Wednesday Night #1897

Written by  //  July 18, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

There are no more new adjectives… although for the first time in memory, ‘treasonous’ has been applied to the president of the United States by more than one respected commentator.

Trump administration: U.S. Foreign Relations 2018
The past week we have witnessed truly astonishing, dismaying and disgraceful events, all generated by the actions of one man – Donald Trump. His trip to Europe, starting with the NATO Summit and concluding with the meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was epic and not in the good sense of the word. Even when his message contained elements of truth, it was distorted by his rudeness and delivery. His attacks on allies (e.g. Angela Merkel) while fawning over Mr. Putin have been met with a combination of puzzlement, contempt and anger. And yet, he emerged, announcing that the NATO meeting had been a success.

In defense of Mr. Trump’s message to NATO, albeit not his boorish behaviour, David T. Jones writes in The Metropolitain
“For 30 years, Washington worked on the margins to improve NATO’s security posture. The 2014 commitment to raise defense spending to 2 percent of GNP was a minimalistic response to Crimea and Ukraine. No European thought it would be a definitive commitment.
But President Trump, reflecting U.S. fatigue with NATO’s escape-and-evasion attitude to defense spending (only 53 percent have a favorable attitude toward NATO) has pilloried NATO’s free-riders, starting with Canada’s pitiful 1 percent GDP security spending, but concentrating on Germany’s almost equally trivial 1.2 percent, which has left much of its military equipment inoperable due to inadequate maintenance. U.S. defense spending was 3.57 percent of GDP and 68.7 percent of NATO’s total. Europeans may see Trump as a bull carrying his own china shop, but such disproportionate spending has become unsustainable domestically for the United States.
NATO is obsolete; but so also is my 1985 Mercedes. Nevertheless, both are still useful—the Mercedes for short local trips and NATO as a framework for European defense.
Trump has delivered the message in an inelegant way, but NATO has to recognize the reality of the facts. (NATO: TIME FOR A REBOOT?)

Of all of the hundreds of thousands of words written and spoken, one of the most telling commentaries comes from Abraham Newman, writing in Politico Trump’s Feud With Europe Is Worse Than You Think. Confirming his commentary: Trump calls the European Union a ‘foe’ of the United States

Next came the ‘working trip’ to the UK, described by The Guardian as “The presidential hurricane [that] swept through southern England, uprooting protocols, rattling institutions and leaving politicians with a sense of whiplash,” It got off to a brilliant start with his attack on Theresa May in an interview with The Sun. He subsequently denied his remarks although The Sun has the tapes to confirm what was published. At an extraordinary press conference at the U.K. prime minister’s country retreat last Friday, he sought to limit the damage he had done to his relationship with Theresa May over three days of increasingly hostile rhetoric that came close to blowing up his first official visit to the U.K. before it had even begun. But of all his missteps in England, the one that enraged even anti-monarchists was his disrespectful treatment of Queen Elizabeth II – showing up 12 minutes late for his meeting with her, carelessly walking ahead of the 92-year old monarch and generally ignoring the most basic protocol let alone politesse.
God bless Her Majesty! But this subtle dig was no doubt lost on the Trumps.
Queen Elizabeth wore brooch from Obamas on the day Trump arrived in the UK

After spending the weekend at his (failing) Trump Turnberry property in Scotland, he met with Putin in Helsinki.

Trump administration U.S. – Russia relations
While he pronounced the meeting a great success, his critics and many allies alike pounced on his failure to call Putin to account on a number of issues, his fawning subservience to Putin and his denigration of U.S. intelligence services. Hardly surprisingly, the Russian establishment chalks up Trump summit as a win for Putin “Even many Republicans who normally support or silently abide Donald Trump criticized the president Monday after his press conference with Vladimir Putin.”
“This has been the worst week for American diplomacy, certainly in memory” says Jeremy Kinsman, former Canadian Ambassador to Russia –  Jeremy Kinsman’s commentary on CTV is well worth watching.
Once again backtracking on a public statement, on his return to Washington, Trump attempted to revise the record with the improbable excuse of a misspoken statement that should have been a double negative – interesting that he had to read from a prepared statement to do so with a straight face. Trump Makes His Worst Excuse Ever.

Uday Bhaskar expresses a somewhat more dispassionate analysis of events in Helsinki Summit aftermath: Domestic discord for Trump or ‎end of Cold War? “An improvement in US-Russia relations is a desirable global objective for the two nations have the largest WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenals and discord between them can have corrosive security implications globally – as for instance in relation to Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and North Korea.” But he goes on to say “In a thoughtful assessment of the Helsinki summit, Dov Zakheim, a former Bush cabinet member and a respected columnist noted: “It may be premature to assert that Donald Trump, America’s wrecker-in-chief, is determined to undermine the Western alliance. Yet his behavior throughout his European visit points in that direction. Should he succeed, he will have accomplished what Putin and his Soviet predecessors could only have hoped for in the wildest of their dreams.”

Now the question is when the initial reaction dies down [Republicans Rebuke Trump for Siding With Putin as Democrats Demand Action], what (if anything) will the Republicans do to rein in the president? James Fallows of The Atlantic is blunt: The GOP can either defend the United States or serve the damaged and defective man who is now its president. What will be the impact on the mid-term strategy – or will the issue be swept away by Republicans up for reelection? So far, the most vocal condemnations by Republicans come from those who are not seeking reelection and the outlook does not promise much in terms of courageous stands:
GOP Senators: Trump’s Obvious Russia Lie Is Good Enough for Us
Republican senators are aware of the ridiculousness of their positions, of course. But by condemning the president (which many of them did on Monday) they could face the wrath of Trump partisans who are unlikely to flee the presidential fan club, even over Helsinki. So they must feign a posture of irritated acceptance, and pretend that Trump’s correction means everything is basically fine again. On to the Supreme Court hearings!

Thanks to John Evdokias for calling our attention to Commercial Real Estate Implications of the Steel and Aluminum Tariffs.

Must reads
Wanda Potrykus has applied her meticulous research and writing talents to a series on the Camilien-Houde road closure for Westmount Magazine. Here is the first of a series of 10 articles “using extracts from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to try and galvanize Montreal Islanders to participate in a Public Consultation process against the closing of the one road formerly open to motorists over Mount Royal (the connection with Dickens book should become clearer as the weeks progress…or not” The series will run over the next few months while the public consultation process is going on…or afterwards.” There is valuable information about how to participate in the consultation process at the end of the article which you may want to bookmark. Also note that “Mayor Plante has promised Christina Smith, Mayor of Westmount that a public meeting, or rather a Round Table discussion (whatever that means) would be held in Westmount, so Westmounters and potentially other English speakers from NDG for instance, could provide their input and feedback. Hopefully it will accommodate English speakers from anywhere on Montreal Island, along with those more comfortable expressing themselves in English. It has recently been reported in the Westmount Independent that this will happen on September 12, 2018 at Victoria Hall, 4626 Sherbrooke W. No further details as yet, since Mayor Smith explained it is Montreal who is organizing it, consequently they have to wait for them to furnish additional details.”

New book by Queen’s Law professor an insider’s account of ‘international law’s supreme crime’ State leaders are now personally responsible for aggressive war. Under amendments to the Rome Statute, which take effect today, starting an unjust war violates international law and is prosecutable as the crime of aggression at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The crime of aggression is the newest, most controversial and least understood international crime,” explains Queen’s Law Professor Noah Weisbord, whose forthcoming book The Crime of Aggression (Princeton University Press) imagines the future of international justice in the age of drones, cyber-attacks, insurgents and autocrats.

Congratulations to Marc Nicholson and his 1880 on organizing yet another amazing event: When Danger Calls for Help – cave encounters with Douglas Yeo [who] was the only Singaporean diver involved in the Thai cave rescue. Every minute felt like an hour as the world anxiously watched each of the 12 boys and their soccer coach emerge from Tham Luang cave. What went through Douglas’ mind as he waited in silence knowing that lives were in his hands? How did the team overcome unexpected challenges? Hear from the rescue diver himself as he recounts the precarious mission. This will take place next Tuesday (24 July) and we look forward to a first-hand report from Marc, who arrives in Montreal next Wednesday (25 July).

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