VIF News Digest: International Developments (20-26 August, 2018)
Michael Cohen pleads guilty and implicates Donald Trump, 22 Aug 2018

Donald Trump is facing the most serious legal crisis of his presidency after his long-time lawyer pleaded guilty to arranging payments “at the direction” of his former boss during the 2016 campaign to silence two women who alleged they had affairs with Mr Trump. Michael Cohen, a lawyer who once said he would “take a bullet” for the president, pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws by arranging payments on behalf of Mr Trump to Stormy Daniels, a porn star, and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who sold her story to the National Enquirer, a tabloid newspaper.

The development in federal court in New York came on the same afternoon as a Virginia jury convicted Paul Manafort, Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, of tax evasion and bank fraud. Mr Manafort was convicted on eight counts, the same number of charges to which Mr Cohen pleaded guilty, but the judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Click here to read

With the Manafort Convictions and Cohen plea, President Trump has been implicated in a criminal conspiracy, 21 Aug 2018

The President of the United States is now, formally, implicated in a criminal conspiracy to mislead the American public in order to influence an election. Were he not President, Donald Trump himself would almost certainly be facing charges. This news came in what must be considered the most damaging single hour of a deeply troubled Presidency.

On Tuesday morning, it was still possible to believe that Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort might be exonerated and that his longtime attorney Michael Cohen would only face charges for crimes stemming from his taxicab business. Such events would have supported Trump’s effort to portray the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” perpetrated by overzealous partisan prosecutors. By late afternoon, though, Cohen, the President’s longtime adviser, fixer, and, until recently, personal attorney, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. At precisely the same moment, Manafort was learning of his fate: guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, with the jury undecided on ten other counts. Click here to read

Paul Manafort convicted of eight counts of fraud, 22 Aug 2018

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted Tuesday of eight charges related to tax and bank fraud, in the first trial to stem from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The 12-member Virginia jury reached the guilty verdict on eight counts after four days of deliberations, but couldn’t agree on 10 additional counts of bank fraud and reporting violations. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those counts.

Mr. Manafort was convicted of not paying taxes on more than $16 million in income and lying to two banks when he sought millions of dollars in loans.

The one-time Trump campaign chief looked toward the jury and stood silently in court as the verdict was read aloud. He was flanked by his lawyers and expressed little emotion. Judge Ellis said he would order a report from the probation office to help guide sentencing. Click here to read

Facing new Russian hacking, Senators signal they are ready to act, 22 Aug 2018

Faced with new evidence that Russian hackers are targeting conservative American research groups and the Senate’s own web pages, key lawmakers from both parties signaled on Tuesday that they were ready to move forward with punishing new sanctions legislation capable of crippling the Russian economy.

And in three separate hearings on Capitol Hill, senators prodded the Trump administration to do more with its existing authorities to deter Russia and protect the United States’ political infrastructure. “Congress is going to act; you might as well know that,” Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, predicted in a meeting of the Banking Committee, which oversees sanctions law. “I’d rather it act in a way that has your insights about what would be helpful, but if you fail to provide insights then we will provide you with a law that ultimately takes place without your insights.” Click here to read

EPA moves to scrap Obama mandates for power plant emissions, 21 Aug 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accelerated the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda Tuesday by announcing a proposed rule to replace the Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” with guidelines that give states more flexibility to determine how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. The proposed Affordable Clean Energy Rule rejects what acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler described in a conference call as the Clean Power Plan’s “top-down, one-size-fits-all” approach.

Instead, President Donald Trump’s administration embraces an alternative strategy, rooted in federalism, that allows states to reduce carbon emissions while providing their residents with reliable, affordable energy. “The era of top-down, one-size-fits-all federal mandates is over,” Wheeler said. Click here to read

Washington outlines agenda for 2 + 2 meeting with India for the first time, 23 Aug 2018

Washington’s chief South Asia diplomat, Alice Wells, has for the first time outlined a clear agenda for the inaugural 2 + 2 dialogue in New Delhi on September 6. Previewing the meeting, for which two US principals – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary for Defense Jim Mattis – will travel to India for joint talks with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Wells said: “What we’re looking for at the upcoming 2+2 ministerial is to discuss how to operationalise India’s status as a major defence partner.”

Since 2016, when India was officially recognised in US law as a “major defence partner”, Washington has purposefully upgraded the defence relationship. Earlier this year, the Hawaii-based, Asia-focused US military command was renamed the “Indo-Pacific Command” to highlight India’s centrality to regional security. By clearing an amendment to the National Defence Authorization Act 2018, the US Congress effectively exempted India from being caught up in US sanctions against Russia. In addition, earlier this month, the Trump administration granted India “Strategic Trade Authorization-1” status to facilitate sensitive high technology trade. Click here to read

US imposes preliminary anti-dumping duties of over 50 percent on metal pipes made in India, 22 Aug 2018

The US has announced hefty preliminary anti-dumping duties on metal pipes imported from India, China and four other countries, in an aggressive tactic by the Trump administration to protect the American industry and lower the trade deficit. Six US pipe manufacturers had filed the antidumping complaint with the Commerce Department in January.

Announcing the preliminary determinations in anti-dumping duty investigations of imports of the pipes, the US Department of Commerce yesterday said the six countries were selling the large diameter-welded pipe -- used to transport oil, gas and other fluids -- far below the fair price, and that dumping harms the US industry.

India has been slapped with an anti-dumping duty of 50.55 per cent. US imports of the pipe from India last year totalled USD 294.7 million. Click here to read

Russia, India Engaged In Talks On 5th generation fighter jet – UAC,
20 Aug 2018

Moscow and New Delhi are going ahead with discussions on the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) project despite media reports on India’s withdrawal, Yury Slyusar, the president of the Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), said on Sunday. "We have not closed the topic, we continue to discuss with India the joint development of the fifth generation [aircraft]. The topic is not closed. It was reported quite intensely that the Indians are exiting this project – they are not withdrawing from it, they just ask a really large number of questions, to which, in our opinion, we give exhaustive answers. As before, we proceed from the premise that the amount of technology that we are ready to transmit to India, no other country is not ready to transfer," Slyusar told the Rossyia 1 broadcaster.

In April, Director for International Cooperation at Russia's Rostec Viktor Kladov told Sputnik that Moscow had not received any notification from India on New Delhi's alleged withdrawal from FGFA, thus denying media reports about India's intention to leave the project. Click here to read

India will get the S-400 with discount, 20 Aug 2018

For India, Moscow has reduced the price on the purchase of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems S-400. This was stated by the Director of the Federal service for military-technical cooperation (FSMTC) Dmitry Shugaev in an interview with RIA Novosti. “India for us is a strategic partner, so we took into account the wishes of our partners, have made concessions, not to its detriment, as they say, but Yes, we took into account their wishes on price issues,” he said.

According to Shugaev, the basis for signing of the contract for S-400 has already been planned. “All the main technical and commercial aspects agreed, and I think we are close to happen,” — said the Director FSMTC. He noted that it would be “logical and beautiful” to sign a contract during the Russian-Indian summit in October. Click here to read

China to take part in Vostok-2018 strategic drills in Russia,
20 Aug 2018

China will take part in the Vostok-2018 (or East-2018) strategic military drills in Russia, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement on Monday.“In accordance with an agreement reached by China and Russia, the parties will hold joint military drills at the Tsugol training range in Russia’s Trans-Baikal Region on September 11-15," the statement reads.

According to the Chinese Defense Ministry, the drills are aimed at strengthening strategic military partnership between China and Russia and increasing the two countries’ ability to jointly respond to various security threats, ensure regional peace, stability and security. China’s Defense Ministry said the drills would involve about 3,200 Chinese military personnel, more than 900 pieces of weapons, as well as 30 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Click here to read

Press review: Do Putin, Merkel see eye to eye and will Turkey’s S-400 deal threaten NATO, 20 Aug 2018

Saturday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at Meseberg Palace, outside Berlin, attests to the intensifying cooperation between the two major European powers in spite of all the discord in bilateral relations that has accumulated recently, Izvestia writes. The fact that both sides see eye to eye on the need to shield the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project from third countries proves that too.

Putin and Merkel not only exchanged views on key issues, they also made it clear that the two countries are ready to move from negotiations to specific steps. The German summit could, in particular, contribute to efforts to ensure the return of Syrian refugees to their homes and rebuild the war-torn country, the press service of Syria’s ruling Ba’ath Party told the paper. "The meeting can contribute to the return of Syrian refugees who wound up in Germany. That, in turn, will help accelerate the process of restoring and rebuilding Syria," the press service stressed. Click here to read

India defies US threats, poised to sign deal for Russian S-400 in October, 20 Aug 2018

Russia hopes to finalize two major defense deals with India by year’s end, with first deliveries of the S-400 air defense system potentially taking place in 2020, a Russian defense official has said. India defied US demands to drop the S-400 deal in favor of US weaponry, selecting the defense system to protect its skies in June following an agreement on technical and economic specifications earlier this year. The S-400 is capable of destroying aerial targets at an extremely long range of up to 400 km (almost 250 miles).

A separate deal will see the Indian Navy buy a further three Talwar-class/Project 11356 frigates as part of the service’s modernization program. “As for the S-400, we have already prepared everything to sign this contract. All the main technical and commercial aspects have been agreed upon, and I think that we are close to making this happen. We hope to sign both contracts with our Indian partners by the end of the year,” Director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Dmitry Shugaev told RIA Novosti. Click here to read

Kremlin expects specific proposals on Syria and Ukraine from Trump,
21 Aug 2018

The Kremlin is waiting for specific proposals on cooperation to resolve the situation in Syria and Ukraine, which, according to US President Donald Trump, is the condition for lifting anti-Russian sanctions, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "We need to understand what conditions [for removing sanctions] are meant specifically," he said. "Of course, we welcome statements, which confirm willingness to cooperate. However, we would welcome any specific actions even more," Peskov added.

Speaking about the Syrian crisis, he recalled that "no other country in the world makes such a contribution to the political and diplomatic settlement, efforts to bring life back to normal and create conditions for refugees’ active return as Russia does." "So, of course, it is necessary to understand what is meant [in Trump’s proposal]," the Kremlin spokesman added. Click here to read

Deliveries of Brahmos Air Launched Missiles to the IAF may start in 2019, 23 Aug 2018

"One more test on a ground-based target is planned for the end of the year - November-December. After that, deliveries of weapons will start, we have already received the order from the Air Force, so we are waiting for the completion of this test," Pathak said on the sidelines of the Army 2018 defence industry forum.

BrahMos, the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile created history on 22nd Nov 2017 after it was successfully flight-tested first time from the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) air superiority fighter aircraft Sukhoi-30 MKI against a sea based target in the Bay of Bengal. The missile was gravity dropped from the SU-30 from fuselage, and the two stage missile’s engine fired up and straightway propelled towards the intended target at the sea in Bay of Bengal.

The development work related to the air launch version of the missile is complete. Work has also been successfully completed with Sukhoi design bureau, the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), and the IAF for interface requirements and installation of BrahMos on SU-30 MKI. Click here to read

US delegation visits Ethiopia to discuss reforms, human rights: VOA, 22 August 2018

A U.S. delegation is heading to Ethiopia on Wednesday to talk about the country's reform efforts since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April. Republican Congressman Christopher Smith, who led the congressional delegation, said he "is cautiously optimistic" about the political reforms in the country.

In an interview with VOA's Horn of Africa, Smith says he will meet Prime Minister Abiy and Foreign Minister Affairs Minister Workineh Gebeyehu and push for continued reforms, as well as reinforcing human rights issues. Click here to read

Congo approves more experimental Ebola treatments as cases rise: Reuters, 22 August 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo has approved four more experimental treatments against the deadly Ebola virus, the health ministry said as it raced to contain an outbreak in its violence-torn east. Health authorities last week started administering the U.S.-developed mAb114 treatment to Ebola patients, the first time such a treatment had been used against an active outbreak.

The health ministry said in a daily bulletin late on Tuesday that the 10 patients who received mAb114 since Aug. 11 have experienced a “positive evolution”, but the outbreak has continued to grow. The four additional treatments approved by Congo’s ethics committee are Remdesivir, made by Israel’s Gilead Sciences; ZMapp, an intravenous treatment made by San Diego’s Mapp Pharmaceutical; Japanese drug Favipiravir; and one referred to as Regn 3450 – 3471 – 3479. Click here to read

Europe benefits by bankrolling an anti-migrant effort, Niger pays a price: The New York Times, 25 August 2018

The heavily armed troops are positioned around oases in Niger’s vast northern desert, where temperatures routinely climb beyond 100 degrees. While both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have branches operating in the area, the mission of the government forces here is not to combat jihadism. Instead, these Nigerien soldiers are battling human smugglers, who transport migrants across the harsh landscape, where hundreds of miles of dunes separate solitary trees.

The migrants are hoping to reach neighboring Libya, and from there, try a treacherous, often deadly crossing of the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Click here to read

Zimbabwe: Emmerson Mnangagwa sworn in as President – The Guardian, 26 August 2018

Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken the oath as Zimbabwe’s president in front of a stadium crowd after a divisive election, as US observers of the vote questioned the country’s democratic credentials. The constitutional court confirmed Mnangagwa as president in a ruling released on Friday, dismissing a challenge by the opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, who he defeated in the 30 July ballot.
Thousands of people, some bussed in from outside the capital, joined foreign leaders at Harare’s national stadium on Sunday for the inauguration of Mnangagwa, who narrowly secured the 50 percent of the vote he needed to avoid a run-off against Chamisa. Click here to read

South Sudan resumes pumping crude from oil field suspended since 2013: africanews, 26 August 2018

South Sudan has resumed pumping 20,000 bpd of crude from Toma South oil field, where production had been suspended since 2013, the Sudanese oil minister Azhari Abdulqader said on Sunday. Abdulqader told a news conference in Khartoum production at five previously suspended oil fields was expected to reach 80,000 bpd after maintenance work is completed by year-end.

South Sudan’s oil output currently stands at 130,000 bpd and is expected to reach 210,000 bpd by year-end, he added. Click here to read

Tense local polls in Mozambique could signal major political shift: VOA, 27 August 2018

The tension and complexity of Mozambique’s upcoming municipal elections — which may signal a major political shift in the Southern African nation — can be seen by looking at the poll’s highest-profile contest: the mayoral race in the capital. Last week, the electoral commission kicked the two top candidates for mayor of Maputo off the ballot. They include the top candidate for the opposition Renamo Party, Venancio Mondlane, and the man who many thought would be a natural choice for the ruling party, Samora Machel Jr. Machel is a son of Samora Machel, Mozambique’s first president and co-founder of the powerful Frelimo Party, which has ruled the nation since 1975. Click here to read

Theresa May Visits Africa to Boost UK's Post-Brexit Fortunes: africanews, 27 August 2018

Theresa May’s visit, her first since becoming UK prime minister in 2016 begins on Tuesday in South Africa. She will also travel to Nigeria and Kenya as part of a trade mission aimed at boosting post-Brexit fortunes. She said the UK wanted to “deepen and strengthen its global partnerships” as it prepared to leave the EU in 2019.

In South Africa, May will hold bilateral talks with President Cyril Ramaphosa after delivering a keynote speech on trade and how UK private sector investment can be brought into Africa. Click here to read

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