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How Viktor Orban Became Europe's Chief...
David Reavill
 July 10 2024 at 01:29 pm
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Viktor Orban is Hungary's bigger-than-life Prime Minister. Never one to back away from conflict, Orban gained national attention when, as a student, he called for the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary in 1989. Just a few months later, the Soviet troops returned home. Hungary was free and independent, and the country had a new hero. Nine years later, Orban, as head of the Fidesz Party, became Prime Minister. Trained as a lawyer, Orban, nonetheless, has a real sense of free market capitalism. During his first term in office, he reduced inflation and brought the government's deficit under control. Under Orban's leadership in 2010, Hungary joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. So, it should be like old times for Orban when he attends the 75th Annual NATO Summit this week in Washington.But I don't expect it to be without controversy. As we'll see in a moment, Orban is again caught in a swirling cloud of diplomatic consternation. Since July 1, Orban has also been the President of the "Council of the European Union" (not to be confused with the European Council (UGH!)) or simply the Council. This group consists of 27 national ministers, each representing their respective countries. The President of the Council rotates among each member nation, and currently, it is Orban's turn. In terms of international diplomacy, the President of the European Council, now Orban, is considered the lead diplomatic representative of the EU. Although, in real terms, the senior bureaucrats of the EU, such as Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, make the real decisions, this current position gives Orban the "ticket" to visit heads of state on behalf of the EU. And that's just what Orban's been doing. Wasting no time, Orban accepted an invitation that Volodymyr Zelenskyy had extended some time ago to visit Ukraine. Just the day after assuming the Presidency of the EU Council, Orban flew to Kyiv. Orban is a man on a mission, wasting no time to begin. Orban wants to end the conflict in Ukraine; his immediate goal is to bring about a ceasefire. Although this comes as no surprise to any careful observer, it may have caught Zelenskyy off-guard. Although Zelenskyy had welcomed almost all European leaders to Kyiv, this was the first time anyone wanted to talk about peace. All the rest had pledged some sort of military or economic support for Ukraine. But Orban came in search of a way to stop the fighting, not promote it. In a joint press conference, standing next to Zelenskyy, Orban disclosed his objective: "I asked the president to consider whether... a quick ceasefire could speed up the peace talks." https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/hungarys-orban-visits-ukraine-with-aid-tensions-running-high-198035 Someone from the West talked about a ceasefire for the first time in this War between Russia and Ukraine. Unthinkable from most of the other NATO countries. For his part, Zelenskyy rolled with the moment, mumbling something about common European priorities and a just peace, but it became apparent that he had no clue where Orban was going. What came next caught the entire European Union, to say nothing about all of NATO, by complete surprise. Orban flew to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. To the collective West, this was a complete breach of decorum and dangerously close to seeing Russia as a responsible member of the global family of nations. If Orban, as titular head of the European Council, met with President Putin, it would give Russia the mantel of respectability that the West has tried to deny for two and a half years. The BBC called Orban "Russia-Friendly." LeMonde noted that it triggered "anger" throughout the EU and amounted to mere "capitulation" from Ukraine. France 24 said that Orban's efforts were "mere appeasement." Zelenskyy outright repudiated Orban, saying that only "strong alliance" members could negotiate for Ukraine. There were even rumblings that the EU may revoke Orban's Presidency of the Council, an unprecedented move. Such was the heated rhetoric coming from throughout the Atlantic alliance. It was the standard "kill the messenger" reaction that we've seen throughout the Russia-Ukraine War. Anytime anyone discusses ending this conflict, they are met with hostility, as if peace is such a bad thing. As Orban noted in Moscow: "The number of countries that can talk to both warring sides is diminishing," Orbán said. "Hungary is slowly becoming the only European country that can speak to everyone." https://apnews.com/article/hungary-russia-orban-putin-visit-ukraine-4755f85d49703be7971b262c18707222 Orban continued his whirlwind tour with a visit to China and talks with Xi Jinping. At the end of these discussions, Xi responded: According to Chinese state media, Xi told Orban, "The international community should create conditions for the resumption of direct dialogue and negotiations between the two sides and provide assistance.It is in the interest of all parties to seek a political solution through an early ceasefire." https://www.reuters.com/world/china/hungary-pm-orban-arrives-beijing-talks-with-chinese-president-xi-2024-07-07/ In a week, Orban had visited three capitals, meeting with the leaders of the two belligerents (Russia and Ukraine) and the two principal leaders of the Global South, China and Russia. Two of the three leaders, Putin and Xi, had indicated their desire to bring peace to Ukraine. Only Zelenskyy had diminished Orban's efforts. Today, Orban will be in Washington, D.C., the capital of Ukraine's principal ally. It will be the 75th Summit Meeting of NATO, an organization that Hungary joined while Orban was Prime Minister for his first term. However, it is likely that his reception will be less than friendly. NATO has invested substantially in Ukraine's ultimate victory; anything less than that, like an immediate ceasefire, will no doubt draw the ire of many. There is only one thing that Orban might do that would draw more anger, and that is to visit Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. Therefore, many Orban observers feel that's precisely what he'll do. Orban's mission is to bring peace to Ukraine, and he'll let nothing get in his way. Follow me here on ThinkSpot for more stories from the ValueSide.
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Look Who Steamed Into Port - the Adm Gorshkov ...
David Reavill
 June 12 2024 at 11:57 am
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This is no ordinary warship; it is the pride of the Russian Navy. Admiral Gorshkov is the model upon which Russia will project its 21st-century sea-going fighting force. The ship carries 210 sailors, is 443 feet long, and has 48 cells from which to fire some of the most advanced missiles in the world, including the Kalbir and hypersonic Zircon. Those missiles were sent to deliver a message to Washington. The question is whether this Administration will get the point.The Adm Gorshkov is Russia's most advanced battleship, labeled a Frigate. This designation has a heritage that goes back to the 15th century when the Spanish and Portuguese Navies developed a fast, maneuverable warship capable of striking land or sea enemies. By the 1950s, the US Navy adopted this designation for a new class of ships designed to carry various missile launchers called guided missile frigates. While the Guided Missile Frigate remains an important component of the US Navy, the Aircraft Carriers (designated CVN) are its premier battleships. As we've seen recently, when America wishes to project power, it is with the CVN-designated Carriers. When the Houthis attacked shipping in the Red Sea, it was the Carrier Eisenhower's Task Force that enforced Operation Prosperity Guardian. In the same sense, the Russians have now sailed their flag battleship into Havana Harbor. This is much more than a mere casual port call; it is a direct warning to the Caribbean and Southern US that Russia is on watch. Of course, for those of us who are old enough to remember, the actions this week are eerily similar to the time in 1962 when President Kennedy faced off against the Soviet Union. At the time, the Soviets attempted to place ICBM missiles in Cuba, missiles that were capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Through careful negotiations, Kennedy was able to diffuse this critical challenge by first blockading Soviet Ships from reaching Cuba and bargaining to withdraw US Nuclear Missiles from Turkey, thereby lessening the threat to the Soviet homeland. This latter point is crucial and something that Americans learned of years later. Kennedy recognized that the Soviet motivation was to reduce the American threat aimed at them.Writing in Foreign Policy Magazine, William Burr puts it this way: The Cuban missile crisis was resolved when President Kennedy secretly agreed to remove Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles from Turkey, along with a pledge not to invade Cuba. In contrast, Soviet Premier Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba. https://foreignpolicy.com/2012/10/26/still-secret-after-all-these-years/ Diplomacy had saved the day and preserved the world when it came the closest to a direct nuclear confrontation. Today, the Russian Federation has just parked more firepower at a dock in Havana than the old Soviet Union could have dreamed of. What exactly does Adm Gorshkov have in those 48 cells under its massive deck? We do not know. But we do know that 16 of those cells could hold the technologically advanced Zircon missile, a missile capable of employing a nuclear warhead and achieving hypersonic speed. But even a conventionally armed Zircon, with today's modern munitions, is capable of wiping out an American city. And while there is much debate about the Zircon's range, there's no doubt that Miami, Tampa, and Atlanta are all vulnerable. Unfortunately, the Russian threat to the US mainland may not end with Adm. Gorshkov's departure. The retired US Marine Captain and former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter speculated that the Russians may "leave something behind." By this, he means that Gorshkov may deliver missiles to Cuba, missiles that would remain in Cuba. Last week, speaking to a group of reporters at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, President Vladimir Putin stated that he could deploy missiles within striking distance of Europe or America. Or that he could give missiles to other countries, which Russia could use to strike the EU or USA. In his usual measured way, Putin puts it this way: "If we see that these countries [by which he means the US and Europe] are being drawn into a war against the Russian Federation, then we reserve the right to act similarly. In general, this is a path to very serious problems." Vladimir Putin June 5,2024 https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/putin-says-west-is-wrong-assume-russia-would-never-use-nuclear-weapons-2024-06-05/ And just like that, it's 1962 all over again: Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) versus the United States in a nuclear standoff that could impact the entire world. Back then, America had placed missiles on the doorstep of the USSR. Today, America has permitted Ukraine to fire missiles directly into Russian territory. Russia counters by placing missiles close to the American heartland. In 1962, an American President used diplomacy to see things from the Soviet perspective. Continuous dialog between the two belligerents led first to a mutual understanding of each other's requirements and then to an agreed-upon settlement. Without Kennedy's recognition that American missiles in Turkey were a direct threat to the Soviets, this dispute may have ended in a Nuclear War. Today, a somnolent President barely makes it through his speeches. One wonders if he has the capacity to see things from another's perspective, as Kennedy did so many years before. There can be little doubt that President Biden has crossed a Russian Red Line. Permitting Ukraine to fire American long-range missiles into Russia has taken the Ukraine conflict to the next level. It is an incredibly provocative move. A move that Putin just countered. The question becomes: will Biden consider Jacksonville a fair trade for Belgorod?

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