While Israel’s top athletes are competing in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, some young Israeli scientists have been winning a remarkable number of medals at the “science olympics” around the globe. An Israeli delegation of high-school students won two medals on Friday at the International Olympiad in Informatics held in Kazan, Russia.
Tomer Adar, a student at the Ruppin School in Emek Hefer, won a silver medal at the Olympiad, and Liran Markin, a student at the WIZO high school in Nahalal, took bronze. The delegation was also comprised of Noam Ta-Shma from Tel Aviv and Ron Solan from Herzliya and was coached by Dr. David Ginat of Tel Aviv University.
“Israeli students repeatedly achieve international success in scientific competitions and bring honor and pride to the State of Israel,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
The competition included delegations from 81 countries while Israel ranked at 28th place overall. China was ranked first, followed by Russia and the United States.
The victory at the competition marks the fourteenth by Israelis this summer at science olympiads. An Israeli delegation also won the silver and bronze medals and ranked 20th in the world at the Chemistry Olympiad held in Tbilisi, Georgia earlier in August.
Other achievements include six medals at the Mathematics Olympiad held in Hong Kong and four medals at the Physics Olympiad held in Zurich, Switzerland.
President Reuven Rivlin held a reception in honor of some of the young scientists at his residence in Jerusalem on Sunday where he thanked them for their achievements.
“Good morning to you my champions. I thank you in the name of the entire nation for your achievements,” the president greeted the medalists of the Chemistry Olympiad, Ron Solan and Sevostianov.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Russia is not demanding to land its planes in the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey, as several Russian news services have claimed. “Russia had no demands to use İncirlik air base, those reports are not true,” Yildirim told foreign correspondents in Istanbul on Saturday, according to Hurriyet Daily News. However, the prime minister did agree that should Russia wish to use the base for its operations against ISIS, it would be welcome to do so. Still, Yildirim added, “Russia doesn’t need to use the base. They have bases in Syria.”
Yildirim’s statement concluded an anxiety-filled few days in which Russian news sources were announcing that Russia has been demanding that Turkey give its air force access to the NATO air base in İncirlik, which is where US and coalition air forces take off on their strikes in Syria. Located some 65 miles from the Syrian border, Incirlik is also where an estimated 50 US B-61 nuclear warheads (think 100 Hiroshimas times 50) are kept.
According to Izvestia, a Russian lawmaker named Igor Morozov said it was only a matter of time before Turkish president Erdogan hands over the NATO base at Incirlik to the Russians, to intensify the war against ISIS. “You’ll see, the next base will be İncirlik,” Morozov told Izvestia, shortly after the Kremlin had revealed that Russian bombers have been using an Iranian airbase for their attack on Syria. He predicted İncirlik would be “one more victory for Putin.”
Those statements came against the background of a report by EurActiv, a Belgian foundation focusing on European Union policies, that the US has begun to transfer its nuclear weapons stationed in Turkey to Romania, for fear of the worsening relations between Washington and Ankara.
EurActiv cites a Stimson issue paper from August 2016, suggesting that during the July failed coup in Turkey, the Incirlik base power was cut, and US planes were not allowed to fly in or out of the base. As the coup was being suppressed, the base commander was arrested. Another source told EurActiv that US-Turkey relations have so deteriorated after the coup that Washington no longer trusted Ankara with the nuclear weapons, and so the warheads are being moved to the Deveselu air base in Romania.
Foreign Policy on Friday debunked the story, quoting a tweet from nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis, the director of non-proliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, that said Romania does not have the special WS3 vaults needed to store the weapons safely. Also, the Romanian Defense Ministry released a statement saying “so far there have not been any plans or discussions on this topic.”
Of course, this entire brouhaha is borne by Erdogan’s obsession with his former ally and current enemy Fetullah Gulen, whose extradition from the US the Turks have been demanding since the failing of the coup (which Gulen’s supporters may or may not been responsible for). As long as the US insists on following the rule of law on the Gulen extradition, the Turks will persist in these shenanigans, until someone gets seriously hurt.
So far, as that Moscow parliamentarian has put it so aptly, one more victory for Putin.
An Iskander ballistic missile was successfully launched during an exercise in the Jewish Autonomous Area in the Far East and hit a target 185 miles away, a spokesman for the Eastern Military District, one of the four operational strategic commands of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, announced Friday.
The Iskander ballistic missile is equipped with two solid-propellant single-stage guided missiles, each one controlled throughout the entire flight path and fitted with an inseparable warhead. Each missile in the launch carrier vehicle can be independently targeted in a matter of seconds. The mobility of the Iskander launch platform makes a launch difficult to prevent. Also, the Iskander targets can be acquired not only by satellite and aircraft but also by a conventional intelligence center, by an artillery observer or from aerial photos scanned into a computer. The missiles can be re-targeted during flight in case of engaging mobile targets.
Another unique feature of the Iskander system is the optically guided warhead, which can also be controlled by encrypted radio transmission, including from AWACS or UAV. The missile’s on-board computer receives images of the target, then locks onto the target with its sight and descends towards it at supersonic speed.
“The launch was carried out from a training site in the Jewish Autonomous area. The missile hit a target at a proving ground in the Amur region 300 kilometers (185 miles) away,” the spokesman said.
The missile destroyed several military infrastructure facilities of a hypothetical enemy, including a command center. Mechanized infantry units then went on the offensive. More than 400 officers and men and 100 pieces of military equipment from a missile unit of the Eastern Military District are involved in the exercise.
The Jewish Autonomous Oblast (administration) is a federal autonomous region in the Russian Far East, bordering the Heilongjiang province in China. The Soviets established the autonomous oblast in 1934, as part of Stalin’s Soviet nationality policy, which provided the Jewish population of the Soviet Union with a territory in which to pursue Yiddish cultural heritage. According to the 1939 population census, 17,695 Jews lived in the region at the time, about 16% of the total population. The Jewish population peaked in 1948 at around 30,000, about one-quarter of the region’s population.
In 2010, according to the Russian Census Bureau, there were only 1,628 people of Jewish descent in the Jewish Autonomy, fewer than 1% of the population, while ethnic Russians made up 92.7% of the population.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday gave a foreign policy speech in Youngstown, Ohio, outlining his plan to fight terrorism. Addressing the large crowd (as usual), Trump opened, “Today we begin a conversation about how to Make America Safe Again. In the 20th Century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Now, a different threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
The candidate cited a very long list of terrorist attacks against individual Western targets (Paris, Brussels, Orlando), as well as a more generalized but no less forceful depiction of attacks on Muslims: “Overseas, ISIS has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another. … We cannot let this evil continue.”
Trump promised, “We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” He then threw a jab at both president Obama and Democratic presidential Candidate Clinton, saying, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.”
This led to a Trump analysis of how President Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton are to blame for the current alarming state of events. He blamed them for policies that led to the creation of ISIS, saying, “It all began in 2009 with what has become known as President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour.’”
Remarkably, Trump omitted eight whole years in which the US was attacked by a different group of Islamic radicals, and the fact that then President GW Bush retaliated by invading a country that had nothing to do with that attack, inflicting chaos on Iraq and taking out the one fierce regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein. According to Trump, none of those eight bloody years of a Bush war had anything to do with the creation of ISIS (which took place in 2004) — it all began with “a series of speeches,” in which “President Obama described America as ‘arrogant,’ ‘dismissive,’ ‘derisive,’ and a ‘colonial power.'”
“Perhaps no speech was more misguided than President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009,” Trump said Monday night. Of course, the Obama Al Azhar University speech did launch a bizarre foreign policy that punished America’s friends and rewarded its enemies. Even if one were not pro-Israel, one would have to wonder what drove that disastrous foreign policy. But the Obama speech did not instigate the catastrophic failure of US policy in the Middle East, it only picked up Obama’s predecessor’s very bad situation and made it worse.
Trump believes that “the failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.” But in eight miserable years, having spent trillions of borrowed dollars our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them will continue to pay for, there were no US gains in Iraq — which is why when Obama honored the Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and withdrew some of the US forces, the whole thing came tumbling down.
Trump blames Hillary Clinton for destabilizing Libya, a claim supported by many, including President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He also added a jab at the Clintons, saying, “Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.” It’s factually true, but the implied moral outrage is hard to accept with a straight face, seeing as it came from a man who prided himself on turning homeowners’ misery into a hefty profit for himself during the housing crisis of 2008.
After much more of the candidate’s unique view on US foreign policy and the causes for rise of terrorism, Trump finally cut to the chase.
“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” he said. “Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam. … As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President [Al] Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.”
Trump added to the list of his envisioned coalition partners the NATO countries, explaining that although he “had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
He also wants Russia to participate, clearly despite its dubious new alliance with both Iran and Turkey that threatens the very presence of US troops in that part of the region.
On this point, the Trump vision looks an awful lot like the current Administration’s policy on fighting ISIS: “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the Internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”
So far so good, but then Trump suggested “we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Trump then depicted his opponent as contributing to the repression of Muslim gays and women, promising his “Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.”
At which point one must ask if the candidate is relying on expert advise on the Middle East. Because while he is absolutely right in condemning the cruelty and repression that have been the reality in Muslim countries from Pakistan to Morocco, his idea of promoting an American foreign policy of “speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings” and against the myriad other acts of unimaginable violence against women, his ideas that to defeat Islamic terrorism, the US must “speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism to grow” is shockingly sophomoric. Surely Trump knows that these attempts are a recipe for a far worse disaster than the one brought on by the Obama Al Azhar speech.
At this point, Trump turned to an area with which he is more familiar, the need for a new immigration policy. “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” the candidate declared, adding that “the time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.”
“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” Trump said, explaining that “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.”
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s naturally difficult to discern what lurks inside the mind of any person, immigrants included. Trump’s solution is, to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
“As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” It should be interesting to gauge the response of, say, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to the news that no more cash-laden Arab oil sheiks would be allowed to visit Vegas under a Trump Administration.
“Finally, we will need to restore common sense to our security procedures,” Trump declared, listing several notorious murders committed by Muslims on US soil, noting that in each case there had been warning signs that were overlooked by the authorities.
“These warning signs were ignored because political correctness has replaced common sense in our society,” Trump stated flatly, adding, “That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam. … The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
“This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners,” Trump said, essentially suggesting legitimizing the police profiling that has been so vilified in the media and by many politicians. He also promised to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open (although Obama has just released fifteen of its inmates). He wants additional staff to Intelligence agencies and will keep drone strikes against terrorist leaders as part of his options. He also wants military trials for foreign enemy combatants.
In conclusion, there was absolutely no new policy idea in the Trump speech on foreign policy Monday night, but there was an implied, if mostly unspoken promise, to encourage all levels of law enforcement to be less restrained in pursuing their targets. In fact, across the board, what Trump was offering Monday night were not so much new ideas as the promise of taking existing ideas to a new level of dedication in their execution. It could mean a wider loss of individual civil rights, and serious economic hardship for US industries that cater to any aspect of immigration, and it could also end up with the alienation of both European and Mid-Eastern countries who would not take kindly to Trump’s promised level of fierceness, and would retaliate.
It should be noted in that context, that after having spoken bluntly about extreme security measures that could harm specific ethnic and religious groups, Trump attempted to soften his own tone with a final paragraph that promised: “As your President … I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. — Only this way, will we make America Great Again and Safe Again – For Everyone.”
Like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the champion of cognitive dissonance.
Hundreds of Ukraine Jews are reportedly planning to flee the country due to the increasingly unstable living conditions.
Ukraine is still in a conflict with Russia over Crimea and the eastern Donbass province. Some 40,000 Russian troops massed along the Crimea-Ukraine border last week, prompting Ukraine to place its own troops on high alert ahead of the 25th Ukraine Independence Day.
Separatist forces helped Russia annex Crimea in 2014 in a vicious conflict that left thousands dead.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews reports its Kiev office has received more than 1,700 inquiries from Ukraine Jews over the past month about aliyah to Israel, which the organization helps facilitate.
An estimated 260,000 Jews are allegedly still living in the war-torn country. According to the NGO, there are about 5,000 Jews in the disputed Donbass region who are eligible to immigrate to Israel.
Many Jews in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, both in Donbass, are unable to reach the area of Ukraine where they can collect their basic state pensions of some $40 per month, due to attacks and military checkpoints.
Local authorities in Donbass recently jailed a Jewish community official who helped the Fellowship administer local humanitarian aid, and then exiled him west to the Ukraine capital, Kiev.
As often happens in times of war, the Jewish community has been caught in the crossfire between Ukraine forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
Tuesday’s meeting in St. Petersburg between the two former feuding foes Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan “drew considerable attention,” government-run news agency TASS reported, noting that the Russian-Turkish rapprochement is coming while Russia has been expanding its relations with Iran and Ankara and Tehran have also been bridging the gaps between them, born by almost four decades of a volatile Islamic Republic on Turkey’s border. In fact, right after the failed coup last month, Erdogan announced, “We are determined to cooperate with Iran and Russia to address regional problems side by side and to step up our efforts considerably to restore peace and stability to the region.”
Should Israel be concerned? Apparently, the Russian news organ is eager to spread a message of calm regarding the new developments in the northern part of the region. And so an unsigned article this week polled experts who were skeptical regarding a developing strategic triangle of those three powers. According to the TASS experts, the most that will come out of the current statements are tactical political interaction and an upturn in economic cooperation. But even if it were true, and Russia, Turkey and Iran were to forge a strategic alliance, TASS continues its calming message, it would be for the best, because “these three countries can play a positive role, for instance, in overcoming the Syrian crisis.”
It isn’t clear who is panicking more at the moment—Jerusalem or Washington—over the possibility that Turkey, a NATO member, would switch sides and coalesce with Russia and Iran. Clearly, the US has a whole lot more to lose from such an emerging outcome. US Middle East policy traditionally relied on the “three-legged stool” comprised of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. As long as those three major local powers were in the Western camp, Soviet manipulations elsewhere could be mitigated. When Iran was lost under President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the US attempted for the longest time to substitute Iraq for the missing stool leg, but the Iraqi regime never provided the stability the US enjoyed with the Shah. This is why the US is so determined to keep Turkey in the Western camp, because without a Western-allied Turkey, the US presence in the region would be severely downgraded.
Hence the need for the TASS calming story. It interviewed senior research fellow Vladimir Sazhin, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, who reassured the Western readers “there will be no trilateral union, of course. It should be ruled out for many reasons. At best one can expect some tactical alliance. This is so because Iran, Turkey and Russia have certain problems in their relations with the West and with the United States.” That’s code for Turkey would be punished severely, economically and otherwise, if it ever jumped ship.
Sazhin continued, “If one takes a look at the economic interests they share, it should be remembered that Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan … are countries that produce and export hydrocarbons. They have a great deal to discuss in view of the current strained situation on the world market. As for Turkey, its role in delivering hydrocarbons to the West may be significant. But I don’t think that this triangle will be of strategic importance.”
Sazhin sees no fundamentally new geopolitical aspects in sight. “It’s about getting back to where we had been all the time. Arabs constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Middle East. Non-Arab countries are few – Israel, Turkey and Iran. They had very close relations up to [the emergence of] the Islamic revolution in Iran.”
“In Iran, with its 80-million population, Turks and Azerbaijanis, who are ethnically very close to Turkey, constitute an estimated 18 to 25 million,” Sazhin said. “Bilateral relations existed not only at the Tehran-Ankara level. There were very strong people-to-people bonds. Plus the long-standing economic ties. But in politics post-revolution Iran and NATO member Turkey have drifted apart, of course.”
Research fellow Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the Arab and Islamic Research Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute told TASS, “I don’t believe in the emergence of new political triangles. I don’t think some strategic changes will follow overnight to bring about changes to the configuration of alliances. A number of steps we’ve seen our friends and partners and those we are not on very friendly terms with us take are tactical. They stem from the current situation.”
Zvyagelskaya believes that to a large extent this is true of Turkey. “It is to be remembered that Erdogan’s wish to have closer relations is a result of certain internal political events, on the one hand, and soaring tensions in his country’s relations with the United States and the European Union, on the other. These steps by Erdogan are purely pragmatic and we should treat them accordingly. As far as I understand, nobody has any illusions on that score.”
There is real danger in Donald Trump’s statements and attitude toward Vladimir Putin and Russia.
“Putin likes me,” glowed Trump in a July 25, 2016 tweet. He elaborated a few days later on ABC’s “This Week”: “He has said nice things about me over the years,” he said. “I remember years ago, he said something, many years ago, he said something very nice about me.”
I think this raises serious questions about whether a Trump foreign policy toward Putin and Russia would be personality-driven as much as (if not more than) policy-driven.
That’s not an unfair assumption to make, and not just in the case of Trump. Any student of international relations knows that personalities and relationships among leaders can influence and even drive policy. It was certainly a factor in the fatal miscalculations in U.S.-Russian relations made by Franklin Roosevelt.
“I think I can personally handle Stalin better than either your Foreign Office or my State Department,” FDR oddly boasted to Winston Churchill on March 18, 1942. “Stalin hates the guts of all your people. He thinks he likes me better.”
“He likes me.” Sound familiar?
Stalin showed his “like” of FDR by rolling over Eastern Europe. Not until literally days before he died did FDR finally admit he had been wrong about Stalin.
“Averell [Harriman] is right,” FDR sighed to Anna Rosenberg on March 23, 1945. “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.”
FDR’s tragic mistake was thinking the Russian leader liked him and thus would “work with me for a world of democracy and peace” (yes, FDR actually said that about Stalin).
And yet, FDR, mistaken as he was, never suffered the significant personality issues that plague Donald Trump. Trump’s ignorance of policy and lack of any firm grounding in a set of bedrock principles is outdone only by a strikingly excessive sense of self, which would make a President Trump easily open for exploitation by a cynically manipulative foreign leader like a Vladimir Putin – a leader who learned the art of manipulation in the KGB.
Let’s recall what happened with Barack Obama, who likewise was convinced that Putin and the Russians liked him.
On September 17, 2009, our freshman president horrified our post-Cold War allies, Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet Bloc captive nations, by canceling plans for a joint U.S. missile shield.
Poles ever since have harbored a deep fear that Obama will not defend them. They see Obama as a weak leader, one whom the Russians realize they can roll right over.
Which brings me to Ukraine. What unfolded in Ukraine was blanket aggression by Putin. Obama had bent over backward to assuage the Russians. And how did Putin thank him for the friendship and goodwill? He invaded Ukraine, surely knowing his accommodating pal in the White House would not do anything to stop him.
Naturally, the neighboring countries around Ukraine were immediately worried. The Estonians were worried. The Latvians were worried. The Poles were worried. The Poles feared not only a Putin invasion; they feared Obama would not lift a finger to help them, even though Poland is a member of NATO.
I’m reminded of a very different worldview toward the Russians by another president.
“If you were going to approach the Russians with a dove of peace in one hand, you had to have a sword in the other,” said President Ronald Reagan. “We had to bargain with them from strength, not weakness.”
Reagan’s motto toward Russia was dovorey no provorey, Russian for “trust but verify.”
That was not what Obama did. He approached Putin with a dove in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other – and with plenty of promised “flexibility.” Obama showed weakness, not strength. And the Russians exploited it.
Reagan took pride in the fact that the Russians did not gain “one inch of ground” while he was president. Indeed they did not – and this was after they had picked up nearly a dozen satellite states in the immediate years before Reagan was elected, under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
Which brings me back to Trump. Surely the KGB-trained Putin and his advisers have discerned how obviously easy it is to get Trump on your side. You simply say nice things about him. Just suggest that you like him and you will have him. He is easily flattered, and the Russians are shrewd flatterers.
That being the case, I really worry that Putin would play Trump like a fiddle, maybe even more than he played Obama.
If Putin moved further against Ukraine or even Poland, would a President Trump blithely look the other way because “Putin likes me” and because they have a friendly relationship? Poland is a NATO member, but Trump’s attitude to NATO has been cavalier at best.
Donald Trump needs to remember what Ronald Reagan said. You approach the Russians, and especially a Russian like Vladimir Putin, from a position of strength, not weakness.