Category Archives: America

Can Moscow bet on ‘Trump card’ in U.S.?

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The meteoric rise of eccentric billionaire Donald Trump to become the favorite Republican candidate in the U.S. presidential nomination race has catapulted the issue of disengagement with Russia back onto the political agenda. Washington’s policy of containment toward Russia has been pushed back to the forefront of the usually U.S.-centered campaign, with Trump positioning himself as a better partner for the Russian president than Barack Obama.

The biggest surprise came at a public meeting when Trump said, on the topic of potential relations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin: “I think we would get along very, very well.” He also rejected the neoconservative foreign-policy orthodoxy, putting to doubt the expediency of Washington’s involvement in the Middle East since the 2003 war in Iraq, and suggesting it would better suit American national interests to engage Putin’s Russia rather than alienate it and force it to search for allies elsewhere.

It was not the first time that Trump had made fine-tuned comments about Russia. In April last year, after what is seen in the West as the Russian takeover of Crimea, Trump, in an interview with Fox News, said that Putin deserved credit for strengthening the international prestige of his country. In June this year, Trump reminded that everyone in the U.S. agreed that everything should be done to avoid Russia and China coming together, yet Obama did just the opposite.

The American mainstream media mocks Trump. But since voters with a distinct pro-Republican leaning are still shopping for an acceptable candidate to run for the presidency, it does not make sense to dismiss the messages of Donald Trump as pure demagoguery. Nor should too much attention be devoted to his politically incorrect lambasting of Mexican migrants, which, while deserving the outrage with which it was met, does not constitute the essence of the alternative embodied in the figure of this flamboyant maverick.

Trump’s critical assessment of the U.S. administration’s foreign policy seem to resonate with Republican supporters. Still, what is the root cause of Trump’s appeal and current ratings? Edward Lozansky, president of the American University in Moscow (and member of the Republican Party), provided his insight into Trump’s phenomenon:

“Nobody expected that Trump can be a serious candidate… and then suddenly the public, which is supposed to make the ultimate decision, took a liking to him. Other politicians, they talk, talk, talk and promise many things but cannot deliver. Trump is the guy who can deliver. It is not easy to build a business empire worth some 9 billion dollars. He’s got property all over the place, he is well known. People are hungry for some new personality. But the Republican Party’s establishment does not want him. And what can happen, he can create a third party. We had a precedent with Ross Perot. Trump does not need fund-raising; he’s got his own money. It could be a very interesting phenomenon. The campaign was pretty boring. Now it is exciting.”
— Trump’s positive pronouncements about a dialogue with Russia have reopened the debate among the U.S. Democrats and Republicans on “who lost Russia.” Is this something that remains on the radar of U.S. politicians?

“At this point, Trump is the only candidate for nomination in the presidential race, both from the Republican and the Democratic side, who believes he can improve relations with Russia, which are now reaching a dangerous point. Almost every day we hear from an American general or a politician that Russia is the greatest threat to the United States. It might be said to score some political points. But the American people, I think, do not want confrontation with Russia. Trump claims he is the only one who can make a deal. Trump is a businessman, and business people, they want to make deals. He believes that he and Putin can make a deal.”

— Plenty of American political scene-watchers believe that Donald Trump will not secure nomination approval, let alone become the next U.S. president…

“If I were Trump or his advisor, I would definitely advise him to form a third party instead of fighting the Republican Party’s establishment. And then, who knows, a miracle could happen, and we could see not only a new face on the American political stage but also a dramatic improvement in U.S.-Russia relations.”

You do not need to be a fortuneteller to predict that Donald Trump will not last the course in this race. Yet Troika Report strongly believes that the legacy of his participation is here to stay. The final Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential race may well incorporate a good portion of the bold approach articulated by the daredevil outsider into their policy.

Moscow would dearly love to bet on this “Trump card” but his chances of making it to the top are unconvincing at best. Yet his surge to prominence serves as an indication that some Americans are seeking alternatives so desperately that they can forgive the man for his boisterous claim to become the “greatest jobs president that God ever created” and make America “great again.”

Russia vetoes Security Council proposal on MH17 tribunal

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Russia on Wednesday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would set up an international criminal court to prosecute those responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine a year ago.

The foreign ministers of the Netherlands, Australia and Ukraine attended a meeting over the downing that killed all 298 people on board Flight MH17. The countries are among the five nations investigating the incident, along with Malaysia and Belgium.

Ukraine and the West suspect the plane, traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired by Russian soldiers or Russia-backed separatist rebels on July 17, 2014. Russia denies that, and state media have alleged the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian missile or warplane.

“Russia has callously disregarded the public outcry in the grieving nations,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said, adding that the United States was among the 18 countries that lost citizens in the disaster.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of Australia, which lost 39 citizens, said, “The veto only compounds the atrocity.” Three countries abstained from the vote: China, Angola and Venezuela, whose ambassador said victims’ suffering shouldn’t be used politically.

Wednesday’s vote followed a last-minute effort to lobby Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has said setting up a tribunal would not make sense while the investigation continued.

The Dutch ambassador to the U.N., Karel van Oosterom, tweeted a statement saying Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Putin that “it was preferable to make a decision about the tribunal before the facts and charges have been established precisely in order to avoid politicizing the prosecution process.”

But the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying a tribunal would be “inexpedient” because Russia still has “a lot of questions” about the investigation to which it had little access.

Russia had offered its own draft that demanded justice for those responsible for the crash without calling for a tribunal. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote that such a tribunal risked not being impartial and being subject to media “propaganda,” and he called past tribunals for the Rwanda genocide and the violence in the former Yugoslavia “expensive.”

Ministers from the five investigating countries, along with allies in the 15-member council, later stressed that other legal options are available, but some acknowledged that a tribunal established by the council remains the best option. Some indicated they might pursue it again.

“We will very quickly agree on the next step,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told reporters. “I assure you we haven’t lost time.”

The foreign ministers also met Wednesday morning with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called for justice and accountability.

A preliminary report released in the Netherlands last year said the plane had no technical problems in the seconds before it broke up in the sky after being struck by multiple objects — a conclusion that experts said likely pointed to a missile strike.

The investigation led by the Dutch Safety Board aims only to determine the crash cause, not to ascribe blame. The probe is being led by The Netherlands because 196 of the victims were Dutch.

A separate probe by the Dutch national prosecutor’s office aims to establishing who was responsible. This investigation includes authorities from Ukraine, Malaysia and other countries whose nationals were among the victims, but Russia is not a participant.

One possibility that wasn’t discussed Wednesday is the International Criminal Court, which takes on cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in states that can’t or won’t take on the matter themselves.

Russia’s Lavrov Accuses West of Trying to Dominate the World

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused Western powers of trying to dominate and impose their ideology on the rest of world, while the United States and European delegations slammed Moscow for supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov was speaking Monday at a special meeting of the UN Security Council organized by China, which holds the rotating presidency of the 15-nation body this month, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

Without accusing specific countries, Lavrov complained about what he said was rampant violation of key principles of the UN Charter, specifically the “independence and sovereign equality of states, the non-interference in their internal affairs.” He cited Western interventions in Syria, Libya and Iraq.

“All of this is a result of attempts to dominate global affairs, to rule over all, everywhere,” Lavrov said.

“For those not wishing to play ball, there are various methods, including regime change, including the open support for the unconstitutional state coup in Ukraine a year ago,” he said.

Russia’s top diplomat also complained about unilateral sanctions not approved by the Security Council, such as those imposed on Moscow by the United States and Europe over its actions in Ukraine. Russia denies Western allegations that it is supporting and directing Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebels.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also highlighted the importance of “non-interference in internal affairs and respect for territorial integrity.”

He complained about moves by some countries that “attempt to overturn and whitewash past crimes of aggression,” ostensibly a swipe at Japan, whose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to recast his country’s World War II history in a less apologetic tone.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius responded sharply to Lavrov’s complaints.

“From eastern Ukraine to Moldova’s Transdnestr, to Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, a pattern exists of Russia’s interference in the sovereign affairs of neighboring states,” he said. “For a year now, Ukraine has been under attack by Russian commandos and mercenaries.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power suggested Moscow’s call for greater respect for nations’ sovereignty and territorial integrity was hypocritical.

“Russia today is training, arming, supporting and fighting alongside separatists who have brutally seized Ukrainian territory, a blatant violation of the UN Charter and an assault on its neighbor’s sovereignty,” she said.