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TBR News April 26, 2017

Apr 26 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. April 26, 2017: “The global ice masses are rapidly melting, thus raising the sea levels world-wide.

But the idiot fringe claim that this is not true, or that ice caps are  increasing and the worst of the nut fringe claims that the land is sinking!

In Florida, the residents of Miami recognize the flooding of their city but no one seems to know what to do about it.

They won’t face up to the fact that they can do nothing about it.

They can move to higher ground but not in Florida.

There is no higher ground in Florida.

Or in the coastal areas of the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and a few other states.

Genuine, not blog, experts predict that if the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets continue to melt at their current rate, within ten years the sea levels will rise 3 meters!

Some pseudo-scientists do admit to rising sea levels but assure the coastal-dwelling sheep that this won’t happen for three hundred years.”

 

Table of Contents

  • Anti-Trump headlines from the WP, Jeff Bezos’ cat box liner- April 25.
  • North Korea conducts live-fire drill as US submarine arrives in region
  • Debunking Trump’s Casus Belli
  • Will the Next War Erupt in the Balkans?
  • Venezuelans shut down roads and highways in protest against government
  • Trudeau vows to defend Canada interests as U.S. targets lumber, Canadian dollar falls
  • SECRECY NEWS
  • NSA Blimp Spied in the United States
  • Air Force polluted Michigan town’s drinking water, refuses to offer clean supply
  • US irks Turkey, says no policy change on Armenian bloodletting
  • Genocide in the 20th Century: Armenians in Turkey: 1915-1918 1,500,00 Deaths
  • Turkey’s Turn toward Russia

 Anti-Trump headlines from the WP, Jeff Bezos’ cat box liner- April 25.

 

  • Religious groups confused by Trump administration’s push for employers to provide birth control
  • Why a ‘decentralized swarm of resistance’ is the best way to contain Trump
  • Trump’s border-wall fantasy is crumbling
  • Forget 100 days — we’ve been watching this Trump for years
  • Trump gets a middle-of-the-night inspiration
  • Oh, Canada, you’re next: After attacking China and Mexico trade practices, Trump shifts his ire north
  • President Trump’s Pinocchio-laden Associated Press interview
  • President Trump just had his bluff called — again
  • The U.S. government’s ‘witch hunt’ to root out a Trump critic has now sparked an investigation

 

North Korea conducts live-fire drill as US submarine arrives in region

As US, Japanese and South Korean warships carried out joint exercises, Pyongyang marked a national anniversary with an artillery drill. The saber-rattling coincided with a flurry of diplomatic activity in Tokyo.

April 25, 2017

by Samantha Early

DW

North Korea conducted a large-scale conventional live-fire military drill in the region of Wonsan on its east coast, South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed on Tuesday. In a statement, the South’s military said it was “closely monitoring” the situation and “maintaining readiness.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was likely to have observed the drill, ostensibly to mark 85 years since the founding of the North’s military, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

International concerns have been heightened in recent weeks that the North could soon carry out another nuclear test or missile launch, in defiance of United Nations sanctions. The reclusive country, where 40 percent of the population is undernourished according to the Global Hunger Index, often marks significant anniversaries with shows of military force. Although it was feared a nuclear test or ballistic missile launch might happen on Tuesday, no such test happened during the morning.

The harsh rhetoric continued from Pyongyang, with a top military general repeating that the North was ready to use pre-emptive strikes to defend itself.

“The situation prevailing on the Korean Peninsula is so tense that a nuclear war may break out due to the frantic war drills of the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces for aggression,” General Pak Yong Sik told a major meeting of senior military and civilian officials

US nuclear submarine docks in Busan

US President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from becoming capable of striking the US with a nuclear missile and ruled out nothing including a military strike. As a show of force, he sent the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to waters off Korea. The fleet was carrying out drills with Japanese warships.

South Korea’s navy was also carrying out exercises with US destroyers in waters off the Korean peninsula.

As the drills continued, the US Navy said the nuclear-powered guided missile submarine USS Michigan arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Tuesday. The submarine was not expected to participate in joint naval exercises.

Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley said the US wasn’t looking for a fight with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and wouldn’t attack “unless he gives us reason to do something.” She praised China’s increasing pressure on North Korea, seen by Washington as key to reigning in Pyongyang’s military ambitions.

Increased diplomatic activity

Meanwhile, top envoys from Japan, South Korea and the US held talks in Tokyo, with US envoy Joseph Yun saying he and his counterparts agreed to coordinate “all actions” on North Korea. They also agreed China had a key role in pressuring Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile program. According to Japan’s foreign ministry, China’s envoy for North Korea was also due to visit Tokyo for talks.

Trump on Monday urged UN Security Council ambassadors to consider even tougher sanctions on North Korea. US senators were due to be briefed on North Korea at the White House on Wednesday.

 

Debunking Trump’s Casus Belli

Intelligence community insiders are getting restless for a whistleblower to step forward.

April 24, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

Wars and rumors of wars have been dominating news cycles of late. No one should be surprised that there is a “former intelligence officer” subculture that is particularly noticeable in the Washington, DC, area. We stay in touch, communicate regularly, have lunches to discuss the “old days,” and sometimes organize to raise objections to some of the foreign follies pursued by the U.S. government. Though we often try to stay under the radar, making personal but discreet contact with sympathetic congressmen and journalists, we sometimes work together to get letters to the editor or articles placed in national publications. More rarely we appear on television or radio to discuss our own perspectives on current events.

There is an additional element that helps shape our perceptions—namely, that many of us are in contact with friends who are still in harness with the Intelligence Community or who are working as post-retirement contractors. Though current employees generally are highly cautious about what they are doing, and we are acutely aware that it is not a good idea to ask anything specific, frustration over specific governmental policies and actions is occasionally vented.

Recently, with the cruise missile attacks on a Syrian airfield, there has been a considerable loosening of the normal restraints that employees exercise regarding their duties. Even more than the invasion of Iraq, which was viewed skeptically by many in the community, the decision by President Trump to retaliate with force against Damascus has been met with dismay among many of those closest to the action in the Middle East.

Many officers have expressed frustration and anger over what has taken place—not to challenge national-security policy, which they leave up to the politicians, but because they are perceiving a tissue of lies, as in Iraq. They have expressed their concerns in very specific ways to former fellow officers and friends. For the first time, people on the inside of the process are really talking. And we have been listening, astonished at the level of anger.

The insiders note that no evidence has been produced to demonstrate convincingly that Syrian forces dropped a chemical bomb on a civilian area. U.S. monitors, who had been warned by the Russians that an attack was coming, believe they saw from satellite images something close to the Russian account of events, with a bomb hitting the targeted warehouse, which then produced a cloud of gas. They also note that Syria had absolutely no motive for staging a chemical attack. In fact, it was quite the contrary, as Washington had earlier that week backed off from the U.S. position that President Bashar al-Assad should be removed from office. The so-called rebels, however, had plenty of motive. Many intelligence officials have concluded that the White House is lying and concealing what it knows.

Some employees have even expressed a desire that a whistleblower might step forward to demolish the administration’s casus belli, though none has yet offered to do so. Most of all, those on the ground are alarmed over ongoing preparations for expanding the war, including seemingly active plans to establish no-fly zones and safe havens. The uncompromising demand that al-Assad must go will lead, in their opinion, to a rapid escalation of military activity that inevitably will result in conflict with Russia.

Will the Next War Erupt in the Balkans?

Forget the Middle East and Korea: The Balkans are on the boil again

April 26, 2017

by Justin Raimondo

AntiWar

As the world focuses on the Middle Eastern and Korean flashpoints, the next war may not occur in either region, but rather in a replay of an old conflict that has been largely forgotten.

In an interview with Politico’s European edition, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened war if Kosovo is denied entry into the European Union:

“Albania’s prime minister said a union between Albania and Kosovo cannot be ruled out if EU membership prospects for the Western Balkans fade.

“In an interview with Politico … Prime Minister Edi Rama said Europe would face ‘a nightmare’ if the Balkans ‘go crazy’ because EU accession is off the agenda, with the region becoming a ‘gray zone in which other actors have more influence than the European Union.’”

What does Rama mean by “go crazy”? Sounds like war to me. And that would clearly be the result of a merger between Kosovo and Albania, which Rama is threatening. Serbia would quickly act to ensure the safety of Kosovo’s beleaguered Serbian minority, in that event: and Russia, standing behind Belgrade, would back the Serbs.

The reluctance of the EU to admit both Kosovo and Bosnia is rooted in the brazenly undemocratic practices of these two thugocracies, where political violence, election fraud, and open corruption are routine.

Since the Kosovo war in 1999, a pan-Albanian movement that seeks to create a “Greater Albania” has spread throughout the region. In supporting Kosovo’s drive for independence, attacking the former Yugoslavia in the process, the US actively supported this movement both militarily and politically.

Now it is coming back to haunt us, threatening a replay of the Balkan conflict. In Kosovo, the biggest opposition party is determined to hold a referendum on unity with Albania, despite an explicit prohibition of this option in the country’s constitution. In neighboring Macedonia, sporadic terrorist activity by Albanian separatists has posed a threat to the unity of the country. In Bosnia, where the Albanians dominate the “multi-ethnic” state, the Serbian minority seeks independence. And in Montenegro, they make demands for autonomy alongside a radical fringe advocating for “Greater Albania.” Not even Greece, portions of which are claimed by the Albanian ultra-nationalists, is immune. In short, the Albanian minorities across the region – radicalized by ultra-nationalist ideology – are a destabilizing factor.

Rama is threatening to, in effect, annex Kosovo and create a “Greater Albania,” a move that is certain to ignite a conflict with Serbia, which seeks to protect what is left of the Serbian minority in the northern part of the country. He told Politico that such a union isn’t “my wish but a possible alternative to the closed door of the European Union.”

This is outright blackmail: give us EU membership or the specter of war will once again be raised in the volatile Balkans: As Rama put it:

“The only way to keep the Balkans in this peaceful and cooperative mode … is to keep the path to the EU open, to keep the perspective clear, to keep emotions about the EU positive. No one would like to turn [in] on themselves and look for smaller unions, everyone would like to unite in the big union. But if there’s no hope, no perspective, no space, then, of course, little unions may happen.”

The Serbian response was swift and unambiguous:

“Serbian officials warned on Friday of another war in the Balkans if Albanians try to form a joint state with Kosovo in the war-weary European region and the West does not reject such a plan….

“Serbian government minister Aleksandar Vulin said he expects the EU and NATO to denounce such statements, otherwise there could be another war in the Balkans.

“Vulin said that a new war in the Balkans would also include Macedonia and Montenegro which have large ethnic-Albanian populations.”

A pertinent point was made by Serbian Prime Minister Alexsander Vucic, who remarked: “If I said that all Serbs should live in one state, I would be hanged from a flagpole in Brussels.” This is quite true. But why is that? Why the double standard?

The Western powers have always used the Albanians as a battering ram to limit Russian influence in the Balkans. This was the real cause of the Kosovo war, and of Western support to the Bosniaks. Political correctness is also a factor: the Albanians are primarily Muslim, while the Serbs and the other Slavic peoples are Orthodox Christians.

The Kosovo war birthed a gangster state in the midst of the Balkans: Kosovo is the heroin capital of Europe, and the Albanian Mafia’s tentacles reach outward from Pristina to penetrate all the countries of Western Europe. It is also the epicenter of support for Muslim terrorism in the region: during the Kosovo war, al-Qaeda sided with the Western powers in that particular power struggle. Kosovo is a fertile recruiting ground for terrorist groups.

Western troops, including American soldiers, are in Kosovo to this day, in order to keep the thuggish Albanians separated from the ever-dwindling Serbian minority.

With both Albania and Montenegro now NATO members, the ancient blood feuds of the Balkans could easily draw the United States into a renewed conflict. And this would have to mean a fresh confrontation with Russia, the historic protector of the Slavs – which is just what the War Party is gunning for.

What in the name of all that’s holy is tiny Albania doing in NATO, let alone minuscule Montenegro? What possible US interest is served by siding with the Albanians in their bid to create a “Greater Albania” – an ambition that puts them on a direct collision course with every other nation in the region?

The Balkans are synonymous with ethno-religious division and conflict: Google “balkanization.” They don’t call it the tinderbox of Europe for nothing. While the world’s attention is fixated on the Middle East and Eastasia, where ISIS and Kim Jong-un, respectively, are the focus, the forgotten conflicts in this historically volatile minefield are due to explode at any moment. Twenty years after the US-supported “liberation” of Kosovo, the Pandora’s box of the Balkans is wide open – and what’s pouring out of it isn’t pretty.

Venezuelans shut down roads and highways in protest against government

April 24, 2017

USA Today

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Protesters sprawled in lawn chairs, worked on math homework and played cards on main roads around Venezuela Monday as part of a sit-in against the government.

In Caracas, thousands of protesters shut down the capital city’s main highway to express their disgust with the increasingly embattled socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro. They turned the road into a kind of public plaza, with protesters laying out picnics, reading books and reclining under umbrellas they brought to protect them from the blazing Caribbean sun.

Juan Carlos Bautista, 48, passed the afternoon playing dominos.

“We want to be free. I’m here fighting for my children and my children’s children,” he said.

Protesters in least a dozen other cities also staged sit-ins Monday, with some building barricades to stop traffic. In Caracas, protesters dragged concrete slabs, garbage and even a bathtub into the road.

The protest movement is entering its fourth week, and has become increasingly deadly.

On Sunday, a 21st death was linked to the unrest that began almost a month ago over the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the opposition-controlled congress of its powers. The Interior Ministry said that Almelina Carrillo died in a hospital after being hit on the head by a frozen water bottle that someone threw from a high rise toward a pro-government rally last week.

The current unrest is the most intense the economically struggling country has seen since two months of anti-government protests in 2014 that left dozens dead. But while those protests were led by young people who built flaming barricades in the street, this month’s movement is attracting huge masses of older protesters, who say they are fighting not for themselves, but for the younger generations.

In Caracas, retired professor Lisbeth Colina said Monday that she had chosen to participate in the sit-in for her grandchildren.

“The side that gives up is the side that loses,” she said. “We must remain in the streets. I’m not scared of the repression they’re throwing at us,” she said.

Maduro on Sunday said he wouldn’t give in to opponents and again urged them rejoin negotiations they broke off last December. But opposition leaders are rejecting calls for dialogue, and demanding immediate general elections.

“The government wants to use negotiations as a ploy to divide us, demobilize us, and win itself time,” congress Vice President Freddy Guevara told reporters. “This protest is an exercise in resistance and a test of our conviction.”

Trudeau vows to defend Canada interests as U.S. targets lumber, Canadian dollar falls

April 25, 2017

by David Ljunggren

Reuters

OTTAWA-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to stand up for Canadian interests on Tuesday after the United States imposed new tariffs on softwood lumber and trade tensions between the two countries escalated, sending the Canadian dollar to a 14-month low.

While the currency fell, shares in Canadian lumber companies rose as the level of the new tariffs came in at the low end of what investors were expecting.

The United States said on Monday it will impose preliminary anti-subsidy duties averaging 20 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, escalating a long-running trade dispute between the two neighbors.

The move, which affects some $5.66 billion worth of imports of the construction material, sets a tense tone as the two countries and Mexico prepare to renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Speaking to a technology company in Ontario, Trudeau said he would defend the national interest, and cabinet colleagues were poised to speak to the media to outline Canada’s possible responses to the tariffs later in the day.

“Standing up for Canada’s interests is what my job is, whether it’s softwood or software,” Trudeau said, prompting applause and cheers.

“Any two countries are going to have issues that will be irritants to the relationship and, quite frankly, having a good constructive working relationship allows us to work through those irritants.”

The dispute sideswiped the Canadian currency, reflecting the importance of lumber to the nation’s economy. The Canadian dollar CAD=D4 weakened to C$1.3613 to the greenback, or 73.46 U.S. cents, nearly a full Canadian cent weaker than Monday’s close.

Canadian officials shrugged off the U.S. aggression on softwood lumber and recent attacks by U.S. President Donald Trump on Canadian dairy exports as typical negotiation tactics. But others urged Canada to get tougher.

“In Canada, the perception is that we’re always very nice. But we can’t get trampled by this guy (Trump),” said Jerry Dias, president of the Unifor union that represents more than 20,000 forestry workers across Canada.

“This is going to have a devastating impact on certain communities,” he added. According to Unifor, 600 communities in Canada are dependent on forestry.

Canadian cabinet ministers, who have fanned out across the United States in recent weeks to lobby state governors, mayors, and other policymakers, said the U.S. combativeness on trade won’t change the overall strategy.

“There are no victors in a trade war,” said Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board, in a phone interview from Detroit, where he was promoting the value of bilateral trade.

Still, shares of timber companies climbed in response to the move, because the average 20 percent anti-subsidy duties came in below a 20-30 percent range expected by RBC equity analysts.

Shares in West Fraser Timber Co (WFT.TO), which would pay the highest duty rate of the affected companies, rose 7.9 percent to C$60.82 and Canfor Corp (CFP.TO) stock gained 6.4 percent to C$19.34.

Softwood lumber joins dairy as a key target for Trump, who tweeted a new attack on Canada’s supply management system for dairy on Tuesday. Last week the president called Canada’s dairy protections “unfair.”

“Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

(Additional reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa, Alastair Sharp and Fergal Smith in Toronto and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

SECRECY NEWS

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 29

April 25, 2017

THE RIDDLE OF STEEL, & MORE FROM CRS

Could imported steel pose a threat to U.S. national security? The Trump Administration thinks so. Last week, President Trump directed the Secretary of Commerce to conduct an investigation under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 “to determine the effects on national security of steel imports.”

Yesterday the Congressional Research Service reviewed the issue skeptically, noting that such investigations almost never produce a meaningful outcome. “Perhaps one reason these investigations are infrequently conducted may be that such investigations rarely result in a finding that certain imports threaten to impair national security,” CRS wrote. See A Steely Look at Steel: Commerce Directed to Prioritize Investigation of the Effects of Steel Imports on National Security, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 24, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

New Executive Order Directs Agencies to Revise or Rescind Climate Change Rules and Policies, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 20, 2017

U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America: Policy Issues for Congress, April 12, 2017

Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 115th Congress, April 21, 2017

China-U.S. Trade Issues, updated April 24, 2017

Turkey: Erdogan’s Referendum Victory Delivers “Presidential System”, CRS Insight, April 20, 2017

U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: Comparative Statistics of Two-Term Presidencies Since 1945, CRS Insight, April 24, 2017

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Background and Summary, updated April 21, 2017

Cost-Benefit Analysis and Financial Regulator Rulemaking, April 12, 2017

Cybersecurity: Critical Infrastructure Authoritative Reports and Resources, updated April 21, 2017

FDA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS): Description and Effect on Generic Drug Development, April 11, 2017

New Canadian Dairy Pricing Regime Proves Disruptive for U.S. Milk Producers, CRS Insight, April 20, 2017

Iran Nuclear Agreement, updated April 21, 2017

The Budget Control Act and the Defense Budget: Frequently Asked Questions, updated April 21, 2017

NSA Blimp Spied in the United States

April 24 2017

by Ryan Gallagher

The Intercept

To residents of Maryland, catching an occasional glimpse of a huge white blimp floating in the sky is not unusual. For more than a decade, the military has used the state as a proving ground for new airships destined for Afghanistan or Iraq. But less known is that the test flights have sometimes served a more secretive purpose involving National Security Agency surveillance.

Back in 2004, a division of the NSA called the National Tactical Integration Office fitted a 62-foot diameter airship called the Hover Hammer with an eavesdropping device, according to a classified document published Monday by The Intercept. The agency launched the three-engine airship at an airfield near Solomons Island, Maryland. And from there, the blimp was able to vacuum up “international shipping data emanating from the Long Island, New York area,” the document says. The spy equipment on the airship was called Digital Receiver Technology — a proprietary system manufactured by a Maryland-based company of the same name — which can intercept wireless communications, including cellphone calls.

With the exception of a few military websites that refer to the Hover Hammer as an “antenna mounting platform,” there is little information in the public domain about it. The classified NSA document describes the airship as a “helium-filled sphere inside another sphere, constructed of Spectra, the same material used to make bullet-proof vests. … It ‘hovers’ above small arms fire, has a negligible [infrared] signature, and radar can’t detect it.” The agency added in the document that it planned to conduct more tests with the Hover Hammer, and said it wanted to develop a larger version of the blimp that would be capable of flying at altitudes of 68,000 feet for up to six months at a time. “More experiments, including the use of onboard imagery sensors, are being conducted,” it said.

The NSA declined to comment for this story.

In recent years, airships — or aerostats, as they are formally called — have been a source of major military investment. Between 2006 and 2015, the U.S. Army paid Raytheon some $1.8 billion to develop a massive missile-defense blimp called the JLENS, which is equipped with powerful radar that can scan in any direction 310 miles. (That’s almost the entire length of New York state.) In October 2015, the JLENS attracted national attention after one became untethered amid testing and drifted north from Maryland to Pennsylvania before it was brought back under control. In 2010, the Army commissioned another three airships — called Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicles — as part of a $517 million contract with Northrop Grumman. The company stated that the airships would “shape the future” of the military’s intelligence-gathering capabilities and provide a “persistent unblinking stare” from the sky.

Unsurprisingly, privacy groups have expressed concerns about the prospect of the blimps being used domestically to spy on Americans. However, military officials have often been quick to dismiss such fears. In August 2015, Lt. Shane Glass told Baltimore broadcaster WBAL that the JLENS blimps being tested in Maryland were not equipped with cameras or eavesdropping devices. “There are no cameras on the system, and we are not capable of tracking any individuals,” Glass stated. The same cannot be said, it seems, of the NSA’s Hover Hammer.

Air Force polluted Michigan town’s drinking water, refuses to offer clean supply

April 25, 2017

RT

A US Air Force base long leeched toxic fluorocarbons into a Michigan town’s groundwater, and new tests show contaminants have spread. Yet the Air Force has largely denied responsibility despite an expanding community health hazard.

New testing of groundwater in Oscoda, MIchigan, indicates that pollution from Wurtsmith Air Force Base has traveled to two new waterways in the town thought to be buffers from chemical pollutants originating at the base, according to MLive.

A three-month-old state law calls on the Air Force to compensate state and local agencies for work done to combat the contaminants, yet the Air Force insists it is immune to the “unnecessary” legislation.

The contaminants are perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), also referred to as perfluorinated chemicals, that have spread through Oscoda’s groundwater in plumes coming from the base. The Air Force used PFAS-riddled firefighting foam at the now-closed base from the 1970s through, at least, the mid-1990s, MLive reported.

Mostly known for use in industrial and manufacturing processes, PFASs can bioaccumulate in humans and remain in blood and organs for many years. High concentrations of the substances have been linked to a variety of major health problems, including those related to functions of the liver, thyroid, pancreas and reproductive system, among others, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state ramped up its testing for PFASs in the base area beginning in 2010, MLive reported in January. In February 2016, local health officials and the state Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint advisory calling on some residents in the area who rely on private wells near the base to “seek an alternative water supply.” A “do not eat” advisory for non-migratory fish caught near parts of the base remains in place.

Since the water advisory more than a year ago, the state has offered reverse osmosis water filters, water jugs and has sought to extend municipal water mains with a federal government grant and $1 million supplied by the state, according to reports.A state law that went into effect in January calls on the Air Force to reimburse the state and local governments for work done to mitigate the increasing impact of the base’s PFASs on local groundwater. The law, Public Act 545 of 2016, demands the state or federal government offer an “alternative water supply” to relevant private residential well owners if government pollution triggers a drinking water advisory, as it has in Oscoda.

The Air Force, however, refuses to comply with the state law, saying that very few residential well owners have showed that their drinking water has exceeded PFAS standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Until levels hit that threshold, the Air Force says it is not obligated to provide compensation. The Department of Defense (DOD) has claimed that the law is “unnecessary” and “would not be enforceable” because the military is immune from state law.

“Because the proposed legislation discriminates against the DOD, we would not be able to expend funds to comply with it if it became law,” wrote DOD environmental coordinator James R. Hartman in a letter to the state Legislature in November.

The Air Force has maintained its posture. Spokesman Mark Kinkade said the law “does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons” and that the Air Force is “not authorized” to follow the law.

The latest testing for PFASs found a second instance of drinking wellwater that has exceeded EPA standards. A well around Oscoda High School is the second such well in the area to show levels above the federal health threshold, MLive reported. Firefighting foam was used by the base at the school during a 1995 fire, investigators believe.

Local officials say they will seek to hold the Air Force accountable for its damage to the community.

“I am extremely disappointed in the US Air Force for not living up to its word and its responsibilities,” state Senator Jim Stamas, the sponsor of the state law, told AP. “The federal government needs to be held accountable for what they did, and I will be asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to pursue action to enforce the law.”

US Rep. Dan Kildee added that he thinks the Air Force is not “moving with the urgency they should be” on the issue.

“Ultimately, the logical conclusion says the Air Force is going to have to spend some money to get this out of the ground,” Kildee said. “Let’s get on with it and do it on a scale that’s somehow equal to the size of the problem.”

A 2016 Harvard study of approximately 36,000 EPA water samples taken from 2013 to 2015 at industrial sites, military fire training locations, airports and wastewater treatment plants found levels of PFASs that go beyond what is considered safe by the federal government. Researchers determined that drinking water for 6 million people in the US is at or beyond the EPA safety threshold for PFAS levels.

Xindi Hu, the study’s lead author, warned that “the actual number of people exposed may be even higher than our study found, because government data for levels of these compounds in drinking water is lacking for almost a third of the U.S. population—about 100 million people.”

The state ramped up its testing for PFASs in the base area beginning in 2010, MLive reported in January. In February 2016, local health officials and the state Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint advisory calling on some residents in the area who rely on private wells near the base to “seek an alternative water supply.” A “do not eat” advisory for non-migratory fish caught near parts of the base remains in place.

Since the water advisory more than a year ago, the state has offered reverse osmosis water filters, water jugs and has sought to extend municipal water mains with a federal government grant and $1 million supplied by the state, according to reports.

A state law that went into effect in January calls on the Air Force to reimburse the state and local governments for work done to mitigate the increasing impact of the base’s PFASs on local groundwater. The law, Public Act 545 of 2016, demands the state or federal government offer an “alternative water supply” to relevant private residential well owners if government pollution triggers a drinking water advisory, as it has in Oscoda.

The Air Force, however, refuses to comply with the state law, saying that very few residential well owners have showed that their drinking water has exceeded PFAS standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Until levels hit that threshold, the Air Force says it is not obligated to provide compensation. The Department of Defense (DOD) has claimed that the law is “unnecessary” and “would not be enforceable” because the military is immune from state law.

“Because the proposed legislation discriminates against the DOD, we would not be able to expend funds to comply with it if it became law,” wrote DOD environmental coordinator James R. Hartman in a letter to the state Legislature in November.

The Air Force has maintained its posture. Spokesman Mark Kinkade said the law “does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons” and that the Air Force is “not authorized” to follow the law.

The latest testing for PFASs found a second instance of drinking wellwater that has exceeded EPA standards. A well around Oscoda High School is the second such well in the area to show levels above the federal health threshold, MLive reported

The Air Force, however, refuses to comply with the state law, saying that very few residential well owners have showed that their drinking water has exceeded PFAS standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Until levels hit that threshold, the Air Force says it is not obligated to provide compensation. The Department of Defense (DOD) has claimed that the law is “unnecessary” and “would not be enforceable” because the military is immune from state law.

“Because the proposed legislation discriminates against the DOD, we would not be able to expend funds to comply with it if it became law,” wrote DOD environmental coordinator James R. Hartman in a letter to the state Legislature in November.

The Air Force has maintained its posture. Spokesman Mark Kinkade said the law “does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons” and that the Air Force is “not authorized” to follow the law.

The latest testing for PFASs found a second instance of drinking wellwater that has exceeded EPA standards. A well around Oscoda High School is the second such well in the area to show levels above the federal health threshold, MLive reported. Firefighting foam was used by the base at the school during a 1995 fire, investigators believe.

Local officials say they will seek to hold the Air Force accountable for its damage to the community.

“I am extremely disappointed in the US Air Force for not living up to its word and its responsibilities,” state Senator Jim Stamas, the sponsor of the state law, told AP. “The federal government needs to be held accountable for what they did, and I will be asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to pursue action to enforce the law.”

US Rep. Dan Kildee added that he thinks the Air Force is not “moving with the urgency they should be” on the issue.

“Ultimately, the logical conclusion says the Air Force is going to have to spend some money to get this out of the ground,” Kildee said. “Let’s get on with it and do it on a scale that’s somehow equal to the size of the problem.”

A 2016 Harvard study of approximately 36,000 EPA water samples taken from 2013 to 2015 at industrial sites, military fire training locations, airports and wastewater treatment plants found levels of PFASs that go beyond what is considered safe by the federal government. Researchers determined that drinking water for 6 million people in the US is at or beyond the EPA safety threshold for PFAS levels.

Xindi Hu, the study’s lead author, warned that “the actual number of people exposed may be even higher than our study found, because government data for levels of these compounds in drinking water is lacking for almost a third of the U.S. population—about 100 million people.”

US irks Turkey, says no policy change on Armenian bloodletting

April 24, 2017

AFP

Washington (AFP) – The United States irked its key ally Turkey on Monday, criticizing 1915 massacres in Armenia as “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century,” although stopping short of calling them genocide.

The issue is a politically fraught one in the United States especially among Armenian Americans.

Estimates say the killings number between half a million and 1.5 million.

The largest group is in the Los Angeles area, and includes pop star and actress Cher, and the Kardashians of reality television fame.

Former president Barack Obama had promised to recognize the killings as a genocide. But over eight years in office, in need of cooperation from Turkey, he did not follow through.

New President Donald Trump issued a statement saying bluntly that “today, we remember and honor the memory of those who suffered during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.”

Many of the diaspora landed in countries from France to Argentina to the United States.

“Beginning in 1915, one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire,” Trump said.

“I join the Armenian community in America and around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and the suffering endured by so many.

“We must remember atrocities to prevent them from occurring again,” he continued.

“We welcome the efforts of Turks and Armenians to acknowledge and reckon with painful history, which is a critical step toward building a foundation for a more just and tolerant future.”

Amid sharp Turkish criticism for the remarks, the State Department noted that the US president, in fact, had made no mention of genocide.

“The (Trump) statement that was put out is consistent with the statements that have been put out for at least several of the past administrations,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a briefing.

“I think if you look back to the language that President Obama, President Bush have used, the language the President used is consistent with all of that,” Spicer stressed.

In Istanbul, the foreign ministry said Trump’s remarks on the remembrance day were “misinformation” and “false definitions.”

“We expect from the new US administration not to accredit the one-sided historical narrative of these circles which are known for their tendency to violence and hate speech and to adopt an approach which will take into consideration the sufferings of all sides,” it stressed.

Outside the Turkish embassy here, a few hundred protested on each side, separated by the road and police.

House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said that “on this day in 1915, the arrest of Armenian social, political, and intellectual leaders launched a four-year campaign of genocide that took the lives of 1.5 million men, women, and children.

“Not only must we recommit ourselves to the remembrance of the twentieth century’s first genocide but also work to prevent ethnic killing in the twenty-first century,” he argued.

Genocide in the 20th Century: Armenians in Turkey: 1915-1918 1,500,00 Deaths

The History Place

The first genocide of the 20th Century occurred when two million Armenians living in Turkey were eliminated from their historic homeland through forced deportations and massacres.

For three thousand years, a thriving Armenian community had existed inside the vast region of the Middle East bordered by the Black, Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. The area, known as Asia Minor, stands at the crossroads of three continents; Europe, Asia and Africa. Great powers rose and fell over the many centuries and the Armenian homeland was at various times ruled by Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Mongols.

Despite the repeated invasions and occupations, Armenian pride and cultural identity never wavered. The snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat became its focal point and by 600 BC Armenia as a nation sprang into being. Following the advent of Christianity, Armenia became the very first nation to accept it as the state religion. A golden era of peace and prosperity followed which saw the invention of a distinct alphabet, a flourishing of literature, art, commerce, and a unique style of architecture. By the 10th century, Armenians had established a new capital at Ani, affectionately called the ‘city of a thousand and one churches.’

In the eleventh century, the first Turkish invasion of the Armenian homeland occurred. Thus began several hundred years of rule by Muslim Turks. By the sixteenth century, Armenia had been absorbed into the vast and mighty Ottoman Empire. At its peak, this Turkish empire included much of Southeast Europe, North Africa, and almost all of the Middle East.

But by the 1800s the once powerful Ottoman Empire was in serious decline. For centuries, it had spurned technological and economic progress, while the nations of Europe had embraced innovation and became industrial giants. Turkish armies had once been virtually invincible. Now, they lost battle after battle to modern European armies.

As the empire gradually disintegrated, formerly subject peoples including the Greeks, Serbs and Romanians achieved their long-awaited independence. Only the Armenians and the Arabs of the Middle East remained stuck in the backward and nearly bankrupt empire, now under the autocratic rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid.

By the 1890s, young Armenians began to press for political reforms, calling for a constitutional government, the right to vote and an end to discriminatory practices such as special taxes levied solely against them because they were Christians. The despotic Sultan responded to their pleas with brutal persecutions. Between 1894 and 1896 over 100,000 inhabitants of Armenian villages were massacred during widespread pogroms conducted by the Sultan’s special regiments.

But the Sultan’s days were numbered. In July 1908, reform-minded Turkish nationalists known as “Young Turks” forced the Sultan to allow a constitutional government and guarantee basic rights. The Young Turks were ambitious junior officers in the Turkish Army who hoped to halt their country’s steady decline.

Armenians in Turkey were delighted with this sudden turn of events and its prospects for a brighter future. Jubilant public rallies were held attended by both Turks and Armenians with banners held high calling for freedom, equality and justice.

However, their hopes were dashed when three of the Young Turks seized full control of the government via a coup in 1913. This triumvirate of Young Turks, consisting of Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver and Ahmed Djemal, came to wield dictatorial powers and concocted their own ambitious plans for the future of Turkey. They wanted to unite all of the Turkic peoples in the entire region while expanding the borders of Turkey eastward across the Caucasus all the way into Central Asia. This would create a new Turkish empire, a “great and eternal land” called Turan with one language and one religion.

But there was a big problem. The traditional historic homeland of Armenia lay right in the path of their plans to expand eastward. And on that land was a large population of Christian Armenians totaling some two million persons, making up about 10 percent of Turkey’s overall population.

Along with the Young Turk’s newfound “Turanism” there was a dramatic rise in Islamic fundamentalist agitation throughout Turkey. Christian Armenians were once again branded as infidels (non-believers in Islam). Anti-Armenian demonstrations were staged by young Islamic extremists, sometimes leading to violence. During one such outbreak in 1909, two hundred villages were plundered and over 30,000 persons massacred in the Cilicia district on the Mediterranean coast. Throughout Turkey, sporadic local attacks against Armenians continued unchecked over the next several years.

There were also big cultural differences between Armenians and Turks. The Armenians had always been one of the best educated communities within the old Turkish empire. Armenians were the professionals in society, the businessmen, lawyers, doctors and skilled craftsmen. And they were more open to new scientific, political and social ideas from the West (Europe and America). Children of wealthy Armenians went to Paris, Geneva or even to America to complete their education.

By contrast, the majority of Turks were illiterate peasant farmers and small shop keepers. Leaders of the Ottoman Empire had traditionally placed little value on education and not a single institute of higher learning could be found within their old empire. The various autocratic and despotic rulers throughout the empire’s history had valued loyalty and blind obedience above all. Their uneducated subjects had never heard of democracy or liberalism and thus had no inclination toward political reform. But this was not the case with the better educated Armenians who sought political and social reforms that would improve life for themselves and Turkey’s other minorities.

The Young Turks decided to glorify the virtues of simple Turkish peasantry at the expense of the Armenians in order to capture peasant loyalty. They exploited the religious, cultural, economic and political differences between Turks and Armenians so that the average Turk came to regard Armenians as strangers among them.

When World War I broke out in 1914, leaders of the Young Turk regime sided with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary). The outbreak of war would provide the perfect opportunity to solve the “Armenian question” once and for all. The world’s attention became fixed upon the battlegrounds of France and Belgium where the young men of Europe were soon falling dead by the hundreds of thousands. The Eastern Front eventually included the border between Turkey and Russia. With war at hand, unusual measures involving the civilian population would not seem too out of the ordinary.

As a prelude to the coming action, Turks disarmed the entire Armenian population under the pretext that the people were naturally sympathetic toward Christian Russia. Every last rifle and pistol was forcibly seized, with severe penalties for anyone who failed to turn in a weapon. Quite a few Armenian men actually purchased a weapon from local Turks or Kurds (nomadic Muslim tribesmen) at very high prices so they would have something to turn in.

At this time, about forty thousand Armenian men were serving in the Turkish Army. In the fall and winter of 1914, all of their weapons were confiscated and they were put into slave labor battalions building roads or were used as human pack animals. Under the brutal work conditions they suffered a very high death rate. Those who survived would soon be shot outright. For the time had come to move against the Armenians.

The decision to annihilate the entire population came directly from the ruling triumvirate of ultra-nationalist Young Turks. The actual extermination orders were transmitted in coded telegrams to all provincial governors throughout Turkey. Armed roundups began on the evening of April 24, 1915, as 300 Armenian political leaders, educators, writers, clergy and dignitaries in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were taken from their homes, briefly jailed and tortured, then hanged or shot.

Next, there were mass arrests of Armenian men throughout the country by Turkish soldiers, police agents and bands of Turkish volunteers. The men were tied together with ropes in small groups then taken to the outskirts of their town and shot dead or bayoneted by death squads. Local Turks and Kurds armed with knives and sticks often joined in on the killing.

Then it was the turn of Armenian women, children, and the elderly. On very short notice, they were ordered to pack a few belongings and be ready to leave home, under the pretext that they were being relocated to a non-military zone for their own safety. They were actually being taken on death marches heading south toward the Syrian desert.

Most of the homes and villages left behind by the rousted Armenians were quickly occupied by Muslim Turks who assumed instant ownership of everything. In many cases, young Armenian children were spared from deportation by local Turks who took them from their families. The children were coerced into denouncing Christianity and becoming Muslims, and were then given new Turkish names. For Armenian boys the forced conversion meant they each had to endure painful circumcision as required by Islamic custom.

Individual caravans consisting of thousands of deported Armenians were escorted by Turkish gendarmes. These guards allowed roving government units of hardened criminals known as the “Special Organization” to attack the defenseless people, killing anyone they pleased. They also encouraged Kurdish bandits to raid the caravans and steal anything they wanted. In addition, an extraordinary amount of sexual abuse and rape of girls and young women occurred at the hands of the Special Organization and Kurdish bandits. Most of the attractive young females were kidnapped for a life of involuntary servitude.

The death marches, involving over a million Armenians, covered hundreds of miles and lasted months. Indirect routes through mountains and wilderness areas were deliberately chosen in order to prolong the ordeal and to keep the caravans away from Turkish villages.

Food supplies being carried by the people quickly ran out and they were usually denied further food or water. Anyone stopping to rest or lagging behind the caravan was mercilessly beaten until they rejoined the march. If they couldn’t continue they were shot. A common practice was to force all of the people in the caravan to remove every stitch of clothing and have them resume the march in the nude under the scorching sun until they dropped dead by the roadside from exhaustion and dehydration.

An estimated 75 percent of the Armenians on these marches perished, especially children and the elderly. Those who survived the ordeal were herded into the desert without a drop of water. Others were killed by being thrown off cliffs, burned alive, or drowned in rivers.

The Turkish countryside became littered with decomposing corpses. At one point, Mehmed Talaat responded to the problem by sending a coded message to all provincial leaders: “I have been advised that in certain areas unburied corpses are still to be seen. I ask you to issue the strictest instructions so that the corpses and their debris in your vilayet are buried.”

But his instructions were generally ignored. Those involved in the mass murder showed little interest in stopping to dig graves. The roadside corpses and emaciated deportees were a shocking sight to foreigners working in Turkey. Eyewitnesses included German government liaisons, American missionaries, and U.S. diplomats stationed in the country.

The Christian missionaries were often threatened with death themselves and were unable to help the people. Diplomats from the still neutral United States communicated their blunt assessments of the ongoing government actions. U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, reported to Washington: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race…”

The Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia) responded to news of the massacres by issuing a warning to Turkey: “…the Allied governments announce publicly…that they will hold all the members of the Ottoman Government, as well as such of their agents as are implicated, personally responsible for such matters.”

The warning had no effect. Newspapers in the West including the New York Times published reports of the continuing deportations with the headlines: Armenians Are Sent to Perish in the Desert – Turks Accused of Plan to Exterminate Whole Population (August 18, 1915) – Million Armenians Killed or in Exile – American Committee on Relief Says Victims of Turks Are Steadily Increasing – Policy of Extermination (December 15, 1915).

Temporary relief for some Armenians came as Russian troops attacked along the Eastern Front and made their way into central Turkey. But the troops withdrew in 1917 upon the Russian Revolution. Armenian survivors withdrew along with them and settled in among fellow Armenians already living in provinces of the former Russian Empire. There were in total about 500,000 Armenians gathered in this region.

In May 1918, Turkish armies attacked the area to achieve the goal of expanding Turkey eastward into the Caucasus and also to resume the annihilation of the Armenians. As many as 100,000 Armenians may have fallen victim to the advancing Turkish troops.

However, the Armenians managed to acquire weapons and they fought back, finally repelling the Turkish invasion at the battle of Sadarabad, thus saving the remaining population from total extermination with no help from the outside world. Following that victory, Armenian leaders declared the establishment of the independent Republic of Armenia.

World War I ended in November 1918 with a defeat for Germany and the Central Powers including Turkey. Shortly before the war had ended, the Young Turk triumvirate; Talaat, Enver and Djemal, abruptly resigned their government posts and fled to Germany where they had been offered asylum.

In the months that followed, repeated requests were made by Turkey’s new moderate government and the Allies asking Germany to send the Young Turks back home to stand trial. However all such requests were turned down. As a result, Armenian activists took matters into their own hands, located the Young Turks and assassinated them along with two other instigators of the mass murder.

Meanwhile, representatives from the fledgling Republic of Armenia attended the Paris Peace Conference in the hope that the victorious Allies would give them back their historic lands seized by Turkey. The European Allies responded to their request by asked the United States to assume guardianship of the new Republic. However, President Woodrow Wilson’s attempt to make Armenia an official U.S. protectorate was rejected by the U.S. Congress in May 1920.

But Wilson did not give up on Armenia. As a result of his efforts, the Treaty of Sevres was signed on August 10, 1920, by the Allied Powers, the Republic of Armenia and the new moderate leaders of Turkey. The treaty recognized an independent Armenian state in an area comprising much of the former historic homeland.

However, Turkish nationalism once again reared its head. The moderate Turkish leaders who signed the treaty were ousted in favor of a new nationalist leader, Mustafa Kemal, who simply refused to accept the treaty and even re-occupied the very lands in question then expelled any surviving Armenians, including thousands of orphans.

No Allied power came to the aid of the Armenian Republic and it collapsed. Only a tiny portion of the easternmost area of historic Armenia survived by being becoming part of the Soviet Union.

After the successful obliteration of the people of historic Armenia, the Turks demolished any remnants of Armenian cultural heritage including priceless masterpieces of ancient architecture, old libraries and archives. The Turks even leveled entire cities such as the once thriving Kharpert, Van and the ancient capital at Ani, to remove all traces of the three thousand year old civilization.

The half-hearted reaction of the world’s great powers to the plight of the Armenians was duly noted by the young German politician Adolf Hitler. After achieving total power in Germany, Hitler decided to conquer Poland in 1939 and told his generals: “Thus for the time being I have sent to the East only my ‘Death’s Head Units’ with the orders to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish race or language. Only in such a way will we win the vital space that we need. Who still talks nowadays about the Armenians?”

Genocide in the 20th Century: Armenians in Turkey: 1915-1918 1,500,00 Deaths

April 25, 2017

Reuters

The United States on Tuesday expressed “deep concern” over Turkish air strikes against Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq and said they were not authorized by the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State.

The raids in Iraq’s Sinjar region and northeast Syria killed at least 20 in a campaign against groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkey for Kurdish autonomy.

Turkey is part of the U.S.-led military coalition fighting militants in Syria.

Ankara has strongly opposed Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters who are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been closing in on the Islamic State bastion of Raqqa.

“We have expressed those concerns with the government of Turkey directly,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on a conference call.

“These air strikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces in the fight against” Islamic State, he said.

Toner said while the United States recognized Turkey’s concerns with the PKK, the cross-border raids harmed the coalition’s efforts to fight Islamic State.

“We recognize their concerns about the PKK but these kinds of actions frankly harm the coalition’s efforts to go after ISIS and frankly harm our partners on the ground who are conducting that fight,” he added.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Paul Simao)

Turkey’s Turn toward Russia

As Erdogan turns his back on the West, the danger is not that Turkey could leave NATO but that it might not.

April 25, 2017

by Michael Rubin

nationalreview

Independent observers have deemed Turkey’s referendum campaign to be neither free nor fair, but their objections may be moot. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory and declared debate over; he will not accept a recount or nullification.

Symbolically closing the door on the secular, Western-leaning republic founded nearly 100 years ago by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Erdogan visited not his tomb after the election but rather that of the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II (r. 1444–46, 1451–81), who conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453. The visit capped Erdogan’s more than decade-long embrace of neo-Ottomanism, the idea, promoted by former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, that Turkey should focus its foreign policy more on the former Ottoman domains in the Middle East and North Africa than in Europe or elsewhere in the West.

The neo-Ottoman reorientation may have just been the beginning as Turkey seeks to pivot from its westward focus. It appears headed not only toward a break with the European Union, in which it once sought membership — in recent weeks, Erdogan has likened both the Dutch and the German governments to Nazis — but also toward a full-scale embrace of Russia.

NATO authorities have been in denial. “We are grateful for Turkey’s long-standing contribution to our alliance in so many ways,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after a visit to Istanbul and Ankara last year. He has lauded Turkey’s contributions to the international fight against terrorism, never mind that Erdogan has transformed Turkey into an underground railroad for Islamic State fighters and supplied and endorsed al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria and elsewhere.

On its surface, a Russo–Turkish alliance might seem counterintuitive: Russia and Turkey have been historical adversaries. Russia fought multiple wars against the Ottoman Empire and long sought to win possession of the Bosporus. During the Cold War, Turkey was one of only two NATO members bordering the Soviet Union.

In recent years, Ankara and Moscow have been at loggerheads over Syria, as Russia doubled down on its support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad while Turkey supported the militant opposition. This tension peaked after a Turkish F-16 fighter shot down a Russian Su-24M attack plane that had strayed into Turkish air space. Turkish-backed Syrian rebels shot and killed the pilot after he ejected. The Russian government retaliated by forbidding Russian tourism firms from working with Turkey, crippling an already-reeling Turkish industry.

In recent months, however, Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin have reconciled (notwithstanding the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey). Tourists are back. The two leaders met to bury the hatchet, first in St. Petersburg and then in Istanbul. They discussed billions of dollars in energy, infrastructure, and nuclear deals. Often, when the topic turns to the nuts and bolts of business, the professional diplomats leave the room and the two leaders, each of which is a financial giant in his own country, hash out deals that are as much about reconciling bank accounts as national interests. Even the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey by a Turkish policeman swearing allegiance to an al-Qaeda affiliate did not derail the rapprochement.

Putin approaches diplomacy not as an exercise to find win–win solutions but rather as a zero-sum game: A partnership with Turkey cannot be only about diplomacy but must have the effect of permanently separating it from the West. Here, Erdogan, who holds the West in disdain because of its support for Turkey’s old secularist order, plays his part. Even as Turkish and Western diplomats and military officials pay lip service to the importance of each other’s country, Erdogan has fed Turks a steady stream of hatred and conspiracy toward the West in general and NATO in particular. Turkish state media have sent reporters to Germany so they could stand in front of U.S. military bases as they deliver breathless reports about NATO sponsorship of terror. Russian political and conspiracy theorist Aleksandr Dugin appears more often in the Turkish press than does the U.S. ambassador.

The Turkish military tilt toward Russia has gone beyond the symbolic. As depicted by Turkish diplomats and Western reporters, the purge of Turkish military officers is directed against followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, but Turkish officers with significant service in NATO have been as great a target, if not greater. To have served in NATO commands is now seen by Turkish officers as a ticket to prison, not promotion. Earlier this month, Turkey and Russia held joint naval exercises. Rumors persist in Turkey about the Kremlin’s desire to establish a naval base in Mersin, where there is a growing Russian presence, according to Turkish military officials.

The diplomatic tilt is equally pronounced. For all the noise that Turkish public-relations organizations make in the West about a commitment to Europe, Erdogan and his foreign ministry have been laying the groundwork for membership in the Moscow- and Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In the waning weeks of the Obama administration, Turkey seemed to catch Secretary of State John Kerry by surprise when it endorsed a Russian and Iranian diplomatic initiative for Syria. Ironically, as Erdogan seizes the power to guide Turkey from the West and toward a broader partnership with Russia, the problem for the United States is not that Turkey could leave NATO but that it might not. NATO is run by consensus, and Turkey could act as a Trojan horse, paralyzing all decision-making and effectiveness. NATO has no mechanism to expel a member that drifts away from the alliance’s political or democratic norms.

The danger goes further, however. Turkey is a partner on the F-35 joint-strike fighter and seeks to purchase what the Pentagon sees as the next generation of its airpower. To send or sell any F-35s to Turkey now is to risk provision of cutting-edge military technology and codes to Russia and China. The idea that Turkey needs F-35s is risible. After all, Erdogan’s purge of his air force has been so drastic that Turkey now has two F-16s for every pilot (when those who are imprisoned are factored out). Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles is just as dangerous, as they could be integrated into Turkey’s air-defense system only by betraying NATO codes and processes.

So what is Erdogan’s game? He may believe that he is engaged in a win–win strategy. If he builds leverage to force concessions from the United States or a fearful Europe, he wins. President Donald Trump or Defense Secretary James Mattis would be foolish to engage in a bidding war, however, as Erdogan will never be satiated.

Meanwhile, if Erdogan receives from Putin some reward, either personal or national, he believes he wins. What Erdogan does not understand is what a risky game he plays for Turkey’s future: Whereas the United States sees allies as partners, Russia sees them as client states, and, while Erdogan may believe he can outplay Putin, he is a novice compared with Russia’s KGB-trained leader. The West can wring its hands about the death of democracy and a more secular order in Turkey, but that train left the station a decade ago. Far more dangerous for Europe and the United States are the changes now underway in Turkey’s foreign-policy orientation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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