Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
President Trump is looking forward to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany, today, when he will “represent [the U.S.] well and fight for its interests!” He said in tweets today.
Trump and Putin shook hands and greeted one another at the G20 meeting in Hamburg this morning, their first face-to-face encounter ahead of the bilateral meeting later today, Thomas Grove reports at the Wall Street Journal.
House Democrats offered to set an agenda for President Trump for his meeting with Putin in a letter expressing their concern for his lack of a “specific agenda” for the meeting in light of the “numerous destabilizing actions Russia has taken” in the U.S. and globally, Olivia Beavers reports at the Hill.
A letter urging President Trump not to return two diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized by the Obama administration in response to Russian election hacking back to the Russians was sent to President Trump by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D.H.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) ahead of Trump’s meeting with Putin today, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.
Russia likely sent a message to President Trump ahead of his meeting with President Putin today – that Putin can make trouble for him if he resists a “reset” in U.S.-Russia ties – when Russia nixed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea’s recent missile test yesterday, suggests the Wall Street Journal editorial board, noting that the resolution did not stipulate any action, and that Russia’s excuse for vetoing it was that it referred to the missile as an I.C.B.M., which it could not verify.
Trump must set aside any notion of another “reset” of U.S.-Russia relations when he meets Putin today or risk making the dangerous situations in Syria and Ukraine worse, warns David Satter at the Wall Street Journal.
Any signal from Trump that he wants to put aside past differences with Moscow and reset relations will be a victory for Putin, the former facing an investigation that his campaign colluded with Russia, and the latter accused of overseeing the hacking and disinformation effort on Trump’s behalf. David Filipov and Anny Phillip anticipate today’s meeting at the Washington Post.
If nothing results from the meeting, the Kremlin can at least fall back on the familiar line that Trump is weak and hamstrung by domestic politics, but if Trump agrees to work with Putin despite the ongoing Russia investigations at home and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, among other Russian transgressions, Trump will look weak while Putin can claim he reconstructed the U.S.-Russia relationship, is Neil MacFarquhar’s analysis at the New York Times.
Five things to watch out for at the Trump-Putin meeting, scheduled for 9:45 a.m. U.S.-time and reportedly including only Trump, Putin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov – and no White House Russia hawk Fiona Hill – have been identified by Niall Stanage writing at the Hill.
U.S.-Russia relations are if anything worse than when former president Obama left office from the Kremlin’s point of view, contrary to what many people in the U.S. believe, with President Trump’s failure to establish bilateral relations with Russia dashing the hopes raised in Moscow at the start of his presidency, writes Kathrin Hille at the Financial Times.
The unprecedented level of uncertainty ahead of a post-Soviet era meeting between U.S. and Russian leaders is down both to President Trump’s unpredictability and President Putin’s adeptness as mindgames, write the Guardian.
Is it worse if Trump and Putin get along, of if they don’t? Both good and bad chemistry between the two leaders could be dangerous, with good chemistry potentially signaling bad news for U.S. allies in Ukraine and Syria, and bad chemistry followed by mutual blaming for their split risking a dangerous confrontation, William Taubman writes at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
NORTH KOREA TESTS AN I.C.B.M.
The U.S. is not close to war with North Korea and will “lead with diplomatic and economic efforts” to resolve the crisis escalated by Pyongyang’s testing of an international ballistic missile Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said yesterday, adding that President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been “very clear” about this from the beginning. Gordon Lubold and Peter Nicholas report at the Wall Street Journal.
“Never give up.” President Trump rejected the idea that he had given up on China’s help in confronting the threat posed by North Korea, speaking to reporters yesterday, his comments seemingly contradicting an earlier tweet in which he wrote “so much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” Demetri Sevastopulo writes at the Financial Times.
Russia did not block a U.N. Security Council statement on North Korea, it just wanted to replace the reference to North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile because its Defense Ministry believes it was a medium-range ballistic missile, Russia said this morning, while a Security Council diplomat said there was no prospect for a statement that does not refer to an I.C.B.M., the AP reports.
President Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in an effort to put the two allies on the same page as Washington on North Korea yesterday, the three leaders reportedly agreeing that China should do more to restrain Pyongyang’s “provocative” behavior. Damian Paletta and Emily Rauhala report at the Washington Post.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is still willing to meet his Northern counterpart Kim Jong-un, Moon said in a speech yesterday ahead of the G20 summit in Germany, also proposing that the two Koreas resume the reunions of families separated by war, halt hostile activities along their shared border, and cooperate on the 2018 Winter Olympics, Hyung-Jin Kim reports at the AP.
The Justice Department accused eight major global banks of processing over $700 million in “prohibited” transactions involving North Korean entities, according to a court filing made public yesterday, Bloomberg’s Greg Farrell reports.
North Korea’s numerous economic and diplomatic ties with other nations, from commercial to arms sales, have helped it to gather the funding and technical expertize to develop nuclear weapons and missiles, explain Jonathan Cheng, Jeremy Page and Alastair Gale at the Wall Street Journal.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s call for “global action” in response to North Korea’s missile test will not be answered, as the individual national interests in play in this case diverge radically, argues Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post.
What if the conventional wisdom in Washington about “bizarre” North Korea and its “crackpot” dictator Kim Jong-un is wrong? Fareed Zakaria at the Washington Post reminds us that the North Korean regime has survived for almost seven decades, persisting through the collapse of the Soviet Union and other transitionary periods, maintaining its system throughout, and that perhaps – in the face of the world’s most powerful country wanting to consign it to history’s ash heap – it is shrewd and rational to develop an insurance policy in the form of a nuclear arsenal.
North Korea’s advantage over its enemies is that it has only one main aim: regime survival, whereas the U.S. has multiple and often conflicting interests, desiring to eliminate the threat of Pyongyang’s nuclear program and the promotion of human rights and democracy without being willing to risk war in order to get there, while South Korea’s ambivalence is possibly even greater, writes Charles Lane at the Washington Post.
TRUMP IN POLAND
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” President Trump delivered a speech written by senior adviser Stephen Miller, part of a populist-nationalist wing at the White House led by strategist Steve Bannon, in Poland yesterday in which he attempted to establish an intellectual basis for controversial orders made at home such as the travel ban, building a border wall, and aggressive policies toward illegal immigrants, write Peter Nicholas and Anton Troianovski at the Wall Street Journal.
On the surface Trump’s speech was everything European allies have been longing to hear, rapping Russia for “destabilizing activities” and reaffirming America’s commitment to Article 5 of the N.A.T.O. treaty, but within that there were examples of why Trump has proven so unsettling for European leaders since he took office: he refused to accept allegations that Moscow was solely responsible for interfering in the U.S. election, and he denounced his own intelligence agencies’ assessments on Russia’s efforts to influence the U.S. democratic process, writes Stephen Collinson at CNN.
“Crusader in chief.” Depicting the fight against terrorism as “some kind of civilizational Armageddon” was wrong, and while Trump was right to call for a united front against terrorism in his speech yesterday, the solution is not to hunker behind walls but to isolate the threat as an abomination against everyone, not just “the West,” writes Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post.
“A determined and affirmative defense of the Western tradition.” President Trump finally disclosed to the world the core of what could become his governing philosophy as president in his speech in Warsaw yesterday, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
There was “no evidence whatsoever that [there] was anyone involved in this other than the Russians.” Former director of national intelligence James Clapper rebutted claims made by President Trump yesterday declining to single out Russia as the only perpetrator behind the interference in the presidential election in an interview with CNN yesterday, Jesse Byrnes reports at the Hill.
Special counsel Robert Mueller appointed to investigate possible collusion between President Trump and Russia has appointed an additional 15 attorneys with expertise in national security, public corruption and financial crimes to his team since taking up the post, Del Quentin Wilber and Aruna Viswanatha suggesting that this indicates Mueller is taking a broad approach to the investigation at the Wall Street Journal.
President Trump’s statement yesterday that only “three or four” of the U.S.’ 17 intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia interfered in last year’s election was misleading, suggesting widespread dissent among intelligence agencies that simply has not emerged: the four intelligence agencies which have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia infiltrated the election – the C.I.A., the N.S.A., the F.B.I. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – are the only four tasked with tracking and analyzing the Russian campaign, explains Matthew Rosenberg at the New York Times.
Everyone at the G20 summit “is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!” President Trump tweeted from the G20 summit in Hamburg this morning, Tristan Lejeune at the Hill pointing out that the president appeared to conflate the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign with the D.N.C., both of which were hacked and had documents leaked by suspected Russian parties during last year’s election.
President Trump had a “great meeting” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last night, briefly discussing issues including North Korea, the Middle East and Ukraine, according to German and U.S. officials, the two leaders sigaling that they were attempting to reconcile their differences and preserve the U.S.-German relationship, which Stefan Wagstyl and Demetri Sevastopulo suggest has come under the most strain of any U.S.-other world power relationship under the Trump presidency at the Financial Times.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ruled out a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit because “the atmosphere is not right” amid an ongoing military altercation at the India-China border, report Kiran Stacey and Charles Clover at the Financial Times.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will press the G20 on terror financing and combating the risk of foreign fighters “dispersing” from Iraq and Syria today, the BBC reports.
Qatar’s refusal to accept Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain’s 13 demands “reflects its intention to continue its policy, aimed at destabilising security in the region,” the four Arab countries opposing Qatar said in a joint statement yesterday, the BBC reports.
“All political, economic and legal measures will be taken in the manner and at the time deemed appropriate to preserve the four countries’ rights, security and stability,” the statement from the four Arab nations added, the Saudi-led bloc branding Qatar’s rejection of their demands as thwarting “all diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis,” Al Jazeera reports.
“We believe that this could potentially drag on for weeks. It could drag on for months. It could possibly even intensify,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said yesterday, stating that the dispute between Qatar and four Arab nations has reached an impasse. Gardiner Harris reports at the New York Times.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to travel to Kuwait Monday to discuss the Gulf crisis and possible solutions, according to a State Department statement issued yesterday, the White House stating separately that President Trump discussed the crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during their meeting yesterday. Al Jazeera reports.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a “terrorist group and anyone who shows sympathy with them will be tried on this basis,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said Wednesday, causing confusion among some commentators due to the Muslim Brotherhood’s holding positions of power in Bahrain. Al Jazeera reports.
The crisis in the Gulf has raised questions as to what constitutes a “terrorist,” particularly in relation to the Muslim Brotherhood – considered to be a legitimate political group by some and terrorists by others – and Qatar’s support for the group, which briefly held power in Egypt and has active branches across the Middle East. Aya Batrawy writes at the AP.
Approximately 150 Islamic State militants remain in the Iraqi city of Mosul and are unlikely to escape or surrender, putting up a fierce resistance as they face military defeat, with U.S. airpower offering support for Iraqi forces on the ground. Michael R. Gordon provides an insight from inside the besieged city at the New York Times.
Families of Islamic State militants have embraced the battle for Mosul with women carrying out suicide bombings, fighting battles alongside their children, and using their children as human shields, according to Iraqi commanders, Susannah George reporting at the AP.
A diversionary attack on a village south of Mosul was launched by Islamic State militants as they face losing their last fortification in the city itself, security sources said today. Reuters reports.
Iraq’s Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani expects a “yes vote” in the upcoming referendum on an independent Kurdistan, stating that he intends to fulfil the wishes of the Kurdish people through “peace and dialogue” rather than confrontation with the Iraqi government in Baghdad, Al Jazeera reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 29 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 5. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
“Please let us do our work,” the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (O.P.C.W.) Edmund Mulet appealed to governments yesterday, stating that the pressure from all sides is unwelcome and that the O.P.C.W. will present its findings based on facts, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Social media has a key role to play in undermining the Islamic State and their propaganda, the co-founder of online group ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ Abdalaziz Alhamza explains at the New York Times.
Russian spies are ratcheting up their intelligence-gathering efforts in the U.S. emboldened by a lack of major retaliatory response to previous efforts by both the Trump and Obama administrations, according to current and former intelligence officials, Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz and Evan Perez reporting at CNN.
Russian hackers are the prime suspects in a breach of over a dozen power plants across the U.S., according to three people close to the effort to expel the attackers, Michael Riley, Jennifer A Dlouhy and Bryan Gruley report at Bloomberg.
THE MUSLIM BAN
A Hawaiian federal judge denied an emergency motion challenging the Trump administration’s travel ban rules yesterday, the motion calling for a clarification of what constitutes a “bona fide” relationship, an issue the judge decided it would be better for the Supreme Court to consider, the AP reports.
Restrictions on travel for grandparents and other extended relatives remain following the decision by the Hawaiian judge yesterday, and U.S. officials retain the right to block refugees with formal assurance from a resettlement agency, Matt Zapotosky reports at the Washington Post.
The former U.S. envoy to N.A.T.O. Kurt Volker has been appointed as a special representative to Ukraine by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Reuters reports.
Iranian ships may be trying to evade international sanctions by turning off their tracking systems ships or giving misleading information about the origin of cargo, according to analysis by Windward Ltd. 47 of 55 ships carrying oil from Iran to U.A.E. failing to emit signals. Sarah McFarlane and Benoit Faucon report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Manchester Arena attacker Salman Abedi is not believed to have acted alone, U.K. terrorism investigators confirmed yesterday, saying that others may have been involved in the plans to detonate a nail bomb at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, Nazia Parveen reports at the Guardian.
Opposition leaders have accused U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May of double standards over financing of terrorism, arguing that May should have discussions with Saudi Arabia about the foreign funding of extremism, Anushka Asthana and Patrick Wintour report at the Guardian.
The U.S. State Department admonished Turkey for detaining several human rights activists, a spokesperson stating that the U.S. “underscore[s] the importance of respecting due process and individual rights,” Mallory Shelbourne reports at the Hill.
The Trump administration’s review of Afghanistan policy must also look at Pakistan’s role in supporting the Taliban, and the U.S. should not let Pakistan link its support for the Taliban as a buffer against threats from India, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani writes at the New York Times.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s is attempting to win friends in West Africa to further his agenda by linking resistance to “terrorism,” increasing trade and expanding Israel’s African footprint, Al Jazeera writes.