Not so long ago, Europeans believed that despite Donald Trump’s harsh words, Washington would never endanger its Cold War alliances. “Do not read his tweets, follow his actions,” senior American officials told their European colleagues when the conversation turned to the future of the trans-Atlantic relations.
How wrong we were to believe them. It was the tweets that really mattered in the end.
Within hours of the religiously anticipated NATO summit in Brussels today, President Trump was castigating Germany, historically one of America’s closest allies, claiming, ridiculously, that it is “captive” to Russia and calling NATO countries “delinquent.”
Clearly, Mr. Trump is ignoring European Council President Donald Tusk’s appeal: “Dear America, appreciate your allies.… Seguir leyendo »
Debating the fate of Poland during the waning days of World War II, Winston Churchill is reported to have cautioned Joseph Stalin that he should to take into account the views of the Vatican. The Soviet leader interrupted Churchill: “How many divisions does the pope of Rome have?” Three decades later, Churchill’s admonition seemed prescient: The election of the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II in 1978 was a first step leading to the dismantling of Soviet Communism.
Amid today’s heated rhetoric on Europe’s refugee crisis, Central Europe’s populist leaders seem to paraphrase Stalin: “How many elections has the pope won?” It is a serious question.… Seguir leyendo »
The presidential election in Russia a week ago resulted in an impressive, if unsurprising, victory for Vladimir Putin. He was elected to a fourth term with a wide margin and high turnout in a vote that appeared to be the cleanest in Russia’s recent history (at least when it comes to what happened on Election Day itself).
But this election was about more than just reinstalling Mr. Putin in the Kremlin. It signaled the beginning of post-Putin Russia. Because while the president has gained popular support for policies like annexing Crimea and confronting the West, the legitimacy of his next term will be determined by his success in reassuring ordinary Russians that his regime will endure even when he is no longer in the Kremlin.… Seguir leyendo »
El pasado octubre, un grupo de respetados pensadores conservadores de todo el continente publicaron un manifiesto titulado Una Europa en la que podemos creer. Es, desde varias perspectivas, un documento amable y bellamente escrito, una mezcla retórica entre el discurso del movimiento de liberación nacional perteneciente a los gloriosos días de la descolonización y una guía retrógrada de museo.
Al leer esta declaración, los lectores se quedan con la impresión de que los conservadores europeos son antiimperialistas (se quejan de que la Unión Europea es “un imperio de dinero y leyes”), anticolonialistas (“la inmigración sin asimilación es colonización”) y defensores del Estado-nación que menosprecian las élites proeuropeas (que, según declaran, están “cegadas por la vanidad y las ideas autocomplacientes de un futuro utópico”).… Seguir leyendo »
“Burning Bush,” the 2014 movie by the legendary Polish film director and Solidarity activist Agnieszka Holland, was one of the most important cultural events in Central Europe in recent years. An ethical thriller, the film is set in 1969, soon after a Czech student named Jan Palach set himself on fire to protest the Soviet Union’s occupation of his country and draw attention to the authorities’ attempts to normalize Czechoslovak life afterward. Palach’s aim, it seems, was to put a screeching halt to evil’s banalization.
Three years after the film’s release, in the late afternoon of Oct. 19, Piotr Szczesny, a 54-year-old father of two, set himself on fire in front of the Communist-era Palace of Culture in Warsaw.… Seguir leyendo »
Germans have enjoyed a long holiday from history, but it looks like their vacation is over. That was the impression I got while traveling through Germany last month before the federal election. I was struck by how abnormally normal the country seemed: prosperous, democratic and tolerant. While other European societies are torn apart by anxiety and anger, in Germany a vast majority of citizens are satisfied with their economic situation. The government has more euros to spend than ever before, unemployment is almost nonexistent, and the tone of the electoral campaign differed from the last American election in the way a family drama differs from a horror movie.… Seguir leyendo »
If you want to understand what is going on in Central Europe right now and why thousands of young people are on the streets of Budapest, Bucharest, Bratislava or Warsaw, the only thing you have to do is watch Kristof Deak’s 25-minute movie “Sing,” the winner of this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short film.
The story takes place in Budapest in the early 1990s. Zsofi, a young girl, has just arrived in a new school, and she is excited by the opportunity to sing in its award-winning school choir. Erika, the music teacher, permits Zsofi to join but asks her to open her mouth without singing because she is not yet sufficiently skilled.… Seguir leyendo »
When you can’t understand why people behave in a certain way, the easiest thing to do is to convince yourself that people do not know what they are doing. This is what European political, business and news media leaders have done in response to the populist wave that is sweeping the old Continent. They are shocked that many of their compatriots are voting for irresponsible demagogues. They find it difficult to understand the sources of the rage against the meritocratic elites best symbolized by the well-trained, competent civil servants in Brussels.
Why are the “exams-passing classes” so resented at a time when the complexity of the world suggests that people need them most?… Seguir leyendo »
Being Bulgarian, I can tell you that international news media cover elections in small European countries the same way a literature professor reads a spy novel during a summer holiday: It’s a pleasant diversion, but one quickly forgets the characters, and it doesn’t really matter if the narrative gets scrambled. Normally, this is not a problem, but it can become one next year.
In 2017 there will be elections not only in Germany, France and the Netherlands but also most likely in Greece, Italy and, again, Bulgaria. This will be a moment of truth for Europe. Social media is being invaded by fake news and conspiracy theories, while mainstream outlets are obsessed with the Kremlin’s interference in the electoral politics of Western democracies.… Seguir leyendo »
Americans may be divided between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, but the rest of the world isn’t. A recent WIN/Gallup International global poll conducted in 45 countries shows Mrs. Clinton decimating her opponent. She wins by a landslide almost everywhere — including Melania Trump’s native Slovenia — with two telling exceptions: Russia and the Palestinian Authority.
That Russians are cheering for Mr. Trump is not difficult to explain. With Russian-American relations at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, Mr. Trump went out of his way to make it clear that he sees Russia as an ally and President Vladimir V.… Seguir leyendo »
As I was boarding a Turkish Airlines flight to Ankara some days ago, a flight attendant handed me a slickly produced brochure telling the story of the failed coup attempt of July 15. It praised the Turkish people and their spirited defense of democracy, and it blamed the Gulen movement that allegedly organized the coup, portraying it as the sort of dark religious conspiracy that you’d expect to find in a Dan Brown novel.
The patriotic brochure foreshadowed much of what I was to hear from government ministers, independent journalists and opposition leaders during my visit in the country. These very different individuals, often coming from opposite political camps, were in lock step on one thing: The July 15 coup attempt was completely unexpected (in a country that had endured four coups in recent decades), and for that reason deeply traumatic.… Seguir leyendo »
Samuel Johnson once wrote of the “wonderful concentration of the mind” that the prospect of being hanged brings. It is how European leaders should feel in the wake of Brexit. As the reality of a British departure from the European Union sinks in, policy makers are being forced to concentrate their minds on some very uncertain and unsettling repercussions.
Despite a clear win for the Leave faction, the impact of the Brexit vote is ambiguous both for Britain and for the European Union. It’s not even clear when and how the exit will occur. One can’t help but hum a line from the Eagles: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” The Brits have checked out, yet are in no hurry to go.… Seguir leyendo »
In the final days of June 1914, a telegram arrives in a remote garrison town on the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On it is a single sentence in capital letters: “Heir to the throne rumored assassinated in Sarajevo.”
In a moment of disbelief and anxiety, one of the officers begins speaking Hungarian to his compatriots. The others can’t understand a word, but they suspect that the Hungarian is probably not unhappy with the news that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whom Hungarians see as partial to the empire’s Slavs, cannot now become the next emperor.
Another officer, a Slovene, who has long questioned the loyalty of Hungarians, insists that the conversation be in their common language, German.… Seguir leyendo »
The recent release of the so-called Panama Papers raises a lot of questions, one of which is: Is it better for an authoritarian regime to fight corruption, or work with it? Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia point us to two very different answers.
In 2012 President Xi, calling corruption an existential threat to China’s Communist rule, undertook a broad campaign to purge the Communist Party of what he called “tigers and flies” — corrupt officials and businesses, at every level of the party apparatus and government bureaucracy. As of last year, the campaign had netted more than 100 high-ranking officials, including a dozen military officers, several senior executives of state-owned companies and four top politicians.… Seguir leyendo »
The Eastern European revolutions against Communism have been hailed as the best of their kind. Overwhelmingly peaceful, they helped produce two Nobel Peace Prizes. The first went to Lech Walesa, the heroic leader of Poland’s 10-million-strong Solidarity Trade Union, in 1983; seven years later, the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, was honored for having the courage to acknowledge the moral, political and economic bankruptcy of the old regime.
These two political figures — Mr. Walesa, who became the first democratically elected president of Poland, and Mr. Gorbachev, who served as the last Soviet leader — have since become the most potent symbols of 1989.… Seguir leyendo »
The millions of people storming the borders of the European Union today are right to believe that migration is the best revolution. It is a revolution of the individual, not the masses. The European Union is more attractive than any 20th-century utopia, for the simple reason that it exists. But as it looks today, the migrants’ revolution could easily inspire a counterrevolution in Europe.
The myriad acts of solidarity toward refugees fleeing war and persecution that we saw months ago are today overshadowed by their inverse: a raging anxiety that these same foreigners will compromise Europe’s welfare model and historic culture.… Seguir leyendo »
During the recent electoral campaign in Poland, a constant question raised by pundits and politicians was not whether the country would go right, but whether it would go wrong.
Would the conservative Law and Justice Party, the expected victors in the poll, go the way of Viktor Orban’s increasingly authoritarian Hungary, or would it stay closer to the center? Given the nationalist, anti-liberal slant of the party’s campaign platform, could Poland’s seemingly consolidated liberal institutions reverse course? Law and Justice won decisively, and after only three weeks we have an answer: a distressing yes.
The new government has pushed forward three staggering changes.… Seguir leyendo »
Shroty after Louis Napoleon’s 1851 coup in Paris, five of the greatest political minds in Europe hustled to their writing desks to capture the meaning of the events.
The five were very different people. Karl Marx was a Communist. Pierre Joseph Proudhon an anarchist. Victor Hugo, the most popular French poet of his time, a romantic. And Alexis de Tocqueville and Walter Bagehot were liberals. Their interpretations of the coup were as different as their philosophies. But in the manner of the man who mistook his wife for a hat, they all mistook the end of Europe’s three-year revolutionary wave for its beginning.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, after Russian planes bombed antigovernment forces near the Syrian town of Homs, a senior American official complained to me: “What Russia is doing in Syria is not an effort to fight the Islamic State; it is not old-fashioned realpolitik. It is not even a cynical attempt to make us forget about Ukraine. Putin simply wants to hurt us.”
This notion of Russia as a “spoiling power” is a popular sentiment today in Washington. But what does this spoiling power actually want? Is Russia in Syria simply for the sport of watching a humiliated President Obama? Is damaging the value of American power the only purpose of Russia’s “spoiling”?… Seguir leyendo »
When George Kennan wrote his famous “Long Telegram,” his 1946 letter to Secretary of State James F. Byrnes that laid the foundation for America’s containment policy against the Soviet Union, he mentioned Joseph Stalin just three times — despite the fact that, by then, the Russian leader ran his country like an emperor.
Seven decades on, Stalin’s current heir, Vladimir V. Putin, finds his name emblazoned on nearly every page of the myriad memos and papers struggling to understand the mind-set driving Russia’s strategic behavior. To understand Mr. Putin, the thinking goes, is to understand Russia. But is that quite right?… Seguir leyendo »