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World Monthly Headline News December 2019 Page 2

Russian commentators note, rightly, that “sooner or later, the Democrats will come back into power," and they’re already joking about offering Trump asylum.
By Julia Davis

Sometimes a picture doesn’t have to be worth a thousand words. Just a few will do. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov returned home from his visit with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last week, Russian state media was gloating over the spectacle. TV channel Rossiya 1 aired a segment entitled “Puppet Master and ‘Agent’—How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump.”

Vesti Nedeli, a Sunday news show on the same network, pointed out that it was Trump, personally, who asked Lavrov to pose standing near as Trump sat at his desk. It’s almost the literal image of a power behind the throne. And in the meantime, much to Russia’s satisfaction, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is still waiting for that critical White House meeting with the American president: the famous “quid pro quo” for Zelensky announcing an investigation that would smear Democratic challenger Joe Biden. As yet, Zelensky hasn’t done that, and as yet, no meeting has been set.

Russian state television still views the impending impeachment as a bump in the road that won’t lead to Trump’s removal from office. But President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda brigades enjoy watching the heightened divisions in the United States, and how it hurts relations between the U.S. and Ukraine. They’ve also added a cynical new a narrative filled with half-joking ironies as they look at the American president’s bleak prospects when he does leave office.

Appearing on Sunday Evening With Vladimir Soloviev, Mikhail Gusman, first deputy director general of ITAR-TASS, Russia’s oldest and largest news agency, predicted: “Sooner or later, the Democrats will come back into power. The next term or the term after that, it doesn’t matter... I have an even more unpleasant forecast for Trump. After the White House, he will face a very unhappy period.”

By Charlie Bradley

VLADIMIR PUTIN has left many European leaders furious with his aggressive foreign policy in recent years. But this hostility also transcends to one on one exchanges, as was seen in 2007 when the Russian President brought his Labrador to a meeting with dog-phobic German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who swiped back in defiant fashion.

Mrs Merkel, who was attacked by a dog in her youth, was known by many to be uncomfortable around dogs, which led Mr Putin to bring his black Labrador called Koni into a meeting between the two in Sochi. At points during the exchange, Koni walked up close to Mrs Merkel, who was visibly uncomfortable while trying to maintain her composure. Meanwhile, President Putin sat confidently as his plan to intimidate the German Chancellor appeared to be working.

However, the move appeared to have backfired. Mrs Merkel told reporters after the meeting: “I understand why he has to do this – to prove he is a man. “He is afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.” Russian media did not broadcast the German Chancellor’s powerful fight back, fearing that the damned quotes may damage the image of both Russia and its President.

NORTH KOREA carried out tests at a satellite launch site in a bid to overpower the “nuclear threat of the US”.
By Rachel Russell

In a later statement carried by KCNA, Chief of the General Staff Pak Jong Chon said the tests were designed to bolster North Korea’s defences by developing new weapons. He said: “The priceless data, experience and new technologies gained in the recent tests of defence science research will be fully applied to the development of another strategic weapon of the DPRK for definitely and reliably restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the US.”

This was the second test at the Sohae facility in the space of a week. KCNA said today that North Korea had carried out a “very important” test on December 7 at the satellite launch site

Other countries are “waiting for the U.S. election,” one diplomat lamented.

MADRID — U.N. climate negotiations ended in disarray on Sunday, amid worries that President Donald Trump will win reelection next year and follow through on his promises to withdraw the U.S. from the international effort to head off catastrophic changes across the planet.

The talks exposed deep rifts among industrialized nations, fast-growing economies like China and India and the poorest countries – divides that the U.S. had helped bridge under former President Barack Obama in the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate accord. With Trump moving to pull out of the pact, delegates from many countries retreated behind their long-held grievances over how to bear the burdens of reducing greenhouse gases and preparing for the worsening effects of a changing climate.

USA TODAY - Kim Jung Un has tested more than three times as many missiles as his father and grandfather did, combined. So how does one of the most impoverished countries in the world have so much military spending power?

By Thomas Franck

President Donald Trump said Friday that as part of the U.S.-China trade deal, Washington will not charge Beijing with any new tariffs and will slightly reduce existing ones.

He also said that at Beijing’s request, “phase two” talks with China will begin immediately rather than waiting until after the 2020 election.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative confirmed that the U.S. will be maintaining 25% tariffs on approximately $250 billion of Chinese imports while reducing tariffs on $120 billion in products to 7.5%.

In a tweet, the president wrote: “We have agreed to a very large Phase One Deal with China. They have agreed to many structural changes and massive purchases of Agricultural Product, Energy, and Manufactured Goods, plus much more. The 25% Tariffs will remain as is, with 7 1/2% put on much of the remainder ...

″...The Penalty Tariffs set for December 15th will not be charged because of the fact that we made the deal,” he added. “We will begin negotiations on the Phase Two Deal immediately, rather than waiting until after the 2020 Election. This is an amazing deal for all. Thank you!”

Corbyn admitted it had been a "very disappointing" night as support crumbled in his party's former heartlands.
By Patrick Smith

LONDON — Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist leader of the opposition Labour Party, announced Friday he will step down after election results showed the party not only failed to oust the ruling Conservatives but also lost a swath of formerly dependable seats.

Corbyn admitted it had been a "very disappointing" night as support crumbled in his party's former heartlands, with Labour wining just over 200 seats in the 650-seat British Parliament. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ruling Conservative Party won 365 seats in Thursday's election, which was dominated by the furious and polarizing debate over Brexit and not social issues like the public health system.

Facing his second General Election defeat, Corbyn announced he would call it a day as leader after being re-elected to his Islington North seat in London. He said he would not lead the party into another election, but would stay on during a “process of reflection.” Many Labour figures are calling on Corbyn to resign immediately as the party grapples with what looks set to be an overwhelming defeat. But Corbyn seemed determined to resist the pressure, accusing the media of attacking Labour and contributing to its poor result along with Brexit.

By Jonathan Chait

President Trump is facing impeachment primarily for abusing his power for political gain, extorting a foreign country to discredit his political rivals. The secondary aspect of the plot is that the target of his extortion is hardly random. Ukraine is the victim of Russian aggression, and Russia’s continuing incursions into Ukrainian territory is the muscle that gave Trump’s threats leverage. Trump’s domestic interests are one intended beneficiary of his scheme. The other is Vladimir Putin.

Trump and his allies insist he has actually pursued a hawkish line in Ukraine. “Mr. Trump didn’t withhold military aid to Ukraine, and even if he had he would have merely been returning to Barack Obama’s policy of denying lethal aid,” argues a Wall Street Journal editorial. “No one has done more to limit Russia’s ability to engage in mischief than President Trump,” insists Representative Matt Gaetz in a Fox News segment retweeted by the president.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors charged yesterday evening that Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump who represented him in Ukraine, was wired $1 million from a Russian bank account weeks before his arrest. Which is to say, Trump’s Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia.

Parnas met repeatedly with Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Parnas claims Trump pulled him aside at last year’s White House Hanukkah party and personally directed his activities in Ukraine. That allegation remains unproven. What is proven, though, is that Parnas met with Trump numerous times (there are photographs), was Giuliani’s official business partner, and represented himself to Ukrainians as an agent of both Trump and Giuliani.

Supreme Court received petition demanding that Netanyahu step down from all his positions in light of indictments.

Israel's embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing criminal charges and a new general election, will resign from all other ministerial positions he holds but remain the premier, his lawyers said on Thursday.

The announcement to the country's Supreme Court came the same morning as parliament dissolved itself and set a date for a new election, the third within a year.

The court had received a petition from the Movement for Quality Government in Israel (MQG) demanding that Netanyahu, who is also minister of agriculture, diaspora, health and welfare, step down from all his positions in light of his indictments.

Opinion by Jill Dougherty

(CNN) As I looked around the large square conference table, I watched the faces settle into worried frowns. Russians and Americans, several of whom once had responsibility for their nations' nuclear weapons, all members of the Dartmouth Conference, the oldest continual bi-lateral dialogue between Americans and Russians, founded almost 60 years ago during one of the darkest periods of the Cold War.

For a long minute, no one spoke. Then, one of them broke the silence: "Someone needs to sound the alarm." Now, profoundly concerned that the United States and Russia are on the verge of a new arms race, they are speaking out, issuing an urgent appeal to keep arms control alive:

"... for the first time in our history we are compelled by the urgency of the situation to issue this public appeal to our governments, founded on our view that the clear threat of an uncontrolled nuclear arms race has re-emerged with the collapse in recent years of key elements of the post-Cold War arms control architecture."

American conservatives who find themselves identifying with Putin’s regime refuse to see the country for what it actually is.
By Anne Applebaum

Sherwood Eddy was a prominent American missionary as well as that now rare thing, a Christian socialist. In the 1920s and ’30s, he made more than a dozen trips to the Soviet Union. He was not blind to the problems of the U.S.S.R., but he also found much to like. In place of squabbling, corrupt democratic politicians, he wrote in one of his books on the country, “Stalin rules … by his sagacity, his honesty, his rugged courage, his indomitable will and titanic energy.” Instead of the greed he found so pervasive in America, Russians seemed to him to be working for the joy of working.

Above all, though, he thought he had found in Russia something that his own individualistic society lacked: a “unified philosophy of life.” In Russia, he wrote, “all life is focused in a central purpose. It is directed to a single high end and energized by such powerful and glowing motivation that life seems to have supreme significance.”

Eddy was wrong about much of what he saw. Joseph Stalin was a liar and a mass murderer; Russians worked because they were hungry and afraid. The “unified philosophy of life” was a chimera, and the reality was a totalitarian state that used terror and propaganda to maintain that unity. But Eddy, like others in his era, was predisposed to admire the Soviet Union precisely because he was so critical of the economics and politics of his own country, Depression-era America. In this, he was not alone.

Gen. Mark Milley also said he was not defending the president's actions.

The military’s top officer today defended efforts to maintain discipline in the ranks amid stiff questioning from lawmakers on whether President Donald Trump’s intervention in the cases of three service members accused or convicted of war crimes will create chaos on the battlefield.

“We do maintain, and we will maintain, good order and discipline,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee. “We will not turn into a gang of raping, burning and pillaging throughout … That is not going to happen as a result of this or anything else.”

Milley was responding to questions from Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who read the four-star general a text message from a Marine sergeant major who called Trump’s pardon’s “appalling” and said it would encourage troops to begin “burning villages and pillaging like Genghis Khan.”

By Sonam Sheth

The nonpartisan career officials who blew the whistle on President Donald Trump and testified against him are Time magazine's 2019 "Guardians of the Year." For more than two months, the magazine said, the president "attacked the public servants as 'traitors' and 'human scum.'" And in September, at the US Mission to the United Nations, he "suggested the proper response to the whistle-blower's complaint was the punishment historically reserved for 'spies' and for 'treason': the death penalty."

—Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) December 11, 2019

Among the people named were:

The whistleblower who first sounded the alarm on Trump's efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt on a rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for vital military aid and a White House meeting.

Marie Yovanovitch, the US's ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out of her position for refusing to go along with Trump's and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani's scheme.

Bill Taylor, the career diplomat who replaced Yovanovitch and testified about the extent of the quid pro quo Trump and Giuliani were engaged in.

Fiona Hill, the National Security Council's former senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, who witnessed and reported what she described as the "domestic political errand" that had hijacked US foreign policy.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC's top Ukraine expert, who witnessed the July 25 phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry and reported his concerns up the chain of command.

The main culprit? Corruption.
By Fred Kaplan

The war in Afghanistan—18 years old and still raging, at a cost of nearly $1 trillion, 2,300 U.S. troops killed, and more than 20,000 injured—has been a muddle from the beginning, steered by vague and wavering strategies, fueled by falsely rosy reports of progress from the battlefield, and almost certainly doomed to failure all along.

This is the inescapable conclusion of a secret U.S. government history of the war—consisting of 2,000 pages, based on interviews with more than 400 participants—obtained and published by the Washington Post on Monday after years of legal battles to declassify the documents.

Written by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an agency created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud, the report, titled “Lessons Learned,” is the most thorough official critique of an ongoing American war since the Vietnam War review commissioned in 1967 by then–Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. (Daniel Ellsberg leaked what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers in 1971; though widely disseminated, they were officially declassified only in 2011.)

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) A virus of misinformation and mistrust rages in America. On a melodramatic Monday, an independent report debunked Donald Trump's claims that the FBI was biased in its investigation into his campaign's 2016 links to Moscow. But the US President nevertheless bent the facts to say his suspicions had been vindicated. And the US Attorney General William Barr -- who is supposed to be an independent arbiter of justice, not act as Trump's personal lawyer -- excoriated the bureau anyway.

Meanwhile, the day's impeachment hearing -- into a scandal partly spawned by Trump's bid to prove that it was in fact Ukraine that meddled in the election three years ago -- descended into choleric feuding. In the looking glass world of Capitol Hill, Republicans -- once the most hawkish of Cold warriors -- are now using Kremlin talking points to shield a President whom Moscow wanted to help elect.

Washington feels like a fever dream. There's no agreement on common facts or assumption of goodwill between political adversaries in the nation's capital, which makes an honest assessment of Trump's actions impossible. It also means America may never heal from the recriminations and infectious doubts that stained the last presidential election -- and are already threatening the next one.

With its meddling operation in 2016, Russia had planned to inject the nation with bad blood, setting Americans against one another, fanning divisions and undermining confidence in US democracy. It worked better than President Putin can have dared hope. - Trump is Putin man in the white house.

By William Cummings USA TODAY

A conference celebrating the 70th anniversary of NATO was canceled after the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, objected to a speaker who has made statements critical of President Donald Trump, the Danish think tank co-sponsoring the event announced Sunday.

Stanley Sloan, a former CIA analyst and author of "Defense of the West," had planned to deliver an address on the challenges facing the transatlantic alliance, and the West in general, at the conference, which was scheduled to take place Tuesday at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen.

A day before Sloan left for Denmark, he said he was informed by the Danish Atlantic Council that the U.S. Embassy "vetoed my participation due to my critical evaluation of Trump's impact on transatlantic relations."

"Stunned and concerned about my country," Sloan said in a tweet.

The next day, the Danish Atlantic Council announced the conference had been canceled altogether.

VLADIMIR PUTIN meets French President Emmanuel Macron today for crunch Crimea talks, which means Paris will be the latest to host the Russian President's KGB-inspired diplomacy.
By Charlie Bradley

President Putin is famed for his stern negotiating posture and has often displayed this in talks with his political rivals from NATO. But, as Robert Service reveals in his 2019 book 'Kremlin Winter', President Putin appears to be drawing from his unique background to try and intimidate his counterparts in the West. Mr Putin worked for the KGB from 1975 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, leading him to eventually move into politics after heading up the security for President Boris Yeltsin.

Reddit launched an investigation after opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn brandished the leaked documents at a press conference last month.
By Linda Givetash

LONDON — Fears of Russian interference reared their head in the U.K. election this weekend after social media platform Reddit said it believed confidential British government documents were posted to the site as “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia." Reddit launched an investigation after opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn brandished the leaked documents at a press conference last month.

The 451-page dossier appeared to reveal rounds of trade negotiations with the U.S. for a post-Brexit trade deal included mention of the country's beloved National Health Service. Labour claimed they proved Prime Minister Boris Johnson would put the NHS "up for sale" to secure a deal with President Donald Trump. The British government has not denied the authenticity of the documents. NBC News has not verified their authenticity. Johnson, whose ruling Conservative Party leads in the polls entering the final week, has denied Corbyn's claims about what they show.

By Dakin Andone and Elizabeth Joseph, CNN

(CNN) Denuclearization is off the table in negotiations with the United States, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations said in a statement Saturday. In the statement, the ambassador, Kim Song, said the United States' pursuit of "sustained and substantial dialogue" was a "time-saving trick" to benefit a "domestic political agenda." "We do not need to have lengthy talks with the US now and the denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiation table," he said. CNN is reaching out to the State Department, the White House and the National Security Council for comment.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah - Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron are caught on camera trash-talking Donald Trump during the NATO summit, prompting the president to leave early.

Oleksandr Onyshchenko publicly claimed to have inside information about Hunter Biden just as the impeachment proceedings got underway.
By Betsy Swan, Adam Rawnsley

A former Ukrainian member of parliament who has claimed to have dirt on a company linked to the Bidens was arrested earlier this week in Germany, The Daily Beast has confirmed. Oleksandr Onyshchenko, who worked closely with Ukraine’s previous president before fleeing the country after being accused of embezzlement, has been living in Europe for several years. German authorities arrested him in Aachen on Friday.

Oleg Ishemko, an attorney for the former member of parliament, confirmed  the arrest.

“We are analyzing information in particular about the fact and basis for the detention of our client,” Ishemko said in a text. “According to our information, Oleksandr was in the process of seeking international protection and could not be arrested in accordance with Article 33 of the international convention relating to the status of refugees. Attorneys for Oleksandr are doing everything so that his rights, both in Ukraine and outside, are upheld in the necessary manner.”

by William Cummings USA TODAY

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not happy with President Donald Trump's remark at the NATO meeting in London that the U.S. would use force against his regime if necessary. In a statement published by the state-run North Korean Central News Agency, army chief of staff Pak Jong Chon said Kim was "displeased" with the "undesirable remarks" and warned that North Korea and the U.S. "are still technically at war and the state of truce can turn into an all-out armed conflict any moment."

"One thing I would like to make clear is that the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the U.S. only," Pak said. When asked by reporters about North Korea's continued missile tests on Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. has the most powerful military in the world and that he would use it against Kim's regime "if we have to."

North Korean 1st Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hu said Thursday that her ministry "cannot contain its displeasure" at Trump's remarks and warned that if Trump keeps it up, he "will again show the senility of a dotard." In September 2017, Kim vowed to "tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard," referring to Trump.

By Kate Fazzini

The U.S. Justice and Treasury departments took action Wednesday against a Russian hacking group known as “Evil Corp.,” which stole “at least” $100 million from banks using malicious software that swiped banking credentials, according to a joint press release.

“Evil Corp.,” a name reminiscent of the nickname for the key malevolent corporation in the popular television drama “Mr. Robot,” is “run by a group of individuals based in Moscow, Russia, who have years of experience and well-developed, trusted relationships with each other,” according to a Treasury Department press release.

The criminal group used a type of malware known as “Dridex,” which worked to evade common antivirus software and spread through emailed phishing campaigns. Once infected, the malware was able to steal login credentials and empty the accounts of bank employees and bank customers, forwarding the proceeds to offshore accounts held by Evil Corp, according to the press release. The group also stole an estimated $70 million using a similar malware known as “Zeus.”

The federal agencies say Evil Corp.’s criminal proceeds likely are “significantly higher” than the estimated $100 million stolen, making the enterprise one of the biggest hacking groups ever, according to the release.

There are "enough indications" killing was "contracted by government offices of the Russian Federation or the autonomous Chechen republic," prosecutors say.
By Andy Eckardt and Henry Austin

MAINZ, Germany — Germany has expelled two Russian diplomats after federal prosecutors concluded that there were "enough indications" that either the Kremlin or the Moscow-backed Chechen government were behind the brazen daytime slaying of a Georgian national. "Tornike K." was making his way to a mosque when he was shot twice in the head in Berlin's Tiergarten park shortly before midday Aug. 23, prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday.

There were “enough indications” that the killing was “either contracted by government offices of the Russian Federation or the autonomous Chechen republic as a part of the Russian Federation," spokesman Markus Schmitt said. Due to the political nature of the case, he added that his office had decided to take over the investigation from Berlin state prosecutors. While German law enforcement rarely releases the last names of those involved in a crime, the victim was named by a wide variety of publications.

Moscow has denied any involvement with the murder, but immediately after the prosecutor's statement, the German Foreign Ministry announced the expulsion of two Russian diplomats, citing a lack of cooperation with the investigation.

"Russian authorities, despite repeated, high-level and insistent demands, did not participate enough in the investigation," it said in a statement. It did not identify the names or the functions of the two diplomats being expelled.

Guardian News - Donald Trump has cut short his attendance at the Nato summit in London and accused Justin Trudeau of being 'two-faced' after the Canadian leader was heard apparently mocking the president's predilection for long, impromptu press conferences at a Nato reception at Buckingham Palace. 'He was late because he takes a 40 minute press conference off the top,' Trudeau could be heard saying, as other world leaders laughed. Boris Johnson, one of those present, denied they had been joking about Trump. Trump cuts short Nato summit after fellow leaders' hot-mic video

By Rod Ardehali For Mailonline

The parents of Harry Dunn have accused President Trump and Dominic Raab of lying that they are trying to bring a US diplomat's wife to justice over the hit-and-run death of their son. Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn said despite Trump's assurances - made to them in the White House in October - they had heard nothing from US officials since. 'President Trump said he was trying to sort something out in October, I don't believe him or have any hope in him at all,' Harry's grieving mother told Piers Morgan and Susana Reid on Wednesday.

By Matt Egan, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says President Donald Trump's love affair with tariffs is backfiring. And he's not surprised at all. Breaking from decades of US presidents lowering trade barriers, Trump is waging a global trade war that spread this week to Argentina, Brazil and France. Trump's tariffs are aimed at protecting American workers, but Summers argues it's the US economy that will suffer.

"We are engaged in a stop or I'll shoot myself in the foot strategy," Summers told CNN Business. "It's hard to know just how adverse the impact will be. But the direction is clear." Summers, who served in the Clinton and Obama White Houses, said tariffs will hurt the competitiveness of US producers that rely on imported goods. That includes everything from car makers to wine distributors. Summers said this will lead to higher prices and lower incomes for American consumers.

Already, the US manufacturing industry is in recession. Factory activity contracted in November for the fourth month in a row. The downturn is being driven by trade tensions as well as weak global growth, which the trade war is exacerbating. US manufacturing jobs declined by 6,000 in November, according to ADP. The factory job losses contributed to the second weakest private sector payroll growth since March 2010. "Uncertainty can paralyze economic activity," Summers said.

by Bill Chappell

Germany has declared two employees of the Russian Embassy in Berlin to be personae non gratae, as the German foreign ministry says there is evidence that a Georgian citizen's murder in Berlin was a state-sponsored contract killing. Prosecutors say they've uncovered evidence that seems to link the suspect to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The German Foreign Office says Russian officials have not responded sufficiently to repeated requests for information as German authorities investigate the killing of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen insurgent commander who had been seeking asylum in Germany.

Khangoshvili, who was living in Berlin with his family, was shot in the head as he walked home from a mosque in August. He was 40 years old and had come to Germany after narrowly surviving an attempt on his life in Georgia.

"The suspect in the Berlin murder was arrested the same day while trying to dispose of a gun into a canal, and he's refused to cooperate during questioning," NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Berlin.

Noting that the case is now in the hands of the federal attorney general, Germany's foreign ministry says there are tangible signs that the killing was carried out at the behest of either Russia's central government or Chechnya, which is part of the Russian Federation.

In response to the expulsion orders, Russia says it will retaliate in kind, with officials saying German diplomats may now be expelled from Russia, as the Interfax news agency reports.

By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

(CNN) North Korea will send a "Christmas gift" to the United States, but what that present contains will depend on the outcome of ongoing talks between Washington and Pyongyang, a top official has warned. The ominous comments, which some have interpreted as a sign that North Korea could resume long-distance missile tests, comes as the clock ticks closer to the country's self-imposed end-of-year deadline for nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration. Talks between the two sides have appeared to be in a rut in recent months, with North Korea conducting several shorter-range missile tests.

In a statement translated on the state news agency, Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry working on US affairs, accused US policy makers of leveraging talks with Kim Jong Un for domestic political gain. "The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US," Ri said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get," added Ri.

In 2017, North Korea referred to its first test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a "gift" for the US on the Fourth of July holiday. That launch sparked what became a tense, months-long standoff between the two sides. What happens in the coming weeks will likely determine if Washington's next so-called "Christmas gift" turns out to be similarly volatile. "It's hard to predict because it could go either way," said Duyeon Kim, senior adviser on Northeast Asia and nuclear policy to the International Crisis Group. "It really depends on the circumstance and the situation, which will better inform how North Korea reacts.

By Krishnadev Calamur

President Trump has responded to a video that appeared to show Justin Trudeau and other world leaders mocking him, calling the Canadian prime minister "two-faced." Trump's remarks follow the president's meeting Tuesday with the Canadian leader in which the two men appeared to get along, though Trump needled Trudeau over Canada's defense spending.

"Where are you at? What is your number?" Trump asked Trudeau during their meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit outside London. Trudeau responded that Canada had, in fact, increased its spending on defense over the past few years. That did not appear to placate Trump who pressed on: "Where are you now in terms of your number?"

Canada, a NATO member, spends about 1.4% of its gross domestic product on defense. Trump, and indeed past U.S. presidents, have urged the alliance's members to spend 2% or more on defense. At present, seven of NATO's 29 members have reached that target. The U.S. is by far the largest contributor to the alliance, which was set up during the Cold War to protect Western Europe from Russian and Eastern bloc aggression.

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