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Can Trump’s Art of the Arms Deal Get More Stupid? The Russians Are Loving It.



President Donald J. Trump has announced the U.S. intends to exit the “Open Skies” treaty. The 34-nation agreement allows the United States, Russia and other countries to conduct observation flights over each other’s territories in the interests of transparency and international security. Speaking to reporters, Trump said: “We’re going to pull out, and they’re going to come back and want to make a deal. We’ve had a very good relationship lately with Russia.” While the Trump administration is citing Russia’s various violations of the agreement as the main reason for the U.S. withdrawal, Russian experts and government officials believe that the abrupt decision is rooted in Trump’s desire to throw all international treaties out the window in pursuit of a bigger, better deal which he can claim to pursue during his election campaign even if it comes to nothing.Such flippant methods may work for reality television, but tend to backfire in real life. Case in point, Trump's gambit with Iran, where U.S withdrawal from the nuclear deal led to the expansion of Tehran’s nuclear stockpile.Now that Trump reportedly is toying with the idea of resuming nuclear testing as well, the Kremlin intends to take full advantage of that harebrained idea. Washington’s approach reportedly is rooted in the flawed assumption that renewed nuclear testing would prompt the Kremlin to pressure the Chinese into joining a trilateral agreement with the United States and Russia. This concept was dismissed out of hand by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. During an online forum conducted by the Gorchakov Fund, a Russian think tank, Ryabkov asserted that the Kremlin didn’t intend to apply any pressure to China to please Washington.  Instead of playing along with Trump’s dangerous brinkmanship, Russia may pull out of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty altogether. Alexei Fenenko, an associate professor of global politics at Moscow State University, told the state media outlet RIA Novosti that such a withdrawal would be “beneficial for Russia, since the collapse of this treaty would cause colossal damage to the United States of America.” State media outlet Vesti surmised that such a move would obliterate all of Washington’s efforts and decades-long investments in the nuclear ban treaty.As for the planned U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo clarified that it is set to take place six months from now, on Nov. 22, 2020, after the next presidential election in the United States. In Russia, Trump’s commentary and the timing of the intended withdrawal from Open Skies were interpreted as a sign that the move is merely political, with no tangible repercussions for the Kremlin. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov mentioned that the Kremlin’s exchanges with Washington were taking place via the traditional and non-traditional channels, but described the Trump administration’s demands and ultimatums as “senseless” and “categorically unacceptable.”Russian state-owned radio station Vesti FM described Trump’s dangerous flailing on the international arena as his desire “to play with toy soldiers.” The Kremlin’s state media have grown used to laughing at Trump’s irrational bluster. Appearing on the state TV show 60 Minutes earlier this week, Elena Malinnikova, an infectious disease specialist for the Russian Health Ministry, said that Trump must really be taking the regimen of hydroxychloroquine, since it’s known to cause psychotic side effects.  Trump’s Been Playing a Ventilator Shell Game With Russia—and Moscow Mocks HimTrump recently sought to improve relations with Russia with a donation of U.S. taxpayer-funded ventilators, despite Moscow’s claim that it already has more ventilators per capita than the United States. In fact, Russian state media reported that the country is so flush with ventilators, it plans to start exporting them to other countries by July. Instead of eliciting gratitude, Trump’s gift to the Kremlin only prompted more mockery.The Kremlin is waiting for the November election, hoping it's guy Trump will win, and looking at the administration's announced policies through that lens.Appearing on the state TV show 60 Minutes on Friday, Oleg Nilov, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, said: “After the [U.S.] elections, the new political chapter will emerge in the United States of America. A lot of things will surface.” He dubbed the Open Skies announcement a “pre-electoral move,” and, referring to the U.S. president’s remarks about good relations, joked that Trump thinks, “Everything is fine in relations with Russia, we [the U.S.] trust them completely and therefore, they don’t need to be monitored.” Nilov’s commentary prompted the experts and the host of 60 Minutes, Olga Skabeeva, to chuckle. The possibility of genuine trust between the United States and Russia sounded too far-fetched to be taken with any degree of seriousness. Skabeeva asked military expert Ivan Konovalov whether the U.S. withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty would hamper Russia’s ability “to uncover important information about the Americans.” Konovalov assured her that regardless of the treaty, Russia can continue to obtain the same data by utilizing its space operations. Last year, the Defense Intelligence Agency noted that both China and Russia “have developed robust and capable space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.” The signatories of the Open Skies treaty include most of America's NATO allies—and Ukraine. Konovalov explained that the termination of the treaty wouldn’t impact Russia, while at the same time it would harm NATO, Europe, and especially those countries on Russia's borders: the Baltic States and Ukraine. “They are losing much more," he said. "Ukraine participated in these flights since 2014. In spite of all of our disagreements and confrontations, Ukrainian officers and inspectors were allowed to enter our airspace along with Americans." America's allies "are losing because of this, the Europeans are losing.” Political scientist Vladimir Kornilov pointed out: “Trump is convinced this is a bilateral agreement, he isn’t even thinking about other countries involved. It’s funny.” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, noted that the U.S. announcement about its intended withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty came as a surprise to America’s allies. He accused the Trump administration of lying about its reasoning for withdrawing from the treaty and added: “The United States is sowing discord and uncertainty among its allies… They are ignoring the opinion of NATO and other nations that are party to this agreement.” In point of fact, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Sweden jointly said they “regret” Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty, calling on Russia to return to compliance with the agreement. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, trying to smooth things over within the alliance, cited Russia’s violations of the treaty, including “flight limitations over Kaliningrad, and restricting flights in Russia near its border with Georgia” and expressed hope that the agreement could be preserved if the Kremlin returns to compliance. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, “Withdrawing from a treaty is not the solution,” adding that the EU “will be examining the implications this decision may have for its own security.” The European Union on Friday urged the United States to reconsider its plan to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty. As the Trump administration casts aside the concerns of the Europeans, the Kremlin intends to amplify “the lack of solidarity” exhibited by the United States towards its allies.Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the state media outlet TASS: "This move will not only worsen the situation with strategic stability and military security in Europe, but apparently it will also harm the interests of U.S. allies that are parties to this European agreement."Trump’s ability to sow that kind of discord among NATO allies is unquestionably appetizing to the Kremlin. Earlier this week, experts on the Russian state TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev discussed Russia’s preference for Trump’s re-election, as opposed to the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden. Andrey Bezrukov, retired intelligence service colonel who serves as an advisor to the president of Rosneft (the Russian state-owned oil company), and a member of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, explained: “I am often asked: ‘Why is Trump better than, for example, Biden or Clinton?’ The answer is simple. Because Biden or Clinton would act in support of [international] coalitions. It’s the gathering of all forces against us into one group, one team. When Trump came, he destroyed that team.”So, from the Kremlin’s point of view—in spite of Trump’s mind-numbing arrogance and incompetence—his actions ultimately boost Russia’s interests.        In light of Trump’s successes undermining transatlantic unity, the Kremlin has to be unquestionably rattled by the possibility he might lose the election in 2020. Anatoly Torkunov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Collegium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, offered fairly cogent analysis: “Even though the world system is less and less dependent on the United States and the results of their elections, we continue to carefully analyze the situation. At the beginning of the year there was more certainty. According to our experts, Andrey Bezrukov and Ivan Safranchuk, the outcome of the elections depended on two variables: the economic situation in the United States and the ability of the Democratic Party to mobilize its political base. Given that the economic situation was favorable and the Democrats could not recover from internal conflicts, the chances of the incumbent president to maintain his post were pretty high. "The pandemic caused things to change," said Torkunov. "On the one hand, the United States is facing serious economic difficulties. On the other hand, the Democrats, at least the establishment of the party, rallied around their candidate, Joseph Biden. This reduces Trump's chances.”  The Kremlin’s apparent concern that its preferred candidate might lose in November explains the avalanche of anti-Biden coverage on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik. Kremlin-funded media are latching on to every distraction spawned by Trump’s re-election campaign: Obamagate, Huntergate, Flynngate and whatever else may follow. The goal of undermining the American democracy continues to guide the Kremlin’s actions and Trump’s presidency still suits Putin’s agenda to a “T.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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Embattled at Home, Trump Finds Himself Isolated Abroad, Too



BRUSSELS — With U.S. cities burning and the coronavirus still raging, killing more people than in any other country, President Donald Trump also has growing problems overseas. He has never before been so isolated and ignored, even mocked.In Europe, after years of snubs and U.S. unilateralism, America's traditional allies have stopped looking to him for leadership, no longer trust that this president will offer them much and are turning their backs on him.That was evidenced most obviously this week by the decision of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, not to attend the Group of 7 meeting that Trump wanted so badly in Washington this month to show that the virus was behind him and the world was returning to normal.Merkel cited the lingering threat of the virus, but a senior German official who spoke on the condition of anonymity made clear that she had other reasons to decline: She believed that proper diplomatic preparations had not been made; she did not want to be part of an anti-China display; she opposed Trump's idea of inviting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin; she did not want to be seen as interfering in U.S. domestic politics.And she was shocked by Trump's sudden, unilateral decision to pull out of the World Health Organization.The divide between Trump and European allies was widening even before U.S. cities were convulsed by rioting. But the chaos on American streets, viewed from abroad, has only reinforced a sense that the conflicts that Trump seems to sow have caught up with him.As Trump threatens to call in the military against his own citizens, he has become a president that some of America's closest allies prefer to keep at arms' length, unsure of what he will do next and unwilling to be dragged into his campaign for reelection."Leaders in allied nations now think that criticizing Trump is to their advantage," said Marietje Schaake, a former Dutch European legislator, especially now with the unrest in U.S. cities and demonstrations supporting those protests in many European cities, including Amsterdam.Even the European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, felt bold enough Tuesday to say that Europe is ''shocked and appalled" by the police killing of George Floyd. He condemned an ''abuse of power" and "an excessive use of force" and urged the United States to act "in full respect of the law and human rights."On Monday, as if to underline the U.S. president's isolation, it was to the Russian president, Putin, that Trump placed a call, in which the two men discussed the virus, trade and "progress toward convening the G-7," the White House said.Trump invited Putin to the meeting, according to the Kremlin. But if it happens at all, there are doubts that Putin would accept being invited solely as a guest, having been kicked out of the club for his annexation of Crimea and support for insurrection in eastern Ukraine.Trump also called President Jair Bolsonaro, the hard-right leader of Brazil, on Monday."It all shows just how out of touch Trump is with allies," said Julianne Smith, a former Obama official now with the German Marshall Fund in Washington. "This is a man isolated at home and abroad. He is trying to find friends in other places, knowing that relations with traditional allies are bad. But there are serious strains even with the authoritarians he admires, like Xi Jinping and even Putin."Trump "continues to believe allies can be abused and mistreated and that he can order them around and at the same time count on them," Smith said. "He doesn't understand that while the U.S. is powerful, it doesn't always call the shots."Merkel's refusal to come to Washington "says a lot about how fed up multiple leaders are around the world, who have seen how little return they've gotten on the investments they made into a relationship with Trump," she said.With the virus and the riots, she added, "now there is a sense of America's weaknesses being exposed, and a feeling that the emperor has no clothes."The threads unraveled quickly. As late as Thursday, European and U.S. officials say, Trump's plans for a Group of 7 summit meeting in Washington were being negotiated with member countries and looked likely to go ahead. Then, Friday, Trump suddenly announced that he was pulling the United States out of the WHO, more than two weeks before his own stated deadline for the decision.As so often in the past, on issues like unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris climate accord or the Open Skies treaty or the sudden ban on air travel from Europe, Trump ignored the views of allies or did not consult them at all.The WHO decision was a surprise to allies, and Merkel quickly said that she would not attend the proposed summit meeting.Since then, both Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada have come out publicly against bringing Russia back into the Group of 7."For the British and Canadians to say no publicly is highly unusual," given their closeness to the United States, said Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister. "They might disagree in private, but I would have thought they'd be the last to take issue publicly with him on something he cares about."As for Merkel, he said, given the lack of preparation, "the Germans suspected it was just a photo op with Trump in the White House."Despite allied concerns, the Group of 7 matters, and plans for the meeting were going ahead given a general desire to come up with strong positions on Hong Kong and to try to influence Washington's policies on the virus, said Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution.But after the WHO announcement, Merkel decided that "if you're going unilateral, I'm not going to be there to support you," Wright said. "The allies all think he's all over the place and they'll try to avoid him."Ulrich Speck, a German analyst, said that "Merkel has given up any pretensions that she as a German chancellor has to work with an American president no matter who it is." Merkel is a multilateralist in her soul, Speck said, "and she's been hurt by him often, they don't get along and they disagree on many policies," including open confrontation with China.Merkel remains committed to European engagement with Beijing. With Germany taking over the European Union presidency next month, she is trying to strike a European investment deal with China and wants to preserve an EU-China summit scheduled for Leipzig in the autumn."The G-7 is a Trump show, with no negotiation," Speck added. "The old G-7 is gone. For Trump it's not multilateral in spirit but unilateral, just a meeting to serve one purpose — his reelection."President Emmanuel Macron of France has a more traditional French view, especially toward building an improved relationship with Russia, despite Crimea, given its proximity to the European Union, said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations."In France toward Trump is a mix of sadness and anger," Gomart said. "Our main ally refused to exercise leadership during the corona crisis and is every day more provocative toward its allies and is creating divisions that are very actively exploited by China."After nearly four years, Trump has no diplomatic accomplishments, Gomart said, listing failures on North Korea, the Middle East, a deterioration of relations with China and no improvement of relations with Russia. Instead, Macron believes that Trump has damaged European security through his unilateral abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal as well as nearly every arms control agreement with Russia."Macron, to his credit, has at least tried with Trump," said William Drozdiak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has just published a book on Macron, based on a series of interviews with him, called "The Last President of Europe." But he is not trying so hard now.To have "an American leader rejecting all these international institutions and agreements is outrageous for Europeans like Merkel and Macron who have multilateralism in their DNA," he said.Merkel has traditionally avoided trips to the United States after April in presidential election years, Drozdiak noted."She knows that any event," he said, "Trump will spin as if the others are implicitly endorsing him, and that's the last thing she wants to do."She was so uncomfortable, Drozdiak said, that she told. Macron, "Be my guest, be the interlocutor, I don't want to be in the room with the guy."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

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Thousands in London Chant ‘Black Lives Matter’ While Joining Worldwide George Floyd Protests



(LONDON) — Thousands of people demonstrated in London on Wednesday against police violence and racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has set off days of unrest in the United States.

Chanting “Black lives matter,” thousands gathered in Hyde Park, central London’s biggest open space and a traditional protest venue. Many of them passed through barriers at the park and marched through the streets, blocking traffic. There were no signs of violence, although some sprayed graffiti on walls.

Some protesters converged on Parliament and the nearby office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing St. Others headed south of the River Thames.

“Star Wars” actor John Boyega, who was born in Britain to Nigerian parents and grew up in south London’s Peckham neighborhood, pleaded tearfully for demonstrators to stay peaceful.

“Because they want us to mess up, they want us to be disorganized, but not today,” he said.

Boyega recalled the case of Stephen Lawrence, an 18-year-old black man from southeast London who was stabbed to death in 1993 as he waited for a bus. The case against his attackers collapsed in 1996, and a government report cited institutional racism on the part of the London police force as a key factor in its failure to thoroughly investigate the killing.

“Black lives have always mattered,” Boyega said. “We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless and now is the time. I ain’t waiting.”

Police appeared to keep a low profile during the demonstration and the ensuing marches.

Earlier, the U.K.’s most senior police officer said she was “appalled” by Floyd’s death and “horrified” by the subsequent violence in U.S. cities. Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes.

“I do want to reassure people in London … that we will continue with our tradition of policing, using minimum force necessary, working as closely as we possibly can with our communities,” Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told the London Assembly police and crime committee.

“Met officers and staff are highly professional, they’re very well trained, they’re very restrained and they’re also very, very highly scrutinized, something we don’t flinch from at all,” Dick said.

While the London protesters expressed solidarity with Americans protesting Floyd’s death, many also pointed to issues closer to home. “Racism is a pandemic,” said one placard at the London demonstration.

Other protests are taking place around the world, including in Cape Town, South Africa, and in Reykjavík, Iceland.

In Cape Town, about 20 people gathered at the gates of the parliament complex and held up signs with the slogans of “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice 4 George Floyd and Collins Khosa.”

Khosa is died a month ago after being confronted by soldiers and police in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township. Family members say he died hours after he was choked and beaten.

A South African army investigation cleared the soldiers of wrongdoing, but lawyers for Khosa’s family say they will challenge those findings.

The London demonstrators appeared to ignore coronavirus social distancing guidelines in the U.K., where people have been told to stay 2 meters (6 feet) apart.

Some of them carried placards saying “Justice for Belly Mujinga,” a 47-year-old railway station worker who died of coronavirus in April, weeks after an incident in which she said she was coughed and spat upon by a customer who claimed to be infected.

Her death has come to symbolize the high toll the virus has taken on ethnic minority Britons and front-line workers — and, for some, social injustice. Police did not bring charges against the man accused of confronting Mujinga, saying an investigation had shown he did not infect her and there was no evidence to substantiate a criminal offense.

The coronavirus outbreak has exposed divisions and inequalities within the U.K. A government-commissioned report Tuesday confirmed that ethnic minorities in Britain experienced a higher death rate from the coronavirus than whites.

Figures from London’s Metropolitan Police also show that black and ethnic minority Londoners were more likely than their white counterparts to be fined or arrested for breaking lockdown rules barring gatherings or nonessential travel.

Metropolitan Police figures show that black people received 26% of the 973 fines handed out by police between March 27 and May 14, and accounted for 31% of arrests. They make up about 12% of London’s population. People from Asian, black, mixed and other backgrounds received more than half of the fines and arrests, but account for about 40% of the city’s population.

The police force said the reasons for the discrepancy were “complex.” But Owen West, a former police chief superintendent, said racism was a potential factor.

“The U.K. police service has massive issues with discrimination … and I really do think now is the time to confront it,” he told the BBC.

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‘Dangerous:’ Around the World, Police Chokeholds Are Being Scrutinized



LE PECQ, France — Three days after George Floyd died with a Minneapolis police officer choking off his air, another black man writhed on the tarmac of a street in Paris as a police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.

Immobilization techniques where officers apply pressure with their knees on prone suspects are used in policing around the world and have long drawn criticism. One reason why Floyd’s death is sparking anger and touching nerves globally is that such techniques have been blamed for asphyxiations and other deaths in police custody beyond American shores, often involving non-white suspects.

“We cannot say that the American situation is foreign to us,” said French lawmaker Francois Ruffin, who has pushed for a ban on the police use of face-down holds that are implicated in multiple deaths in France, a parliamentary effort put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

The muscular arrest on May 28 in Paris of a black man who was momentarily immobilized face-up with an officer’s knee and upper shin pressing down on his jaw, neck and upper chest is among those that have drawn angry comparisons with the killing of Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.

The Paris arrest was filmed by bystanders and widely shared and viewed online. Police said the man was driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and without a license and that he resisted arrest and insulted officers. His case was turned over to prosecutors.

In Hong Kong, where police behavior is a hot-button issue after months of anti-government protests, the city’s force says it is investigating the death of a man who was immobilized face-down during his arrest in May by officers who were filmed kneeling on his shoulder, back and neck.

Police rules and procedures on chokeholds and restraints vary internationally.

In Belgium, police instructor Stany Durieux says he reprimands trainees, docking them points, “every time I see a knee applied to the spinal column.”

“It is also forbidden to lean on a suspect completely, as this can crush his rib cage and suffocate him,” he said.

Condemned by police and experts in the United States, Floyd’s death also drew criticism from officers abroad who disassociated themselves from the behavior of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He was charged with third-degree murder after he was filmed pushing down with his knee on Floyd’s neck until Floyd stopped crying out that he couldn’t breathe and eventually stopped moving.

In Israel, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”

In Germany, officers are allowed to briefly exert pressure on the side of a suspect’s head but not on the neck, says Germany‘s GdP police union.

In the U.K., the College of Policing says prone suspects should be placed on their side or in a sitting, kneeling or standing position “as soon as practicable.” Guidance on the website of London’s police force discourages the use of neck restraints, saying “any form of pressure to the neck area can be highly dangerous.”

Even within countries, procedures can vary.

The thick Patrol Guide, hundreds of pages long, for the New York Police Department says in bold capitals that officers “SHALL NOT” use chokeholds and should “avoid actions which may result in chest compression, such as sitting, kneeling, or standing on a subject’s chest or back, thereby reducing the subject’s ability to breathe.”

But the so-called “sleeper hold,” where pressure is applied to the neck with an arm, blocking blood flow, was allowed for police in San Diego before Floyd’s death triggered a shift. Police Chief David Nisleit said he would this week order an end to the tactic.

Gendarmes in France are discouraged from pressing down on the chests and vital organs of prone suspects and are no longer taught to apply pressure to the neck, said Col. Laurent De La Follye de Joux, head of training for the force.

“You don’t need to be a doctor to understand that it is dangerous,” he said.

But instructions for the National Police, the other main law and order force in France, appear to give its officers more leeway. Issued in 2015, they say pressure on a prone suspect’s chest “should be as short as possible.”

Christophe Rouget, a police union official who briefed lawmakers for their deliberations in March about the proposal to ban suffocating techniques, said if officers don’t draw pistols or use stun-guns then immobilizing people face-down is the safest option, stopping suspects from kicking out at arresting officers.

“We don’t have 5,000 options,” he said. “These techniques are used by all the police in the world because they represent the least amount of danger. The only thing is that they have to be well used. In the United States, we saw that it wasn’t well used, with pressure applied in the wrong place and for too long.”

He added that the “real problem” in France is that officers don’t get enough follow-up training after being taught restraints in police school.

“You need to repeat them often to do them well,” he said.

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