By Peter Apps WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After more than a decade focused on combating Islamist militancy, Western military planners are once again contemplating potential war between major powers - and how to prevent one happening by accident. Although the Cold War rivalry with Moscow has never been forgotten, current and former Western officials say Russia's annexation of Crimea has NATO powers tearing up strategic assumptions and grimly considering both conventional and nuclear fights. As late as March, most NATO powers - with the exception of eastern members such as the Baltic States long worried by Moscow - had assumed Europe itself faced no imminent military threat. It is still the case that few believe Russia would attack any NATO state, but, in order to deter, Western officials say they must consider and plan for the contingency. The threat to U.S. allies in the Pacific from a stronger China has also focused military minds on how to contain the risks there, and ensure any localized conflict does not spill over into global war. In a major foreign policy speech at the West Point military academy last month, President Barack Obama spoke mostly on counterterrorism and the Afghanistan withdrawal. But while he said the risk from other nations was now much lower than before the Berlin Wall fell, he made clear it still existed. "Regional aggression that goes unchecked, whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea or anywhere else in the world, will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military," he told graduating cadets. Tensions with Moscow and Beijing have increased faster than almost anyone in government in Washington expected. They are expected to dominate a meeting between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day later this week. Last weekend's annual Shangri-La Dialogue strategic conference in Singapore, meanwhile, showcased the growing gulf between Washington and Beijing on issues from regional maritime disputes to cyber security. In recent weeks, current and former officials say, the Obama administration has been insistently reassuring allies and signaling foes where Washington's true red lines are. Washington might not be prepared to act militarily in Ukraine but an attack on a NATO state such as one of the Baltics or a formal Asian ally like Japan, the Philippines or Australia would commit it irrevocably to war. Those treaty obligations are not new, but U.S. officials say it is important to make clear that they are taken extremely seriously. They hope that will reduce the risk of an accidental war where a state takes action wrongly assuming other powers will not respond. "It's not that the leadership in Russia or China is looking for a war - and the United States certainly isn't," says Kathleen Hicks, a U.S. undersecretary for defense until last July who now works for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "The real worry is miscalculation." GREAT WAR One hundred years after the start of World War One, books on the period have become increasingly popular in Washington, Whitehall and NATO headquarters in Brussels, current and former officials say, and not purely for their historical interest. In June 1914, the killing of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb nationalist triggered actions and alliances that brought war in barely a month. Now, experts say flashpoints could range from a clash over disputed South China Sea islands or ethnic strife in Russia's former Soviet neighbors to a wrongly attributed cyber attack. Even as Washington reassures allies, Moscow and Beijing have asserted their might against Ukraine and Vietnam which lack such formal alliances. The risk, experts say, is that they become overconfident and misjudge. "The parallels with 1914 can definitely be overstated," said Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. "But they do show us that war can start through unintended consequences and an economically interdependent world does not necessarily stop it from happening." As in 1914, no one really knows what a modern great war would be like. While much military thinking assumes conflict would remain conventional, nuclear powers have kept their atomic war planning up to date, maintaining target lists for mutually assured destruction, current and former officials say. Cyber attacks, some experts say, could be almost as destructive, as could the effects on global trade in an unprecedentedly interconnected world. Meanwhile, some of the systems supposed to prevent conflict may be starting to weaken. WEAKENED LINKS U.S. officials had embarked on a campaign to build formal and informal communications channels with Beijing, mimicking the hotlines and procedures set up with Russia. Moscow and Washington have used those systems themselves in recent months to notify each other of missile tests and reconnaissance flights over each other's territory. Links with Russia, however, have weakened this year as NATO states canceled conferences and military exchanges with Moscow in protest at the annexation of Crimea. Contacts with China have also deteriorated in the last month, particularly since Washington indicted five Chinese officials for cyber espionage, a charge Beijing denies. A near collision between U.S. and Chinese warships in January, a mock Russian attack on a U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea in April and periodic confrontations between long-range bombers and other aircraft show the risks, experts warn. Last week on Japan and China accused each other of "dangerous" and "over the top" actions after warplanes came within a few dozen meters. Any additional challenge to the West, some analysts say, is that both Russia and China know Washington would struggle to handle simultaneous confrontations. U.S. forces are spread around the world while Moscow's and Beijing's, while smaller, are almost exclusively focused on their immediate neighborhood. Since 2008, they have increased military spending 30 and 40 percent respectively, according to London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. The 2012 Asia "pivot", which saw the U.S. Navy in particular moving to increase its Pacific footprint, aimed to make crisis response easier. In Europe, in contrast, NATO has little developed thinking beyond its post-Crimea strategy of putting small numbers of U.S. troops and jets on the frontline in eastern member states they fear Moscow might target next. Until Ukraine, European states had viewed their primary military focus as occasional intervention, peacekeeping and counterinsurgency in the Middle East and Africa. "We are in uncharted territory," said one senior Western official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It means ... reconstituting high end fighting skills and properly thought through doctrine for both conventional and nuclear deterrence." (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- The Independent
‘It’s unfortunate’: Ashley Biden confirms first lady snubbed her mother on traditional White House handover
"I think we’re all OK with it,' says incoming first daughter in first ever TV interview
- The Week
President Trump has spent the last few days asking his friends, aides, and associates if they would like pardons — even those who are not facing any charges, a senior administration official told The Washington Post.In one case, the official said, Trump offered a pardon to a person who declined the chance at clemency, saying they weren't in any legal trouble and hadn't committed any crimes. "Trump's response was, 'Yeah, well, but you never know. They're going to come after us all. Maybe it's not a bad idea. Just let me know,'" the official recounted.Trump has taken a great interest in pardoning people, the Post reports, even calling families to personally let them know he granted a pardon. A person familiar with the matter told the Post that Trump was talked out of pardoning himself, family members, and controversial figures like Rudy Giuliani. An aide said there was also a brief discussion about possibly issuing pardons related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but that idea went nowhere.While Trump has held a few ceremonial events in recent weeks, journalists have been kept away from the White House, largely because the president is "just not in a place where they would go well," one official told the Post. Trump is constantly flip-flopping, another administration official said, talking about his future but uncertain of where he will be. "He goes between, 'Well, I'm going to go to Florida and play golf, and life is honestly better,' and then in the next moment, it's like, 'But don't you think there's a chance to stay?'" the official said. Read more at The Washington Post.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee
- National Review
Dozens were arrested Monday night in New York City when Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with police outside City Hall during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. Hundreds of demonstrators marched peacefully from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to City Hall in Manhattan, where they were met with a heavy police presence. The demonstration turned violent around 8:30 p.m. in City Hall Park, and police began making arrests after demonstrators started throwing projectiles, blocking traffic, and vandalizing property. Videos posted on social media show police urging the crowd to disperse before starting to make arrests. At least 29 people were arrested near Chambers and Centre streets and eleven officers were injured, including a captain who was hit in the head with a glass bottle. None of the officers are in serious condition. It is unclear how many protesters were injured during the clashes. In another video, police can be seen shoving several protesters as well as wrestling one person to the ground. Protesters can be heard shouting obscenities at officers. Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the New York Police Department over the “excessive enforcement” used against protesters calling for racial justice over the summer, including using pepper spray and batons on protesters and “kettling” or trapping demonstrators. James is calling for federal oversight of the NYPD. The federal government is already monitoring the NYPD to ensure that it retires its stop-and-frisk policy, which was found in 2013 to have been used in an unconstitutional manner. Last summer, riots broke out in New York City following the police custody death of George Floyd in May. About 450 businesses across the city were damaged and in many cases looted over May and June, according to the city’s Department of Small Business Services. More than 2,000 people were arrested at those demonstrations over the same period.
Tam Dinh Pham of the Houston police department was part of the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A veteran Houston police officer is in trouble after attending the U.S. Capitol riots in Washington, D.C., then lying about it. Officer Tam Dinh Pham joined the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Retailers including Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl's and Wayfair have stopped selling My Pillow products after Trump-supporting CEO Mike Lindell pushed baseless claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.Driving the news: Lindell told NBC News Tuesday the retailers phoned him to say they could face "a boycott" if they didn't take the action. But Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl's have both said the decision was related to a lack of demand for My Pillow's products.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * Lindell insisted to Fox9 that "leftists" on social media were behind the moves, which he claimed also resulted in HEB dropping My Pillow products.What they're saying: Axios has contacted all of the retailers for comment. Bed Bath & Beyond told the New York Times in a statement: "We have been rationalizing our assortment to discontinue a number of underperforming items and brands." * Kohl's told USA Today in a statement: "There has been decreased customer demand for MyPillow. We will sell our current inventory and not buy additional/future inventory in the brand."Of note: The retailers' action comes a day after Dominion Voting Systems sent a cease and desist letter to Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
The incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is considering creating a White House position focused on competition policy and issues relating to antitrust, two sources familiar with internal deliberations said. The idea remains under consideration and the Biden White House may not ultimately make the move, one of the sources said. "It is yet to be determined if this will be more of a coordinator kind of a role or if this person will really sit at the White House," said another source.
- The Week
Constitutionally-speaking, Chief Justice John Roberts is meant to preside over President Trump's impeachment trial, but he apparently wants out, Politico reports.Multiple Republican and Democratic sources have reportedly told Politico that Roberts is seeking a way to avoid the job because of how things played out when he oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial last year. Roberts, Politico notes, has worked hard to keep the Supreme Court apolitical during his tenure, so he was reportedly displeased that he "became a top target of the left" during the proceedings. "He wants no further part of this," one source told Politico, although there's been no official word from Roberts' camp about what he'll ultimately do.Trump's trial is a bit of a constitutional oddity. On the one hand, it's a presidential impeachment, but on the other hand, the trial will take place after he leaves office, which is why there's a chance Roberts may have some wiggle room. Historically, either the vice president or the longest-serving member of the Senate have taken up the mantle for lower-level impeachments, per Politico. That means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris or Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) could be the choice. Read more at Politico.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- NBC News
Suspect William McCall Calhoun Jr. faces a host of charges stemming from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it was “extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be of one man” — Alexey Navalny.Why it matters: Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Navalny, returned to Russia on Sunday and was swiftly arrested. He spent the previous five months recovering in Germany after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. His detention poses an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What he’s saying: Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Navalny served as a voice for millions of Russians, “and their voice needs to be heard in Russia.” * “The attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn,” Blinken added, noting that Navalny's arrest and other points of tension with Russia would be “very high on the agenda for an incoming administration.” * Incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan previously called for Navalny's immediate release.The latest: Navalny was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days. He was officially arrested for violating the conditions of a suspended prison term by missing an appointment in December.Worth noting: Blinken praised Sen. Mitt Romney, who serves on the committee, for being “prescient” on Russia. Romney was mocked for referring to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” in a 2012 presidential debate with Barack Obama, including by Obama himself.Go deeper: Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrestGet smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- National Review
A Honduran migrant worker claimed that a migrant caravan was headed to the U.S. because incoming president Joe Biden would give migrants “100 days” to arrive at the country, in an interview with CNN. Biden may seek to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations, however transition team officials have cautioned that the president-elect will not be able to overhaul immigration policy immediately upon taking office. Even so, a group of about 3,000 migrants from Honduras clashed with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday during their trek north to the U.S.-Mexico border. One migrant claimed the caravan was heading north because Biden had promised to help them, in a CNN interview later reposted by The Hill. Honduran migrant: President-elect Biden is "going to help all of us." pic.twitter.com/LkrVCsXcSb — The Hill (@thehill) January 18, 2021 “I just want patience and prayers that we can get to the U.S. because they [will] have a new president, Biden,” the migrant said. “He’s going to help all of us, he’s giving us 100 days to get to the U.S. and give us [legal] papers, so we can get a better life for our kids, and for our families.” Meanwhile, Guatemala deemed the attempted crossing illegal. “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighboring nations to address this as a regional issue,” the office of Guatemala’s president said in a statement on Sunday.
- FOX News Videos
Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen questions the loyalty of the National Guard troops deployed to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration; West Point graduate and Army veteran Jeremy Hunt responds.
- The Week
President Trump's last big batch of pardons will get most of the attention, but he also issued an executive order in his last few hours in office that seeks to free all current and former hires from the ethics agreements they signed to work in his administration. Trump revoked his January 2017 "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees" order, the White House announced early Wednesday, so "employees and former employees subject to the commitments in Executive Order 13770 will not be subject to those commitments after noon January 20, 2021."Those commitments included not lobbying the federal agencies they served under for five years after leaving government. The executive order, Yashar Ali notes, was the backbone of Trump's "drain the swamp" pledge.> Forget about draining the swamp...President Trump just filled it up.> > He has revoked his own executive order (13770) which had the following provisions (among others). > > The drain the swamp stuff was all smoke and mirrors anyway but here's Trump walking back his own EO... pic.twitter.com/ZvuW0CwszQ> > — Yashar Ali (@yashar) January 20, 2021President-elect Joe Biden takes office at noon on Wednesday, and presumably he could just issue a new executive order reversing Trump'sNorm Eisen, "ethics czar" to former President Barack Obama, said in a Politico column Tuesday that Obama's clear ethics rules led to "arguably the most scandal-free presidency in memory," but "Trump greatly watered down the standards with scandalous results" and "Biden has done the opposite, restoring the Obama rules and expanding them."Biden's planned executive order, Eisen wrote, "restores the fundamentals of the Obama plan, closing loopholes Trump opened—but going further, including new crackdowns on special interest influence. If implemented rigorously (always a big if) Biden’s plan promises to go further to 'drain the swamp' than either of his predecessors."More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee Colbert's Late Show remixes Biden's inauguration playlist into a not-subtle farewell message for Trump
Inauguration Day is a time of great expectancy and transformation. There are reports of at least 12 National Guard members being removed from the inauguration patrol duties. There are 25,000 troops in D.C. to protect attendees at the inauguration after the deadly and unprecedented Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurrection.
- Associated Press
A California sheriff’s deputy was killed and another deputy was wounded in a shootout with a suspect who gunned down a K-9 dog before he was fatally shot, authorities said. The gunbattle erupted in Sacramento near a racetrack at the Cal Expo event venue after a vehicle pursuit late Monday, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said. The deputy who died was identified as Adam Gibson, a six-year veteran of the department, Jones said.
Thailand's government on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint of defaming the monarchy against banned opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, after he criticised its COVID-19 vaccine strategy. The move could mark the highest-profile lese majeste case since a wave of anti-government protests emerged last year and extended to criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn over accusations of meddling in politics and taking too much power. The complaint against Thanathorn under Article 112 of the Thai criminal code came two days after he commented that the government was too reliant on a company owned by the Crown Property Bureau, which is under the king's personal control, to produce vaccines for Thais.
- National Review
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, setting her up to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate. Levine, a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, will serve as the top deputy to Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Xavier Becerra. “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a press release. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said that Levine is “a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people.” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, appointed Levine to her current position in 2017. She was confirmed by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate for her roles as health secretary and physician general. Levine, a graduate of Harvard University and Tulane University School of Medicine, has become the public face of the state’s coronavirus pandemic response. She faced calls to resign from her post last spring after reports that she had removed her 95-year-old mother from her personal care home after ordering all nursing homes and long-term facilities in the state to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals, despite concerns about older people’s vulnerability to the virus. She defended the decision, saying her mother who is “more than competent to make her own decisions” had requested the move.
- The Week
Anthony Scaramucci was right: The White House appears to be having trouble rounding up a sizable crowd for President Trump's official send-off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday."In what looks like a desperate attempt to build a crowd for the crowd-obsessed president, an email has been making the rounds to current and former White House officials inviting them, and as many as five plus-ones, to Trump's elaborate exit ceremony," Politico reported Tuesday morning. "The go-to excuse for skipping out has been the 6 a.m. call time at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. But truly, many just don't want to be photographed sending off their former boss."Trump's current staffers have a good reason to avoid their outgoing boss. "Former White House officials and campaign staffers who would typically land plum jobs in corporate America after serving their time are now out in the cold," Politico says. One former White House official who got out early put it this way: "No one wants to touch them, they're just toxic." Another former Trump aide, pointing to the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection, was more blunt, telling Politico: "They're f---ed."Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson, another member of the tiny impeached president club, to skip the inauguration of his successor. "Johnson snubbed Ulysses S. Grant in 1869," The Washington Post notes. More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Trump issues last-minute order attempting to free his appointees from ethics commitments Lindsey Graham seemed very pleased with Biden's secretary of state nominee