Russia criticizes Donald Trump’s Cuba policy, calls it: ‘Cold War rhetoric’

The US president partially reversed Washington’s diplomatic and commercial opening to Cuba that was unveiled in 2014. The Kremlin accused Trump of pandering to a small group of Cuban-American voters.

Cuban and US flags in Havana (Imago/Belga)

Russia’s Foreign Ministry slammed US President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back US relations with Cuba, accusing Trump of resorting to “Cold War” rhetoric.

“The new line towards Cuba announced by US President Donald Trump takes us back to already half-forgotten rhetoric in the style of the Cold War,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Watch video01:36

US-Cuba relations under Trump

The statement on Sunday added, “It’s clear the anti-Cuba discourse is still widely needed. This can only induce regret.”

Despite Trump’s campaign pledge to improve relations with Moscow, there has been no discernible improvement in cooperation between the two countries. Indeed, last week, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to support new sanctions against Russia.

On Friday Trump ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to the Caribbean island and a crackdown on US business dealings with the Cuban military. The president said he was canceling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” liberalizing ties with Havana.

US President Trump holding the executive order on US-Cuba policy (Reuters/C. Barria)Trump shows-off his newly signed executive order Friday, rolling back US policy on Cuba

Obama’s opening to Cuba

In December 2014, Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba for the first time in more than half-a-century. Washington had severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after communist rebels led by Fidel Castro toppled the right-wing government of Fulgencio Batista.

Watch video42:31

Cuba – Nostalgia and Change

After Castro’s regime nationalized all US property in Cuba in 1960, Washington responded by seizing all Cuban assets on US soil and tightening its comprehensive embargo against the island nation.The US leases the territory of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which includes the infamous US detention facility there.

Despite the sanctions, which were intended to inflict sufficient pain on the Cuban government to bring about its collapse, the Castro regime persevered. Obama concluded that the Cold War policy had failed, and sought a policy of detente with Havana.

Moscow maintains close ties with Havana, and in March signed a deal to renew oil shipments to the Caribbean island for the first time in more than a decade.

It said that easing of sanctions under Obama was a “well-thought-out political decision in which there were no losers except marginal Castro opponents.”

Gonna take a whole lot of Carriers (which was not a success) to offset foolish policy reversal cost in loss of US jobs.

bik/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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Opinion: The USA stands by Qatar

The USA has signed a multi-billion-dollar arms deal with Qatar, which is enmired in a diplomatic spat in the Persian Gulf. The two nations are also holding joint military maneuvers: a strong signal, says Christian Meier.

Riad Treffen Donald Trump Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani Emir Katar (Getty Images/AFP/M. Ngan)

Rarely has the arrival of a foreign military power been so yearned for in Qatar. On Wednesday, two US warships sailed into Port Hamad, south of the capital, Doha. The ships are in Qatar to conduct joint military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf with the emirate’s navy. The maneuvers have been planned for a while, as was the $12 billion (10.7 billion euros) purchase of American F-15 fighter jets – which was also announced Wednesday in Washington, DC. The timing of both events, however, sends a very clear signal: America is standing by its ally Qatar’s side during the largest diplomatic crisis the Gulf region has seen in years.

Exactly what the US stance on the matter would be was an open question just a few days ago. Two weeks ago, a number of Arab states – led by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – surprised the world by severing diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing all transport links to the country. They accused Qatar of supporting terror groups and collaborating with Iran to undermine stability in the region. Qatar does indeed have a rather dubious past in that regard. The tiny emirate, made exceedingly rich by its natural-gas deposits, explicitly fostered Islamist groups in Arab states during the so-called Arab Spring. It also harbored a number of leaders from the Palestinian terror organization Hamas, as well as controversial characters such as the Egyptian religious scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, considered by many to be the guiding spirit of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Read: Germany calls for diplomacy to resolve Qatar standoff, turns down mediator role

Meager progress in the fight against terror financing

 FAZ-Redakteur Christian Meier (F.A.Z/Wolfgang Eilmes)Christian Meier from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

But that has all been known for some time. And the US government recently attested that Doha had been making progress – however modest – in the fight against terror financing. This makes it look as if Qatar’s neighbors took such drastic action for another reason altogether: Qatar’s idiosyncratic foreign policy has been irritating Saudi Arabia and the UAE for years. They are also perturbed by the fact that Qatar has maintained open relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s adversary in the region. Speaking in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, one month ago, US President Donald Trump was energetic in warning about fighting terror financing, while at the same time singling out the Shiite government in Tehran as terror sponsor. Apparently, several Arab states interpreted this as a signal that the moment had come to cut Qatar down to size.

Read: Trump calls for global coalition against terrorism, ‘isolation’ of Iran

Is that what Trump had in mind? Contradictory signals emanated from Washington in the aftermath of the announcement: Referring to the Qatar boycott, the president tweeted that he was happy to see that his trip was “paying off.” At the same time, representatives from his administration were busy emphasizing Qatar’s strategic importance for US security interests. Qatar is home to the United States’ largest military base in the Middle East. Operations against the terror group “Islamic State” (IS) are coordinated at Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. It seems that for the time being, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have been able to convince President Trump that Qatar is simply too important for America to let fall. Behind the scenes, the Americans will no doubt maintain pressure on Doha – and so they should. But the US would be wise to avoid getting duped into assisting one side or the other in the power struggles being played out among the Gulf states.

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German economy is responsible for 4.8 million jobs in the EU

Germany has recently been criticized for its large trade surplus. Ever since Donald Trump took up the topic, businesses have been worried. Now a new study takes on these accusations.

England Wirtschaft Container (Picture alliance/empics/A. Matthews)

According to a new study, the German economy is responsible for 4.8 million European jobs. The paper released on Friday by the Swiss-based consultancy Prognos, argues that high demand in Germany does not slow development in neighboring countries, but is an important driving force behind their growth.

The Bavarian Industry Association (vbw) asked for the report because of the continuing criticism of Germany’s current account surplus, which has recently come under fire from Donald Trump.

In 2015, Germany imported goods worth around $620 billion (555 billion euros) from other EU counties. A downturn in the Germany economy would have the effect of lowering economic output across the European Union by 36 billion euros by 2023.

“Our study debunks the myth that German economic competitiveness harms our neighbors,” says Bertram Brossardt, head of vbw.

Strong demand for imports

The strength of Germany’s industry and its import demands are of particular interest and benefit to neighboring countries. Its main suppliers are the Netherlands, France and Belgium, followed by Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic. The bulk of these imports are to supply industry; only 28 percent are consumer goods.

The report suggests that in Poland alone around 890,000 jobs are directly related to German demand, which is more than any other European Union country.

Additionally, the competitiveness of German industry does not squeeze out companies from other countries, says Prognos. Instead European economies benefit from German strength. These countries not only sell more products, but also cover their own needs with German products.

In view of these results, Brossardt urges ending “the fictitious debate about the negative effects of the current German account surplus,” adding that “a weaker German economy and industry would not make any other country stronger and thus benefit no one.”

A surplus of almost nine percent

For nearly all EU member states, Germany is the most important or second most important export market, according to Prognos. German demand for imported goods accounts for between seven and eight percent of the total gross domestic product (GDP) in countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Austria; therefore providing hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Germany exports goods and services worth more than $1 trillion a year, but imports much less. This export surplus of nearly 270 billion euros is equivalent to around nine percent of its economic output, putting Germany in first place ahead of China and Japan. America on the other hand has an export deficit of $478 billion.

Watch video02:05

Germany’s trade surplus

wen/tr (dpa, vbw)

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Cuba deal rollback: Trump says he’s nixing Obama’s ‘one-sided’ pact

President Trump, speaking at a Miami theater associated with Cuban exiles, announced Friday he is nixing his predecessor’s “one-sided deal” with the Communist nation – moving to restrict individual travel to the island, crack down on the flow of U.S. cash to the Cuban military and demand key reforms in Havana.

While stopping short of a full reversal, Trump said he would challenge Cuba to come back to the table with a new agreement.

“Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump told a cheering crowd.

Trump cast his announcement Friday as the fulfillment of a campaign pledge to turn back former President Barack Obama’s diplomatic outreach to the country.

“I keep my promises,” Trump said. “And now that I am your president, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime.”

RUBIO RIPS OBAMA’S CUBA ‘REGIME’ OUTREACH

A cornerstone of the new policy is to ensure Americans traveling to Cuba only support private businesses and services, banning financial transactions with the dozens of enterprises run by the military-linked corporation GAESA.

The Trump administration also says it will strictly enforce the 12 authorized categories allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba – banning one particular type of travel, known as individual “people-to-people” trips, seen as ripe for abuse by would-be tourists.

Most U.S. travelers to Cuba will again be required to visit the island as part of organized tour groups run by American companies. Obama eliminated the tour requirement, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to book solo trips and spend their money with individual bed-and-breakfast owners, restaurants and taxi drivers. The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities designed to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans.

Trump focused his speech Friday on the crimes and misdeeds of the Castro government, saying his administration would not “hide from it.” He accused the regime of harboring “cop killers, hijackers and terrorists” while casting the policy changes as meant to encourage a free Cuba.

“With God’s help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve,” Trump said.

Critics of the United States’ decades-long freeze – and embargo – with Cuba say it failed to spur such changes, and had welcomed Obama’s outreach as a fresh approach. But many Cuban-American lawmakers recoiled.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Cuban-American lawmaker who helped craft the new policy, spoke before the president in Miami on Friday and took a shot at Trump’s predecessor for his visit to Cuba last March.

“A year and a half ago … an American president landed in Havana to outstretch his hand to a regime. Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba,” Rubio said.

U.S. airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to continue service to the island.

The U.S. Embassy in Havana, which reopened in August 2015, will remain as a full-fledged diplomatic outpost. Trump also isn’t overturning Obama’s decision to end the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed most Cuban migrants who made it onto U.S. soil to stay and eventually become legal permanent residents.

Trump affirmed in his speech that the U.S. embassy would remain open, in hopes the two countries can forge a “better path.” But he said his administration would enforce the ban on tourism and the embargo, and would not lift sanctions until the regime releases all political prisoners and schedules free and internationally supervised elections.

Trump also demanded the return of Joanne Chesimard, a New York City native wanted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper.

The U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution. It spent subsequent decades trying to either overthrow the Cuban government or isolate the island, including toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The embargo remains in place and unchanged by Trump’s policy. Only the U.S. Congress can lift the embargo, and lawmakers, especially those of Cuban heritage like Rubio, have shown no interest in doing so.

Reaction to the changes split largely along partisan lines. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in a statement the Trump administration is right to sideline the Cuban military and make human rights and internet access top priorities moving forward.”

Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted that Cubans “will be hurt by a mean spirited policy” meant to keep a “political promise to a few people at their expense.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the actions “threaten to slam that door shut and revert to a failed policy of isolation that has done nothing to improve the lives of the Cuban people and has harmed the American economy.”

Opinion: Donald Trump and the art of creating chaos

Donald Trump doesn’t just hurt his opponents. He also damages the reputation of his friends and associates. Those who stand by him have to reckon with being accomplices, writes Miodrag Soric.

USA Washington - Donald Trump und Jeff Sessions (Reuters/K. Lamarque)

No one can escape him – neither friends nor foes. In 2016, the presidential candidate Trump, the political newcomer, thwarted the election campaign strategies of experienced governors and senators – and won. He ridiculed his opponents, gave them degrading nicknames and pulled America’s political culture down to a new low point.

This time it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions who stood by the president. He submitted himself to probing questions by senators about Russia’s influence on the US federal election or the reasons behind the dismissal of former FBI director, James Comey.

The attorney general did not disclose any information that could damage Trump. During the hearing, Sessions either suffered from attacks of amnesia, or he refused to give evidence when things got too risky. He has a right to do this. But transparency comes across differently. Sessions’ testimony did not instill any confidence – neither in him, nor in this administration.

Soric Miodrag Kommentarbild AppMiodrag Soric, head of DW’s Washington bureau

So many unanswered questions

In the wake of this hearing, Trump’s opponents still have no evidence that contacts between his election campaign team and Russia were too close. Does this mean that the Democrats are going to stop making inquiries? Hardly.

The ghost of potentially too close contact between Trump and Russia will continue to haunt the corridors of Congress. Courts will again reject a possible travel ban against Muslims and pass it on to the next instance. There will be new investigations into whether there is a conflict between Trump’s private and official business interests. Trump, the shady business contractor, will want to continue his image as Mister Clean, sorting out Washington’s dubious political laundry: Trump really believes that he is the defender of the man in the street.

Forward into the past, America!

His supporters are hailing the re-opening of a coalmine in Pennsylvania as proof of the modernization of the American economy. At the same time, the administration has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, has placed a question mark over international trade agreements, and wants to build walls along the country’s borders. Forward into the past, America!

Trump lives in a world of “alternative facts.” Facts are true if they appear useful to him. This president magically attracts half-truths, facts that can be described in terms of “both/and.” What an infallible instinct for causing chaos. At his Senate hearing, Jeff Sessions defended the president’s decisions and his process of decision-making. One day he might regret this.

Have something to say? You can leave your comment below. The thread will remain open for 24 hours after publication. 

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Jeff Sessions denies Russia collusion, defends Comey firing

The US Attorney General has denied allegations he was aware of links between Russia and the Trump campaign in a Senate hearing. He also said he recommended a “fresh start” at the FBI when asked about the firing of Comey.

Watch video00:57

Sessions calls notion he colluded with Russia ‘detestable lie’

In a closely-watched testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly denied the suggestion he colluded with Russian officials during the campaign to swing the election in US President Donald Trump‘s favor.

“The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country … or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie,” Sessions said.

Sessions said his decision to recuse himself from all ongoing Russia investigations was based on a regulation that required him to step aside due to his involvement in the Trump campaign. He insisted that he didn’t know about the Russia probe or was involved in the investigation.

Sessions also defended against accusations that he misrepresented himself by saying he had not met with Russian officials during the campaign during his confirmation hearing.

The attorney general did not actually step aside from the Russia probe until March 2, one day after The Washington Post reported on his two previously undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Watch video03:43

Sessions hearing – DW’s Carsten von Nahmen reports

Grilling over Comey firing

Sessions also fielded several questions over his role in the firing of James Comey. The former FBI director said in his testimony last week that US President Donald Trump sacked him as part of a bid to influence the Russia investigation.

The nation’s top law enforcement official said he had recommended a “fresh start” for the FBI, but wouldn’t provide any details about his conversation with Trump concerning the matter.

He also refused to say whether he discussed the Russia investigation with Trump, saying he couldn’t disclose private conversations with the president.

During last week’s testimony, Comey suggested that there was something “problematic” about Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe. When asked what problematic issues existed, Sessions became visibly incensed.

“Why don’t you tell me? There are none,” Sessions insisted, his voice rising. “This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it.”

Asked about Trump’s contention that he had fired Comey with the Russia probe in mind and regardless of recommendations from anyone else, sessions said: “I guess I’ll just have to let his words speak for themselves. I’m not sure what was in his mind specifically.”

“Many have suggested that my recusal is because I felt I was a subject of the investigation myself, that I may have done something wrong,” Sessions added. “But this is the reason I recused myself. I felt I was required to under the rules of the Department of Justice.”

“I did not recuse myself from defending my honor gainst scurrilous and false allegations,” he added.

Tuesday’s hearing was Sessions’ first public testimony since being confirmed as attorney general in February, and comes amid several open investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

rs,jh/rt   (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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Americans trust Comey over Trump following his ‘prevalent’ leaks – poll

Americans trust Comey over Trump following his ‘prevalent’ leaks – poll
A poll conducted following former FBI chief James Comey’s testimony has shown that Americans find the fired intelligence official more trustworthy than President Trump. The latter, however, has slammed some of Comey’s actions as being “cowardly.”

Forty-six percent of US citizens aged 18 and over think Comey is “more honest and trustworthy” than US President Donald Trump, who is trusted by 26 percent of the respondents, a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll has shown. Almost a third of the 1,000 people interviewed said they are “not sure” which of the two they trust more.

Trump’s favorability rating also appeared not to be too favorable for him, as 43 percent of those asked find the president “very unfavorable.” In regard to Comey, respondents appeared to be less decisive, with 12 percent having a “very favorable” opinion of the former official, and 16 percent – “very unfavorable.” Thirty-two percent said they were not sure how to reply.

Forty-five percent also believe Trump has made a mistake by firing Comey, with 28 percent saying they see the president’s decision as “right.” Almost half of the respondents said they think “Trump fired Comey at least partly to disrupt the Russia investigation,” and 29 percent said the dismissal “was unrelated” to it.

In light of Comey’s testimony, more US officials will appear before the Senate panel, with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirming he will testify before the intelligence committee next week.

JUST IN: Attorney General Jeff Sessions agrees to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday

The web-based interviews were conducted from June 8 to 9, following the former FBI boss’ Thursday testimony.

Outlining his relationship with Trump, Comey confirmed that he had leaked his meeting with the US president to the media. He also accused the Trump administration of having defamed him personally “and, more importantly, the FBI,” by saying they had lost confidence in him.

In response to Comey’s testimony, Trump has already accused the former FBI director of “false statements” and “lies.” On Sunday, he went on to suggest that Comey’s “leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible.” He also proclaimed ex-FBI boss’ actions as “very ‘cowardly.’

I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’

Trump has also denied Comey’s claims that the president had asked him to pledge loyalty. However, according to the poll, half of US citizens appear to be on Comey’s side on this point, saying they think Trump did ask the former FBI chief “to pledge loyalty to him.” Only 15 percent said they thought “he did not ask this.”

Comey was asked explicitly whether Trump requested him to stop the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, to which the former FBI head responded by saying “not to my understanding, no.” He then went on to say that he had not been asked by anyone to end the investigation.

According to the poll, 36 percent see “the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia” as “a very serious problem.” Twenty-two percent regard it as “not a problem at all.”

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