Europe/Americas update: January 16 2019

CLIMATE CHANGE

So the good news is that the Trump administration has its very own plan to deal with climate change, one that will replace that dummy Barack Obama’s climate plan. Which is fine, Obama’s climate plan wasn’t nearly as drastic as the situation requires. The problem, though, is that Donald Trump’s plan to deal with climate change apparently involves actively trying to make it worse:

The Trump administration’s replacement for the linchpin Obama-era plan to combat climate change would increase greenhouse gas emissions in much of the US more than doing nothing at all, according to new research.

Planet-warming emissions would “rebound” under the Trump policy, researchers found, as it delays the retirement of coal-fired power plants. Carbon dioxide emissions would be 8.7% higher in 18 states and Washington DC by 2030, compared with having no policy at all.

The study by the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, comes ahead of a congressional hearing on Wednesday to confirm Andrew Wheeler as the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist and an architect of the new Trump emissions policy, has been acting EPA administrator since his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, departed last July.

“This new plan essentially gives out a free pass for carbon pollution,” said Kathleen Lambert, an expert in climate change and public health at Harvard who coauthored the research. “It’s a recipe for increased carbon emissions. It will make it even harder for the US to meet its emissions targets under the Paris accord and sets us in exactly the opposite direction we need to go in.”

EUROPE

RUSSIA

US and Russian negotiators failed to reach an agreement on Wednesday to salvage the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, and the Trump administration says it will begin withdrawing from that treaty next month. The treaty bans land-based intermediate and medium range nuclear missiles, but Washington has held for a while now that Russia is violating the accord and apparently Moscow wasn’t able to convince the US representatives otherwise or come to some kind of agreement for eliminating the weapons the US says are in violation. At any rate, the Trump administration really wants out of the treaty over concerns about China, which is not party to the ban, and also because John Bolton is opposed to nuclear arms treaties on principle.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in Ankara on Wednesday and called for the United Nations to revise the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian War. It’s unclear what revisions Erdoğan would like to see, and impossible to imagine any being made, but it’s also hard to argue that the accords, in attempting to appease Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs, and Bosnian Croats, haven’t left Bosnia with a governance structure that is completely unworkable and has caused the country to stagnate.

REPUBLIC OF NORTH MACEDONIA

Russian President Vladimir Putin is definitely not a fan of Macedonia’s new name:

Vladimir Putin has weighed into the row over Macedonia’s name-change, accusing the US and its allies of destabilising the Balkans by “asserting their dominant role” in the region.

The Russian president criticised what he described as deliberate efforts to increase western influence in a part of the world Moscow has long regarded as falling within its own orbit.

“The policy of the United States and some other western nations in the Balkans, who seek to assert their dominance in the region, has been a serious destabilising factor,” he was quoting as telling Serbia’s Večernje Novosti and Politika newspapers, according to remarks released by the Kremlin. “This will eventually increase mistrust and tension in Europe, rather than improve stability.”

Putin of course is angry because the name deal, should it pass the Greek parliament as expected (see below), will open the door for Macedonia to join NATO. Putin is a staunch critic of NATO expansion and calls it “destructive,” and while he may not be wrong about NATO I wonder if he’d entertain the notion that his efforts to rebuild Russia’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe have been pretty destructive in their own right. I doubt it.

SWEDEN

It would appear that Stefan Löfven has managed to appease the Left Party without alienating his new Center and Liberal party allies, and if that holds he will be named the country’s new prime minister on Friday. Sweden has been without a government since its inconclusive parliamentary election in September. Left Party leaders are promising to abstain from that vote, which should give him majority support among the votes that are actually cast. But they’re also warning that they’ll pull the plug on Löfven’s minority government if it drifts to the right, and the thing is Löfven had to promise to do precisely that in order to get the Center and Liberal parties to back him as PM. In other words, don’t expect this new Swedish government, should it actually be formed on Friday, to last very long.

GREECE

As I noted above, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected in the next few days to win approval in parliament for his naming agreement with the Republic of North Macedonia. His government (barely) survived a confidence vote on Wednesday that was seen as the key legislative test for the agreement.

UNITED KINGDOM

Speaking of confidence votes, Theresa May also survived hers on Wednesday, as expected. May now says she plans to search for the real killer parliamentary consensus on Brexit, which needless to say is probably going to be pretty hard to find. On the one hand a sizable number of Tories are now on the “no deal” bandwagon, and on the other the Labour Party says it will not discuss potential Brexit plans unless May categorically rules out a “no deal” scenario. So good luck to her with that.

May could get some surprise help from the European Union, but probably not much. There are reports that EU officials are ready to explore legal ways to extend the Brexit timetable from its current March 29 deadline into 2020 to buy May additional time to salvage an agreement. There are other reports that Germany, France, and the Netherlands are willing to make additional concessions to the UK over the Northern Ireland border, but any concessions would be subject to Ireland’s veto and the Irish government has been pretty adamant that the current Irish border backstop is the Irish border backstop and that’s that. And the EU says it would be open to talking about a closer post-Brexit relationship with the UK, but that would require London relaxing some of its “red lines.” Moreover, Brussels says it will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement that just got thrashed in parliament on Tuesday. So as ever it’s hard to see how this all ends other than with a no deal Brexit.

AMERICAS

VENEZUELA

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Wednesday that Moscow is “alarmed” by the support the Trump administration has shown for Venezuela’s opposition, and the hints it’s made about a potential military intervention to oust President Nicolás Maduro. The administration is reportedly considering a plan to recognize National Assembly president Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president, arguing that Maduro rigged last years presidential election thus rendering both he and his vice-president, Delcy Rodriguez, illegitimate, and constitutionally Guaidó is next in the line of succession.

CENTRAL AMERICA

Some 1700 Central American migrants, most from Honduras, have now crossed into Guatemala and are making their way toward the Mexican border. Most are bound for the US border eventually, but some appear to have set Mexico as their goal instead. The Mexican government has been trying to entice migrants to stay there rather than continue on toward the US with offers of work and humanitarian visas.

UNITED STATES

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday coined the latest and I think inarguably dumbest term for the cabal of nations that we’re meant to believe are out to get the United States. If you liked the Axis of Evil, you’ll love the “Wolf Pack of Rogue States”:

“Beyond our global competitors, the United States faces a wolf pack of rogue states,” Pence told U.S. ambassadors gathered in Washington on Wednesday for an annual conference. “No shared ideology or objective unites our competitors and adversaries except this one: They seek to overturn the international order that the United States has upheld for more that half a century.”

The Wolf Pack as defined by Pence includes Iran and North Korea — two nations that were included in President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil, which he announced during his State of the Union address in 2002. A third nation at the time was Iraq, now an ally of the U.S. (but also of Iran).

Pence’s updated list also includes three Western Hemisphere countries: Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, a country increasingly under U.S. scrutiny as President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition-dominated National Assembly head toward a conflict over who should be the country’s legitimate ruler.

Wow, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela? No wonder we need to spend $750+ billion feeding our massive military behemoth every year. With enemies that powerful you can’t let your guard down for a second. But rest assured, no Nicaraguan missiles are going to make it through our SPACE MISSILE SENSORS and LASER DEFENSES [NOTE: insert “PEW PEW PEW” sound effect here]:

Known as the missile defense review, the document that Trump will unveil marks the first official update to American missile defense doctrine in nine years. It comes as North Korea and Iran make advances in ballistic missile production, and as Russia and China press forward with sophisticated cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles that potentially threaten the security of U.S. forces and allies in Europe and Asia.

The Trump administration’s response is to call for urgent new investments in missile-defense technologies across the board, many of which the Pentagon pursued during the Cold War but abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the 1990s and 2000s, the Pentagon focused on building interceptors to down missiles from rogue states. Now it is again broadening its ambitions, both in terms of technology and mission-set. Whether the administration secures enough money to tackle such lofty ambitions in missile defense remains unclear.

The Pentagon wants to put a constellation of sensors above the Earth that can track missiles as they launch, and is recommending a study of weapons that can shoot down missiles from space. The review will also note that further development of high-energy lasers could give the United States a cost-effective way to destroy missiles shortly after their launch in what is known as “boost phase.”

I’m sure all this stuff is definitely critical to national security and will definitely work perfectly, but if it isn’t, or doesn’t, at least we can be sure it will cost a lot of money and that most of it will go to our fine weapons manufacturers, who really need it. God Bless America.

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One thought on “Europe/Americas update: January 16 2019

  1. Did you mean it’s hard to argue *against* the Dayton accords having contributed to stagnation?

    I went to Sarajevo not too long after the war. In the market a chap assuming I was american had a good go at trying to rip me off for some trinket or other. Probably as some perceived recompense for the betrayal that they felt was Dayton.
    On discovering I was British he pressed upon me some freebies, as they had a lot of affection for the British army convoys for having provided much needed relief regularly through the siege.

    The irony was of course that British diplomacy had managed to prolong the war whereas Dayton for all its faults had brought about peace.

    Good luck with renegotiating a fragile compromise that noone likes but I guarantee you noone will be prepared to move towards a more normal functioning single state.

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