSW skincare manufacturer Cherub
Rubs, who will have to double the size of their factory. “The free
trade agreements with China and Korea really mean an expansion, which
means new Australian jobs manufacturing high-quality products,” said
Cherub CEO John Lamont.
It is easy to see why the three North Asian FTAs are
forecast to create 7,900 jobs this year, according to modelling
conducted by the Centre for International Economics.
Australia has a good story when it comes to free trade. In
the past three years, net exports accounted for more than half of
Australia’s GDP growth.
Exports remain central to sustaining growth
and economic prosperity. Last year exports delivered $316 billion to
our economy, representing around 19 per cent of GDP.
This underscores the importance of free trade
and why it is a key element of the Turnbull Government’s national
The Coalition is pursuing an ambitious trade
agenda, and more free trade agreements, to ensure our economy keeps
growing and creating new jobs.
On Friday I arrive in Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting.
Free trade will be at front of everyone’s mind.
With the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
looking grim, my ministerial counterparts and I will work to conclude a
study on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which sets
out agreed actions towards a future free trade zone.
We will also work to finalise a services road map, which
will help grow Australian services exports in key markets including
education, finance and logistics.
More to be done
The Coalition has achieved a lot when it comes to free
trade, but there is more to do.
Momentum is building for concluding a free trade agreement
with Indonesia, work towards launching free trade agreement
negotiations with the European Union continues, we’ve
established a working group with the United Kingdom that will scope out
the parameters of a future ambitious and comprehensive Australia-UK FTA
and we’re continuing to negotiate the Regional Comprehensive Economic
Partnership (RCEP), which brings together 16 countries that account for
almost half of the world’s population.
The Turnbull government will continue to pursue an ambitious
free trade agenda to keep our economy growing and creating more jobs.
Meanwhile Opposition Leader Bill Shorten continues to build
the case for Labor’s embrace of more protectionist policies, claiming
he will learn the lessons of the US election where it featured heavily.
What Labor doesn’t say though is that by adopting a closed
economy mindset, they will close off the investment and jobs flowing
from free trade. They’re saying no to Boeing’s $800 million investment
in Australia and the Cubbie Station improvements; they’re saying no to
businesses like Cherub Rubs and Australian Honey Products building new
factories and the many local jobs they will create.
Steven Ciobo is the Minister for Trade, Tourism
What’s not to love about all this?
I really think I love Anglo-Saxons. This is going to be fun,
When Mr. Ciobo spoke of ‘a working group with the
United Kingdom that will scope out the parameters of a future ambitious
and comprehensive Australia-UK FTA’, he was not joking. That
is happening and it is likely going to be another
window that the UK will have into the formation of both RCEP and FTAAP,
even though technically the UK is not physically in the Indo-Asian
I have also written an article today called, ‘US
Government to build American competitiveness atop socio-economic
retrogression and misery.’ It’s crucial to understand that
time is of the essence, since the Americans are at the present moment
in relative disarray compared to the rest of us. The Americans have not
yet tamed and pacified the various economic actors in their own
country, they are still working on that, and they also have yet to form
a coherent internationalist counter-narrative to the one that is being
enunciated by the governments of Britain, Australia, New Zealand,
Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and so on.
Some of you may be mystified by that statement. What do I mean
that the Americans don’t have a coherent ‘internationalist
counter-narrative’? I mean that while they are capable of explaining
and rationalising their own position as a narrowly ‘America first’
position in a way that is pleasing to Americans,
they are not able to export that view to regular
people anywhere else in a way that would induce
any other European-demography country to comply with America’s
After all, if the Alt-Right people are going to careen all
over the internet essentially screaming, “put America first ahead of
your own country’s interests or be accused of White genocide”, and
alternately equally absurdly, “you’re an evil Russophobe who supports
White genocide if you invested in BP instead of Exxon”, then they
should not expect that they are going to win the sympathy of anyone who
is neither American nor Russian.
I want to say to British people, to Australians, to New
Zealanders, to Canadians, Commonwealth citizens in general, that you
know, it’s been a long time since you’ve taken your own side.
This coming phase is going to be a time when it will become possible to
do precisely that.
The time is fast approaching when it will be possible to
choose neither America nor Russia. You’ll be able
to finally choose yourselves and your own geoeconomic interests, and
you’ll be able to choose to trade and associate with whoever else in
the world you want to trade and associate with.
Kumiko Oumae works in the defence and security sector in the UK. Her opinions here are entirely her own.
In spite of its own internal issues, like every other European nation has, Poland refuses to take a single refugee because of ‘security’ fears. Poland has accepted less asylum-seekers per capita than almost any other European nation.
Poland will not be accepting a single refugee “because there is no mechanism that would ensure safety”, the most powerful politician in the country has said.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. PiS takes a nationalist, right-wing stance on most issues, vocally opposing EU plans to house and feed refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and other humanitarian crises.
In a political broadcast published on YouTube, he said: “After recent events connected with acts of terror, [Poland] will not accept refugees because there is no mechanism that would ensure security.”
The European Union has recently suggested that countries should be asked to accept a quota of refugees, or pay €250,000 (£200,000) for each asylum-seeker they turn away.
The money raised would be given to countries such as Greece, Germany and Italy who are currently housing a disproportionately high number of refugees.
But Mr Kaczynski also spoke out in opposition to these plans, which would see Poland asked to meet a quota of 6500 refugees or provide over €1.6bn (£1.25bn) in support for the humanitarian effort.
“Such a decision would abolish the sovereignty of EU member states – of course, the weaker ones,” he said. “We don’t agree to that, we have to oppose that, because we are and we will be in charge in our own country,”
Since taking control of the Polish government in 2015, the autocratic PiS has seized control of state media and the civil service, as well as passing a law to cripple the Polish supreme court by landing it with an unworkable caseload.
In 2015, Mr Kaczynski claimed that refugees were bringing “various parasites and protozoa” to Europe, including dysentery and cholera. PiS were elected on a vehemently anti-refugee and Eurosceptic platform.
With a population of nearly 40,000,000, Poland has a lower quota than other large European nations, though it is also a relatively poor country.
Last year, Eurostat found Poland accepted just 0.21 asylum-seekers per 1000 citizens, compared to 0.5 per thousand in the United Kingdom or 8.43 in Sweden.
Posted by Kumiko Oumae on Wednesday, 08 March 2017 23:27.
An interesting story appeared at ASPI today, regular people
have now become aware of the existence of the ‘left of launch’
strategy. Which you can read about at the links included in the Cyber
wrap 154 which I’ve reproduced in full below.
The utility of having people know about the ‘left of launch’
strategy is that it even further reduces the
credibility of any of Donald Trump’s feigned hyperventilating about the
alleged (and in fact non-existent) ‘threat’ of
Iran ever attaining a nuclear weapon, much less
having the ability to use such a weapon against
Armed with this information, it is possible for people to go
out into the world and make the case that even if one
were to entertain the idea that Iran were willing to create some
improbable doomsday scenario, there is no need for anyone to send a
single American aircraft, tank, or armoured patrol vehicle anywhere
near Iran in order to avert such a scenario.
If Donald Trump and his supporters continue to behave like
Iran is a ‘major nuclear threat’ despite the existence of the ‘left of
launch’ strategy in public view, there is only one place that such a
ridiculous narrative can be actually originating from, and that place is Israel.
That is the case which should be made over and over again, until it
becomes a kind of mantra.
Welcome back to your weekly fix of cyber news, analysis and
The New York Times reported last Saturday that, back
in 2013, President Barack Obama ordered cyber sabotage operations
against Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The persistently high failure rate of
the US’s kinetic antimissile weapons, despite significant investment,
reportedly prompted Obama to consider a cyber supplement. The project
to pre-emptively undermine missiles in their development stages, known
as a ‘left of launch’ strategy, receives
dedicated resources at the Pentagon and is now President Trump’s to
play with. However, experts are concerned that this kind
offensive approach sets a dangerous precedent for Beijing
and Moscow, particularly if they believe that US cyber operations could
successfully undermine their nuclear deterrence capability.
Staying stateside, the future of the NSA’s spying powers are
under scrutiny this week as
elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) approach
sunset. Section 702 of the Act forms the
basis for the NSA’s monitoring of foreign nationals’ communications
around the globe in the interests of national security. It was under
this FISA authority that the US’s infamous “big brother” program PRISM—revealed in the Snowden
disclosures of 2013—was established.
While the legislation is designed for foreign targets, there
have long been concerns it could be used to surveil US citizens through
their contact with foreigners. Human rights advocates such as the
American Civil Liberties Union are protesting the renewal of this
legislation in defence of international privacy. The issue also has the
trans-Atlantic data-sharing agreement on thin ice, especially given
that EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova has made it clear that she ‘will not hesitate’ to suspend the
painstakingly crafted arrangement should the US fail to uphold its
stringent privacy requirements.
That task may be even more difficult after WikiLeaks’
overnight release of a dossier, dubbed ‘Vault 7’,
detailing the CIA’s cyber espionage tools and techniques. WikiLeaks
released over 8,000 documents it claims were
taken from a CIA computer network in the agency’s Center for Cyber
Intelligence. The documents detail the agency’s expansive and sophisticated
cyber espionage capability, including compromising the security common
devices and apps including Apple iPhones, Google’s Android software and
Samsung televisions to collect intelligence.
China’s Foreign Ministry and the Cyberspace Administration
China this week launched the country’s first International
Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace. The Strategy outlines
China’s basic principles for cyber diplomacy and its strategic goals in
cyberspace. Encouragingly, the Foreign Ministry’s Coordinator for
Cyberspace Affairs Long Zhao stated that ‘enhancing deterrence,
pursuing absolute security and engaging in a cyber arms race…is a road
to nowhere’. Unsurprisingly, the Strategy offers strong support for the
concept of cyber sovereignty, stating that ‘countries should respect
each other’s right to choose their own path of cyber development’, and
emphasises the importance of avoiding cyberspace becoming ‘a new
battlefield’. You can read a full English language version of the
The revelation that the Australian
Signals Directorate (ASD) was temporarily forced to rely on diesel
generators during last month’s heat wave has prompted the government to
significantly upgrade to the agency’s infrastructure. The Minister
Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security told Parliament on
Wednesday that it was recommended by ActewAGL and the NSW Department of
Environment that ASD switch to back up power on 10 February as part of
state-wide load shedding to protect power supplies. The new $75 million
project, funded by the Defence Integrated Investment Program, is
intended to bolster the intelligence agency’s resilience.
Several cyber incidents have kept the internet on its toes
this week. The Amazon Simple Storage Service cloud hosting service went
down last week, knocking hundreds of thousands of popular
websites and apps offline. The disruptive incident, originally
described by the company as ‘increased error rates’, was
actually not the result of cyber criminals
or hacktivists, but that of an employee’s fat fingers entering a
command incorrectly—whoops! Yahoo is in the doghouse (again) with the
awkward announcement in its annual report to the Security and
Exchange Commission that 32 million customer accounts are thought to
have been compromised through forged cookies. This isn’t to be confused
with the entirely separate and very
embarrassing loss of 1 billion accounts in a 2013 breach, which
recently cost the company $350 million in its acquisition deal with Verizon and CEO Marissa
Mayer her annual cash bonus. And if you’ve been
tracking the #cloudbleed saga, catch up with
some post-mortems here, here and here.
Finally we’ve got you covered for your weekly cyber research
reads. A new Intel report, written by the Centre for Strategic and
International Studies, examines the discrepancies in cyberspace that
put defenders at a disadvantage. Titled Tilting the Playing Field: How
Misaligned Incentives Work Against Cybersecurity,
the report reveals the gaps between attackers vs. defenders, strategy
vs. implementation and executives vs. implementers, offering
recommendations to overcome such obstacles. And get your fix of
statistics from PwC’s annual Digital IQ assessment based on a
survey of more than 2,000 executives from across the world. The
research reveals that only 52% of companies consider their corporate
Digital IQ to be ‘strong,’ a considerable drop from 67% last year.
Posted by DanielS on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 15:56.
Ferenc Almássy and Norbert Hofer in Vienna. II.2017
Visigrad Post, “Norbert Hofer: the FPÖ is Likely to be the First Party at the Next Elections and We’ll Get Closer to the Visegrád Countries”, 8 Feb 2017:
Austria – Interview with Norbert G. Hofer, member of the FPÖ, the Austrian national-liberal party: “The FPÖ will probably be the first party at the next elections […] If we manage to govern, there will also be a very close contact with the states of Visegrád.” The outgoing candidate in the second round of the Austrian presidential elections in 2016, Norbert Hofer, received the Visegrád Post in his office of the Austrian parliament.
We talked about the United States, Russia, China, energy, hyperloop, the Habsburg Empire and the Order of St. George.
Interview conducted in Vienna on 3 February 2017 by Ferenc Almássy.
Ferenc Almássy: The news prompts me to start with this question. Donald Trump is now President of the United States. If he implements what he has promised to do, and it seems to be well on its way, the United States should move towards more isolationism, but also possibly towards cooperation with Russia. What are the consequences for Europe, particularly Central Europe? And what do you hope, or do you fear, regarding Austria?
Norbert Hofer: I do not think that the US will be isolated. But I believe that they will do everything they can in order to bring production back to America, because this is supposed to secure the jobs in the US. And I believe that Europe must react to it, because if Europe does not do everything in its power to become economically stronger again and remembers what the founding fathers – Charles de Gaulle, Adenauer – wanted this European Union, this European Community to become, namely economically strong cooperating states, so that they could work together for mutual understanding and avoid leading to war against each other.
Here Europe must react and we must also try to bring production back to Europe. More and more enterprises are leaving our continent, going somewhere else; but people have to live from something, and it is wise to produce here and not in countries where there are fewer environmental requirements, where there are fewer social requirements.
The idea that you are producing where the goods are needed is, from my point of view, the correct path, and this is where Europe must concentrate upon, in all friendship with the USA, in all friendship with Russia, and also in friendship with China. But states represent interests and also the European Union must represent interests, namely the interests of the domestic economy, of the domestic workers and the consumers who live here. This is what we must pay attention to.
Posted by DanielS on Sunday, 12 February 2017 08:49.
TomDispatch: “Is President Trump Headed for a War with China?” All Options Are “On The Table” - Rajan Menon, 12 Feb 2017:
Forget those “bad hombres down there” in Mexico that U.S. troops might take out. Ignore the way National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran “on notice” and the new president insisted, that, when it comes to that country, “nothing is off the table.” Instead, focus for a moment on something truly scary: the possibility that Donald Trump’s Washington might slide into an actual war with the planet’s rising superpower, China. No kidding. It could really happen.
Let’s start with silver-maned, stately Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state. Who could deny that the former ExxonMobil CEO has a foreign minister’s bearing? Trump reportedly chose him over neocon firebrand John Bolton partly for that reason. (Among other things, Bolton was mustachioed, something the new president apparently doesn’t care for.) But an august persona can only do so much; it can’t offset a lack of professional diplomatic experience.
That became all-too-apparent during Tillerson’s January 11th confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was asked for his view on the military infrastructure China has been creating on various islands in the South China Sea, the ownership of which other Asian countries, including Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei claim as well . China’s actions, he replied, were “extremely worrisome,” likening them to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, an infraction for which Russia was slapped with economic sanctions.
The then-secretary-of-state-designate — he’s since been confirmed, despite many negative votes — didn’t, however, stop there. Evidently, he wanted to communicate to the Chinese leadership in Beijing that the new administration was already irked beyond measure with them. So he added, “We’re going to have to send China’s leaders a clear signal: that, first, the island building stops and, second, your access to those islands is not going to be allowed.” Functionally, that fell little short of being an announcement of a future act of war, since not allowing “access” to those islands would clearly involve military moves. In what amounted to a there’s-a-new-sheriff-in-town warning, he then doubled down yet again, insisting, slightly incoherently (in the tradition of his new boss) that “the failure of a response has allowed them to just keep pushing the envelope on this.”
All right, so maybe a novice had a bad day. Maybe the secretary-of-state-to-be simply ad-libbed and misspoke… whatever. If so, you might have expected a later clarification from him or from someone on the Trump national security team anyway.
That didn’t happen; instead, that team stuck to its guns. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made no effort to add nuance to, let alone walk back, Tillerson’s remarks. During his first official press briefing on January 23rd, Spicer declared that the United States “is going to make sure we defend our interests there” — in the South China Sea, that is — and that “if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yes, we are going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
And what of Trump’s own views on the island controversy? Never one to pass up an opportunity for hyperbole, during the presidential campaign he swore that, on those tiny islands, China was building “a military fortress the likes of which the world has not seen.” As it happened, he wasn’t speaking about, say, the forces that Hitler massed for the ill-fated Operation Barbarossa, launched in June 1941 with the aim of crushing the Red Army and the Soviet Union, or those deployed for the June 1944 Normandy landing, which sealed Nazi Germany’s fate. When applied to what China has been up to in the South China Sea, his statement fell instantly into the not-yet-named category of “alternative facts.”
Candidate Trump also let it be known that he wouldn’t allow Beijing to get away with such cheekiness on his watch. Why had the Chinese engaged in military construction on the islands? Trump had a simple answer (as he invariably does): China “has no respect for our president and no respect for our country.” The implication was evident. Things would be different once he settled into the White House and made America great again. Then — it was easy enough to conclude — China had better watch out.
Standard campaign bombast? Well, Trump hasn’t changed his tune a bit since being elected. On December 4th, using (of course!) his Twitter account, he blasted Beijing for having built “a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea.” And it’s safe to assume that he signed off on Spicer’s combative comments as well.
In short, his administration has already drawn a red line — but in the way a petulant child might with a crayon. During and after the campaign he made much of his determination to regain the respect he claims the U.S. has lost in the world, notably from adversaries like China. The danger here is that, in dealing with that country, Trump could, as is typical, make it all about himself, all about “winning,” one of his most beloved words, and disaster might follow.
A military clash between Trump-led America and a China led by President Xi Jinping? Understanding how it might happen requires a brief detour to the place where it’s most likely to occur: the South China Sea. Our first task: to understand China’s position on that body of water and the islands it contains, as well as the nature of Beijing’s military projects there. So brace yourself for some necessary detail.
As Marina Tsirbas, a former diplomat now at the Australian National University’s National Security College, explains, Beijing’s written and verbal statements on the South China Sea lend themselves to two different interpretations. The Chinese government’s position boils down to something like this: “We own everything — the waters, islands and reefs, marine resources, and energy and mineral deposits — within the Nine-Dash Line.” That demarcation line, which incidentally has had ten dashes, and sometimes eleven, originally appeared in 1947 maps of the Republic of China, the Nationalist government that would soon flee to the island of Taiwan leaving the Chinese Communists in charge of the mainland. When Mao Ze Dong and his associates established the People’s Republic, they retained that Nationalist map and the demarcation line that went with it, which just happened to enclose virtually all of the South China Sea, claiming sovereign rights.
This stance — think of it as Beijing’s hard line on the subject — raises instant questions about other countries’ navigation and overflight rights through that much-used region. In essence, do they have any and, if so, will Beijing alone be the one to define what those are? And will those definitions start to change as China becomes ever more powerful? These are hardly trivial concerns, given that about $5 trillion worth of goods pass through the South China Sea annually.
Then there’s what might be called Beijing’s softer line, based on rights accorded by the legal concepts of the territorial sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which took effect in 1994 and has been signed by 167 states (including China but not the United States), a country has sovereign control within 12 nautical miles of its coast as well as of land formations in that perimeter visible at high tide. But other countries have the right of “innocent passage.” The EEZ goes further. It provides a rightful claimant control over access to fishing, as well as seabed and subsoil natural resources , within “an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea” extending 200 nautical miles, while ensuring other states’ freedom of passage by air and sea. UNCLOS also gives a state with an EEZ control over “the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations, and structures” within that zone — an important provision at our present moment.
What makes all of this so much more complicated is that many of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea that provide the basis for defining China’s EEZ are also claimed by other countries under the terms of UNCLOS. That, of course, immediately raises questions about the legality of Beijing’s military construction projects in that watery expanse on islands, atolls, and strips of land it’s dredging into existence, as well as its claims to seabed energy resources, fishing rights, and land reclamation rights there — to say nothing about its willingness to seize some of them by force, rival claims be damned.
Subi Reef, being built into an artificial island-landing strip in 2015
Moreover, figuring out which of these two positions — hard or soft — China embraces at any moment is tricky indeed. Beijing, for instance, insists that it upholds freedom of navigation and overflight rights in the Sea, but it has also said that these rights don’t apply to warships and military aircraft. In recent years its warplanes have intercepted, and at close quarters, American military aircraft flying outside Chinese territorial waters in the same region. Similarly, in 2015, Chinese aircraft and ships followed and issued warnings to an American warship off Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, which both China and Vietnam claim in their entirety. This past December, its Navy seized, but later returned, an underwater drone the American naval ship Bowditch had been operating near the coast of the Philippines.
There were similar incidents in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2013, and 2014. In the second of these episodes, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane, which had a crew of 24 on board, less than 70 miles off Hainan island, forcing it to make an emergency landing in China and creating a tense standoff between Beijing and Washington. The Chinese detained the crew for 11 days. They disassembled the EP-3, returning it three months later in pieces.
Such muscle flexing in the South China Sea isn’t new. China has long been tough on its weaker neighbors in those waters. Back in 1974, for instance, its forces ejected South Vietnamese troops from parts of the Paracel/Xisha islands that Beijing claimed but did not yet control. China has also backed up its claim to the Spratly/Nansha islands (which Taiwan, Vietnam, and other regional countries reject) with air and naval patrols, tough talk, and more. In 1988, it forcibly occupied the Vietnamese-controlled Johnson Reef, securing control over the first of what would eventually become seven possessions in the Spratlys.
Vietnam has not been the only Southeast Asian country to receive such rough treatment. China and the Philippines both claim ownership of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal/Huangyang Island, located 124 nautical miles off Luzon Island in the Philippines. In 2012, Beijing simply seized it, having already ejected Manila from Panganiban Reef (aka Mischief Reef), about 129 nautical miles from the Philippines’ Palawan Island, in 1995. In 2016, when an international arbitration tribunal upheld Manila’s position on Mischief Reef and Scarborough Shoal, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sniffed that “the decision is invalid and has no binding force.” Chinese president Xi Jinping added for good measure that China’s claims to the South China Sea stretched back to “ancient times.”
Then there’s China’s military construction work in the area, which includes the building of full-scale artificial islands, as well as harbors, military airfields, storage facilities, and hangars reinforced to protect military aircraft. In addition, the Chinese have installed radar systems, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-missile defense systems on some of these islands.
These , then, are the projects that the Trump administration says it will stop. But China’s conduct in the South China Sea leaves little doubt about its determination to hold onto what it has and continue its activities. The Chinese leadership has made this clear since Donald Trump’s election, and the state-run press has struck a similarly defiant note, drawing crude red lines of its own. For example, the Global Times, a nationalist newspaper, mocked Trump’s pretensions and issued a doomsday warning: “The U.S. has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.”
Were the administration to follow its threatening talk with military action, the Global Times added ominously, “The two sides had better prepare for a military clash.” Although the Chinese leadership hasn’t been anywhere near as bombastic, top officials have made it clear that they won’t yield an inch on the South China Sea, that disputes over territories are matters for China and its neighbors to settle, and that Washington had best butt out.
Posted by DanielS on Thursday, 09 February 2017 08:16.
Visigrad Post, “Central Europe Unites to Put an End to Illegal Immigration” 9 Feb 2017:
Austria, Vienna – Ministers from 15 countries gathered in Vienna on Wednesday, February 8, in order to find a common way to put an end to the illegal immigration in the Balkans and Central Europe.
Representatives from Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Greece, as well as officials of the Central European Defence Cooperation took part at the meeting.
Countries along the Balkan migration route agreed on Wednesday to seal the already hard borders and prevent a possible new surge of people trying to reach wealthy EU countries. Since the countries on the Balkans’ route already secured their borders a year ago, the number of illegal immigrants has dramatically dwindled, but hundreds of migrants still try each month to take this route.
A plan to plug the remaining gaps on the route from Greece to Austria and Germany is to be drawn up by April, defence and interior ministers from affected countries decided at a conference in Vienna.
The agreement anticipates the potential collapse of the EU‘s deal with Turkey to keep migrants and refugees.
Posted by DanielS on Monday, 12 December 2016 11:23.
Update: New York Times, “Trump Picks Rex Tillerson, Exxon C.E.O., as Secretary of State”, 12 Dec 2016:
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump on Monday settled on Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, to be his secretary of state, dismissing bipartisan concerns that the globe-trotting leader of the energy giant had forged a too-cozy relationship with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia, transition officials said.
Mr. Trump planned to announce the selection on Tuesday morning, finally bringing to an end his public and chaotic deliberations over choosing the nation’s top diplomat — a process that at times veered from rewarding Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most loyal supporters, to musing about whether Mitt Romney, one of his most vicious critics, might be forgiven.
Russia’s Prime Minister Putin speaks with Tillerson in Sochi in 2011
President-Elect Trump ‘will name Exxon CEO with close links to Putin as his secretary of state’, snubbing Mitt Romney.”
Trump is expected to name Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
Exxon Mobil chief emerged on Friday as the leading candidate.
Favored status was revealed as Giuliani withdrew.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name the chief executive of Exxon Mobil as the country’s top diplomat, NBC News reported Saturday.
Exxon chief Rex Tillerson emerged on Friday as Trump’s leading candidate for U.S. secretary of state and is expected to meet with him later on Saturday, a transition official told Reuters.
NBC News cited two sources close to the transition team in reporting that Tillerson will be named as secretary of state.
The president-elect had interviewed 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney twice – taking him to a three-Michelin starred dinner on one of those occasions.
Should Tillerson be nominated, his business ties, too, will come under scrutiny. Exxon Mobil has operations in more than 50 countries and boasts that it explores for oil and natural gas on six continents.
In 2011, Exxon Mobil signed a deal with Rosneft, Russia’s largest state-owned oil company, for joint oil exploration and production. Since then, the companies have formed 10 joint ventures for projects in Russia.
In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson his nation’s Order of Friendship.
‘He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger,’ John Hamre, a deputy defense secretary to Bill Clinton told the Wall Street Journal.
But U.S. sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Crimea cost Exxon Mobil dearly, forcing it to scrap some projects and costing it at least $1 billion in losses. Tillerson has been a vocal critic of the sanctions.
Trump has spoken of wanting warmer relations with Moscow, which has sparked concerns in Congress that he could lift or loosen some of the sanctions on Russia.
Tillerson has been chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil since 2006. He is expected to retire from the company next year.
Should Tillerson be nominated, climate change could be another divisive issue. The company is under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office for allegedly misleading investors, regulators and the public on what it knew about global warming.