Category Archives: Foreign Relations

Biden in First Foreign Policy Speech: ‘America is Back’

President Joe Biden visited the US State Department to give his first major foreign policy speech in which he declared emphatically, “America is back.” He noted the importance – the obligation – of America to assert its global leadership, and said he would repair the alliances broken and weakened by the Trump Administration, along with reinforcing his respect and commitment to the people who serve in the diplomatic corps, often in dangerous and difficult circumstances.

He emphasized that diplomacy is not just because of the moral imperative, but also helps America and Americans prosper and live in peace.

And he said he would reassert American values in diplomacy: reinstating a refugee admissions program that would accommodate up to 125,000 in the first full fiscal year of his administration; would seek a ceasefire in Yemen and would send humanitarian aid; and would stand up for human rights.

He said he would assert American interests in Russia and China, and suggested there would be sanctions against the military leadership that fomented a coup in Myanmar. “In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” he declared, in a statement that had eerie resonance in the United States.

Investing in our diplomacy isn’t something we do just because it’s the right thing to do for the world.  We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity.  We do it because it’s in our own naked self-interest.  When we strengthen our alliances, we amplify our power as well as our ability to disrupt threats before they can reach our shores.  

“When we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migrations.  

“When we strengthen health systems in far regions of the world, we reduce the risk of future pandemics that can threaten our people and our economy.  
“When we defend equal rights of people the world over — of women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, the people of every ethnic background and religion — we also ensure that those rights are protected for our own children here in America. 

“America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage.  I come today to the State Department, an agency as old and as storied as the nation itself, because diplomacy has always been essential to how America writes its own destiny.”

Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:

President Joe Biden visited the US State Department to give his first major foreign policy speech in which he declared emphatically, “America is back.” (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It’s great to be here and stand alongside our most recent and senior diplomat, Secretary Tony Blinken.  Mr. Secretary, thank you for welcoming us today.  We’ve worked together for over 20 years.  Your diplomatic skills are respected equally by your friends and our competitors around the world.

And they know when you speak, you speak for me.
 And so — so is the message I want the world to hear today: America is back.  America is back.  Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.

As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.  American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.  

We must meet the new moment accelerating global challenges — from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation — challenging the will only to be solved by nations working together and in common.  We can’t do it alone.  

That must be this — we must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.

That’s the grounding wire of our global policy — our global power. That’s our inexhaustible source of strength.  That’s America’s abiding advantage.

Though many of these values have come under intense pressure in recent years, even pushed to the brink in the last few weeks, the American people are going to emerge from this moment stronger, more determined, and better equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy, because we have fought for it ourselves.

Over the past few days, we’ve been in close cooperation with our allies and partners to bring together the international community to address the military coup in Burma.

I’ve also been in touch with Leader McConnell to discuss our shared concerns about the situation in Burma, and we are united in our resolve.  

There can be no doubt: In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election.  

The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence.

As I said earlier this week, we will work with our partners to support restoration of democracy and the rule of law, and impose consequences on those responsible.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with the leaders of many of our closest friends — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia — to being [begin] reforming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscle of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse.

America’s alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and key partners once again.

By leading with diplomacy, we must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically, where it’s in our interest, and advance the security of the American people.

That’s why, yesterday, the United States and Russia agreed to extend the New START Treaty for five years to preserve the only remaining treaty between our countries safeguarding nuclear stability.

At the same time, I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over.  We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people.  And we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners.

The politically motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community.  

Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution.  He’s been targeted — targeted for exposing corruption.  He should be released immediately and without condition.

And we’ll also take on directly the challenges posed by our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our most serious competitor, China.  
We’ll confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.

But we are ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so.  We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home, working with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions, and reclaiming our credibility and moral authority, much of which has been lost.

That’s why we’ve moved quickly to begin restoring American engagement internationally and earn back our leadership position, to catalyze global action on shared challenges.

On day one, I signed the paperwork to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.  We’re taking steps led by the example of integrating climate objectives across all of our diplomacy and raise the ambition of our climate targets.  That way, we can challenge other nations, other major emitters, to up the ante on their own commitments.  I’ll be hosting climate leaders — a climate leaders’ summit to address the climate crisis on Earth Day of this year.  

America must lead in the face of this existential threat.  And just as with the pandemic, it requires global cooperation.  

We’ve also reengaged with the World Health Organization.  That way, we can build better global preparedness to counter COVID-19, as well as detect and prevent future pandemics, because there will be more.  

We’ve elevated the status of cyber issues within our government, including appointing the first national — Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology.  We’re launching an urgent initiative to improve our capability, readiness, and resilience in cyberspace.  

Today, I’m announcing additional steps to course-correct our foreign policy and better unite our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership.  

To begin, Defense Secretary Austin will be leading a Global Posture Review of our forces so that our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities.  It will be coordinated across all elements of our national security, with Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken working in close cooperation.  

And while this review is taking place, we’ll be stopping any planned troop withdrawals from Germany.   We’re also stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen — a war which has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.  I’ve asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations-led initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels, and restore long-dormant peace talks

This morning, Secretary Blinken appointed Tim Lenderking, a career foreign policy officer, as our special envoy to the Yemen conflict.  And I appreciate his doing this.  Tim is a life — has lifelong experience in the region, and he’ll work with the U.N. envoy and all parties of the conflict to push for a diplomatic resolution.  

And Tim’s diplomacy will be bolstered by USAID, working to ensure that humanitarian aid is reaching the Yemeni people who are sufferinguunendurable devastation.  This war has to end.  

And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.  

At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV strikes, and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries. We’re going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.

We also face a crisis of more than 80 million displaced people suffering all around the world.  The United States’ moral leadership on refugee issues was a point of bipartisan consensus for so many decades when I first got here.  We shined the light of lamp on — of liberty on oppressed people.  We offered safe havens for those fleeing violence or persecution.  And our example pushed other nations to open wide their doors as well.  

So today, I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need.  It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do. 

This executive order will position us to be able to raise the refugee admissions back up to 125,000 persons for the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration.  And I’m directing the State Department to consult with Congress about making a down payment on that commitment as soon as possible.  

And to further repair our moral leadership, I’m also issuing a presidential memo to agencies to reinvigorate our leadership on the LGBTQI issues and do it internationally.  You know, we’ll ensure diplomacy and foreign assistance are working to promote the rights of those individuals, included by combatting criminalization and protecting LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers. 

And finally, to successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.

I want the people who work in this building and our embassies and consulates around the world to know: I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back.  This administration is going to empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you.  We want a rigorous debate that brings all perspectives and makes room for dissent.  That’s how we’ll get the best possible policy outcomes. 

So, with your help, the United States will again lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example.

That’s why my administration has already taken the important step to live our domestic values at home — our democratic values at home.

Within hours of taking office, I signed an executive order overturning the hateful, discriminatory Muslim ban; reversed the ban on transgender individuals serving in our military.  

And as part of our commitment to truth, transparency, and accountability, we stated on day one — we started on day one with daily briefings of the press from the White House.  We’ve reinstituted regular briefings here at State and at the Pentagon.  We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential to the health of a democracy.

We’ve restored our commitment to science and to create policies grounded in facts and evidence.  I suspect Ben Franklin would approve. 

We’ve taken steps to acknowledge and address systemic racism and the scourge of white supremacy in our own country.  Racial equity will not just be an issue for one department in our administration, it has to be the business of the whole of government in all our federal policies and institutions. 

All this matters to foreign policy, because when we host the Summit of Democracy early in my administration to rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back the authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations. 

There’s no longer a bright line between foreign and domestic policy. Every action we take in our conduct abroad, we must take with American working families in mind.  Advancing a foreign policy for the middle class demands urgent focus on our domestic economic renewal.

And that’s why I immediately put forth the American Rescue Plan to pull us out of this economic crisis.  That’s why I signed an executive order strengthening our Buy American policies last week. And it’s also why I’ll work with Congress to make far-reaching investments in research and development of transformable technologies.

These investments are going to create jobs, maintain America’s competitive edge globally, and ensure all Americans share in the dividends. 

If we invest in ourselves and our people, if we fight to ensure that American businesses are positioned to compete and win on the global stage, if the rules of international trade aren’t stacked against us, if our workers and intellectual property are protected, then there’s no country on Earth — not China or any other country on Earth — that can match us.

Investing in our diplomacy isn’t something we do just because it’s the right thing to do for the world.  We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity.  We do it because it’s in our own naked self-interest.  When we strengthen our alliances, we amplify our power as well as our ability to disrupt threats before they can reach our shores.  

When we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migrations.

When we strengthen health systems in far regions of the world, we reduce the risk of future pandemics that can threaten our people and our economy.

When we defend equal rights of people the world over — of women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, the people of every ethnic background and religion — we also ensure that those rights are protected for our own children here in America. 

America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage.  I come today to the State Department, an agency as old and as storied as the nation itself, because diplomacy has always been essential to how American — America writes its own destiny.

For the diplomacy of Ben Franklin helped assure the success of our revolution.  The vision of the Marshall Plan helped prevent the world from foundering on the wreckage of war.  And the passions of Eleanor Roosevelt declared the audacious idea of universal rights that belong to all.

The leadership of diplomats of every stripe, doing the daily work of engagement, created the very idea of a free and interconnected world. We are a country that does big things.  American diplomacy makes it happen.  And our administration is ready to take up the mantle and lead once again.

Thank you all.  And may God bless you and protect our troops, our diplomats, and our development experts, and all Americans serving in harm’s way.  

Biden, Decrying Trump’s Failure to Protect US Elections from Foreign Interference, States Actions He Would Take

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office . Here is his statement:

Foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process represents an assault on the American people and their constitutional right to vote. When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security. They undermine the vote and the voice of every U.S. citizen. They attack our very way of life.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that the Kremlin’s interference in past elections represented “only the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” Despite the exposure of Russia’s malign activities by the U.S. Intelligence Community, law enforcement agencies, and bipartisan Congressional committees, the Kremlin has not halted its efforts to interfere in our democracy. In Senate testimony on July 23 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Russia was “absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And on March 27, 2020, the State Department held a briefing describing how Russia was recklessly spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is not the only foreign actor seeking to interfere in our democracy. Increasingly, other states have shown an interest in copying Russia’s tactics.

Congress passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. The Trump administration has thus far failed to make adequate use of these authorities to counter and deter foreign election interference. Instead, President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in our elections, most egregiously during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

In spite of President Trump’s failure to act, America’s adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections.

That is why, today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.

In addition, I will take action where needed to stop attempts to interfere with U.S. elections before they can impact our democratic processes. In particular, I will direct and resource the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Interference Task Force to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process. This will be done, wherever possible, in coordination with our allies and partners, so that we are isolating the regimes that seek to undermine democracies and civil liberties.

I have no desire to escalate tensions with Russia or any other country. I would prefer to focus the full energies of my administration on bringing the international community together to fight COVID-19 and the economic pain it has caused, and to tackle other pressing issues of international concern. But if any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs.

Biden to Trump: Lift Sanctions on Iran to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic

Demonstrating once again a clear contrast between the failed leadership of a clueless Donald Trump, who only knows how to politicize, attack and destroy, Vice President Joe Biden is calling for the US to lift sanctions on Iran, which is undergoing one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world.(c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Demonstrating once again a clear contrast between the failed leadership of a clueless Donald Trump, who only knows how to politicize, attack and destroy, Vice President Joe Biden is calling for the US to lift sanctions on Iran, which is undergoing one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. “America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger… To stop this pandemic effectively, every country on earth will need to work together.” Here is Biden’s statement:  –Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com.

In times of global crisis, America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger. That’s who we are. That’s who we’ve always been. And, in the midst of this deadly pandemic that respects no borders, the United States should take steps to offer what relief we can to those nations hardest hit by this virus — including Iran — even as we prioritize the health of the American people.

Iran is struggling to contain one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. While the Iranian government has failed to respond effectively to this crisis, including lying and concealing the truth from its own people, and it continues to act provocatively in the region, the Iranian people are hurting desperately. It is bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a “maximum pressure” strategy that has badly backfired, encouraging Iran to become even more aggressive and restart its nuclear program. It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance. Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people. 

There are already humanitarian exceptions in place for sanctions, but in practice, most governments and organizations are too concerned about running afoul of U.S. sanctions to offer assistance. As a result, our sanctions are limiting Iran’s access to medical supplies and needed equipment. The Trump Administration should take immediate steps to address this problem and streamline channels for banking and public health assistance from other countries in response to the health emergency in Iran. 

Specific steps should include: issuing broad licenses to pharmaceutical and medical device companies; creating a dedicated channel for international banks, transportation companies, insurers, and other service firms to help Iranians access life-saving medical treatment; issuing new sanctions guidance to these groups and international aid organizations to make it clear how they can immediately, directly, and legally respond to the tragedy in Iran, without fear of penalty; and, for entities already conducting enhanced due diligence, it should issue comfort letters to reassure them that they will not be subject to U.S. sanctions if they engage in humanitarian trade with Iran to support its COVID-19 response. The administration should also consider similar steps to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not inhibit live-saving medical assistance to other countries hard hit by the virus.

The administration’s offer of aid to Iran is insufficient if not backed by concrete steps to ensure the United States is not exacerbating this growing humanitarian crisis. Whatever our many, many disagreements with the Iranian government, it’s the right and the humane thing to do. And Iran also should make a humanitarian gesture and allow detained American citizens to return home.

To stop this pandemic effectively, every country on earth will need to work together. We must address COVID-19 outbreaks wherever they occur, because as long as this virus is spreading anywhere in the world, it is a danger to public health everywhere. Artificially limiting the flow of international humanitarian assistance to pursue a political point will not only allow the Iranian government to deflect responsibility for its own botched response, it will increase the threat this virus poses to the American people, now and in the future. 

G7 Leaders Issue Joint Statement on Covid-19 Pandemic: ‘A Human Tragedy and Global Health Crisis’

G7 Leaders issued a joint statement acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic as a “human tragedy and a global health crisis, which also poses major risks for the world economy,” committed to “acting together, to resolve the health and economic risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and set the stage for a strong recovery of strong, sustainable economic growth and prosperity.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
We, the Leaders of the Group of Seven, acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic is a human tragedy and a global health crisis, which also poses major risks for the world economy.  We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts.  While current challenges may require national emergency measures, we remain committed to the stability of the global economy.  We express our conviction that current challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic need a strongly coordinated international approach, based on science and evidence, consistent with our democratic values, and utilizing the strengths of private enterprise.

We are committed to marshalling the full power of our governments to: Coordinate on necessary public health measures to protect people at risk from COVID-19; Restore confidence, growth, and protect jobs; Support global trade and investment; Encourage science, research, and technology cooperation. By acting together, we will work to resolve the health and economic risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and set the stage for a strong recovery of strong, sustainable economic growth and prosperity.

Accelerate Our Response to COVID-19

We will work hard to protect the health and safety of everyone in our countries.  Stepping up the response to the outbreak remains our foremost priority.  We will coordinate our efforts to delay the spread of the virus, including through appropriate border management measures.

We will enhance our efforts to strengthen health systems in our countries and globally.  We fully support the World Health Organization in its global mandate to lead on disease outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences, leaving no geographical vacuum, and encourage all countries, international organizations, and the private sector to assist global efforts such as the Global Preparedness and Response Plan.

We stress the value of real-time information sharing to ensure access to the best and latest intelligence, improving prevention strategies and mitigation measures.

We will pool epidemiologic and other data to better understand and fight the virus.

We will increase coordinated research efforts, including through voluntary support for the global alliance Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation.  We will support the launch of joint research projects funded by both public and private resources, and the sharing of facilities, towards rapid development, manufacture and distribution of treatments and a vaccine, adhering to the principles of efficacy, safety, and accessibility.

We will make efforts to increase the availability of medical equipment where it is most needed.

We will coordinate with online platforms to maximize public access to the latest correct and relevant official information, in recognition that millions of citizens receive information and news via social media.

To implement these objectives, and adapt measures if necessary, will require efforts across all parts of our governments, and we ask our health ministers to continue to coordinate on a weekly basis.

Forcefully Address the Economic Impact of the Outbreak

We resolve to coordinate measures and do whatever it takes, using all policy tools, to achieve strong growth in the G7 economies, and to safeguard against downside risks. 

To this end, we are mobilizing the full range of instruments, including monetary and fiscal measures, as well as targeted actions, to support immediately and as much as necessary the workers, companies, and sectors most affected. This is particularly important for small and medium businesses and working families.

We also ask our central banks to continue to coordinate to provide the necessary monetary measures in order to support economic and financial stability, and to promote recovery and growth.

We ask our finance ministers to coordinate on a weekly basis on the implementation of those measures and to develop further timely and effective actions.

We reinforce the importance of coordination among international organizations even in the face of challenges to business continuity.  We call on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group and other International Organizations to further support countries worldwide as part of a coordinated global response, focused on this specific challenge.  We also ask our finance ministers to work closely with International Organizations to design and implement swiftly the international financial assistance that is appropriate to help countries, including emerging and developing economies, face the health and economic shock of COVID-19.

We will address disturbances to international supply chains and continue our work to facilitate international trade.

Restore and Expand Growth

We will continue to work together with resolve to implement these measures to respond to this global emergency.  In facing the economic challenge, we are determined not only to restore the level of growth anticipated before the COVID-19 pandemic but also to build the foundation for stronger future growth.  We will continue to coordinate through the G7 Presidency including at the G7 Leaders’ Summit and call upon the G20 to support and amplify these efforts.

Biden: ‘Trump’s Impulsive Decision May Do More to Strengthen Iran’s Position Than Any of Soleimani’s Plots Could

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning for president: “We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

While most Americans give little consideration to foreign policy credentials of their candidates for president, over the “kitchen table” issues such as health care, education, taxes, foreign policy should loom largely over the 2020 election as Americans are waking up to the fact that while a president is for the most part constrained by the legislative branch (Congress) on what can be accomplished domestically (recall how Republicans obstructed Obama on health care, immigration reform, gun safety, climate action and infrastructure and why Medicare for All, a wealth tax may still be a pipe dream), a president is virtually unrestrained in making foreign policy at a time when the world is smaller and more globally interdependent, such as addressing climate change.

And while the Constitution theoretically gives Congress the power to declare war, presidents have found loopholes in addressing “imminent threats.” Trump has gone so much further in pulling out of treaties (the Iran nuclear deal), trade agreements and mutual assistance pacts like the Paris Climate Accord, while taking actions to weaken NATO alliance. The way he has dealt with North Korea has only made the world less safe and the list goes on: Iraq, Syria and ISIS, Turkey and the Kurds, Yemen, Venezuela, Australia.

Of the Democratic candidates for president, Vice President Joe Biden is hoping that voters will appreciate his vast experience (which Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg try to diminish because of his vote, along with just about every other Senator, to give George Bush power to address what they were told (lied) was an imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s use of Weapons of Mass Destruction).

Now there are a few Democrats, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are introducing legislation to rescind the 2002 AUMF and require the President to get Congress’ authorization for use of military force, make it specific and require reauthorization after a period of time. But that is already in the Constitution and they are faced with a president who has demonstrated over and over he does not respect the bounds or oversight on him by the Constitution, with Congress apparently unwilling to do anything about it.

Vice President returned to New York to speak again on foreign policy and the unfolding situation in Iran, drawing a contrast to how Trump has mishandled the situation. These are his prepared remarks:

Six months ago, here in New York City, I made the case that Donald Trump was “dangerously incompetent and incapable … of world leadership.”
 
In the past few days, in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Soleimani, Donald Trump has proven it beyond dispute.
 
The haphazard decision-making process that led up to it, the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow — was dangerously incompetent.

In the wake of such an enormous escalation that has exploded geo-politics in the region and put the United States and Iran on a collision course, what would we expect of an American President – and what have we heard from President Trump?
 
We have not heard a sober-minded explanation to reassure the American people about his decision and its consequences.
 
Not level-headed words meant to dial down tensions and take us off the path of conflict.

No press conference or consultation with Congress.
 
No — all we have heard from this president is tweets. Threats. Tantrums.
 
And all we have heard from his administration are shifting explanations, evasive answers, and repeated assertions of an imminent threat, without the necessary evidence to support that conclusion.
 
And since this is a president with a history of lying about everything — who has destroyed his own credibility, and that of the United States on the global stage — neither the American people, nor our allies, are inclined to take his word for it.
 
If there was an imminent threat that required extraordinary action, then we are owed that explanation — and the facts to back it up.
 
These are matters of deadly import, so let me be unmistakably clear: Donald Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran without Congressional authorization.
 
Working with Congress is not an optional part of the job. Presidential notification to Congress about the need to exercise war powers cannot be satisfied in 280 characters or less. 
 
And no president should ever take the United States to war without securing the informed consent of the American people.
 
So — because he refuses to level with the American people about the danger in which he has placed American troops and our diplomatic personnel and civilians, as well as our partners and allies, or to demonstrate even a modicum of presidential gravitas — I will.
                                                                                           
That starts with an honest accounting of how we got here.
 
Make no mistake: this outcome of strategic setbacks, heightened threats, chants of “death to America” once more echoing across the Middle East, Iran and its allies vowing revenge. This was avoidable. 

The seeds of these dangers were planted by Donald Trump himself on May 8, 2018 — the day he tore up the Iran nuclear deal, against the advice of his own top national security advisors. The day he turned his back on our closest European allies, and decided it was more important to him to destroy any progress made by the Obama-Biden Administration than build on it to create a better, safer world.
 
When we had the Iran Deal, we had verifiably cut off every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. International inspectors repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance, as did our intelligence agencies. One of the greatest threats to stability in the region and global security was off the table.
 
And when the Iran Deal was in force, we did not have this dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat provocation and response.
 
There was a united front of allies and partners to address Iran’s other destabilizing actions throughout the region.
 
The Iran Deal was not only accomplishing the critical mission it was designed for,  
it created an environment where diplomacy was possible.
 
But Trump walked away — not Iran.
 
Trump made the United States the international outlier.
 
Trump re-imposed significant sanctions designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the regime,  with claims that it would deter Iranian aggression and return Iran to the negotiating table to secure a much-promised “better deal.” And on both fronts, as many anticipated at the time, Trump’s promises were empty, baseless, and naïve.
 
And since then, all that has materialized is an utterly predictable cycle of escalating conflict with Iran.
 
Of course Iran would seek to demonstrate that the pressure we were exerting was not cost free – that it could take actions to make life more difficult for us, as well.
 
So Iran began again to enrich uranium beyond the limits allowed under the Iran deal. Iran attacked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone. 

Yet the administration had no plan to prevent, mitigate, or appropriately respond to these provocations. Instead, Trump acted erratically and impulsively. He ordered a retaliatory strike, then called it off at the last minute — feeding Iran’s sense of impunity. 

Then, the administration imposed more sanctions, shot down an Iranian drone, issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker. 

Before long, Iran attacked Saudi oil facilities and Iranian-backed militia in Iraq restarted rocket attacks against our bases. Until one of those attacks, against our base in Kirkuk, killed a U.S. citizen and wounded others. It was a tragic loss of life, and an act condemned by all Americans.

In response, Trump bombed five sites in Iraq and Syria tied to the militia group, killing at least 25.
 
Iraqi protestors, organized by Iranian-backed militia, assaulted our Embassy in Baghdad and breached the outer wall. No injuries were reported, but Trump was embarrassed by the images of a burnt-out reception area.
 
He ordered a drone strike to kill Soleimani — perhaps the second most important official in Iran — near the Baghdad airport. And rushed thousands more troops to the region to deal with the fallout. 

Action and reaction. Provocation and response. All predictable — and, indeed, all predicted.
 
A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one.
 
A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making.
 
And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges our citizens to leave Iraq and puts Americans throughout the region on notice because of the increased danger.
 
I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions.
 
But there is a smart way to counter them  —  and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.
 
Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and thousands of innocent lives throughout the region. He was the mastermind, but he was not the whole of the regime or its capacity to strike back.
 
So the question is: was the reward of removing a bad actor worth the risk of what comes next?

We don’t have any evidence to suggest that Trump or anyone around him thought seriously about that calculus. It’s been reported that the Pentagon — which has long warned against taking a shot like this — was shocked that Trump would take such a risk.
 
This is not just a question of whether Iran will retaliate — it almost certainly will — but what it will mean for our troops and our personnel throughout the region. What it will mean for our allies and partners who also have troops in harm’s way that are impacted by this decision. What it will mean for our long-term mission to counter Iran and prevent ISIS from bouncing back, and our ability to pursue our broader strategic aims in the region.
 
Already, we are seeing the fall out.
 
Iran has declared it will no longer abide by any of the constraints set up under the nuclear deal — putting it back on track to obtaining material for a nuclear weapon, and pushing the region closer to a nuclear crisis.
 
Our forces in Iraq and Syria are now focused on protecting themselves and preparing to leave — putting the counter-ISIS mission on hold, and allowing a deadly terrorist organization the room to regroup and reactivate.
 
The Iraqi parliament has voted to eject all American and coalition forces from the country. And however you may feel about an American military presence in the Middle East,  there is a right way and a wrong way to draw down our troop presence. Getting unceremoniously kicked out is unequivocally the wrong way. And if we do end up having to leave, that would be another boon to Iran — tipping the balance of power in the region.
 
Where, just weeks ago, there were spontaneous protests across Iran against the regime, the killing of Soleimani has taken that pressure off the regime.
 
Trump’s impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran’s position in the region, than any of Soleimani’s plots could have ever accomplished.
 
Whether or not we see more loss of life, more threats against American interests and assets — this is already a debacle.
 
And at what is possibly the most dangerous time in recent American history — at precisely the moment when we should be rallying our allies to stand beside us and hold the line against threats — Donald Trump’s short-sighted “America First” dogmatism has come home to roost.
 
Our closest allies are calling for restraint and de-escalation — on both sides. Making a moral equivalence between us and Iran.
 
Russia and China are quietly reveling in the prospect that the United States may once more be bogged down in another major conflict in the Middle East. They would love nothing more than to be able to pursue their own interests,  and carve out their own spheres of influence, without the United States challenging them on human rights, on abusive trade practices, or on meddling in other nations’ democracies — because we are too busy fighting Iran.
 
We are alone. And we alone will have to bear the costs of Donald Trump’s folly.
 
This is also the moment when we most feel  the lack of a functioning national security process or any investment in diplomacy. 

After three years of hollowing out the State Department; disrespecting and dismissing our intelligence community; destroying the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill; throwing out the deliberate policy making process that has served Republican and Democratic administrations for decades; corroding the value of the word of the United States; abusing our allies; embracing dictators; creating, not solving, foreign policy crises on the international stage — we are in a much worse position to meet the demands of this crisis than we were when President Obama and I left office.
 
President Trump has no strategy here. No endgame. And here’s the hardest truth of all: His constant mistakes and poor decision making have left us with a severely limited slate of options for how to move forward — and most of the options are bad. 
 
But there are some key steps that any responsible commander in chief would take. And, while I don’t expect Donald Trump will listen to me, I hope he listens to those around him who understand the gravity of the threats we now face.
 
He should take all necessary steps to protect our forces and ensure the security of our diplomats, civilians, and overseas facilities — not just in the Middle East, but anywhere that Iran might strike back.
 
He should ensure that federal authorities are working with states, local governments, and private institutions to guard against the heightened risk of cyber attacks.
 
He should stop tweeting so he doesn’t box us in with his threats, such that the only options left to us or Iran are increasingly damaging strikes and counterstrikes.
 
And he should immediately reach out to our European partners and others to send private signals of deterrence and de-escalation to Iran and find a way to avoid the onrush of war.
 
The best way to do that, of course, would be for President Trump, to rejoin the Iran Deal and build on it — if Iran also moves back into compliance with its obligations — and re-establish international consensus about how to confront the threats from Iran.
 
The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship. Diplomacy that is designed to de-escalate the crisis, protect our people, and secure our regional interests — including our counter-ISIS campaign.
 
No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there by accident.
 
Finally, and this one’s not optional, Mr. President, you have to explain your decisions and your strategy to the American people.
 
That is your job as President — Not Dear Leader, not Supreme Leader.
 
Democracy runs on accountability. And nowhere is that more important than in the power to make war and bring peace. You are required to work with Congress. You are required to abide by the War Powers Resolution. You cannot pursue a war with Iran absent Congressional authority. The existing AUMFs — the Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force — do not apply.
 
The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience.
 
I served in the executive branch of our government for eight years, but I served in the legislative branch for 36 prior to that, and I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find ways to work together to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party.
 
We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government. 
 
We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.
 
We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart.
 
That’s not a naïve or outdated way of thinking. That’s the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward.
 
That’s what we owe to those brave men and women who step forward to wear the uniform of these United States; who dedicate their lives to diplomatic service; who choose to join the Peace Corps or to work in development; who represent the best of our country all around the world — and who are, today, doing so at greater risk because of the actions of our president. 
 
Thank you — and in these dangerous times — may God protect our troops.

At a fundraiser before his speech, he told the gathering:

“Did you ever think you’d see the time when we would be engaged in potential conflict and our NATO allies would be applying a moral equivalence between what we do and what the Iranians do? I never thought I see that day I spent my entire professional career dealing with NATO and dealing with foreign policy…Now the president says he did this to make us safer. Make Americans safer. Yet, we’re surging another roughly 18,000 forces in the region. And we find ourselves in position where there’s no evidence that they thought through how to protect our diplomats and our military personnel.”

Mr. Biden used the Iran situation to argue “the next president better be able to on day one, know how to begin to bring things together.”

Later in the day, at another fundraising event, news of an Iranian air strike on a US military base in Iraq started breaking. Without more details about the event, Biden said he would only speak briefly and generally about what happened:

“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable – not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, faulting Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and the recent order of a missile strike killing a high ranking Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, according to the pool report by Julia Terruso of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Some of the things he’s done and said in the meantime have been close to ludicrous, including threatening to bomb holy sites…And I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.”





With Latest North Korean Missile Test, Biden Attacks Trump for Foreign Policy Failures

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea.  Foreign policy is Biden’s greatest strength among the Democratic rivals for 2020. Here is his statement:

This morning, North Korea fired two missiles in a deliberate attempt to provoke its neighbors and intimidate the United States — again. It was the 12th such test the regime has conducted since May in violation of UN resolutions, and which President Trump has down-played. After the latest round of denuclearization talks collapsed almost immediately in Stockholm earlier this month, these tests are a stark reminder that Donald Trump — a self-proclaimed deal maker — has achieved nothing but a string of spectacular diplomatic failures that are making the American people less safe.    

His “love letters” to murderous dictator Kim Jong Un have delivered little more than made-for-TV moments. North Korea today has more fissile material and more capability than when talks began, and Trump has given away our leverage — including suspending military exercises with our allies and granting Kim co-equal status at two summits with the president of the United States of America — for practically nothing in return. Now a more confident Kim is ticking up the pace of his violations because he believes he can pressure Trump to bend to his will. There is no deal, because there is no strategy and no patience for the kind of tough, hard diplomacy that actually produces results.

It’s a pattern we see over and over again. Donald Trump talks a big game, promises the greatest deal ever, then gives away America’s best negotiating tools in exchange for a photo op for himself. He only cares about his own self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. And every single time, it’s the American people who end up paying. 

He pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.

He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord and dismisses climate change as a hoax. In less than a week, we will officially notify our departure from Paris, even as California is on fire and states throughout the Midwest are still recovering from record flooding over the summer.

He scuttled negotiations with the Taliban that might have opened the door to a peace settlement, reportedly because he didn’t get the Camp David moment of glory he wanted. Meanwhile he’s significantly weakened our negotiating position by imposing a possibly politically-motivated timeline for removing our troops from Afghanistan, without extracting any concessions from the Taliban in return.

His vaunted Middle East peace deal has yet to emerge. He gave away our strongest asset to take on ISIS by precipitously withdrawing our troops from Northeast Syria. He promised to get tough with China, saying trade wars were “good and easy to win.” But at more than a year in, what do we have to show for it? Nothing but pain for American farming and manufacturing, and vague promises that would only restore trade levels with China back to where they were before Trump’s irresponsible trade war.

The American people can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump’s art of no deals.

Biden: Baghdadi Was Win for National Security Professionals But Trump’s Reckless Foreign Policy Makes Nation Vulnerable to Terrorism

Vice President Joe Biden on the assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, praised the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals “beyond compare,” but criticized Donald Trump saying, “He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the 2020 candidate for President, issued a statement criticizing Trump’s “lack of strategy to secure our nation against terrorist threats.”

The successful operation to take Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi off the battlefield was a win for American national security. And it’s an important reminder of the skill and commitment of our military, intelligence, and national security professionals. They are beyond compare. 
 
I’m glad President Trump ordered the mission. But as more details of the raid emerge, it’s clear that this victory was not due to Donald Trump’s leadership. It happened despite his ineptitude as Commander-in-Chief. 

It’s been reported that Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw our troops from northern Syria forced the planning for the mission to be accelerated and the timeline compressed. His erratic behavior made it harder and more dangerous for the special forces carrying it out. And they had to fly through territory that is now hostile to the U.S., taking fire along the way—including territory we controlled just weeks ago. 

Trump has also made it less likely we will be able to successfully replicate a mission like this in the future. The operation leveraged a limited presence of U.S. counterterrorism capabilities in the region, which he keeps trying to dismantle. It was made possible by the work of intelligence professionals, who he has relentlessly attacked. It relied on allies he has belittled, undermined, and in some cases betrayed and abandoned.  

Trump’s total disregard for our alliances and partnerships endanger any future intelligence sharing or cooperation. In fact, the first people he saw fit to thank after our brave troops were the Russians and the Iranian-backed Syrian government. All this makes us less safe and less prepared for whatever terrorist leader emerges next.
 
And make no mistake, the threat is not gone. One man does not constitute an organization, and Trump has opened a path for ISIS to reconstitute itself under new leadership by withdrawing troops from the region. In doing so, he has given up our best asset to keep the pressure on ISIS during a dangerous period of organizational chaos. His fixation on keeping troops in the region to defend the oil fields betrays his true priorities—profit seeking—and will surely serve as a tool for future terrorist recruitment. And with his decision to slash humanitarian assistance to the region, it’s more likely that ISIS will be able to insinuate itself back into areas where we had successfully rooted it out. 

There is a difference between deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East indefinitely, and keeping small numbers of special operations and intelligence assets in place to maintain local partnerships and keep pressure on terrorists. That’s the smart, strong, and sustainable strategy we pioneered during the Obama-Biden Administration. That’s the effective policy we put in place, which laid the groundwork to end ISIS’s territorial caliphate. That’s the way we built the very relationships that ultimately delivered this victory.
 
Now, Trump wants to tear it all down and walk away.
 
He has no strategy for securing our nation against terrorist threats. He has no strategy for anything. Every day that Donald Trump directs American national security is a dangerous day for the United States. 

Trump at United Nations Goes it Alone with His Scheme of America First on Global Scale

Rest of World Embraces Multilateralism to Achieve Equitable, Sustainable Future

Secretary-General António Guterres and US President Donald Trump, give remarks at the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom briefing, on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Summit © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

There couldn’t be more divergently contrasting speeches between that of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and US President Donald Trump, even more stark by coming virtually on heels of each other – or then again, between Trump and every other head of state and minister who came to the podium.

 “I have the privilege of addressing you today as the elected leader of a nation that prizes liberty, independence and self-government above all,” Trump declared. “The United States, after having spent over two and a half trillion dollars since my election to completely rebuild our great military, is also by far the world’s most powerful nation.”

Coming immediately after the Youth Climate March on Friday which brought out some 4 million people around the world to demand the world’s leaders act to save the habitability of the planet, and the United Nation’s Climate Summit in which over 100 nations (not the United States, but states and regions were represented) gave specifics on programs and achievements in order to prevent the earth from heating more than 1.5 degrees more, Trump boasted that the United States has become the world’s “Number One Producer of Oil and Gas.”

In a body created out of the ashes of two devastating world wars to prevent such global conflicts, Trump declared, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors and honor the differences that make each country special and unique.”

Reprising and expanding upon his America First speech he delivered to the United Nations last year, he attacked anything that might smack of multilateralism, and urged the rest of the world to follow suit.

“If you want democracy, hold on to your sovereignty. And if you want peace, love your nation,” he declared – a statement that defies any reading of history.

Donald Trump tells the United Nations General Assembly, “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Yet, Trump insisted the nations of the world adopt the Trumpian view of “Freedom of Religion”.

“This fundamental right is under growing threat around the world. Hard to believe, but 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious liberty is in significant danger or even completely outlawed. Americans will never fire or tire in our effort to defend and promote freedom of worship and religion. We want and support religious liberty for all.

“Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life,” he said. “We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer funded abortion on demand right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child born and unborn is a sacred gift from God.”

Defend innocent life – except when it comes to guns.

“There is no circumstance under which the United States will allow international interests to trample on the rights of our citizens, including the right to self-defense. That is why this year I announced that we will never ratify the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which would threaten the liberties of law-abiding American citizens. The United States will always uphold our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. We will always uphold our Second Amendment. The core rights and values America defends today were inscribed in America’s founding documents.

“Our nation’s founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination. It protects not the interests of many, but the privilege of few. Our founders gave us a system designed to restrain this dangerous impulse. They choose to entrust American power to those most invested in the fate of our nation: a proud and fiercely independent people.”

Donald Trump tells the United Nations General Assembly, “Our nation’s founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others. Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination.” Later that day, House Democrats determined to start a formal impeachment inquiry. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Each year, Trump has to find a boogey-man to attack. In  his first address, he lambasted North Korea’s “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-Un; last year he went after Venezuela. This year, he declared “One of the greatest security threats facing peace-loving nations today is the repressive regime in Iran. The regime’s record of death and destruction is well known to us all. Not only is Iran the world’s number one state sponsor of terrorism, but Iran’s leaders are fueling the tragic wars in both Syria and Yemen.”

As the United Nations raises alarms about the greatest numbers of displaced people around the globe since World War II, Trump tripled down on his hostility and hatred for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.

“To anyone conducting crossings of our border illegally, please hear these words: Do not pay the smugglers. Do not pay the coyotes. Do not put yourself in danger. Do not put your children in danger. Because if you make it here, you will not be allowed in. You will be promptly returned home. You will not be released into our country as long as I am president of the United States. We will enforce our laws and protect our borders. For all of the countries of the western hemisphere, our goal is to help people invest in the bright futures of their own nation. Our region is full of such incredible promise, dreams, waiting to be built, and national destinies for all, and they are waiting also to be pursued.” The United States rejected the United Nations Global Migration Compact.

Trump’s speech to the General Assembly, just as his remarks to the “Freedom of Religion” forum the day before, was tailored for his base (and helps explain his eagerness to pal around with India’s Prime Minister Modi, attending the 50,000-strong rally in Houston, despite Modi’s harsh assault on Muslim-majority Kashmir – it is his ticket to the Indian-American vote). In this context, his attack on Venezuela served as his foil for attacking Democrats and their radical ideas about income inequality and universal health care.

“One of the most serious challenges our country has faced is the specter of socialism. It’s the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies. The events in Venezuela reminds us all that socialism and communism are not about justice. They are not about equality, they are not about lifting up the poor, and they are certainly not about good of the nation. Socialism and communism are about one thing only: power for the ruling class. Today I repeat a message for the world that I have delivered at home: America will never be a socialist country. The last century socialism and communism killed 100 million people.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells the 74th General Assembly, “In the 21st century, we must see human rights with a vision that speaks to each and every human being and encompasses all rights.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Guterres began his speech noting that the United Nations Charter’s first words are “We the Peoples” “It puts people at the center of our work, everyday, everywhere…. people with rights. Those rights are an endowment.”

“Machines take their jobs.  Traffickers take their dignity.  Demagogues take their rights.  Warlords take their lives.  Fossil fuels take their future”, he declared. “And because people still believe in the United Nations, we, the leaders, must deliver. They believe as leaders we will put people first, because we the leaders must deliver for We the Peoples…People have a right to live in peace.”

He cited promising developments, such as peaceful elections in Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the Greece-North Macedonia name dispute resolution; political dialogue in Sudan; and an agreement in Syria. But he spoke of persisting conflicts, terrorism and “the risk of a new arms race growing” across the world, and lamented unresolved situations in Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan; an evasive solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; Venezuelan displacements; and “the alarming possibility of armed conflict in the Gulf”. 

Members of Trump’s cabinet on hand to listen to his United Nations General Assembly address: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, in the post since September 12, 2019 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And without actually naming the United States and China, he raised alarm over “a new risk looming on the horizon: the possibility of a great fracture, the world splitting in two, with the two largest economies on earth creating two separate and competing worlds, each with their own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, their own internet and artificial intelligence capacities, and their own zero sum geopolitical and military strategies”. 

“We must do everything possible to avert the Great Fracture and maintain a universal system…with strong multilateral institutions”, he stressed.

Guterres encouraged the world leaders to take advantage of the Sustainable Development Goals Summit to “ramp up ambition”.

And he, like every other leader, pointed to the need to aggressively confront Climate Action. Referencing Monday’s Climate Action Summit, the UN chief underscored the importance of adaptation.

“Even our language has to adapt: what was once called ‘climate change’ is now truly a “climate crisis” … and what was once called ‘global warming’ has more accurately become ‘global heating’,” he said.

Guterres referred to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas as he spoke of “unprecedented temperatures, unrelenting storms and undeniable science”.

Though “not fast enough”, the world is starting to move “in the right direction” – away from fossil fuels and towards a green economy, he said.

Turning to fundamental freedoms, the UN chief said, “we are at a critical juncture where advances made across the decades are being restricted and reversed, misinterpreted and mistrusted”.

The Secretary-General pointed to new forms of authoritarianism; narrowing civic spaces; the targeting of activists, human rights defenders and journalists; and expanding surveillance systems that are “shredding the fabric of our common humanity”. 

And in direct contradiction to the Trumpian vision of the world order, Guterres said that anything that is done to uphold security and human rights “helps deliver sustainable development and peace”.

“In the 21st century, we must see human rights with a vision that speaks to each and every human being and encompasses all rights”, lauding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a tool for social protection, a sustainable environment, education and decent jobs.

These themes were echoed by just about every other leader and representative – except for Donald Trump. Indeed, the rest of the world seems more resolved than ever to work together – basically ignoring the United States.

That is fine with Trump, who thinks of the rest of the world as children trying to tap their Dad for money.

See also:

Youth Climate Activist Greta Thunberg to UN Climate Summit: ‘If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you’

Trump Uses United Nations as Paid Political Promotion to Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Biden attacks Trump as G7 Opens: ‘Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure’

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, stated Trump’s “incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the “Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, issued this statement:

“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world.  He has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the United States and our allies in Europe. 

“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique, because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation. No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.

“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most important strategic alliance.

“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren’s Plan to Transform America’s Approach to Trade

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade.  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan to transform America’s approach to trade: “Trade can be a powerful tool to help working families but our failed pro-corporate agenda has used trade to harm American workers and the environment. My plan represents a new approach to trade — one that uses America’s leverage to boost American workers and raise the standard of living across the globe. The President has a lot of authority to remake trade policy herself. When I’m elected, I intend to use it.” Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade. 

America enters trade negotiations with enormous leverage because it is the world’s most attractive market. A Warren Administration won’t hand that leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes. Elizabeth will use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. Under Elizabeth’s plan, America will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families. 

The plan is the third pillar of Elizabeth’s 
economic patriotism agenda. Read more about her plan here and below:
 

Last month, I released my economic patriotism agenda — my commitment to fundamentally changing the government’s approach to the economy so that we put the interests of American workers and families ahead of the interests of multinational corporations. I’ve already released my ideas for applying economic patriotism to manufacturing and to Wall Street. This is my plan for using economic patriotism to overhaul our approach to trade.

For decades, big multinational corporations have bought and lobbied their way into dictating America’s trade policy. Those big corporations have gotten rich but everyone else has paid the price. We’ve lost millions of jobs to outsourcing, depressed wages for American workers, accelerated climate change, and squeezed America’s family farmers. We’ve let China get away with the suppression of pay and labor rights, poor environmental protections, and years of currency manipulation. All to add some zeroes to the bottom lines of big corporations with no loyalty or allegiance to America.

We need to completely transform our approach to trade. America enters into trade negotiations with enormous leverage because America is the world’s most attractive market. As President, I won’t hand America’s leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes — I’ll use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. We will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families.

A New Approach to Trade

My plan is a new approach to trade — one that is different from both the Washington insider consensus that brought us decades of bad trade deals and from Donald Trump’s haphazard and ultimately corporate-friendly approach.

Unlike the insiders, I don’t think “free trade” deals that benefit big multinational corporations and international capital at the expense of American workers are good simply because they open up markets. Trade is good when it helps American workers and families — when it doesn’t, we need to change our approach. And unlike Trump, while I think tariffs are an important tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly lacks.

To ensure that American families benefit from international trade in the decades to come, I want to invest in American workers and to use our leverage to force other countries to raise the bar on everything from labor and environmental standards to anti-corruption rules to access to medicine to tax enforcement. If we raise the world’s standards to our level and American workers have the chance to compete fairly, they will thrive — and millions of people around the world will be better off too.

Achieving this vision isn’t about tough talk or tweets. We must do the hard work of transforming every aspect of our current approach to trade: from our negotiating process to the negotiating objectives we pursue to the way we enforce agreements. That’s what I intend to do.

A Trade Negotiation Process that Reflects America’s Interests

Our current approach to negotiating trade agreements works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. The negotiating text is kept confidential from all but a small set of advisory groups comprised mostly of corporate executives and industry trade group representatives. Once those corporate interests are finished whispering in the ears of our negotiators, the completed text is released. Then, under the expedited “Fast Track” procedure Congress typically uses to approve trade agreements, our elected representatives must vote up or down on the agreement with no ability to propose and secure any changes to it. Meanwhile, the negotiators who constructed it often breeze through the revolving door to take jobs with the corporations whose interests underlie the deal.

This is undemocratic and obviously corrupt. In a Warren Administration, we will negotiate and approve trade agreements through a transparent process that offers the public a genuine chance to shape it:

Trade negotiators will publicly disclose negotiating drafts and provide the public with an opportunity to comment. When federal agencies write new rules, they typically must publish a proposed version of the rule and permit the public to submit comments on it. I will adopt a similar approach for our trade deals. Prior to negotiations, our negotiators will publish a draft of their proposals in the Federal Register, let the public offer comments on the draft, and take those comments into consideration during negotiations. And then as talks proceed, they will publish drafts of the negotiating texts so the public can monitor the negotiations.
 

Trade advisory committees will prioritize the views of workers and consumers. I will ensure that there are more representatives from labor, environmental, and consumer groups than from corporations and trade groups on every existing advisory committee. And I’ll expand the current list of advisory committees to create one for consumers, one for rural areas, and one for each region of the country, so that critical voices are at the table during negotiations.  

The US International Trade Commission will provide a regional analysis of the economic effects of a trade agreement. Trade agreements can hollow out communities and transform regional economies. Yet the report the ITC provides before Congress considers a trade agreement only includes a nationwide analysis of a trade deal’s economic impact. I will push for the agency to provide a region-by-region analysis so the public and Members of Congress can understand how an agreement is likely to affect the places they live and represent.  

The congressional approval process will offer more opportunities for the public and elected representatives to shape trade agreements. I will seek expedited congressional approval of trade agreements only when every regional advisory committee and the labor, consumer, and rural advisory committees unanimously certify that the agreement serves their interests. I will also expand the list of congressional committees that must review any agreement before it is eligible for expedited consideration.

Together, these changes will ensure that our negotiations reflect the views of American families, not corporate interests.

Using Our Leverage to Demand More for American Families and to Raise the Global Standard of Living

While a better process will produce better agreements, we also must fundamentally shift the goals of our trade agenda so they are aligned with the interests of America’s families.

With certain important exceptions, we live in a low-tariff world. Modern trade agreements are less about the mutual reduction of tariffs and more about establishing regulatory standards for everything from worker rights to pollution to patent protections.

My approach to trade reflects that reality. For too long, we have entered into trade deals with countries with abysmal records on laborenvironmental, and human rights issues. In exchange for concrete access to the American market, we get vague commitments to do better, which we then hardly enforce. The result is that millions of people in our trading-partner countries don’t gain the benefits of higher standards — and companies can easily pad their profits by shifting American jobs to countries where they can pay workers next to nothing and pollute the air and water freely.

That will end under my Administration. I am establishing a set of standards countries must meet as a precondition for any trade agreement with America. And I will renegotiate any agreements we have to ensure that our existing trade partners meet those standards as well.

My preconditions are that a country must:

Recognize and enforce the core labor rights of the International Labour Organization, like collective bargaining and the elimination of child labor.  

Uphold internationally recognized human rights, as reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights, including the rights of indigenous people, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups.  

Recognize and enforce religious freedom as reported in the State Department’s Country Reports.  

Comply with minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  

Be a party to the Paris Climate agreement and have a national plan that has been independently verified to put the country on track to reduce its emissions consistent with the long-term emissions goals in that agreement.  

Eliminate all domestic fossil fuel subsidies.  

Ratify the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  

Comply with any tax treaty they have with the United States and participate in the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project to combat tax evasion and avoidance.  

Not appear on the Department of Treasury monitoring list of countries that merit attention for their currency practices.

A country should only be considered an acceptable partner if it meets these basic standards. Shamefully, America itself does not meet many of these labor and environmental standards today. I am committed to fixing that as President. And to help bring other countries up to these standards, I’ll revitalize our commitment to providing technical assistance to help countries improve.

I will also go beyond these minimum standards in key areas to promote the interests of American workers and families.

LaborI will ensure trade agreements protect Buy American and other programs designed to develop local industry, contain strong rule-of-origin standards to promote domestic manufacturing, protect worker pensions, promote equal pay for equal work for women, and prohibit violence against workers. Unlike previous trade deals agreements that have put labor standards in side agreements that are difficult to enforce, I will make labor standards central to any agreement.

Climate Change and the Environment. Climate change is real, it’s man-made, and we’re running out of time to address it. America should be leading this fight, but we have turned our backs on our responsibilities — with communities of color in the U.S. and developing countries bearing a disproportionate amount of the harm.

Trump is moving us in the wrong direction — withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, renegotiating NAFTA without even a mention of climate change, and handing special carve outs to oil and gas companies.

Beyond requiring implementation of the Paris Climate accord and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as preconditions for any trade agreement, I have already proposed a Green Marshall Plan to dedicate $100 billion to helping other countries purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology.

But we must do more. I will push to secure a multilateral agreement to protect domestic green policies like subsidies for green products and preferential treatment for environmentally sustainable energy production from WTO challenges. And because big corporations will move their production to the countries with the weakest greenhouse gas emissions standards — undermining global efforts to address climate change and penalizing countries that are doing their part — I will impose a border carbon adjustment so imported goods that these firms make using carbon-intensive processes are charged a fee to equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules.

Prescription Drugs. Last year, Americans spent more than $500 billion on prescription drugs. That’s a 50% increase since 2010. Nearly 3 in 10Americans report not taking their medicine as directed because of costs. And yet, one of the core elements of America’s current trade agenda is guaranteeing pharmaceutical firms monopoly protections so they can avoid competition from generic drugs — driving up costs and reducing access to necessary medicine abroad, and undermining our efforts to reduce drug prices here at home. That’s exactly what the Trump Administration has done as part of their failed effort to renegotiate NAFTA.

While medical innovation is important, there is no link between extremely long exclusivity periods and pharmaceutical innovation. These are giveaways to drug companies, plain and simple, which allow them to maintain ludicrously high drug prices.

As President, I will fight to bring down the costs of prescription drugs here and around the world. I will never use America’s leverage to push another country to extend exclusivity periods for prescription drugs. I will support efforts to impose price controls on pharmaceuticals. And I will actively seek out opportunities to reduce exclusivity periods in our existing trade deals in exchange for securing other changes that will help America’s working families.

Agriculture. For decades, trade deals have squeezed family farmers, with Black farmers losing their land particularly quickly. Between the trade fights incited by Trump’s haphazard tariffs and a series of natural disasters, America’s farmers are now facing the worst crisis in almost 40 years. They are also facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and instability. Trump’s tariffs have reduced crop prices, threatened farmers already operating on razor-thin margins, and opened up new non-American markets against which our farmers are now forced to compete. Like trade deals of the past, Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is written to help giant multinational agribusinesses at the expense of family farms, and it will do nothing to solve the newly created market insecurity Trump’s tariffs have caused.

As President, I will fight for trade agreements that reward American farmers for their hard work by negotiating for fair prices for goods, breaking up the monopolies in grain trading and meat packing, and protecting domestic markets to create stability for America’s family farms. And I will impose Country-of-Origin Labeling rules to protect American producers and provide transparency to consumers.

Consumer protection. We must ensure that the food we eat is high-quality and safe. But our trade agreements have limited safety standards and the inspection of imported foods, while simultaneously enabling a new flood of food imports that overwhelm food safety inspectors. In my Administration, our trade pacts will require imported food to meet domestic food safety standards, including enhanced border inspection requirements.

As with imported food, our current trade deals require us to allow imports of other products and services that do not meet domestic safety and environmental standards. My trade agreements will ensure that imported products and services must meet the same standards as domestic products and services.

Antitrust. We are in an era of massive consolidation across many sectors of the economy. One of the reasons why is that we have a narrow, permissive approach to mergers that looks only at economic efficiency and consumer welfare instead of assessing the impact that a merger will have on competition itself.

In recent years, we have added this problematic standard into trade agreements and proposed it as the defining objective for competition policy in new and renegotiated agreements. Under my administration, we will not propose this standard in any new agreement, and we will work to renegotiate agreements to remove it.

Delivering for American Families with Stronger Enforcement

Our approach to enforcing trade agreements drives down standards worldwide and undermines American families. We offer big corporations fast and powerful methods to enforce the provisions that benefit them but make it nearly impossible for Americans to enforce labor and environmental protections. Foreign governments only fear a challenge to strong rules that might hurt corporate bottom lines, not to weak rules that might not adequately protect workers, the environment, or public health.

I will entirely reorient our approach to enforcement so we drive standards up, not down. I’ll start by ending “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, the favorable enforcement approach we offer corporations. Under ISDS, a company that believes that a new law violates some aspect of a trade agreement can skip the courts and challenge the law before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company wins, the panel can order that country’s taxpayers to pay out billions in damages — with no review by an actual court. What’s worse, the arbitration panels handing out these binding rulings are often made up of corporate lawyers whose day jobs are representing the very same companies that seek judgments before them.

Companies have used ISDS to undermine laws intended to benefit the public interest. A French company challenged Egypt when it increased the minimum wage. A Swedish company challenged Germany when it decided to cut back on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. These cases have real effects across the globe: an ISDS panel’s decision to hear a challenge that Philip Morris brought against Uruguay’s anti-smoking campaign prompted several other countries to abandon similar public health efforts.

As President, I will not include ISDS in any new agreement and will renegotiate existing agreements to remove ISDS from them.

And I’ll strengthen our approach to enforcing labor and environmental standards. Unlike a corporation under ISDS, a labor union seeking to enforce labor standards can’t bring a claim on its own — it must convince the federal government to bring a claim on its behalf. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, our government can refuse to act for diplomatic or other unrelated reasons.

As a result, the federal government has only pursued one such claim in the last 25 years. In that one case, the American government, AFL-CIO, and Guatemalan unions spent nine years trying to challenge the Guatemalan government for violating the labor chapter of one of our trade deals because Guatemalan workers were being murdered for trying to join a union. In the end, we lost because the trade agreement required a showing that the violations had affected trade.

I will replace this broken process by creating independent commissions — made up of experts in the area — to monitor potential violations, respond to complaints, and investigate claims. The commissions must review and investigate claims promptly so that claims don’t languish for years. If one of these commissions recommends that the United States bring a claim against another country, the United States will be required to do so, without exception.

I will also fix the problem that arose in the Guatemala case by pushing to remove language from our deals that require us to show that a violation of rights was “sustained or recurring” and “affecting trade or investment.” A violation is a violation, and I won’t let another case like Guatemala happen ever again.

I will strengthen our enforcement approach in other ways as well:

Under WTO rules, a country designated as a “non-market economy” can face more serious trade penalties. I will push for a new “non-sustainable economy” designation that would allow us to impose tougher penalties on countries with systematically poor labor and environmental practices. We cannot allow countries that treat their workers and the environment poorly to undercut American producers that do things the right way.  

I already have a plan to move the lead American trade negotiator — the Office of the United States Trade Representative — within my new Department of Economic Development. That will ensure that America’s trade policy supports our broader economic agenda of defending and creating good American jobs. I will also create a new labor and environment enforcement division at the USTR to more effectively enforce obligations, and embed a labor attache at U.S. embassies to monitor compliance with our labor standards.  

Unlike the current approach that lets our government ignore unfair trade practices, my administration will create automatic triggers to initiate investigations into unfair trade practices. If those investigations produce compelling evidence of a violation, the Department will impose trade remedies immediately until the offenders show they are no longer engaging in an unfair trade practice. These automatic triggers will also apply to violations of labor and environmental standards.  

Finally, when we impose duties to support particular domestic industries, I want to ensure that the money we collect actually goes to American workers, instead of being sucked up by executives and shareholders. I will fight to change our trade laws so that we review duties every six months and lift the duties if companies can’t demonstrate the benefits of the duties are going to their workers.