Surprised

Writing on the topic of our applying economic pressure on Turkey as a means of getting an American hostage (among others) freed, Greg Ip expressed surprise and worry about the weaponization of trade in his Wednesday Wall Street Journal article.

Trade wars may be morphing into something more dangerous: financial wars.

This, though, merely exposes his misunderstanding of international trade.  Such trade is far more about national policy applied internationally than it is about economics, and international finance is just a tool of that trade venue.  Trade has always been “weaponized;” it has always been about achieving national political goals, of which economics is merely one.

Turkey and Natural Gas Pipelines

War on the Rocks has an interesting piece on Turkey’s desire to become a natural gas transshipment hub feeding Europe and perhaps Russia.  I think, though, that WOTR underplays the purpose of Turkey’s transshipment goal.

Recall the existing conflict between Turkey and Europe over immigration, economics, rule of law EU-style rather than as Recep Erdoğan does it, and a host of other excuses for Turkey to claim to be put upon.

There’s Help, and There’s Help

Recall that Alphabet Inc, through its Google arm, has refused to help the US defend itself by refusing to work with DoD on the application of artificial intelligence to military projects.  After the resignations described at the link, Alphabet pulled its Google arm out of the project altogether, with effect in 2019 when its current contract expires.

On the other hand, Alphabet is enthusiastic about its Google working within the People’s Republic of China.  Mobvoi Inc, headquartered outside Beijing, makes smart watches and smart speakers for sale within—and outside—the surveillance state.

Its engineers build apps using TensorFlow, Google’s free set of development tools for artificial intelligence.

Some Thoughts on NATO

Stephen Walt, writing in Foreign Policy, had some, and as a result, so do I.

Walt’s first thought concerns the actual content of NATO’s Article V: it’s not a tripwire for war.  On this, he quoted the salient part of that Article [emphasis his]:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence … will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area….

Are Syrian Refugees Human?

Syrian MFWIC Bashar al-Assad wants Syrian refugees to come home.  The civil war is winding down, after all, and soon everything will be jake.

But obstacles the regime is throwing up to their return show that President Bashar al-Assad—mindful of the strain refugees are putting on neighboring countries—is willing to use the exiles as bargaining chips to secure foreign aid and sanctions relief, Western diplomats and analysts in Beirut say.

Al Assad still doesn’t see his own people (I’m using “his own” loosely) as human beings. To him, they’re not human at all, just chits to be cashed in for dollars and euros.

Progress?

Is northern Korea starting to fulfill the commitment Baby Kim supposedly made to begin denuclearizing?

An American research group [38 North website] on Monday claimed that North Korea has begun dismantling its main missile-engine test site [Sohae Satellite Launching Station], a possible sign that Pyongyang is fulfilling the promises North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made to President Trump at the summit in Singapore last month.

Or is it simply taking the site apart and moving it somewhere else?  A lot of engine tests, after all, can be done underground.  Only time will tell.

Another Role for UNRWA

A writer of a Letter to the Editor of The Wall Street Journal wondered why the UNWRA still was involved in handling Palestinian refugees instead of the UNHCR, which handles all other refugees worldwide.  This includes Palestinian refugees in the Gulf states, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, but not those in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza, and other geography close to or abutting Israel.

Here’s what the UNWRA did in support of its “refugees,” in particular Hamas’ 2014 terrorist war against Israel in furtherance of their own Gaza “refugees.”

  • warehoused the terrorists’ rockets for them
  • allowed the terrorists to dig their tunnels under UNRWA facilities

An Example of Irrationality

Here’s Donald Trump decrying Germany’s willingness make itself dependent on Russian energy supplies by pushing for Nordstream 2, which will mean that Germany will get 60% of its natural gas from Russia, to go with the 40% of its oil imports that already are from Russia.  Aside from becoming so dependent on an enemy for its energy, Germany will be paying Russia billions of euros for the privilege.

I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.

A Couple of Interesting Graphs

This, via Stratfor, illustrate the level of commitment and its nature of NATO member nations toward their own defense.  The first shows the breakdown of expenditures of those monies aimed at each member’s commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defense.

Notice who’s spending the most on equipment—that actual teeth of defense.  Most of the nations spending the most are right across the fence from the Russian Bear.

This graph shows which nations actually are meeting their 2% commitment.

In case the note is unreadable, the asterisk for Bulgaria notes that its figure does “not include persons.”

Allies

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, the main governing body of the European Union, says

Dear America, appreciate your allies, you don’t have that many[.]

That’s true enough; we certainly don’t have that many who aren’t demanding to freeload off American blood and treasure for their defense while being unwilling to contribute much of their own to their defense.

Tusk tweeted soon after,

US doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than EU. We spend on defense much more than Russia and as much as China.