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In Topic: The Trump Presidency Thread

Today, 11:22 AM

Also this.

Patrick Chovanec‏
A lot of people seem sadly unaware of what the geopolitical purpose of NATO actually is.
Hint: It's not just about the Russians.

Maybe, just maybe, there are other geopolitical imperatives more important than (or even at odds with) our allies "pulling their fair share"

Thesis: Germany and Japan "free riding" (to some extent) on US for defense is a feature, not a bug - and less costly to US in the long run.

NATO is about Germany not feeling the need to take care of things themselves and dominate Europe since we know how that turned out the last couple times.

In Topic: The Trump Presidency Thread

Today, 10:59 AM

View PostEssay21, on 28 May 2017 - 10:00 AM, said:

Why should I care about this?

Because the Atlantic Alliance has kept us from a catastrophic war

Trump Remains a NATO Skeptic

Instead, Trump harangued European leaders for letting in refugees and for not meeting the 2 percent defense-spending target. It should not have come as a surprise. Trump needs enemies but beating up on your rivals is hard. You may have to make good on your threats. Beating up on your friends is easier. Given the occasion, it took some rhetorical effort to avoid endorsing Article 5. Dissing Europeans while dedicating a monument to remember the 888 European, 158 Canadian, and 2,396 American troops who died in Afghanistan took some doing.

Trump’s failure to personally endorse Article 5 may come to be one of the greatest diplomatic blunders made by an American president since World War II. We will not know for sure for some time. The thing about diplomatic mistakes is that they create new incentive structures that take a while to play out. Few noticed when Dean Acheson failed to include South Korea in the American defense perimeter until Kim Il Sung invaded six few months later. And no one paid much attention when April Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam Hussein that the United States had no interest in his border dispute with Kuwait until he invaded a week later.

The problem is that Article 5 is ambiguous. It does not commit America to automatically defend a member state. It stipulates that each country should come to the aid of another with “such action as it deems necessary.” To compensate for this ambiguity, every American president has interpreted it as an automatic commitment to defend Europe from Russian aggression. This interpretation, combined with a credible military option, has functioned as an effective deterrent. Trump’s clear refusal fuels doubt about his commitment to defend Europe.

There were other incidents on the trip. Gary Cohn, a senior White House official who is close to Trump, told reporters that the United States has no position on sanctions on Russia before later reversing himself. Donald Tusk, the president of the EU Council, acknowledged that the United States and the EU could not agree on Russia. And Russia was not even on the agenda at the NATO mini-summit, likely a futile gesture to appease Trump.

This makes President Trump look weak and indecisive—weak because he is gutting America’s position of strength in Europe, and indecisive because his administration is at sixes and sevens on Article 5. Is he really in favor or opposed to it? No one knows for sure. And weakness and indecision can be provocative.

The great risk is that Vladimir Putin will see an opportunity. In Trump, Putin has a president who is largely aligned with his worldview. But Putin’s problem is that Trump is constrained. He cannot deliver sanctions relief. He cannot deliver a new Yalta agreement to grant Russia a sphere of influence. He cannot even meet Putin for a one-on-one summit, such is the level of opposition in the United States.

Why would Putin be satisfied with some warm words from Trump but no real deliverables? The key lies in understanding that a President Trump always had two advantages for Putin. One is that he might be able to make concessions that others would not. The other is that he may be a weaker adversary than the alternative.

Putin may now be tempted to turn on Trump and put him to the test. He may try to accomplish something that cannot be undone by Trump’s successor. Breaking NATO would be the biggest prize he could imagine. This week’s debacle increases that risk. NATO would probably never recover if a member state invoked Article 5 and the United States did little or nothing.

Mainstream elements in the Trump administration are acutely aware of this danger and they are working hard to remove the doubt created by the president. All other members of the national security team have come out in support of Article 5. Defense Secretary James Mattis has continued the troop deployments to the Baltics begun under President Obama. This and other operations ensure that a tripwire force of U.S. troops would be immediately entangled in a conflict in the event of a Russian invasion. But the test could come in other ways. It may be a more subtle form of hybrid war. The Pentagon is preparing for that, too, but Putin is resourceful.

Ultimately, Trump is the commander-in-chief. What he thinks and what he believes matters. He has a 30-year track record of criticizing America’s alliances and being favorable toward Russia. The real risk lies less in his proactive attempts to revolutionize American foreign policy—he is too weak bureaucratically for that—and more in what he will not do at a time of crisis.

We can hope that the Pentagon’s efforts to bolster deterrence will be enough. If they are, this trip will be recorded in history as a bit of a fiasco but little more than that. If it is not, and if Putin decides to truly test Trump, it be the opening page of a tragic story.

In Topic: 2017 Poker Central Super High Roller Bowl

Today, 09:13 AM

Going to be a lot of talking going on at Daniel's starting table

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Kevin Hart and Hellmuth at the same table.

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In Topic: 2017 Poker Central Super High Roller Bowl

Today, 09:13 AM

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In Topic: 2017 Poker Central Super High Roller Bowl

Today, 09:11 AM

Kevin Mathers‏ @Kevmath 3h3 hours ago
Kevin Mathers Retweeted Paul Campbell
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