Tag Archives: Putin

The ‘Trump Hid His Meetings with Putin’ Stories Begin to Unravel

Originally published in National Review Online

On Sunday, the mainstream media launched a new ploy to promote their Trump-Russia collusion narrative with a story that first appeared in the Washington Post titled “Officials in dark on Putin talks.” A similar piece was published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, titled “Trump didn’t use notetakers at Putin/ Meeting.” Cable-news networks and Democratic congressmen claim these stories indicate that President Trump held secret discussions with Russian president Putin that were revealed to no one. For example, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. government “does not know” what Trump and Putin discussed.

It is now clear that these stories were misleading, if not mostly false. First, they neglected to mention that the president’s decision to restrict access to read-outs of his two one-on-one meetings with Putin were due to the extraordinary number of leaks to the press of his phone calls and meetings with foreign officials at the beginning of his presidency.

Second, it is untrue that senior officials are unaware of what was discussed in President Trump’s meetings with Putin.

Concerning Trump’s first meeting with Putin in 2017, although a notetaker reportedly was not present and Mr. Trump allegedly took possession of his interpreter’s notes, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended this meeting and provided a detailed read-out to senior U.S. officials. It is clear that the unnamed officials cited in the Washington Post piece on the 2017 Trump-Putin meeting were irritated that they were not provided with copies of Tillerson’s read-out of the meeting, not that there wasn’t a read-out. It also is ridiculous for the press to assert that President Trump said something nefarious to Putin with Tillerson present.

Concerning President Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki last July, I can attest as former national-security council executive secretary and chief of staff that senior U.S. officials — including myself — know everything that was discussed. Again, the real issue here is that some U.S. officials are irritated that they do not know what was discussed in this meeting and voiced their frustrations to the press.

The media’s claim that this story amounts to a U.S. president concealing his secret discussions with the Russian president as part of his alleged collusion with Russia is fake news. Senior U.S. officials knew exactly what was discussed in these meetings. This story is really about a successful effort by President Trump to prevent anti-Trump government officials from leaking sensitive national-security information to the press.

DECISION BRIEF: Putin’s Gambit: A Return to the Establishment’s Arms Control Agenda; Here’s What the President Should, And Shouldn’t, Do

Summary:  Russian dictator Vladimir Putin laid a trap for President Trump in Helsinki. He said that he wants to re-start bilateral arms control processes with the United States. That proposal, much favored by the U.S. foreign policy establishment, would: preclude the United States from decisively countering Putin’s strategic nuclear modernization; deny America the right to defend itself against ballistic missile attack; and emasculate Trump’s envisioned Space Force military service. President Trump must take a businesslike approach to get Putin to pay for his own arms control, while putting American defense interests first.

Background: For decades, the foreign policy establishments in Moscow and Washington have embraced “arms control” – a system of agreements and treaties that purport to govern military weapons, but especially weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. Protracted arms control negotiations brought us several Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START), the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty for Europe and Asia, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, from which the U.S. withdrew in 2002 because its restrictions were obsolete and dangerous.

The Risks:  Putin’s arms control gambit is actually dangerous. (1) Moscow has a skilled and disciplined arms control team that is slavishly loyal to the Kremlin. Washington’s arms control “team,” to the extent there is one, is almost completely hostile to Trump. (2) Russia has vastly upgraded its strategic nuclear weapons systems while the United States has not, making it advantageous for Russia to lock in its technological gains and force the U.S. to rely indefinitely on increasingly obsolescent systems. (3) Moscow has violated every single one of its arms control commitments, including fresh material breaches under Putin. (4) The Putin/establishment arms control agenda would continue to leave the U.S. vulnerable at least to Russian and Chinese missile attacks and, in due course, others’. (5) Arms control is not a “Make America Great Again” issue unless it actually negates nuclear threats against the American people.

Putin’s Agenda:  Putin revealed his stratagem in the press conference after the Helsinki summit: “We believe it necessary to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military and technical cooperation,” he said. Specifically, Putin expressed an intent to:

  • Extend the New START treaty, which is set to expire soon;
  • Further cripple American ballistic missile defense systems in Europe;
  • Revive discussion of the INF Treaty, which Russia is violating with provocative moves aimed at NATO;
  • Prevent the U.S. from deploying a Space Force branch of the military; and
  • Prevent the U.S. from building a global defense against ballistic missiles.

In putting forth this agenda, Putin effectively challenged Trump to surrender his America First policy in favor of defective accords that would lock in Russian technological advances and imperil the United States.  “It’s a dangerous situation with the global American anti-missile defense system,” Putin said.  The Kremlin’s arms control ploy suits many of Trump’s domestic critics.

Trump’s Statements:  In his public remarks, Trump repeatedly called for “constructive dialogue” with Russia. Yet, he seemed unclear about the nature of Putin’s proposals. Putin focused on establishment arms control. Trump focused on fighting nuclear proliferation to places like Iran and North Korea. “Whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, we have to do it,” he said. “Ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.” He then made a comment that seemed to blame arms control failure on the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian election interference.

The “collusion” narrative over the 2016 election, Trump said, “has had a negative impact on the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous; it’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”

“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump said, adding, “As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.”

How Actually to Fight ‘Nuclear Proliferation’:  Both leaders expressed a commitment to work together to fight nuclear proliferation to third countries. While laudable, this can be done without falling into the arms control trap. Trump should first secure Putin’s personal commitment to undo past Moscow policies that helped North Korea build its nuclear weapons program in the first place and then to take concrete steps to help denuclearize the Pyongyang regime.

Apply a Deterrence Strategy:  Regarding Putin’s bilateral agenda, Trump should treat the nuclear disparity he largely inherited as a business problem. Russia could afford to pursue a decisive nuclear advantage as long as the United States wasn’t doing the same. The U.S. can afford to match or exceed Russia’s strategic weapons modernization and under the Trump presidency is prepared to do so – which is why Putin wants to stop Trump by reviving the past practice of one-sided arms control.

Trump should take the following steps: (1) Remind Putin that the last time the United States had to catch up with Moscow’s strategic nuclear modernization, it bankrupted the Kremlin and collapsed the Soviet Union. (2) Tell Putin that Russia’s new, massive and threatening nuclear build-up requires the United States to modernize its own strategic triad, which is something that the U.S. can afford to do. (3) Trump must treat a total modernization of the American strategic nuclear triad, development of a global missile defense, and creation of an independent Space Force not only as needed defense modernization – but as necessary investments in the U.S. defense industrial infrastructure and long-term security.

The Bottom Line:  President Trump should show Vladimir Putin that it is in Russia’s interests to disarm most of its strategic nuclear arsenal on its own, without a phony and endless arms control process. The alternative will be to force Putin to bankrupt his country into oblivion.

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Netanyahu Meets with Putin to Discuss Hezbollah and Hamas Relations

On January 29th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow to discuss the relationship between Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.

Netanyahu is likely worried about Iran’s continued role within Syria. Since the Iranians entered Syria militarily in order to buttress their ally Bashar Assad, they have been attempting to establish a military presence, as well as to protect and extend their corridor for the transfer and manufacture of precision weaponry like rockets and missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israel has repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria and the smuggling of weaponry to Hezbollah. Israel has continued to maintain a willingness to use military action to strike Hezbollah targets within Syria in order to prevent the transfer sophisticated weaponry. Hezbollah is believed to have approximately 130,000 missiles and rockets allowing them to fire up to 1,000 rockets a day during a future conflict with Israel.

Hamas and Hezbollah have worked together in the past, which is unsurprising given that both terror groups share an Iranian sponsor. The Israelis remain concerned that Hamas could also use instability in Syria to open additional fronts.

During the 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza, Hamas fired rockets at Israel from southern Lebanon. After the 2014 war Hamas officials stated that they wanted to establish new bases with countries surrounding Israel. Hamas is able to use these camps in order to recruit Palestinian manpower.

Hamas and Hezbollah differed in their response to the Syrian civil war, with Hezbollah backed the Assad regime while Hamas supported Syrian rebels linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, a decision which cost the Palestinian group Iranian funding. In November of 2017 a top Hamas official confirmed that Hezbollah and Hamas have restored close military cooperation. Reports suggest that Iranian largesse was only recently restored, following a visit to Tehran by Hamas officials.

Hamas’ need to reestablish its relationship with Iran comes after an increasingly acrimonious relationship with Egypt following the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013. The post-Brotherhood regime blamed Hamas for its role in the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islamist insurgency in Egypt.

Egypt has led efforts to reconcile Hamas and its Palestinian political rival, Fatah, as part of a strategy to defang the terror group. Part of that effort included a promise by Hamas to relinquish control over the Gaza Strip.

In 2017 a series of meetings between Hamas and senior officials from Egypt over the Gaza strip showed improved relations. It’s not yet clear how the restoration of Iranian funding will impact that relationship.

The restoration of ties between Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, and the prospect of Hamas and Hezbollah continuing to develop additional fronts, is certainly reasonable concern for Israeli strategists. Whether Russia has either the ability, or the willingness to restrain its Iranian ally remains to be seen.

Can Obama Leave With Class, Grace?

Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his response to sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration yesterday in response to alleged Russian hacking of Democratic emails to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He is ignoring them until Trump takes office.

Putin said in a statement issued by the Kremlin, “Although we have the right to retaliate, we will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen’ diplomacy but will plan our further steps to restore Russian-U.S. relations based on the policies of the Trump Administration.”

Putin’s repudiation of Obama was both unprecedented and predictable. Putin already had little regard for Obama and views him as the lamest of lame ducks. Putin knows that Obama’s foreign policy was decisively rejected by the American people with the election of Donald Trump.

Putin and the world view any last-minute foreign policy initiatives by the Obama administration as illegitimate since they are certain to be quickly reversed by the Trump administration.

Now that the election is over and his time in office is winding down, one of Mr. Obama’s major responsibilities is ensuring a smooth transfer of power. He is ignoring this responsibility by his Russia sanctions that clearly are designed to create roadblocks for Mr. Trump.

I also believe these sanctions are the latest effort by Obama and the Democratic party to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election win.

Even worse, the perception that an outgoing U.S. president is trying to box in and sabotage the foreign policy of his successor hurts the global reputation of America’s democratic system.

If the Obama administration believes it must make major foreign policy moves between now and Inauguration Day, it should only do so with the input and assent of President-elect Trump. It is irresponsible for Mr. Obama to set in motion such initiatives with only weeks left in his presidency that his successor will probably suspend or cancel.

President Obama, please stop. It’s too late for you to salvage your disastrous foreign policy. The time for you to hold Russia accountable for numerous instances of belligerent and destabilizing behavior has long past.

While you may be angry about Trump’s election and the likelihood that he will reverse your foreign policy achievements, moves like your Russia sanctions will only cause you to go down in history as an even more inconsequential president.

Mr. Obama, our nation needs you to leave office with class and grace.

‘The Bear is Back’: Center’s New Book Warns of ‘Putin’s Reset’ — and What America Must Do in Response

BOOK RELEASE: Putin’s Reset: The Bear is Back and How America Must Respond

November 3, 2016

NOTE: This title currently available on Kindle only. Paperback release next week. Free PDF version below.

(Washington, DC) At no time since the fall of the Soviet Union has the threat from Russia been as serious – and Washington’s relations with Moscow been as poor – as in the fall of 2016. As charges fly that Russia is trying to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election by leaking Democratic e-mails and Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump accuse each other of having inappropriate ties to the Russian government, the questions about where Vladimir Putin is taking his country and what that will mean for ours have largely gone unasked, let alone answered.

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Putin’s Reset: The Bear is Back and How America Must Respond explores the threats posed by Putin’s Russia, many of which have received little attention in the U.S. press. These include significant improvements in Russia’s nuclear ballistic missile arsenals, drastically improved air and missile defenses, and hardened shelters against nuclear attacks, apparently in preparation to survive a nuclear war. Russia also has stepped up economic, cyber, information and intelligence warfare against the United States to undermine American security and create a new global order.

The Obama administration has ignored these developments and emboldened Putin by answering his interventions in Ukraine and Syria with appeasement and ultimatums that it repeatedly failed to back up.

Center Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs Fred Fleitz outlines new challenges in US/Russia relations

It is hard to overstate the cumulative impact and portentousness of these developments. In his contribution to this collection of essays, noted Russia expert Dr. Stephen Blank depicts the situation with this grim warning: “Putin’s Russia is preparing for war against the U.S. and NATO. Putin would prefer to win without fighting, but he is prepared to use force and apparently escalate to nuclear weapons use if it is necessary and in Russia’s interests. He must be deterred. We are not doing nearly enough to do so.”

This series of essays by nine leading U.S. national security experts —Dr. Stephen Blank,

Fred Fleitz, Kevin D. Freeman, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., Dr. Daniel Gouré, Cliff Kincaid, Roger W. Robinson, Jr, David Satter, Dr. Mark B. Schneider, and Dr. J. Michael Waller – documents from their various perspectives and fields of expertise how the threat from Russia is growing as it gears up, at best, for a do-over of the Cold War. And at worst, how Russia is creating what the Soviets used to call “a correlation of forces” that will enable the Kremlin to engage decisively in actual hostilities against the United States.

Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney noted:

“Our hope is that the American people, once equipped with the insights in Putin’s Reset will have a more complete understanding of how the Kremlin of yesteryear – with its global ambitions, bullying behavior and rabid hostility towards the United States immortalized by Candidate Ronald Reagan in a 1980 presidential campaign ad as “a bear in the woods” – is back. And, with that urgently needed understanding, the public will be better equipped to decide on what course is the most appropriate U.S. response: continued accommodation and appeasement or a return to the policy approach that Mr. Reagan as president employed to help bring down the Soviet Union: peace through strength.”

This important book is available for purchase in Kindle at Amazon.com (paperback format coming soon). It also can be downloaded for free in PDF format below:

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The Energy Dimension Of Turkey’s Russia Problem

Tensions between Russia and Turkey are at all times highs following the downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber by Turkish forces along the Syrian border on November 24. Russian leader Vladimir Putin called the attack “a stab in Russia’s back” and said that there would be severe consequences for Turkish/Russian relations.

As a punishment, Putin announced that Russia would impose sanctions against certain Turkish exports. Russia will also restrict certain types of work rendered on Russian territory by Turkish organizations, as well as a halt to charter flights between the two countries.

The Russian jet, which was described as being “less than 2 miles” into Turkish airspace, was shot down following claims by Turkey that they issued several warnings over a five-minute period of time. The standard responses to a slight incursion into another nations airspace are to issues warnings and then escort the aircraft out of your countries airspace. No attempt to escort the aircraft away from Turkish airspace was made and the surviving pilot disputes the claim that Turkey issued warnings.

Additionally, despite calls to normalize relations following the attack, Turkey has decided to double-down on their aggressive stance towards Russia by shutting off Moscow’s access to the Black Sea, preventing Russian naval vessels from traveling in the Black Sea to Syria. Turkey’s actions are further promoting the narrative that the attack on Russia was a preplanned incident aimed at provoking Russia.

Not only is Turkey in a delicate situation, but also as a member of NATO, Turkey’s actions are placing the United States and other western nations in a precarious situation. As a NATO member, Turkey is party to Article 5 of the NATO convention, which stipulates that an attack on one NATO ally as an attack on all of them.

NATO has thrown its support towards Turkey throughout this incident. However, under the leadership of, Recep Tayyep Erdogan, Turkey has largely undermined the U.S. and NATO, and has not been a strong ally. Despite, on the surface, involvement in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), Erdogan prefers to use this fight against ISIS as a pretext to attack Kurdish militia groups instead. The Kurdish militias have proven to be an effective force against ISIS, yet they bear the brunt of Turkey’s assaults. Erdogan has met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and has expressed public support and financial assistance to the terrorist group Hamas.

It is unlikely that the downing of a Russian jet will escalate to the point of full-scale military incursions between Russia and Turkey; however, Russia may use its extensive and powerful energy sector to exert their influence. This will ultimately make a delicate energy situation in the region even more volatile.

Russia holds energy hegemony in the region. Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom provides energy to many countries throughout Europe. While Gazprom has numerous deals with various European counterparts, including a recent strategic alliance with Royal Dutch Shell, The Company regularly acts as a weapon in Putin’s arsenal, often forgoing profits in order to help push the Kremlins agenda.

Russia has used the manipulation of gas supplies to get its way in Europe several times in the past. Both in 2006 and 2009, Russia manipulated gas supplies that led to shortages throughout Europe, as well as a complete shutdown of gas supplies to Southeastern Europe. Recently, Gazprom announced that they would halt deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine, citing a clash over natural gas pricing.

Gazprom has been in talks with Turkey to develop the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline, to ship Russian gas underneath the Black Sea to Turkey. Russia is Turkey’s largest gas supplier and the pipeline was designed to be an alternative route for Russian natural gas heading to Europe that circumvents Ukraine, giving Russia the ability to diminish Ukraine as an important energy transit state. However, Russian Minister of development, Alexi Ulyukayev, announced that Russia is canceling Turkish Stream.

Despite Turkish attempts at provoking a NATO engagement with Russia, Russia’s extensive energy influence throughout Europe decreases the likelihood that NATO countries will involve themselves in a direct military confrontation.

It would behoove Turkey to deescalate tensions before Russia uses its massive energy apparatus to shut off power throughout Turkey. Additionally, NATO nations need to let Turkey know their behavior is not acceptable and place them on notice regarding their status as a treaty signatory.