Weekly Roundup (30 January-3 February)

US could settle zero refugees from Manus and Nauru and still ‘honour’ deal

31 January 2017, Washington D.C., United States – The Guardian – A degree of tension exists between the Turnbull government and the Trump administration since an agreement the Australian Prime Minister made with outgoing President Obama for the US to resettle over 1,000 refugees stuck on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and the Pacific island-state of Nauru, was called a ‘dumb deal’ in a twitter rant by President Trump.

The fact that Trump has sought to put US interests over and above that of America’s allies, puts a major spanner in the works for Canberra policy makers who thought Trump may be slightly eccentric but would still play by the old diplomatic rule book.

The Turnbull government will have to recognise that its most important ally has changed and to secure Australia’s national interest, it will need to come up with robust and resilient positions on the United States. It will not be enough to simply wait out Trump’s turn in office. That would make Australia vulnerable to being overtaken by events.

‘We Are Better Than This Ban’: Dissent Over Trump’s Immigration Order

31 January 2017, Washington D.C., United States – The Atlantic – Domestic and international resistance against Trump’s decision to impose a temporary travel ban on 7 Muslims majority countries came to the fore.

Fuelled by media commentary, this travel restriction has affected the movement of dual citizens and those with authentic Green Cards.

In spite that the Trump administration has said that this policy position has nothing to do with the religion of Islam, the fact that persecuted non-Muslim minorities from these 7 proscribed countries will be given priority entry to the United States shows a distinct anti-Muslim bias.

What U.N. Ambassador Haley’s Comment On Russia Really Means

3 February 2017, New York, United States – Forbes – One could have been forgiven for being confused over comments made by US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley that at first glance stood in stark contrast to the US President’s pro-Russian stance.

Haley made it very clear that US sanctions on Russia would remain in place until Crimea was returned to Ukraine. But in diplomacy, everything depends on the language used. The cyber sanctions and the more strategic ‘sectoral sanctions’, (covering Russian banks and the country’s oil and gas sectors), can be rescinded by Trump, however, the smaller sanctions on specific individuals may well remain for the duration.

This gives the US some bargaining hold over Moscow for the longer term, so long as Putin cooperates with the Trump administration on the ‘big picture’ issues.

How Mattis’ Plan For Fixing The U.S. Military Would Transform The Army

3 February 2017, Washington D.C., United States – Forbes – The international situation is direr since Trump came to office, and the US military, especially the US Army, is in need of a major face-lift.

During his presidential campaign, Trump signalled that he would champion expanding the size of the US Navy, but a plan put forward by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, has called for an overhaul of the army. The US Army has been fighting lightly equipped adversaries in Afghanistan and Iraq for over a decade, and it is believed to be wholly inadequate to fight a near peer competitor like Russia or China.

Traditionally the US military services are highly competitive when it comes to taking the lion’s share of the defense budget.

While the US Army may well need to be modernised and upgraded, the other two services, Navy and Air Force are likely, as they have always been, to exercise their considerable political weight on Capitol Hill to get their own way.

Expect inter-service rivalry to increase once the promise of a larger defense budget is issued.

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