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Author: TriSec    Date: 07/09/2024 10:02:36

Good Morning.

Hope and dreams notwithstanding, the rest of the world is getting nervous about another Trump presidency.

Trump's plans for NATO and Europe are unclear at the moment. But we already know he thinks very highly of Comrade Putin, and is likely to dial back any sort of assistance to Ukraine in the "War of Eastern Aggression", to turn a phrase.

In any case, our allies are worried enough that they are starting to work on a plan.

Even before the debate, European governments were deep in consultations on what they could do to ensure that NATO, Western support for Ukraine and the security of individual NATO countries will endure should Trump win back the presidency in November and temper U.S. contributions.

Some Americans and Europeans call it “Trump-proofing” NATO — or “future-proofing” it when the political advances of far-right political blocs in Europe are factored in.

This week's summit, held in the city where the mutual-defense alliance was founded in 1949, was once expected to be a celebration of NATO's endurance. Now, a European official said, it looks “gloomy."

There are two reasons for the gloom: Russian advances on the battlefield in the months that Trump-allied congressional Republicans delayed U.S. arms and funding to Ukraine. And the possibility of far-right governments unfriendly to NATO coming to power.

The official spoke to reporters last week on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations among governments.

Rachel Rizzo, a senior fellow on NATO with the nonpartisan think tank the Atlantic Council, says she has a blunt message for Europeans: “Freaking out about a second Trump term helps no one.”

For allies at the summit, she said, the key will be resisting the temptation to dwell on the details of unprecedented events in U.S. politics and put their heads down on readying Western military aid for Ukraine and preparing for any lessening of U.S. support.

Trump, who before and after his presidency has spoken admiringly of Russian President Vladimir Putin and harshly of NATO, often focuses his complaints on the U.S. share of the alliance's costs. Biden himself, as a U.S. senator in 1997, warned that if there were any sense other NATO allies were “taking the United States for suckers, the future of the alliance in the next century will be very much in doubt.”

The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union lulled the West into thinking the Russian threat had been neutralized, leading to military spending cuts. Now, NATO allies are bolstering their forces against any wider aggression by Putin, and a record 23 nations in NATO are meeting defense-spending goals.

One of Trump's former national security advisers, John Bolton, says Trump in a second term would work to get the U.S. out of NATO. Congress passed legislation last year making that harder, but a president could simply stop collaborating in some or all of NATO's missions.

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Isolationism didn't really do anyone any good the last time we tried it. But after all, this is the "America First" crowd. Perhaps they are anti-Semites too, but we already have enough racist targets for their liking.

Moving on though, there's likely to be a lot of talk about our veterans as we get deeper into the campaign. It's the same old story - Democrats might actually be working to try to improve their lot, where Republicans are just looking for props at a campaign rally. In any case - this one is a lengthy read - but it does compare and contrast the records of both Mr. Trump and President Biden. Unfortunately, most of the military these days is full of white, southern racists, so they will vote against their own self-interests.

Biden shepherded through the PACT Act, which has been described as the biggest expansion of veterans benefits in a generation. Trump's biggest veterans-related legislation was the Mission Act, which expanded veterans' ability to seek VA-funded care outside of the VA system.

"Someone who may have benefited from the passage of the Mission Act, for that individual, it's the most important thing," said Patrick Murray, legislative director at the Veterans for Foreign Wars. "Someone who may have had a rare cancer that was benefited by the PACT Act, that's the most important thing to them. So, different veterans who had different illnesses, injuries, disabilities, whatever, may have benefited from either of the bills and, to those veterans, that's the most important thing."

"We fought hard for the passage of the Mission and PACT acts because all veterans deserve the best care possible from VA," Chanin Nuntavong, the American Legion's executive director for government affairs, told Military.com in an email. "This means untangling the knots often associated with securing their earned health care benefits; expanding the rules to cover all those eligible; and lifting barriers to access, especially to those who live in rural areas."

The PACT Act was the culmination of a yearslong effort from veterans, family members and other advocates to get better recognition and care for ailments believed to be caused by exposure to burn pits and other toxins during their military services.

The legislative push got a significant boost when Biden, who has said he believes his son Beau's fatal brain cancer was caused by burn pit exposure, endorsed it at a State of the Union address, giving it the momentum needed to become law.

By the VA's own accounting, the law has resulted in more than a million new benefits claims approved and more than 300,000 new enrollments in VA health care.


Trump's first VA secretary was David Shulkin, a VA under secretary during the Obama administration who was one of Trump's last picks for Cabinet secretaries ahead of his inauguration. Shulkin was ousted by Trump a little more than a year into the job after an inspector general report found he took a trip to Europe that involved more sightseeing than official business, used taxpayer funding to have his wife accompany him on the trip, and improperly accepted tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match as a gift.

To replace Shulkin, Trump first nominated current Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas -- at the time a Navy doctor who served as the White House physician and won Trump's favor by showering him with praise. Jackson, though, was forced to withdraw from consideration after allegations that were later confirmed by an inspector general that he drank on the job, overprescribed medications and created a hostile work environment.

After Jackson's bid ended, Robert Wilkie, who had been working at the Pentagon, was nominated and confirmed as VA secretary. He lasted through the end of the Trump administration.

VA policy during the Trump administration was also directed by a trio of business executives with personal ties to Trump and memberships at his Mar-a-Lago club, according to a 2021 investigation by congressional Democrats that concluded the arrangement "violated the law and sought to exert improper influence over government officials to further their own personal interest."

I must admit, this next story actually made me do a double-take. Of course you all know that I'm Filipino (and Sicilian). I am all too aware of the history in my ancestral homeland during WWII. I have visited Manila and saw some of the ruins with my own eyes. Japanese aggression was why my grandfather came to the West Coast all those many years ago....and now all these many years later, it's actually a shared trauma among non-Japanese Southeast Asians, as we all suffered mightily at the hands of Imperial Japan.

But my, how times have changed.

MANILA, Philippines — Japan and the Philippines signed a key defense pact Monday allowing the deployment of Japanese forces for joint military exercises, including live-fire drills, to the Southeast Asian nation that came under brutal Japanese occupation in World War II but is now building an alliance with Tokyo as they face an increasingly assertive China.

The Reciprocal Access Agreement, which similarly allows Filipino forces to enter Japan for joint combat training, was signed by Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa in a Manila ceremony witnessed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. It would take effect after ratification by the countries’ legislatures, Philippine and Japanese officials said.

Kamikawa called the signing of the defense agreement “a groundbreaking achievement" that should further boost defense cooperation between Japan and the Philippines.

“A free and open international order based on the rule of law is the foundation of regional peace and prosperity," she said. "We would like to work closely with your country to maintain and strengthen this.”

Kamikawa and Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara later held talks with their Philippine counterparts on ways to further deepen relations.

The defense pact with the Philippines is the first to be forged by Japan in Asia. Japan signed similar accords with Australia in 2022 and with Britain in 2023.

Under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the Japanese government has taken steps to boost its security and defensive firepower, including a counterstrike capability that breaks from Japan’s postwar principle of focusing only on self-defense, amid threats from North Korea and China’s growing assertiveness. It’s doubling defense spending in a five-year period to 2027 in a move to bolster its military power and make Japan the world’s third-biggest military spender after the United States and China.

So, there you have it. "May you live in interesting times", indeed.

2 comments (Latest Comment: 07/09/2024 21:40:40 by Raine)
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