NAFTA, the State Department and USAID: What the Trump Administration Needs to Learn about Soft Power


The Trump administration is working to dismantle or diminish existing trade agreements and foreign aid programs to the detriment of United States foreign policy. Among the targeted programs are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the office of the Secretary of State. The stated rationale for renegotiating NAFTA is that the Trump administration does not see the merit in multi-lateral trade agreements but, given the many tweets and comments made by President Donald Trump about Mexico’s “bad hombres”, the need for a wall and the crack-down on immigration, the actual motivation is skewed. As for USAID and the Secretary of State the rationale is that the monies currently budgeted could be better spent on building up the United States military.

While Mr. Trump’s America’s First Foreign Policy states that, “…in pursuing a foreign policy based on American interests, we will embrace diplomacy. The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies,” the truth is that the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts reflect a lack of understanding of the importance of soft power.

Soft power is anything short of military force or hard power to achieve an objective beneficial to the United States. Fortunately, there are seasoned military personnel, Congressional lawmakers, a few Executive Branch members, and diplomatic corps standing ready to offer assistance to prevent the United States from being further degraded internationally by the misuse or disuse of soft power.

The State of the State Department

The fiscal year 2017 State Department and USAID budget request is approximately $50 billion, part of a broader $58.8 billion “international affairs budget,” but a pittance when compared to the $3 trillion-plus federal budget. The highly secretive Trump administration wants the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to cut their budgets by at least 37 percent. Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, accustomed to speaking his mind, having been the Commander of the United States Central Command and as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, told Congress in 2013, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”   There has been no indication that General Mattis position has shifted.

Secretary of Defense General Mike Mattis

On February 27th 120 retired three and four star flag and general officers from all branches of the armed services, including two former CIA directors, General Michael V. Hayden and General David H. Petraeus, signed a letter directed to Senators Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the House and Senate majority and minority leaders, urging them to safeguard the State Department and USAID budgets.

Quoting General Mattis, the letter further stated, “The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way… The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism– lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.”

“It’s dead on arrival, it’s not going to happen, it would be a disaster. This budget destroys soft power, it puts our diplomats at risk and it’s going nowhere,” commented Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the State Department and Foreign Operations.

The budget cuts are expected to encounter bipartisan resistance.

Less out-spoken is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in Washington these days, is like finding Waldo. In a leaked State Department memo, it is stated that Mr. Tillerson “…is deeply concerned about the timing and the size of the reductions and he will appeal to rationalize and reduce our size and structure in a matter that makes us leaner and more efficient. We intend to make the strongest argument possible in our appeal that the Department needs this additional funding to ensure the United States remains active, engaged and influential throughout the world and that any changes to our mission or way or doing business occur in the context of the National Security Strategy.”

Mr. Tillerson is said to have agreed in principle to departmental budget cut but that wants the reductions spread over three years, with only a 20 percent cut the first year, as opposed to one annual reduction.

The United States Agency for International Development

According to the USAID website, the “USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works in 13 wide-ranging sectors to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.” USAID’s activities are conducted by 14 separate bureaus and 11 independent offices engaging in wide array of activities spread among at least 107 countries – more than one half of the United Nations members states.

USAID was designed to first and foremost support good governance. Yet the 2016 USAID budget was a whopping $22.3 billion; of which only $2.4 billion was spent on state-building and good governance. The rest was dedicated to poverty alleviation, global health, biodiversity, women’s empowerment, education, sanitation, and economic and agriculture development.

Without sustainable governance all other initiatives fail to be sustainable. Before there can be governance, there often needs to be security sector reform; which is training local law enforcement and military personnel to maintain the peaceful environment necessary for self-governance. Security sector reform is an integral part of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In the vast majority of recipients security conditions have deteriorated. Security sector reform is a function traditionally carried out by militaries or United Nations peacekeeping forces justifying organizational change.

Lessons Learned from Afghanistan

The U.S.’s presence Afghanistan has thus far cost taxpayers $686 million. The 2016 USAID budget for all programs in Afghanistan was $1,024,314,523; a significant reduction from the 2015 budgeted amount of $3,072,502,384. This amount augments the amounts being expended by the State Department United States military, the United Nations and the European Union.

In August 2003 NATO took over for the U.S. in the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan that ran until December 2014. A second NATO-led mission, Operation Resolute Support, supported by 6,000 troops, was launched in January 2015 to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces.

The U.S. is running a coordinated mission – Operation Freedom’s Sentinel – involving an additional 8,400 troops, of which 2,150 troops are counterterrorism specialists. Over the past 14 years, the U.S. Congress has appropriated more than $68 million to train, equip, and pay the salaries of up to 352,000 soldiers, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and 30,000 members of the Afghan Local Police.

In addition, on October 5th, 70 international donors, including the European Union, pledged $15.2 billion or £12.3 Euros to support Afghanistan’s development until 2020. Funding for the Afghan military was an additional $5 billion annually. This contribution was made with the hope that Afghan refugees in Europe and the MENA region would have a secure home to which to return.

Despite all of these efforts there is not a stable Afghan government. The process of security sector reform was and remains far from complete making all other programs dysfunctional as their sustainability is contingent upon a reliable and stable government with law enforcement and military personnel who are effective and able to rise above pervasive corruption. Part of the problem, in a country having regional, tribal and even Sharia law, was that religious, cultural and ethnic beliefs were not studied beforehand leading to incorrect assumptions as to how engage in building a nation or nation-building that is premised on Rule of Law.

Thus while the 2004 Constitution created the Supreme Court of Afghanistan in Kabul, which applies both new civil laws and Islamic law, depending on the case, the outlying regions, lacked and understanding of new processes, as well as trained judges and attorneys.

Only the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul offers a legal program where concepts related to Rule of Law and civil law are taught. The Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP), founded in 2007 as a student-driven initiative under Stanford Law School’s Rule of Law Program, has already published six textbooks about Afghan law for Afghan audiences. In 2012 the U.S. Department of State, awarded the ALEP a $7.24 million grant to expand the textbook program and to establish a Bachelor of Arts and Law program at the American University of Afghanistan.

Even in Kabul, security is not guaranteed. On February 7th a suicide bomber targeted judicial personnel leaving the Kabul Supreme Court on a bus at the end of the work day killing twenty people and injuring 41 others. This was not the first Taliban attack on the court and court personnel.

USAID’s website indicates that it is financing a wide variety of Afghani programs yet there seems to be nothing tying them together, least of all, a secure government.  The same holds true in other countries where USAID is active.

Afghanistan is costly lesson learned.

Changing the Organizational Structure

According to a 2016 Foreign Policy article, USAID is allegedly “…training security forces that can exercise a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, supporting courts that can dispense a semblance of justice, staffing a professional civil service that is not compromised by rampant corruption, and constructing financial mechanisms that can allow the state to raise and spend revenue with some degree of transparency. USAID does not, at the moment, have the necessary competency in any of these fields.”

Competence requires staffing by individuals having sufficient field experience in a particular country. USAID has been criticized for hiring individuals fresh out of school with only their Master’s degree in hand. It has been wisely suggested that the USAID hire highly trained former Army personnel.

Prior to the 2016 election it was argued that the USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corp., another government development assistance agency, along with smaller agencies like the Peace Corps, the Inter-American Foundation, the African Development Foundation, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., and the Trade and Development Agency, should be consolidated within the State Department.

Under normal circumstances the State Department is involved in soft power determinations, including aid and nation-building, with that budget exceeding $8 million dollars. However, since the Mr. Trump came into office things are far from normal.

Questions have been raised as to what power if any Mr. Tillerson wields within his own department and what level of communication exists between the Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Trump and his closest advisors. Based on sources close to Exxon who wish to remain undisclosed, Mr. Tillerson is well-suited for the customarily high profile role of Secretary of State.

The situation overall has deteriorated to the point that Mr. Tillerson was not even made aware that the Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray was meeting with Mr. Trump, and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Economic Council Directory Gary Cohn and National Security Adviser HR McMaster. The accepted protocol is that Mr. Videgaray should have not only have been greeted by Mr. Tillerson but, Mr. Tillerson should have been in attendance at all meetings.

The State Department is presently under-staffed with many key personnel having been fired or having left on their own accord. Mr. Tillerson has been unable to have his senior level personnel choices approved by the Trump administration.

Even under optimal conditions, the State Department, like USAID, is not the logical government entity to engage in nation-building, which involves peacekeeping and security sector reform. Those functions should fall under the purview of the Secretary of Defense. General Mattis has the experience to develop and implement essential and tailored nation-building and security sector programs.

The other components of soft power or aid that arise concurrently with the establishment of a sustainable government can be facilitated by the State Department. To this end, this author agrees the myriad of remaining programs be consolidated into the either the Secretary of Defense or the State Department.

Changing the Focus

In addition to changing the organization structure, there needs to be a structured review of the countries presently receiving aid. It is not difficult to make the argument that Egypt, no longer the ally it once was, or Pakistan, whose corrupt military and intelligence agency run the country with no benefit to the U.S., ought to be cut from U.S. aid programs. Conversely, it is easy to offer aid to Jordan and Lebanon, which are not only pursuing good governance, but have taken in a disproportionate number of refugees. Other countries where the expenditure of aid would be beneficial include Ukraine, Romania, and Poland, which while being protected from Russian aggressions by NATO and the U.S. are all suffering internal governance issues requiring support from the international community.

More difficult questions occur when considering Burma, the Philippines, and Israel. In the case of Burma, we are dealing with a fragile democracy that is engaged in ethnic cleansing and even the genocide of its minority Muslim Rohingya population. There now exists the potentiality that a jihadist terrorist cell could evolve jeopardizing the region. Aid in 2016 was close to $65 million. Going forward aid should be conditional.

A similar situation exists with the Philippines, which is strategically position in the South China Sea and a long-term U.S. ally. But, the extrajudicial killings ordered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte offend not only sensibilities but are human rights violations at the very least. In 2016 the U.S. gave the Philippines $76.9 million in aid, with $4.72 million specifically earmarked for “Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance”.

Israel presents an interesting situation. We all remember Mr. Trump’s promises to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  But, when the time came all Mr. Trump had to say at the February 15th joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.” Looking at that statement, the only solution both countries could like is a two-state solution as the Palestinians have no other option. While both Palestine and Israel receive U.S. the amount paid to the Israeli government is mind-boggling.

According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, “Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.”

Here is the perfect opportunity to reduce the budget while conditioning future aid on peace being achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian frozen conflict. Money can melt the hearts of man, including that of Mr. Netanyahu.


America’s First Foreign Policy states that, “President Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA. If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.”

On March 10th U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that he intends to launch fast-tracked formal talks to renegotiate NAFTA. “Fast track” or a 90 day negotiating period was granted to the president by Congress to streamline the approval of trade partners with Congress having the final vote.

Since the NAFTA treaty took effect in 1994 trade in goods between the United States, Canada and Mexico had quadrupled to $1.1 trillion by 2016. While technically a trade treaty, NAFTA has served as a form of soft power with Mexican authorities. For instance, the arrest and extradition of notorious drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, could not have occurred without the assistance of Mexican authorities. There have been many other arrests of individuals in Mexico affiliated with drug cartels.

The Trump campaign was staunchly against migrants. The truth is Illegal migration along the US-Mexico border is at its lowest level since 1972. To reach the United States, Central American migrants were crossing Mexico’s 750-mile border between it and Guatemala and Belize. The Mexican government accepted help from the U.S. to devise a systematized border patrol system. A year later, between October 2014 and April 2015, deportations and detentions on Mexico’s southern border drastically increased with Mexico apprehending 92,889 Central American migrants; double the 49,893 apprehended during the same period the year prior.

Mexico’s willingness to engage in these important initiatives would certainly decline or disappear should NAFTA be renegotiated in a manner placing it at a financial disadvantage. For this reason, NAFTA, as to Mexico, was be conceptualized as a necessary use of soft power.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.


Adams, Gordon, and Sololsky, Richard, “Savaging State and USAID Budgets Could Do Wonders for Results”, March 9, 2017, Foreign Policy, as found on the www at

“Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP)”, Stanford University Law School, as found on the www at

America’s First Foreign Policy, White House, as found on the www at

Boot, Max, and Miklaucic, Michael, “USAID Should Become the Department of Nation-Building,” June 22, 2016, Foreign Policy, as found on the www at

Letter to Congressional Leaders, February 27, 2017, as found on the www at

Rogin, Josh, “Tillerson pushes back on White House’s proposed cuts to State Department and USAID”, March 3, 2017, Washington Post, as found on the www at

SHARED PROGRESS, SHARED FUTURE, Financial Report 2016, USAID, as found on the www at See e.g.  “USAID launches $70 million program to strengthen early grade reading skills in Afghanistan”, March 5, 2017, USAID, as found on the www at

Sharp, Jeremy M., ”The Congressional Research Service’s report “U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel,” December 22, 2016, Congressional Research Service, as found on the www at


Nationalism: Russian Hybrid Warfare

“People are bewildered, without anchor or perspective. Too many people have been left behind, creating a deep-felt need for protection. A need for security, not of a military kind, but of a social kind.

The populist answer is: exclusion. Shut others out. Not just Muslims. Anyone who disagrees is the enemy. After the British Referendum and the US elections, you could hear:  “I am the people” or “We are the nation”. As if the ‘others’ didn’t matter anymore.

I reject this solution. Because where exclusion wins, freedoms suffer. As we have all too often seen in our history.”

These were the powerful observations of Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission at the Future Force Conference.

Over 1200 leaders from over 50 countries attended the Dutch Ministry of Defence’s Future Force Conference 2017 held in The Hague on February 9 and 10. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Dutch Minister of Defence, stated that the conference was organized to bring, “people together in order to create a more secure world”.

Opening the conference General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence Netherlands Armed Forces, stated that there is “An uncertain future is looming on the horizon…. this affects us all.”

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Dutch Minister of Defence

Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert concurred, stating, “Security in the world has seriously deteriorated since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Unfortunately, there is little likelihood of it improving any time soon. We have to be realistic. We are living in a time of violent change.”

While participants were predominantly military, private sector leaders, representing the full range of NGOs, were also active participants. The conference’s focus was to develop new ways of avoiding conflict, countering nationalism and misinformation, re-conceptualizing conflict, and post-conflict peace building and peacekeeping through an ecosystem that is inclusive of all stakeholders at every stage. For instance, collaborative defense could use technologies to help people rebuild their houses or obtain potable water.


The most critical concern is that the Russian Federation is and has been determined to destabilize Europe and now the relationship between Europe and the United States. Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimea Peninsula, its ongoing aggressions in Ukraine, its military buildup on its Western borders and in the Baltic region, and its interference with elections in Europe and the United States, were also of significant concern to conference attendees. These are examples of Russian hybrid warfare. Russia’s hybrid warfare toolbox also includes the rapid dissemination of misinformation and propaganda, conventional warfare, nuclear armament, cyberattacks, espionage, and the ever-increasing use of proxies, including Syria and even the Afghani Taliban.

“[S]ince Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, we have been alerted to the particular threat of hybrid warfare. This threat, too, is borderless and multi-dimensional. It affects all of us. It is designed to remain below the threshold of open interstate war [under Article Five of the Washington Treaty]. And to reap rewards that are normally associated with victory in war. Hybrid warfare is real indeed!” explained Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert.

In an interview just days prior, Jamie Shea, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, stated that, “Where Russia is different vis-à-vis the old Soviet Union, is that it now has a much stronger foothold within our western democracies, in terms of media ownership, influence on populist parties, cyber instruments, energy relationships and other business deals. All of this gives Russia a much larger keyboard on which to play and it tends to use all of these instruments and to see in each particular case which one can produce the most confusion and destabilization. [T]he key thing is to expose Russia’s behavior quickly and effectively by clamping down on fake news and attributing cyber operations. We also need to build a strong military defence because the key thing is preventing Russia from trying to convert a hybrid warfare-type of attack into an actual military attack. We can recover quickly from the first type but unfortunately not so quickly from the second type.”

“Russia has less checks and balances than at any time before in history. Putin has unparalleled power. Now more than ever, when we see the return of geopolitics. Russia is challenging the European order. We see hybrid warfare, now in Ukraine. Will the Baltic states be next?” asked Mr. Timmermans.


The battles won against ISIS in reducing the territory it controls and by increasing screening at borders in the United States and Europe have resulted in retaliatory attacks abroad. In recent years, only a few attacks have been directly controlled by ISIS from abroad. Now, the majority of attacks come from lone actors; typically individuals who feel disenfranchised and disempowered by society or who were previously trained by ISIS abroad. In many cases, these lone wolves have been directly recruited and directed by ISIS operatives via the Internet.

“The fight against terrorism is borderless. We also have to deal with it in our own inner cities,” confirmed Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert.

“Terrorism is very much defined by its international character. And the internet has transformed the way crime is conducted online,” agreed Europol Director Rob Wainwright.


There have been a plethora of reports of misinformation funneled by the Kremlin through third-party actors. The most recent incident involved the 2016 American presidential election. Another example occurred in the Netherlands on April 7, 2016 when voters overwhelmingly rejected a Ukraine-European Union treaty for closer political and economic ties. It was evident that many voters were influenced by misinformation as to the breadth of the treaty and that Russia was the source of the misinformation. Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, pronounced the result “an indication of European attitudes to the Ukrainian political system”.

Mr. Timmermans explained that, “In Europe, we see the return of the politics of paranoia. Fueled by alternative facts in Internet echo chambers, the disruptive forces of xenophobia, intolerance, illiberalism and nationalism and are on the march. New parties are peddling old, dangerous ideas. Brexit, Turkey, Poland, Hungary and even in the Western Balkans we see the return of fault lines in Europe. Not an iron curtain of machine guns and minefields, but a barrier of the mind, between inclusion and exclusion, between open and closed societies.”

“Nothing of ‘the old war’ is here anymore. We’re facing terrorism that is using information as a powerful weapon,” opined Monica Maggioni, President of RAI Italia and Vice President of the European Broadcasting Union. Ms. Maggioni emphasized the role social media plays in the dissemination of false information. She stressed the importance that the Fourth Estate engage in rigorous fact checking prior to publication.

The Technology: Cybersecurity, Deep Learning, and Artificial Intelligence

To counter Russian interference with democratic processes there is the growing need for enhanced cybersecurity and intelligence sharing amongst Western countries. There are intelligence agencies, such as Europol and the National Security Administration, already hard at work at increasing collaboration. While most collaboration occurs behind the scenes one public example is Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, tipping off its American counterparts as to Russian interference in the United States presidential election.

“Cyberspace risks becoming the battlespace of the future, as it is less well governed and regulated.” said Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert.

The problem with regulation is that state and non-state actors, such as ISIS, are responsible for cyberattacks and cyberwarfare will never succumb to any sort of governance or regulation.

This is why Dr. William Roper, Director of the Strategic Capabilities Office, United States Department of Defense, stressed that, “It’s critically important to talk about the future now.”

Discussing cyber warfare and cyber security, “Our whole approach to warfare will have to fundamentally change,” said Dr. Roper.

Dr. Roper said that we must “Change the game. Try a disruptive flipping of the paradigm, like changing offensive technologies to defensive weapons.”

Dr. Roper employed a sports team analogy. “Sports teams don’t throw out the whole playbook, but simply change it so that the new playbook has all the advantages of the old one but with restored surprise.”

“Living within the constraints of existing hardware and software focuses ideas, encourages joint cross-domain thinking, and necessitates partnerships,” explained Dr. Roper in a 2016 report to the United States Senate Armed Services Committee.

Dr. Roper went on to emphasize the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning. “There is not a single domain that will not be touched by AI. Go all in. If we don’t, we’ll be like a museum defence organisation,” stated Dr. Roper.

AI and Deep Learning have a full range of military and intelligence functions. For instance, through remote operated drones, the number of troops deployed is reduced and, ergo, the number of casualties reduced.

Mr. Holslag and Dr. Roper

Going “all in” requires acclimating troops to rapidly evolving technologies. “Soldiers [become] information warriors: when they are proud of what they do, they can explain this to their direct environment.” said moderator and keynote speaker, Jonathan Holslag, Professor of International Politics, Free University Brussels.

The EU, Brexit and the United States

Since World War Two the United States has led the world in geopolitics. With every conflict, attack and disaster, the world has always looked first to hear what “Washington” has to say. In recent years, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Li Jinping have challenged United States dominance by increasing their global power base, something former President Barack Obama fought hard to protect against. With the advent of the Trump administration and Brexit the global power structure is uncertain causing insecurity among countries not only in the European Union but in Southeast Asia.  For the European Union the greater threat emanates from Russia President Vladimir Putin’s grandiose expansionist foreign policy evidenced by Russia’s military buildup.

“The drawing inwards of the United States increases the spheres of influence for Russia and China,” observed Mr. Shea.

Addressing this issue head-on Mr. Timmermans stated that:

“We see the return of the menace of nuclear war. Russia has less checks and balances than the Soviet Union had. President Putin enjoys more unrestrained power, than Nikita Khrushchev ever did. For a moment, just imagine the Cuban nuclear missile crisis fought out on Twitter between Presidents Trump and Putin. We need a new rule book, new red lines and most importantly of all, we need a new escalation control. The Transatlantic relationship transcends any singular politician on any side of the Atlantic and remains the bedrock of our security. But it does mean we have to do our bit: Europe must pull its weight and shoulder its burden for its own security.

I strongly believe that our strategic interests run completely parallel to those of the United States. Our relationship goes back a long way and supersedes transitory personalities and politicians. We are relatives by history and friends by choice. We are friends because the same values underpin our societies: Openness. Diversity. Pluralism. Freedom. Democracy. I am not afraid these values will erode. I believe in the strength of American society. I am sure that checks and balances will ultimately win the day. But let’s not worry about what goes on across the pond, when right here, on our own doorstep, our fundamental values are under threat.”

Mr. Timmermans cautioned that, “The future of Europe is not decided by the tweets of the President of the United States. Brexit and Trump are having enormous centripetal effect on the [European Union] Member States.”

Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, Chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, spoke of the “disaffection in the United States” stating that “Trump is the insurgent in office”.

Admiral Duncan Potts, Great Britain’s Director of General Joint Force Development & Defence Academy, the equivalent of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Europe can no longer assume that the United States is the trusted ally it once was and that, over the last few years, the number of United States allies has slowly declined.

“The taken for granted can no longer be taken for granted. Experts can no longer be trusted. Assertions seem to trump evidence,” concluded Admiral Potts.

Their comments contradicted the information released earlier by British Prime Minister Theresa May following her meeting with President Donald Trump as to the strength of the relationship between the two countries.

“The question is not can America lead but will America lead?” asked Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who served as NATO’s 11th Secretary General, speaking during a breakout session on “Access Denied – Dealing with Degraded Political and Operational Environments”.

Without offering any rationale Mr. de Hoop Scheffer expressed concern that the United States is more concerned with developments in the South China Sea that in Europe. While United States Secretary of Defense General James Mattis’ first visit abroad was to Southeast Asia, the comment ignores the fact that on his first in office General Mattis spoke to both NATO and NATO member nations reassuring them of the United States continued support.

Perhaps Europe will find greater confidence in America’s commitment by virtue of General Michael Flynn’s February 13, 2017 resignation as National Security Advisor.

Unity Trumps Nationalism

A recurrent theme was the growing nationalism in Europe and the United States. Nationalism isolates people from people and nations from nations. Nationalism is a destabilizer. Nationalism empowers not only Russia but also China.

“There is a strong and understandable desire among many citizens in Europe, the United States and elsewhere…to ‘take back control’. By closing borders. By raising levies and protectionist walls. By reaffirming national identities,” stated Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert.

“To create a positive ecosystem, try positive patriotism as an alternative for negative nationalism. Walls don’t work,” suggested Mr. Holslag.

“Make no mistake: if our morale falters, military security will not help us,” warned Mr. Timmermans.

The United States, Europe, NATO and their allies should take heed of the words of President John F. Kennedy, “Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.


The Future Force Conference highlighted that we can no longer depend on our defence institutions. It is incumbent that stakeholders become invested in security and stability in the democratized world.

“We all live in a time of confusion where our usual point of reference no longer works to understand the world.” said Alia Aoun, Legal Advisor, Lebanon Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In order to maintain and foster societies adhering to Rule of Law we must take a step back and evaluate our values and how they impact the world around us. This is a wake-up call for collective and conscious global thought and action. The need for change in perspective was perhaps no better expressed than in a short video of World War II veteran and the last surviving Nuremberg Prosecutor Ben Ferencz who spoke about the future if humanity fails to chart a new course:…%2522%257D%257D

“Together, we are the force for good. It is up to us to walk that talk. By thinking big, and by acting small,” concluded General Middendorp.

General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence Netherlands Armed Forces

Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert concurred, stating that, “On this tiny planet, we depend on each other like never before. Let us start behaving accordingly. Let us start turning the tide.”

Imagine that.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague. She is a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.


Lardner, Cynthia, “NATO’s Importance to the Security of the United States: A Conversation with Jamie Shea”, February 8, 2017, as found on the www at;; and

Roper, William B., “Strategy and Implementation of the Department of Defense’s Technology Offsets Initiative in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2017”, April 12, 2016,  Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Armed Services Committee, U.S. Senate, as found on the www at

Speeches, Future Force Conference 2017, as found on the www at

America’s First Energy Plan Falls Flat

The Trump administration’s promises to reform the Environmental Protection Agency, to scale back on environmental laws and regulations, to exit the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and to implement his America’s First Energy Plan, omit any explanation of the legal processes involved. President Donald Trump will be likely be unable to deliver on most, if not all, of his environmental promises in the 46 remaining months in his term because the United States is a democracy, having three branches of government, as well as the fourth estate, and not a private corporation.

In conjunction with these illusory promises, Mr. Trump over and over again touts his ability to stimulate economic growth and job creation in America’s poorest areas. He says he wants to bring the coal industry back. Economically this makes no sense. The bottom line is that investment in the renewable energy sector generates more jobs per dollar spent. Consider that coal mining towns are situated in mountainous regions – the perfect place to retrain unemployed workers to build, install and maintain wind farms.

The bottom line people who will lose from the ill-conceived America’s First Energy Plan are those families who are already suffering economic hardship who believed Mr. Trump’s campaign promises and choose to vote for him believing in a better tomorrow.

What Fuels Trump’s America’s First Energy Plan?

Climate Action Plan

First, the plan involves eliminating the Climate Action Plan, the Waters of the U.S. or Clean Water Rule, and  the U.S. Methane rule limiting emissions from oil and gas installations on federal land.

According to the EPA, “Clean water upstream means cleaner water flowing into rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters… The Clean Water Rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined, more predictably determined, and easier for businesses and industry to understand.”

The Clean Water Rule was promulgated after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers evaluated the latest science, including a report summarizing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies showing that small streams and wetlands play an integral role in the health of larger downstream water bodies.

Under the non-delegation doctrine, the EPA was authorized by “enabling legislation” in the Clean Water Act to promulgate regulations. Generating regulations is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA); a process that includes publication of the proposed rules along with a notice of proposed rulemaking, a period for comments and participation in the decision making process and, ultimately, adoption and publication of final rules in the Code of Federal Register (CFR).

The Clean Water Rule has been stayed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in In re: Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense Final Rule; “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States, Case Nos. 15-3799/3822/3853/3887 (6th Cir., Oct. 9, 2015), in which the Court held:

“A stay allows for a more deliberate determination whether this exercise of Executive power, enabled by Congress and explicated by the Supreme Court, is proper under the dictates of federal law. A stay temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion that springs from uncertainty about the requirements of the new Rule and whether they will survive legal testing. A stay honors the policy of cooperative federalism that informs the Clean Water Act and must attend the shared responsibility for safeguarding the nation’s waters… The Clean Water Rule is hereby STAYED, nationwide, pending further order of the court.”

On February 28th Mr. Trump directed the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assess whether Clean Water Rule promotes economic growth and minimizes regulatory uncertainty. This fact-finding directive conflicts with newly confirmed EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s definitive statement that the EPA’s focus on combating climate change had cost jobs and stunted economic growth.

The harsh reality is that the Trump administration is bound by the stay – a stay not issued by a “so called court”. Once that case is decided, the procedures for substantive amendment to or repeal of a rule are the same as for the issuance; a time-intensive process.

Standards to Cut Methane Emissions

After two years of conducting research and complying with the APA, on May 12, 2016, the EPA issued its final Standards to Cut Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Sector, 40 CFR 60; regulations to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds and toxic air emissions by the oil and natural gas industries.

A year prior the proposed rules were unsuccessfully challenged in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in which New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed the following statement explaining the importance of these standards:

“The oil and gas industry is the country’s largest source of emissions of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Controlling these emissions is essential to combatting climate change. The regulations adopted by EPA in May reflect the ready-availability of proven, effective, and affordable measures for reducing methane emissions from new and modified sources in the oil and gas industry. They also fulfill EPA’s legal responsibility under the Clean Air Act to limit the industry’s methane emissions from these sources.

We can no longer afford to disregard the overwhelming evidence of climate change, and the threat that it poses to our families, communities, and economy. My office is proud to stand with our fellow coalition members in aggressively defending these important controls on climate change pollution.”

The case was dismissed as premature as the EPA “…has not yet issued a final rule. It has issued only a proposed rule.” Since the issuance of the final rules there have been no legal challenge. But, as in the case of the Clean Water Rule, any effort to change the existing regulations would have to follow the time-consuming administration process.

Climate Action Plan

Second, Mr. Trump wants to eliminate the Climate Action Plan. While neither legislation nor a rule the Climate Action Plan reflects a national policy toward reducing the impact of climate change by cutting carbon pollution that not only causes climate change and but adversely affects public health, and by promoting the conversion to clean energy.  Some of its benchmarks include:

  • Directs EPA to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholder to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants;
  • Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies;
  • Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector – through efficiency standards set over the course of the Administration for appliances and federal buildings; and
  • Leverages new opportunities to reduce pollution of highly-potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons; directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy; and commits to protect our forests and critical landscapes.

The Department of Energy is responsible for oversight of the Climate Action Plan. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry was confirmed on March 2nd as Energy Secretary. Previously, Mr. Perry vowed to close the Department of Energy, he has supported the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline, and called climate change a “contrived phony mess” with efforts to tackle climate change “hysteria.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing, to no great surprise, Mr. Perry made radically different statements. For instance, he testified that, “My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

Mr. Perry added that he is “committed to modernizing our nuclear stockpile, promoting and developing American energy in all forms, advancing the department’s critical science and technology mission, and carefully disposing of nuclear waste.” Building-up America’s nuclear weapons arsenal is an unjustifiable waste of taxpayer funds.

Mr. Perry has not issued any statement about the Climate Action Plan.

Shale Oil

Third, Mr. Trump wants to extract $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves. Extracting shale oil involves fracking. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a controversial technique to recover gas and oil from shale rock by drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. The first problem is that fracking uses huge amounts of water, which must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost.

The second problems is that fracking releasing carcinogenic chemicals, such as hydrocarbons, chemical-laden water, hydraulic fracturing fluids, arsenic, radium and benzene, into our ground water. Four states have been documented as have contaminated ground water supplies: Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

Coal Mining

Fourth, Mr. Trump stated that he plans on reviving coal mining using clean coal technology. Clean coal technology is a collection of technologies being developed to mitigate the environmental impact of coal energy generation to remove or reduce pollutant emissions to the atmosphere. The technology is neither green nor clean.

Real Job Growth Lies in the Renewable Energy Sector

The Trump administration should be looking at developing renewable energy sources within the United States. It does not even matter what Mr. Trump, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Perry’s think about climate change as renewable energy generates more jobs and is more cost efficient that anything the Trump administration has touted.

Given inducements these same figures could apply to the rust belt and former coal towns where unemployment runs rampant and hope runs low.

Additionally, since 2008 the price of coal has risen 13% and the price for solar energy has dropped by 80%.


The multifaceted “America First Energy Plan” was most likely spearheaded by the White House’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who in his previous role of Executive Editor of right-wing Breitbart News, became well-known for denying climate change science, despite the fact that 97% of scientists agree that climate change is not only real but a manmade condition that only mankind can remediate, and for spreading conspiratorial views on clean energy. Mr. Bannon stated, without a scintilla of collaborating research, that, “Whether you believe in alternative energy or not, one thing we can tell you for a fact—whether it works or not, that’s all to be seen in the progress of time—it’s up to its neck in crony capitalism. The venture capital guys getting bailed out, the private equity guys getting bailed out, subsidies for these things.”

What is true about Mr. Bannon’s statement is there is cronyism. The America’s First Energy Plan reeks of cronyism favoring the fossil fuel industry. Consider the recently released emails evidencing a preexisting relationship between Mr. Pruitt and the fossil fuel industry.

The Paris Agreement                                          

The Paris Agreement was negotiated by 195 countries and has been ratified by 194 countries. The Paris Agreement falls within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. The United States ratified the agreement, which globally came into effect on November 4, 2016. Under the agreement the United States has committed to committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below the 2005 level in 2025, and to make “best efforts” to reduce emissions by 28 percent. This necessarily includes a reduction in fossil fuel usage.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the scale and the transformative nature of the change, which will be needed. We have to go to zero carbon emissions by about 2050 if we are going to stay below 2C of warming and that means that we have to leave about 2/3 of the known resources of fossil fuels in the ground,” stated Mary Robinson, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Climate Change and Director of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Change.

Ms. Robinson was emphatic that, “We have a responsibility to move in the direction that Paris has given us – well below 2C as far as possible to 1.5C – a world that leaves no one behind. A world that is fair and inclusive … We can do it. And we will have a much better and more equal world if we do.”

During the campaign, Mr. Trump stated that the United States would pull out of the Paris Agreement, calling the agreement “bad for US business” and alleging that the agreement allows “foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use”.

Myron Ebell, a long-standing climate sceptic who headed Mr. Trump’s EPA transition team, opined that Mr. Trump, “…could do it by executive order tomorrow, or he could wait and do it as part of a larger package. There are multiple ways and I have no idea of the timing,”

Mr. Ebell’s statements run afoul of the Paris Agreement which stipulates that once the agreement came into force, countries that have ratified it have to wait for a minimum of three years before they can exit. The earliest date the United States could exit the Agreement is 2019. When it comes to the Trump administration fact-checking is everything.

The Gag Order

Employees at the EPA were quite vocal in expressing their science-based opinions as announcements were made. What did Mr. Trump do to address their concerns? He issued a gag order resulting in a rogue EPA twitter accounts such as @altUSEPA. This is the United States of America where government is supposed to be translucent and accountable, and where freedom of speech is protected.


The United States is already been deemed degraded in its role as a global leader. In the area of clean energy, China is presently investing more in renewable energy and building more renewable energy capacity than the United States further eroding the United States leadership role. During the campaign, Mr. Trump stated climate change was a “hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government”. If so, the joke is on Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump must take a big step back and consider that it is his job to insure that the United States remains the geopolitical leader in all areas.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague. She is a contributing editor to Tuck Magazine, E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and the International Policy Digest. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.


“An American First Energy Plan”, White House, as found on the www at

FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, June 25, 2013, White House, as found on the www at

In re: Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense Final Rule; “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States, Case Nos. 15-3799/3822/3853/3887 (6th Cir. October 9, 2015), as found on the www at

In Re: Murray Energy Corporation, Case No. 14-1112 (D.C. Cir. June 9, 2015), as found on the www at

“Paris Agreement – Status of Ratification,” UN Doc., as found on the www at

The Clean Water Rule, 80 FR 37054, August 28, 2015.

“What the Clean Water Rule Does”, The United States Environmental Protection Agency, as found on the www at

Justice, Security and Rule of Law: Trumped in Southeast Asia?


Authors Note: This analysis is a part of series. The first analysis, “In Deep Waters with China and Russia” was published on June 10, 2016 and the second, “Justice, Security and Rule of Law: How the United Nations Security Council Has Failed You” on July 15, 2016.

U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia in light of President-Elect Donald Trump’s administration is drifting off to sea placing the U.S. in a precarious position of isolationism in a region where China and Russia have been aggressively building alliances and partnerships. Amidst shifting global relationships and allegiances this is not a time for the U.S. to adopt a foreign policy built on isolationism or non-involvement but, rather it is a time to accelerate Southeast Asia foreign policy initiatives.

The tipping point for U.S. allies in Southeast Asia was and is Mr. Trump’s repeated statements that his administration would not support the U.S. joining The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), also known as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). If ratified, the TPP would be a comprehensive trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries: Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the U.S., and Vietnam, representing nearly 40 percent of global GDP and a third of world trade. This has dampened the strength of U.S.’ Southeast Asian foreign relations; weakening ties in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Mr. Trump should well know that cordial foreign relations always follows the money.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership vs. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

Ratification of the TPP must occur by February 2017 by at least six countries accounting for 85 percent of the entire group’s combined gross domestic product. Unfortunately, this is impossible without a commitment by both the U.S. and Japan. As it stands now, Mr. Trump is unlikely to send the TPP agreement to Congress for confirmation.

Without the TPP, the People’s Republic of China’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) initiatives will gain momentum. If realized, the RCEP, would account for 40 percent of global trade and cover three billion people regionally, making it the world’s largest trading block, ahead of even the European Union.

Seven nations have engaged in both TPP and RCEP negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam. The U.S., Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru are TPP-only negotiators. The RCEP-only countries, other than China, are Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.

What distinguishes the TPP from the RCEP is that the TPP protects and promotes Rule of Law by requiring member nations to liberalize their economies, and to protect labor rights, the environment, intellectual property, and foreign investments.

Participating in the TPP is a form of soft power and it has been a driving factor in previous presidential administrations to promote democratic values in other countries. With the simmering South China Sea dispute, the use of soft power in Southeast Asia has never been more important.

The South China Sea Dispute

China seeks to complete a “strategic triangle” in the SCS to monitor and control regional maritime activities, to bolster its naval position, and to gain access to much-needed oil and natural gas using advanced deep sea drilling technologies. China has constructed 3,200 acres of man-made islands on reefs, increasing its EEZs by 200 nautical miles or 370 km, and its territorial seas by 12 nautical miles or 22 km, on which it has installed airfields, surveillance systems, and a radar tower. China plans on installing an Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, covering the SCS. An ADIZ demarcates a zone outside a country’s national airspace in which aircraft must identify themselves and follow the country’s military instructions.

China’s expansionist and illegal actions in the SCS have been protested by numerous SCS claimants, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines, who are supported by the U.S., ASEAN, Australia, Japan and France. The 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in which ASEAN and China agreed upon multilateral risk-reduction and confidence-building measures, requires that territorial and jurisdictional disputes be resolved without resorting to the threat or use of force.

Less than six months ago, a July 12, 2012 decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) issued in an action brought by the Philippines to protect its rights in the SCS. The PCA opined that China violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; an agreement about territorial seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZ), in claiming sovereignty over the 95% of the SCS, known as the “nine-dash line”.  Before the decision was even rendered, China stated that it would continue on its expansionist path.

On September 8, 2016, the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) heads of state, the leaders of the Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, together with President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang “…reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight in the South China Sea”. China remained committed to its course of action.

The direction ASEAN takes at the 2017 Summit will be under the control of controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, the 2017 Chairperson.

“The chair of ASEAN has the power to set the agenda. What [the chair] has been used for historically is to cut things out of the agenda, particularly the South China Sea. And it will be very interesting to see whether the Duterte Administration puts it on the agenda, and I think it will open the door to other claimants to voice their thing,” explained Tim Johnston, Asia program director for International Crisis Group.

The direction to be taken by Mr. Duterte will impact all SCS claimants and, as of right now, Mr. Duterte cannot be expected to promote Rule of Law having relinquished the Philippines’ SCS claim. The first rule of economics is no such thing as a free lunch.  On December 19th, concurrent with Mr. Duterte’s announcement, China offered the Philippines $14.4 million worth of military assistance, without the conditions traditionally attached to U.S.

Most recently, at a December 27th Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony, without mentioning the SCS dispute, Mr. Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed the need for dialogue to prevent future armed conflict. U.S. Congresswomen Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) was more pointed, stating that, “The lesson from all this, was that we do not forget the past … but we have to move ahead. For us to all collectively survive in the Asia-Pacific region, we need have to have an understanding of both the roles in the past and the roles in the future.”

The Philippines Vacillating Foreign Relations

The relationship between the Philippines and the U.S. rapidly disintegrated after the 2016 election of Mr. Duterte as President. Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug crusade involving widespread and seemingly indiscriminate extra-judicial killings constitute egregious human rights violations under international law.

Mr. Duterte’s policies initially precipitated a refusal by the U.S. to continue selling the Philippine assault rifles. By mid-December Washington halted all aid based on “…significant concerns around the rule of law and civil liberties in the Philippines.” In 2016, the U.S. provided the Philippines with over $120 million in military aid, a $50 million increase over 2015, and an additional $42 million coming from the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative.

Mr. Duterte responded by stating, “Eat your aid and we will survive. I’ll go to China.”

Despite more than a century of U.S.-Philippine military cooperation, this was followed by a statement that the Philippine’s government was scaling back on routine joint military exercises with the U.S. and that the Philippines would no longer host U.S. military ships patrolling the SCS. Legally, under the April 28, 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the U.S. patrols the SCS to protect the Philippines’ EEZ.  Under the EDCA, the U.S. also rotate troops in the Philippines; builds and operates temporary facilities on Philippine’s bases, for both American and Philippine forces; and gives giving Philippine’s personnel access to American ships and planes. Under the U.S. and Philippines 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the U.S. is be obligated to come to the defence of the Philippines if it is attacked by any foreign power.

Thereafter, Mr. Duterte has vacillated between the U.S., China and Russia.

At the November APEC forum Russia increased Philippines imports to $2.5 billion. In return, the Philippines agreed to hold talks on signing a defense cooperation agreement with Russia. A government decree, signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, stated, “To accept the proposal of the Russian Ministry of Defense, together with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to negotiate an agreement between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Department of National Defense of the Philippines on defense co-operation.”

Mr. Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a private November 19th meeting at the APEC forum Credit: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Damage control quickly followed.  On November 30th Philippine’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. refuted rumors that Mr. Duterte’s upcoming visit to Russia was to establish a military relationship. Mr. Yasay stated that the focus was on defense cooperation limited to sharing information on terrorism, drugs and enforcement. It is questionable what information Mr. Duterte plans on sharing with Russia, given that under the EDCA, Philippine’s military personnel have access to U.S. military weapons and equipment and, therefore, the underlying technology.

Mr. Yasay stressed that, “The President has declared we will only have one military alliance and that is with the U.S. We have our Mutual Defense Treaty which the President said he will respect, together with all of the support agreements.”

At this time, the direction Mr. Duterte takes at the 2017 ASEAN summit is anybody’s guess.

Japan’s Multilateral Relationships

Mr. Abe has used every opportunity to engage in peace building with China. In private talks initiated by Mr. Abe with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the November APEC meeting,  Mr. Abe stated, “I want to improve bilateral ties across the board and forge a stable and good relationship by resolving issues in an appropriate manner and from a comprehensive viewpoint.” Mr. Xi responded by stating that he was “impressed with the prime minister’s words. It is important to settle issues properly and increase popular sentiment toward improving ties.”

Understanding that the TPP could help stabilize Southeast Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo was the first foreign minister to meet with Mr. Trump post-election. Even if the Trump administration pushes Japan to join RCEP, the long-standing U.S. and Japanese military alliance is not for sale. Both countries have united to respond to provocation by the erratic North Korean demagogue Kim Jong-un and an increasingly militaristic and aggressive China.

Fearing further regional destabilization, in late December Mr. Abe approved a record defence budget, including five new large patrol ships, 200 additional maritime law enforcement staff, and a ballistic missile defence system upgrade.

The increase came as China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier traversed through Japan’s Ryukyu island chain and the East China Sea to the SCS where neared Taiwan, fueling tensions not only in Japan but also Taiwan. According to the Japanese defence ministry the Liaoning is one of a fleet of eight Chinese warships including destroyers and frigates.

The Destabilization of Sino-U.S. Relations

The Liaoning’s passage near Taiwan can be attributed to Mr. Trump foreign policy naiveté. His first major faux pas was recognizing Taiwan in a matter deemed by China to violate the “One-China” policy. The “One-China” policy is accepted by the United Nations, which has denied Taiwan member state status for the reason that it is not a sovereign nation but rather falls under Chinese sovereignty. As a United Nations member nation, the U.S. to bound to the “One China” policy.

That conversation precipitated a Chinese navy ship intercepting and seizing a U.S. naval drone legally deployed from an unarmed naval research ship in international waters for ocean exploration under the guise that it was interfering with other craft.   The real reason for seizing the drone was for Beijing to send a militaristic message to Washington that Mr. Trump has angered China.

Tensions with China were further exacerbated following Mr. Trump’s appointment of Peter Navarro to lead a new presidential office for US trade and industrial policy. Mr. Navarro has published two books that are sharply critical of China; in the first, Mr. Navarro predicts that war between China and the U.S. is inevitable. Mr. Navarro recently stated that, “For more than two decades, I have been telling people that the first thing China would do before trying to take Taiwan would be to take the Spratly Islands. If the world simply ignored that, then Taiwan would be next,” no doubt influencing Mr. Trump’s decision to speak with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Many of Mr. Navarro’s other beliefs, assimilated by Mr. Trump, have been proved faulty.

Beijing responded to the appointment via its state-run newspaper the Global Times in which it was stated that, “The US can no longer push China around today… If Washington dares to provoke China over its core interests, Beijing won’t fear setting up a showdown with the US, pressuring the latter to pay respect to China.”

This was tempered by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, who correctly stated that, “As two major powers with broad mutual interests, cooperation is the only correct choice.”

George Tenet, former CIA director, astutely described the foreign policy reality that for every action “there is an unequal and opposite over-reaction,” a concept Mr. Trump has not yet mastered. Mr. Trump must learn the ‘diplomatic dance’ of maintaining cordial relationships China, and the seduction of soft and hard power China has successfully used in courting many of U.S. allies, indispensable if America intends upon remaining a superpower.


Not willing to concede its SCS claim to Beijing, Vietnam has made vast improvements to its air force capabilities on Spratly Island. After adding 57 acres or 23 hectares of land to Spratly Island, it doubled the single runway to 1,200 meters or 4,000 feet, and doubled the number of aircraft hangars to four, creating a base for maritime surveillance aircraft, transport planes, and combat aircraft. Vietnam fortified several islands with mobile rocket launchers capable of striking Chinese military installations in the SCS.

Fortifications such as the one on Vietnamese-controlled Phan Vinh Island in the South China Sea’s Spratly chain are one method countries in the disputed waters press their claims. Credit: Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty Images

During a June 1, 2016 visit by Mr. Obama to Hanoi, he not only promoted the TPP but, announced that the lifting of a decades old arms embargo, new commercial agreements worth more than $16 billion, and the posting of Peace Corps volunteers to Vietnam. Mr. Obama successfully requested U.S. access to Vietnam’s sheltered deep-water Cam Ranh Bay military port.

Vietnam is now justifiably concerned about the TPP and ongoing U.S. trade relationship.  Mary Tarnowka, U.S. consul general in Ho Chi Minh City, attempted to provide reassurances that whatever the fate of the TPP, U.S.-Vietnamese economic link “has never been stronger.”

As for continued defense support there has been no comment by the incoming administration which is predicted to maintain its current position on the SCS dispute.


Thailand separates the Strait of Malacca from the SCS through which one-third of global trade and two-thirds of all oil and liquefied natural gas pass making it extremely important to Western countries trading with Southeast Asia and conducting Freedom of Navigation patrols. Thailand has remained neutral in the SCS dispute.

After Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in a May 2014 military coup, the U.S. froze security and defense aid to Thailand and scaled back on annual military exercises, precipitating a diplomatic hiatus for the reason that junta had failed to honor Rule of Law, including holding a free and fair election. In 2015 the U.S. resumed diplomatic talks with Thailand.

While the U.S. is Thailand’s oldest ally, the junta views China as a noncritical security partner vital to Thailand’s economy. China has seized this opportunity to cultivate political, economic and defense ties, including talks about building military facilities in Thailand to produce small arms, drones, and other security-related equipment. Bangkok is engaged in similar talks with Russia.

Given its geographic location, the Trump administration must consider the negative impact of a failure to implement the TPP on U.S.-Thai relations and regional geopolitics.


On July 20, 2016 U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch filed complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets associated with an international conspiracy by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to launder misappropriated funds. The 1MDB was created by the Malaysia government to promote economic development through global partnerships and foreign direct investment, ultimately improving the well-being of the Malaysian people. Instead, 1MDB officials allegedly misappropriated more than $3 billion.

“The Department of Justice will not allow the American financial system to be used as a conduit for corruption. With this action, we are seeking to forfeit and recover funds that were intended to grow the Malaysian economy and support the Malaysian people,” stated said Attorney General Lynch.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is reputed to be the “Malaysian Official 1” referenced 36 times in the 136-page lawsuit and is believed to have personally received more than $1 billion of misappropriated funds. Mr. Najib has denied any wrongdoing or personal gain.

The lawsuit, as well as the improbability of U.S. ratification of the TPP, has upturned U.S.-Malaysian foreign relations. China has seized this opportunity.  Chinese investments into had Malaysia fallen by 30 percent in the first half of 2016. On November 1, 2016, Mr. Razak concluded a week-long visit to China with securing infrastructure investments in Malaysia of $32.2 billion, and by signing an agreement for SCS naval cooperation.

Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, and Malaysian PM Najib Razak at a Beijing parade on November 1, 2016. Credit: Xinhua

This is a reversal Mr. Najib’s previous position that Malaysia would not compromise its SCS claims, but hoped that it would be resolved through dialogue and peaceful negotiations; the position advocated by the U.S.

“Kuala Lumpur (has) sought direct engagement rather than confrontation with the Asian powerhouse over the South China Sea disputes,” observed Richard Javad Heydarian, Assistant Professor of International Politics at the Philippines’ De La Salle University.


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently described the current international security environment as “the most complex and diverse array of global threats” he has faced in his 53 year career.

Soft power, which includes virtually everything save military support, is a foreign policy tool which not only attracts other countries but gains their acquiescence on more important issues and reduces threats. With strategic precision, China has deployed soft power in Southeast Asia, gaining support for its dominance in the SCS dispute and diluting the influence of the U.S. and other foreign powers.

“The revisionist powers in each region are cooperating with each other only superficially because they all see potential existential threats from each other,” confirmed Michael Green, Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The Trump administration must continue the Obama legacy of not only maintaining but strengthening U.S. relations in Southeast Asia. Mr. Trump must conceptualize the TPP as a necessary form of soft power. If the TPP is not ratified by the U.S., it will damage, or perhaps irreparably reverse, all of the work done thus far in the region.

“If the U.S. is unable to back up its regional role … the regional states have no other choice but to accommodate Beijing,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

If Mr. Trump’s administration fosters increased Southeast Asian dependence on China, then the U.S. risks its regional and global role as the only democratic superpower.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague and contributing editor to Tuck Magazine and E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.


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The Transpacific Trade Partnership, Office of the U.S. Trade Partnership, as found on the www at

Wen, Wang, and Xiaochen, Chen, “Who Supports China in the South China Sea and Why”, The Diplomat, July 26, 2016, as found on the www at

#TPP #SCS #SouthChinaSea #Spratley #Liaoning #SoutheastAsia #Trump #Duterte #Taiwan #Vietnam #Malaysia #Thailand #TPPA #Shinzo #Obama #Philippines #RCEP #SoftPower #ADIZ #EEZ #PCA #ASEAN #Hanabusa #EDCA #Medvedev #Putin #Jinping #APEC #OneChina #Navarro #Clapper #1MDB

Justice, Security and Rule of Law: Our Uncertain and Unstable World

It’s deeply foreboding feeling knowing that world global stability and security are rapidly devolving. Even before the uncanny election of Donald Trump and his unpredictability as the presumed President-Elect, world leaders were already concerned about increased isolationism, a tipping of the economic scale from the West to the East, innumerably proxy wars, nuclear proliferation, and even the outbreak of another war, ostensibly a Third World War.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s tsarist extremist and expansionist policy, fueled by his highly effective propaganda machine, the ability to use espionage, cyberwarfare, military force and diplomacy has undermined global security. Russia has and is playing an instrumental role in influencing elections both in the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU), while deflecting attention away from other significant crises and proxy wars, beyond Ukraine and Syria to the Baltic, Balkans and Eastern European Union regions, as well as in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region and the South China Sea.

Concurrently, China has effectively used its financial prowess to expand beyond well beyond Asia, into MENA region and the EU, resulting in reliance upon and possibly allegiance to China.  Simultaneously, China has been fortifying its military.

The rationale is that the more unstable the world, the easier it is for Russia and China to achieve their interdependent objectives.

“Europe and Asia are competing with one another,” opined Ambassador Lamberto Zannier, Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

This has created a potentially volatile and highly insecure world when the reality is, as stated by Mr. Zannier, that “Security is inexplicable linked to peace.”

Uncertainty and Unrest in the Europe

In Europe, democratic leadership is being threatened by Russia. Russia has been instrumental in keeping refugees flowing into Europe. Russia then uses its propaganda machine to feed fears of Islam and fuel the momentum in many countries to follow Great Britain’s lead in exiting EU. Russia is backing pro-Putin political candidates seeking to gain power in Germany, France, and Poland. Pro-Putin leaders are already in power in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, and Serbia.

Moldova is Russia’s latest conquest. On November 14th it was announced that Moldova’s first national presidential election had been won by pro-Russian supporter Igor Dodon. His opponent, Maia Sandu ran as a pro-EU candidate. Moldova, a former Soviet republic, following 1992 Russian military action experienced a breakaway region – Trans-Dniester – which is now considered a demilitarized zone governed by Moldova, Russia and Transnistria.  This, according to Mr. Zannier is a frozen conflict, i.e. a situation in which active armed conflict has ceased without a peace treaty or formal resolution. Trans-Dniester conveniently abuts Ukraine, which has suffered Russian aggressions beyond the illegal annexation of Crimea.

On November 13th France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is expected to run against French President François Hollande in May 2017, made the aberrant comment that ‘there was no reason for Europe to be scared of Russian President Vladimir Putin’, when experts, such as Anne Applebaum, have repeated stated that Mr. Putin is working to destabilize Europe which is facilitated when there is a lack of unity. Ms. Le Pen called the U.S. election a victory against the elite. She supports Brexit, believing that all EU members should be allowed the choice to exit or reconfirm their EU commitment. France’s far-right is known to have ties to the Kremlin.

Significantly, in Germany, one, if not the strongest, EU leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s re-election in 2017 has already been threatened by pro-Putin fringe group the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD). Presently, the AfD had gained representation in ten of the 16 German state parliaments winning several elections this fall against Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party. Germany is especially important to Mr. Putin both historically and based on its location. Germany is a neighbor to countries between its borders and Russia that are largely sympathetic to Mr. Putin.

In Turkey, a key regional nation and a NATO member, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is disenfranchised once again by the EU, and by exclusion from ongoing American supported military action to retake Mosul, Iraq from ISIS and the similar plans to liberate Raqqa, Syria. Given the atrocities, including human rights violations and suppression of a free press, following the failed coup against Mr. Erdoğan, Turkey will be unable for many years, if at all, to show adherence to Rule of Law; a precursor to acceding to the EU. Mr. Erdoğan has warmed up to the Kremlin.

On November 2nd Mr. Zannier acknowledged that there is a, “Disease between Russia and Europe.”

Mr. Zannier confirmed that conflict is appearing in the middle of Europe where the politics are extremely divided. Mr. Zannier cautioned that the “Divisions among key players are creating an accumulation of challenges.”

The OSCE is the world’s largest intelligence agency comprised of 57 participating states in North America, Europe and Asia, including Russia. Given Russia’s membership, it questionable as to how much intelligence is shared by intelligence agencies in other countries, especially the United States, which has the world’s most comprehensive and elite intelligence network.

The OSCE is responsible for monitoring the border between Russia and Ukraine, with both U.S. and Russian monitors providing daily reports. The OSCE has been unable to quell the ongoing Russian aggressions.

“In a way this is worse than the Cold War. At the end of the Cold War there was arms control”, stated Mr. Zannier added that, “Dialogue is difficult in this situation.”

Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Director of its Arms Control Initiative, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, concurred, stating that, “I would have to say that, without question, this is the low point in U.S.-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War.”

The Potential Impact of a Trump Administration

Even before the American presidential election, leaders and political analysts were already on edge. Brexit being a major cause for concern. Despite its NATO membership, the UK’s position on a range of issues has generated deep concern amongst the remaining EU members. Post-election has resulted in a plethora of leaders expressing grave concern that a Trump administration will accelerate issues related denigration of justice, security and adherence Rule of Law – the core precepts of democracy – and pursue a foreign policy based on isolationism.

Patrick Stewart, Senior Fellow and Director, Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, had this to say:

“Among its many implications, Donald Trump’s election as president calls into question the open liberal international order this country has championed and defended for more than seven decades. The edges of that order were already fraying, thanks to disenchantment with the global economy and the return of geopolitical competition, particularly with Russia and China. Trump’s triumph will accelerate its disintegration, by undermining the network of rules, institutions, and alliances that twelve presidents, Republican and Democratic alike, have nurtured since 1945. The results of the election suggest that the main threats to the liberal world order are no longer foreign but domestic.”

This would certainly be the case if a Trump presidency and a Republican Congress opted out of NATO. Mr. Trump is correct in stating that the U.S. is only one of five member nations that is current on NATO dues as acknowledged by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “The United States currently accounts for almost 70% of NATO defence spending, and has rightly called for a more equitable sharing of the burden.”

However, Mr. Stoltenberg correctly pointed out that, “On both sides of the Atlantic leaders have always understood that a stronger, safer and more prosperous Europe means a stronger, safer and more prosperous United States. This partnership between Europe and the United States, embodied in the NATO alliance, remains essential for both.”

International support for Trump has come from those politicians or countries who favor the dismantling of institutions, such as NATO and the EU, and China or who have significant ties to China, Russia or both. Globally many countries have entered into financial agreements with China or its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Elsewhere in World

Elsewhere in the world, the U.S. has relied upon “soft power” to pave the diplomatic path. “Soft power” is a method by which a country amasses influence without coercion or direct payment.  Soft power includes everything from providing disaster relief, developmental aid and the promotion of democratic values. The purpose of dedicated payments is to increase goodwill.

“Under Donald Trump … I would be very concerned about the importance of soft power. It does affect our national security, and it’s a challenge even under ideal circumstances,” stated Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In the Philippines newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte has been like the shifting sands. Mr. Duterte was elected shortly after the Philippines won a protracted legal battle in the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China over rights to the oil-rich South China Sea. After his election, the U.S., along with other nations and human rights groups, criticized Mr. Duterte extra-judicial killings of alleged drug lords. His actions prompted the U.S. to halt sales of assault rifles to the Philippines. Now, Mr. Duterte is vacillating between allegiance to the U.S., a long-standing ally, and China. If the Philippines ultimately sides with China, it would potentially making freedom of navigation in and through the South China Sea more difficult and potentially more dangerous for other countries.

Afghanistan, after thirteen years of concerted effort by NATO and the U.S. to create a self-sufficient democratic government free of the Taliban, has been impacted by Russia’s support of the Taliban and is engaging in commercial activity with China, which will ultimately make it less depend on Western aid packages.

Pakistan, another critical country, is also doing business with China. The corrupt Pakistani military is engaging in joint military operations with Russia.

China’s interest in the region is securing the path critical to its $46 billion “One Belt, One Road” trade route, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).  CPEC is intended to expand China’s Asian economic and political outreach to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Iran, among others, as well as providing it with access to a sea route for trade. In Pakistan, CPEC runs from Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea to China’s landlocked Xinjiang Province.  In Afghanistan, the Sino-Afghan Special Railway Transportation, part of CPEC, connects China to Afghanistan. For Afghanistan it is a route by which it may sell its copper.

The list simply goes on.

The Illusion of a United Nations Security Council

“When we deal with the larger issues that’s when the United Nations becomes important,” stated Mr. Zannier.

The truth is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will not fulfill the obligations delegated to it by the United Nations Charter. China and Russia, along with the United States, the United Kingdom and France, are the permanent five (P5) UNSC members and have veto power, which Russia and China have misused over and over again.

For many years, there has been a push to amend the United Nations Charter as it relates to the UNSC. Unfortunately, save Kofi Annan, during his tenure as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, who strong criticisms of the United Nations earned him a Nobel Peace Prize while still in office, leaders currently in office fail to speak the truth that change is essential if there is to be world order. It’s those countries who are most affected which ought to be speaking out but, outside of the general complaints expressed during the annual September General Assembly meeting, they remain mute in demanding structural changes fearing any criticism might adversely impact their country’s security or pecuniary interests.

Rather, its former statespersons who have been vocal in the criticism of the United Nations and, in particular, the UNSC. They include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

The current lack of faith and mistrust in international organizations is also being experienced by the International Criminal Court, from which Burundi, Gambia and South Africa’s have withdrawn. It is expected that other African nations will follow suit as their governments feel that African nations have been unjustly singled out by the ICC.  While the ICC has begun the prosecutorial process in two cases involving Russian aggressions, enforcement of any finding of guilt is the responsibility of the state involved or at the discretion of the UNSC, effectually rendering any finding of guilt not worth the paper it’s printed on.


Mr. Stoltenberg concluded that, “In these uncertain times… above all we need to recognise the value of the partnership between Europe and America. It remains indispensable. So rather than deepening our differences, we need to nurture what unites us, and find the wisdom and foresight to work together for common solutions. Going it alone is not an option, either for Europe or for the United States.”

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is a journalist writing for Tuck Magazine and E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive. Her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.


Lardner, Cynthia, “Justice, Security and Rule of Law: How the United Nations Security Council Has Failed You”, July 15, 2016, as found on the www at;;; and

Stewart, Patrick, “Goodbye to All That? World Order in the Wake of Trump”, November 9, 2016, Council on Foreign Relations, as found on the www at

Stoltenberg, Jens, “Now is not the time for the US to abandon Nato – nor should its European allies go it alone”, November 12, 2016, The Guardian, as found on the www at

Justice, Security and Rule of Law: The Pakistani-India Conflict



On July 17, 2014 China and Russia issued a joint statement stating their intention of creating a new world order. That same statement supported India’s long-standing bid to replace one of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members. July 17th is historically relevant as it is the same day the U.S. joined the European Union in imposing sanctions on Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea, a mere hours later Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was downed by Russian mercenaries over Ukraine, followed by the announcement of the inception of the New Development Bank or The BRICS, named for its founders – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. While the intention of creating a new world, one radically different from that envisioned when the United Nations was created in 1948, appears to be well underway, India, which is busy defending its Kashmir region, has been left behind as Russia and China court the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a long-term and strategically-positioned ally of the United States.

The Pakistani Government

Pakistan is essential to curbing terrorist activities by the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other designated terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s military and its notoriously violent intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), have been training and funding several terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and India. The ISI aids these organisations by harboring terrorists, eradicating perceived enemies or those opposed to their cause, including India, Israel, the U.S., the United Kingdom and other NATO members. Pakistan harbors terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Sipah-e-Sahaba.

These groups interfere with NATO operations in Afghanistan; with Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria by providing training, weapons and fighters; and they have engaged in unconventional warfare along the border of India’s Kashmir state. These groups are responsible for the decades long terrorism campaign in Kashmir and the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Human Rights Watch has determined the ISI and Pakistani army actively aid the Taliban by “…soliciting funding for the Taliban, bankrolling Taliban operations, providing diplomatic support as the Taliban’s virtual emissaries abroad, arranging training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled manpower to serve in Taliban armies, planning and directing offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of ammunition and fuel, and on several occasions apparently directly providing combat support.”

ISI orchestrates its proxies to exert its influence in Pakistan, as well as in neighboring Afghanistan, Syria and India. The ISI also protected Osama bin-Laden, who lived a mere 100 kilometers outside of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad for years, before being assassinated by U.S. Naval Special Forces on May 2, 2011.

FBI Satellite imagery evidences the existence of several terrorist camps in Pakistan, some of which are jihadist madrasa schools.

The disconnect is that the civilian Pakistani government operates without control over the ISI, and its army.

“[T]he civilian government there [Pakistan] doesn’t control military policy, strategic policy… but the army and the intelligence service do…. and they have denied the obvious, postponed this reckoning for years with so many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda,” confirmed Chris Alexander, Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan.

Given the opportunity, the Pakistani Taliban would overthrow the Pakistani government and introduce a radical Islamist regime. Pakistani authorities fear that the Afghan Taliban could join forces with the Pakistani Taliban.

The Fragile U.S.-Pakistani Relationship

Following 9.11 Pakistan became a critical partner in the U.S.’s counterattack on al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda’s ally, the Afghan Taliban. The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has been a difficult one, at best, owing to the fact that the civilian government exerts little or no control over the ISI and the Pakistani army. Since 2001, the U.S. has provided extensive funding, now subject to conditions, to facilitate a stronger civilian Pakistani government empowered to take measures towards eradicating terrorism and the support of terrorism within its borders. Between September 11, 2001 and the end of 2008 the U.S. provided Pakistan with $11 billion in assistance.

In return, the civilian Pakistani government permits the U.S. to use its airspace; allows overland access to Afghanistan; and, to the extent possible, employs its police and paramilitary organizations to capture al-Qaeda activists.

Nonetheless, as of 2008 Pakistan was “…with the possible exception of Iran, perhaps the world’s most active sponsor of terrorist groups… aiding groups that pose a direct threat to the U.S… Pakistan is probably today’s most active sponsor of terrorism,” opined Daniel Byman, in an analysis published by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Due to a poor return on investment, as well as concerns about differing goals, nuclear proliferation, political instability, and Pakistan’s role as sanctuary for al Qaeda and Afghan insurgents, the U.S. has been modified its aid policy.

Thus, the 2009 Kerry-Lugar legislation tripled nonmilitary aid to $1.5 billion per year as a long-term pledge to the people of Pakistan, it delinked military from nonmilitary aid, and conditioned military aid on certification that Pakistani security forces are (1) working to prevent al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups from operating on Pakistani territory; (2) working to deny the Afghan Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan; and (3) refraining from interfering in Pakistan’s political and judicial processes.

At a September 2011 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Mike Mullen, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asserted that, “Pakistani duplicity puts in jeopardy not only the frayed U.S.-Pakistani partnership against terrorism but also the outcome to the decade-old war in Afghanistan.”

In July 2016 Sen. John McCain, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, met with former Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari. They agreed that it is in the interest of peace and stability that Pakistan continue playing its role in the fight against the global threat of terrorism. Mr. Zardari insisted that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism itself and would never support it, while Mr. McCain acknowledged the Pakistani government’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.

Afterwards, Sen. McCain wrote in a July 26th article that, “By taking on all terrorist groups operating in its territory, Pakistan will find that the U.S. remains willing and able to assist in this fight and develop an enduring strategic partnership. The sooner the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan get down to the business of fighting their common terrorist enemies together, no matter where they hide, the better off the nations, the region and the world will be.”

On August 29th the U.S. communicated its refusal to subsidize Pakistan’s purchase of 16 used F-16 fighter jets.

Building upon the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, on September 19th U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to discuss the countries’ strong and long-term bilateral partnership. Mr. Kerry reiterated the need for Pakistan to prevent any terrorist from using Pakistani territory as a safe haven. Mr. Kerry stressed the need for restraint in nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Kerry commended Mr. Sharif on recent efforts by Pakistani security forces to counter violent extremism, for 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees, for restoring macroeconomic stability, and for cooperating on climate change priorities.

On October 7th the White House rejected a demand from several legislators that the U.S. Secretary of State designate Pakistan a “terrorist state”.

Competing Claims in the Kashmir Region

As for the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, India, Pakistan, and China have competing claims. While China has never engaged in overt action over the dispute, Pakistan and India have engaged in escalating violence in the Kashmir region along the Pakistani and Indian border. Most recently, in September, India blamed Pakistan-based militant groups for an attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers, the deadliest assault there in years. India retaliated with cross-border “surgical strikes” against suspected militants in Pakistan killing two people.

One of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s diplomats warned that Pakistan would look to China and Russia if the U.S. fails to reconsider its position on the escalating Pak-India Kashmir conflict.

At a September 19th meeting, Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Zardari and Mr. Kerry expressed concern as to the recent violence in Kashmir, and the need for both sides to diplomatically reduce tensions. Mr. Zardari stated that Pakistan wants to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue.

The next day U.S. State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, issued a statement that the U.S. will not intervene in the Kashmir dispute and asked both the Indian and Pakistan governments resolve it through ‘meaningful dialogue’.

India and China

India could look to neighboring China for support. China will outwardly try to remain neutral. While China and India share a fear of expanding terrorist networks, Pakistan is critical to China’s $46 billion “One Belt, One Road” trade route running from Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea to China’s landlocked Xinjiang Province. This initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was designed to expand China’s Asian economic and political outreach, as well as providing it with access to a sea route for trade.

“The conventional wisdom is that China will intensify support to Islamabad amid rising India-Pakistan tension. China will want to reiterate its commitment to Pakistan and express its strong support, particularly if Beijing starts to worry that India’s more muscular approach towards Pakistan could entail efforts to undercut or even sabotage the China-funded China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project,” stated Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Centre.

India has worked to deepen its military cooperation with the U.S. In June the U.S. granted India “major defence partner” status, potentially paving the way for a transfer of U.S. military “dual-use” technologies, used to develop strategic weapons, such as ballistic missiles. The arms deal has a price tag of $9 billion. The deal was not totally one-sided. On August 30th the two countries signed a logistics sharing pact under which their militaries can use each other’s military bases.

Sino-Pakistani Relations 

China has significantly increased defence cooperation with Pakistan. While China already is Pakistan’s primary source of weapons, and responsible for building Pakistan’s nuclear reactors, only recently has China resumed sharing strategic weapons technology; a practice that ceased in the 1990s under U.S. pressure.

On March 9, 2015, Pakistan tested its Shaheen-3 intermediate-range, land-based surface-to-surface ballistic missile. Capable of delivering a conventional or nuclear warhead, the Shaheen-3 has a range of 2750 km- 1700 miles, and a circular error probable of less 40 meters, making it the most accurate ballistic missile of its class in the world.

The transport erector launcher used to launch the missile is believed to have been sourced by China as it bore similarity to a launcher transferred in 2011 by China to North Korea.

The Shaheen-3 was developed in response to India’s Agni-III. Capable of delivering a conventional or nuclear warhead, the Agni-III has a range of 3,500 km- 5,000 km, and a circular error probable of 40 meters. Since then India has tested two more advanced variants of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Agni-V and Agni-VI. Using multiple independent re-entry vehicles, the AGNI-VI can simultaneously deliver multiple nuclear warheads reaching targets as far 6,000 km away.

In 2015, China introduced 10 MIRV variants of its DF-5 ICBM, which are similar in capability to the Agni-V and Agni-Vi. It is believed that China has shared this technology with Pakistan.

Seeking to match India’s development of second-strike capabilities through land, air and sea-based delivery systems, in 2015, Pakistan’s acquired eight Type 041 diesel-electric attack submarines from China that can be armed with nuclear-capable Babur cruise missiles.

Pakistan and Russia

In 2007 Pakistan and Russia reestablished diplomat ties. While the raison d’être was ostensibly a joint interest in defeating the Taliban, recent events evidence the rationale as being multi-faceted.

In 2014 Moscow lifted a longstanding ban on arms sales to Pakistan. In 2015 the two countries signed a defence deal, including a sale to Pakistan of four Russian Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters to replace Pakistan’s aging U.S.-made AH-1 Cobras.

In 2015 Russian agreed to invest $2 billion to construct a North-South gas pipeline to transfer liquefied natural gas from Pakistani port city Karachi to Lahore, in the Punjab Province. Having an energy shortage, the pipeline could supply 30 percent of the Pakistani population with energy. The first phase is expected to be finished by December 2017.

After an August 8th blast killed at least 70 people at a hospital in Quetta, a city located near the Afghanistan border, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin stated, “We decisively condemn this cynical, inhumane crime… I’d like to reiterate that the Russian side is ready to bolster cooperation with Pakistani partners in the fight against terrorism.”

In September, the Russian and Pakistani armies conducted “mutual special drills in mountainous terrain” in the eastern Punjab province, a neighboring province to Kashmir region.

“Moscow and Islamabad are interested in deepening military-to-military relations,” stated Qazi Khalilullah, Pakistan’s ambassador to Moscow.

Russia further invited Pakistan to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Russia has expressed a desire in joining CPEC.

The India-Russo Relationship

In 2010, Mr. Putin stated that “Russia is not maintaining military cooperation with Pakistan as it takes into account the concerns of Indian partners.”

Following an October 23, 2013 meeting between India’s then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Mr. Putin concerning Pakistan, Mr. Putin issued a strongly-worded statement that “states that provide aid, abetment and shelter for such terrorist activities are themselves as guilty as the actual perpetrators of terrorism”.

But, over the last two years things have radically changed. As Russia now considers Pakistan a partner on just about every level, Russo-Indian relations have experienced a downward trend. In 2015, under a pre-existing agreement Russia was to build and finance 12 nuclear power plants in India, Russia unilaterally doubled the number of plants to be built all at a significantly higher cost.

Now, Mr. Putin has grown angry over India’s augmenting its Russian-Indian defense agreement with assistance from the U.S. and other Western nations. That angry was made manifest after Russia announced a three-fold cost increase and a five-year delay in procuring for India’s fourth aircraft carrier, and delays in fulfilling a multibillion-dollar agreement to provide an India with a fifth generation fighter jet.

“By engaging with Pakistan, Russia leaves New Delhi with a hard choice: to honor its strategic commitment to Russia and make concessions or to observe Russian-Pakistani rapprochement, which could potentially erode India’s military advantage,” observed Moscow-based political analyst Dmitriy Frolovskiy.

Nuclear Proliferation

Advances in China, Pakistan and India’s strategic weapons programmes have significantly elevated the danger of nuclear conflict because they threaten “to blur nuclear thresholds and elevate the risk of inadvertent nuclear escalation due to misperception”, according to a June study by the U.S. Strategic Studies Institute.

“Pakistan has rapidly expanded its nuclear arsenal and reportedly developed new tactical nuclear weapons. Not to be outdone, India continues to modernise its nuclear triad,” confirmed Sen. McCain.

In the 2013 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook, India and Pakistan were the only two unrecognised nuclear powers that are currently expanding their arsenals and delivery systems.

“The nuclear arms race in South Asia has its own logic but China’s growing military sophistication has pushed India and the U.S. closer, which has further cemented the China-Pakistan alliance. This has implications for the nuclear dynamic as well,” observed Harsh V. Pant, professor of international relations at King’s College London.

There are two doctrines which have governed nuclear armament. The oldest is the Doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) whereby neither country engages in direct military confrontation with the other. Rather, aggressions are taken out in proxy wars staged in other less powerful countries. The second and newer doctrine is that of Mutual Assured Security (MAS), a condition in which neither party has the intention or capability to exercise a unilateral advantage over the other. Neither Pakistan nor India play by these rules as reflected in a 2014 paper released by the Australian Institute of International Affairs:

“The largely-accepted and comforting notion that Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) permits stability at higher levels of conflict (even as it facilitates instability at lower levels) does not apply in the India-Pakistan dynamic. The validity of the Stability-Instability Paradox (SIP) rests on a number of assumptions which existed during the Cold War, but are not present in the Indo-Pakistani security environment. The preconditions required in order for the SIP to hold are:

• That the sides involved are rational actors;

• That the side which threatens first-use has unambiguous red lines to prevent the accidental tripping of nuclear thresholds; and

• That there are minimum levels of communication and mutual understanding between the actors so as to minimise chances of miscommunication and misinterpretation.”

The study concluded, “With tactical nuclear weapons and anti-ballistic missile defence technology entering the equation, the nuclear ladder is getting ever-shorter and the region is fast becoming a tinderbox.”

Consider the statement made by Air Marshal Shahid Latif, a retired senior commander in the Pakistan Air Force, which confirmed that “Now, India doesn’t have its safe heavens anymore. It’s all a reaction to India, which has now gone even for tests of extra-regional missiles. It sends a [very] loud message: If you hurt us, we are going to hurt you back!”


This growing tensions in the Kashmir region are fueling further regional destabilization and polarization. The U.S. has thus far stated that mutual dialogue is the only viable solution. As for China, its interest in Pakistan and India is pecuniary. While Russia does not share the same interest in Kashmir as it is not a border country, the key to Russian restraint in Pakistan may lie in Russia’s lucrative financial relationships with China, India and Pakistan.

With The BRICS Summit taking place this weekend in India, it is doubtful that the group will do little more than reiterate its position against terrorism. Through diplomatic channels, however, as Beijing has no desire for bordering Kashmir to fall in the hands of Islamic extremists, China may hold the key to pushing both countries to reduce tensions.

A second logical solution would be for India and Pakistan to present their territorial dispute to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, to which both countries are member states.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague focusing on geopolitics. Ms. Lardner is a contributing editor for Tuck Magazine and E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive, and her blogs are read in over 37 countries. As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.


Dobbins, James, and Khalilzad, Zalmay, “Pakistan Holds the Key to Peace in Afghanistan”, January 11, 2016, Rand Corp, as found on the www at

Frolovskiy, Dmitriy, “What’s Behind Russia’s Rapprochement With Pakistan?”, May 14, 2016, The Diplomat, as found on the www at

Jose, Khemta Hannah, “MAD IN SOUTH ASIA: INDIA-PAKISTAN RIVALRY”, February 6, 2014, Australian Institute of International Affairs, as found on the www at

McCain, John, “America ignores Pakistan at its peril, 2016, July 26 Financial Times, as found on the www at

“NATO and Afghanistan”, June 14, 2016, NATO, as found on the www at

“Secretary Kerry’s Meeting With Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif”, September 20, 2016, Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. State Department, as found on the www at

Williams, Christine, “Pakistan: State Sponsor of Terrorism”, April 7, 2014, Gatestone Institute, as found on the www at

Why Vladimir Putin Favors Secretary Clinton in the American Presidential Campaign


While the Trump campaign has vociferously applauded the Kremlin and its alleged support, the reality is that the joke is on Donald Trump.  The other reality is that Moscow would much prefer to deal Secretary Clinton as president.  Secretary Clinton is predictable, based not only on her tenure as Secretary of State from 2009 through 2013, but also during her eight years as First Lady from January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001.

Mr. Putin has used dark public relations or “Black PR”, a process of destroying the target’s reputation. It started on December 15, 2015 when Mr. Putin issued a statement that stopped short of endorsing Mr. Trump for president, stating, “[Donald Trump is] a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt.  It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race.  He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia, how can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.”

While a recent WikiLeaks dump of 20,000 emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee has caused political sensation, it has never been proven that the documents were obtained from Russian intelligence.  This was followed by July 2016 media reports that the Kremlin had obtained all 31,830 emails sent from a private server by Secretary Clinton’s during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Even though Russian intelligence is considered to be the most capable nation-state cyberespionage and cyberwarfare power, it has not produced a single email. And, one must consider the fact that as Secretary of State, her private and government accounts both during and after her official tenure were actively monitored by U.S. intelligence officials to prevent hacking from ever occurring in the first instance.

“Those who follow Kremlin propaganda understand that it is not necessary for Putin to have Clinton’s e-mails to cause serious damage to a Clinton presidency… The Kremlin knows that repeated lies are eventually taken as truth, so that an unsourced narrative, repeated, will eventually become the “truth.”,” stated Paul Roderick Gregory, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford and Cullen Professor of Economics at the University of Houston specializing in Russian politics (Emphasis in Original).

As for Trump, many Russian scholars have depicted him as an undesirable wildcard, vastly unpredictable and not someone Mr. Putin has any intention of working with on sensitive matters affecting global stability and security.   Among the many comments made:

  • A lawmaker in Russia’s upper house of parliament speaking anonymously said a potential Trump presidency, “…sounds very attractive but it could end as a catastrophe for everyone. The problem? He is unpredictable.”
  • “Clearly the conservatives are pro-Trump, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the top people really want Trump. It could be incredibly disruptive. Can you imagine if all the things he has said come true?” I think that there are very few sane politicians of any kind, including Russians, who would actually want a Trump presidency. But they are enjoying the spectacle…,” said Maxim Trudolyubov, a senior fellow with the Kennan Institute.
  • Igor Ivanov, president of the Russian International Affairs Council, stated that a ““newcomer” would be harder to deal with: inconsistent, unpredictable, given to subjective and emotional decisions that can be very hard to rectify later on.”
  • Having a “…flighty and irascible populist who changes his mind three times a day” at the head of a nuclear superpower “may pose danger to the whole world and for Russia in particular,” opined Pavel Demidov, a professor at the Russian state MGIMO University.
  • Konstantin Kosachev, head of the international affairs committee in the Federation Council, stated that under a Trump presidency, “a certain window of possibilities may naturally appear. But not all those possibilities may be desirable… Trump is not predictable enough.”

Secretary Clinton is predictable.  While it is likely that she will continue many of Obama administration’s policies, she is also equally likely to be influenced by her husband, former President William Clinton.

During the Clinton Administration, the U.S.’s relationship with Russia vastly improved.  President Clinton enjoyed a cordial relationship Boris Yeltsin, with whom he met with on 18 occasions.

As Secretary of State Mrs. Clinton was responsible a “reset” in U.S. relations with then Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who served under then President Dmitry Medvedev, at a meeting held in Geneva.

In this March 6, 2009 file photo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presents Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a device with a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo, File)

Called the “Moscow Spring”, it revitalized the relationship with Russia resulting in a nuclear arms-control treaty and Russia acquiescing to NATO-led military intervention in Libya.  The Geneva meeting also resulted in a tentative agreement to resolve the Syrian War; an agreement the Obama Administration failed to back.

After Mr. Putin was elected a second time in 2012, protesters accused Mr. Putin of having rigged recent elections, Mr. Putin blamed Secretary Clinton, who had called the election results “dishonest and unfair” of giving “a signal” to demonstrators working “with the support of the U.S. State Department” to undermine his presidency. The decisive blow came when the U.S. sanctioned Russia on July 17 2014 based on unlawful aggressions in Ukraine and the shooting down of flight MH17.  In October 2014, Foreign Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that a reset of relations with the U.S. was “impossible”, and that relations had been damaged by “destructive” and “stupid” Western sanctions.

Going forward, what Secretary Clinton has thus far stated that the United States must work with Russia on issues of common interest whenever possible, like arms control, but also partner with allies to limit Russia’s transgressions when needed, as in Ukraine.  The United States should respond by strengthening the NATO alliance and improving the energy security of European states.  At no time, has Secretary Clinton called for further economic sanctions and has made no reference to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

In sum, more than a Trump presidency, the Kremlin may simply be enjoying watching the myriad of problems unfold, many of which seem illusory at best, in the American presidential race.  It is also likely that the propaganda war was not conceptualized to impact the American elections but, to serve as a subterfuge for the Kremlin’s aggressions in the European Union, most notably in Germany.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner is an American journalist living in The Hague writing for Tuck Magazine and E – The Magazine for Today’s Executive Female Executive.  Her blogs are read in over 37 countries.  As a thought leader in the area of foreign policy, her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking. Ms. Lardner holds degrees in journalism, law, and counseling psychology.


“Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, and U.S.-Russian Relations,” Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State, as found on the www at“Berlin’s mayor warns of growing AfD support”, August 21, 2016, DW, as found on the www at

Clinton on the Issues, The Council for Foreign Relations, as found on the www at

Gregory, Paul Roderick, “What If Vladimir Putin Has Hillary Clinton’s Emails?”, Forbes, February 12, 2016, as found on the www at

Roth, Andrew, “The Kremlin may savor Trump – but still might prefer Clinton,” August 3, 2016, The Washington Post, as found on the www at—-but-still-might-prefer-clinton/2016/08/03/8395275c-58eb-11e6-8b48-0cb344221131_story.html?tid=a_inl.