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Friday, July 13, 2018

As Trump says Putin ‘not my enemy’, skeptics in US see danger

As Trump says Putin ‘not my enemy’, skeptics in US see danger 
WASHINGTON: In preparing for his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump has provoked a rare agreement among Democrats and Republicans alarmed by the possibility of a cozy meeting. While Republican Trump has gone softer on Putin, calling him a “competitor” and “not my enemy” on Thursday, lawmakers from both parties hardened their warnings to Trump before he sits down with the Russian leader in Helsinki on Monday.
“Putin is not America’s friend, nor merely a competitor. Putin is America’s enemy — not because we wish it so, but because he has chosen to be,” Republican Senator John McCain said. “It is up to President Trump to hold Putin accountable for his actions during the meeting in Helsinki,” McCain said in a statement. “Failure to do so would be a serious indictment of his stewardship of American leadership in the world.” Trump has touted the summit as an opportunity to reduce tensions, inflamed by Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, its military backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which turned the tide of the Syrian civil war in 2015, and accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election. US lawmakers want Trump, both privately with Putin and publicly, to condemn Russia’s actions. Congress has taken a hard anti-Russia stance, nearly unanimously approving last year a tough sanctions law targeting Moscow. But lawmakers worry Trump will fail to take Putin to task, particularly over the election meddling, which the Russian leader has denied.
US intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow interfered and Trump has said he would discuss it, although he has stated both a willingness to believe Putin’s denials and US agencies. Trump has described a special counsel investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russia as a political witch hunt. “Our goal must be to demonstrate to the world that the community of democratic nations does not intend to accede to Putin’s or any other authoritarian’s view of the world. We will resist Russia’s aggression,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner and Republican Senator Marco Rubio said in an op-ed in USA Today on Thursday. Senior Trump administration officials also have voiced fears about what he might give Putin to the detriment of allies in Europe, especially after seeing how Trump appeared to get only vague commitments from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their June 12 summit in Singapore to discuss denuclearization. Trump declared that he had ended the nuclear threat from North Korea, but one senior US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “Who’s to say he won’t come out of Helsinki saying he and Putin agreed that Russia no longer poses a threat to the rest of Europe?” ‘Easiest’ part of Trump trip Worries over Trump’s commitment to European allies and his deference to Russia loomed large at the NATO summit that wrapped up on Thursday. Trump claimed a personal victory after telling European allies to increase their defense spending or lose Washington’s support. He particularly railed against Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump took another swipe at US allies when he told reporters in Brussels that he thought his meeting with Putin would be “the easiest” part of his week-long European trip. US Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican, criticized Trump for saying that. “The Russian president is a man schooled in treachery and espionage. He jails and murders his opponents, presides over a mafia state and he is an enemy of democracy. Why would a meeting with Putin be easier than a meeting with the allies that we rely on most to be a bulwark against him?” Flake asked in a Senate speech. Putin won re-election for six more years in March with opposition leader Alexei Navalny barred from running on what he says was a false pretext. Europeans and some US officials are particularly concerned about whether Putin will ask Trump to suspend NATO military drills in the Baltic states on Russia’s doorstep. Another senior US official said that if Putin came away from the meeting with Trump thinking he had permission to act in the Baltics, Estonia might become the epicenter of what NATO has helped to prevent.
Trump’s assertion that Russia is a competitor and not an adversary is contrary to the judgments of US intelligence agencies and his chief diplomat, Mike Pompeo, who at his April confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State, said the United States needs “to push back in each place we confront them,” referring to the Russians. While Trump said on Thursday that he expects the Helsinki summit to be “just a loose meeting,” some at home are hoping it will be a “non-event” with nothing groundbreaking. “Based on just the way things are shaping up, I think a non-eventful Helsinki meeting might be best for our country,” Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations committee,
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Monday, July 2, 2018

Brazil leave Mexico contemplating familiar failure

Brazil leave Mexico contemplating familiar failure

SAMARA: Brazil’s Neymar (L) taps in to score against Mexico during the round-of-16 match at the Samara Arena on Monday.—AFP MEXICO had hope, some genuine hope, more than just cautious optimism that they could get a long-awaited first victory over Brazil at a World Cup, that they could for the first time since 1986 they would advance to the ‘quinto partido’ or the fifth match at world football’s showpiece tournament. In four matches before this, they had never beaten Brazil; in the last six World Cups, this last-16 stage had proven to be their undoing. In their last World Cup match against the five-time world champions, four years ago in Brazil, Mexico had held the hosts to a goalless draw. Riding on their 1-0 upset of Germany in their opening match at this World Cup, the Mexicans were confident that they could shock another of the favourites and go one better than last time when a superb Guillermo Ochoa had frustrated Neymar and company. In a breathless opening here at the Samara Arena on Monday, they had looked quite capable of doing that but then Neymar turned on the style and Brazil coasted past them 2-0, leaving the Mexicans to contemplate a familiar failure.
Brazil seemed rattled by Mexico’s pace early on but they settled down and picked the Mexicans apart in the second-half with Neymar scoring in the 51st minute, putting the finishing touches to a move started by him, before he set up substitute Roberto Firmino late on to put Mexico out of their misery. It was a performance that illustrated coach Tite’s influence on this Brazil team. Defensive solidity is paramount; Brazil know they have the players who can score aplenty at the other end. Just like they did with their superbly-worked opening goal. Neymar picked up the ball wide and then ran straight almost parallel to the goal, drawing away Mexico’s defenders with him. And then, in an instant, he opened up a Mexico defence that had been so excellent to that point with a clever backheel to Willian. Having drawn the defenders away, his movement opened up space for Willian who drove into the box and sent in a low cross that a sliding Neymar tucked away. Mexico never really recovered from that. They can play some spectacular football at times but their lack of ‘Plan B’ has seen them be at the end of some heavy defeats in the past. This could’ve been another of them if it hadn’t been for Ochoa who, just like four years ago, kept denying almost every Brazilian on the pitch. He saved from Phillippe Coutinho, from Paulinho, from Willian. With his saves, he would’ve hoped to inspire his team-mates on the other end of the pitch.
Instead, it was Brazil who kept coming back and he helplessly looked on as Brazil wrapped it up a minute from time through Firmino. Neymar got behind the Mexican defence and tried to find the far corner, only for Ochoa’s fingertips to put the ball into the path of an onrushing Firmino to tap it in. OUTRAGEOUS REACTION While it should’ve been Neymar’s goal and assist that should’ve been the talking point after the match, it was instead his antics that came into sharp focus: his outrageous reaction during the second half as Mexican Miguel Layun picked the ball from between his legs as he lay on the pitch. Television pictures showed a slight brush on his ankle but his reaction seemed like he’d been run over by a car. Moments later, with the referee finding no fault by Layun in the incident, Neymar was back on his feet and running perfectly. “Unfortunately we wasted a lot of time because of one of the players,” Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said at the post-match press conference. “I think it’s a shame for football. It’s a men’s sport and there shouldn’t be so much acting.” The rest of the press conference followed that theme. Asked by a reporter that the replay showed a slight touch by Layun, Osorio responded: “I respect your opinion.” Asked further, specifically about Neymar’s play-acting, Osorio said, “I didn’t mention him. It’s your interpretation. I’m entitled to give my opinion. I did not mention him.” Finally, he said: “There were incidents in the match where there was very little contact and every time the referee stopped the game.”
It was those stoppages that Osorio blamed for Mexico losing momentum. “The intensity decreases at some point and the referee has a lot to do with it,” said Osorio. “He allowed too many ‘fake’ faults.” Neymar was asked about Osorio’s comments but it was the moment Tite took charge. “The hierarchy stands,” Tite said. “The coach talks to the coach, the athlete to the athlete. I will answer that question. I saw what happened. You can analyse the video.” Neymar, meanwhile, said: “All this talk is an attempt to undermine me than anything else. I don’t care about the criticism because this can influence my attitude. There’s too many people talking anyways. I need to help my team, I have to play I have to play.” At the end of it all, Tite praised Osorio’s work and for making it an absorbing contest. “It was a great match considering the number of opportunities created,” he noted. “Osorio has done beautiful work and it’s why this was a beautiful match that excited me.” MESMERISING FOOTBALL Mexico were mesmerising in the opening 20 minutes, so good that Tite had a concerned look on his face. Brazil aren’t used to facing such opposition, opposition that comes at them so relentlessly as the Mexicans were coming. The game was only two minutes old and Mexicans had already blocked two Brazilian passes in midfield. Paulinho, who makes those surging runs through the centre, was forced to be in line with Casemiro, who sits ahead of the defence. Down the left, Carlos Vela was terrorising Fagner every time he got the ball. Going past the Brazilian full-back was never a problem for Vela. The only issue was with the final ball. Apart from Neymar’s shot which Guillermo Ochoa palmed away, it was all Mexico. They were creating all sorts of angles, they were making all sorts of runs with the ball and off it, trying to carve open Brazil. On top of that, such was their pressing that Neymar was forced to drop deep to try to create space for himself.
Osorio had spoken before the match about attacking the Brazilian full-backs and his team was doing exactly that and finding joy. On the other side of the pitch, it was Hirving Lozano who was isolating Filipe Luis and then running past him. There was one moment in which he left Luis for dead but, just like with Vela on the other end, the final ball was missing. Neymar’s first real chance came halfway through the first half, the gifted striker showing some nifty footwork to go past two defenders before seeing his effort saved by Ochoa. Instead of Neymar, it’s been Coutino who has been Brazil’s leading man at this World Cup but his passes were being cut, his shots at goal being blocked or sailing wide. As the half wore on, Mexico’s intensity deceased and the game opened up for Brazil. Gabriel Jesus finally got some service and saw two shots blocked. Osorio had vowed on Sunday that Mexico wouldn’t stop attacking Brazil but he was also vary of the goal-scoring threats posed by Brazil. Mexico hadn’t taken the lead by half-time but crucially hadn’t fallen behind either.
The plan was nearing perfect execution. But then Brazil scored just six minutes into the second half and Mexico didn’t have an answer. Picked :