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Wintershall warns U.S. against playing 'geopolitical football.'
by Daniel J. Graeber
Washington (UPI) Aug 3, 2017


Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group starts COMPTUEX exercises
Washington (UPI) Aug 3, 2017 - The Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group departed on August 1 for its Composite Training Unit Exercise in anticipation of its deployment later this year, the U.S. Navy announced this week.

The COMPTUEX exercises will certify that the Roosevelt and all supporting ships in Carrier Group Nine are capable of conducting their assigned operations during the upcoming cruise, which could easily last from seven to nine months or longer.

Testing will include command and control, search and rescue operations, damage control and operational capabilities of the group.

"The effort of all hands throughout the strike group is critical to success for COMPTUEX and beyond," commander of Carrier Group Nine Rear Adm. Steven Koehler said in a press release.

Participants in the exercise include the Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Bunker Hill, and the Arleigh Burke-class USS Halsey, Higgins, Preble, and Sampson.

"In order to make sure the men and women in the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group are ready for operations, we have to push our team beyond what we expect to see on deployment," Koehler said.

German energy company Wintershall, a European partner with Russia's Gazprom, said the European energy sector can't be used for "geopolitical football."

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill into law that sanctions Iran, North Korea and Russia. The Russian measure in particular is significant given the election issue clouding the Trump administration.

Trump in a signing statement expressed reservations about the bill's impact, saying it encroaches on presidential authority and may harm U.S. interests as they relate to Russian diplomacy and outreach with European allies.

Sanctions on Russia relate in part to crude oil and natural gas pipeline infrastructure and came as the European market works to address diversity issues. Russia meets about a quarter of Europe's demand for energy and leaders in the European Union are wary because a company like Gazprom controls both the supplies and the transit networks.

German energy company Wintershall is in the Gazprom-led partnership working to expand the twin Nord Stream natural gas pipeline system through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Mario Mehran, the CEO of Wintershall, said in response to questions emailed by UPI it's still unclear how the legislation would impact energy and how any sanctions would be implemented.

On the broader issue, Mehran said sanctions could be used to advance U.S. economic interests in the European energy market. Shale natural gas from the United States has made its way to the European market in the form of liquefied natural gas, though the CEO said interfering in Russian energy could threaten European energy sector.

"Europe must not let itself become a geopolitical football," he said. "The framework conditions for the energy cooperation between Russia and Europe are determined by the European countries themselves -- and not by third-party countries."

European leaders themselves have expressed concerns about the possible impacts of sanctions on Russian energy. European Commission President Juncker said it appeared some of the measures enacted by U.S. lawmakers were watered down in order to address EU concerns.

"If the U.S. sanctions specifically disadvantage EU companies trading with Russia in the energy sector the EU is prepared to take appropriate steps in response within days," he said in a statement late Wednesday after the bill was signed.

Trump, seen as a trade protectionist, has been critical of European policies -- Germany's in particular. A survey published last week by Forsa Institute, on behalf of Wintershall, revealed concerns about U.S. energy interests in the region.

Russia ties most 'difficult' since Cold War: NATO
Washington (AFP) Aug 3, 2017 - NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that ties between the alliance and Moscow were at their most difficult phase since the Cold War, blaming Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict.

Speaking after US President Donald Trump said relations between Washington and Moscow had hit an all-time low, the alliance's chief said Russia's "destabilization" of eastern Ukraine had helped scupper hopes of a diplomatic reset.

"I think (it) is correct to say that NATO's relationship with Russia is more difficult than it has been any time since the end of the Cold War," Stoltenberg told CNN.

"At the end of the Cold War, we hoped to develop a close partnership with Russia.

"But especially after the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the continued Russian destabilization of eastern Ukraine, the relationship between NATO and Russia has deteriorated considerably."

Stoltenberg said that NATO was committed to avoiding a further spike in tensions and was pursuing a twin-track approach of "defense deterrence and dialogue."

"As long as we are strong, as long as we are predictable, we can also engage in political dialogue with Russia to try to avoid escalation and avoid a new Cold War," he said.

SUPERPOWERS
For Pakistanis, China 'friendship' road runs one way
Tashkurgan, China (AFP) Aug 2, 2017
The China-Pakistan Friendship Highway runs over 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) from the far western Chinese city of Kashgar through the world's highest mountain pass and across the border. For China, the two-lane thoroughfare symbolises a blossoming partnership, nourished with tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment. But for many Pakistani businessmen living and working on ... read more

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