MOSCOW, February 20 -- Russia's President Vladimir Putin warned the United States against deploying new missiles in Europe, threatening to retaliate in kind by targeting Western capitals with his own new weaponry.
Delivering a state of the nation address, Putin said the US abandoned a key arms control pact - the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty - to free its hands to build new missiles and tried to shift the blame for the move on Russia. "I'm saying this clearly and openly - Russia will be forced to create and deploy new types of weapons that could be used not only against the territories where a direct threat to us comes from, but also against the territories where decision-making centres directing the use of missile systems threatening us are located," Putin said. "The capability of such weapons, including the time to reach those centres, will be equivalent to the threats against Russia." He did not say what specific new weapons Moscow could deploy, but he reported quick progress on an array of new systems presented a year ago.
Putin said the first batch of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles will be deployed this year. He added the tests of the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone have been progressing successfully. The first submarine equipped to carry the Poseidon will be commissioned later this year, Putin reported. He also announced the coming deployment of the new Zircon hypersonic missile for the Russian navy, saying it's capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and will have a range of 1,000km. He said the Zircon programme will not be too costly as the missile has been designed to equip Russia's existing surface ships and submarines.
While issuing a tough warning to the US, Putin also said Russia still wants friendly relations with Washington and remains open to arms control talks. "We don't want confrontation, particularly with such a global power as the US," he said. The US has accused Russia of breaching the INF treaty by deploying a cruise missile that violates its limits - accusations Moscow rejected. The INF treaty banned production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500km to 5,500km. The intermediate-range weapons were seen as particularly destabilising as they take shorter time to reach their targets compared to the intercontinental ballistic missiles. That would leave practically no time for decision-makers, raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning.
CARACAS, February 20 -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that he was confident that countries across the world would support the Bolivarian Republic in the event of a US military invasion.
"If Venezuela is attacked by the US empire, the peoples of the world will rise up and begin fighting it together," he said addressing medical university graduates on Tuesday. Maduro’s speech was broadcast live over his Twitter account. The nation’s leader stressed that Venezuela had found itself in the epicenter of a political standoff between the US, which is taking "aggressive, unilateral and imperial actions" and those who advocate "a multilateral democratic approach based on accord, harmony and dialogue between peoples throughout the world."
On February 18, during his speech at Florida International University in Miami, US President Donald Trump said that Washington was considering all options to resolve the domestic political crisis in Venezuela. Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and parliament speaker, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country’s Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country’s capital of Caracas on January 23. Several countries, including the United States, Lima Group members (excluding Mexico), as well as the Organization of American States, recognized him as president. Venezuela's incumbent President Nicolas Maduro blasted these actions as an attempted coup and said he was cutting diplomatic ties with the United States.
In contrast, Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria and Turkey voiced support for Maduro.
ANKARA, February 18 -- The US may continue to have a military presence in Syria after the withdrawal of troops, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News circulated on Monday.
"Where will they pull out to, will someone else replace them, who will they leave the arms, will their presence continue? When they pull out, their presence will most probably not end, it will continue in some way," Peskov said. "All these questions are on the agenda, the presidents are talking about them. The general attitude is the same, there is no reason for optimism, and uncertainty is troubling. And this situation is not helping the crisis in Syria and hope for a solution at all," the spokesman emphasized.
On December 19, 2018, US President Donald Trump said that the United States had defeated ISIS (Islamic State, a terrorist organization banned in Russia) in Syria, which was the only reason for the US troops being there, so all US troops would be pulled out of Syria. According to US officials, the US would withdraw its entire force of 2,000 service members from Syria within 60 to 100 days.
WASHINGTON, February 15 -- Donald Trump is signing a federal funding bill to avoid another government shutdown and announcing a series of executive actions along the US-Mexico border.
It includes the declaration of a national emergency — setting the stage for a major legal showdown.
The border security compromise was approved by the US Congress on Thursday afternoon as the president threatened to declare a national emergency if the billions of dollars he requested to go towards building a wall was not included in the bill.
The measure reportedly includes just $1.4bn (£1bn) for “border barriers,” much less than what the president had previously demanded, and less than previous bipartisan measures had approved for barrier funding.
WASHINGTON, February 15 -- The Senate of the US Congress on Thursday approved a spending bill until September in a bid to avert the second government shutdown.
The legislation envisages the allocation of $1.37 billion for wall construction and other security measures along the border with Mexico, although US President Donald Trump initially insisted on $5.7 billion. The legislation is yet to be approved by the lower chamber of the US Congress. After that, the document will be submitted to the president for signing. It is to be signed into law by Friday night. The White House press service said about an hour before the congressional vote that the president was ready to sign the document to avert another government shutdown, but will also announce the state of emergency on the Mexican border, in order to obtain the necessary funds without congressional approval.
"President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action - including a national emergency - to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border," White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders said. "The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country." US government shutdown started on December 22 when Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on ways to finance the wall on the border with Mexico. The record 35-day closure ended on January 25, when the US president signed a bill to finance the government’s work until February 15.
BEIJING, February 13 -- China’s President Xi Jinping “is scheduled to meet” key members of the US trade talks delegation, including US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in Beijing on Friday, according to sources close to the matter.
“Xi is scheduled to meet both Lighthizer and Mnuchin on Friday,” one source briefed on the arrangements. A second source said Xi was expected to meet the US delegation in Beijing this week, although the specific time had not been confirmed. In addition, a banquet would be hosted for the US delegation in “a Chinese cuisine restaurant” in downtown Beijing later this week, with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He expected to toast the US delegates, the first source added.
Liu, who is China’s top trade negotiator, met US President Donald Trump in the White House at the end of January. If confirmed, such arrangements, including a meeting between Xi and Washington’s top trade envoys, would be a sign of goodwill to cement a trade deal between the world’s two biggest economies. Officials at the trade talks in Beijing this week aim to produce a pact that could be finalized at a yet-to-be-confirmed summit between Xi and Trump.
MOSCOW, February 12 -- The Kremlin has still not received any offers from Washington on changes to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
"It is all just bogus stories spread by the media [about a new version of the INF Treaty], and it isn’t going beyond that," Peskov said in response to a TASS question. "We haven’t received any proposals from the Americans so far. And as Putin said, we have armed ourselves with patience and now we will wait for our partners to conclude that they are ready for something meaningful," the Kremlin spokesman noted. "You know the president’s decision: Russia will not initiate any contacts or talks on disarmament, we had done that many times over the past past years. Now Russia won’t do this anymore," Peskov stressed.
INF Treaty issue
The INF Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and the United States on December 8, 1987, took effect on June 1, 1988. It applies to deployed and non-deployed ground-based missiles of intermediate range (1,000-5,000 kilometers) and shorter range (500-1,000 kilometers). Washington on many occasions accused Russia of violating the Treaty but Moscow strongly dismissed all accusations and expressed grievances concerning Washington’s non-compliance. On February 1, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced the suspension of Washington’s obligations under the INF Treaty starting February 2. Washington is determined to withdraw from the Treaty in six months unless Russia returns to "real and verifiable" compliance. On February 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow was also suspending the Treaty. He handed down instructions to refrain from initiating talks with Washington on the issue and stressed that the US needed to show readiness for an equal and substantive dialogue. On February 5, Trump mentioned the possibility of negotiating "a different agreement - adding China and others.".
MOSCOW, February 11 -- Moscow has castigated Washington’s drive to push the Venezuelan military into swtiching their oath of allegiance as blatant interference in Venezuela’s affairs.
"As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said once, ‘the Mueller commission [the commission of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller probing Russia’s alleged meddling in the US presidential elections] is simply nothing compared to that," the diplomat stressed. "This is because the direct appeal by a foreign state to the armed forces of another country, no matter what form it may take, for the purpose of altering the position and the oath of allegiance, is plainly unimaginable meddling in the internal affairs of a foreign state," he stressed.
"Our American partners are not thinking along these lines now. They are contemplating only [about the interference] as it applies to themselves," the Russian diplomat added.
When asked about any contacts being planned with Venezuela, the diplomat answered: "We constantly maintain contacts with the Venezuelan authorities in a normal, working regime." The Reuters news agency earlier reported, citing a US White House spokesperson that Washington was maintaining contacts with some Venezuelan military officers in order to overthrow the incumbent authorities in Caracas and prepare new sanctions.
HONG KONG, February 11 -- As high-level and high-stakes U.S.-China trade talks get underway in Beijing this week, global markets are responding positively, with Asian stocks closing mostly higher on Monday.
The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.36 percent to close at 2,653. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent to 28,123. And Taiwan's TSEC 50 Index grew 0.72 percent to 10,004. Australia's ASX lost .12 percent to close at 6,128. European markets were rallying early in the day, with France's CAC 40 up more than 1 percent around mid-morning. "Markets anticipate a trade deal is coming and the truce will be extended," David Kotok Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors, told NPR in an email. "All sides want a settlement so we believe it will be achieved."
With the trade war on pause, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer are part of a U.S. delegation working to climb down from an escalating trade war put in motion by the Trump administration. Mnuchin and Lighthizer are set to meet their Beijing counterparts on Thursday with the goal of hashing out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when U.S. tariffs against China are set to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
On Monday, lower level negotiations began in Beijing with Deputy Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish leading the U.S. side. President Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in December while meeting at the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. Before the leaders decided on a trade detente, the tariff hike had been set to go into effect in January. Late last month, the White House reiterated that March 1 marks a hard deadline and unless its demands are met, the new tariffs will go into effect. It said in a statement that "while progress has been made, much work remains to be done." In an interview with Mary Louise Kelly, Lighthizer synthesized the U.S. goals for the talks. "We need an open market or a more open market, more access by American companies," he said. "We need protection of intellectual property. We need to stop cybertheft."
"To do that properly would require significant changes in how China manages its economy, changes that would put the Chinese government and its state-owned enterprises in a vulnerable position," Schmitz said. The price of failed talks and the resumption of tariffs, he added, would include consumers on both sides losing out, with the price of imported goods going up. U.S.-China negotiations have been ongoing at varying levels for months. "I'm never confident," Lighthizer said. China has "had a system that's worked very well for them for a long time. ... But the reality is this is a major, major issue, and it's one that has to be sorted out." Kotok said that he anticipates markets this week will continue to reflect optimism for a deal: "Gradual removal of existing tariffs and more openness with less protectionism."
WASHINGTON, February 8 -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has spent more than 15 years quoting her favorite passage from the Bible.
The only problem is that the verse doesn’t actually exist anywhere in the sacred scriptures.With an internet full of specious quotes out there it’s easy to see how people can occasionally get tripped up by something that sounds plausible. However, you’d think that someone would have higher standards when it comes to claims about their favorite bible teachings. Not so with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.
The passage that Pelosi has cited as her favorite goes like this: “To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.” Congressional records reveal she has used it 11 times on the house floor since 2002. She also cites it outside of the House including recently when she addressed Christian educators at the end of January. However, the passage simply doesn’t exist and Pelosi, who is Catholic, recently had to admit she couldn’t find it anywhere in the Holy Book.
“I can't find it in the Bible, but I quote it all the time,” Pelosi told the educators, according to Slate. "I keep reading and reading the Bible —I know it's there someplace. It's supposed to be in Isaiah."
Now an expert has weighed in to explain why Pelosi can’t find the line. “The Pelosi passage is not in the Bible,” Will Kynes, an associate professor of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Whitworth University, said. Kynes added that the closest analogue can be found in Proverbs 14:31, which says: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.”
So the only question that remains is where Pelosi found the quote? A trawl of the internet only turns up comments from the California Democrat, so The Peet Journal has contacted her office to see if it can shed light on where she found it. But, for now at least, it remains a mystery.