Tag: Mel Gurtov

Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?

MEL GURTOV – In the aftermath of the “Korean spring” at the Winter Games, some observers waxed euphoric over the potential for direct US-North Korea talks. The apparent breakthrough at the Games in North-South dialogue occasioned by Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yu-jong, and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in had put Vice President Mike Pence in an embarrassing position—odd man out as Moon and Ms. Kim discussed a summit meeting while Pence sat on his hands. Pence tried to recover by indicating as he left South Korea that talks with the North might actually be possible—a concession that gave the appearance of a US decision to fall in line with the South Korean view. But has the US position on how to deal with North Korea actually changed?

Trump Is Missing an Opportunity in Cuba

MEL GURTOV – President Obama’s engagement with Cuba was one of his administration’s success stories. The policy shift was based on the entirely realistic as well as humanitarian assessment that permanent estrangement deepens enmity, isolates two peoples and separates families, reduces opportunities for improvement in the quality of life in Cuba, inhibits the two-way flow of information, and prevents cooperation on common problems. But the Trump administration, pressed by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, is still fighting the Cold War, as evidenced by Trump’s disengagement order the week of June 20.

Trump Abdicates Control of US Military Interventions

MEL GURTOV – Now, just below the radar, the US military is engaged in an ever-increasing number of “advise-and-assist” missions, supplemented by major arms deals and CIA-run drone strikes, that commit the US to long-term intervention in Africa and the Middle East. And Donald Trump, unlike Barack Obama, is happy to cede operational control—to “let the war fighters fight the war,” as Stephen Bannon told CNN.

China’s Bad Day in Court

MEL GURTOV – As had been widely expected, the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the UN Convention on he Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled on July 12 in favor of the Philippines’ suit to declare Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea (SCS) illegal. On every particular, the court found that China’s claims—defined by the so-called “nine-dash line”— to an expansive maritime zone and its undersea resources are illegal, and therefore that its land reclamation and construction projects in the islands encroach on the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Though the ruling did not extend to the issue of sovereignty over the SCS islands, it clarified the boundary dispute. The ruling also found China guilty of harming the marine environment by building artificial islands, of illegally interfering with Filipinos’ fishing and oil exploration, and “aggravating” the dispute with the Philippines by its construction activities.

What is Really Going on in China?

MEL GURTOV – Will the real China please stand up? In the US media, most stories about China raise questions that amount to threat-mongering. How can China’s “aggressiveness” in the South China Sea be stopped? Is China forming a new alliance with Putin’s Russia? Has China hacked its way into the most sensitive US industrial and military secrets? Is China on the verge of displacing the West from Africa and even Latin America? Are the Chinese about to become a military rival of the US in terms of naval and air power?

Evaluating Obama’s Foreign Policy Record

MEL GURTOV – How should we evaluate Obama’s foreign policy record? Right-wing critics will of course excoriate Obama for all the usual things—weakness against adversaries like Russia and China, negotiating with instead of subverting Cuba and Iran, eviscerating the US military, undermining relations with Israel. On the left, Obama is already being cast as another liberal leader whose actions failed to deliver on his promises, from Guantanamo to the Middle East. Historians will have plenty of things to quarrel about, but we need not wait.

Panama Papers Reveal How the 1% Operate

MEL GURTOV – One of the many tools at the disposal of multinational corporations (MNCs) for maximizing profits and undermining state sovereignty is moving operations to low-tax countries. Global companies do not simply “go abroad”; they shift capital, as well as labor and technology, to wherever the advantages are greatest. This reality of globalization is well known, and it is matched by the similar behavior of powerful, wealthy individuals, including present and former top government officials. Like the MNCs, wealthy individuals are not content to make tons of money at home if they can make even more by finding tax shelters abroad, where their money is completely hidden from public view. It’s what the One Percent do.

North Korea’s New Weapons: Full Speed Ahead

MEL GURTOV – North Korea is on a military tear. How and when any of the weapons the North claims to have might actually be operational is open to speculation. What does seem clear is that Kim Jong-un is pressing his weapons specialists to produce a reliable deterrent that will force the issue of direct talks with the U.S.

Diplomacy Needed in Dealing with North Korea

MEL GURTOV – The longstanding US approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons is way off the mark. The Obama administration’s strategy of “strategic patience” shows little attention to North Korean motivations. The US insistence that no change in policy is conceivable unless and until North Korea agrees to denuclearize ensures continuing tension, the danger of a disastrous miscalculation, and more and better North Korean nuclear weapons. The immediate focus of US policy should be on trust building.

Time for a Reset in US-Saudi Relations

MEL GURTOV – How long must a so-called ally be tolerated and coddled, with mountains of arms, when its actions contradict US policy and violate international norms? Indefinitely, since access to oil, support of Israel, and reliance on the authoritarian Middle East monarchies have been staples of US policy for many decades. Yet wouldn’t it be worth considering that the violence and deprivations of human rights in the Middle East might be alleviated by US adherence to a different set of priorities: social justice, environmental protection (with a focus on water), accountable and transparent governance, and demilitarization through substantial reductions of armaments and arms transfers?

The Paris Climate-Change Agreement: Hold the Champagne

MEL GURTOV – The Paris accord gives us something to celebrate—a serious undertaking by virtually every country, rich or poor, to commit to reducing carbon emissions such that our warming planet does not rise another 2 degrees Celsius, and if possible no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. The hope is that the combination of global commitments, technological advances, and business investments will literally turn the tide on climate change. But of course the devil is in the details, and in each country’s politics.

U.S. Policy Must Acknowledge China’s Insecurity

MEL GURTOV – Several developments in China over the past few weeks have shown us a country quite different from the one often portrayed by outsiders—an emerging superpower, with global economic reach and ambitions to challenge American predominance, at least in Asia. The real China, the one most familiar to its citizens, faces serious, long-term problems at home. Therefore, President Obama can either press China hard on currency valuation, human rights, and cyberhacking, or he can engage in a dialogue of equals and pursue common ground on climate change, Iran, the South China Sea dispute, and North Korea. In choosing the latter course, Obama would be recognizing that Xi is plagued by domestic problems largely of his own making. US pressure on him now would not only be strongly resented; it would be quite counterproductive. Let the Chinese people determine the fate of what Xi Jinping calls the “China dream.”

Pentagon Slush Fund Continues to Grow

MEL GURTOV – The dynamics of how the American taxpayer is endlessly tapped to provide massive and unnecessary funds for the US military is explained. Gurtov is not writing about the core military requests for defense of the U.S., but rather the corruption and global adventurism that places US personnel in harms way, and cheats the U.S. itself out of funds needed for the well being of our people.

Obama Must Ignore Middle Eastern Whiners About Iran

MEL GURTOV – One of the predictable outcomes of any US effort to reset relations with an adversary is that allies start whining about their vulnerability and demanding some sort of compensation for it. Thus, no sooner was the nuclear deal with Iran concluded than the Israelis, Saudis, and other Middle East partners criticize it as representing abandonment and emboldening Iran to become a stronger meddler in neighbors’ affairs. All sorts of dire predictions about horrendous consequences are already on record, clearly intended to influence the Obama administration to give these folks something for their pain—like money, arms (both of which they get in abundance), and especially new commitments.

New Oil Drilling Threatens New Disasters

MEL GURTOV – On January 17 the New York Times reported that, to appease environmentalists, the Obama administration would “ban drilling in portions of the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.” But in return, Republicans and the oil and gas industry got federal approval to drill in a large swath of the Atlantic Ocean, a move that I believe risks another BP-type disaster.

U.S.-China Crisis Looms in the South China Sea

MEL GURTOV – The long-running, multi-party dispute over control of islets in the South China Sea (SCS) is worsening both in rhetoric and provocative activity. Meeting in late May at the Shangri-La Dialogue on regional security, U.S. and Chinese defense officials sparred over responsibility for the increased tension, though they stopped short of issuing threats. In fact, all sides to the dispute say they want to avoid violence, prefer a diplomatic resolution, and support freedom of navigation.

The Lone Ranger Rides Again – America’s Return to Iraq

MEL GURTOV – In an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times on August 8, President Obama stressed that the US was only fighting the Islamic State (IS, or ISIS) in Iraq as a partner, not as Iraq’s or the Kurds’ air force. Obama claims his officials are reminding everyone, “We will be your partners, but we are not going to do it for you. We’re not sending a bunch of US troops back on the ground to keep a lid on things.” Now, less than three weeks later, the strategic picture has changed, and emphases on “partnerships” have faded while the US military complex advances largely on its own.