Jochen Bittner (Continuación)

Andrej Babis, the leader of Ano, an anti-establishment party that won 30 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic. Credit Michal Cizek/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Communist Europe collapsed in the early 1990s, four countries on its western periphery — the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary — came together to form the Visegrad Group. The four were relatively modernized, and the goal of the new organization was to coordinate closer ties between them and the European Union, which they joined en masse in 2004.

The Visegrad Group once stood as a beacon for post-Communist integration, but today it symbolizes the failure of the West to completely integrate Central and Eastern Europe. Across all four countries, leading politicians agitate against the European Union, portraying it as an imposing, undemocratic force, even as the second coming of the Soviet Union.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angela Merkel campaigning in Germany on Monday

When I suggested in a 2015 article for this paper that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany might become the leader of the free world, I knew it was a pretty far-fetched idea. After all, despite her leading role in the euro and refugee crises, she didn’t actually seem to want the job.

Today, I’m less sure. She might actually have the talent — and the ambition.

When Ms. Merkel starts her fourth term after Germany’s election this Sunday — and she will, barring polling errors exponentially worse than those around the Brexit vote and the American presidential race last year — she will do so in a world significantly different from the one she faced after her last re-election, in 2013.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at an election rally earlier this month. Credit Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

If you haven’t heard anything about the election campaign in Germany, that’s because there isn’t much of one, despite the fact that nationwide elections that will determine, among other things, whether Chancellor Angela Merkel stays or goes are set for Sept. 24.

Yes, we are talking about the same Germany that has taken in roughly one million refugees and migrants in the last two years. The same Germany that bailed out bankrupt European states with billions of euros. The same Germany that has taken a tough stance toward Russia after its annexation of Crimea. The same Germany that is switching off all its nuclear power plants and turning to green energy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Volunteers directing a raft with migrants arriving in Lesbos island, Greece, last year. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Until a few days ago, you could order “refugee boats” from Alibaba, the enormous Chinese e-marketplace. The Chinese-made rubber boats, available for a couple of hundred dollars, had “good capacity of anti-sinking,” the item’s order page claimed, even if “the boat is filled fully with water.”

Summer is here, and it’s once again high season for North African human traffickers, who send tens of thousands of migrants a year across the Mediterranean to Europe — in boats very different from those found on Alibaba. Scores of them sink, killing thousands every year.

At least 2,300 migrants have drowned in the first half of 2017, and the number of crossings is increasing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turks gathered in Berlin on April 16 after hearing the outcome of Turkey’s referendum on the constitution. Credit Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Imagine a German politician accusing another country’s government of using “Nazi methods,” while demanding the reintroduction of capital punishment and the incarceration of both the opposition and journalists. Hilarious and untenable? Not in the eyes of many Turks who live here in Germany.

There are about 1.5 million Turks living in Germany who can vote in Turkish elections. Of those who participated in last weekend’s constitutional referendum, about 63 percent approved of granting immense unilateral powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has attacked journalists and compared the German government to Nazis. These changes, which narrowly passed, make him a modern-day sultan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Martin Schulz, candidate for chancellor of Germany, in Berlin this month. Credit John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Germany has never had it so good. It is one of the healthiest, wealthiest nations on earth. Employment and exports are at record levels. Consumer and labor confidence are high. The country commands respect on the global stage not for its military prowess but for its economic and moral strength, while its chancellor is widely admired.

So how, all of a sudden, does a man from the left, whose agenda calls for an expansive welfare state, who is campaigning as the voice of the little guy and whose battle cry is, essentially, “Make Germany Fair Again,” have a real chance of unseating Chancellor Angela Merkel in the general election in September?…  Seguir leyendo »

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats party. Credit Olivier Hoslet/European Pressphoto Agency

One of the few things uniting America and Europe these days is the deepening rift within their societies. Two crucial elections are coming up, in France this May and in Germany this September, and it’s high time we assess this dangerous cleavage. It’s not “us versus them.” It’s “us versus us”: an intra-Western clash of ideologies.

That clash pops up in different ways, but it is fundamentally about what world the citizens of the West would rather live in. Call it a “Lennon world” versus a “Bannon world.” Neither is sustainable.

The Lennon world is that of the liberal cosmopolitans, summed up in the John Lennon song “Imagine”: “Imagine there’s no countries,” he sings, “a brotherhood of man.”…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s no surprise that Russia met President Obama’s expulsion of its diplomats, which he announced Thursday in response to the Kremlin’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 election, with a collective shrug. Moscow seems content to let the clock run out, knowing that on Jan. 20 Mr. Obama will be replaced by an admirer in the White House and an old friend in the State Department.

But the changeover is bittersweet; President Vladimir V. Putin has also lost a beloved boogeyman. For the foreseeable future, the United States can hardly serve as Russia’s preferred enemy of the state. So guess who qualifies best as a new, well, boogeywoman?…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. Army soldiers stand in formation during military exercises in April with Bulgaria’s army at the Novo Selo military ground in Bulgaria. Nikolay Doychinov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

So far, the German response to Donald J. Trump’s election has been predictable, and predictably loud: Politicians and pundits are rattling on about how Europe needs to bolster its defenses, speeches they have been giving for years.

The doomsayers have a point, of course. President-elect Trump has repeatedly called into question Article 5 of the NATO agreement, the promise to regard an attack on one of its members as an attack on all. And he has demanded that Europe, and the rest of America’s allies, start paying more for his country’s defensive umbrella.

He’s not the first to say it. Leading American politicians have repeatedly told their counterparts over here that the days of American generosity in burden-sharing will soon be over.…  Seguir leyendo »

A migrant holding an image of Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, upon arriving at a railway station in Munich. Michael Dalder/Reuters

Sometime during the night of Sept. 4, 2015 — a year ago this weekend — Chancellor Angela Merkel made a simple, historic decision. Because she didn’t want to become responsible for violence and possibly death at her country’s border, she ordered the German government — and by extension, German society — to take in thousands of refugees who had been sent westward by Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban.

When the refugees’ trains pulled into Munich’s main station, local residents did not merely greet them. Hundreds of people had come to the Hauptbahnhof to support the arriving passengers with sandwiches, water, teddy bears — and a sense of relief.…  Seguir leyendo »

In its heyday, Communism claimed that capitalism had betrayed the worker. So what should we make of Moscow’s new battle cry, that democracy has betrayed the voter?

It’s a worldview that has become increasingly clear through the era of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, via a mosaic of public political statements, off-the-record conversations with academics and intelligence insights. Let’s call it “orderism.”

Orderism has started to challenge democracy in many parts of the world — Turkey, Poland, the Philippines. But Mr. Putin’s Russia believes it holds the copyright on this formula, and sees it as the sharp end of the wedge it is trying to drive among the nations of the West.…  Seguir leyendo »

Treaties are made to turn a will into an obligation. But what happens when this will changes? British voters have just given one example — however ill-informed — by dismissing the idea that European Union treaties deliver value to their country. Discomforting as it may be, there’s reason to take a critical look at an even older accord that binds the nations of the West: the NATO treaty.

Signed 67 years ago, the treaty holds the promise that an attack on one of the organization’s member states will be regarded as an attack on all. This solidarity clause, Article 5, was written by politicians of another generation, one with harsher experiences in a much simpler world order.…  Seguir leyendo »

I was born in 1973, the year Britain entered the European Economic Community. And like Britain, I have always been skeptical about the quasi-religious, ever-closer-union ideology that gripped so many proponents of the European Union, especially the anxious old men of my parents’ generation, who swore that the only alternative to unification was a relapse into nationalism.

And now this. Just as Europeans of my generation were being relieved of those anxious old men, another type stepped onstage: the angry old men.

These politicians — men and women, to be sure — are young enough not to have experienced world war, but they are old enough to idealize the pre-1989 era and a simpler, pre-globalization world.…  Seguir leyendo »

A la izquierda, Alfred Rosenberg junto a Adolf Hitler y Friedrich Weber, durante el Putsch de Múnich, en noviembre de 1923. Credit Keystone/Getty Images

Los alemanes nunca podremos liberarnos del trauma de nuestra historia reciente. Y eso no podría ser más actual si tomamos en cuenta el estado de nuestro continente y lo sucede al otro lado del Atlántico. Hay muchas diferencias entre lo que sucedió aquí en la década de los treinta del siglo pasado y lo que sucede ahora.

Está claro que Donald Trump o Norbert Hofer en Austria no son Adolf Hitler.

Pese a esto, la forma en que Alemania se deslizó hacia una forma peculiar de autoritarismo en el periodo de entreguerras muestra cómo las democracias liberales pueden girar, de repente, hacia posiciones contrarias al liberalismo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Traveling through the chilly landscape around the arctic city of Murmansk, Russia, it quickly becomes clear that this barren region is, in fact, a strategic centerpiece in President Vladimir V. Putin’s vast armory. The overland road from the Norwegian border passes by miles and miles of double-row fences of ice-crowned barbed wire, warning signs and surveillance cameras. Many of the gray, silent settlements along the way appear to be less towns than military installations, with soldiers in long, thick coats trotting through the streets.

But to grasp the full military import of this place, the Kola Peninsula — Russia’s northwestern-most territory — you would have to look down on it with thermal imaging from high above.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can the European Center Hold

“Run!” shouts a voice, captured, for all the world to hear, on cellphone images shot in the seconds after two bombs exploded at Brussels Airport on Tuesday morning. Travelers from around the world flee a shattered building, fearful of more bombs.

The videos from Brussels are a momentous shock, but also a momentous reflection of a state of mind. Run! Get away from this madness.

The bombings, as well as a third inside a Brussels subway car, hit the capital of the European Union at a time when its member states themselves had begun to fear the increasingly shaky supranational construction they had spent decades building.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dear Britons: I feel your pain. As a former Brussels correspondent still traumatized by the posting, I have no illusions left about the European Union’s shortcomings and overreaches. I won’t play the Good German, begging you to stay. If you feel you have to leave, of course you must. But there’s this: A Brexit isn’t in your national interest. And I believe that, in leaving, you would betray your nation’s heritage.

In fact, you Britons have backed the winning horse. Thanks to you, today’s European Union is more ready than ever to own up to its failures. That is something you have always demanded and, now, have finally secured.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week a United Nations panel ruled that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who has been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, had been arbitrarily detained, and called for his immediate release. Though Mr. Assange says he will remain in the embassy, the ruling was hailed by his legions of supporters, who saw it as a rare instance of justice for a man they believe has been persecuted for exposing government secrets.

There’s no doubt that WikiLeaks, which Mr. Assange founded in 2006, has been a boon for global civil liberties. The problem is that the project is inseparable from the man.…  Seguir leyendo »

For all its horror, what happened on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other German cities might help the Germans solve a longstanding problem. The issue is not the one-million-plus refugees who have come to us in the first place. It is how to deal with problems that immigrants might be, are or will be causing.

More than 650 criminal complaints have been filed by women in Cologne regarding that night, and more than 150 in Hamburg, including two cases of rape. A 28-year-old women named Katia said: “Suddenly I felt a hand on my bum, on my breasts, I was grabbed everywhere, it was horrific.…  Seguir leyendo »

For the 10 years that she has occupied the German chancellor’s office, Angela Merkel has kept her country out of any meaningful military engagement, most recently in Libya, even if this meant leaving her European partners in the lurch. Now, with her decision to commit fighting forces in Syria, the chancellor is not only entering her first war, she is entering a new kind of world war.

Ms. Merkel has been deeply skeptical about military interventions, not for ideological reasons (she endorsed the Iraq war in 2003), but out of pragmatism. It didn’t take any special prescience to see how badly they would turn out, and to Ms.…  Seguir leyendo »