Trump swallows a bitter pill on Russia

Moscow is furious at new sanctions as the White House complains of Congressional interference in foreign policy.

President Donald Trump plans to sign a congressional law restricting his ability to lift sanctions on Russia, the White House said Friday night, in a severe blow to his budding relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

.. “Congress would have overriden the veto, and all it will do is fuel the fire of the Russia scandal in Washington.”

.. The timing of the announcement—late on a summer Friday, amid headlines about White House staff turmoil—ensured relatively little coverage for what analysts called a major development in U.S.-Russia relations.

..  It requires Trump to justify in writing any effort to ease sanctions on Russia and mandates an automatic Congressional review of any such move.

That severely limits Trump’s ability to cut a deal with Putin, whose top priority is the rollback of U.S. and European sanctions against his economy and associates.

Magnitsky Act Supporter Bill Browder On Russia, Putin And American Security

Attorney Sergei Magnitsky uncovered widespread corruption in Russia. Then he was arrested.

Magnitsky died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian jail. His employer, Bill Browder, who was previously expelled from Russia, says Magnitsky was beaten to death.

Browder became a lead campaigner behind the Magnitsky Act, which was allegedly the reason for a meeting between Trump campaign staffers and a Kremlin-connected attorney last year.

This week, Browder plans to testify before the Senate, as committees will also meet privately with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

“We should be scared of Vladimir Putin we should do everything possible to contain his evil intentions,” Browder says.

Why Is Nikki Haley Still Trump’s UN Ambassador?

It’s unclear whether she is speaking for herself or the White House.

But there are indeed some administration figures who clearly are fomenting endless conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere.

One might reasonably start with Generals James Mattis and H.R. McMaster, both of whom are hardliners on Afghanistan and Iran, but with a significant caveat. Generals are trained and indoctrinated to fight and win wars, not to figure out what comes next. General officers like George Marshall or even Dwight Eisenhower who had a broader vision are extremely rare, so much so that expecting a Mattis or McMaster to do what falls outside their purview is perhaps a bit too much.

.. My own little list of “society’s offenders” consists largely of the self-described gaggle of neoconservative foreign-policy “experts.” Unfortunately, the neocons have proven to be particularly resilient in spite of repeated claims that their end was nigh, most recently after the election of Donald Trump last November. Yet as most of the policies the neocons have historically espoused are indistinguishable from what the White House is currently trying to sell, one might well wake up one morning and imagine that it is 2003 and George W. Bush is still president.

.. Number one on my little list is Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

.. Haley is firmly in the neocon camp, receiving praise from Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and from the Murdoch media as well as in the opinion pages of National Review and The Weekly Standard. Her speechwriter is Jessica Gavora, who is the wife of the leading neoconservative journalist Jonah Goldberg.

.. As governor of South Carolina, Haley became identified as an unquestioning supporter of Israel. She signed into law a bill to restrict the activities of the nonviolent pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the first legislation of its kind on a state level.

.. In February, she blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a diplomatic position at the United Nations because he is a Palestinian. In a congressional hearing this past week, she was asked about the decision: “Is it this administration’s position that support for Israel and support for the appointment of a well-qualified individual of Palestinian nationality to an appointment at the UN are mutually exclusive?” Haley responded yes, that the administration is “supporting Israel” by blocking any Palestinian from any senior UN position because Palestine is not recognized by Washington as an independent state

.. Regarding Ukraine, Haley has taken an extreme position that guarantees Russian hostility. In February, she addressed the UN Security Council regarding the Crimean conflict, which she  appears not to understand very well. She warned that sanctions against Russia would not be lifted until Moscow returned control over the peninsula to Kiev.

.. So Haley very much comes across as the neoconservatives’ dream ambassador to the United Nations–full of aggression, a staunch supporter of Israel, and assertive of Washington’s preemptive right to set standards for the rest of the world.

..  Donald Trump really wants to drain the Washington swamp and reduce interference in other nations, he might well continue that program by firing Nikki Haley. He could then appoint someone as UN ambassador who actually believes that the United States has to deal with other countries respectfully, not by constant bullying and threats.

U.S. Tells North Korea It Is Prepared to Go to War

The U.S. warned North Korea that it is ready to fight if provoked, as Pyongyang claimed another weapons-development breakthrough following its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile a day earlier.

.. “Self restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” Gen. Brooks said. “We are able to change our choice when so ordered.…It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”

.. The U.S. had sought Beijing’s help in pressuring North Korea, but recently President Donald Trump said that route had been fruitless. “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” he said in a tweet on Wednesday.

.. “A single volley could deliver more than 350 metric tons of explosives across the South Korean capital, roughly the same amount of ordnance dropped by 11 B-52 bombers,
..Meredith Sumpter, director of Asia for Eurasia Group, wrote in a note to clients Tuesday that the odds of a U.S. military strike on North Korea remain low—about a 10% probability—adding it would probably be well-signaled by the U.S. and “clear to outside observers in advance of any military move.”