Trump says US is ending decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia

President Donald Trump announced Saturday that the US is pulling out of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, a decades-old agreement that has drawn the ire of the President.

“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One to leave Nevada following a campaign rally.

“And I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” he said. “We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement.

“But Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out,” he said of the agreement, which was signed in December 1987 by former President Ronald Reagan and former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Following the announcement, Russia’s state-run news agency, RIA Novosti, reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to discuss the decision with US national security adviser John Bolton when he visits Russia this week.

According to the report, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, “It’s likely that an explanation from the US will be required following the latest scandalous statements.”

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty?

The treaty forced both countries to eliminate ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between approximately 300 and 3,400 miles. It offered a blanket of protection to the United States’ European allies and marked a watershed agreement between two nations at the center of the arms race during the Cold War.

Former State Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, explained that the treaty “wasn’t designed to solve all of our problems with the Soviet Union,” but was “designed to provide a measure of some strategic stability on the continent of Europe.”

“I suspect our European allies right now are none too happy about hearing that President Trump intends to pull out of it,” he said.

Why leave the agreement now?

The Trump Administration has said repeatedlythat Russia has violated the treaty and has pointed to their predecessors in the Obama administration who accused Russia of violating the terms of the agreement.

In 2014, CNN reported that the US had accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty, citing cruise missile tests that dated to 2008. CNN reported in 2014 that the United States at the time informed its NATO allies of Russia’s suspected breach.

However, it wasn’t until recently that NATO officially confirmed Russia’s activity constituted a likely violation.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month that the military alliance remained “concerned about Russia’s lack of respect for its international commitments, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF Treaty.”

“This treaty abolishes a whole category of weapons and is a crucial element of our security,” Stoltenberg said, speaking at a defense ministers’ meeting. “Now this treaty is in danger because of Russia’s actions.”

He continued, “After years of denials, Russia recently acknowledged the existence of a new missile system, called 9M729. Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile. All allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the treaty. It is therefore urgent that Russia addresses these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner.”

Moscow’s failure to adhere to the agreement was also addressed in the most recent Nuclear Posture Review published by the Defense Department in February, which said Russia “continues to violate a series of arms control treaties and commitments.”

“In a broader context, Russia is either rejecting or avoiding its obligations and commitments under numerous agreements and has rebuffed U.S. efforts to follow the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with another round of negotiated reductions and to pursue reductions in non-strategic nuclear forces.”

What does this mean for US security?

Pulling out of the treaty could provoke a similar arms race across Europe akin to the one that was occurring when the agreement was initially signed in the 1980s.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage right now that if we pull out of the INF Treaty, you’ve got to go sort of build a bunker in your backyard,” Kirby said.

“I don’t think we’re at that stage at all,” he said. “But I do think, if we pull out, we really do need to think about how we are going to, right now because we don’t have the same capability as the Russians have with this particular missile. How are we going to try and counter that? How are we going to try and help deter use of it on the continent of Europe?”

How does China work in all of this?

Administration officials believe the treaty has put the US at a disadvantage because China does not face any constraints on developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles in the Pacific and it does not allow the US to develop new weapons.

Trump, speaking with reporters on Saturday, referenced China when explaining his reasoning for pulling out of the agreement.

“Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘Let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons.’ But if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” Trump said.

In 2017, the head of US Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, told Congress that approximately 95% of China’s missile force would violate the INF Treaty if they were part of the agreement.

“This fact is significant because the U.S. has no comparable capability due to our adherence to the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia,” Harris said in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

National security adviser John Bolton is expected to discuss the treaty with Russian officials on his trip to Moscow next week.

Kirby said he thinks the Russians will be OK with the decision.

“This gives Putin an excuse to just continue doing what he’s doing, only doing it more blatantly,” Kirby said.

Outspoken Russian senator Alexey Pushkov tweeted Sunday that the “United States is bringing the world back to the Cold War” in reaction to Trump’s decision, which he called a “massive blow to the entire system of strategic stability in the world.”

Senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev warned on his Facebook page that “the consequences would be truly catastrophic.” However, he said it’s not official that the US has pulled out of the INF, saying “it’s still possible to consider Trump’s statement as continuous blackmail rather than a completed legal act.”

[CNN]

Trump: Saudi Arabia has ‘been a great ally to me’

President Trump on Tuesday said Saudi Arabia has “been a great ally to me” amid an international diplomatic crisis over allegations that Saudi agents killed a U.S.-based Saudi journalist in Istanbul.

Trump told Fox Business Network’s Trish Regan that the U.S. response to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance will depend on “whether or not they knew about it.”

“Saudi Arabia’s our partner, our ally against Iran,” he said. “They’ve been a great ally to me.”

“They’re investing tremendous amounts of money,” he added, referring to America’s $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi kingdom.

Trump earlier in the day denied having any financial interests in Saudi Arabia, pushing back on speculation that he is treading lightly with the Saudis over Khashoggi because of his financial conflicts of interest.

The president, a longtime business mogul, has long-standing and close business ties to the Saudis, with Saudi businessmen spending significant amounts of money at his hotels and properties over decades.

One Saudi royal billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, purchased Trump’s yacht and a stake in New York’s Plaza Hotel in the 1990s when Trump was in financial distress.

Trump’s business ties to the kingdom have come under intense scrutiny in recent days as Trump has repeated Saudi leadership’s denials of involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish authorities say Saudi agents killed and dismembered the Washington Post journalist in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate.

Trump, after praising Saudi Arabia during the Fox Business interview, added, “With all of that being said, you can’t do what we’ve been reading about. We’re gonna learn a lot about it.”

He then discussed the $110 billion arms deal, saying if the U.S. doesn’t give the weapons to Saudi Arabia, the country will turn to “Russia or China.”

“Aren’t we just hurting our own country?” he asked, responding to critics who have said he should end the arms deal. “Because here’s what’s going to happen — [they’ll] buy them from China, buy them from Russia.”

“We’re not really hurting them, we’re hurting ourselves,” he added. “I don’t want to give up a $110 billion order.”

[The Hill]

Trump: Saudi Journalist Could Have Been Murdered By ‘Rogue Killers’

President Donald Trump spoke out on Monday about his call with the Saudi King to discuss allegations his government killed and dismembered Washington Post writer and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Monday, Trump repeatedly noted Saudi Arabia’s denial of alleged killing was “very strong,” even adding that Khashoggi could have been murdered by “rogue killers.”

“I just spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia, who denies any knowledge with what took place,” Trump said. “And he firmly denies that.”

Trump added that he has sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi King Salman.

“The king firmly denied any knowledge of it, he didn’t really know, maybe, I don’t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers,” Trump said. “Who knows, we’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.”

“He told me in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it,” Trump continued. “He said it very strongly.”

“His denial to me could not have been stronger,” Trump added.

Turkish officials say they have proof that Khashoggi — missing since he entered the Saudi consulate on October 2 — was murdered by a team of Saudi agents. Trump has repeatedly stressed that the Saudis vehemently deny their involvement in his disappearance. In a tweet on Monday morning, he emphasized that U.S. resident Khashoggi is a “Saudi citizen,” and that King Salman “denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened.”

The disappearance and possible murder of Khashoggi poses a problem for Trump administration attempts to build a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia, notably through Jared Kushner‘s relationship with young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

[Mediaite]

Reality

Trump & Saudi Business:
•1991: Sold yacht to Saudi Prince
•2001: Sold 45th floor of Trump World Tower to Saudis
•Jun 2015: I love the Saudis…many in Trump Tower
•Aug 2015: “They buy apartments from me…Spend $40M-$50M”
•2017: Saudi lobbyists spent $270K at Trump DC hotel

Trump Snaps at Leslie Stahl After She Reads Resume of Kim Jong Un Atrocities: ‘I’m Not a Baby, I Know These Things’

In an interview that aired Sunday night on 60 Minutes, President Donald Trump snapped at CBS News’ Lesley Stahl after she read a resume of atrocities committed by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“He presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation. Reports that he had his half-brother assassinated. Slave labor. Public executions. This is a guy you love?” Stahl asked.

“I’m not a baby. I know these things,” Trump snapped before going on to explain that he gets along with him and saying he loved him is just a “figure of speech.”

Then after Stahl pointed Kim was a “bad guy,” Trump said this:  “Let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well. I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats. No more threats.”

In another part of the interview, he also called political people “babies.”

[Mediaite]

Trump’s Not Gonna Let a Little Murder Get in the Way of His $110 Billion Arms Deal

new report in The Washington Post, citing U.S. intelligence intercepts, appears to confirm what is looking increasingly likely: that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the operation to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi from his home in Virginia to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, and had him murdered. Turkish security officials told The New York Times that they believe he was “dismembered . . . with a bone saw” by a 15-person team, dispatched from Saudi Arabia to make the vociferous critic of Salman’s government disappear. It is, in other words, not a good look for the so-called “reformer” prince, whose country has denied killing Khashoggi, but is not trying particularly hard to be convincing. Nor is it a good look for Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, who don’t seem eager to terminate a chummy relationship with the crown prince over a credible murder allegation. At least not just yet.

For those who need a quick refresher on the Kushner-M.B.S. bromance, the two first bonded over lunch at the White House back in March 2017, with the Boy Prince of New Jersey subsequently persuading his father-in-law to visit Riyadh for his first trip abroad as president. From there, it was basically a buddy comedy for the ages, with Kushner championing M.B.S. when the young prince was battling with his cousin to become his father’s heir; supporting his move to blockade Qatar and tacitly supporting his brutal war in Yemen; having back-slapping dinners with the prince in D.C. and the Saudi capital; and reportedly giving M.B.S. the names of disloyal Saudi royals who were later rounded up and imprisoned (Kushner denies this). Perhaps most significant, the two struck a deal for a $110 billion weapons sale—not a bad inducement if you’re trying to get the future king’s blessing for your Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Salman’s financial ties to Trump run deep, too. In March, the prince’s entourage almost single-handedly boosted revenue at Trump’s New York hotel by 13 percent. Presumably, Kushner and M.B.S. had discussed plans to get a boys trip on the calendar in between work and family commitments.

So the news that Saudi Arabia likely murdered a journalist who spoke critically of the crown prince’s regime has put Kushner in, as the Times puts it, an “extremely awkward position”! At first, Kushner and the White House chose to stay silent on the matter, like friends of Brett Kavanaugh refusing to dignify allegations of their pal being a fall-down drunk with a sexual-predator problem. But as the evidence kept piling up, it was clear they had to at least feign some level of concern, which apparently involved calling up M.B.S. and being like, “Hey, did you kill this guy? Nope? O.K., works for us!”

On Tuesday, the White House said, Mr. Kushner and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, spoke to Prince Mohammed by phone about Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called him.

“In both calls, they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” said the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Meanwhile, Kushner’s father-in-law suggested Wednesday night that he thought the Saudis probably didkill Khashoggi, expressing less anger about the situation than he did when Nordstrom dropped his daughters’s clothing line. “It would not be a positive,” he told Fox News. “I would not be happy at all.” But while the smallest perceived slights generally result in the president vowing to destroy another country—for instance, threatening to economically cripple Ecuador for promoting breastfeeding—he apparently sees no reason to stop doing business with the kingdom:

. . . The president expressed reluctance to punish Saudi Arabia by cutting off arms sales, as some in Washington were proposing. “I think that would be hurting us,” he said. “We have jobs, we have a lot of things happening in this country.”

Also on Thursday, Trump made his disregard for Khashoggi’s death even more obvious, telling reporters: “Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge Khashoggi is not a U.S. citizen, is that right? He’s a permanent resident, O.K. . . . As to whether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country . . . that would not be acceptable to me.” Incidentally, many say the deal is not worth anywhere near $110 billion, though accuracy has never been the president’s forte (that would be cozying up to autocrats who flout democratic values and human rights).

[Vanity Fair]

Trump: I told Saudi king he wouldn’t last without U.S. support

President Donald Trump made an undiplomatic remark about close ally Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, saying he warned Saudi Arabia’s King Salman he would not last in power “for two weeks” without the backing of the U.S. military.

“We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say they’re rich. And I love the King, King Salman. But I said ‘King – we’re protecting you – you might not be there for two weeks without us – you have to pay for your military,'” Trump said to cheers at a rally in Southaven, Mississippi.

Trump did not say when he made those remarks to the Saudi monarch.

Despite the harsh words, the Trump administration has had a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which it views as a bulwark against Iran’s ambitions in the region.

Trump made Saudi Arabia his first stop on his maiden international trip as president last year.

Trump called King Salman on Saturday and they discussed efforts being made to maintain supplies to ensure oil market stability and global economic growth, according to Saudi state news agency SPA.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter and the de facto leader of OPEC, which has been criticized by Trump for high oil prices.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, Trump said OPEC members were “as usual ripping off the rest of the world.”

“We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices. Not good. We want them to stop raising prices, we want them to start lowering prices,” Trump said.

[Reuters]

Trump Says He and Kim Jong Un ‘Fell in Love’

Donald Trump has been fawning, to some degree or other, over Kim Jong Un ever since he met with the North Korean dictator back in June: praising him for being such a “strong head” of his regime, bragging about their “very good relationship,” and gushing about how much they “like each other.”

But over the weekend, the president suggested their bond goes even deeper than that—which is to say that the two of them “fell in love.”

According to the Associated Press, Trump devoted a good chunk of his rally in West Virginia on Saturday to discussing his special connection with Kim, at one point screaming “I like him, he likes me!” before going on to explain just how close they’ve grown since their summit in Singapore.

“When I did it—and I was really being tough, and so was he, and we would go back and forth—and then we fell in love,” Trump said. “OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

The comment seemed to be a reference to a note Kim sent Trump back in July, in which the despot addressed Trump as “Your Excellency”—a correspondence so nice, Trump ignored the fact that North Korea had reportedly begun developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the US. It’s just one example of how Kim hasn’t followed through on plans for nuclear deescalation, but Trump has kept on singing his praises anyway, moving right along with plans to meet with Kim for a second summit.

In his time as North Korea’s leader, Kim has reportedly executed hundreds of people, allegedly had his own half-brother assassinated, and detained tens of thousands of political dissidents in prison

—among many other atrocities. But somehow, that hasn’t stopped Trump from turning their bromance into a campaign talking point in the Heartland.

[Vice]

Trump Tweets ‘Thank You’ to Kim Jong Un After North Korean Military Para

President Donald Trump sent his thanks to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday after the country made changes to its military parade in Pyongyang.

North Korea celebrated its 70-year anniversary on Sunday with a show of its military strength but strayed from the traditional display of the country’s intercontinental missiles. The parade instead featured floats and flowers as Kim chose to focus on building economic power.

Trump, who met with Kim for a denuclearization summit in Singapore in June, tweeted his gratitude to the North Korean dictator on Sunday.

“This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other! Much better than before I took office.”

Kim spent the parade with a special envoy from China and other foreign visitors, Reuters reported. The North Korean leader spoke to Chinese parliament chief Li Zhanshu about building economic growth and said he hopes to learn from China.

The parade came only two weeks after Trump announced that he was canceling Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s diplomatic trip to North Korea. The president tweeted the news on Aug. 24, explaining, “I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Kim said at the parade that he has taken steps toward denuclearization and planned to uphold the peace resolution, according to Reuters, which cited a Chinese state television report.

[Huffington Post]

Trump thanks North Korea’s Kim for ‘unwavering faith’ in him

President Trump on Thursday thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for his “unwavering faith” in him amid ongoing negotiations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

“Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!” Trump tweeted, reacting to reports following a meeting between Kim and South Korean leaders.

CNN reported that South Korean officials said Kim voiced “unwavering trust for President Trump” during the meeting. The North Korean leader reportedly expressed an ongoing commitment to denuclearization, and wants to fully settle the issue by the end of Trump’s first-term.

“Chairman Kim Jong Un has made it clear several times that he is firmly committed to denuclearization, and he expressed frustration over skepticism in the international community over his commitment,” South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong said, according to The Associated Press.

“He said he’s pre-emptively taken steps necessary for denuclearization and wants to see these goodwill measures being met with goodwill measures,” Chung added.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will reportedly hold a summit from Sept. 18-20 in Pyongyang as a next step in negotiations.

Kim’s reassurances, while issued through a South Korean government official, come as the U.S. has voiced skepticism over the North’s willingness to denuclearize.

Trump late last month called off Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s planned visit to North Korea, and accused Pyongyang of slow-walking efforts to dismantle its nuclear program.

Trump tweeted that a high-level visit is not appropriate at “this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The decision marked a rare admission from Trump that North Korea’s denuclearization efforts were not going as well as hoped.

Trump proclaimed after his meeting in Singapore with Kim in mid-June that North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat.”

The president is set to meet with Moon on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting later this month.

[The Hill]

Trump: ‘No reason’ for Korea war games right now

President Trump on Wednesday said there was “no reason” for joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises at the moment, citing ongoing discussions over North Korea’s nuclear program.

“The President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games,” the White House said in a statement that Trump himself issued on Twitter.

“Besides, the President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses,” the statement added.

The Trump administration statement came one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis said there were no plans to suspend future military exercisesbetween the U.S. and South Korea.

Mattis later clarified, however, that there has been “no decision” about suspending more exercises following the three that were cancelled after Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year.

“Our military posture has not changed since the conclusion of the Singapore summit and no decisions have been made about suspending any future exercises,” Mattis said in a statement Wednesday.

Following the summit between Trump and Kim in June, the Pentagon said it would indefinitely suspend the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise and two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises with South Korea as part of diplomatic negotiations with the North.

The Trump administration has been engaged with North Korea for several months in an effort to scale back Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but those efforts have appeared to hit a roadblock in recent weeks.

Trump last week abruptly cancelled a planned trip for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to travel to Pyongyang to continue negotiations. The Washington Post reported that Trump nixed the trip after a North Korean official signaled in a letter that the meeting would not be successful.

On Wednesday, the White House argued that China was partially to blame for the stalled efforts, accusing Beijing of applying “tremendous pressure” to North Korea because of the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

“At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities,” the White House said. “This is not helpful!”

However, the White House added that the trade disputes with China will be “resolved” and described Trump’s relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as “very strong.”

[The Hill]

Reality

Reminder: It was Vladimir Putin who suggested to Trump we cancel these military exercises.

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