“Russia’s Arctic region is strategically important for the Kremlin …. First, it contains major population centers: With 350,000 inhabitants, Arkhangelsk is the largest Arctic town, followed by Murmansk, with 300,000 … Under … Putin, the Russian Arctic has been emphasized as a patriotic and nationalistic theme. Secondly, Russia’s economy relies heavily on its oil and gas industry, and such resources are heavily present in the Arctic, including in the Yamal region, where Russia has recently developed a massive liquified natural gas (LNG) plant and terminal. Russia … is particularly sensitive to security issues around energy infrastructure ….Thirdly, the Northern Sea Route (NSR) … along Russia’s northern shore, between the Kara Sea and the Bering Strait  is becoming increasingly navigable. … Russia’s Northern Fleet is based in the Kola Peninsula, near Murmansk, and contains two-thirds of Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet … the Arctic … protects Russia’s strategic deterrent and … allows a sizable share of its Navy to reach the northern Atlantic. Russia’s military capabilities in the Arctic have steadily increased over the past ten years. Russia has opened new airfields and refurbished old ones; created a dedicated northern command for the region; and set up two Arctic brigades. It also is planning to substantially increase its icebreaker fleet … already … the largest in the world. Russia’s new military base on Aleksandra Land is touted as the ‘largest building in the entire circumpolar high Arctic.’ …”
“… Accused by a number of Western nations and their Middle Eastern allies of war crimes, Assad has managed to largely overcome a 2011 rebel and jihadi uprising with the support of Russia and Iran. * * * The United States, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were among the countries to fund efforts to overthrow the Syrian leader. The rise of ultraconservative Sunni Muslim organizations such as the Islamic State … and a sweeping Syrian military comeback … have changed the dynamics ….Defense Secretary James Mattis [said] in August that the U.S. goal was to ‘move the Syria civil war into the Geneva process so the Syrian people can establish a new government … not led by Assad and give them a chance for a future that Assad has denied them, with overt Russian and Iranian support.’ A document submitted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top diplomats … stressed that their countries would not support Syrian reconstruction efforts ‘before the beginning of political process led by the United Nations to achieve a comprehensive, honest and true political transition that cannot be reversed,’ according to Saudi Arabia’s Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. …”
The importance of establishing rule of law in post-conflict states has been recognized as key in delivering stability in fragile states in the short, medium, and long term. This is in the interest of the U.S. Army and its partners not only from a [counterinsurgency] COIN perspective, but also to protect U.S. security interests both at home and abroad. To that aim, assistance is required to ensure that in post-conflict environments, the management and maintenance of security is successfully transferred to civilian organizations such as the police and the justice system more generally. It is only when this successful transition occurs and sustainable rule of law has been established that military commitments can cease. As such, it is essential that the end state to a successful civilian handover form part of a plan for disengagement after an intervention.
However, one key challenge for organizations (such as the police) emerging from conflict is the requisite to transition from a combat function to a more traditional policing function. This is difficult due not only to a lack of the necessary skill sets, but also because of the need for a fundamental change in mindset about the purpose of policing. The U.S. Army can play an important role in facilitating the establishment of effective rule of law institutions and practices in post-conflict states in many ways. Additionally, a lack of appreciation of the importance of civilian institutions and their role in establishing rule of law will lead to an exacerbation of the problem.
Delivering rule of law interventions is a complex task involving multiple stakeholders. Numerous challenges exist, each of which can prevent the establishment of effective and sustainable rule of law institutions. This in turn is likely to lead to a requirement for further military support from the U.S. Army resulting in even longer term deployments in what can become an unending conflict. In order to avoid unintended consequences which will have the impact of undermining rule of law interventions carried out by the U.S. Army and its partners more broadly, the following recommendations should be considered in shaping future U.S. Army interventions relating to establishing rule of law as part of its future COIN and state building missions.
Recommendation 1: Contextual Understanding Develop a broad understanding of the rule of law landscape in the post-conflict state in question, and identify key challenges which may deter the establishment of effective and sustainable rule of law institutions.
Recommendation 2: Unintended Consequences Consider the potential unintended consequences of U.S. Army interventions in training local police forces and other rule of law interventions, and determine how can these be mitigated or avoided.
Recommendation 3: Strategic Objectives Reevaluate objectives to ensure that expectations are realistic in terms of what is to be achieved and the timescale in which to achieve them. Consider the impact of short-term mission objectives in attempting to achieve medium to long-term objectives. Recommendation 4: Sustainability Ensure that rule of law interventions are sustainable after withdrawal of troops and form part of U.S. Army exit strategies. Ensure that these are integrated into post-conflict planning before intervention is considered.
Recommendation 5: COIN versus State Building Address the existing confusion between the combat element of COIN operations and state building missions, and understand how this conflict can undermine both operations.
Recommendation 6: Police Training Determine the role that the U.S. Army should play in facilitating a transition from military to civilian rule of law, and exercise particular attention to challenges relating to corporate culture.
Recommendation 7: Skills Shortages Determine when and how rule of law mechanisms and advisors should be integrated into stability operations and consider how the U.S. Army could better utilize its Reserve Forces to provide capacity and specialist skills to facilitate civilian transition.
Recommendation 8: Corruption and Human Rights Abuses[:] Adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward corruption and human rights abuses and provide remedial education where such practices may have become institutionalized.
Recommendation 9: Management and Oversight: Provide management and oversight of third party contractors through deployment of the U.S. Army Corps of Engi neers to ensure that construction projects relating to rule of law interventions are completed to the required specifications.
Recommendation 10: International Liaison Highlight other partner institutions the U.S. Army could or should be engaging with to ensure a coordinated approach to the establishment of effective rule of law institutions and practices in the host country.”
The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government. Authors of Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Press publications enjoy full academic freedom, provided they do not disclose classified information, jeopardize operations security, or misrepresent official U.S. policy. Such academic freedom empowers them to offer new and sometimes controversial perspectives in the interest of furthering debate on key issues. This report is cleared for public release; distribution is unlimited. ∗∗∗∗∗ This publication is subject to Title 17, United States Code, Sections 101 and 105. It is in the public domain and may not be copyrighted.”]
“Ukraine will build a military base on the Azov Sea and has sent more forces to the area to counter a worsening Russian threat, Ukraine’s armed forces head [said] … referring to an arm of the Black Sea [where Ukraine and Russia both have coastlines]. Ukraine has been at loggerheads with Russia since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and more than 10,000 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian troops and Moscow-backed separatists. Ukraine and NATO countries accuse Russia of supplying troops and heavy weapons to eastern Ukraine, which Moscow denies. Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of the General Staff, said Russia had moved beyond covert fighting in the Donbass region, home of a Kremlin-backed separatist insurgency, to building up its military presence on Ukraine’s borders and nakedly aggressive actions against ships sailing to Ukrainian ports. * * *… Muzhenko said [U.S.-supplied] Javelin [anti-tank missiles] ha[ve] been tested … but … not … deployed in battle …. Asked whether Ukraine wanted to buy the U.S. Patriot air defense system, he said various options were being considered.”
“Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Moscow had started delivering the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria … Russia, along with Iran, has helped Assad recover huge amounts of lost territory in Syria without persuading him to agree to any political reforms. It has also pushed its own talks with Iran and Turkey, known as the Astana process. … Some diplomats have said [an] Israeli incident [involving Syria shooting down a Russian plane during an incursion by Israeli jets] and a Turkish-Russian deal to suspend an offensive on the last rebel-held stronghold of Idlib could provide a window to push for … U.N. Security Council [UNSC] resolution 2254 [aiming to end the] conflict in Syria. The [UNSC] … has mandated [that] U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura … get a deal on a new constitution, new elections and a reform of Syria’s governance. …”
“In the largest Russian military exercise since the height of the Cold War, Moscow … [in September] deploy[ed] 300,000 troops, 900 tanks and 1,000 aircraft in central and eastern Russia. … [for] ‘Vostok 2018,’ or East Exercise 2018 …. for the first time ever, Chinese military forces … participate[d], with plans to send 3,200 troops and 30 aircraft over the border into eastern Russia. … highlight[ing] two important, seemingly contradictory [aspects of] the relationship between China and Russia. First, the appearance of military cooperation masks deep strategic distrust and suspicion below the surface. … [Yet] strong incentives and a lack of alternatives provide a sturdy foundation for a continued strategic partnership going forward. Vostok 2018 represents the latest in a series of combined Chinese-Russian military exercises stretching back more than a decade. Their militaries have been training together since 2005, and China and Russia have been holding joint naval exercises every year since 2012, including near each other’s respective hotspots. Last year, China sent three naval ships to its first jointly held exercise with Russian forces in the Baltic Sea. In 2016, the two navies carried out a joint exercise in the South China Sea … [after] a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejecting China’s territorial claims in the contested waterway. Warm political statements by top Chinese and Russian leaders have complemented these military actions. …”
“Russia is working to ensure the removal of Iranian forces to 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from the Golan Heights, but Israel is demanding that long-range weapons that could circumvent such a buffer zone also be withdrawn, a senior Israeli official said … after a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Russian officials. The official said that Israel prefers to act now rather than wait until Iran has ‘hundreds and thousands of missiles’ in Syria, and that the government will not allow Iran ‘to turn Syria into another Lebanon.’
* * *
[Separately,] Mike Pompeo denounced Iran’s leaders as a ‘mafia’ and promised unspecified backing for Iranians unhappy with their government. …”
“Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday Moscow would respond if Sweden and Finland were drawn into the NATO alliance and that such expansion would undermine global security, the Interfax news agency reported. …”
“Since 2008, Russia’s military has embarked on an extensive modernization program designed to overcome shortfalls in readiness, competence, sustainability, and deployability. These and changes in logistics and operational capability have raised concerns about the Intelligence Community’s (IC’s) ability to warn of future Russian aggression. Achieving timely warning has proven extremely difficult, for a variety of reasons, in large part because of a lack of insight into Russian leadership intentions.”
Turkey has agreed to pay $2.5 billion to acquire Russia’s most advanced missile defense system, a senior Turkish official said, in a deal that signals a turn away from the NATO military alliance that has anchored Turkey to the West for more than six decades.
The preliminary agreement sees Turkey receiving two S-400 missile batteries from Russia within the next year, and then producing another two inside Turkey, …. A spokesman for Russia’s arms-export company Rosoboronexport OJSC said he couldn’t immediately comment on details of a deal with Turkey. * * * Disagreements between Turkey, which has the second-largest army by personnel numbers in NATO, and the U.S., the bloc’s biggest military, have also impacted business. …
“The administration’s much touted $110 billion arms proposal to #SaudiArabia, previously slim on specifics, includes seven #THAAD #MissileDefense batteries, over 100,000 air-to-ground munitions and billions of dollars’ worth of new aircraft …. #Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia on May 20 drew headlines for what was billed as a $110 billion arms agreement. However, experts quickly pointed out that much of the deal was speculative, as any arms sale has to go through the process of being cleared by the State Department, then Congress, before going through an often lengthy negotiating period with industry. …”
“Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) have always considered ‘the West’ – and the United States in particular – the ultimate enemy. But following President Vladimir Putin’s policy of military involvement in Syria, Russiamay have taken its place as ISIL’s main target. Thousands of ISIL fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are regrouping in the virtually impregnable mountains of Afghanistan, plotting revenge against the Kremlin. …”
“President Vladimir #Putin is pushing a plan with U.S. President Donald #Trump to create security zones and deploy peacekeepers in #Syria — possibly including #Russian forces — to enforce a faltering cease-fire as he tries to find a resolution to the more than six-year conflict. …”
“#Russia flew long-range combat aircraft near American airspace for the fourth consecutive day, the Pentagon said Friday, marking the first such string of incursions since 2014, but prompting little concern from the White House. American and Canadian jet fighters intercepted a pair of Russian “Bear” long-range bombers in international airspace near #Alaska on Thursday, said … a spokesman for North American Aerospace Defense Command, or #Norad. …”
“… For the second consecutive night, #Russia flew two long-range bombers off the coast of #Alaska on Tuesday, this time coming within 36 miles of the mainland while flying north of the #Aleutian Islands …. The two #nuclear-capable Tu-95 bombers were spotted by U.S. military radar at 5 p.m. local time. Unlike a similar incident Monday night, this time the U.S. Air Force did not scramble any fighter jets. Instead, it launched a single E-3 Sentry early warning aircraft, known as AWACS, to make sure there were only the two Russian bombers flying near Alaska, and not other aircraft flying underneath the large bombers. …”
“… In the wake of the airstrikes on a military base in Syria after a deadly chemical attack on civilians, Russia announced it was suspending cooperation of its communication link with the U.S. that protects pilots flying missions over the war-torn country. ‘I think that is a major mistake on the part of Moscow… they’re actually putting their own forces in greater jeopardy,’ Crocker said. ‘It would be to Moscow’s benefit to have these basic lines of communication. So they will lose more than we will.’ …”
“President #Trump’s decision to rain Tomahawk missiles on #Syrian airfields in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack being pinned on Damascus followed near-unanimous international condemnation of the Syrian government. Just hours before the move, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Turkey and even China, whose president, Xi Jinping, was at Trump’s estate in Florida, all blasted the Syrian government over its suspected use of chemical weapons this week. …”
“The United States launched nearly five dozen cruise missiles at a #Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, the first direct assault on the Damascus government since the beginning of that country’s bloody civil war in 2011. ‘It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,’ President Donald #Trump said in a statement. ‘Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.’
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles targeted an airbase at Shayrat, located outside Homs. The missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said. …”
VIDEO: U.S. strikes in #Syria launched from USS Porter – The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations while in the #Mediterranean Sea. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. Navy video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ford Williams
The United States fired Tomahawk missiles into Syria today in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.
President Donald J. Trump ordered the attack on Al-Shayrat Air Base, the base from which the chemical attack on Syria’s Idlib province was launched. The missiles were launched from U.S. Navy ships in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile while conducting naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price
The attack is in retaliation for the Syrian dictator for using banned chemical agents in the April 4 attack.
“Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” Trump said in a statement to the nation. “Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
Vital National Security Interest
Trump ordered the targeted military strike on the airfield that launched the attack. “It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” the president said.
No one disputes that Syria used banned chemical weapons of the people of Idlib, he said, adding that this is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria also ignored United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said. “As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”
Trump called on all civilized nations to join the United States in seeking an end to the slaughter in Syria, and to end the threat terrorism poses in the blighted nation.
Details of Strike
Shortly after the president’s address, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis issued a statement providing details of the strike. It took place at about 8:40 p.m. EDT — 4:40 a.m. April 7 in Syria, he said.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile while conducting naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price
The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, or TLAMs, launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Davis said in his statement. A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.
“As always,” Davis said, “the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict. Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.”
The strike was “a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act,” the Pentagon spokesman said, noting that Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the April 4 chemical weapons attack, he added, and the strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line, Davis said, and U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel at the airfield.
“We are assessing the results of the strike,” Davis said. “Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.”
“#UN #humanrights investigators say #Syrian civilians fell victim to #war crimes committed by all parties during the battle for #Aleppo last year. Daily air strikes by #Syria’s government and its ally #Russia claimed hundreds of lives, according to a new report. Government forces also dropped chlorine bombs, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties, it alleges. Rebels are meanwhile accused of firing shells indiscriminately at government-held areas and of using human shields. The evacuation of the rebel enclave in eastern Aleppo in December, which brought the battle to an end, also amounted to forced displacement, the investigators say. …”
Testimony presented before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces on March 1, 2017.
“… the United States and … NATO confront three related challenges in deterring Russian aggression in the Baltics (and, more generally, wherever NATO territory may be threatened). Solving all three of these is vital to achieving core American objectives in Europe … since 1945: ensure peace and stability, support democratic and market forces, and prevent the use of armed force to coerce the free people of Europe or to alter established borders. … ‘winning’ means putting in place the wherewithal to effectively deter any Russian adventurism aimed at NATO member states by being prepared to deny Moscow its objectives without escalating to the first use of nuclear weapons. …”
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence addressed a meeting of the National Governors Association at the White House on Monday, Feb. 27. Trump touched upon a variety of subjects, including the federal budget, defense spending, immigration, Obamacare and the relationship between the states and the federal government. The transcript follows below the video.
For Immediate Release February 27, 2017 Remarks by President Trump in Meeting with the National Governors Association
State Dining Room
9:45 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) That is pretty good, I’ll tell you. Coming from governors, I can’t really — I can’t even believe it. That’s so impressive. And I very much appreciate you being here. And thank you to Vice President Pence. He has been so wonderful to work with. He’s a real talent, a real guy. And he is central casting, do we agree? Central casting. He’s been great. (Applause.)
Good morning, everybody, and welcome back to the White House. The First Lady and I were very, very happy last night to host you. We saw some real talent, military talent, musicians who were fantastic. And everybody enjoyed it. (Applause.)
I’m very proud to have so many former governors in my Cabinet. Vice President Pence, as you know, big governor from a very great state — I state I like very much — Indiana. Nikki Haley at the U.N. — is Nikki here someplace? I think so — yes. We have Rick Perry — is going before. We’re trying to get people approved, we can’t get them out. But Rick is going to do a fantastic job. Sonny Purdue will be joining the Cabinet very soon. Terry Branstad will be our ambassador to China. And an interesting story on Terry — every time I spoke in Iowa, he’d say, please don’t say anything bad about China. (Laughter.) I said, what do you mean? What do you mean? He said, I like China and we do a lot of business with China. “And really, just don’t” — and I said, “hmm.” So when it came down to picking an ambassador, I called him up, I said, you like China. And I can tell you, China is very, very happy with our choice. So we made everybody happy. (Applause.) Right? These governors — thank you. And thank you, Terry.
These governors have been bold reformers, and their success shows why we need to make states the laboratories of democracy once again. Many of you have shared past frustrations with waiting for permission from the federal government and agencies — and I understand that, and I’ve had many people tell me about it, and it’s been catastrophic for some of your states. You know your citizens and you know they want things done. But they don’t get things done and it’s not your fault. Sometimes it’s your fault, but they understand that. But sometimes it’s not your fault. We’re going to speed it up.
Because that’s not how a partnership is supposed to work. The government should not stand in your way in delivering needed reforms and services — and it won’t. We’re going to move very, very quickly, environmentally, with Scott and so many others that are involved in the process of regulation. We are going to be cutting — we’re going to be doing the right thing. We’re going to be protecting people environmentally and safety-wise, but we’re going to be moving it quickly, very quickly. (Applause.)
And speaking of that, I know many of you — and I’ve spoken to some of you last night about it — have many projects that are — I mean, just literally tied up because of environmental concerns, and it’s been in for years and years and years the project your state wants, great for employment — everybody wants them — and they couldn’t get them out of environmental protection. And we will get them out. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be approved, but they’ll be rejected quickly one way or the other. They’ll be either rejected quickly or they’re going to get approved. I would say most will be approved, but you’re going to know you’re not going to wait nine years or eleven years — some of the horror stories that I’ve heard.
Under my administration, we’re going to have a true partnership of collaboration and cooperation. We will get to the answers and we will get them quickly, and the flexibility you need to implement the reforms that you are going to have in order to make decision-making proper and decision-making fast. So we’re going to do both those things — proper and fast.
One of the most important responsibilities for the federal government is the budget of the United States. My first budget will be submitted to the Congress next month. This budget will be a public safety and national security budget, very much based on those two with plenty of other things, but very strong. And it will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it. (Applause.)
And you’ll be hearing about that tomorrow night in great detail. This is a landmark event, a message to the world, in these dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve. We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war, and when called upon to fight in our name only do one thing: Win. We have to win. We have to start winning wars again.
I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say “we haven’t lost a war” — we never lost a war — you remember. Some of you were right there with me, and you remember we never lost a war. America never lost. And now we never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win. So we either got to win, or don’t fight it at all. But where we are — 17 years — almost 17 years of fighting in the Middle East. I saw a chart the other day — as of about a month ago, $6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East — $6 trillion. And I want to tell you, that’s just unacceptable. And we’re nowhere. Actually, if you think about it, we’re less than nowhere. The Middle East is far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago. There’s not even a contest. So we’ve spent $6 trillion. We have a hornet’s nest. It’s a mess like you’ve never seen before. We’re nowhere. So we’re going to straighten it out.
This defense spending increase will be offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the federal government. We’re going to do more with less. I got involved in an airplane contract, I got involved in some other contracts, and we cut the hell out of the prices. I mean, we saved a lot of money, tremendous amount of money, beyond anything that the generals that were involved — they said they’d never seen anything like this before.
On one plane, on a small order of one plane, I saved $725 million. And I would say I devoted about, if I added it up, all those calls, probably about an hour. So I think that might be my highest and best use. (Laughter.) Because if we can do that, our budget will be — might be my highest and best. (Applause.)
And there are many other places; it’s all the same. And in one way, that’s a good thing because we have an answer. And David is going to do a fantastic job at the VA. I see David is sitting there, shaking his head. Stand up, David. (Applause.) So we can’t get our people through Cabinet, but he went through — was it 95 to nothing?
SECRETARY SHULKIN: A hundred to zero.
THE PRESIDENT: How the h[***] did you do that? (Laughter.) Boy, oh boy. He must be good. You were the one. One hundred to zero, wow. Chose you — hey, we can do it. But we do — we have still quite a few Cabinet members, and they’re just in limbo waiting and waiting. It’s like obstruction. It’s obstruction. But eventually we’ll get them, and they’ll put their people in, and we’ll get those agencies, et cetera, to work.
We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people. We can do so much more with the money we spend. With $20 trillion in debt — can you imagine that — the government must learn to tighten its belt, something families all across the country have had to learn to do, unfortunately. But they’ve had to learn to do it, and they’ve done it well.
My budget increases spending, and the increase in all spending, for federal law enforcement also. And activities having to do with law enforcement will be substantially increased. And we will fight violent crime. If you look at what’s happening in our cities, you look at what’s happening in Chicago, what’s going on in Chicago — we will fight violent crime, and we will win. And we’ll win that one fairly quickly. Once we give the local police, the local law enforcement the right to go in and fight it, and we back them monetarily and also otherwise, we’re going to win that one. We’re going to win it fairly quickly, I believe.
My budget also puts America first by keeping tax dollars in America to help veterans and first responders. So important. This budget follows through on my promise to focus on keeping Americans safe, keeping out terrorists, keeping out criminals, and putting violent offenders behind bars, or removing them from our country altogether. And I must say that we’ve been treated very well — very, very well — on the job that General Kelly has done at the border. It’s tough, it’s strong.
I was talking last night to Terry McAuliffe, and he said, you have to mention this — because he met with — where is Terry? He’s around here someplace. Terry — he met with General Kelly, and I think I can say you were impressed with General Kelly. And he said, you have to get the point out that they’re removing the bad ones. And that’s where our focus is — it’s the bad ones. We’re getting some very, very bad players out of this country — drug lords, gang members, heads of gangs, killers, murderers — we’re getting them out. That’s what we’re focused on.
The press isn’t covering that, unfortunately, but it’s something that is very important. We’re getting the bad ones out. And that’s always where I said I was going to start. I was going to start with these bad players. And they are bad. They are rough and tough, and we’re getting them the hell out of our country, and we’re bringing them to where they started out. Let their country do what they have to do with them.
So the budget, which is going to be a very big part of tomorrow night’s speech, it’s going to be I think a budget of great rationality. But it’s going to have to do with military, safety, economic development, and things such as that. Great detail tomorrow night.
We’re also going to do whatever we can to restore the authority of the states when that is the appropriate thing to do. We’re going to give you back a lot of the powers that have been taken away from states and great people and great governors. And you can control it better than the federal government because you’re right on top of it. You have something that’s controllable. So I think that’s going to be very important. You see that already taking effect.
We have to let the states compete and to see who has the best solutions. They know the best how to spend their dollars and how to take care of the people within each state. And the states are different, and people are different. So the governors are going to have a lot more decision-making ability than they have right now.
All states will benefit from our economic agenda. We will reduce taxes very, very substantially, and simplify the tax code. We’re also going to make taxes between countries much more fair. We’re one of the only countries in the world that people can sell their product into us and have no tax, no nothing, and they get rich. And yet if you want to do business with them, you’ll have taxes, I’ve seen, as high as 100 percent. So they sell into us, no problem; we sell into them — because we don’t sell them because the tax is so high that they don’t want us to sell into them.
So I know that’s always been a point of contention, but to me it’s just fair. It’s just fair. It’s reciprocal. It’s fair. And so we’re going to be doing a lot of work on that, and that’s becoming a very, very important factor — fairness. Because I believe in free trade. I want so much trade — somebody said, oh, maybe he’s a total nationalist — which I am, in a true sense — but I want trade. I want great trade between countries.
But the word “free” is very deceiving, because it’s good for them, it’s not good for us. I want fair trade. And if we’re going to be taxed, they should be taxed at the same amount, the other countries. And one of two things is going to happen: We’re going to make a lot of money or the other country is going to get rid of its tax. And that’s good, too, because now the product, like Harley-Davidson — I was talking to them — the product will now flow into other countries where right now they can’t do it.
So we’re going to make it easier for states to invest in infrastructure, and I’m going to have a big statement tomorrow night on infrastructure. We spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, and we have potholes all over our highways and our roads. I have a friend who is in the trucking business. He said, my trucks are destroyed going from New York to Los Angeles. They’re destroyed. He said, I’m not going to get the good trucks. He always prided himself on buying the best equipment. He said, the roads are so bad that, by the time we make the journey from New York to Los Angeles or back, he said the equipment is just beat to hell. I said, when has it been like that before? He said, it’s never — he’s been in the business for 40 years — he said it’s never been like that. Forty years — never been like that. So we’re going to take care of that.
Infrastructure — we’re going to start spending on infrastructure big. And it’s not like we have a choice. It’s not like, oh, gee, let’s hold it off. Our highways, our bridges are unsafe. Our tunnels — I mean, we have tunnels in New York where the tiles are on the ceiling, and you see many tiles missing. And you wonder, you know, you’re driving at 40 miles an hour, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel. Take a look at the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and you’re driving, and you see all this loose material that’s heavy. And it was made many years ago, so it’s heavy. Today, it’s light. It used to be better. The problem is, you got to hold it up. And I say to myself — every time I drive through, I say, I wonder how many people are hurt or injured when they are driving at 40, 50 miles an hour through a tunnel, and the tile falls off. And there are so many missing tiles and such loose concrete. So we have to fix our infrastructure. It’s not like we have a choice. We have no choice, and we’re going to do it, and it also happens to mean jobs, which is a good thing.
We’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, and get states the flexibility that they need to make the end result really, really good for them. A very complicated issue. We have Tom Price, just got confirmed — sitting here. (Applause.) Stand up, Tom. And I spent a lot of time with Governor Walker and Governor Rick Scott the other day — we were talking about it. They’re really very expert on the subject, and I want to thank them. They spent a lot of time with me. Governor Christie who’s here someplace. Where’s Chris? Governor Christie, thank you. And so we have a lot of talent and a lot of expertise here, I will tell you. And we have come up with a solution that’s really, really, I think, very good.
Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated. And statutorily and for budget purposes, as you know, we have to do healthcare before we do the tax cut. The tax cut is going to be major, it’s going to be simple, and the whole tax plan is wonderful. But I can’t do it until we do healthcare because we have to know what the healthcare is going to cost. And, statutorily, that’s the way it is. So for those people that say, oh, gee, I wish we could do the tax first — it just doesn’t work that way. I would like to do that first. It’s actually — tax cutting has never been that easy, but it’s a tiny, little ant compared to what we’re talking about with Obamacare.
And you have to remember — and I say this to Democrats in the room — of which we have many — Obamacare has failed. If you go to Minnesota, where they had a 66-percent increase, and the governor of Minnesota, who is with us today, said, Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — is no longer affordable — something to that effect. I think that might be it exactly. But the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable. Obamacare has failed.
I say to the Republicans, if you really want to do politically something good, don’t do anything. Sit back for a period of two years, because ’17 is going to be a disaster — a disaster — for Obamacare if we don’t do something. Let it be a disaster because we can blame that on the Dems that are in our room, and we can blame that on the Democrats and President Obama. Let it implode, and then let it implode in ’18 even worse. Don’t do anything, and they will come begging for us to do something. But that’s not the fair thing to do for the people. It’s not the fair thing.
Politically, I think it would be a great solution, because as soon as we touch it, if we do the most minute thing — just a tiny, little change — what’s going to happen? They’re going to say, it’s the Republicans’ problem. That’s the way it is. But we have to do what’s right because Obamacare is a failed disaster.
And it’s interesting, it’s sort of like, when you see — you see it with politicians, you see it with President Obama — when you know he’s getting out of office and the clock is ticking, and he’s not going to be there, his approval rating goes way up, even though, you know, not that active in the last period of time. The approval rating goes up. That’s not him; that’s like almost everybody. I see it happening with Obamacare. People hate it, but now they see that the end is coming, and they’re saying, oh, maybe we love it. There’s nothing to love. It’s a disaster, folks, okay? So you have to remember that.
And, very importantly, we are going to work to restore local control to our nation’s education system. Betsy is here someplace, and she is going to be, I think, fantastic. (Applause.) I think she’s going to be fantastic. Stand up, Betsy. Betsy feels so strongly, and she has had such support from so many people. You know, you don’t see that too much because you see the anti, you never see the positive. But I can tell you, I’ve had so many calls while she was going through that horrible process. That was a tough, tough, nasty process. And she hung in, she was as strong as you get. But so many people were calling Betsy, saying you will do such a fantastic job once you get it.
It’s like sometimes I’d say, it’s much tougher to get into Harvard than it is to stay there. Does that make sense? It’s tougher to get into the Wharton School of Finance — you can’t get in. But if you get in, it’s fine, you get through, right? I think you’re going to do a fantastic job, and we’re very proud of you. And you took a lot of heat, but you’re going to do great. So she wants to bring decision-making powers back to parents, back to the families and back to the states, where they can really control education.
And just finally, I’m looking forward to working with you on these projects and so much more. We’re going to do these projects and so many more. And I thank you all again for being here. It’s going to be a really productive discussion — so productive that I’m going to ask the press to start leaving because I wouldn’t want them to see any great, productive session. (Laughter.) But they’ll be seeing it and hearing about it.
Again, thank you very much all for being at the White House. We’ll do this many times. I want the opinions of the governors of the states of the United States. So I want to just thank you all for being here, and let’s take some questions, okay? (Applause.) Thank you.
“… The first Tallinn Manual was the most comprehensive analysis of how existing international law applies to #cyber space, mostly focusing on cyber operations occurring during armed conflict. Four years after its publication, we have witnessed cyber rapidly moving to the forefront of national security agendas in response to the proliferation of cyberattacks against states, companies, and individuals alike. The Tallinn Manual 2.0, authored by nineteen respected international law experts across the globe, adds analysis of international law governing these more common forms of cyber incidents occurring during peace time. …”
Russia is preparing to carry out a new round of strikes targeting Syria from a group of warships … in the eastern Mediterranean … two U.S. defense officials [said] …. The Russian armada is centered around a Soviet-era aircraft carrier and includes three destroyers capable of launching cruise [missiles] …. Russian jets were seen taking off with weapons visible under their wings from Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, part of the flotilla located near Syria …. It marked the first time Russia had conducted armed flight operations from the aircraft carrier since leaving port ….
The United States believes two Russian aircraft attacked an aid convoy near Aleppo in a strike that shattered a one-week truce …. Despite the military blame game over Monday’s deadly attack, diplomats struggled to save the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement …. The incident, in which 18 trucks from a 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed, looked likely to deal a death blow to diplomatic efforts to halt [the] civil war …. Two Russian Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes were in the skies above the aid convoy at the exact time it was struck …. The Syrian Red Crescent said the head of one of its local offices and ‘around 20 civilians’ had been killed … other death tolls differed. The attack prompted the United Nations to suspend all aid shipments into Syria. …
The Australian, in an editorial, addresses Russia’s reaction to a U.S.-led airstrike that apparently hit some Syrian forces, including accusations that the United States is in league with the so-called Islamic State. Doubts are raised about the sincerity of Russia’s involvement with a would-be ceasefire.
… precise circumstances surrounding the botched U.S.-led coalition airstrike that killed and wounded Syrian soldiers in the mistaken belief they were Islamic State fighters have yet to be established. … we must not lose sight of the gross hypocrisy being exhibited by … Putin’s Russia as it seeks to exploit the tragedy …. posturing and finger-pointing … that contrasts with its callous belligerence and indolence after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine two years ago with the loss of 298 lives. … the Kremlin is all action on behalf of its surrogate, the murderous Assad regime. Preposterously, Moscow claims the misdirected airstrike shows ‘direct connivance’ by the coalition with Islamic State. ‘We are reaching a really terrifying conclusion for the whole world … that the White House (and, presumably, its allies) is defending Islamic State … there can be no doubt about that,’ Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that beggars belief given Moscow last week signed a ceasefire agreement, along with the US. … Moscow has vetoed or undermined every proposed UN Security Council resolution that might have helped end the horrifying civil war and … appalling atrocities ….
Three times in the last two months, the United States has flown B-1 bombers, equipped with the latest non-nuclear cruise missiles, on missions in Europe and Asia meant to show adversaries as well as allies what one U.S. commander called ‘an unshakable commitment.’ … part of strategic missions aimed at sending explicit messages to Russia, China and North Korea. Each of the B-1s is equipped with two dozen non-nuclear cruise missiles with highly accurate, bunker-busting warheads, a new capability. … The latest … took place … over the Korean peninsula, when two B-1 bombers flew within a few miles of the DMZ between North and South Korea, accompanied by U.S. F-16s and South Korean F-15s. … related to North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons test …
A new arena of competition is opening between Russia and NATO in the North Atlantic. … a newly vulnerable Cold War chokepoint known as the GIUK gap. … the maritime line between Greenland, Iceland, and the United Kingdom that served as a defensive perimeter for NATO during the Cold War. … still the only point through which Russia can project power into the Atlantic Ocean and Europe’s littoral beyond the bottlenecked Baltic and Black Seas. It remains the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean for Russia’s largest and most strategically important fleet, the Northern Fleet. … Vital global undersea communications cables also run along the ocean floor in the North Atlantic near the GIUK gap, carrying nearly all global internet traffic. Russian submarines have skirted uncomfortably close to the cables … prompting concerns that the cables would be cut if tensions between Russia and the West worsened over Ukraine, the Baltic States, Syria, or somewhere else. …
Israel and the United States have agreed to a ten-year defense deal, the largest and longest such agreement between the two nations. … the follow-on to a $30 billion, 10-year memorandum of understanding signed in 2007. …. the latest US offer stands at $3.8 billion annually, which includes some $400 million to be spent in Israel on cooperative missile defense and other pre-agreed joint programs. As a condition of expanding Israel’s top line from $30 billion to $38 billion over the coming ten years, Washington is insisting on removing a 30-year-old privilege whereby Israel is able to convert a significant portion of grant dollars into shekels for local research, development and procurement. …
The U.S. and Russia hit a renewed deadlock over efforts to strike a #Syrian cease-fire deal … Kerry snubbed … Lavrov, who was left cooling his heels in Geneva …. The U.S. has been locked in tough negotiations with Russia, whose military intervention in Syria last year reversed the course of the war in favor of its ally … al-Assad. … The civil war … has killed more than 280,000 people and sent millions fleeing …. It has … let Islamic State seize territory that it’s used as a base to direct and inspire terror attacks worldwide. … The U.S. has proposed sharing intelligence with Russia to carry out strikes against the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, now known as Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham. … Assad continues to make gains with each passing day, particularly in … Aleppo, so Russia has little incentive to come up with a deal …. Assad’s forces, backed by pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia and Russian air power, this week cut off the last rebel supply line to the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo, restoring a siege that was broken last month …
The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced. … [DOD’s] Inspector General … said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015 … $6.5 trillion for the year. … the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up. … the latest example of … severe accounting problems plaguing [DOD] for decades. … a spokesman … downplayed the significance of the improper changes, which he said net out to $62.4 billion. … The IG report also blamed DFAS, saying it too made unjustified changes to numbers. For example … rather than solving [a] disparity, DFAS personnel inserted a false ‘correction’ to make … numbers match. … [and] more than 16,000 financial data files … vanished ….
Chinese planes and ships held war games in the Sea of Japan last week, the military said, during which Beijing displayed its latest-generation frigate at a time of bitter territorial disputes with Asian neighbors. … The statement made no mention of what sort of conflict the exercise was intended as a response to, prospective foes or why the Sea of Japan was chosen as the location of the drills. However, China has grown increasingly assertive over its claim to a chain of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan …. * * * China [also] is involved in an intense rivalry with the U.S. over military dominance in the region. Tensions in the South China Sea have also risen after China refused to accept an international arbitration panel’s ruling invalidating its claim [there] …. China plans joint naval exercises with Russia in the South China Sea next month ….
Russia is reportedly building several nuclear command bunkers … Construction has been under way for several years on dozens … the emergence of the bunkers come just days after US European Command warned … Moscow has adopted an ‘alarming’ nuclear doctrine. … U.S. European Command Army General Curtis Scaparrotti said it was clear Russia was modernising its strategic forces.
‘Russian doctrine states that tactical nuclear weapons may be used in a conventional response scenario’ he reportedly said. * * * Scaparrotti … assumed command of NATO’s Allied Command Operations in May … earlier warned of increasing Russian aggression in Europe. * * * … warnings of Russian aggression in Europe and increasing nuclear threat also follow reports of the former Soviet giant building new bombers, submarines and missiles. … it [also] emerged the country was refurbishing Cold War ships known as battlecruisers to carry high powered, long range missiles.
The Wall Street Journal reports on the United States transferring 15 Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) detainees, 12 Yemenis and three Afghans, to the United Arab Emirates on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Sixty-one detainees are left at GTMO, down from 242 in 2009. However, far more detainees were transferred during the George W. Bush administration, a total of 532. Nearly 800 individuals have been detained at GTMO since it was opened after the 9/11 attacks.
Under Obama, the United States often pays up to $100,000 per detainee transferred, and attempts to continue electronic surveillance of transferred detainees.
The U.S. usually pays foreign governments to monitor transferred detainees, and underwrites resettlement costs—for language instruction, vocational courses and the like—up to $100,000 each …. people familiar with the matter said the U.S. typically conducts electronic surveillance of former detainees, while local authorities keep physical tabs on them. … the administration leverag[es] rivalries to get countries to compete over resettling the men. … Foreign governments are realizing that ‘if you want to get attention in the Obama administration, one way to do it is to take Guantanamo detainees,’ [an] official said. * * * In the U.A.E., the 15 newly transferred men will enter a rehabilitation facility modeled after a Saudi program that seeks to ‘de-radicalize’ former detainees, a senior administration official said. ‘There is an ideological component. They bring in the moderate [religious leaders]. They provide literature. They work on life skills’ ….
Concern continues about whether transferred or released detainees could rejoin terrorist activity, and opposition continues to Congressional action to authorize a complete closure of GTMO detention.
At least 30 to 40 detainees are set for prosecution by military commissions or are otherwise deemed to dangerous to release.
Administration negotiating teams continue to push to facilitate the transfer process, raising questions about whether poorer countries are being paid to induce them to take detainees that they might not otherwise take.