Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev serves at the pleasure of President Vladimir Putin. And Putin may not be pleased any longer.
Last weekend, protestors in cities all over Russia, overwhelmingly young, demanded that Medvedev resign. The organizer was Alexei Navalny, a 40-year-old lawyer who has dedicated his life to opposing the Putin regime. He had swung through European Russia and Siberia in recent weeks, gathering support. In early March he released a film that featured a detailed report on Medvedev’s corruption – an account of vast estates, palatial homes, two yachts and a vineyard in Tuscany.
Russian police detained Navalny on March 26, sentenced him to 15 days in jail for disobeying a police officer and fined him for organizing an illegal protest.… Seguir leyendo »
As U.S. President Donald Trump proclaims “America First” and Britain hums along to the words of “Rule Britannia,” can a special relationship still exist between two states that seem to have decided to draw back within themselves?
In both of these countries, a repositioning of global roles is being undertaken by a suddenly dominant political group of populists. And they are locked in what promises to be a long war with the previously dominant political and intellectual groups that are liberal and globalist.
Because of this dynamic, Britain and the United States are bound – one might say doomed – to remain in a special relationship for one of the best of reasons: They will need each other.… Seguir leyendo »
The European Union had, for most of the years since the late 1980s, seen itself as the hope of the world. Self-serving as the view was, it had some basis in reality.
The Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc of Central European communist states were breaking up, the latter producing popular leaders such as Poland’s Lech Walesa and the Czech Vaclav Havel – who heralded both countries’ “return to Europe”.
The EU had also launched the euro in the currency markets in 1999, replacing local money in 12 member states on New Year’s Day 2002: a move designed as much as a political act to further European integration as a financial one.… Seguir leyendo »
Political corruption in France is common, and usually – if the politician is at or near the top of the political game – unpunished by law. Yet the 2017 presidential election may mark something of a revolt against a semi-aristocratic disdain for the public whose tax euros have long been plundered for private or party use.
Francois Fillon, who trained in the law, has been a politician since his late 20s. Now 63, he rose steadily through the ranks of the centre right until 2007, when he became prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy.
He survived there for five years and was seen as a president-in-waiting: experienced, Catholic, with five children by his Welsh wife Penelope, professing a devotion to jolt the country out of its economic stasis.… Seguir leyendo »
As an attention-commanding headline, “Italian Left Party Splits” ranks with “Showers expected in London.” Splitting is what left parties in Italy do. Their leading figures find a point of principle, or a personal grudge masquerading as one, and use it as a way to leave comrades they have come to hate, to found a party composed of other comrades they have not come to hate yet.
Hence the split in the center-left Democratic Party of Italy last weekend might have passed with little interest. But that would be wrong. It was a blow to an already disheartened citizenry, who know from experience how hard times are.… Seguir leyendo »
A poll on European attitudes toward immigration, Islam and terrorism, partly disclosed this week, found that a majority of Europeans don’t want any more Muslim immigration. That is, they appear willing to support the ban which U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking to impose in the United States, presently being challenged by the courts.
The poll, still not complete, surveyed 10,000 people in ten European states, and was conducted by Chatham House, the semi-official foreign affairs institute in Britain. Responses to the most controversial issue, on Muslim immigration, were released in summary form before the bulk of the survey. It was designed to show the temper of Europeans on the central political issues of the day: the greatest of these being immigration.… Seguir leyendo »
British Prime Minister Theresa May goes to Washington this week. She could hardly be more different from the president whom she hopes to charm and who reportedly calls her “my Maggie”, after Margaret Thatcher. In the best traditions of the British Foreign Office, May will be briefed up to the eyeballs about her interlocutor, about what can be discerned of his policies and what she should try to extract from him. Trump may or may not receive a briefing on her.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, the two leaders hold diametrically opposed views on globalisation and trade, the president seeking economic self-sufficiency for his country, and the prime minister wishing to project the UK into the globe.… Seguir leyendo »
Has Europe been infantilised? Is it now less capable than other regions or nations of determining its future with the force and strength required to preserve the coherent governance and relatively high standards of living that it’s shown since the last war? That war, devastating as it was, seemed to teach a series of lessons on how to avoid more war, grow economies and remain a centre – even, the centre – of world power
Were the lessons wrong? Here are some reasons for asking the question.
For most of the post-war period, the states of Europe, both the majority within the European Union and the few which have remained outside, have been covered by a security umbrella held over our heads by the United States.… Seguir leyendo »
Imagine this: The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, sits down this week to write an open letter. The new year unfolds before him in his mind. Its challenges are vast, existential. Only the truth will serve.
My Fellow Europeans, (he might write)
It’s not the fashion, as in the United States, to quote from the Bible. But, now, it feels appropriate. The line that comes to mind is “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” We in Europe have sown good seeds. No more war (the Balkans in the ’90s aside). The championing of liberal democracy. The maintenance (with strains) of social health and welfare systems.… Seguir leyendo »
A heavy cold and a nation shivers. The cold is that attributed, this week, to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (her formal titles would take much of the rest of this column). The shivers are those of the political establishment.
Everything of moment in the United Kingdom depends, formally, on the 90-year-old Queen. She legitimizes all laws. She appoints all ministers. Parliamentarians must swear an oath of fealty to her. Ambassadors negotiate in her name, generals fight in it. She is the monarch in more than a dozen former imperial possessions, largely uncontroversially. When, in 1999, on the prompting of a Labour Prime Minister, the Australians tried to usurp her, the move failed, in spite of polls showing only minority support for her.… Seguir leyendo »
If parties of the left cannot appeal to the working class, what’s their use? The 21st century may be the one in which the umbilical link between the main left parties and organized labor is broken in favor of a politics of identity, and a grasping after some form of direct democracy that translates desires and frustrations into instant policies. Lurking over this movement is the fear of such an unsustainable politics producing authoritarian leaders, especially if the economies of the Western states worsen.
This past week saw two leaders of the European left – Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy and President Francois Hollande of France – forced to admit defeat and to leave the political scene, their reputations and policies shredded, their parties embarrassed by their very presence.… Seguir leyendo »
The understated reaction of the financial markets and of political figures across Europe to the Italian people’s “no” in Matteo Renzi’s referendum, may be as big a mistake as an overdone panic.
The calm may have been caused by the relief felt – at least by liberals of any stripe – that the Austrian Freedom party’s Norbert Hofer was also convincingly beaten on Sunday, by the former Green party leader Alexander van der Bellen.
It was a demonstration that “waves” of ultra-rightism don’t carry all before them; that while Europe’s established parties are now challenged as never since the last war, each country’s politics is turbulent in its own way.… Seguir leyendo »
The European political landscape best resembles croquet, the game popularized by the British in the 19th century. Its rules seem simple enough: players compete by knocking balls through hoops on a lawn. But like so much else, it’s more complicated than it seems. It’s a game of positions, as is the shifting politics of Europe.
In the next year, balls must be knocked through a number of crucial hoops for the European Union to survive. If they are not, then the Union is likely to collapse. Indeed, each one of the hoops might be labelled “if”, to remind the players – the EU member states – that if they miss, the damage may be fatal to their Union.… Seguir leyendo »
The first scene of Alfred Jarry’s parody of Macbeth is set in Poland — a place the play’s stage directions describe as “nowhere.” (“Pologne, c’est a dire, nulle part.”) Ubu Roi was spectacularly unsuccessful. It closed after an opening night that shocked its audience with its absurdism and obscenity. Its scene setting, though, is more tragic than comic. When Jarry’s play opened in 1896, Poland was indeed “nowhere,” a people without a state, divided since 1795 among Russia, Austria and Prussia.
Poland has long been a victim of the greater powers around it. The nation regained nationhood after World War One, only to lose it again to the Nazi and Soviet invasions at the start of World War Two.… Seguir leyendo »
The destruction of Aleppo, especially the city’s eastern neighborhoods that are tenuously held by anti-regime rebels, is largely pushed out of the nightly news by the fierce fighting around the presidential race in the United States. A few doughty reporters and photographers venture into Syria, but usually the cameras stay at a safe distance, so that much of what we see are the flashes and smoke from shells and bombs bursting in its cities.
At other times, we see smartphone video of haggard people running for shelter or transporting the wounded, screaming in pain, to hospitals where there is little help for them.… Seguir leyendo »
For Angela Merkel, it was an uncommon note of pessimism. The German chancellor, to whom all in Europe look to for leadership and guidance (even when it’s unwelcome,) arrived at the summit of European leaders in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava Friday and said that «Europe is in a critical situation.»
It almost did not need to be said, and the fact that it was drew attention to the fact that she is no longer the EU’s tower of strength. Germany is divided over her generous welcome to some one million migrants this past year. Worse, the third place her Christian Democratic Union took earlier this month in the regional elections in Mecklenberg-Vorpomern—where it was beaten by the second-placed far right, anti immigration, anti-Muslim group, Alternative for Deutschland—showed what the ruling CDU might expect in local elections on Sunday and in the national elections next year.… Seguir leyendo »
“Clearly, he’s a colorful guy,” said President Barrack Obama of his opposite number in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. Obama expressed his observation in a mildly amused way, the way one does when one is largely in control in a world that contains exotic characters with whom one has to deal – even if that character has just called one “the son of a whore.” Open indignation would have flattered the guy, though he didn’t get a meeting. The better putdown is to say, as Obama did, that a future meeting might be arranged if some real business could be done. Earthy insults are relegated to a lower category, which excites the news media, and are swatted away by a serious leader.… Seguir leyendo »
Two of journalism’s most radical figures are now silenced, or shunned. Nick Denton, the Brit whose Gawker website has whipped away the lace curtains that covered (mainly) sexual privacy since 2002, has been bankrupted by vengeful and wealthy men.
Julian Assange, the Australian whose Wikileaks organization has revealed (mainly) U.S. secrets, has been left alone and friendless — dropped even by one-time allies after dumping troves of unredacted information taken from the files of U.S. and Turkish political parties.
Both men tried to create new standards for investigative journalism; both have failed so far. They’ve failed in their efforts to emulate the paper that sees itself, with some justification, as fashioning the model for that brand of reporting — the New York Times.… Seguir leyendo »
In Europe, however beset by the continued weakness of the euro, Britain’s vote to defect from the European Union and the rise of the far right, a vacation is a right for oneself, a duty to one’s family. In Italy, especially, the beach doesn’t just beckon — it commands attendance.
On the beach, Italians and tourists doze, chat, leaf through magazines, minister to the old folks, play with, or shoo away, the kids, and at times take a dip in an almost-warm sea.
But, as Corriere della Sera‘s commentator Beppe Severgnini observed, it’s a summer composed of sun and insecurity, fun and fear.… Seguir leyendo »
«You are kings!» cried Roberto Benigni, Italy’s First Comedian, best known to foreigners as the director and star of the bitter-comic satire on fascism and Nazism, Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella). Benigni was presenting a widely watched TV program celebrating the signing of Italy’s constitution. «It’s a beautiful charter,” he proclaimed.
Benigni was conferring royalty upon Italians because, in voting on June 2, 1946, for a republic over a monarchy — King Umberto II, though soiled by collaboration with the fascists, was available — Italians had at once rejected a king and become kings of their own country.… Seguir leyendo »