We guessed it. But now we know: There was no Plan B.
After months of negotiation and many hours of debate, after long delays and rumors of more delays, after protesters had rung bells and waved European flags outside the Palace of Westminster all afternoon, the British House of Commons finally voted on the “withdrawal deal” that Prime Minister Theresa May had negotiated with the European Union.
As expected, the deal was defeated. Not only that, but it was defeated by 230 votes — the biggest parliamentary defeat for any British government in living memory.
As expected, the opposition Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called for a vote of no confidence in the government.… Seguir leyendo »
In theory, the European Union’s parliamentary elections are the most international in the world. The winners serve in a multinational legislature. They speak to one another with the help of hundreds of translators. They are members of transnational parties: In the parliament buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg, center-left MEPs from across Europe sit with the Party of European Socialists, center-right MEPs caucus with the European People’s Party, and so on.
Nevertheless, European elections have never quite fulfilled this multinational promise. Usually they consist of dozens of campaigns, each dominated by national debates. In most years, the German Christian Democrats don’t go on the hustings on behalf of their Swedish counterparts, and the Portuguese input into the Slovakian elections is pretty negligible.… Seguir leyendo »
On Nov. 11 — a mere month-and-a-half ago — world leaders gathered to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I. There were a lot of distractions that day: The U.S. president was afraid of some rain; the Russian president was insouciantly late. Since then, there have been more distractions: the gilets jaunes (yellow vest protesters), Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s resignation, the stock market drop.
But as 2018 draws to a very strange close — during Christmas, President Trump sat alone in the White House, surrounded by the synthetic glow of television screens — it’s worth pausing to remember the speech made that day by the French president, Emmanuel Macron.… Seguir leyendo »
In the weeks leading up to the declaration of war in 1914, the British were supremely confident. “It will be over by Christmas” said the optimists; pessimists reckoned the war might last two whole years. Almost nobody predicted the trenches, the destruction of farms and fields, the loss of an entire generation of young men in the battles that eventually became known as World War I.
That profound misreading of events was, famously, the product of a particular moment. The early 20th century was a time of prosperity and incredible technological innovation. Trains, planes, telephones and telegraphs were linking a newly globalized world; peace was taken for granted.… Seguir leyendo »
On Saturday evening, three small Ukrainian naval vessels left the Ukrainian port of Odessa and headed for the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Along the way, they had to pass through the Kerch Strait, a sliver of water that lies between the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula and the Russian mainland. The Ukrainian ships were well within their rights to be there — a similar group of ships went through the strait just a month ago, and a 2003 treaty guarantees the rights of both nations to use those waters. But this time, in a carefully arranged provocation, Russian ships fired on the Ukrainian ships — and then seized them, along with 23 crew members.… Seguir leyendo »
Finally, after many months and a million leaks, the 585-page Brexit agreement has been published. It is available and downloadable. Theresa May, the British prime minister, has finished her negotiations with the European Union.
To put it differently: Finally, after many months and a million leaks, May has made a choice from among all of the bad alternatives on offer. She has signed an agreement that is absolutely guaranteed to be unpopular and will make her unpopular. Already, members of her own party are calling for a vote of no confidence in her government. Two of her cabinet ministers have resigned, and more may be coming.… Seguir leyendo »
On the 11th day of the 11th month and at the 11th hour — the moment at which the armistice ending World War I was declared a century ago — the leaders of the nations that once murdered one another during that brutal conflict gathered in Paris. That was expected. The surprise was the degree to which a formal occasion so brilliantly exposed the relationships between former allies and former opponents today.
The British prime minister, Theresa May, was not there. She chose to attend a ceremony in London, led by Prince Charles, in front of a memorial to Britain’s war dead.… Seguir leyendo »
In the two years that have passed since the 2016 election, we have learned a lot about malignant disinformation campaigns in Western democracies. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has indicted the Russian operatives who created fake identities and ran targeted advertising on Facebook. The ads themselves — supporting extreme anti-immigration groups and the phony “Army of Jesus” on the one hand, and fake “black lives matter” slogans on the other — have been made public. Reams of words have been written, studies have been made. We know how social media increases polarization, how fact-checking only reaches a narrow audience, how the lack of regulation enables false and opaque political advertisements, how algorithms favor angry and extreme views.… Seguir leyendo »
Sometimes works of art – books, plays, movies, songs – can change a culture. But sometimes, they epitomize how a culture has changed. Forty years ago, in October 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was named Pope John Paul II, galvanizing a wave of Catholic and secular activism in Poland that helped bring down a totalitarian regime. But now it’s October 2018. Record numbers of Poles are flocking to see a searing, painful film that condemns the Polish Catholic Church as corrupt and hypocritical.
The film is called “Kler” — a disparaging term for clergy — and it tells the story of three priests and a bishop.… Seguir leyendo »
In the strange world of the online alt-right, Sweden has long played a special role. This isn’t because of its economic strength (small but robust), or because of its population (just less than 10 million). This is because — how shall I put this delicately? — Swedes are blond.
Never mind that many aren’t: In the dismal fever swamps of the Internet, Swedes now symbolize Blondness and Whiteness for a whole host of people — American, European, Russian — who use that symbolism to tell a particular story: Blondness Under Siege. Whiteness Under Siege. Alt-right headlines such as “How Sweden is Committing Suicide Through Political Correctness” draw long chains of vicious and vulgar commentary.… Seguir leyendo »
After many weeks of claiming, dishonestly, that European allies “owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back” — in fact, Europeans spend far more money on European defense than does the United States — and after referring to NATO members as “delinquent” and worse, President Trump appears to have handed America’s European allies an ultimatum Thursday: Pay up, spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on the military, do it fast — or the United States will pull out. We can “go it alone,” he told them, by some accounts.
During the news conference he gave afterward, Trump even claimed Europeans had caved in to his demands: They had agreed to reach the 2 percent target faster, he said, and they could possibly increase it to 4 percent in the future.… Seguir leyendo »
There was a moment, at the height of the Greek debt crisis in July 2015, when many Athenians went to sleep expecting to wake up in a different country. One Greek academic told me he feared Greece would crash out of the euro currency overnight, that there would be no money in the banks in the morning, that there would be food shortages and then riots: “Greece is a middle-class country,” he told me. “I didn’t think we would be able to cope with the shock.” Several others told me that they had genuinely expected the arrival of a Venezuelan-style dictatorship, perhaps with tanks on the street.… Seguir leyendo »
Scruffy, yellowish-brown buildings are bunched around a long courtyard; portable toilets and generators have been set up on the dusty ground beside. Inside, military-grade laptops, the kind that don’t break if you drop them, are arrayed along a series of tables, their cables spooling off onto the floor. Men from different countries, some dressed in camouflage, talk in low voices. A large map of Europe’s Baltic coast has been projected onto one of the walls, with different colored markers scattered across it.
This, dear readers, is the transatlantic alliance. But this is not the transatlantic alliance in theory, the one people are discussing right now, with so much concern, from Washington to Tallinn to Montreal.… Seguir leyendo »
I was in Dublin in May 2015, on the day that Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage. The “yes” vote — in favor of allowing gays to marry — won resoundingly. That night, I walked through a street party which took over the city center. People spilled out of the pubs, sat on the curbs, talked and laughed. I was in town for a literary festival and asked one of the people who’d invited me how she had voted. She’d voted yes, she told me, though not because she was particularly invested in same-sex marriage. Instead, she said, “I wanted to show the Catholic Church that they don’t rule us anymore.”
Something like that has just happened again, though this time the issue at stake appeared even more controversial.… Seguir leyendo »
The Northern League started out as a secessionist party, advocating the breakup of Italy and independence for the northern provinces. The Five Star Movement started out as a joke — it was invented by a comedian — and then became a social media operation. Both evolved: The Northern League turned itself into a far-right party, using aggressive language about immigrants, while the Five Star Movement adopted some classic left-wing policies, calling for a universal income and high public spending. Together, they are now set to run the Italian government.
Unsurprisingly, they’ve had difficulty writing a joint program. Most of the things they agree on — conspiracy theories about vaccines; opposition to Russian sanctions; a strong rejection of austerity policies — risk creating a backlash.… Seguir leyendo »
“When I saw the masses of East German citizens there, I knew they were in the right.” A quarter-century later, that was how Lt. Col. Harald Jäger explained his decision to open the gates and let his fellow citizens through the Berlin Wall. Jäger was guarding a border checkpoint on Nov. 9, 1989, in the hours after East German leaders had announced that the travel rules were changing. As Berliners flocked to the wall, demanding to cross into the West, he asked repeatedly for clarification from his superiors, but nothing was forthcoming.
In the end, the crowds persuaded him to act: “At the moment it became so clear to me . … Seguir leyendo »
“I hope that one day we’d be able to return to a country we recognize.” For the first time since she was murdered by a car bomb six months ago, members of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family have spoken publicly about the circumstances that led to her death. Caruana Galizia was a Maltese journalist who wrote about corruption and money laundering in a country that had turned a blind eye to it. As one of her sons says in a video recorded by an international consortium set up to continue her investigations, she was “fighting to hold Malta and Maltese society to a higher standard.”
She was also reporting on a country that has undergone tumultuous change.… Seguir leyendo »
At long last, people have stopped asking “Is it really happening?” or “Does it really work?” or “Does it even matter?” Facebook has acknowledged the existence of Russian disinformation on its platform and has finally banned sites created by the Internet Research Agency, the Russian institution dedicated to covert online propaganda. Twitter has removed automated Russian botnets. Hearings and major conferences in France, Britain and Brussels have convened in recent weeks to discuss possible government responses to Russian disinformation campaigns within European democracies, too.
I’ve been to some of the conferences, testified at some of the hearings, and have written about the subject ever since Russia dialed up its propaganda war against the West in 2014, following its invasion of Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
“We just put information into the bloodstream of the internet, and then … give it a little push every now and again … like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda,’ because the moment you think ‘that’s propaganda,’ the next question is, ‘who’s put that out?’”
That’s how Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica — the election consulting firm that worked for Donald Trump; the Brexit campaign and dozens of other clients; political parties in Kenya, Mexico and beyond — described the company’s tactics to a “customer” who was, in fact, a reporter for Britain’s Channel 4 News.… Seguir leyendo »
If you’ve glanced at the headlines, then you’re already aware of the sprawling mess that is the Italian political landscape in the aftermath of Sunday’s election. You may already have seen the stories about “trouble for Europe” and the “populist victory.”
But before you move on, let me make the story just a tiny bit more complicated. The biggest beneficiary of the election, the eclectic Five Star Movement, is not a standard, anti-immigration, anti-European, “far-right” or “far-left” party at all. It is instead another version, albeit different in its language and attitude, of Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party, which swept the board in the last French presidential and parliamentary elections.… Seguir leyendo »