Donald Trump did a rally for his rival yesterday.
Retired chemist. I've done a lot of chemistry that has to do with policy, particularly nuclear policy.
Cheryl Rofer has been a Balloon Juice writer since 2017.
Here’s my first contribution from this side of things. Let’s see if it works.
So far today, two billionaires have become very upset.
I took a screenshot of the Blankfein tweet because I figured that someone would tell him about the racism and he would take it down, but it’s been up for four hours now.
Donald Trump has wondered why the United States didn’t take Iraq’s oil to pay for our invasion. He has insisted that the United States must TAKE THE OIL!
The United States didn’t take the oil because pillaging, theft during war, is a war crime (more here). If a practical reason is needed, oil production and pipelines are extremely vulnerable to sabotage and military action. A continuing military presence would be needed to protect the seized oilfields. Trump seems to believe that the oil can be rapidly pumped from the ground and removed. It can’t.
Trump came into office promising to get American troops out of the Middle East. Many people support that goal. We have been in Afghanistan for eighteen years now. It’s not clear that our presence in the region has improved American security, and now our Saudi partners are dragging us into a war in Yemen.
But Trump knows nothing about military action or our relations with the countries in the region and refuses to learn. Nor does he care to use the decision-making aids available to the President. He has some longstanding prejudices, however, along with his willingness to make decisions impulsively.
After a telephone conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump broadcast his decision via tweet to remove American troops from northeast Syria. The withdrawal leaves the Kurds vulnerable to the Turks, who want the Kurds out of the way. Trump assured us that Erdoğan would not harm the Kurds; he would punish Erdoğan with sanctions if he did.
Then Trump changed his mind and sent Erdoğan a letter that sounded like it came from a middle-school bully. Not all the troops were withdrawn. Some were sent to Saudi Arabia. And now the military is concerned that Trump may want to send them all back.
Trump’s ignorance and impulsiveness in this matter have caused problems from the logistical to the constitutional.
Trump’s tweet surprised the American military. They appear to have had no plans for withdrawal, although Trump has been talking about it since his campaign. A case can be made that withdrawal from northeastern Syria, particularly as abruptly as Trump required, is the wrong thing to do. But the military is subject to the civilian Commander-in-Chief, and they should have made a plan. It’s a bit puzzling, because the military is famous for having plans for actions as improbable as invading Canada.
Trump should have known that armies cannot withdraw from combat in the space of time it takes to send a tweet, or even over a few days. Trump could have instructed the military to make plans for withdrawal at the beginning of his presidency, since that was one of his promises. A plan would have dealt with how to protect the Kurds and how long a withdrawal would be likely to take under various circumstances. It could have even covered protecting the oil.
Military and other advisors seem to have used the idea of taking the oil to convince Trump to maintain a presence in the area after his tweet. Trump feels no obligation to the Kurds, and seems convinced that ISIS is defeated and cannot return. But he does want to take the oil. A National Guard unit from South Carolina is now guarding northeast Syria’s tiny oilfields with armored vehicles unsuited to dealing with ISIS.
This corrupts the chain of command. The President made a decision. The military is supposed to take his orders. But they and others have argued back and effectively rescinded the decision, although the troops now in place have a different mission than before. Trump began the corruption by ignoring the National Security Council process for decision-making that would have taken recommendations from the military, the State Department, and others before the decision was made.
Nobody seems now to know what the mission is. Protecting the oilfields is the stated reason the National Guard troops are there. Are there American rules of engagement for encounters with Syrian government troops? Turkish troops? ISIS? Russian troops? Is any of this consistent with the existing Authorization for the Use of Military Force?
Once upon a time, wars in the Middle East were cynically characterized as “blood for oil.” Now that charge is irrefutable, supported by the words of the President.
A Pentagon spokesperson says that the income from oil wells in the Kurdish areas will go to the Kurds. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the United States from “taking the oil.” Trump has said that he wants American companies to develop the oilfields, but they have no interest in doing that illegally, nor in a combat zone.
Trump knows nothing of international law, the geology of northeast Syria, the production of oil, or loyalty to allies. He sees the American military as a profit center. The number of American troops in Syria has remained constant since his pronouncement, but their mission has become less clear. Trump’s ego demands that he proclaim some sort of victory. His ignorance results in inappropriate decision-making by the Department of Defense. He can’t even achieve his own objective of removing the troops from the Middle East.
He is unfit to be president.
It’s not enough that Donald Trump extorted Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to manufacture dirt on the Bidens if he wanted the military aid he desperately needed to continue to defend eastern Ukraine. To add insult to injury, a bunch of American journalists who know nothing about Ukraine have descended on Kyiv to report on how all this affects the United States, with maybe a little local color and perhaps a misstep from Zelensky.
Christopher Miller, who is based in Ukraine and has been reporting from there for years, has had it with the parachuted-in journalistic troops.
Besides hounding Zelensky, reporters have also bombarded those of us who’ve reported in Ukraine for years. “Hey! Love your Ukraine reporting! Wanna grab a coffee or a drink?” they’ve said — code for “Tell me all your secrets and give me your sources, and I’ll put your $1 Lvivske beer on the company card.” And when we’ve offered contacts — some whose trust we’ve spent years trying to earn — these outsiders have bombarded them with queries too, and often mischaracterized their words, actions that ultimately forced many underground.
The reporters come flying in like flaming meteorites. And they leave with the earth scorched behind them.
Do they even care? That’s not me wondering (although I do wonder); it’s the many Ukrainians whom I see every day asking me for insight into just what the fuck is going on. They’re worried about the picture that reporters and talking heads are painting of their country of 40 million people, which is struggling to root out corruption, trying to jumpstart its economy, and fighting for literal survival in a war fueled by an authoritarian ruler — Russia’s Vladimir Putin — who is hell-bent on seeing it collapse. And a scan of US media suggests their concerns are warranted.
I have great sympathy for this, having been anywhere from annoyed to horrified at articles on Estonia, a place I know quite a bit about that is perhaps even more obscure to American reporters than Ukraine. I’m having a flashback to a New York Times article about Sillamäe, the town where I helped get an enormous tailings pond cleaned up. There were a number of things wrong or questionable about the town and the processing plant that had caused the environmental problems – I don’t recall them all. The most inexcusable error, though, was the claim that the reporter had seen the lights of Narva across the bay from Sillamäe. Nope. No way. He never even looked at a map.
Highway 1 (E20 in Russia) goes more or less straight east to Narva, the town that our newsies like to use as the place that the Russian invasion/ subversion will take place. I disagree with that, but will do so at length some other time.
What probably confused our intrepid reporter was that the lights he saw were from Narva-Jõesuu, which means “the mouth of the Narva River,” which he would have known if he had learned just a little bit of Estonian. (“Is it like Russian?” “No.”)
Narva-Jõesuu is a resort town, and Narva is a typical city. Narva-Jõesuu lost much of its clientele when the border between Estonia and Russia (the Narva River in this area) became less passable. Narva has a couple of cool castles glaring across the river at each other, though.
Anyhoo, take what American reporters write about Ukraine with a grain of salt, and think about the real people who live in Ukraine and are trying to deal with some very difficult issues.
As the world watched the Soviet Union breaking apart in the late 1980s – early 1990s, there was much fear that things could go badly wrong and even escalate to nuclear war.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who had become the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, had introduced reforms that he believed would reinvigorate the Soviet economy. But movements in the satellites, like Solidarity in Poland, wanted independence. There were similar movements in the Soviet republics. Those movements used Gorbachev’s reforms for their own interests.
This month is the 30th anniversary of Gorbachev’s releasing the satellites – Poland, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and East Germany – from Soviet rule. Two years later, the 15 Soviet republics became independent countries.
Hard-liners in Moscow would have used force to prevent those outcomes. There were some clashes with the Soviet internal police, OMON, and military forces were ordered into some of the republics as demonstrations took place. But Gorbachev decided against major force and allowed the Soviet Union to dissolve, even though it was not the outcome he wanted.
The United States has become too accustomed to using force to solve problems. Russia has become an international spoiler, looking for ways to create chaos. With 14,000 nuclear weapons between them, this is unsustainable.
Gorbachev is speaking out.
He will always be a hero to me for handling the Soviet Union’s breakup peacefully. Not so much in Russia, where that breakup led to misery for many.
What he’s saying isn’t outstandingly new, but it’s always worth hearing, especially from someone who stared war in the face and walked away.
Yesterday Nancy Pelosi had to balance out her strong showing on Colbert by once again attacking the “left wing” of the Democratic Party.
NEW: Speaker Pelosi warns her party’s presidential hopefuls that ideas like Medicare For All and free college may fire up the left but won’t beat Trump.
“Remember November,” she says. “You must win the Electoral College.”https://t.co/A0BVnTxsov
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) November 2, 2019
There’s a whole thread there. It’s the usual – don’t go for Medicaid for All or anything else that might fire up the base. Remember those folks in the Midwest diners!
There are so many things wrong with that.
I would like to hear Pelosi’s basis for this. I would like to see polling data. I would like to see a strategy for getting the votes.
That she presents none of this – just her concern that the Democrats not be too lefty for the San Francisco liberal she claims to be – makes me suspicious that she is simply enunciating the deep lack of confidence that many older Democrats feel, partly justifiably. But they need to ask whether times have changed.
Her comments occasioned lively discussions on Twitter. One of the things I observed is that people worry about other people being turned off by things like M4A, even though they themselves back social justice measures. This is where I would like to see polling data. Do those imagined people exist outside of media scolds? For example,
I fear this is poison in the key states. https://t.co/KcGdnFlRgs
— Kim Masters (@kimmasters) November 3, 2019
A confounding variable, even if there were data, would be the presence of unconscious racism or sexism. Polling can fail to uncover this. And some of the “lefty” things that Pelosi and others are worried about have to do with racism and sexism, which we are not to speak of because they make people uncomfortable.
That’s a difficult conundrum. Many voters are women and people of color. Pelosi, in that Twitter thread is quoted as saying “What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan. What works in Michigan works in San Francisco — talking about workers’ rights and sharing prosperity.”
Which workers? Ideally, all of them. But the pitch for workers that Trump has made has been to white male workers in extractive industries. The workers in San Francisco are more likely to be women of color who work in health care. Their interests are different. Workers’ rights and wages should be part of the campaign, but the specifics will touch on that unconscious racism and sexism and thus be too lefty.
Pelosi is also doubtful about a Green New Deal because it would eliminate fossil fuels. It may be the timeline that she is objecting to, or it may be displacing those Trumpian laborers; it’s not clear. But yes, we have to eliminate fossil fuels, and the faster, the better.
I keep thinking about that San Francisco-y song, “The Times, They Are A-Changing.” Yes, let’s fire up the base to get them to vote in the general election and maybe drag along those young voters who feel they and their future are being ignored. Let’s present a vision of the future that people can sign on to. Trump has trashed the government. We’ve got an opportunity to build something better than what we had before.
More of this, please!
The only places Trump is not likely to get booed at are his own rallies & maybe white evangelical churches. Wide swaths of the population see him as toxic.
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) November 3, 2019
All my NYC people say he’s loathed there. One read he’s leaving reputedly is his attorneys got through to him about inherent jury pool bias.
— GeorgeWilliamHerbert (@GeorgeWHerbert) November 3, 2019
yeah, I know. perhaps unfairly I thought the political makeup of a ufc crowd might self-select differently, and I feel bad about that now
— Gerry Doyle (@mgerrydoyle) November 3, 2019
Our campaign has always been about seeing clearly, speaking honestly, and acting decisively.
In that spirit: I am announcing that my service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee. https://t.co/8jrBPGuX4t
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) November 1, 2019
Let us continue to fearlessly champion the issues and causes that brought us together. Whether it is ending the epidemic of gun violence or dismantling structural racism or successfully confronting climate change, we will continue to organize and mobilize and act.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) November 1, 2019
Thank you for making this campaign possible, and for continuing to believe that we can turn this moment of great peril into a moment of great promise for America and the world.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) November 1, 2019
As the corruption of the Trump administration is exposed, I keep two questions in mind: Why Ukraine? and Why energy? The simple answer is that they are where the money is. The more extended answers will be more interesting.
Natural gas seems to be the current focus in energy, but Michael Flynn had a bizarre plan to partner with the Russians to sell nuclear reactors in the Middle East and continues today in Rick Perry’s dealings with Saudi Arabia.
Information on Ukraine seems to be coming together now, although we almost certainly don’t have the final word. And energy plays a part.
Russia has always wanted buffer areas between its heartland and its neighbors. Ukraine is more than that, though. An origin story of the Russian empire put it in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin played up that story earlier on in his quest to bring Ukraine back into Russian influence. Ukraine was the Soviet Union’s breadbasket, being further south than most of the Russian Republic and thus more effective at growing wheat. Its factories built Soviet missiles.
Ukraine’s proximity to Europe and other markets made it the center of natural gas distribution for the Soviet Union. That centralization also made it easy for Vladimir Putin to cut off natural gas to Ukraine, although the cutoff had the unwelcome side effect of keeping some of Russia’s gas from being sold to Europe. So Russia is building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bypass Ukraine.
For Ukraine to be a buffer for Russia, it must be a weak state, subservient to Russia. But part of Ukraine’s value to Russia is also what could give it independent strength: its farming and industrial sectors, along with Black Sea ports for trade.
Ukraine was one of the fifteen independent countries to emerge from the Soviet Union. Although it is close to Europe, its path since 1991 has been less successful than that of the Baltic states. That is largely because of corruption in its government.
The Ukrainian people since then have moved against corruption in fits and starts. Viktor Yushchenko became president in 2005 on a reform agenda. During his campaign, he was poisoned, probably by Russia, but survived. His presidency was unsuccessful and followed by that of Viktor Yanukovych, who leaned toward Russia and brought back corruption in a big way.
In February 2014, Yanukovych was run out of office by popular demonstrations and fled to Russia. A few months later, Russia occupied the Crimean Peninsula and started a war in the eastern provinces of Ukraine, known collectively as the Donbas.
If Ukraine couldn’t be kept down by corruption, Russia would act more directly.
The next president, Petro Poroschenko, managed the loss of Crimea and the war in the Donbas while introducing anticorruption measures. But Russia’s military actions necessarily slowed down his ability to deal with corruption.
Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president in April of this year. Russia still occupies Crimea, and the war in the Donbas continues. To that has been added an American president who uses military aid as a lever to force Zelensky into a corrupt scheme for his advantage in the American elections. David Ignatius speculates that Poroschenko may have been subjected to this kind of corruption too. Maksym Eristavi, a Ukrainian journalist, points out that this American behavior looks a lot like the bad old Ukrainian behavior.
From the American side, the connections are not clear. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, now in prison, has been rumored to have connections to Ukrainian and Russian organized crime through his father in law, but this has not been proved.
Two middlemen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, have been working for both Rudy Giuliani and Dmytro Firtash. Firtash is under house arrest in Austria and has been involved with both natural gas companies in Ukraine and Russian organized crime.
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has urged the Ukrainian government to put a couple of Americans on the board of the state natural gas company.
Paul Manafort, also in prison, worked for Viktor Yanukovych before he worked for Donald Trump. And, like Rudy Giuliani, he charged Trump nothing for his services. Firtash has been connected to Manafort.
Not all these dots are connected yet. It’s possible that people simply saw a weak state with illicit money flowing into it from Russia and decided to take advantage. Or we may learn more as Congressional hearings continue.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner
The House committees hearing testimony on the American President’s improper demands on the Ukrainian President will hear from a member of the National Security Council specializing in relations with Ukraine – Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, United States Army. His opening statement is here.
Vindman was on the now-famous phonecall in which Donald Trump tried to shake down Volodymyr Zelensky by withholding congressionally appropriated funds for Ukraine’s defense against the Russian incursion in the eastern part of his country. No more cries of “hearsay” from the Republicans, if they were honest.
But they are not honest, and desperately trying to smear Vindman, who came to the United States as a child, a refugee from antisemitic discrimination in the Soviet Union. The background is worth knowing.
Just to add a little texture and context to this "questioning of loyalty" of Lt. Col Vindman. From the perspective of a 1970s teenager who marched in the streets carrying signs in support of freedom for Soviet Jews. This was the first political cause of my protest career (1) https://t.co/7rYzpN7hrV
— Amy⚾️🦈 (@Woolaf) October 29, 2019
The American Jewish community took on this cause in the 1970s. Elie Wiesel sounded the alarm, Jewish leaders took up the cause, and Jewish teenagers marched with signs and wore bracelets with the names of "refuseniks." (great book on this: https://t.co/qGObDWWPxr )
— Amy⚾️🦈 (@Woolaf) October 29, 2019
In my adult life, I have met several professionals in the U.S. national security establishment who speak fluent Russian and un-accented English. They came as children, they grew up to serve America. As did Lt. Col. Vindman. They escaped oppression, they savor freedom. (4)
— Amy⚾️🦈 (@Woolaf) October 29, 2019
My heart hurts to see the smears, but it hurts more because so many Americans don't know why these Soviet emigres live and serve among us. They should know, and value, how much America served as a beacon for persecuted Jews in the former Soviet Union. We should all know. (fin.)
— Amy⚾️🦈 (@Woolaf) October 29, 2019
As soon as the statement was released last night, the Fox commentators were proclaiming Vindman a Ukraine-loving spy. A despicable former Republican members of Congress is continuing the cry today. This means, of course, that Ukraine managed to plant a spy at the highest levels of government, and Trump was easily duped. The arguments are nonsensical and hypocritical, but the desperation is palpable. Defenders of Trump have nothing to argue but word salad.
Vindman’s statement doesn’t contain much more than what we’ve heard already, but he was on the call. It is becoming clearer and clearer that Gordon Sondman lied in his testimony, the one Trump defender who might have gotten away with it.
Photo: Credit…Anna Moneymaker/impea
Back in 2010, I had to evacuate from Los Alamos mid-afternoon ahead of the Cerro Grande Fire. I went to a friend’s house in White Rock. My mother was in the residential care home, and they evacuated to the Presbyterian Church in White Rock. At 1:15 the next morning, we had to evacuate White Rock. A friend in Santa Fe took us in, but I had no idea where my mother was for a day or so. That convinced me of the utility of cellphones, which weren’t entirely general at that time.
The combined population of Los Alamos and White Rock was about 20,000. I have seen reports that 180,000 people have evacuated in northern California.
It’s a terrible feeling not to know if your home will be there when you are allowed to go back. I was lucky – my refrigerator wasn’t even ruined by spoiling food, as many people’s were with the power turned off.
My heart goes out to the people experiencing all this and worse.
Jackals in California, let us know what you’re seeing and if you’re out of harm’s way.
I am also wondering when the pitchforks come out for PG&E. Y’all have been very mild so far, at least from what I’ve seen on Twitter.
Photo from New York Review of Books – King Fire, Fresh Pond, California, September 2014
A great many details are coming out about the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS. It’s looking like (surprise!) not all the details that President Donald Trump gave at his statement this morning were accurate, but I’d like to let things settle out a bit before trying to work through them. Trump gave out a lot of operational information, as is his wont, so at this very moment people are sifting through that information to learn more, both in the open intelligence community and in national intelligence services.
The one thing I will note is a big contradiction between Trump’s recent retreat (and then return?) from Syria and his saying that this operation had been going on for weeks. To cover for an operation like this, the smartest thing would have been to continue US operations in Syria as they had been going. That would have meant turning down President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire to go after the Kurds – delay his operation at least. It’s not clear what role this contradiction played in the actual events, but I suspect it was significant.
So let’s look at what we have. Reports are coming out that Trump’s victory photograph was staged a couple of hours after the operation. It certainly looks staged. Let’s compare that photo and the photo of President Barack Obama’s team during the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
The Trump photo contains only six people, all white men, all old except Defense Secretary Mark Esper. It looks like a seventh may have been cut out of the photo at the left, with a laptop in front of him. From left to right, they are National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump, Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and a military man I don’t know. Most obviously missing is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Obama photo contains fifteen people, only two in full suit and tie.
The Obama photo is active – people are engaged with a screen to our left. The Trump photo is static, posed, about the men,particularly Trump. All of them are looking at the camera, hoping for a place in posterity, although Esper may be looking at something above the camera.
The mess of cables almost steals the center of the photo from Trump. A short red cable lies unconnected in the foreground. For a number of reasons, including security, I would have gotten those cables out of the way in the preparation for the photo. Notice the more economical arrangement of laptops in the Obama photo. Also coffee cups, which indicate an operation in progress.
The Obama photo is much more diverse – two women, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Audrey Tomason, Director for Counterterrorism for the National Security Council. Additionally, the clothes and manner of wearing them varies across the photo, as do the postures and facial expressions of the participants. Identifications of all the people in the photo at Wikipedia. It’s a team of people, each contributing something different to make the operation work.
Trump is, of course, at the center of his photo, the seal of the President of the United States just above his head, in case anyone might not recognize who this is.
Both photos show papers that may contain classified information. In both cases, I think the papers are too blurred to see much, but I am sure we will hear from the open-source intelligence folks if they can figure something out.
I’m posting this quickly to get ahead of the news flow. Already the New York Times has an article supporting my surmise about the contradiction between the retreat and this raid. It also looks like Trump was golfing rather than watching the raid, as he claimed. More later.
Update: The officer on the right is Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, the Pentagon’s deputy director for special operations and counterterrorism.
So that people can savor Alain’s grape jelly.
The Orange-in-Chief announced that US Special Operations forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He also announced that he knew that Osama bin Laden would attack the World Trade Center on 9/11 and that strong men had called him “sir” and praised him.
I’ll write some more later, and I suspect Adam will too. But for me, there’s breakfast and taking the kitties for a walk first.
— Cheryl Rofer (@CherylRofer) October 27, 2019
Every day brings new evidence of Donald Trump’s crimes, or his commiting a new one in front of the television cameras. The scene changes rapidly, but the House Democrats are starting to focus on how to impeach Trump.
Although it is not official, the strategy that has been mentioned is to concentrate on Trump’s abuses of power in his attempts to force the President of Ukraine to comply with his desires to absolve Russia of interference in the 2016 election and to manufacture a scandal against the Bidens that would serve the same purpose as Hillary’s emails. The investigation and current depositions are consistent with this strategy.
It’s a good strategy because an airtight case is necessary, and only one or a few of Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors can be investigated to that point, because of the limitations of time. Impeachment does not require that all crimes be addressed in this way, just enough to make a persuasive case. Presumably a list of uninvestigated probable high crimes and misdemeanors could be part of the bill of impeachment.
It also helps to focus the public’s attention and make credible Trump’s lawlessness. After the closed-door depositions now taking place, the House committees intend to hold open hearings. The purpose of the depositions is to learn the extent of this set of crimes, gather evidence, and focus the open hearings.
The attempts at influencing President Volodymyr Zelensky contain multiple probable high crimes and misdemeanors. Some may be statutory crimes. Others may amount to abuse of power or obstruction of justice. All seem to be against the interests of the United States. Here’s a list:
- Obstructing the distribution of funds as Congress has voted
- Asking non-US persons for help in an election campaign
- Using government funds to acquire personal benefits
- Using a personal attorney to perform governmental functions (This probably contains multiple other crimes, like communicating classified information over insecure channels to people not cleared to receive it.)
- Lying to Congress (This would include people working for Trump. If he instructed them to, he is culpable too.)
- Abuse of power in firing an ambassador
- Accepting non-US funds for an election campaign (Parnas and Fruman?)
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are connected to both Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash and seem to have been passing money through to Republican campaigns, although it is not clear whether they are connected with the scheme to influence Zelensky. Beyond this immediate crime cluster, other crimes associated with Ukraine may become apparent.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney now in prison, was a connection to Ukrainian organized crime in the United States. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry tried to influence Ukrainian officials to put people of his choosing on the board of Naftogaz, a Ukrainian natural gas company. Kashyap Patel, a congressional aide, supplied President Trump with information on Ukraine.
Update: Adam suggests that John Solomon is another backchannel. He is being represented by Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who keep popping up in this drama. I’m not including all Adam’s suspicious because I am more cautious about that, but Solomon is worth noting. Potentially diGenova and Toensing connect several of the players, but I have run out of yarn to connect all the stickies on the wall. Adam’s suggestion reminded me of another aspect to the attempts to influence Zelensky. It’s possible that once Trump had Zelensky “in a box,” he would put pressure on him in other ways. In other words, he would be able to direct Ukrainian national policy.
Further back, Paul Manafort and others in Trump’s campaign tried to exert influence relative to Ukraine in multiple ways.
Recent depositions implicate Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Special Representative Kurt Volker. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Bill Barr have been mentioned in the depositions.
There is much more to come.
Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner
That was how David Sanger teased his and William Broad’s article on Twitter.
“Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” Turkey’s president told his ruling party. But the West insists “we can’t have them. This I cannot accept.” @WilliamJBroad and I ask: what would it take for Turkey to build the Bomb? https://t.co/1nbR6YOikh via @NYTimes
— David Sanger (@SangerNYT) October 21, 2019
Unfortunately that is not how the article is written. If you want to read it, write it, they say, so here goes.
In September, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” but the West insists “we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept.”
This is concerning because Turkey is one of the nations that could be capable of building a nuclear weapon and may have taken steps in that direction in the past. Iran’s past work on nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia’s inordinate interest in acquiring the nuclear fuel cycle could motivate Turkey in that direction again.
But this is one statement, and there is no evidence that Turkey is taking steps toward a nuclear weapon.
Step 1. The decision. The Turkish government would have to decide to withdraw from or violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which they joined in 1980. Building nuclear weapons would also damage, and possibly violate, their treaty obligations under NATO. The cost of a nuclear weapons program would have to be considered as well. Turkey probably could support such a program, but at great cost to the rest of Turkey’s economy. No such decision has been taken.
Step 2. Mining and milling uranium. Sanger and Broad refer ominously to Turkey’s uranium deposits as one of the “makings of a bomb program.” But increased activity at mines is easy to see on overhead photos, and none has been reported. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the open-source intelligence organizations prepare a report in the next few weeks.
Step 3. Building centrifuges and/or a reactor. Turkey may have some of the information necessary; Sanger and Broad note that information from A.Q. Khan may have reached Turkey, although they do not say what or if it is being used to build centrifuges. Russia is building four commercial reactors at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast. Other projects have been proposed but are still on paper.* Russia’s reactor contracts always include taking back the spent nuclear fuel.
Step 4. Fabricating reactor fuel. Sanger and Broad note that Turkey has done some of this at pilot scale.
Step 5. Recovering plutonium. Spent nuclear fuel, if Turkey retained it from the reactors not yet built rather than contractually sending it back to Russia, can be reprocessed to separate plutonium; Sanger and Broad say that Turkey has done some work in this area, but do not specify at what scale. Bench-scale experiments seem most likely.
Step 6. Fabricating enriched uranium or plutonium into a bomb. There is no evidence that Turkey has looked into this, in terms of materials processing or design.
Bottom line: A lot would have to happen before we need to worry about Turkey getting a nuclear bomb. The alternative would be to take the American bombs at the Incirlik Air Base, but once again, the decision to do that seems far from the current position of the Turkish government.
Here’s one of the reports referenced by Sanger and BroadThe author also posted a Twitter thread, saying clearly that there is no reason to believe that Turkey would pursue a nuclear weapon any time soon.
As the author of the report "Turkey and the bomb" referred in the NYT article, a few comments re this alarming and yet simplistic analysis. https://t.co/9lAnwXQEMR
— sinan ulgen (@sinanulgen1) October 21, 2019
And, if the Times article had followed the plan that Sanger’s tweet teased, it would have had to conclude that too.