Diplomacy in the Time of Tweets

I gotta say, I love the new diplomacy by tweet. People keep saying the Donald should put down his Tweeter when he becomes President. I say it’ll never happen, and I’m happy to see it continue.

I wrote before about how I appreciated our new Negotiator-In-Chief’s use of a single tweet to render the Chinese drone theft meaningless in The Pre-President Practices Pre-Diplomacy, and his use of tweets in the Obama Gives The Wailing Wall To The Muslims. Somewhat unnoticed in this, for the first time a foreign Head of State replied when Bibi Netanyahu commented on Trump’s tweet, saying:

netanyahu-tweet

I like this situation a lot. Yes, it’s not how diplomacy is done … but on the other hand, this isn’t diplomacy. It’s a tweet. And I am comforted by the knowledge that Netanyahu understands that Trump is on his side. That’s a good thing, and pre-Twitter we would never have known that in as clear and unequivocal a manner. I think it is great that more of this is playing out in public.

Now we have the whole Russian drama. Let me see if I can bring some light to that.

First fact. It’s very possible (few things in espionage are ever fully clear) that Russia hacked the DNC. However, the information released to date is far from convincing.

Next fact. There is no evidence at all that the Russians released one scrap of whatever they found if they hacked it. I read the Joint Action Report (JAR). It has one sentence on the release of the information, saying:

The U.S. Government assesses that information was leaked to the press and publicly disclosed.

That’s it. That’s all they say about it. They don’t even say who in “the press” that it was leaked to … and we’re supposed to just say “OK”? At least they should identify who in “the press” got the info. That’s not confidential or secret. If Russians are spoon-feeding info to someone in the press, that’s something we should know … and to me, the fact that they have not named names means they are just blowing smoke. I hate to say it, but then it’s not the first time the CIA et al. have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar giving false but politically convenient information …

Next fact. Julian Assange has repeatedly denied that the Russians gave him anything. He says it was leaked by someone who was disgusted with the DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders. Assange’s offsider has also said he was the one who went to DC to get the flash drive getting the information.

Not only that, but it would be very unlike the Russians to release anything they found. The information that was released would have been much, much more valuable as blackmail when (as was assumed) Hillary eventually took power. The Russians would have been fools to waste the emails by making them public in a forlorn hope of electing someone who everyone knew would lose … and the Russians are many things, but rarely fools of that magnitude. Think about what it would mean to be able to blackmail a new administration …

Next fact. Obama got in big trouble a while back for his intelligence service listening in on Angela Merkel’s phone calls … so please, no anguished hand-wringing about countries spying. Everyone does it.

Next fact. Obama tried to influence the Israeli elections using your and my taxpayer money:

According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to a political group in Israel to build a campaign operation, which subsequently was used to try to influence Israelis to vote against conservative Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election for prime minister.

To Summarize:

Yes, the Russians possibly DID HACK the DNC server, as well as possibly hacking every other server they could hack over the last decades including Hillary’s server, but to date we have no clear evidence for them hacking either one. We do know that publicly available Russian software  was used … but that doesn’t mean the Russian government was involved. Maybe so, maybe no.

No, if it was the Russians they most likely DID NOT RELEASE one scrap of that information, whether to affect the election or for any other purpose. It is much, much, much more valuable as blackmail.

Yes, every country is spying on every other country.

Yes, Obama did spend a third of a million taxpayer dollars to influence the Israeli election, and now he’s up in arms about unproven Russian “interference” that nobody has shown to have actually occurred.

So with that as background, Obama decided that after a eight years of not responding to Russian hacking except to tell Putin to “Cut that out!”, it was imperative that he act right now … so he imposed the weakest sanctions imaginable. Expelled some diplomats, froze the US accounts of some people and groups most of whom didn’t have US accounts, said they couldn’t shop on 5th Avenue. Booooring … their money is in Switzerland, as is their shopping …

Now, it was up to Putin to respond. Be clear that everyone involved, including you, me, and Trump, knows that Putin was the head of the KGB, and is used to torturing prisoners and poisoning his enemies.

However, you don’t rise to the top of the Russian political toilet bowl and keep from being flushed out in one of the many periodic purges without being smart. So Putin thought it out, and realized that he had a chance to do to Obama what Trump had done with the Chinese drone. He could laugh it off and say “So what?”.

Of course, it being Russia it was all orchestrated. The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry reportedly recommended expelling US diplomats tit for tat. Putin published that fact, and then after a few hours he said no, he wasn’t going to expel any diplomats, so he could look like the good guy. He also said he didn’t care about what Obama did, it didn’t matter, he’d deal with the Trump Administration when Trump got into power.

Now, in my opinion this was pretty brilliant. First, it was unexpected, outside the box. Everyone expected tit-for-tat. Second, it was crafted in collusion with the Foreign Ministry’s purported opposition, great optics. And finally, he thumbed his nose at Obama and rendered him impotent.

Trump couldn’t resist tweeting on that, of course, saying:

Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!

 

Immediately the chatterati clutched their pearls and kicked their usual fluttery quackathon into high gear and jumped all over Trump, saying things like “It’s wrong to ever tweet any good things about a murderous thug like Putin!” and “You can’t cozy up to a beast!” and various other virtue-signalling statements.

Say what?

Trump didn’t say Putin was good, or trustworthy, or a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize, or decent, or caring, or a humanitarian, or a potential partner.

He said Putin was SMART, and if you go up against Putin, for me that is the very first thing that you should know, and it is what you better keep in mind at every step throughout the negotiations. Putin is damn smart.

And returning to Trump’s tweet, as a businessman I know that if you are going to be negotiating with someone, it’s generally to your advantage to say whatever true good things you can say about your opposite number … can’t hurt.

Plus, of course, by complimenting Putin on his smarts, Trump is actually saying “Yep, Vlad outsmarted Barry all right” …

Like I’ve said before, the man can pack a lot into 140 characters.

But the twitter exchange is not over. Next, Putin has the Russian Embassy in the UK tweet the following:

russian-embassy-tweet

Ooooh … like I said, I greatly approve of Twitter diplomacy, in part because it’s enormous fun to watch. As you can see, nobody is mistaking it for regular diplomacy, which we still need. But world leaders, following the Donald’s example, are starting to take advantage of Twitter to applaud actions, encourage friends, stake out the far edge, and other non-traditional uses.

Plus which, it is fun to see the different national characters expressed. For example, it is so typically Russian for Putin to use the Russian Embassy UK as a cat’s-paw to distance himself from the “lame duck” tweet, which everyone knows he had to personally approve of … that gets extra style points.

And to put the final cap on the year, Putin stepped forwards with this closing tweet …

putin-tweet

Superb, considering the Obamas famously said “When they go low, we go high” … plus a nice touch to invite the kids on the grounds of, quote, “In response to the US Sanctions”. You could almost convince yourself that Putin actually has a heart …

… and you can be sure that Trump is not fooled. Donald appointed General “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Secretary of Defense in part because neither one of them trusts Putin one bit … and because both Trump and Mattis know that Putin is the worst kind of bad person.

He is a smart bad person.

w.

AS USUAL, I ask everyone who comments to QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS THAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO. This allows all of us to understand exactly what you are discussing.

PS: Do NOT believe the recent story about Russians attacking the electricity grid. What happened was that PUBLICLY AVAILABLE Russian malware was found on one laptop not connected to the grid. See here for more. Key quote from that analysis (h/t to Steve McIntyre):

… assuming that Russian-made malware must have been used by Russians is as irrational as finding a Russian-made Kalishnikov AKM rifle at a crime scene and assuming the killer must be Russian.

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50 thoughts on “Diplomacy in the Time of Tweets

  1. It does smell like a bit like the old world scorched earth tactic before democratically retreating, one might reasonably conjecture, for sure ….

    Like

  2. “I’m shocked that’s there’s gambling in this establishment!” The outrage by the Democrats is like a gangster complaining that the Mafia fingered him to the police. The outrage is what was in the leaks more so than who leaked them. Where’s the press screaming about what despicable acts the DNC committed? Besides there are gobs and gobs of Script Kiddies out there who can attack a site using programs that others have written. You don’t even need to be an expert hacker. Remember too that our country was the one who unleashed Stuxnet on the Iranian nuclear program. Why would we think that other countries aren’t going to think we’re fair game too?

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  3. Immediately the chatterati clutched their pearls and kicked their usual fluttery quackathon into gear and jumped all over Trump, saying things like

    Brilliant writing! As well as the rest of the post. Vlad is smart, but so’s Trump. I’m warming up the oil for the popcorn.

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    • Thanks, JP, I was indeed happy with that sentence. As for the popcorn, it’s gonna be a fascinating four years. Think of all the fun we’ve had already, and he’s not even President yet! Lash down the loose dunnage, boys, there’s a change in the weather ahead.

      All the best,

      w.

      Like

  4. Willis, I wish there was some way you could be appointed as one of Trump’s advisors. . . .

    Please keep these great observations coming!!

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      • In my limited experience (I play an expert on TV), you might be surprised to find that blogs and comments are read and digested by some ‘interesting ‘consumers’ (or at least their ‘minions’)

        It is probably politically negative to be anything more than an anonymous reader of a particular blog but don’t believe for a moment that blogs (good ones) just float around in a self referential vacuum.

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      • Re: getting Trump/team attention:

        Twitter.
        Include a link, summary and @realDonaldTrump in the line and it will show up in his ‘mentioned’ feed.

        No doubt at some stage his minions will look.
        Better to track their handles down and tweet them too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • But this guy perhaps has a valid view, too?

        Nick Spencer Verified account
        ‏@nickspencer

        Yeah man, international diplomacy is weird. You should read up on it before you get us all killed with your fucking twitter account.

        Nick Spencer in reply to Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
        Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.

        Retweets
        15,088
        Likes
        25,374
        lorenzo
        Joseph Mainez
        EA WorldView
        Tim WB
        Leanne Donnelly
        Sarah
        B
        Alvin
        STARBAE

        5:57 PM – 2 Dec 2016

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The dusk of the era of community organizers. It gave us a lot: Libya, Syria, Afghanistan. Don’t get me wrong; Obama saw a price of action after George W’s (well-meant, but extremely naive) invasion of Iraq – so he decided not to repeat the mistake. Now we are paying a price of inaction.

    So far, I have been very impressed with the President Elect. No community organizer. But I don’t expect a Robin Hood, either.

    Willis, happy New Year to you, your family, and your readers.

    Like

  6. What are the chances that Trump confirmed with Putin that the expulsions would be null and void as soon as he became President prior to Vladimir deciding to forego the standard reciprocity principle associated with these matters?

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    • Good question, Ben. I’d say the chances are slim that Trump and Putin conspired on this.

      First, Trump really can’t just reverse the actions without reason, because there’s a political cost—he looks like Putin’s pal, not a good thing.

      Next, Putin has basically said “Screw the sanctions, they are meaningless”. And in truth they are very toothless. The expulsions do little, and seizing non-existent US bank accounts doesn’t exactly strike fear into anyone. So if Trump reverses them, he’s saying they DO matter after Putin has said they don’t … not a good chess move.

      No, I think Putin did it on his own, which is why Trump tweeted that he was smart.

      Next, Trump’s eventual response depends on whether the CIA / FBI / NSA / ETC can convince Trump that the Russians actually tried to affect the election. If they can provide the facts, he’ll assuredly use that in future negotiations … but what those might be is anyone’s guess. But I don’t think the intelligence agencies can prove their case.

      As I read what the JAR says, I find that it is all about “threat groups” which are said to be Russian. Here’s the problem—in spyspeak, a “threat group” is not people, it is software. Here’s a typical description:

      As security researchers, what we call “the Sednit group” is merely a set of software and the related network infrastructure, which we can hardly correlate with any specific organization.

      So yes, the software is Russian, but that does NOT mean that those using it are Russian, particularly since the software used to attack the DNC is off-the-shelf malware available for public download off of a Ukranian web site!

      w.

      Liked by 1 person

    • 35 people were expelled.

      how much do you want to bet that within a few weeks there will be 35 different people assigned to various US posts.

      This is old cold-war era bluster, both sides know how meaningless this is.

      Especially when the US still doesn’t enforce existing rules about requiring that the ‘diplomats’ notify us when they plan to be more than 25 miles from their facilities and similar things.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. OT but if you have the time and inclination to return to the subject of ‘The Social Cost of Carbon’ sometime in the new year it would be greatly appreciated.

    Like

  8. I remember reading a story about certain FBI agents wanting to do some damage if these security breaches were not attended to? Some of them appeared to know a lot about what was happening in the run up.

    FBI director James Comey was getting some worrying (for him) internal treatment I think and to which he sought advice from his wife…for one? Perhaps Trump might be briefed on this run up… in that the lid was being held down on the cack handed behaviour of the Clinton gang for too long. Trumps threat about prosecution of HRC was inspiring….its something that should not be dropped. Idle talk is one thing but breaches of this nature are contemptuous. Trying to imagine how long it was going on for and its spread.

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  9. I do have to deduct some style points. The Russians could have taken a little more time to photoshop in a cast and crutches on the “lame duck” image.

    I also think Trump is making a mistake blowing off the whole issue of election hacking (“I think we should move on”). What the Russians can do today the Iranians, North Koreans and ISIS can probably do in two to five years. Plus he should use the opportunity to broaden the focus from just hacking into the vote count and take a look at the integrity of the registration lists, which is how votes are traditionally stolen. As others have pointed out, a voter ID law doesn’t help if prohibited voters can get registered. And I wouldn’t mind a thorough audit of the firmware on the electronic vothing machines either.

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  10. Plus he should use the opportunity to broaden the focus from just hacking into the vote count and take a look at the integrity of the registration lists

    I’m not sure that the Russian ‘hacking’ concerns them, if they did anything at all, getting into ‘the vote count’. They are simply being accused, by some, of releasing information detrimental to one candidate.

    I don’t even agree with Willis in this respect. In that The Russians are wise enough to know that tipping things one way or another can often have unforeseen consequences. Better to stay well clear and let things unfold as they will.

    It’s kind of like the idea that, if one could go back, would one assassinate Hitler? What if your action simply made him a martyr which then led to something worse? (yes, it’s hard to see what but … )

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  11. Another great article Willis, happy new year to you and the ex
    And also to anthony . The reason baseball managers argue calls is to try and influence the next play to go in thier favor( obama is floating this bs to influence future dnc elections

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  12. The Democrats along their MSM have reshaped the narrative to “election hacking”. No such thing happened. No one hacked anything to do with ballots.
    What did happen was someone disclosed how awful the DNC is and how they will lie, cheat and steal to get their way. Kudos for whomever got the truth out to us, and shame on the MSM for not doing so.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Happy New Year Willis & Family, as well as to all of my fellow-travelers who enjoy Willis’ thoughts and writing so much!

    The DNC leaks couldn’t be called leaks by the DNC because no one from the DNC would ever leak anything about HRC – for someone caught doing it, the Death Penalty would be a relief. Nevertheless, I have believed from the beginning that the hack of Podesta’s email was based in the US, not overseas. Even if the Russians also hacked the account, there are too many tools available to let even a comparative n00b hit someone who’s lax in basic security. Not to mention that originally the whole bunch was unfazed by the meaning of hacking emails from the DNC. Using a Google account to penetrate gmail isn’t exactly unknown, divorces have arisen from that very action.

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    • Thanks, Matt. On this lovely first morning of the year, my very best wishes for 2017 to you, and to everyone else. My prediction for 2017?

      It’s gonna be interesting …

      w.

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    • Don’t assume that there is no possibility that someone who was a big Bernie supporter couldn’t have gotten upset enough to be the source of the leaks. Remember that the initial leaks were about how the DNC conspired against Bernie.

      And the level of expertise needed to get into these systems is well within the capabilities of MANY self-righteous techies out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This is good politiking by Mr Trump because it can be read by ordinary people for what it is, off the cuff honesty. Very clever, building as it does on his opening doors to his citizens that played such a role in getting his election messages out in spite of a biased media. This man will be good for America and good for the world.

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  15. Of course Putin played Obambi for a chump, as he’s been doing for years. He will have a tougher time with The Trump, which of course is another reason that it’s hard to imagine that Putin would have preferred him to Queen Hillary–after all, he doubtless has all her official correspondence from her illicit home-brew server.

    The whole ‘Russians hacked the election’ blarney is nothing more than a lame attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s election.

    Indeed, the idea that emails were ‘hacked’ is ridiculous. Anyone with half a brain knows that email is no more private than a postcard. Unless you encrypt it, or restrict it to an in-house network with no connection to the Internet (as the .gov email is supposed to be), your commercial email travels a circuitous route among many servers and nodes, which at any point can be accessed by ne’er-do-wells. Assange says that the DNC emails came from an inside whistle-blower (and an British ex-diplomat backs him up, saying he got the delivery in a DC park). And Podesta admits he fell for phishing malware and gave away his gmail password. No need for the Russians in any of this, nor for any high-end state-level spies.

    It is amazing that Podesta and the rest of the DNC coterie don’t realize that you never put anything in writing–much less in an email–that you don’t want the world to see, and laugh at. Have they never heard the old admonition, attributed to Massachusetts politician Martin Lomasney: “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink”?

    /Mr Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too true. Let’s hope the analysers of Tweets don’t decide to knock off the senders. Personally, if everything has to be expressed in a sentence and argued in tweets, we may as well be sparrows.

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      • Thanks for the comment, Steve. However, it appears you are making the mistake that others have, mistaking the exchange of tweets for either diplomacy or discussion.

        It is neither. Tweeting is a new communication channel, not in replacement of anything, but in addition to everything.

        It is also a channel which, as Donald has discovered, is very powerful. I mentioned above how Trump totally neutered the Chinese theft of an underwater scientific drone by a single tweet. Not bad for 140 characters …

        w.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Too hilarious! 19 days and it can’t come soon enough. Good comments as well. Thanks Willis.

    OT, wordpress is not mobile friendly, as additional replies to previous comments are posted it soon becomes 1 word per line 😦

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  17. If I remember correctly, “move on” was first used politically during the Clinton Administration. Some progressives wanted Congress to just censure Clinton and move on to other things instead of moving towards impeachment. Eventually, the group became a Soros-funded organization. So, I took the Trump tweet to first refer back to this point in political time and to regain the narrative from Obama.

    Trump needs to move on from the false claims of election hacking (see Tom’s comments above) and get going on his agenda – the first is reversing all the stuff Obama has done in the last few months while it is still easy to do

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  18. Willis, I think your analysis of these situations is excellent and I will certainly be following with interest. I also agree that they have been very clever

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  19. I would suspect if there was any real evidence of hacking the lapdog media would have been leaked the info by now.

    Willis, the text is confined and centered on my phone when not turned sideways. I would suggest checking with Anthony as his format comes over nicely at WUWT on traditional mobile in the standard position.

    Using a Note 4 here for the record.

    Like

    • Upon double checking and comparing mobile representation, it appears you have black borders on both sides in addition to the margins around the text. Squishing the text if you will on mobile.

      Like

  20. Pingback: Nothing But The Truth? | Skating Under The Ice

  21. Maybe Trump’s policy towards Russia might have a deeper concept than most people think. It might have to do with the actual relationship between Russia and China.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, JJM. As you point out, we are in a curious tripartite time. The powers now are the US, Russia, and China, and presently, all three of them are growing stronger. All three of them face serious challenges from resurgent Islamic militarism. So there are arenas where all three countries not only can but definitely should cooperate. Beyond that, Russia is our more natural ally for reasons of shared history and culture. It all leads to a most fascinating situation, in that historically there has usually been only one superpower, and sometimes two … but rarely three.

      Best regards,

      w.

      Liked by 1 person

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