Archive for Friday, September 8, 2017

Opinion: Trump takes shots; Tillerson works

September 8, 2017

Advertisement

— Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has often been the silent man in the Trump foreign policy team. But out of the spotlight, he appears to be crafting a broad strategy aimed at working with China to resolve the North Korea crisis and with Russia to stabilize Syria and Ukraine.

The Tillerson approach focuses on personal diplomacy, in direct contacts with Chinese and Russian leaders, and through private channels to North Korea. His core strategic assumption is that if the U.S. can subtly manage its relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin — and allow those leaders to take credit for successes — complex regional problems can be solved effectively.

Tillerson appears unfazed by criticism that he has been a poor communicator and by recent talk of discord with President Trump. His attitude isn’t exactly “take this job and shove it,” but as a former Exxon Mobil chief executive, he doesn’t need to make money or Washington friends — and he clearly thinks he has more urgent obligations than dealing with the press.

Tillerson appears to have preserved a working relationship with Trump despite pointedly separating himself from the president’s controversial comments after the Charlottesville unrest. Although Trump didn’t initially like Tillerson’s statement, it’s said he was ultimately comfortable with it.

The North Korea crisis is the best example of Tillerson’s diplomacy. For all the bombast of Trump’s tweets, the core of U.S. policy has been an effort to work jointly with China to reverse the North Korean nuclear buildup through negotiations. Tillerson has signaled that the U.S. is ready for direct talks with Kim Jong Un’s regime — perhaps soon, if Kim shows restraint. Tillerson wants China standing behind Kim at the negotiating table, with its hands figuratively at Kim’s throat.

Despite Pyongyang’s hyper-belligerent rhetoric, its representatives have conveyed interest in negotiations, querying details of U.S. positions. But Kim’s actions have been erratic and confusing: When it appeared that the North Koreans wanted credit for not launching missiles toward Guam, Tillerson offered such a public statement. Bizarrely, North Korea followed with three more weapons tests, in a reckless rebuff.

Some analysts see North Korea’s race to test missiles and bombs as an effort to prepare the strongest possible bargaining position before negotiations. Tillerson seems to be betting that China can force such talks by imposing an oil embargo against Pyongyang. U.S. officials hope Xi will make this move unilaterally, demonstrating strong leadership publicly, rather than waiting for America to insert the embargo proposal in a new U.N. Security Council resolution.

Tillerson signaled his seriousness about Korea talks during a March visit to the Demilitarized Zone. He pointed to a table at a U.N. office there and remarked “maybe we’ll use this again,” if negotiations begin.

The Sino-American strategic dialogue about North Korea has been far more extensive than either country acknowledges. They’ve discussed joint efforts to stabilize the Korean Peninsula, including Chinese actions to secure nuclear weapons, if the regime collapses.

The big idea driving Tillerson’s China policy is that the fundamentals of the relationship have changed as China has grown more powerful and assertive. The message to Beijing is that Xi’s actions in defusing the North Korea crisis will shape U.S.-China relations for the next half-century.

Tillerson continues to work the Russia file, even amid new Russia sanctions. He’s known Putin since 1999 and views him as a predictable, if sometimes bullying, leader. Even with the relationship in the dumps, Tillerson believes he’s making some quiet progress on Ukraine and Syria.

On Ukraine, Tillerson supports Russia’s proposal to send U.N. peacekeepers to police what Putin claims are Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s assaults on Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine. The addition of U.N. monitors would help implement the Minsk agreement, even if Putin gets the credit and Poroshenko the blame.

On Syria, Tillerson has warned Putin that the real danger to Russian interests is increasing Iranian power there, especially as Bashar Assad’s regime regains control of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria. To counter the Iranians, Tillerson supports a quick move by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to capture the Lower Euphrates Valley.

Trump’s boisterous, sometimes belligerent manner and Tillerson’s reticence are an unlikely combination, and many observers have doubted the relationship can last. But Tillerson seems to roll with the punches — and tweets. When Trump makes a disruptive comment, Tillerson seems to treat it as part of the policy landscape — and to ponder how to use it to advantage.

Tillerson may be the least-public chief diplomat in modern American history, but that’s apparently by choice. By Washington standards, he’s strangely uninterested in taking the credit.

— David Ignatius is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Koch Outspends Exxon-Mobil on Climate Denial

The Wonk Room has long detailed the role of the billionaire brothers of Koch Industries, Charles and David Koch, in destroying American prosperity.

In public, the Kochs like to burnish their reputations by buying museums and opera halls. In private, however, they’ve outspent Exxon Mobil to fund organizations of the climate denial machine, as Greenpeace details in a new report:

Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming.

Koch Industries has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition.

This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy.

In fact, Koch has out-spent Exxon Mobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, Exxon Mobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries-controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the climate denial machine.

This report, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine” documents roughly 40 climate denial and opposition organizations receiving Koch foundation grants in recent years, including:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2010/03/30/174616/koch-denial-machine/

Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org

Richard Heckler 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Study Finds Top Fossil Fuel Producers’ Emissions Responsible for as Much as Half of Global Surface Temperature Increase, Roughly 30 Percent of Global Sea Level Rise

http://www.ucsusa.org/press/2017/study-finds-top-fossil-fuel-producers-emissions-responsible-much-half-global-surface#.WbKGFq2ZMfA

Findings Provide New Data to Hold Companies Responsible for Climate Change

WASHINGTON (September 7, 2017)—A first-of-its-kind study published today in the scientific journal Climatic Change links global climate changes to the product-related emissions of specific fossil fuel producers, including ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Focusing on the largest gas, oil and coal producers and cement manufacturers, the study calculated the amount of sea level rise and global temperature increase resulting from the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from their products as well as their extraction and production processes.

The study quantified climate change impacts of each company’s carbon and methane emissions during two time periods: 1880 to 2010 and 1980 to 2010. By 1980, investor-owned fossil fuel companies were aware of the threat posed by their products and could have taken steps to reduce their risks and share them with their shareholders and the general public.

“We’ve known for a long time that fossil fuels are the largest contributor to climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, lead author and director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “What’s new here is that we’ve verified just how much specific companies’ products have caused the Earth to warm and the seas to rise.”

Had ExxonMobil, for example, acted on its own scientists’ research about the risks of its products, climate change likely would be far more manageable today.

“Fossil fuel companies could have taken any number of steps, such as investing in clean energy or carbon capture and storage, but many chose instead to spend millions of dollars to try to deceive the public about climate science to block sensible limits on carbon emissions,” said Peter Frumhoff, a study co-author and director of science and policy at UCS.

“Taxpayers, especially those living in vulnerable coastal communities, should not have to bear the high costs of these companies’ irresponsible decisions by themselves.”

Ekwurzel et al.’s study may inform approaches for juries and judges to calculate damages in such lawsuits as ones filed by two California counties and the city of Imperial Beach in July against 37 oil, gas and coal companies, claiming they should pay for damages from sea level rise.

Likewise, the study should bolster investor campaigns to force fossil fuel companies to disclose their legal vulnerabilities and the risks that climate change poses to their finances and material assets.

http://www.ucsusa.org/press/2017/study-finds-top-fossil-fuel-producers-emissions-responsible-much-half-global-surface#.WbKGFq2ZMfA

Commenting has been disabled for this item.