By Robert A. Vella
This is how world wars start. First, domestic hardship triggers cultural fragmentation across multiple nations and hostility towards the socioeconomic status quo. Second, political strongmen gain power by exploiting the social unrest with bravado, charisma, and cunning which sway the populace. Third, these authoritarian leaders consolidate power by demonizing and targeting various “enemies” which distract the public from their charlatan ways. Fourth, such tactics cause international tensions to rise on a global scale. Fifth, trade wars emerge and intensify. Sixth, the world’s geopolitical alignment shifts and polarizes. Seventh, some lunatic fires the first deadly shot and… well, you know the rest.
Trump’s new trade war
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) condemned President Trump‘s new tariffs on Mexico late Thursday, calling the move a “misuse” of presidential tariff authority and cautioning the levies could derail passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Trump announced he would impose the tariffs to pressure Mexico to stop the flow of migrants into the U.S. via the southern border.
President Donald Trump’s threat to impose new tariffs on Mexico unless it stops the flow of migrants into the U.S. could cause massive economic disruption ahead of the 2020 elections and doom his signature renegotiation of a North American trade deal.
Trump announced a 5% tariff on all imports from Mexico unless it takes “decisive measures” — as judged by his administration — to stem migrants entering the U.S., according to a White House statement. The tariffs would begin June 10 and scale up incrementally until they reach 25 percent on Oct. 1.
The surprise move rattled global financial markets as investors were counting on slow but steady progress toward congressional approval of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that Trump’s team negotiated to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect in 1994.
International tensions rise
BEIJING, May 31 (Reuters) – China threatened on Friday to unveil an unprecedented hit-list of “unreliable” foreign firms, groups and individuals that harm the interests of Chinese companies, as a slate of retaliatory tariffs on imported U.S. goods was set to kick in at midnight.
The commerce ministry did not single out any country or company, but the threat could further heighten tensions after Washington this month put Huawei on a blacklist that effectively blocks U.S. firms from doing business with the Chinese telecoms equipment giant.
BERLIN, May 31 (Reuters) – The United States may no longer share sensitive security information with nations that install next-generation networks, like those made by China’s Huawei, that it regards as insecure, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
Pompeo issued the warning after meeting his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Berlin, which has so far stood with European partners in resisting U.S. calls to ban the state-owned manufacturer from 5G mobile networks now being built.
A top Pentagon official said on Thursday the consequences would be “devastating” for Turkey’s joint F-35 fighter program and its cooperation with NATO if the country bought a Russian missile defense system.
Kathryn Wheelbarger, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, said that Ankara’s planned purchase of the S-400 system would damage Turkey’s ability to work together with the Western alliance, and force Washington to hit the country with sanctions.
(Bloomberg) — Russia has rejected an Iranian request to buy S-400 missile defense systems, concerned that the sale would stoke more tension in the Middle East, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, including a senior Russian official.
Russia and Iran have enjoyed close political and military ties in recent years, though there have been signs that Moscow is seeking to gradually reduce Iran’s footprint in the Middle East as it seeks to protect its relations with other regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.
More domestic turmoil in the U.S.
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan’s quest for the Pentagon’s top job faced a new obstacle Thursday amid outrage over an aborted attempt to hide the name of the destroyer USS John S. McCain during President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan.
Anger by Democratic lawmakers and retired military brass added to months of questions about the former Boeing executive’s leadership style, on top of months of complaints about his role in implementing Trump’s Iran and Syria policies, as well as his willingness to shift billions of dollars to build the president’s border wall despite opposition in Congress.
Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., this week sent subpoenas to Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, and Trump Victory, a political fundraising committee, demanding they turn over all records relating to Republican Party donor Li “Cindy” Yang and several of her associates and companies, the Miami Herald has learned.
Yang, a South Florida massage-parlor entrepreneur, is the target of a public corruption investigation seeking to determine if she funneled money from China to the president’s re-election campaign or otherwise violated campaign-finance laws.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings on Thursday accused the Trump administration of blocking a congressional investigation into the attempted removal of the Education Department’s acting independent watchdog.
Cummings (D-Md.) said that Education Department officials refused to turn over documents related to the Trump administration’s efforts earlier this year to replace the agency’s acting inspector general. The move by the administration came after the acting IG opened an investigation into Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ decision to reinstate the federal powers of an accreditor of for-profit colleges.
House Democrats are ramping up their campaign to get Robert Mueller to testify despite the special counsel’s stated aim to avoid such an appearance on Capitol Hill.
Democrats negotiating for Mueller to come before several committees hope to avoid the antagonistic step of issuing a subpoena to compel his testimony, but they’re not ruling it out.
“I understand his reluctance,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Thursday by phone. “But I think the stakes are so high that he has an obligation to [testify].”
Richmond said he wants Mueller to parse the details of the Justice Department guidelines barring the agency from indicting a sitting president. Mueller cited those rules Wednesday in asserting that bringing charges against President Trump was “not an option.”