April 2015

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay

Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay

First introduced into Philippine jurisprudence in 1959, the “doctrine of condonation” has become the elected officials’ “escape hatch” from potential administrative liability committed during a previous term. In other words, it’s a “not guilty” verdict sans judicial process, absolving the elected official from past administrative misconduct for as long as he gets re-elected to another term. The only exception to this doctrine is that it doesn’t apply to criminal cases.

Makati City Hall Parking Building

Makati City Hall Parking Building

This is the gist of Makati City Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr.’s contention before the Supreme Court that since he’s been reelected mayor in 2013, he is immune from administrative liability in connection with the alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati City Hall parking building, which was built during his first term. By invoking the “doctrine of condonation,” Binay claims that by virtue of his reelection, he’s forgiven for whatever administrative liability he might have had committed during his previous term.

And this is where his case goes into a grayish area. Did he commit a crime when he made – inadvertently or advertently — an administrative error? Or was a crime – e.g., dishonesty, graft, plunder – committed in approving the overpriced cost of building the parking building?

Unconscionable overpricing

Lord-of-Makati.2Last year, a group of Makati City citizens brought graft and plunder charges against Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, his son Junjun, and 23 others over alleged “unconscionable overpricing” in the construction of the 11-story parking building that was supposedly built for P1.56 billion. In their complaint filed before the Ombudsman, lawyer Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso VI, members of the group known as the “Save Makati Movement,” claimed that it was “the most expensive parking building in the entire country, if not the entire world.”

In their complaint, the group said that the project was “proposed and approved” in 2007 with an initial budget of P400 million during the administration of then Mayor Jojo Binay. The complainants claimed that based on the construction cost estimate by the National Statistics Office (NSO), the project should have cost only P245.6 million. They said that the city should only have paid P7,691 per square meter, but the project cost was marked up to P48,859 per square meter when it was completed in 2013, or an overprice of a whopping P1.255 billion! Accusing the elder Binay and his son of “despicable mismanagement and gross abuse of public funds,” Bondal and Enciso sought the preventive suspension of the Binays to keep them from influencing the investigation by the Ombudsman.

Preventive suspension

Junjun-BinayOn March 12, 2015, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales issued a preventive suspension against Junjun Binay and 20 other Makati City Hall officials for six months pending the preliminary investigation into the alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati City Parking Building. But in an act of defiance, Binay said he would not vacate his office even if the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) serves him the order. “Hindi kami aalis dito. Ang stand nga namin ay there is no reason for the suspension order,” Binay told reporters, which makes one wonder: Is this how the Binays would rule when the elder Binay were elected President? Hmm…

On March 17, Junjun submitted a petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals (CA) asking for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of Binay’s suspension. The CA issued the TRO and also directed the Ombudsman to file her comment on Binay’s plea to cite her in contempt for defying the TRO.

Supreme-Court-Carpio-MoralesThe Ombudsman then filed a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the implementation of the CA’s TRO. Morales argued that the Office of the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body, which must be protected from the “unconstitutional interference” of the CA Sixth Division.

The CA Sixth Division retaliated by issuing a writ of preliminary injunction on the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension. Then the government’s Solicitor General, Florin Hilbay, came to the Ombudsman’s rescue. “Does the Court of Appeals have statutory authority from Congress to issue a writ of preliminary injunction on [orders] of the Ombudsman? No, because we cannot find any statutory authority with such express provision,” Hilbay said during the oral argument before the High Court.

Believe it or not

Trillanes: "Scam in Makati bigger than pork theft."

Trillanes: “Scam in Makati bigger than pork theft.”

While all the players of this “zarzuela” are dancing to their own tunes, Sen. Sonny Trillanes introduced Senate Resolution 1265 calling for a probe on “justice for sale” involving CA justices. Trillanes claimed that a prominent lawyer had arranged for Junjun Binay a P50-million bribe to two of the three CA Sixth Division justices for the issuance of a TRO and, eventually, a writ of preliminary injunction against the Ombudsman’s suspension order.

Trillanes claimed that the two justices initially received P20 million each for issuing the TRO. But when the Ombudsman, the DILG, and the Department of Justice ignored the TRO, another P5 million was given to each of the two justices for the issuance of a writ of temporary injunction. “This was purportedly the reason why the concerned CA division issued the writ of preliminary injunction with undue and inordinate haste, long before its TRO is supposed to elapse,” Trillanes said.

Institutionalized corruption

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Junjun Binay (inset).

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Junjun Binay (inset).

It was about this time that the lawyers pleading Junjun’s case before the Supreme Court invoked the “doctrine of condonation.” In short, they begged the High Court to forget all the charges of overpricing; to forget all the accusations of corruption; and to forget all allegations of bribery. Yes, just for being reelected to another term, Junjun Binay would be forgiven and deemed “not guilty” of all administrative wrongdoings while he was in office.

This led Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to scold Binay’s lawyer, Sandra Marie Coronel, for repeatedly insisting that the “doctrine of condonation” – which was adopted from American jurisprudence — is ground for removal of Binay’s administrative liability over the alleged overpricing of the parking building.

Three legal luminaries – retired Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, San Beda College of Law Dean Ranhilio Aquino, and former U.P. Law Dean Pacifico Agabin – all agreed that the Philippine legal system does not have to be stuck with the 56-year-old doctrine. According to Mendoza, the ruling on condonation doctrine can be abandoned, retained or modified. It’s up to the High Court to make that decision and it doesn’t require any legislative action.

Mendoza explained that it can be retained “with respect to minor administrative lapses of public officials like light misconduct where his re-election means condonation as in the 1959 Pascual case.” “But where the administrative offense is serious like dishonesty and was not publicly well known, the ruling [condonation] should not apply. I think this is how the [Binay] hearing should proceed,” he said.

If the Supreme Court upholds the “condonation doctrine,” Sereno said that it could wipe out all statutes that provide preventive suspension. She warned about the magnitude of upholding the “condonation doctrine” of the 690,502 local elective posts in the country. And when that situation arises, it would make a mockery of justice… and the Constitution. It would make the Office of the Ombudsman and the graft court, Sandiganbayan, inutile and unable to prosecute those who are guilty of administrative wrongdoings. Yes, that would be when the guilty is “not guilty.” It’s called institutionalized corruption.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Janet-Lim-Napoles-with-jail-guardsReclusion perpetua, or 20 years and one day to 40 years in prison, was the sentence meted to Janet Lim Napoles for the crime of “Serious Illegal Detention” against whistleblower Benhur Luy, not for the more serious charges of graft and plunder she’s facing before the graft court Sandiganbayan.

Since Napoles is already sentenced to reclusion perpetua — Latin for “permanent imprisonment” — it really doesn’t matter much if the Sandiganbayan would convict her of plunder. The plunder charge that arose from the P10-billion pork barrel scam has been lingering in the graft court with no conviction in sight.

Now that Napoles is safely “hidden” from public view and scrutiny for at least the next 20 years, the pressure to prosecute her is off. The plunder case can then be put in the back burner, to simmer slowly – very slowly — to keep it just warm enough for the wheel of justice to move, albeit at a much slower pace.

But to a lot of people, particularly many members of Congress who allegedly have had illicit deals with Napoles to “steal” from their pork barrel allocations, the conviction of Napoles gave them a sigh of relief. Now they can go about with their normal lives with no “Sword of Damocles” hanging over their heads.

Congressman's luxury car with plate no. 8.

Congressman’s luxury car with plate no. 8.

Indeed, except for three of their colleagues, life has been so good to these lawmakers in the past four years of the Aquino administration. With record amounts of pork barrel allocations and the “extra” pork they received through the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), many lawmakers have a lot to thank Napoles for the use of her bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) to funnel and launder their takes from their pork barrel. The least they can do for her is to let her serve her time in prison peacefully… and silently. Of course “silence” would also benefit these lawmakers. As the late Senator Genaro Magsaysay used to say, “Silence is golden,” silence would indeed be the ambrosia for their political survival.

Conviction by convenience

Happier days: Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile

Happier days: Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile

But what I find rather strange is the ease with which Napoles was prosecuted for “Serious Illegal Detention.” Was it a case of “conviction by convenience,” which Napoles may have agreed to in order to satisfy some powerful people who’d want her “silence” in exchange for her life? And what would be a better choice: life in prison or life in the afterworld?

Enrile-Revilla-Estrada.3
But how about the lives of the three senators – ex-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla — who are now in detention for the plunder charges relating to the Napoles pork barrel scam? Charged with a non-bailable offense, the three could be in detention for the rest of their lives if Napoles refused to cooperate and testify against them. And why should she? She’s already incarcerated and won’t see the light of day for the next 20 years. To help in the prosecution as a state witness against the three senators wouldn’t help her case unless the president would grant her executive clemency during the Christmas season this year.

Napoles and Aquino

Napoles and Aquino

The question is: Would President Aquino pardon Napoles? While it has been speculated that Napoles was politically connected with Aquino as evidenced by photos taken of Aquino and members of the Napoles family during political and fund-raising events, an executive clemency for Napoles seems like a political hot potato. But didn’t former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo pardon convicted plunderer ex-president Joseph “Erap” Estrada? It would then surprise no one if the next president would grant clemency to Napoles and the three senators, which would makes one wonder: Who would be the president most likely to pardon Napoles and the three senators?

Presidential derby

Rare encounter: Grace meets Jojo

Rare encounter: Grace meets Jojo

Today, the presidential front-runner is Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, who, so far, is the only one who has declared his candidacy. However, close behind him – and getting closer – is Sen. Grace Poe, who has yet to declare her candidacy but the bets are on that she will run for president. The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey shows Binay with a popularity rating of 36% last March, down from 37% in December. But Poe’s popularity has increased significantly, from 21% in December to 31% last March. With the presidential election still a little over a year away, their ratings could change dramatically in the following months.

Assuming that the two main contenders for the presidency are Binay and Poe, who, between them, would most likely, grant clemency to Napoles and the three senators? To some people, it’s a no-brainer – “Of course, Binay will pardon them, stupid!” I concede, but how about Poe? Hmm…

Realpolitik

While Poe doesn’t seem to have any direct connection to Napoles or any of the three senators, there would be powerful and influential people who would seek clemency for them. But would she be able resist them, some of whom might be big contributors to her presidential campaign? She might be able to resist at the beginning of her term. But it would be a different situation once realpolitik takes hold. By that time, horse-trading would once again be the norm rather than the exception.

Alphonse Capone

Alphonse Capone

Which makes one wonder if Napoles and the three senators would ever be convicted of plunder? It reminds me of American gangster Alphonse Capone. Unable to gather evidence to prosecute and convict Capone of more serious crimes, the Federal government decided to charge him for a much lesser charge, tax evasion. In 1931, Capone was found guilty and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was never found guilty of any of the more serious crimes he committed. Is Janet Lim Napoles going to be the Philippines’ Alphonse Capone, never to be convicted of more serious crimes?

For now, we have to settle for a conviction to a lesser crime of “Serious Illegal Detention,” which begs the question: Is Napoles’ conviction fair to the people?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Philippine-and-US-flags.3No sooner had the Philippines gained her independence from the United States on July 4, 1946 than the Philippine Statehood Movement started. Although it never reached the numbers to force a referendum, the movement was kept alive by statehood advocates who firmly believe that the future of the archipelago can best be guaranteed by maintaining political, economic, defense, and financial ties with Mother America.

At a time when Pax Americana is waning, America has to do something to improve her standing in the region, not just increasing her military presence but also reestablishing herself as a Pacific power. And by “Pacific power” I mean, permanent political, economic, and military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, not the “interloper” that China sees – or pictures – her to be.

The 12 senators who voted to reject retention of U.S. bases in 1991.

The 12 senators who voted to reject retention of U.S. bases in 1991.

In my article, “What price sovereignty?” (January 20, 2014), I wrote: “The question of Philippine sovereignty has been debated over and over again since 1991 when the Philippine Senate voted to reject the retention of American bases. The nationalists were convinced that the Philippines didn’t need the protection of the U.S. against foreign invasion. They asserted that continued presence of American bases was an affront to Philippine sovereignty. However, they didn’t demand for the rescission of the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which obligated the U.S. to defend Philippine territory in the event of foreign invasion. It’s like them saying, ‘We don’t want you around but we expect you to defend us if we were invaded.’ Indeed, it’s a love-hate relationship that is nurtured to this day.

Chinese fortification on Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.

Chinese fortification on Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.

“But two years after the U.S. bases were closed in 1992, China seized the Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) in the middle of the night. And the Philippine Armed Forces couldn’t do anything to take it back.

“As an afterthought to the Senate’s folly of booting out the Americans from Philippine soil, which left the Philippines at the mercy of a foreign country who’d use force to nibble at our territory, the U.S. and the Philippines signed a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, the VFA states that US forces in the Philippines have to follow Philippine law and have to adhere to behavior that is consistent with Philippine law. The Senate ratified it on May 27, 1999, which makes one wonder how the senators who voted to remove the U.S. bases in 1991 voted this time around? But once again the nationalists went up in arms claiming that VFA violates the Philippine constitution.

“But the nationalists had backed off when China took possession of Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in August 2012. China then roped off the narrow and only opening to the shoal’s lagoon; thus, preventing Filipino fishermen from getting in.”

Building artificial islands

Fiery-Cross-Reef-2005

Since last year, China had been dredging sand and rock from the sea floor and depositing them on a coral reef until the dredged material breaks the surface; thus, start forming an artificial island.

One of these islands is Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef), which is one of six Chinese military installations built within the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the disputed Spratly islands. It has been occupied by 200 Chinese troops since 1988 when UNESCO agreed that China build weather stations in the South China Sea as part of a global oceanic survey.

A photo taken in 2005 showed that China had built a fortification around it, which included five naval guns, four gun emplacements, helipad/basketball court, nursery, weather radar, pier, observation post, and quarters for military personnel. In all appearances, this was a military installation, not a weather station.

“Unsinkable aircraft carriers”

Fiery Cross Reef before (top) and after (bottom) reclamation.

Fiery Cross Reef before (top) and after (bottom) reclamation.

Today, reclamation work around the Fiery Cross Reef has expanded from the small outpost measuring 1,032 square meters to a total land area of more than 90,000 square meters of which one side of the reclaimed area is three kilometers long, which is long enough for a runway — an “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” A harbor is also being built, which experts believe could handle warships, tankers, and submarines. Compared to the other Chinese reclamation projects, Fiery Cross Reef might be China’s main naval and air base in the Spratlys.

Man-made harbor.

Man-made harbor.

From a military standpoint, China would be able to reach any point past the First Island Chain and within striking distance of the Second Island Chain (from the Kuril Islands to Guam, Marianas Islands, New Guinea, Borneo, Malaysia, and Vietnam). Australia, which is beyond the Second Island Chain, would be reachable by missiles launched from these artificial islands.

First and Second Island Chains.

First and Second Island Chains.

The close proximity of these Chinese “unsinkable aircraft carriers” to the Philippines would render the Philippines indefensible. With no military capability to fight a war, the Philippines is helplessly at the mercy of China, which begs the question: Would the U.S. come to her aid?

Disastrous war

With the U.S. embroiled in several wars in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, to engage China in territorial disputes with her neighbors over the Spratly Islands could be disastrous to America – economically and militarily. It would therefore be prudent for the U.S. to stay away from a crisis halfway around the world, which some geopolitical experts believe is not worth fighting for.

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama

In such an event, the U.S. would be more predisposed to use diplomacy in settling disputes between China and the Philippines. However, once China had taken possession of the contested islands, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to diplomatically convince China to return the islands. With nothing to trade them with, China wouldn’t give up an inch of territory for nothing.

The Philippines would therefore be left on her own to take the Spratly islands back. And that would mean going to war against China. But what kind of weapons would the Philippines use against China? Or does she even have the ability to transport troops to the contested islands?

Hard choice

U.S. Seventh Fleet

U.S. Seventh Fleet

And this is where the Philippines has to make a hard choice: sovereignty or security? Since the country doesn’t have the means to defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity, she has to build her military assets from the ground up. But that takes a long time and it requires tens of billions of dollars, which the government doesn’t have.

The next best thing is to allow the U.S to bring her Seventh Fleet back to Subic Bay and to remilitarize Clark Air Base. “What! Allow the Americans to come back?” you’d hear the nationalists and their leftist allies shout. “No way are we going to give up our sovereignty to the Americans!” they’d say.

But has anybody ever, ever asked them the question: “How are you going to defend your territory from Chinese aggression?” Silence. Then, they say: “We’ll defend our country to the last drop of our blood!” Sure they’d do that. But would they succeed in expelling the invaders if each and every one of them bled to death?

And this is where security should be the number one priority of every country to protect her territory. Look at Singapore. Her land area is no bigger than Clark Base, but she has enough warplanes and warships to fill up Clark Base and Subic Base. Look at Bangladesh, a third or fourth world country, if there were such a thing. Recently, Bangladesh signed a contract with China to buy two corvettes and two submarines; and she only has 360 miles of coast line compared to the Philippines’ 22,548 miles! Isn’t there something wrong with the picture?

On April 28, 2014, the U.S. and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The purpose of EDCA is to strengthen the U.S.-Philippines security relationship by allowing the U.S. to station troops and operations on Philippine territory. But the agreement clearly states that the U.S. is not allowed to establish a permanent base and also stipulates that the U.S. is not allowed to store or position any nuclear weapons on Philippine territory. That’s like tying Uncle Sam’s hands behind his back and yet expect him to defend his little brown brothers who have no means of defending their beloved Motherland.

At the end of the day, something has to give. The Philippines has to choose between sovereignty and security. She cannot have it both ways.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Vladimir Putin (Credit: Maddoxfanx)

Vladimir Putin (Credit: Maddoxfanx)

Events this past week are changing the world in a way it never did since the end of World War II. It even made the Cold War look like a drill in preparation for what to come: a war to end all wars. Indeed, the next war – World War III – would end in the annihilation of life on Earth. Yet, there are those who believe that if they struck first at the United States, the U.S. wouldn’t have the capability to launch a second-strike against the attacker, which in this case would most likely be the Russian Federation.

If there is anything that could spark World War III today, it’s the civil war in Ukraine, which is perceived to be a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. On February 12, 2015, after a marathon 17-hour summit of Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk, Belarus, they agreed on a ceasefire and a slew of measures to achieve peace in Ukraine.

But peace was as remote as it was before the summit. No sooner had the four leaders signed the ceasefire agreement than 50 Russian tanks, 40 missile systems, and 40 armored vehicles crossed the border into Ukraine, which begs the question: Can Putin be trusted?

Ceasefire

Ceasefire line

Ceasefire line

With a shaky ceasefire holding tenuously in Ukraine, Putin set his sights on Ukraine’s neighbors – the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were once parts of the Soviet Union. With Crimea tucked safely in Putin’s trophy collection, the small Baltic States could – or would – be Putin’s next targets. But small as they are, they belong to the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which, by treaty, would defend them in the event of a Russian invasion. The question is: Is Putin crazy enough to attack them knowing that there are 25 other NATO members — including the U.S. — who would come to their defense?

In my opinion, Putin is sane – and smart — and he wouldn’t dare start a war he couldn’t win. And there is no way he could bring NATO to her knees unless he could launch a first-strike nuclear attack and destroy all of the NATO countries’ nuclear arsenal. But if Russia’s first-strike failed to wipe out NATO, then a NATO second-strike nuclear attack could wipe out Russia.

Russian roulette

Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette

But Putin is playing his own version of Russian roulette. The traditional version of Russian Roulette is: the player puts one bullet in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his head, and pulls the trigger. The player has five out of six chances to survive since there are five empty chambers of the six-chamber revolver.

Putin's Roulette

Putin’s Roulette

“Putin’s Roulette” works differently. Putin puts five bullets in five of the six chambers, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his opponent’s head, and tells his opponent: “You only have one chance out of six to live. Give me what I want and I’ll spare your life; otherwise, I’ll pull the trigger.” And that’s what happened when Putin grabbed Crimea in 2014, which caught NATO napping in the barn.

Putin must have thought, “If it worked once, then it could work again.” Recently, he played “Putin’s Roulette” against the U.S. when Russian intelligence chiefs went to Germany to take part in a “secret meeting” with American intelligence officials. The secret meeting’s agenda must have been classified since it wasn’t leaked to the media. But what was reported in the media was that the Russian delegation told their American counterparts that Putin would consider any attempt to return Crimea to Ukraine as an invasion and a “declaration of war.” They said that Putin had threatened to take all necessary steps to retain Crimea, including the use of nuclear weapons. He also demanded that NATO breaks up her “rapid response force” in the Baltic States and stops arming the pro-NATO Ukrainians fighting the pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine.

Nuclear war

Nuclear-War.9Putin probably believes that NATO, particularly the U.S., wouldn’t risk a nuclear war with Russia over Eastern Europe. He is probably convinced that U.S. President Barack Obama doesn’t have what it takes to go to war against Russia. Indeed, Obama had indicated more than a few times in the past that war with Russia was not winnable. Suffice it to say, if the U.S. wouldn’t go to war against Russia, then her NATO allies wouldn’t go, too.

Putin must have sensed that the “secret meeting” was held to reach a compromise to end the Ukraine civil war, settle the status of Crimea, and stop any attempt by Russia to invade the Baltic States. He must have presumed that the U.S. was looking for an easy way out of the Ukraine crisis and was willing to agree to a compromise that would give territorial concessions to Russia in exchange for peace in Europe. But he must have seen it as a sign of weakness and decided to go for the jugular – all or nothing. The Russians told the Americans that any of these flashpoints could lead to nuclear war between Russia and the West.

The question is: Does Putin really expect the U.S. and her NATO allies to capitulate and abandon the Baltic states and throw the pro-NATO Ukrainian government under the bus?

If this happens, then it would be the end of NATO. It would also be the end of America’s influence over Europe… nay, the world. It would be the end of Pax Americana. Russia would then become the new superpower. It would be the dawn of a new world order, Pax Russica under Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Nuclear blackmail

Operation Atlantic Resolve

Operation Atlantic Resolve

Operation-Atlantic-Resolve-2015.2In early March, Obama postponed sending 300 paratroopers to Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers in battlefield tactics. The deployment was delayed due to fears that it would undermine the ceasefire that was agreed upon last February 12 in Minsk.

But last March 30, after talks between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, the U.S. decided to send 290 paratroopers to Ukraine to train her troops.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops, warplanes, and ships continue to position themselves in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO training exercise to counter Russian hostility in Europe. Recently, the U.S. decided to expand the operation to include Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Georgia. The mission statement issued by the U.S. Department of Defense bluntly said that the deployment was “aimed at demonstrating U.S. commitment to Europe and NATO in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.”

It is expected that it would infuriate Putin. Indeed, Operation Atlantic Resolve is a clear signal to Putin that “Putin’s Roulette” is not going to force the U.S. and her NATO allies into submission. Simply put, nuclear blackmail doesn’t work when it is directed at countries that collectively possess more than 8,000 nuclear warheads, about half of which are directed at Russia. This time, NATO is pointing a revolver at Putin with all six chambers loaded.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)