Tag Archives: Heiko Maas

DOMESTIC TURMOIL

It’s getting personal!

Our grandchildren have a weakness for Cadbury’s chocolate fingers.   Not wanting them to develop any addictions, they have only been an occasional treat.

A few months ago, I bought them for less than $3.   When I looked for them again a few days ago, they had gone up to $6.75.

The only reason I can think of to explain that jump is an increased tariff on imported chocolate (they are produced in the United Kingdom).   The dispute is between the US and the EU, of which the UK remains a member for another seven months. Hopefully, after Brexit the price will come down.

Yesterday, I checked at WalMart, where I got them for less than $3 earlier this year.   They are no longer selling them.   They have also stopped selling Tim Tams from Australia.

Armageddon must be close – that’s all I can say!

Request: if anybody lives in the Cincinnati area, could they please check availability and price next time they visit Jungle Jim’s?

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207 DAYS LEFT UNTIL BREXIT

Talking of Brexit (and food), you would think the British didn’t eat before they joined the European Union.

Those opposed to leaving the 27-nation EU are attempting to scare the general population, saying that there will be food shortages and their prescriptions may no longer be available.

For the record, the United Kingdom was the world’s most successful trading nation in Victorian times.   They continued as a major trader right up until they entered the EU in 1973.

Prior to that ill-informed decision, major trading partners included the Commonwealth (former British territories), the United States and EFTA (European countries that were not a part of the EU).   Food was a lot cheaper than it is now.   The UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa had a preferential trading agreement, which ensured cheap food for the mother country and gave preference for British exports.   Withdrawing from this agreement was one of the biggest mistakes Britain ever made.

The UK cannot sign any new trading agreements until after leaving the EU. When they do, expect food prices to drop.     It is, of course, possible that the cost of French cheeses and German wines may rise, but, believe it or not, you can live without them! (My grandchildren, deprived of Cadbury’s fingers, are surviving!)

From the WSJ yesterday:

WSJ Brexit Beyond

Britain Ramps Up Preparations for No-Deal Brexit:    The U.K. government on Thursday published advice for British businesses on how to prepare for an abrupt and messy break with the European Union, a move aimed at underscoring to Brussels that it is serious about walking away from talks if it doesn’t get a satisfactory deal.

Of note:   The Wall Street Journal has a regular “Brexit and Beyond” column.  They have now added a sub-title:  “Europe in Flux.”

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POLITICAL TURMOIL AFFLICTS ANGLO COUNTRIES

Thanks to Brexit, there’s a great deal of political instability in the UK right now.   Theresa May seems unlikely to be able to deliver a “deal” with the EU, while satisfying those who want to leave.   Attempting to do so is really a contradiction!

According to one paper earlier this week, over 100 Conservative MPs are ready to rebel over this.   That could mean a coup against Mrs. May, replacing her with somebody more to their liking.   Boris Johnson is still the favorite.   Mr. Johnson is more conservative than Mrs. May and does not want to compromise with the EU.

Don’t assume this won’t happen.   I woke up this morning to find a similar “coup” took place in Australia on Friday (the day is already over in the Antipodes).    Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the governing Liberal Party (the Conservative Party of Australia) has been ousted and replaced with Scott Morrison.   The latter is more conservative than the former.

Canada is also going through some political turmoil, as Maxime Bernier is quitting the Conservative Party and forming his own party dedicated to “more freedom, less government.”   In recent weeks, he has launched Twitter attacks against PM Justin Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism” and immigration policy, according to the BBC’s website this morning.

Mr. Trudeau, the country’s prime minister, is a Liberal who has welcomed thousands of Muslim refugees from the Middle East.   The Conservatives remain in opposition, with an election expected late next year.

The UK, Canada and Australia all share a common heritage and remain members of the Commonwealth.   With a very different political system, the United States is also going through a great deal of internal turmoil after two of President Trump’s former political associates were found to be breaking the law.   The implication is that the president did likewise.   Calls for his impeachment are growing. I don’t think this will happen as the Republicans control both houses in Congress and President Trump has a very loyal support base.

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GERMANY’S CONTINUED RISE TO WORLD PROMINENCE

“The Lord says:   I am furious!  And I will use the King of Assyria as a club.”  (Isa. 10:5; Contemporary English Version).

From Time magazine:

Europe should scale up military spending in order to act as a counterpoint to an unpredictable and unreliable United States, the German foreign minister said in an op-ed Wednesday, an unusually forthright criticism of U.S. foreign policy by a senior political figure in Europe.

In the German newspaper Handelsblatt entitled “A New World Order,” Heiko Maas said that Europe and the U.S. have been drifting apart for years.   Instead of waiting for Trump’s presidency to end, he argued, Europe should take an “equal share of responsibility” globally.

Yet Maas joined in agreement with Trump in demanding NATO members increase their defense spending.   “It is in our own interest to strengthen the European part of the North Atlantic Alliance,” he wrote.   However, he continued, this was “not because Donald Trump is always setting new percentage targets, but because we can no longer rely on Washington to the same extent.”   (Germany’s Foreign Minister: when the US ‘crosses the line,” Europe must act,” by Billy Perrigo.)

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From Deutsche Welle:

Germany on track for world’s largest trade surplus for third consecutive year.    Deutsche Welle * 21 Aug 2018

The country’s $299 billion surplus is poised to attract criticism, however, both at home and internationally.

Germany is expected to set a €264 billion ($299 billion) trade surplus this year, far more than its closest export rivals Japan and the Netherlands, according to research published Monday by Munich-based economic research institute Ifo.

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GERMANY BLAMES TRUMP TARIFFS FOR DESTROYING ECONOMY — MINISTER IN FURIOUS RANT                                (headline in Daily Express; article by Paul Withers, 8/20)

“The US President has triggered a bitter trade war with the likes of Europe, China and Canada by imposing huge import tariffs on a number of goods, including steel and aluminum.

Trade war

He has accused them of unfair trade practices and insists the tariffs are aimed at protecting American jobs.

“Speaking to German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier took aim at the US President, claiming consumers were taking the brunt of his import tariffs because they are driving up prices.

He said:   “This trade war is slowing down and destroying economic growth – and it creates new uncertainties.”

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A NUCLEAR GERMANY?

German bomb debate goes nuclear

The security community has become unnerved in the face of Donald Trump’s threats, and some are thinking the unthinkable.

“It’s crucial for Germany and Europe that we have a strategic debate”   — Ulrike Franke, analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations

BERLIN — Imagine a nuclear-armed Germany (first line of article – (Matthew Karnitschnig, 8/6, Politico)

Headline in the Singapore Straits Times:  “Can Germany and Japan replace the United States?”

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DOES SINGAPORE SUMMIT MEAN PEACE IN OUR TIME?

President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.   These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.   These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”  (Rev 17:12-14)

For these ten nations to come together, there must be a major upheaval that transforms the nations of the world and their alliances.   President Trump may be the catalyst.

It’s difficult to know at this point what the outcome of the Singapore summit will be.   North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump seemed to get along fine and there is hope of an end to almost 70 years of conflict on the Korean peninsula.

“President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hearkens back to an era of high-risk summits where the outcome was not preordained.”   (“In the past, summits often redrew maps, changed world,” Gregory Korte, USA Today, 6/13)

“ . . . To Trump’s credit, we are surely at a better place than we were a year ago when Kim was testing hydrogen bombs and ICBMs, and he and Trump were trading threats and insults in what seemed the prelude to a new Korean War.

“Whatever one may think of his diplomacy, Trump has, for now, lifted the specter of nuclear war from the Korean peninsula and begun a negotiating process that could lead to tolerable coexistence.”   (“Trump’s Bold Historic Gamble,” Pat Buchanan, 6/15)

For a more critical view, note this paragraph from The Economist:   “In foreign policy, perhaps more than anywhere else, President Donald Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do:   he has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran deal, moved America’s embassy in Israel and imposed tariffs on imports.  His supporters, and many business folk, are thrilled.  But though his wrecking-ball approach may bring short-term wins for America, it will cause long-term damage to the world.”  (6/9)

WILL THERE BE PEACE?

In 1938, before the word “summit” was used to describe meetings of world leaders (it was first used by Sir Winston Churchill over ten years later), the two most powerful men in the world met in Munich.   British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, worked out a peace “deal” between them.   Mr. Chamberlain was able to return to England and proclaim  “Peace in our time.”   Less than a year later, the two nations were at war.  World War Il was to last six years.

80 years later, the Singapore summit has raised hopes of an end to the threat of nuclear war involving North Korea.   But whether this will mean peace remains to be seen.

“Here is where the crunch comes.   Kim is being told that he must give up the weapons whose very possession by him are the reason why the world powers are paying him heed.”   (PB)

Meanwhile, it is becoming clear that neither North Korea nor the United States are the biggest beneficiaries following the summit.  The nation that benefits the most is China, already the greatest power in the Far East.

A HUGE WIN FOR CHINA

“Kim Jong Un flew into Singapore on a Chinese plane for his summit with US President Donald Trump and left with a prized concession long sought by Beijing:   the suspension of US-South Korean war games.

Not only that, but Trump also teased the possibility of a complete withdrawal of American troops from the Korean Peninsula at some point in the near future.

“It’s a huge win for China,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at CSIS, told CNN.”   (CNN, 6/3)

SAVING MONEY

Mr. Trump clearly wants to reduce the number of US military personnel in South Korea, variously said to be 28,000-32,000.   At a press conference, he said the following:

“I want to get our soldiers out.   I want to bring our soldiers back home.   We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea.   I would like to be able to bring them back home. . . .   We will stop the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money.”

As said on CNN, this statement is exactly what China wants.  Under pressure from Beijing, North Korea will likely take a more peaceful course.   The country will likely open up to some foreign investment, mostly from China, although there is little prospect of an end to authoritarian, communist rule.   China itself has not made any progress in that area.

It may take some time for the world to see clearly that this summit was a big step forward for China and Chinese power in the Asia-Pacific region.   Perhaps mindful of the decline of the European powers in the region following World War II, China is enabling the US to decline gracefully in what is increasingly a Chinese sphere of influence.   Even the summit venue, Singapore, is ethnically Chinese. A friend of mine in the city-state reports an increased sighting of Chinese ships around the strategically important island.

On the day of the summit, the Singapore Straits Times reported:

PARIS (AFP) – “France is increasing its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, sending warships through the South China Sea and planning air exercises to help counter China’s military build-up in disputed waters.

“In late May, the French assault ship Dixmude and a frigate sailed through the disputed Spratly Islands and around a group of reefs that China has turned into islets, to push back against Beijing’s claim to own most of the resource-rich South China Sea.”

Around the globe, the talk was of peace; but the summit was largely about money, as is so often the case with global power struggles.

Although the US economy is doing well, the country is heavily in debt (more about that later), while China has mountains of cash. Inevitably, the latter is going to overtake the former, at least in Asia, unless things change fast.

EU & NATO  CONCERNS

“Donald Trump’s America-first diplomacy has shaken the foundations of many global institutions and alliances, but its most damaging effects so far have been on the trans-Atlantic relationship. The community of North American and European nations forming the nucleus of the alliance that won the Cold War for the West is closer to breaking up now than any time since the 1940s.”   (“Why Trump clashes with Europe,” by Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 6/12).

The summit of the G7 nations, meeting in Quebec just a few days ago, ended in disarray when the US president refused to sign the joint communiqué and walked out of the conference.   The future of the organization remains in doubt.   The G7 was sometimes referred to last week as the G6+1; at other times the G4, as only the European countries seemed to be in agreement.

By throwing out the suggestion that all tariffs be abolished, Mr. Trump was undermining the very foundations of the European Union.

Early in July, the US president will be attending the NATO summit in Brussels.   It should become clearer then if he feels any support for the European democracies.   If he doesn’t, Europe will be on its own.

GERMANY’S VIEW

The German news magazine Der Spiegel commented on the “G7 fiasco,” saying “it’s time to isolate Donald Trump:”

“The G-7 summit once again made it clear that U.S. President Donald Trump is intent on treating America’s allies worse than its enemies. Europe must draw the consequences and seek to isolate Trump on the international stage.”

“Germany’s foreign minister called for the European Union to become a more self-confident global actor, prepared to take counter-measures when the United States crosses “red lines” and able to respond to Russian threats and Chinese growth.

“In a Berlin speech, Heiko Maas gave the clearest sign yet that Germany no longer sees its 70-year-old alliance with the United States as unconditional, and threw his weight behind French proposals to make the EU shipshape for a more uncertain world.

“We need a balanced partnership with the US,” he told youth activists in a converted railway station, “where we as Europeans act as a conscious counterweight when the US oversteps red lines.”

“In remarks that drew a line under the post-war German doctrine of close alignment with the United States, Maas listed President Donald Trump’s Washington as a challenge for Europe, alongside more traditional rivals like Russia and China.

“Donald Trump’s egotistical politics of ‘America First’, Russia’s attacks on international law and state sovereignty, the expansion of gigantic China:   the world order we were used to – it no longer exists,” he said.

“The speech is the latest in a flurry of declarations by leading German politicians digesting the implications of the disarray following Trump’s abrupt departure last week from the Quebec G7 summit, long a pillar of the US-led Western global order.

“Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, long known as among Germany’s most committed Atlanticists, effectively demoted the US relationship in a television interview by saying Germany’s second loyalty had to be the EU.

“The first loyalty goes to your own country,” she said.  “But the second should go to the EU.”   For Berlin’s elites, the EU and the transatlantic alliance were long regarded as equal pillars.”  (Euractiv with Reuters 6/14)

Once again, money has played a part in Mr. Trump’s anti-European rhetoric.   Although some European countries do spend more than the required 2% of their GNP on defense, some do not, including Germany.   Mr. Trump feels very strongly that this is wrong and needs to change.   The United States is deeply in debt.   In itself, this poses a grave threat to national security.   Other nations must devote more of their resources to defense.

Did both the Singapore and the Quebec summits have a lot to do with money?   Seemingly so.

ONE SUMMIT STILL TO GO

Here’s a final comment from a British conservative publication, linking all three summits (G7, Singapore and NATO):

“Donald Trump is feeling confident about world peace following his big summit in Singapore with Kim Jong Un.   But . . . western leaders are desperately worried.   Might the US President, inebriated on his own sense of destiny, be about to collapse Nato?   Theresa May is certainly worried:   she knows how hard the British government had to push Trump to officially endorse Nato.   But now, following the fallout over tariffs at last weekend’s G7 summit in Canada, Trump is not feeling well disposed towards the rest of the West.   Next month’s Nato Summit in Brussels will be a tense affair.”   (Spectator, UK, 6/14)

Seventy years after the formation of NATO, could the organization break up?   We will see next month.

TRADE WAR WITH ALLIES BEGINS

TRADE WAR WITH ALLIES BEGINS

At midnight Thursday night the US imposed tariffs on goods from Europe, Canada and Mexico.   The countries of the EU and Canada have been allies of the United States since World War II.

Verbal reaction was swift, with condemnation from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and threats of retaliation from EU leaders.  The President of France declared them “illegal”.  The European response is:  Retaliate, don’t escalate!

It’s not just bad feeling that will result from the decision by President Trump to impose the tariffs.   The tariffs will lead to higher prices on imported goods, both in the US and the EU; unemployment will also increase, over all, though there may be short-term gains in this area.

Although nobody is left alive from the last trade war that afflicted the western world, many leaders are aware that trade conflicts were a contributory factor to World War II.

The trade war is also coming at a bad time, fresh on the heels of the US tearing up the nuclear deal with Iran.   The Europeans did not agree with the US and are continuing to honor the agreement.

There’s bad feeling all round.

After seventy years of the NATO alliance, member nations outside of the US increasingly feel they are not in an alliance with Washington; rather, they are being dictated to as America changes direction on a number of levels.

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Newsletter – Dispute Among Friends

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas ended his first official visit to Washington yesterday, without reaching a compromise in the transatlantic dispute over policy on Iran.   “We’re pursuing two completely different paths,” Maas declared following his talks with his counterpart Mike Pompeo and the National Security Advisor John Bolton.  The EU remains unified in their policy approach, which is diametrically opposed to that of the Trump administration. Berlin’s attempts to achieve an independent German-EU policy on Iran opposing Washington’s is particularly applauded by Germany’s strategists in the establishment’s foreign policy sectors. Recommendations of submission to the Trump administration’s threats to use force against Teheran, so as not to jeopardize German companies’ highly profitable business relations with the US, are coming from business circles.   Meanwhile, foreign policy experts recommend developing the euro into an alternative global reserve currency.   This could reduce the USA’s potential to apply pressure on Germany’s economy.   (German Foreign Policy, 5/24)

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BELGIUM ATTACKED AGAIN

On Tuesday, a terrorist attacked and killed two policewomen in the Belgian city of Liege.  One of the policewomen was a single mother with twin daughters, aged 13.   A passerby was also killed.   The attacker shouted “Alahu Akhbar” as he stabbed the women repeatedly, then seized one of their guns before shooting at others.

The incident itself was horrific.   But the reaction of the authorities and the media showed how little understanding there is in official circles of the reality of Islamic terrorism.   There was a great deal of speculation as to what “radicalized” the perpetrator of the crime. Was he “radicalized” in prison or on the internet, or what?

After centuries of Islamic conquest and ongoing conflict between Islam and the West, today’s western leaders remain out of touch with reality.   They believe that Islam is a peaceful religion and that only a very small minority of Muslims turn to violence.

What if they are wrong?

Before political correctness, Winston Churchill once said that: ”Islam is more dangerous in a man than rabies in a dog.”

He also observed that:  “A nation that forgets its past has no future.”

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IS IRELAND SET TO ABORT ITSELF?

Last week, Irish voters decided to legalize abortion, bringing Ireland into line with every other EU country except Poland and Malta, two very Catholic countries.

In the last few years, Ireland, also a Catholic country, has also embraced divorce and gay rights.  Its current prime minister is gay and of Indian descent, two radical departures for the Irish.

But, with a small population, Is it really in the country’s interest to make abortion readily available?

Ireland is simply following other European countries, nations with low birth rates due to abortion and other forms of birth control.

To fill the gap left by those missing babies, the nations of western Europe are importing people from other parts of the world, resulting in serious social problems and terror attacks.

Wouldn’t it be better to simply keep the ban on abortion?

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DEATH OF DEMOCRACY

What’s happening in Italy is yet further proof that the EU has a democracy problem.   An entire nation has gone to the polls, yet the vote has been overridden because it delivered the ‘wrong’ result. Europe’s leaders insist they know they must listen to voters, but don’t seem very keen to hear what is being said.  (Freddy Gray, The Spectator, 5/31)