Canadiens rookie goalie Cayden Primeau was asked after practice Friday in Brossard to describe his relationship with Carey Price.
“I’m not sure … probably big brother, little brother,” Primeau said. “But he’s been nothing but great and super supportive. I try to stay out of his way, but like I said he’s been super supportive. So I can’t say any more nice things about him.”
The big brother had the little brother’s back after Primeau recorded his first NHL victory Wednesday night, making 35 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre. The Senators’ Brady Tkachuk picked up the puck after Ben Chiarot scored the winning goal in OT and was leaving the ice with it when he was stopped by Price.
Tkachuk handed the puck over and Price presented it to Primeau after the rookie was named the first star in only his second NHL start since getting called up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
Carey Price congratulates rookie goalie Cayden Primeau after his first NHL victory, a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Dec. 11, 2019.
Minas Panagiotakis /
“That means so much,” Primeau said. “(Price) probably doesn’t even realize how much it means to me that he got a piece of that night there I’ll be able to have for the rest of my life.”
Tkachuk, who is known as a pest and tangled with Shea Weber during Wednesday’s game, claimed he was going to give the puck to a fan as a souvenir, but most likely knew exactly what he was doing when he tried to take away the special souvenir. Primeau and Tkachuk were teammates for international play at the U-18 level with Team USA.
“He messaged me and he told me that he was doing that (giving the puck to a fan),” Primeau said. “But it’s all part of the way he plays and I respect that. When people don’t like him, that’s what he’s supposed to do. I’m going to take his word for it, but definitely part of his game.”
“Nothing can surprise me with Brady,” the goalie said with a big smile.
And neither are the Baylor Bears after Hurts and the Oklahoma Sooners beat them in the Big 12 Championship Game — a 30-23 overtime thriller Saturday at Jerry’s World in Arlington, Texas.
“These are hard to win,” Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley told reporters post-game. We found a lot of ways to win football games. We certainly did today.”
“People act like it’s supposed to be easy,” Hurts told reporters post-game. “It’s not supposed to be easy. Winning championships is hard.”
With this hard-fought win, the Sooners are most likely headed to the final four but have to await official word from the College Football Playoff selection committee, which is slated to announce the post-season combatants Sunday (noon ET, TSN2).
“I hope they see the Big 12 champions,” Riley told reporters post-game. “They’ve got a job to do — I get that. We’ve had a job to do as a team, which was continue to improve through the year, trust the things that we could and ultimately win the Big 12 championship. We’ve done that.”
Hurts has been the major reason why.
While Baylor has shown remarkable resilience in rebounding and rebuilding from a program-debilitating sexual assault scandal a few years back, Hurts rebuilt his college career with Oklahoma after losing his starter’s job with Alabama in the second half of the national championship game in 2018.
The dynamic QB used the transfer portal last summer to join Riley’s squad, and his subsequent stellar play has made him a likely Heisman Trophy finalist.
“I’m blessed to be where my feet are,” added Hurts, who’s now headed to his fourth straight College Football Playoff, while ‘Bama missed out with two-losses during the regular season. “How crazy it is to be here after starting as a true freshman for (Alabama) and winning the SEC championship and going to the national championship to be a Big 12 champion?”
The answer was in his performance Saturday, throwing 17-of-24 for 287 yards — teaming up with superstar receiver CeeDee Lamb on 173 of them — and running for another 38.
“I wrote a note to (Lamb) before the game, and I handed it to him when I shake everybody’s hand,” Hurts told Fox post-game. “I told him, ‘I said it’s time to let the dog off the leash and he’s loose. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.” It didn’t help Baylor that it lost its dual-threat QB, Charlie Brewer, to an early-game injury and was forced to turn to its two backups.
Nonetheless, the never-say-die Bears rebounded from two 10-point leads built up by Oklahoma. Redshirt freshman QB Gerry Bohanon proved ineffective for Baylor after an early TD throw, bringing on true freshman QB Jacob Zeno, who hit for two long majors to force OT.
But Hurts found Lamb and Rhamondre Stevenson rumbled for the five-yard TD to put Oklahoma up after its possession in overtime.
Then the Sooners defence slammed the door on Zeno and the Baylor offence to score the victory for the conference crown and — likely — the fourth and final berth in the CFP.
Well-deserved, for sure.
“There’s a narrative out there that the SEC is a different animal,” Hurts told reporters. “But the Big 12 is tough.”
It’s Oklahoma’s fifth-straight Big 12 crown.
SECOND & LONG No. 5 Utah (11-2) blew its chance to shine on the big stage Friday night — and along with it lost what might be its best shot ever to make the final four. Utah got steamrolled early in a 37-15 drop to No. 13 Oregon (11-2) in the Pac-12 finale in Santa Clara, Calif. Oregon played its best game of the season, building a 20-0 halftime lead and getting 208 rushing yards game-long from CJ Verdell to slice apart a vaunted Utah defence. The decision gives Oregon its third conference title and sends it to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, while Utah misses out on a golden opportunity to make the CFP. A win by Utah coupled with Georgia’s loss to LSU would have put Utah into the playoff … Anybody still doubting No. 2 LSU (13-0) after the SEC championship game isn’t paying attention. Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow shredded arguably the country’s best defence for 349 yards and four TDs through the air in a 37-10 takedown of No. 4 Georgia (11-2). Saturday’s result should push LSU to No. 1 in the final CFP rankings, while Georgia misses out on a return to the final four. UGA had the inside track but needed the victory in Atlanta. LSU is just too good, though. “Just so proud of my football team and my coaching staff,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron told CBS post-game. “But we said tonight, ‘This is not our final destination.’ Wherever they tell us to play next, we’re going to be ready.” … No. 1 Ohio State (13-0) took it on the chin early but rallied to dump No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3) 34-21 for the Big Ten title in Indianapolis late Saturday … Nothing wrong with the defending champs, as No. 3 Clemson (13-0) destroyed No. 23 Virginia (9-4) 62-17 in the ACC finale in Charlotte, N.C., to become the first team ever to win a fifth-straight conference championship game.
THIRD & GOAL Give No. 17 Memphis (12-1) a conference crown and the Group of Five’s New Year’s Day berth in the Cotton Bowl after a 29-24 defeat Saturday of No. 20 Cincinnati (10-3) in the ACC finale. A six-yard TD pass from QB Brady White to Antonio Gibson with 74 seconds remaining proved to be the difference from host Memphis in what was a rematch from last week’s regular-season wrap-up. Now, Memphis awaits its official invitation to the Cotton Bowl … Same teams, same result, as No. 21 Appalachian State (12-1) topped Louisiana-Lafayette (10-3) for the second straight Sun Belt championship game. Saturday’s final in Boone, N.C., saw App State hold on for a 45-38 victory in a game during which it never trailed … No. 19 Boise State (12-1) topped Hawaii (9-5) 31-10 in the Mountain West Championship Game, getting bend-but-don’t break defence on the blue carpet Saturday in Boise … The MAC finale saw Miami-Ohio (8-5) upset Central Michigan (8-5) 26-21 Saturday in Detroit.
FOURTH & INCHES Lane Kiffin is climbing the college football coaching ranks again, as he’ll join Ole Miss as the head coach fresh off Saturday’s Conference USA title take with Florida Atlantic. FAU (10-3) dominated UAB (9-4) in the conference finale in Boca Raton, Fla., with UAB allowing season highs in points and yards allowed (585) … Watch for Memphis head coach Mike Norvell to be named sidelines boss of Florida State on Sunday … Penn State likes what James Franklin’s done, going 55-23 during his tenure so far, inking the head man to another six seasons. It’s believed to be a contract worth $5.3 million per year plus bonuses.
Dozens of fires will burn across Australia for weeks, fire authorities say, including a “mega-fire”, already the size of greater Sydney, that is too big to put out.
At 6am on Sunday there were 96 bush and grass fires in NSW – 47 of which were not contained. Five fires are at a watch and act level.
Conditions eased on Sunday morning, allowing firefighters a chance to do critical back-burning and containment work ahead of Tuesday, when the mercury is tipped to soar into the 40s in parts of the state.
NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said overnight conditions had improved.
“We’ve got much more benign conditions, particularly a dominant easterly influence which will stretch pretty much right across most of our fire grounds,” he told Seven News.
“Which means hundreds – as a matter of fact more than 1600 – firefighters are around again today doing really important and critical back burning and containment-line consolidation to try and gain the upper hand before we see those conditions deteriorate into Tuesday.”
Already this fire season, six people have died and more than 1,000 homes have been lost across NSW and Queensland.
The largest conflagration, the “mega fire” at Gospers Mountain near Sydney’s north-western outskirts, was likely to burn for weeks until substantial rain falls, likely at the end of January or early February.
The NSW Bureau of Meteorology said the largest fires simply could not be extinguished by water-bombing aircraft or firefighting crews on the ground.
“The massive NSW fires are in some cases just too big to put out at the moment … they’re pumping out vast amounts of smoke which is filling the air, turning the sky orange and even appearing like significant rain on our radars,” the bureau said.
The bureau has forecast a grim week ahead, with strong winds forecast for fire-affected areas and no rain relief in sight. A months-long drought in eastern Australia has left bushland tinder dry and prone to ignition, especially from dry lightning strikes.
Temperatures are expected to reach 43C in western Sydney, and 44C in the Hunter region immediately north of Australia’s largest city.
Temperatures will also soar in the state’s north-west, where they are forecast to hit 44C in Bourke and 43C in Colbar.
In Queensland late on Saturday, a shipping container filled with fireworks exploded and residents were forced to flee their homes as an unpredictable fire threatened homes in Bundamba, on the outskirts of the state capital, Brisbane.
Residents within an three-kilometre-squared exclusion zone were ordered out as the firefront was waterbombed but fire crews warned they might not be able to stop the fast-moving blaze.
Conditions have eased off, a spokeswoman for Queensland’s Fire and Emergency Services said on Sunday morning, however are expected to pick up later in the day.
A high fire danger rating is in place for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt to Cape York Peninsula, and will ramp up to severe in the Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders on Monday.
One home was reportedly destroyed in the Bundamba fire on Saturday night.
The chief scientist at the Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Dr Bidda Jones, said that, beyond the human cost of the fires, the widespread blazes would have a “major impact of biodiversity”.
“Depending on the intensity of the fire, it will have had a massive impact on wildlife,” she said. “And not just on those iconic species like koalas. You have to think of this in terms of how it affects the entire ecosystem.
“You have animals relying on the eucalyptus trees for their primary diet – greater gliders are another example of that. Then you have a whole range of other species living off nectar or the insects in that environment, and there’s going to be a considerable loss of insect life in those fires.”
Jones said animals often preferred old large trees for nesting, the trees most likely to be destroyed by the fires.
“And then with fires that have been burning even at low intensity, leaf litter and all the understorey is gone. That’s providing food and refuge to animals there and the animals they would eat.
“So if you look at the overall picture … the damage has been so extensive, it’s going to have a major impact on biodiversity.”
Much of Jones’s own property, which backed on to national park at Braidwood near the Australian capital, Canberra, was lost to fires this week.
“At this point almost all of that has been burnt, all of that continues forest, up to 31,000 hectares,” she said. “The big trees are still there and we have greater gliders that live in the forest, as well as powerful owls.
“So I’m hoping that they’ll be OK. They’ll have lost nesting holes because the big trees have fallen and it’s the big old trees that have the nesting holes.”
Jones’s property was home to a huge variety of birds, as well as eastern grey kangaroos, swamp wallabies and red wallabies.
“We were going out and meeting kangaroos and red neck wallabies that were moving away from the fire,” she said. “A lot of wombats, I’m not sure what they’re going to eat. All of the forest floor, any grass any shrubs, are gone.”
Jones said her rainfall records showed last month to be the driest November in 40 years. The November average is about 100ml but this year it was 18ml.
The role of climate change in contributing to Australia’s unusually early and fierce fire season has been the subject of acute political debate. The federal government has refused to concede that climate change – and in particular Australia’s continued rising carbon emissions and massive fossil fuel exports – have played any role in the current fire crisis.
The Australian, prime minister Scott Morrison, has consistently said it was “no credible scientific evidence” linking climate change with the fires. This has been rejected by climate scientists, who have said politicians are “burying their heads in the sand while the world is literally burning around them”.
“Anytime I hear ‘don’t talk about climate change’,” Jones said, “anyone in my situation has absolutely no doubt these conditions are extreme and are connected to climate change.”
It said that more than 2,200 firefighters “were out in the field”.
At one point on Friday, nine fires had been raised to emergency level warnings, although these decreased markedly amid a brief respite in conditions later in the day.
The blazes north of Sydney were sending black fumes across the city, causing a rise in medical problems.
NSW RFS deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers told national broadcaster ABC: “We cannot stop these fires, they will just keep burning until conditions ease, and then we’ll try to do what we can to contain them.”
He said the 60km stretch from Hawkesbury to Singleton was “just fire that whole way”.
Video footage from the Orangeville area showed firefighters running from a wall of fire and the Walkabout Wildlife Park has evacuated hundreds of animals.
Fire officials in Ingleburn warned: “If your property is not prepared for the bushfire season and you’re not sure you are able or capable of defending your property if a fire approaches you need to leave straight away.”
Firefighters from Canada were briefed in Sydney on Friday and will be deployed across New South Wales over the weekend, to be joined by teams from the US.
What’s the outlook?
There was some respite overnight but another dry and windy day is predicted.
“They were able to strengthen a number of containment lines [overnight]… in preparation of some of those challenging conditions we are expecting this afternoon,” RFS Chief Superintendent Ben Millington told the ABC.
But he added: “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
Tuesday is the next big concern, with temperatures inland of Sydney likely to reach above 40C (104F).
Some firefighters have expressed concern that volunteer numbers might not be enough and that there are inadequate water supplies.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said that “some fires were too big to put out” while the NSW RFS said late Friday the blazes would only be extinguished “when we get good rain”.
Sydney may be blanketed in smoke for weeks, if not months.
Is this fire season particularly bad?
It hasn’t come close to the fatalities of 2009, when nearly 200 people died, but the scale of the damage has been huge.
How bad is bushfire smoke for health?
Toxic smoke affects golfers at Australian Open
More than 1.6 million hectares of land have burned in New South Wales alone.
The season has hit earlier than normal and has been exacerbated by drought conditions.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: “There is an absolute lack of moisture in the soil, a lack of moisture in the vegetation… you are seeing fires started very easily and they are spreading extremely quickly, and they are burning ridiculously intensely.”
Is climate change to blame?
The BOM says that climate change has led to an increase in extreme heat events and raised the severity of other natural disasters, such as drought.
Last week, the bureau noted that NSW had endured its driest spring season on record. It also warned that Australia’s coming summer was predicted to bring similar conditions to last year’s – the nation’s hottest summer on record.
Australia may see 50C days ‘in decades’
Climate emergency ‘clear and unequivocal’
The government has been criticised over its efforts to address climate change. PM Scott Morrison has dismissed accusations linking the crisis to his government’s policies.
Final call to halt ‘climate catastrophe’
What could be wiped out by temperature rise
Hundreds of bushfire survivors and farmers converged on the nation’s capital, Canberra, this week in protest. One woman displayed the charred remains of her home outside Parliament – on which she had written: “Morrison, your climate crisis destroyed my home.”
Moore is one of the hundreds of people who attended the first Tech West Collective hiring expo on Saturday. He now considers himself lucky. Moore is learning the world of coding and discovering a passion he never knew he had.
“I think one of the great things about coding is you get to build stuff, and you get to see if it works right away. It’s like the mouse pushing the button and you get the pellet,” Moore said with a laugh.
The Tech West Collective is a group of Calgary tech companies that have teamed up to help fill vacant positions.
“We are feeling a talent gap. Now we want to build up the talent pool,” said Tech West Collective organizer Kat Lesperance.
Lesperance works at Showpass, a Calgary-based tech company that provides ticketing solutions for event organizers. Showpass and Avanti Software are two of the seven members of the collective.
“We are hiring big time,” said David Owen Cord, Avanti Software co-CEO.
He said the company is looking for people of all backgrounds — not just tech-related positions.
“It’s been interesting because of the negative headlines here in Calgary and the layoffs that are going on but we are having a very different reality in the business we live in every day. One of our biggest challenges is actually filling the open spots that we are trying to hire for,” Owen Cord said.
Part of the problem is a lack of people with tech skills.
EvolveU is a non-profit educational institution that is helping job hunters transform their careers to adapt to the rapidly changing digital economy.
“There’s so much opportunity right now that people don’t even know about. That’s exciting for me and it’s exciting to watch the students go through the transformation,” said Jen Morrison, program manager with EvolveU, at the job fair on Saturday.
Members of the Tech West Collective said it’s time for tech companies to stop poaching talent from each other and get the word out that Calgary’s economy goes beyond oil and gas. Those transitioning from the energy industry said the job hunt in the tech world is more encouraging.
“There [are] more jobs than would be for my old profession. It’s not that they’re handing them out, but there definitely does seem to be more excitement and more opportunity and a desire for more people to enter this industry,” Moore said, adding that he’s taking courses at EvolveU.
According to Calgary Economic Development, the city has over 2,000 open tech jobs.
CALGARY — Big Oil is continuing its push into Big Data as Cenovus Energy Inc. has struck deals with tech giants Amazon Web Services and International Business Machines Corp. in an attempt to harness the power of cloud computing and lower its costs.
I don’t want this to be our grandfather’s industry
Ian Enright, Cenovus vice-president and chief information officer
“I don’t want to run our grandfather’s IT shop. I don’t want this to be our grandfather’s industry,” Ian Enright, Cenovus vice-president and chief information officer, said of the Calgary-based company’s plans to move its data out of two local data centres and into Amazon Web Services’ cloud following a deal struck over the summer.
The oil and gas producer is also planning to use Amazon’s cloud computing power to process and analyze its data and run other software programs in a move the company says will lower costs and allow it to better understand the “millions of data points” produced by its steam-based oilsands plants.
“Running machine learning and analytics against these things, as other industries have found, we really feel we’ll be able to enhance our operations and our efficiency,” Enright said.
“Right now, we’re just scratching the surface of the value of that,” he said.
Cenovus did not announce the deal with Amazon when it was struck, but described a broader push at the company to adopt new digital technologies and cut costs. In an interview Enright said the company ran a “bake-off” between cloud computing providers in late 2018 and picked Amazon this year for its big move to cloud computing.
In fact, a series of recent announcements indicate that more Calgary-based oil and gas companies are turning to cloud computing and big data in an attempt to modernize their businesses as the energy industry is trying to shed its reputation of being laggards when it comes to adopting digital technologies.
This month, oilsands rival Suncor Energy Inc. announced a similar partnership with Microsoft Corp. to migrate its data, computing power and processes to the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s cloud services and overhaul many aspects of its business.
While oil and gas companies have been pilloried for being digital laggards, large Calgary-based oil and gas companies have been quietly integrating new digital technologies in a bid to cut costs as they’ve been pressured by low oil prices, a lack of export pipelines.
In 2017, Calgary-based pipeline giant TC Energy Corp. began migrating its data and computer processing onto Amazon’s cloud services and that move to cloud computing is now 90 per cent complete, said Eric Gales, Amazon Web Services country manager for Canada.
TC Energy did not respond to a request for comment.
As we enter the next chapter of digital reinvention, the oil and gas industry is primed for transformation
Ross Manning, IBM’s vice-president, Canadian energy industry
Gales said he’s seen a major change in large companies’ attitudes towards digital technologies in the past four years and said the pace of adoption has increased dramatically.
“Four years ago, I was still having conversations with customers about ‘why?’ Now, it’s about ‘Where do I start?’” Gales said.
Now he said, many of the major companies in the Canadian oilpatch have a “cloud strategy” because “the case for the cloud has been made.”
At Cenovus, Enright said he believes the move to Amazon’s cloud computing service will allow it to run multiple data analyses concurrently — something it wasn’t able to do previously — and also cut down the amount of time it takes to analyze that data.
“When you go to the cloud to look at reservoir simulations or modelling our greenhouse gas improvements, things like that, we can model many things simultaneously,” Enright said.
For example, when Cenovus struck its $17.7-billion deal to buy ConocoPhillips Co.’s Canadian assets in 2017, it took the company nearly four months to acquire the computer servers it needed to process the data for the deal.
As the company integrates more of its processes into Amazon’s cloud, Enright said he’s confident the company could process the same volume and complexity of data in under three weeks.
On Monday, Cenovus also announced a deal with IBM in which the Armonk, New York-based tech giant will implement a suite of new software programs at the oilsands producer.
Enright said the technology will run in the cloud and is part of the broader push to cloud computing and faster decision making aided by digital technologies.
“As we enter the next chapter of digital reinvention, the oil and gas industry is primed for transformation, with companies turning to new platforms that will maximize the value of their assets, lower operating costs and continue to improve on their sustainable operations,” IBM’s vice-president, Canadian energy industry Ross Manning said in a release.
Wind gusts topped 90 mph Monday in some parts of the Sierra, a preview of a major change in the weather across California that will bring rain and snow across the state for Thanksgiving.
A “broad swath of precipitation” is expected to blanket Los Angeles County and surrounding areas starting early Wednesday, said Kathy Hoxsie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. The heaviest rain and snow are predicted to fall on Wednesday from the morning to the afternoon. Lighter showers are forecast for Thursday and Friday and could extend into the weekend. Rainfall estimates for this week’s storm call for about 1 to 2 inches for the coast and valleys, and 1.5 to 3 inches for the foothills and at lower elevations of the mountains. A foot or more of snow is possible at higher elevations.
Snow levels are expected to plummet from 4,000 feet on Wednesday to about 2,500 feet by Thursday. This means the 5 Freeway over the Grapevine, along with Highway 14 and Highway 33, will likely see a significant dusting of powder — and with it, the seemingly inevitable traffic snarl, said David Sweet, also a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.
San Diego County
The storm will drop a foot or more of snow at the top of Palomar Mountain, nearly a foot on Mt. Laguna, and 4 to 6 inches between the 3,000-foot and 5,000-foot level, affecting Julian, Pine Valley and the Alpine area of Interstate 8, the National Weather Service said.
Some ski resorts in the San Bernardino Mountains could receive as much as 2 feet of snow.
“The snow is going to affect travel in all of the mountain passes in Southern California, including the Cajon Pass on Interstate 15,” said Samantha Connolly, a weather service forecaster.
San Diego County’s coastal area is expected to receive between 1 and 2.5 inches of rain, while areas east of Interstate 15 will receive 2 to 3 inches. Some areas just east of Interstate 5 also could get 3 inches, the weather service says.
The weather service says a winter storm watch will be in effect for the mountains above 3,000 feet from late Tuesday night through Friday evening, and a flash flood watch will be in effect for all areas west of the mountains.
Bay Area/Northern California
Rain is forecast to arrive on Tuesday afternoon and continue sporadically through Thursday, according to Steve Anderson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Francisco. Half an inch to an inch of rain is predicted in the Bay Area.
The snowstorm will begin in earnest Tuesday and last through the holiday. Some parts of the Sierra could see 3 feet of snow by Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday will be the most dangerous period, with snow tapering off by Friday.
“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” the service said. “If you are traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday … finish your travels by midday Tuesday.”
Dangerous winds in the Sierra toppled a semitrailer truck, downed power lines and closed a stretch of highway in Southern California on Monday ahead of a winter storm expected to bring up to 2 feet of snow to mountain tops around Lake Tahoe. U.S. Highway 6 was closed due to downed power lines south of Yosemite National Park near Bishop. A wind gust of 94 mph was reported Monday morning at Mammoth Lakes Airport.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Robbins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
LONDON — It is not normal for the United States to have two diplomatic channels for dealing with a foreign ally at war, as the U.S. apparently did with Ukraine under President Donald Trump, as the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told the House impeachment inquiry this month.
The first was the official one run by Taylor, aimed at supporting Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed separatists. The other was “irregular, informal” and unaccountable to Congress, with the goal of getting Ukraine’s new leader to do President Donald Trump “a favor” by investigating a political rival, as described by a number of witnesses — most explosively by the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, on Wednesday.
What is also not normal is the United States’ current standing in the world and the way other countries have engaged with it since Trump took office, but particularly since the revelations about his actions toward Ukraine prompted the impeachment inquiry against him.
Diplomatic and foreign policy experts tell NBC News that the president’s habit of deviating — sometimes wildly — from long-held alliances and diplomatic norms have substantially altered America’s relations with allies around the world, and made trusting U.S. intentions and policy positions increasingly difficult.
“The U.S. traditionally has been the country that has most carefully parsed its sentences and words, and with any statement and policy it ran things through an inner-agency process where everyone is involved — what you see is what you get,” says Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who was president of Estonia from 2006 to 2016 and was foreign minister before that.
“Other countries may waffle and say ‘that’s not the case’ or ‘we didn’t mean that’ but with the States, anything from the president was always so nailed down,” Ilves said.
That’s why when something like Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy comes up, “everyone is bewildered.”
Ilves, in a phone interview from Stanford University, where he is a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, said that international actors responsible for statecraft are now wary of what the U.S. might do while Trump is in the White House.
“Most of my colleagues and people in the same position today are bewildered and trying to do their best to avoid landmines,” Ilves said. “There is an overarching and abiding concern about what will happen to the various treaty obligations that the U.S. has.”
Trump has pulled the U.S. out of several key international agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and the Paris climate accords. Trump has reportedly discussed leaving NATO with senior aides and has criticized its members for not matching U.S. spending on defense — although in public he has committed to staying in the alliance.
Nevertheless, Trump’s less-than-fulsome support for NATO left Pentagon officials scrambling to reassure allies that the U.S. would meet its obligations.
“Of course renouncing treaties is more complex than simply not fulfilling a verbal promise. But I think heads of statement and governments generally are anxious and nervous,” Ilves said.
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Ilves dealt with the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations and describes the phone calls and meetings with each president as meticulously planned.
He said that, with previous administrations, anything the president said was policy, whereas now many are left wondering what is approved and what isn’t.
Perhaps even more damaging in the eyes of other nations was the Trump administration’s decision to publish a transcript, albeit partial, of the Zelenskiy call, which marks a watershed moment in how other countries engage with the White House, experts said.
“What it probably does is make people a bit more cautious about what they say in those meetings and calls,” said Reza Afshar, a former senior British diplomat and now policy director at Independent Diplomat, an advisory group based in New York.
“I’m sure European states will be thinking about how they record information and are making sure they are above any impropriety,” he said. “I would imagine some states are thinking about just how they go about those discussions and making sure they are covered legally.”
Trump’s unconventional ways are seen as a strength by supporters and a detriment by critics. But in the realm of foreign affairs, where even the slightest change in language and tone can have wide-ranging effects, this unpredictability can cause problems.
“You can’t rely on what was said a couple of weeks earlier,” said Afshar, who was previously in charge of Syria policy at the U.K. Foreign Office. “In terms of the autonomous administration in northeast Syria, they were given assurances just a few weeks ago that border security would be handled by the Americans and it allowed them to pull out their own heavy weapons and personnel.”
As part of the deal agreed in August, the Syrian Democratic Forces withdrew from the Syria-Turkey border area and dismantled defenses while U.S.-Turkish forces patrolled the region. But this policy was left in tatters on Oct. 7, when Trump announced that U.S. forces would withdraw from the region, two days before Turkey’s invasion began.
“So you’re left with that assurance, and weeks later suddenly it’s meaningless,“ Afshar said.
Any suggestion of wrongdoing by the Trump administration in the Ukraine affair, however strongly denied, could also have ramifications for how other states interact with the U.S., its allies and rivals, he added.
The shift doesn’t “change what Russia and China do, they do these things anyway, but it gives the impression that what they are doing is the norm and gives them encouragement,” Afshar said.
In several ways, it was unfortunate that Ukraine became embroiled in an international scandal with the U.S.
“They didn’t only have a strong bilateral relationship, Ukraine viewed the United States as Not Russia,” said Jennifer Cassidy of Oxford University, a former diplomat with the Irish government, European Union and the United Nations
“If you look at it from a Ukrainian point of view, when they looked at the transcripts and what was said, it turned the U.S. from a model of good governance and truth into what they are trying to get away from, the sort of corruption they are battling.”
Cassidy teaches her politics students at Oxford about what she calls the “shadow of the past” — the idea that whenever two states interact they should always do so on the assumption that they will have to do business together again, so you should always keep relations positive and ongoing.
Rarely do states deviate from this way of working — but the current U.S. administration is not known for doing things by the book.
“This is historically how diplomats and heads of state have always negotiated — they would never cut off all diplomatic ties, or that would happen very rarely,” Cassidy said.
“What we’ve seen from the Trump administration is that it’s just a short-term gain. There is no regard for how this is going to impact America’s reputation, its credibility and its trust on the international stage.”
The most important effect of this short-termism, Cassidy argues, is how the U.S.’s traditional foes might react in the future.
The Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned was a complex multilateral treaty signed not just by Iran and the U.S. but Russia, China, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, which have spent the last few months attempting in vain to resurrect some form of the agreement on their own.
“Whether you agree with Iran or not, you can still see the logic of the view that they now hold the card of credibility. Why would they ever come back to the negotiating table with a country that’s wasted their time?” Cassidy said.
“Countries hostile to America hold the cards to not negotiate with America. This lack of long-term strategy, especially if it’s for eight years, is going to be severely damaging to the U.S.’s reputation.”