Archive for the ‘Diplomacy’ Category

Trump 1 Putin 1 (After extra time)

July 16, 2018

The guy who used to sweep the yard outside our Sadova-Samotechnaya apartment in Moscow would listen to the news on the portable I gave him, shake his head and mutter Nichevo, nichevo, nichevo, spit into the leaves and carry on sweeping. Best hear nothing then there’s no need to believe.

Nothing nothing nothing. I got through to his son (who now employs 200 to sweep) and asked him about Putin and Trump. That’s right: before we stumble across all the experts, analysts and think tankers let’s put a bit of Russian realism into Helsinki: Nichevo, nichevo, nichevo, he said.

Great story about Putin being late. Great story about Trump dumping on his Intelligence people. But just think about it. Putin keeps everyone except the Chinese waiting and Trump has been fanging his Intelligence people on a regular basis for months.

And we all know Trump does it differently. So nothing, nothing, nothing new.

Then how come the news analysts wont sleep for days. How come grizzled correspondents are putting that news conference close to the end of the Jurasic reel? They are, we are, because we still find it difficult knowing Trump (rubbishes NATO, bad mouths May but doesn’t mean it – but of course he does) and not clear about Putin (says nothing but does it – ask the Syrians).

In other words, we are still looking for the predictability we were used to in Clinton-Bush (1&2) -Obama decades. In times past we were predictable because they only talked nuclear warhead numbers and verification processes. These were the processes of the Cold War. Today even the concept of war has changed. We go to other people’s wars.

Thus, a whole lot of issues that once were urgent, are no long so important. You can go to a bi-lateral Helsinki and all the issues on the editor’s desk are no longer important. They become less relevant when the American President no longer sees them as issues and doesn’t understand what the hell they’re about anyway.

Supporting Russia’s re-entry to the G7 is all that is needed for everyone to smile when the deal is tied.

A done deal is when you’re making 2 cents on the dollar said the New York numbers man, Willy Griesman. In other words, try for too much and the whole street wants some. And as his great buddy the Yankees catcher Yogi Berra joined in with a hotel story “The towels were so thick I could hardly get them into my case.” Meaning? Everyone on a trip gets something different out of it.

That’s what’s happened this time. Trump should have stuck to another round at Turnberry and Putin just went home – he’s already got a 86% rating.

What they said in Helsinki was gosh and golly stuff. When these two guys who run most of the world got home what was said did not change the world, did not explain anything about anything. Nice cars. Putin needs a new suit. And what was with the football thing? Nichevo, nichevo, nichevo

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The North Korea Nuclear Launch Sites are Closed – But Kim Keeps the Key

April 21, 2018

Christopher Lee

21 April 2018, London

Kim Jong-un says North Korea has developed ‘weaponisation” so from this passing weekend, North Korea will stop testing.

Nuclear weapons engineers will say this is nonsense. The job of being a nuclear weapon state has only just begun.

But for the moment at least, North Korea has reached the goal of its leader, that of a state able to put even a small nuclear warhead on a long range missile, fire that missile into outer space and then guide its return into the earth’s atmosphere, release warheads and direct each one onto targets that include the United States, certainly China and certainly Japan.

That makes North Korea a member of an exclusive club that somewhere has a technology base that can return to production and ever be in scientific and technological research state to bring the missile and the guidance and launch systems to a longer range and higher readiness, the re-entry process more reliable and the delivery systems more accurate and threatening.

President Trump should not need to be told this.

The series of North South and East-West meetings begin this coming week. North and South Korea meet openly, US-Korean officials meet quietly and then, perhaps as early as June, President Trump meets President Kim.

At that point, Kim Jong-Un achieves that which has eluded himself, his ancestors and something which is not always understood in Western capitals. President Kim has yearned for respect as a ‘proper’ leader of an important country. He reads the progress in international recognition achieved by Pakistan when it became a nuclear weapons power and immediately a state able to kill millions of its decades old enemy India at the press of half a dozen buttons.

In just a decade of fast technology he’s made the US take him seriously. Rocket Man is not a joke Trump lyric.

He may tell us that North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions are over, but like the rest of the black mushroom growers, the genii is out of the bottle. His people know how to do it and, who knows when the disappointment of international treatment and recognition will mean a return to the test sites.

And to test the value of his new position, remember that Mr Kim will be receiving Mr Trump, not the other way round. Mr Trump has to go to him. Mr Kim will step his own higher ground.

What would they want? An official end to the Korean War. That is an easy found formality. A recognition that North Korean is an equal partner in the strategic balance of the Korean Peninsular, Eastern China and Japan for starters. That is status worth having. It will also be a process that leads to the true lessening of conflict: sign a contract with a potential enemy that boosts its economy and allows the country to grow for a fat enemy rarely goes to war.

The bringing about of this summit, if it happens, will be largely the work of President Moon of South Korea with the nitty sorted by the three heads of Intelligence of America, South Korea and North Korea.

Mr Kim will get his respect and will settle some of the uncertainties of the ruling North Korean families who are saying the Mr Kim must change his ways if the country is not to fold economically and collapse. Mr Moon will sweep aside the continued feeling that he could fall at any moment. And Mr Trump?

In America, even senior politicians have never heard of any efforts other than the tough-talk of their President. If it works, he will be the man who brought 60 years of crisis to an end and made Kim Jong-un close down his nuclear threat.

The tailpiece in Washington to this is an irony: undoubtedly, if a June meeting is the type of success we imagine, then there will a strong movement for a Nobel Peace Prize. So? So there is no way the FBI could file against a Peace Nobel Laureate Trump.

Could anything spoil what is possible? Yes.

Whatever agreement between North Korea and the US, it is extremely likely that Congress will not ratify any treaty on the grounds of it being impossible to verify North Korea keeping the test sites closed.

In other words, June’s not far but there are years to go before Mission Accomplished make sense.

 

What Chance Russia & US Going To War Over Syria

October 10, 2016

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Christopher Lee

New York

8 October 2016

Think about the scenario: Putin needs Assad to win his civil war otherwise Russia will be chased out of Syria. So Putin supports bombing easiest and most telling targets – Aleppo hospitals.

US with help from the UK and France says this Russian tactic amounts to war crimes.  Putin gets mad at that and calls off nuclear warhead agreements.

The next stage? America within the NATO system reinforces that area supporting the Baltic States.  Moscow says that amounts to provocation.  NATO says it amounts to a sensible precaution and shows its Baltic allies as well as Russia that it will not abandon its obligations in the region. In other words: come closer Russia and we will push you back.

The next stage (reached this week)? Russia moves an Iskander ballistic missile battery  with a kilotonage level nuclear warhead capability into Kaliningrad – that is, next to NATO allies Lithuania and Poland.  This, as it is supposed to, raises tensions among NATO states in the region who do not know what next to do and mostly want to do nothing.

Here in New York, to use the diplomatic jargon, Russians and Americans are not nibbling the same canapés.  The negotiations over Syrian peace possibilities are abandoned. Even the never ending margin meetings of low level diplomats are nothing more than individuals reporting back to the Lavrov and Kerry front offices on who is saying what in private.

There was a rare weekend meeting at the UN over the weekend.  The French (one of the five permanent members of the Security Council) tabled a motion to stop the Aleppo bombing and open a humanitarian aid corridor.  It would have gone through if it had not been for Russia.  The Russian delegation had instructions from Moscow to veto any cease fire resolution, whatever the motives. Russia vetoed.

The Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari got up to speak and in protest at the whole farrago the British permanent representative, Matthew Rycroft led a largely Western walk out.  Rycroft turned on the Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and told him, thus Putin, that his veto was a death signature on Syrians in Aleppo.  Churkin did not even look uncomfortable.

Talk to diplomats who spend their lives at this level and they talk in whispers, not to be secretive but to reflect the seriousness facing governments seeking the wisdom for solutions rather than the distinctions of triumphalism.

They talk of miscalculation, not in the UN chamber, but on what could become a battlefield.  A Russian or American aircraft shot down when both aircrews fly with instruction not to back off. An artillery commander unsure of his own rules of engagement and so a calamity occurs, such as the shooting down of the MH-17 airliner.

There are two truths whispered in the UN corridors: the Russo-Syrian offensive will succeed without hindrance from the US because no President is likely to commit a military action just as the nation goes to vote and anyway, no Congress would support it.

Secondly, Putin’s shifting of the Iskander launchers into Kaliningrad will frighten most European members of NATO into taking no action.

They say here that Putin can no longer be stopped in his Tsarist ambitions to have the fear driven respect of all the so-called world leaders.

There is a third truth: tsarism, historically, was so very vulnerable to miscalculation. Putin on the edge could turn miscalculation into determination and yes that is when the extra step that Lavrov, Kerry and the Security Council try to avoid will lead to confrontation.  The weaponry of war is this week in place.  The diplomacy appears very fallible.