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Published On: Sun, Jan 29th, 2017

Trump & Putin Agree on Combating Terrorism – US President Calls World Leaders

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : U.S. President Donald Trump made phone calls to several world leaders including his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, French President Fancoise Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. On Sunday Trump will follow up by calling the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud and the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed, as well as the acting president of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-Ahn.

Donald Trump_USA_White House_Jan 28, 2017Setting The Course - After his first week in office, U.S. President Donald Trump started to lay the course for his administration’s foreign policy. After Saturday’s call with Vladimir Putin presidential spokesmen in both Washington and Moscow said they agreed to cooperate initiatives to defeat the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL, IS, or Daesh)  and to cooperate on peace in Syria and throughout the world.

Trump Called Putin - The White House described the about one-hour-long phone conversation between Trump and Putin as positive and as a significant start to improving the relationship between Washington and Moscow, which has been badly strained in recent months. White House officials also noted that “Both President Trump and President Putin are hopeful that after today’s call the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and important issues of mutual concern.”

Trump has tasked the Department of Defense and the US military with designing a strategy aimed at combating ISIS. The Kremlin and Russian State news agencies and media also responded positively to the first phone call between Trump and Putin. White House officials said they hoped that the talk between Trump and Putin will help improve bilateral relations “which are in need of repair”.

russia_putin_dec-2016Neither side, reportedly, mentioned U.S.-imposed sanctions on Russia, or their possible relaxation. However, on Friday Trump said during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May who visited Washington, that it was “quite early” to consider easing sanctions against Moscow. A series of financial controls, an embargo on technology transfers and travel restrictions on Russian officials were imposed by former President Barack Obama following the row over the Crimea. The US supported Ukraine in its position that Russia illegally annexed Crimea and violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia for its part, said the people of Crimea used their right to self-determination in a referendum, declared independence from Ukraine and then legally acceded into the Russian Federation.

From an objective perspective on international law both views are both right and wrong. In its declaration of principles from 1973 the UN stressed that both principles have equal standing but must be implemented so that the one does not exclude the other. One example would be the Scottish referendum on independence from the UK. However, when countries are unwilling to even hold a referendum, as it was the case in Ukraine, and as it is the case with the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, this equal standing invites a cohort of problems and usually generates tensions and potentially, armed conflict.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone may have been tapped by US secret servicesMerkel “pledges allegiance” but -fore his talks with Putin, Trump spoke by phone with Germany’s Merkel about NATO, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In a joint statement approved by both governments, Merkel and Trump underscored the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and vowed to work more closely together to combat terrorism and militancy. Trump and Merkel jointly stated that “The leaders recognized that NATO must be capable of confronting 21st-century threats and that our common defense requires appropriate investment in military capabilities to ensure all allies are contributing their fair share to our collective security”.

However, any German statement pertaining German – US and German – NATO relations has to be viewed with “a grain of salt” considering the Germany, decades of the end of World War II still hasn’t regained its sovereignty. Moreover, although little is being reported about it, a poll from 2014 showed that almost half of Germany’s population does not perceive Germany as permanently anchored within NATO and opposes NATO’s eastward expansion.

Trump accepted Merkel’s invitation to attend a summit of G-20 industrialized countries during July in Hamburg, Germany, and said he looked forward to welcoming Merkel to Washington soon. The statement made no mention of Trump’s executive order limiting immigration or his moves to cancel free-trade deals.

Angela Merkel, Francois HollandeHollande not as optimistic as Trump - Trump also called French President Francois Hollande who stressed to the new U.S. leader the importance of international pacts such as NATO and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. That said and courtesies set aside, Hollande faces a strong opposition against continued French NATO membership, even from within his own Socialist (Social Democratic) party.

In 2014, in an interview with l’Humanité.fr, former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas stressed that France had become the vanguard dog of NATO, criticizing the presidencies of Sarkozy and Hollande for selling out on French sovereignty. Asked whether NATO still has a purpose, he replied:

“It may, for those who manage it! Historically, the Atlantic Alliance was a military alliance which had very limited geographical jurisdiction, the North Atlantic, and one goal: to end the war against Germany”. 

Roland Dumas

Roland Dumas

In the past, Trump has dismissed NATO as “obsolete.” He has at times dismissed as “a hoax” the specter of catastrophic global consequences arising from climate change and the steady climb in temperatures worldwide. How such election campaign statements manifest in terms of Realpolitik remains to be seen.

The White House said Trump and Hollande discussed military and defense cooperation, both bilaterally and through NATO, and Trump expressed “his desire to strengthen U.S.-French cooperation on a range of issues, especially counterterrorism and security.

Hollande’s office, for its part, released a statement that was less “optimistic”, saying the French president had warned Trump the U.S. would face economic and political consequences if the new administration adopted a “protectionist” attitude toward the rest of the world, whether on trade, immigration or security issues. Hollande told Trump “In an unstable and uncertain world, turning inward would be a dead-end”.

abe_nsnbc_fileAbe and Trump discuss Trade after Trump dropped the TPP - Trump’s first conversation with a world leader Saturday was with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. White House officials said the two agreed that the U.S. and Japan were committed to seeking a new bilateral trade agreement to replace the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership /TPP) that Trump abandoned earlier this week.

U.S. officials said Trump intended to pursue a deeper investment relationship with Japan, and that he promised an “ironclad commitment” to Japan’s security. Sensitive issues like problems with the demeanor of US troops in Japan were apparently not discussed during this first “courtesy call”.

Trump reiterated that he prefers bilateral trade agreements to multinational pacts, and Abe, who is expected to visit the United States in about two weeks, said Thursday that he would consider negotiating a trade deal directly with Washington. Japanese policymakers, for their part, responded to Trump’s earlier cancellation of the TPP by stating Japan would seek closer trade ties with China and focus more on both APEC and ASEAN.

Courtesy Mick Tsikas/AAP

Courtesy Mick Tsikas/AAP

Trump and Turbull confirmed “enduring Strength of bilateral Relations –  Trump wound up his telephone diplomacy Marathon Saturday with a 25-minute conversation with Australia’s Turnbull. “Both leaders emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the U.S.-Australia relationship,” the White House said, and agreed the ties between Canberra and Washington were “critical for peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”

Saudi Arabia – UAE – Terrorism Wildcards - Calls with Saudi and United Arab Emirates leaders on Sunday are believed to focus on combating terrorism and State sponsorship of terrorism. Saudi Arabia and Saudi nationals are among the primary sponsors of Islamist terrorist organizations.

The United Arab Emirates, on the other hand, outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and a cohort of Muslim Brotherhood-linked and other terrorist organizations. During Trumps election campaign, in November 2016, Walid Phares, a top-foreign policy adviser to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, said the Trump administration will sign a bill that designates the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

CH/L – nsnbc 29.01.2017

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at

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