The Difficult American-Russian Relationship
The Associated Press reported on August 7:
“In a rare diplomatic snub, President Barack Obama is canceling plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next month. The decision reflects both U.S. anger over Russia’s harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and growing frustration within the Obama administration over what it sees as Moscow’s stubbornness on other key issues, including missile defense and human rights. Obama will still attend the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, but a top White House official said the president had no plans to hold one-on-one talks with Putin while there…
“White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Russia’s decision last week to defy the U.S. and grant Snowden temporary asylum only exacerbated an already troubled relationship. And with few signs that progress would be made during the Moscow summit on other agenda items, Rhodes said the president decided to cancel the talks… Obama’s decision to scrap talks with Putin is likely to deepen the chill in the already frosty relationship between the two leaders. They have frequently found themselves at odds on pressing international issues, most recently in Syria, where the U.S. accuses Putin of helping President Bashar Assad fund a civil war. The U.S. has also been a vocal critic of Russia’s crackdown on Kremlin critics and recently sanctioned 18 Russians for human rights violations.
“For its part, Moscow has accused the U.S. of installing a missile shield in Eastern Europe as a deterrent against Russia… Putin also signed a law last year banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children, a move that was seen as retaliation for the U.S. measure that cleared the way for the human rights sanctions… Even as Obama scraps plans to meet with Putin, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are preparing for meetings in Washington on Friday with their Russian counterparts. Snowden’s status is expected to be a main topic of conversation.
“The lower-level meetings with Russia underscore that the U.S. cannot completely sever ties with the Kremlin. Russian transit routes are critical to the U.S. as it removes troops and equipment from Afghanistan. And despite deep differences over Syria’s future, the White House knows it will almost certainly need some level of Russian cooperation in order to oust Assad. Still, some congressional lawmakers have called for Obama to not only scrub the Moscow summit but also demand that Russia forfeit its right to host the G-20 summit. Others have spoken of boycotting next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.”
Ultimately, the relationship between Russia and the USA will be completely severed.
How to Deal with Putin?
The Associated Press reported on August 8:
“From the civil war in Syria to missile defense and gay rights, the Obama administration can’t seem to figure out how to deal with Putin… The latest disappointment — Russia’s embrace of a fugitive who leaked US secrets — pushed President Barack Obama to cancel a one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month…
“The two nations are at odds over the civil war [in Syria]. Russia has shielded Syrian President Bashar Assad from international sanctions and provided him weapons, despite an international outcry… Russians have a long-standing beef about the US missile defense system planned for Europe, dating back to the Reagan administration’s disputes with the Soviet Union… Americans object to the way Russian leaders have tried to silence critical voices…
“Russia… expelled the US Agency for International Development, which had promoted democracy and civil societies in Russia for two decades… the US is criticizing Russia for an official crackdown on gay rights. A new Russian law imposes fines and up to 15 days in prison for people accused of spreading ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations’ to minors… And it bans gay pride rallies. Russian officials say the law will be enforced during the 2014 Olympics in the city of Sochi.”
USA Left Snowden No Choice
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 2:
“Edward Snowden has been granted asylum for one year in Russia in a move that threatens to further strain Russian-American relations… In Washington, politicians are outraged… The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘Edward Snowden knocked on many doors in recent weeks. There were plenty of expressions of sympathy for the young man who, with his betrayal of secrets, shed light on the scope of American spying programs. But despite all the excitement over the obsessive spying, no one wanted to open the door for Snowden. Now, it is Vladimir Putin of all people who has taken blatant pleasure in playing the role of a champion of freedom of opinion and human rights by letting the American stay in Russia for a year. But it’s also the same Putin who has taken considerable pleasure in taking political opponents out of action with flimsy charges…’
“The Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, the largest newspaper in the populous Ruhr region of North Rhine-Westphalia, writes: ‘Snowden is out of the intermediate world of the Moscow airport and has now entered Russia. Russia of all places, a country that is anything but a flawless democracy. A country in which a former intelligence agent rules the country with an iron fist. But to blame the whistleblower for all this would either be malicious or naïve. Snowden had no other choice. Go back to the States? The fate of WikiLeaks informant Bradley Manning shows what happens to people there who uncover government misconduct. Not a single country that could claim to be democratically flawless offered Snowden asylum.’
“In an editorial, WDR Radio, one of Germany’s largest public broadcasters, states: ‘Rarely since the end of the Cold War have relations between Moscow and Washington been as frosty as they are right now. A considerable amount of that is attributable to President Barack Obama’s manic attempt to persuade Putin to extradite NSA expert and whistleblower Snowden… The US president has made petty revenge a leading principle of his policies. Obama wanted Snowden to be extradited at any cost. Obama didn’t hesitate in having his attorney general write a letter to Moscow with logic as follows: We Americans are even willing to forego our classic instruments of torture and the death penalty if you, the Russians, just extradite Snowden to us.
“‘The letter couldn’t have been more telling in terms of Obama’s position towards unwelcome whistleblowers and possible betrayers of secrets. To expose himself to an ice cold Machiavelli like Putin with such a laughable position of self-revelation like that speaks volumes about the way in which Obama conducts foreign policy beyond his brilliant speeches. If the US president now also commits the error of playing the role of the offended prima donna and not appearing at the G-20 summit in September, then we can forget about relations between Washington and Moscow altogether…’”
Manning’s Sentencing a “Stain” on Obama’s Legacy and America’s Global Reputation
The Washington Times wrote on August 7:
“A military judge on Tuesday scaled back the maximum time that Bradley Manning could serve behind bars, from 136 years to 90 years, after ruling that many of his charges were related enough to be combined… The cut doesn’t mean Manning will get out any time soon… The 25-year-old will more than likely spend the remainder of his life behind bars at one of the nation’s most notoriously tough prisons, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas…”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 5:
“By using the Espionage Act to punish Bradley Manning, the Obama administration has shown how far it will go to intimidate leakers. His sentencing is a stain on the president’s legacy and on America’s global reputation. It was never an issue whether Bradley Manning violated US law. Manning pleaded guilty to 10 charges at the beginning of his military trial. The maximum sentence for those charges was 20 years in prison — an intolerable sentence, but unlikely to be the extent of his punishment.
“… Prosecutors have brought in the big guns — and invoked the Espionage Act, which was passed in 1917 in reaction to fears of German spies and saboteurs. It is political despotism to use this act in a trial that has to do with neither espionage nor sabotage. It means the defense can no longer argue that the defendant harmed no one, that he acted in the public interest. It deprives Manning of the only basis to justify his actions and the opportunity to avoid a guilty verdict.
“This is why the appropriate reaction to this verdict would be to reverse it. It would be overzealous, both from a legal and political standpoint, to pass judgment on Manning as a warning to other possible politically motivated offenders. The 25-year-old soldier, a man who is unconvincing as a heroic figure and burdened with complexes, is the most recent casualty in a hysterically prolonged ‘war on terror.’
“The Manning trial isn’t the first instance in which the United States under President Barack Obama has demonstrated its willingness to do everything it takes to prevent the spread of unwelcome truths. Former President Richard Nixon tried to use the Espionage Act to put the leaker of the Pentagon Papers — about the planning of the Vietnam War — behind bars. With a guilty verdict against Manning, Obama has now prevailed where Nixon failed.
“This injustice… will define Obama’s presidency in the long term… The reputation of the United States is at stake, along with its credibility as a country where freedom also means confrontation with the truth… Leaks are necessary for the fight against abuses of power. Manning’s leaks uncovered war crimes, albeit ones that have remained unpunished. His leaks revealed, at an early juncture, the disorientation of the US’s Afghanistan operations. And the cables from US embassies, far from being high-level gossip, showed how eagerly those in power deceived their own people.
“Obama must pardon Manning so that more whistleblowers do not find themselves compelled to seek refuge in the even darker realm of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Political lawbreakers like Nixon and Iran-Contra conspirators like former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane were pardoned. After all, there’s honor among thieves. Now it’s also time to pardon someone willing to call a thief a thief.”
It is highly unlikely that President Obama will pardon Manning. This is clearly not part of his agenda or within the interest of his Administration. What we are seeing in the USA is a continuing erosion of individual liberties and freedoms and the build-up of a controlling and somewhat secretive governmental apparatus.
Washington Afraid of Attacks in Yemen
Reuters wrote on August 6:
“The United States told its citizens in Yemen on Tuesday to leave immediately and airlifted out some U.S. government personnel, following warnings of potential attacks that have pushed Washington to shut diplomatic missions across the Middle East. The poorest Arab country, Yemen is the base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, one of the most active branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden, and militants have launched attacks from there against the West. U.S. sources have told Reuters that intercepted communication between bin Laden’s successor as al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the Yemen-based wing was one part of the intelligence behind their alert last week.
“Britain, which has already advised for more than two years that its citizens in Yemen should ‘leave now,’ announced it was temporarily evacuating all its embassy staff… The State Department’s announcement urging Americans to leave the country follows a worldwide travel alert on Friday which prompted Washington to shut diplomatic missions across the Middle East and Africa. Some of Washington’s European allies have also closed their embassies in Yemen. ‘The Department urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately,’ the statement posted on its website said.”
Controversial American drone attacks in Yemen and the incarceration of over 50 Yemen citizens in Guantanamo Bay have contributed to the creation of a hostile atmosphere in Yemen towards the USA.
Preferential Treatment for Same-Sex Couples
Newsmax reported on August 4:
“Same-sex married partners seeking U.S. travel visas will now be recognized as legal couples under a new rule put forth by Secretary of State John Kerry, the Advocate reports. ‘One of our most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people,’ Kerry said Friday at the U.S. embassy in London announcing his decision. ‘Now, our history shows that we haven’t always gotten it right,’ but Kerry said the recent Supreme Court decision changing the definition of marriage will change that.
“The change in visa status means preferential treatment for the couples in the application process, reports the Washington Post. It also helps foreign nationals in a same-sex marriage with U.S. citizens to more easily acquire a visa. The announcement comes on the heels of a Homeland Security Department decision by Secretary Janet Napolitano to acknowledge same-sex marriage when awarding green cards.”
This is no longer just equal treatment, but now we are informed that Immigration is willing to grant preferential treatment to same-sex partners.
Berlusconi’s Conviction and the Implications for Italy and Europe
The EUObserver wrote on August 2:
“An Italian court Thursday (1 August) upheld former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s prison sentence marking the first definitive conviction for the 76-year old politician in over 20 trials spanning almost two decades. The court of cassation, Italy’s highest court and against which Berlusconi cannot appeal, decided after a three-day hearing to uphold a prison term for tax fraud. The original sentence of four years was handed out by two lower courts last year and automatically commuted to one year under a new amnesty law. Due to his age, he is expected to be held under house arrest or do community service. Meanwhile the court said a decision to ban Berlusconi from public office should be re-examined, but it did not reject the ban.
“Berlusconi, four times Italy’s prime minister, faced charges over the years ranging from corruption to having sex with an underage prostitute, but was finally snared by the Italian justice system over deals that his firm Mediaset made to purchase TV rights to US films. He reacted angrily to the ruling…
“The court ruling has been keenly watched in the rest of the eurozone, not only because of the interest in a politician who at times proved as controversial outside Italy as he was inside the country but for the wider implications of the decision. It has the potential to destabilise the three-month old government, which consists of an uneasy coalition between Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PDL)… analysts remain quietly nervous about Italy, the region’s third largest economy… The current government was formed to try and get the economy back on track with unemployment at 12 percent and national debt at almost 130 percent of GDP, the second highest in the eurozone.”
News reports suggest that Berlusconi’s daughter might become his “successor” in Italian politics.
Germany’s Lucrative Weapon Sales
The Local wrote on August 7:
“German arms exports to Gulf states are set to hit a new record in 2013… In the first six months alone, the country sent over €800 million worth of combat weapons to the troubled region. Germany is sending millions of euros worth of tanks and howitzers to a region where governments have been accused of using force against their own citizens in violent crackdowns against dissent…
“Merkel’s government has come under fire over the past 18 months from domestic critics who question the morality of arming governments with less-than-perfect human rights records during the upheavals of the Arab Spring.”
Europe at Odds With Israel
The Times of Israel wrote on August 7:
“Despite heavy criticism from Israel, the European Union will not cancel, modify or delay the implementation of recently published guidelines that block EU funding from Israeli institutions either located or maintaining any links beyond the Green Line, a top EU official said this week. ‘The guidelines will take effect as they are. This is how they were published [in the EU’s Official Journal], as a legal act, and that’s how it will be,’ Ambassador Andreas Reinicke, the EU’s special representative to the Middle East peace process, told The Times of Israel last week. In certain areas where the guidelines are still unclear, ‘a closer look’ at the details might… have to be taken, he allowed. But their main points will not be changed and will take effect by January 2014 as planned.
“The EU’s directive, published last month, mandates a denial of European funding to, and cooperation with, Israeli institutions based or operating over the Green Line, and a requirement that all future agreements between Israel and the EU include a clause in which Israel accepts the position that all territory over the Green Line does not belong to Israel… In the wake of the new funding guidelines, the Israeli government is currently discussing whether to participate in a multibillion-dollar scientific cooperation program under EU auspices called Horizon 2020…
“Israelis from across right to center-left on the political spectrum protested the EU’s new guidelines… not all European capitals were enthusiastic about the issuance of the funding guidelines. The German government, for instance, distanced itself from the move… But… several EU foreign ministers explicitly welcomed the funding guidelines…”
The relationship between Europe and Israel will become more and more hostile in the not-too-distant future.
Israelis Will Be Hit Hard in Next War
The Los Angeles Times reported on August 8:
“As tensions escalate along Israel’s northern border, a senior military official warned that the next war with Hezbollah would be far more painful for Israeli citizens than any previous experience. ‘What we witnessed in 2006 is the very tip of the iceberg,’ said the official, referring to the 33-day war between Israel and the Lebanese-based Shiite militia Hezbollah. In that case, a third of the country was forced into bomb shelters for a month while rockets rained down on northern Israel…
“In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, nearly 4,000 rockets were fired into Israel, killing more than 40 civilians and causing widespread devastation to property and the economy. Hezbollah is now believed to have 60,000 to 100,000 rockets that boast longer ranges, improved accuracy and larger warheads… Israeli officials fear that as many as 2,000 rockets a day could be released against all parts of Israel… only 60% of Israelis have chemical-weapons protection kits… Nearly one-third of Israelis don’t have quick access to bomb shelters.”
Japan’s Largest Warship and 68th Anniversary of Hiroshima
CNN wrote on August 6:
“Japan on Tuesday unveiled its largest warship since World War II, an 820-foot-long, 19,500-ton flattop capable of carrying 14 helicopters, according to media reports. The ship, named the Izumo, is classified as a helicopter destroyer, though its flattop design makes it look like an aircraft carrier…
“Tuesday’s launch also came on the 68th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. Upwards of 60,000 people — according to various estimates, about one-fifth of Hiroshima’s population at the time — were killed when a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945. In remembrance ceremonies in Hiroshima on Tuesday, a list of 286,000 atomic bomb victims was presented… In a speech, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the Japanese people to always remind the world about the consequences of nuclear war…”
Zenit added on August 6:
“Cardinal Peter Turkson is in Japan for an initiative marking the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place on Aug. 6 and 9, 1945…He called the atom bomb dropped 68 years ago today on Hiroshima a ‘frightful wound inflicted upon the people of Japan and the whole human family.’… Cardinal Turkson noted the popes’ warnings about the suffering brought by war, and particularly the atom bomb, most recently Pope Francis: ‘The possession of atomic power can cause the destruction of humanity. When man becomes proud, he creates a monster that can get out of hand.’”
This is very true. Sadly, mankind will ignore these warnings, and if Christ were not to intervene to cut short a terrible time of self-destruction, no human being would be saved alive. And even though China is concerned about Japan’s military ambitions, the Bible prophesies that China, Japan, Russia and other Far Eastern countries will form a military union which will be confrontational towards Western powers, especially Europe.