FOREIGN POLICY POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES
The Foreign Policy Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with US treaty obligations, relations with other countries, engagement with international organizations, and trade policies. The domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Department of State, United States Agency for International Development, Office of the US Trade Representative, and Office of the US Representative to the United Nations. Our Principal Analyst in Jacob Malinowski who can be reached at email@example.com.
Latest Foreign Policy Posts
Brief #52—Foreign Policy Policy Summary In a show of bipartisan support, the “Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018”, or the BUILD act, was passed on October 5th and later signed by President Trump.. First introduced in February by...read more
Last February, Senators Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee introduced legislation to invoke the 1973 War Powers act in order to withdraw the United States from Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on Yemen – a war which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with three quarters of its 28 million citizens in need of humanitarian aid, 8 million in starvation, and the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.read more
On September 25th, President Trump delivered a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, complete with all of his signature vague jingoism and confrontational barbs.read more
On August 24th, the Trump administration announced that over $200 million in aid intended for Palestinian refugees would be cut from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Rather than directing funds through the Palestinian Authority, the UNRWA provides food subsidies, medical services, and youth programs directly to poor Palestinians.read more
The International Atomic Energy Agency, an intergovernmental forum which reports to the UN, has reported a lack of progress in the denuclearization of North Korea.read more
Learn if you’re eligible to vote, how to register, check, or update your information at USA.govread more
The Trump administration has responded to perceived transgressions by Russia and Iran with two new sets of sanctions this past month. Following through on the cancellation of the Iran deal, Trump has announced that, starting August 7th, restrictions will be placed on the Iranian government’s ability to purchase or acquire US dollar banknotes, trade in gold and precious metals, sell or transfer to or from Iran of graphite and metalsread more
Last Monday, following a scornful conference with EU leaders, President Trump met with President Putin in Helsinki for a two hour meeting followed by a joint press conference.read more
Trump met with NATO leaders in Brussels on July 11th, marking the beginning of a week-long trip which would later include a visit to Britain and a summit with President Putin in Finland. “I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all.read more
Brief #52—Foreign Policy
In a show of bipartisan support, the “Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018”, or the BUILD act, was passed on October 5th and later signed by President Trump.. First introduced in February by Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Chris Coons, the act creates the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) as a successor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), with an increased budget of $60 billion, and the intent to facilitate public spending and federal support to encourage private investment in foreign markets. Supporters have promised that this will lead to sustainable, broad-based economic growth, and an increase in public accountability and transparency.
The most apparent absence from the BUILD act is the lack of enforceable restrictions preventing investments from supporting regimes which participate in the abuse of human rights and/or have corrupt ineffective governance systems.. The bill promises to ensure an increase in social stability and decrease in poverty, but it’s mostly worded in vague aspirations. It’s also questionable whether the intent of the bill is even to benefit the host countries of these investments. Part of the billions in taxpayer money apportioned to the IDFC will be used to reduce risk for companies investing in foreign countries, but many of these risks are caused by the instability created by US exploitation of the labor and resources of the global south. The strategy of funneling private capital into these economies has been the modus operandi of the US for years, and rather than resulting in greater development in poor countries, it has reduced access of the residents of those countries to their own land and resources, while pushing them further into debt. If there is a surplus of taxpayer money which can be used to benefit those living outside our borders, perhaps it could be better allocated canceling foreign debts and supporting foreign businesses trying to build a stable economy within the confines of their own border.
- International Labor Rights Forum: The ILRF is a US-based nonprofit advocacy organization working to develop a safe working environment for the international working poor.
- International Centre for Trade Union Rights: The ICTUR is an international NGO that brings together trade unions, human rights organisations, research institutions, and lawyer’s associations to defend the rights of workers around the world to organize.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Foreign Policy Analyst Colin Shanley: Contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Photo by Joakim Honkasalo
Brief #51—Foreign Policy
Last February, Senators Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee introduced legislation to invoke the 1973 War Powers act in order to withdraw the United States from Saudi Arabia’s brutal war on Yemen – a war which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with three quarters of its 28 million citizens in need of humanitarian aid, 8 million in starvation, and the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. The measure, which hoped to end American provision of arms and intelligence to the Saudi war effort, was defeated in a bipartisan show of support for one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East. Now, eight months later, that support has finally begun to erode with what seems to be the shocking assassination of a world renowned Saudi journalist.
Jamal Khashoggi built a reputation for himself covering Afghanistan, Algeria, and Kuwait in the 1980’s and 90’s for the Al-Hayat newspaper. He formed a relationship with Osama Bin Laden while covering the jihad against the Soviets, and attempted to convince him to pursue peace during the 90’s before cutting ties after September 11th. While often seen as a sort of de facto spokesperson for the Saudi Arabian royal family, and a useful source for Western insight into the relatively closed political society of Saudi Arabia, he periodically ran into trouble for his reformist views. In 2003 he was fired from his editorial position at the Al-Watan newspaper, which some blamed on his editorial policy. Later reinstated, he was fired again in 2010 for “pushing the boundaries of debate within Saudi society” according to his website. His dissent grew stronger during the rise of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) in 2017, when he criticized the hypocrisy of those who “vigorously applaud social reforms and heap praise on the crown prince” but ignore the continued authoritarian policies as well as the history of those who have fought them for years. The 33 year old MBS has received lavish praise for his modest reforms, including allowing women to drive, all the while cracking down on women’s rights activists. His sudden rise to power included the arrests of hundreds of clerics, business leaders, and royal family members who stood in his way.
Fearing being targeted himself, Khashoggi moved to Washington D.C. in 2017 and entered a role as an opinions editor at the Washington Post. He wrote disparagingly of MBS’s regime, beginning with an article titled “Saudi Arabia Wasn’t Always This Repressive. Now it’s unbearable”. Last month Khashoggi published an article entitled “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Must Restore Dignity to His Country – by Ending Yemen’s Cruel War”. By this time he had become estranged from his Saudi wife and had become engaged to a Turkish researcher. On October 2nd, he flew to Istanbul to obtain documents from the Saudi consulate which would verify his divorce and allow him to proceed with his wedding which was planned for the next day. His fiancee waited outside the consulate but he never left it. Four days later, the Turkish security announced that they believed he had been killed
Khashoggi’s disappearance and presumptive murder have led to a rift between Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the US political establishment, and Trump. The Turkish government has reported that they possess tapes proving that Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured, and killed by a team of 15 Saudis who stayed in Turkey for a brief period and then left. While Turkish President Erdogan has refused to explicitly call for the help of the US, in a country which was economically destabilized by Trump’s recent tariffs, he has refused to take action himself and a Turkish official anonymously conceded that “At the end of the day, the U.S. has to take action.”
Republican lawmakers have begun criticizing the Saudi Regime, with Mitch McConnell calling US-Saudi relations “not great” and Lindsey Graham stating that MBS has “got to go”. Trump has appeared far less concerned with Khashoggi’s death, telling reporters after speaking to Saudi King Salman “it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers – who knows.” He later said “They’re spending $110 billion purchasing military equipment and other things. If we don’t sell it to them, they’ll say, ‘Well, thank you very much. We’ll buy it from Russia.’ ” Trump also took to Twitter to lie that he did not have any personal financial interests in Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with MBS on Tuesday to “reiterate the President’s concern”, where they “agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation”. Some American CEO’s have backed out of next week’s Future Investment Initiative conference, a major part of MBS’ plan to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil. At this time, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reportedly still plants to attend. Saudi Arabia is reportedly working on a report which will conclude that Khashoggi was killed in a botched interrogation, without clearance from MBS.
Saudi Arabia has long been a strong ally of the United States, only ever receiving minor admonishments for its horrific human rights record. The country serves as a powerful opponent of Iran, a military outpost, and a crucial source of oil. In the past, Saudi Arabia also helped suppress Communist influence in Afghanistan and fought alongside the US in the Gulf War. The fact that MBS has presumably overstepped so far as to murder a high profile journalist on foreign soil suggests that he has overestimated the blank check for terror the US has given him. Khashoggi was not a vital political enemy. His colleagues described him as a moderate reformer rather than revolutionary, a “loyal Saudi” who still hoped to return to his homeland. His editorials mostly fell on deaf ears in a country spoiled by Saudi military spending. MBS’ recklessness may doom him here, as some in Washington seem eager to replace him with a more cautious leader, one willing to continue to support US interests in the region without stirring up this sort of attention.
- Yemen Peace Project – An organization dedicated to promoting self determination for the people of Yemen
- International Federation for Human Rights – Is a federation of 184 organizations working to defend human rights as outlined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Colin Shanley; Contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Brief #50—Foreign Policy
On September 25th, President Trump delivered a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, complete with all of his signature vague jingoism and confrontational barbs. Following a year of withdrawals and cuts to international agreements and organizations, from the Iran Deal to the UN Relief Works Agency funding for Palestinian refugees, Trump’s speech reflected this desire for nationalist individualism, stating “I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”
Trump’s speech comes at a period of great tension with the EU, largely in response to his withdrawal from the Iran Deal. While the US has promised sanctions on businesses dealing with Iran, the EU has threatened sanctions on those who withdraw, forcing them to choose their allegiances. After a recent announcement of tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports, Trump also claimed that China “has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election… against my administration”, but failed to provide any evidence for his claim.
The following day, Trump addressed the United Nations Security Council. The council session had originally been called by the UK to discuss last July’s nerve agent attack on Russians living in the UK within the context of the global issue of weapons of mass destruction. When Trump learned that Vice President Pence was planned to represent the US, he insisted on his own presence in his stead, and changed the topic of the talk to the danger of Iran. When he later learned that this would involve inviting a delegation from Iran to respond, he changed the topic to that of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, just days before the council session. While much of Trump’s speech still focused upon Iran, he did mention the necessity maintaining sanctions on North Korea, a position opposed by China and Russia, who announced that it was time to ease sanctions, citing the recent halting of nuclear testing.
Trump has no real ideological commitment to American isolationism. He wields the vast power the United States holds over the global community when it serves his interests, and many of his isolationist positions are simply rejections of the weak international restraints placed on American power. The United States has not been, as Trump claims, “committed to a future of peace and stability in [Israel], including peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians” but rather sold billions of dollars worth of weapons to the Israeli government, unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, withdrew US aid to the Palestinians, and bullied third party countries who voted in support of Israel at the UN.
Billions of dollars in weapons have also been sold to the Saudi Arabian government as part of the United States’ support for a brutal war in Yemen which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. Breaking the Iran Deal is an enormous aggression against the prosperity and security of Iran, levying sanctions which once led to an almost doubling of the poverty rate and a rise in anti-American sentiment in the region. Trump also has reportedly considered an invasion of Venezuela. It’s become clear that he only remembers his isolationist principles when he wants to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council, or ignore the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court in investigating war crimes, fearing that these organizations could stand in the way of US/Israeli/Saudi hegemony in the Middle East.
- Roots Action – An online activist group devoted to pushing US domestic and foreign policy in a progressive direction
- The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: The USCPR is an organization founded in 2001 with the mission of shifting US policy towards recognizing the human rights of Palestinians.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Colin Shanley; Contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Photo by Jose Moreno
Brief #49—Foreign Policy
On August 24th, the Trump administration announced that over $200 million in aid intended for Palestinian refugees would be cut from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Rather than directing funds through the Palestinian Authority, the UNRWA provides food subsidies, medical services, and youth programs directly to poor Palestinians. While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly opposed the cuts, Jared Kushner pushed for them as a way of “strengthening his negotiating hand when he introduces his long-awaited Middle East peace plan”. Trump agreed that the cuts were a way of forcing Palestinian leadership to come to the table and tweeted that Palestinians show “no appreciation or respect”. A State Department Spokesperson explained that while the US is “the most generous country in the world”, this aid spending “does not benefit the taxpayer”.
The US is not the most generous country in the world. The majority of our taxpayer funded foreign aid goes towards controlling the destruction caused by our imperialistic foreign policy, and even then it is often, as in this scenario, then used as a leveraging tool for controlling opposition to US hegemony. Palestinians are crowded into a steadily vanishing territory within West Bank and the small open air prison that is the Gaza Strip. Surrounded by a US supported embargo, where even fishing too far off the coast triggers a military response, Palestinians have been forced to depend on the aid such as that previously provided by UNRWA. Starving them even thinner, as Trump and Kushner hope to do, will not lead to an amicable conclusion to the Israel-Palestinian crisis. It leaves Palestinians with few good options. They can sell what little rights they still hold for a secure if impoverished future – one where the dream of self determination and sovereignty is compromised for an end to Israeli bombings, a lightening of the embargo, and a weakened position at a negotiation table dominated by Trump and the Israelies. Or they will be further driven to the conclusion that violent revolution is the only escape from a permanent apartheid state – possible ending any possibility of peace and justice in the region.
- UN Relief and Works Agency – The UNRWA was founded in 1949 to support those Palestinians displaced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: The USCPR is an organization founded in 2001 with the mission of shifting US policy towards recognizing the human rights of Palestinians. You can donate on their website.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Col,in Shanley: Contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Brief #46—Foreign Policy
The International Atomic Energy Agency, an intergovernmental forum which reports to the UN, has reported a lack of progress in the denuclearization of North Korea. The “continuation and further development” of nuclear facilities are “cause for grave concern”, assessed the organization. This contradicts the statement made by the President following his June summit with Kim Jong-un, declaring that “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea”. On August 24th, Pompeo announced plans to visit North Korea, only for Trump to nix the plans the next day. “Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our trading relationship with China is resolved”, the President tweeted. The Korea Times, a South Korean newspaper, reported that sources had informed them that North Korea planned to hand over a list of secret nuclear test sites as well as information about its nuclear warheads, information long sought by the US State Department.
While the relationship between the US and North Korea has stalled, South Korea has forged ahead. President Moon and Chairman Kim’s April meeting has resulted in a series of family reunification meetings, allowing 174 North and South Koreans, chosen by lottery, to meet with relatives they have not seen since the Korean War of the early 1950’s. An inter-Korean liaison office is set to open this week, and South Korea is reportedly considering removing North Korea from their official list of enemies. This Wednesday, President Moon will be sending envoys to Pyongyang to discuss plans for a future summit between the two leaders. South Korea’s continued pursuance of peace despite lack of concrete denuclearization milestones has led to tension with the US, further indicated by the US led United Nations Command vetoing required inspections of a prospective inter-Korean railway.
North Korea’s lack of current commitment to denuclearization is not an indication of a lack of desire for peace. A formal end to the Korean War has been a top priority goal for Kim for a while. Meanwhile the US continues to beat the war drums. Last week, Secretary of Defense Mattis threatened military drills on the Korean border, a hot point of contention for decades, stating “We took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises”. Besides the constant mixed messages from US leadership, Trump’s cancellation of the Iran deal proves that US led peace deals are little more than fragile, temporary assurances. Until the Trump administration and US military and diplomatic leadership embrace an authentic strategy of pursuing peace, we will be caught in this this tense game until war is unavoidable.
- Women Cross DMZ: Women Cross DMZ is a coalition of activists from around the world, including both North and South Korea, who are calling for a peaceful solution to the Korean conflict.
- Beyond the Bomb – An activist group looking to reduce the danger of nuclear war around the world.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Foreign Policy Analyst Colin Shanley; Contact Colin@usresustnews.org
Brief #47—Foreign Policy
The Trump administration has responded to perceived transgressions by Russia and Iran with two new sets of sanctions this past month. Following through on the cancellation of the Iran deal, Trump has announced that, starting August 7th, restrictions will be placed on the Iranian government’s ability to purchase or acquire US dollar banknotes, trade in gold and precious metals, sell or transfer to or from Iran of graphite and metals – such as aluminum and steel- or conduct unspecified transactions relating to the Iranian currency, the Rial. Tariffs will also be placed on Iran’s automotive sector, Iranians will no longer be able to purchase US passenger aircrafts, and the US will no longer import Iranian carpets or certain foods. This November, additional sanctions will be placed on Iranian oil/energy imports, as well as financial institutions.
The stated goal is to cripple the Iranian economy to the point that the regime must end what the Trump administration calls its support for terrorism, and negotiate an end to its nuclear energy program. Trump said that the Iranian government “faces a choice: Either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation”. Mike Pompeo outlined American expectations for negotiations, demanding that “Iran end all nuclear enrichment and development of nuclear-capable missiles; release all American citizens end its support for Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Houthi militias; and withdraw its forces from Syria”. Woody Johnson, the American Ambassador to the UK, threatened “serious consequences” for businesses that continue to deal with Iran.
The Trump administration also announced sanctions on Russian exports in response to accusations that Moscow was behind the chemical attack in Britain last March, which targeted a former Russian spy. Immediately following the incident, the UK, US, and several other countries expelled over 100 Russian diplomats. These sanctions are legally justified under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which requires the US to impose sanctions on any foreign power determined to have used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law within 60 days of assigning blame, a deadline now missed by over a month.
The first set of sanctions, due to take effect on August 22nd, will restrict exports to Russia for the purchase of items which could have military uses, such as gas turbine engines and calibration equipment. Russia also now has 90 days to provide assurances that they will allow inspections to placate fears of any future chemical attacks. If Russia does not comply, the Trump administration will impose a second set of sanctions, restricting bank assistance, exports and imports, air carrier landing rights, and US bank loans to Russia, as well as downgrading diplomatic relations. The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, supported by a bipartisan group of senators, has the potential to further destabilize the Russian economy. If passed, it would freeze all dollar operations of Russian state banks. In response to this recent set of sanctions, the Ruble fell to its lowest value in two years.
The most important thing to keep in mind when discussing the destruction of the Iran deal, one of the most important pieces of Obama’s legacy, is that Iran has not violated the deal in any way. This fact has been confirmed by international inspectors. The European Union, Britain, France, and Germany have issued a statement saying that “The JCPOA [Iran Deal] is working and delivering on its goal, namely to ensure that the Iranian programme remains exclusively peaceful. Iran’s nuclear program has the stated purpose of building a foundation of cheap energy which would allow Iranian oil to be sold overseas. The enactment of the Iran deal in 2015 allowed Iran to recover from a disastrous economic recession. Like the most recent set, Obama’s 2010 sanctions were described as “smart sanctions”, designed to target the elite of the country rather than the innocent greater population. In reality, there was no such precision of consequence, with the percentage of Iranian families living in poverty almost doubling, and millions being left without access to essential medical treatment. Since the announcement of these newest sanctions, the Rial has dropped by 80%, causing protests around the country. These new protests will only further harm the middle and lower classes, creating hunger and unemployment.. Trump is not trying to simply coerce the Iranians into returning to the table to enact a newer, stronger Iran deal. Iran has no reason to expend the time and political capital to restart this arduous process. Iranian voters have less reason to support friendlier relations with America now, and Iran won’t want to make a new deal when the last one was cancelled through no fault of their own. What the Trump administration wants is further unrest, driven by the lower and middle classes, which could create an opening for an American-led regime change.
The Russian sanctions, while more justifiable, will contribute to similarly harmful conditions for many civilians who have had no part in the sinister actions of their oligarchy. The Defending American Security Act, if passed, would force Russia into an ultimatum which may not go the way Trump hopes. Either Russia will back down, or the oligarchy will be given a political mandate to act even more aggressively against the West.
- Human Rights Watch – An organization dedicated to fighting oppression from a global perspective
- Beyond the Bomb – An activist group looking to reduce the danger of nuclear war around the world.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Colin Shanley: Contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Brief #36—Foreign Policy
Last Monday, following a scornful conference with EU leaders, President Trump met with President Putin in Helsinki for a two hour meeting followed by a joint press conference. The meeting was held privately with no notes taken and two interpreters as the only witnesses of what was discussed between the two leaders. The idea for a summit was conceived last March, when Trump called Putin to congratulate him for his successful re-election, against the recommendations of his national security advisers. The summit was held in the midst of a pair of significant advancements against Russian intelligence operations, with 12 Russian intelligence agents being indicted for their involvement in a plan to hack into the emails of democratic campaign officials, and an alleged Russian spy being arrested following involvement with the Republican party and pro-gun organizations. Documents revealed that the intelligence agents first attempted to breach Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s email servers the day that Trump publicly suggested they do so
In the face of these developments, Trump held a completely different take on Russian involvement in American affairs. Trump stated that US intelligence officials “think its Russia” but Putin had told him that it is not, concluding “I don’t see any reason why it would be”. While this is not necessarily a major departure from previous statements he has made on the matter, hearing this from our President as he met with one of our biggest political rivals was enough to provoke significant domestic objection, even among GOP allies. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”. John McCain called it a “disgraceful performance”. The next day Trump read a statement explaining that he “accepts the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place” but it “could be other people also”. “A lot of people out there”, the President added. Trump also clarified that when he said that he didn’t “see any reason why it would be” Russia who interfered with the 2016 election, he actually meant he didn’t “see any reason why it wouldn’t be”.
For the amount of controversy generated by the summit, there was a noticeable lack of progress on tangible issues. Crimea was barely mentioned, and Trump seemed satisfied with Putin declaring the Syrian war over. Putin said that the two had made an agreement to hold talks in the future on the extension of the START treaty once Russia had a chance to examine whether the US was compliant in the historic arms reduction pact.
For a man who so clearly dislikes foreign excursions, one would think President Trump would work harder to ensure that they were worthwhile for American interests. Instead, he seems to believe these summits are simply about the handshakes and photo-ops. We have no idea what was discussed during the two hours that Trump and Putin met in private, but it must not have been anything very promising considering the vagueness of the press conference. By dismissing Russian aggression only to unconvincingly walk his statements back the next day, Trump doesn’t even present himself as capable as a foreign asset. In times like this all we can do is be thankful when his blunders do not hold major consequences. Trump didn’t concede Crimea to Russia or do anything else to alarm European allies. It is naive to expect Trump to hold Putin accountable for anything. Even in the small possibility that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia, Putin compliments him too much to ever be seen as an enemy. Perhaps as a country we will need to weather the international embarrassments until the next election, as long as it means no major wars or concessions of human rights.
- Human Rights Watch – An international human rights organization which has worked to support Crimean autonomy against Russian aggression.
- Amnesty International – A longstanding human rights organization which led protests in Helsinki against both the policies of Trump and Putin.
This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Colin Shanley. Contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Brief #36—Foreign Policy
Trump met with NATO leaders in Brussels on July 11th, marking the beginning of a week-long trip which would later include a visit to Britain and a summit with President Putin in Finland. “I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?” Trump commented upon departing from the White House. The NATO summit was just as contentious as his remarks foreshadowed. Trump continued his campaign of abuse against fellow NATO leaders over a perceived lack of commitment to military spending, referring to them as “delinquent” for not yet reaching the goal set in 2014 to reach 2% of GDP spending for defense. He went as far as to ask for 4% defense spending from all NATO nations. Trump’s ire was focused primarily on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and accused the country of being “totally controlled by Russia”. The source of this claim is a $10 billion pipeline project from Russian energy giant Gazprom which has now been confirmed to pass through German territory. Despite the rhetoric, Trump still agreed to sign onto a joint statement reaffirming previous goals and commitments. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was wholly non-confrontational in the face of Trump’s insults, agreeing that more military spending was indeed necessary.
The accepted implication of Trump’s remarks is that the failure of European allies to divert a sufficient amount of spending towards defense creates an unnecessary burden for the United States to overspend. Trump presents the United States as a country suffering to defend its allies. Of course, the Trump administration has no real incentive to ever reduce defense spending. Increasing our military arsenal has been a frequent talking point, and Congress has been working on passing a massive bipartisan spending increase. The United States is by far the largest arms dealer in the world and convincing allies to increase spending is a top priority for domestic business interests.
Trump’s attitude towards NATO threatens to undermine a seventy-five year old alliance between America and its European allies that has helped preserve peace and stability throughout Europe since the end of World War II. Article V of the NATO Agreement calls for all NATO countries to come to the defense of countries in the alliance when they are attacked. This article was invoked after 9/11 when America’s European allies rushed in to provide help to the US. European members of NATO have fought side by side with the US in countries like Bosnia and Afghanistan. It is impossible to put a price on what NATO has contributed to peace and stability in much of the world. All this is in play now that Trump is breaking NATO down into a business transaction of who pays for what.
- World Beyond War – An organization dedicated to reducing militarization around the world
- Amnesty International – A longstanding human rights organization which has led protests in Europe opposing Trump’s policies over the past two weeks.
Learn More: Here is the joint statement signed by all NATO representatives
This Brief was authored by Colin Shanley Colin@usresistnews.org
Brief #44—Foreign Policy
On June 19th, Mike Pompeo announced that the United States was finally following through on threats to depart from the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it “an exercise in shameless hypocrisy – with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored and most serious offenders sit on the council sitting on the council itself”. While one concern of US Ambassador Nikki Haley and the White House included the closed election system which allowed candidates to join the council without an open vote, the primary contention was what Haley called “unending hostility towards Israel”. While Haley previously insisted the agenda of the US was to reform the council rather than leave it, she refused to cooperate with an effort led by the Netherlands to reduce the number of resolutions passed against Israel. One of the more controversial examples included a 2016 resolution which condemned a number of mostly US and Israeli businesses which had invested in illegal Israeli settlements in the West bank. Since the council’s inception in 2006, it has passed 310 country specific resolutions, with 76 targeting Israel. The final straw came earlier in June when the council voted 120 to 8 condemning Israel’s massacre of Palestinians peacefully protesting the occupation of their land.
Leaving the Human Rights Council is par for the course for this administration. Trump has pursued an agenda of complete seclusion from the world, interacting only through threats and ultimatums rather than treaties and cooperative diplomacy. Since the last election we have most notably withdrawn from the Paris Climate Change Acord, the Iran Nuclear Deal, UNESCO, and all global health programs which support abortion rights. This isn’t to say there aren’t issues within the council which warrant attention. The membership of human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia and China in an anti-human rights abuse organization is hypocritical. Of course this isn’t Trump or Haley’s true concern. Their issue is with the council working as it should: allowing a certain amount of international democracy in the condemnation of human rights abuses rather than filtering such moral conversation solely through the channels of those in power.
The United States has never been the champion of human rights that Nikki Haley would like us to believe. We have supported Israel and Saudi Arabia both economically and militarily in what borders on ethnic cleansing in Palestine and Yemen. US ships enforce the embargoes which have created a critical lack of clean water in the Gaza Strip and the worst cholera outbreak in history in Yemen. Trump has complimented and allied himself with authoritarian human rights abusers such as The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and of course Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The US has used their position in the council to vote against a resolution decrying the use of the death penalty against LBGTQ citizens. A recent UN report highlighted the humanitarian concerns of economic conditions within the United States, citing our position as the country with the highest income inequality and lowest intergenerational social mobility among Western countries. With our historical willingness to overlook glaring human rights abuses within our borders and commit them overseas, any moral condemnation of corruption within the Human Rights Council rings hollow. This is only another tactical move from a government wholly uninterested in the ideals America prides itself upon.
- Donate to the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: The USCPR is an organization founded in 2001 with the mission of shifting US policy towards recognizing the human rights of Palestinians.
- Learn More About Domestic Human Rights Issues Caused by the Trump Administration: Philip Alston is the UN official which published the recent report examining how the economic policy of our political establishment has led to inhumane living conditions for low income Americans. You can listen to his interview on Democracy Now here.
This Brief was prepared by USRESIST NEWS Foreign Policy Analyst Colin Shanley. For further information contact Colin@usresistnews.org
Photo by Rob Bye