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US, Russia need to de-conflict their air operations: White House

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Washington: The White House reiterated the need for the US and Russia to “de-conflict” their air operations inside Syria as Russia started its first round of air strikes against the Islamic State (IS), Xinhua reported.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Photo Credit: www.newyorker.com
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Photo Credit: www.newyorker.com

“Both presidents agreed that it was a priority for both countries, that tactical, practical conversations between our militaries take place to ensure that our military activities inside of Syria are properly de-conflicted,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.

“The US military officials have been in touch with their Russian counterparts already to set up those discussions,” Earnest added.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday directed his staff to “open lines of communication with Russia” to de-conflict air operations in Syria, according to Pentagon press secretary.

“We expect the details of those conversations, including the exact timing of those conversations, will be worked out in the coming day,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook at a press briefing.

According to Cook, the purpose of the “de-confliction discussions” will be to ensure the ongoing US-led coalition air strikes against the IS are not “interrupted” by any future Russian military activity and to avoid misjudgment and miscalculation.

Russian air forces carried out air strikes Wednesday in the central Syrian provinces of Homs and Hama, targeting what Moscow said were IS positions.

In the first air strikes, 20 flights were carried out, hitting “eight Islamic State targets” including a command post held by the extreme group, Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said a Russian official informed the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq prior to Russia’s first ever air strikes in Syria against the IS and warned the United States to stay clear of Syrian airspace.

(IANS)

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China And Russia Accused of Manipulating Their Currencies By Trump

Donald Trump to accuse China and Russia as their currency manipulators

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Donald Trump is the President of U.S.
FILE IMAGE- Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday it is unacceptable that Russia and China are devaluating their currencies, days after the Treasury Department declined to label these countries as currency manipulators in its latest report.

Amid a possible new round of sanctions against Russia and a simmering trade war with China, Trump tweeted Monday morning, “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!

In general, when a country artificially devaluates its currency, its exports become cheaper and more competitive in the global marketplace.

The currencies of U.S, China and Russia.
FILE – The U.S. dollar, Indonesian rupiah and Chinese renminbi currencies are displayed in the poster of a money exchange shop in Jakarta, June 12, 2013. VOA

During his presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly accused China of lowering the value of its currency and vowed to formally label China as a currency manipulator, but so far has failed to do so.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the administration is closely watching China’s currency practices. “That’s something that the Treasury Department is watching very closely and we’re continuing to monitor it,” she said Monday.

In a semiannual report titled “Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States” released last Friday, the Treasury Department did not designate China as a currency manipulator, but put it as one of the six countries on a monitoring list. The other five countries on the list are Japan, Korea, India, Germany, and Switzerland. Russia is not on the monitoring list. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has appreciated over 3 percent against the dollar since the beginning of this year, after strengthening by over 6 percent in 2017.

Also Read: Trump: US ‘Being Stolen’ by Illegal Migrants

Brad Setser,a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Treasury Department official said in an interview with VOA he does not think it is an accurate complaint that Russia and China are playing the currency game.

“The Russian ruble was actually quite stable before the sanctions on Russia were intensified. It’s quite clear the volatility in the ruble is a function of the intensification of U.S. sanctions, a sign that the sanctions are biting,” he explained.

Setser said over the past several months, the Chinese yuan has actually appreciated, and China has not been intervening heavily.

“There are plenty of things to criticize China for on trade, but right now, there’s no real basis for criticizing China on currency,” he noted.

Russia's Central Bank Chief.
Russia’s Central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina presents the new 2,000 and 200 ruble banknotes in Moscow on Oct. 12, 2017. VOA

In the past three years, the Federal Reserve raised interest rate six times to a range between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent, and said they expect to raise the rate two or three more times this year.

Usually, when a country raises its interest rates, the value of its currency rises, making its exports more expensive and less competitive. However, higher U.S. interest rates have not raised the value of the dollar.

“The interesting puzzle that the market has been pondering for the past several months is that the dollar has actually weakened even as the U.S. has raised rates, and even as U.S. passed legislation to expand the fiscal deficit,” Setser said.

Also Read: This Way China Can Help India In The Terms of Artificial Intelligence

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Economic Analysis at the Treasury Department Setser stressed the United States should not label China as a currency manipulator at this moment.

“It would undermine the United States’ credibility to name China at a point in time when there is no plausible case that China is managing its exchange rate in a way that is adverse to the U.S. interest,” he said.  VOA