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. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Washington’s “strategic patience” with North Korea has ended and “all options are on the table” to slow its nuclear ambitions, U.S. and South Korean forces were preparing for a range of military scenarios.
As many as 300,000 mainly South Korean and U.S. personnel are involved in military drills that will run until the end of April. These exercises have been a feature of life on the peninsula since the Korean War ended in a 1953. In recent years, they have become larger and more realistic.
Every U.S. president since at least Bill Clinton has confronted North Korea’s weapons program and been offered a range of potential military action to tackle them.… 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 »
With a suspected role in the assassination of his estranged half-brother and a string of increasingly aggressive missile tests, the North Korean leader appears to be testing the patience not just of Washington but also his key ally, China. It’s a high-stakes game that may push the region into the worst conflict it has ever seen. Kim Jong Un’s actions have a ruthless internal logic, however, – and while he has a plan, there is no sign that anyone has a coherent strategy for stopping him.
On Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned that Washington and Pyongyang were racing towards an unnecessary but dangerous confrontation, calling on North Korea to listen to international condemnation of its nuclear and missile tests.… 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 »
British Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to meet Donald Trump at the White House, but the one who counts in Europe is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her response to Trump’s apparent readiness to overturn seven decades of American support for NATO and the European Union will be crucial in determining the future of Germany and the EU.
The provocations of what may come to be called the “Trump doctrine” are causing angst in Berlin. At their joint press conference on Jan. 27, May claimed to have secured the president’s “100 percent” backing for NATO, the western alliance underpinned by American military might since 1949.… Seguir leyendo »
Building a wall to control immigration from Mexico is hardly a new idea. In October 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act to authorize and partially fund the construction of 700 miles of steel fences and other hurdles along the Mexican border. “This bill will help protect the American people,” Bush said at the time. “This bill will make our borders more secure.”
A wall has an obvious appeal. It represents a concrete and visible effort to keep immigrants out; it carries great symbolic power. It is a perfect policy for allaying the concerns of an electorate who might see immigrants as a source of their economic misfortune or a threat to national security.… Seguir leyendo »
George W. Bush invaded Iraq to remove its – ultimately nonexistent – weapons of mass destruction. Barack Obama used cyber weaponry and sanctions to deter Iran from building its own atomic bomb. Now Donald Trump faces North Korea, but stopping its nuclear and missile program may prove impossible, creating what may be his first and perhaps defining international crisis.
Trump has been left to confront North Korea’s nuclear activities because his predecessors failed to manage them. The regime in Pyongyang, meanwhile, continues to build ever more dangerous – and hard-to-destroy or intercept – weapons systems.
North Korea has been a thorn in the side of the United States since the days of Harry S.… 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 »
Friday is the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the notorious death camp complex known as Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. The complex included Auschwitz I and, two miles away, the much larger Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau; that was where the Germans built four huge gas chambers, and where nearly all of the killings of Jews took place.
Of all the death factories created by Hitler’s Nazi regime to murder Jews, Birkenau was the most lethal. In the 1980s, Catholics in the village of Brzezinka (the Polish name for Birkenau) established a church in the camp.… 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 »
For years, as an insurgency raged against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkey turned a blind eye while rebels groups, including Islamic extremists, moved weapons and fighters across the Syrian-Turkish border. Jihadist groups like Islamic State established strong networks in Turkish towns to smuggle recruits and supplies into Syria.
Despite pleas from Western allies concerned about militant plots emanating from the border areas, the Turkish government felt that it could contain the jihadists and saw the toppling of Assad’s regime as its priority. But after Turkey was targeted with a series of bombings in mid-2015 linked to Islamic State, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began cracking down along the southern border and granted the United States access to military bases that would be used for air strikes against jihadist groups in Syria.… 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 »
Rogue One, the latest in the Star Wars franchise, has had mixed reviews but features one undisputed star: K-2SO, a gangly robot with the best lines. Movies of the distant future always tap into current anxieties – and the latest alarm is that the robots are coming. Droids may not conquer the world, but they will take over its work – white-collar as well as blue-collar. Could these filmmakers know something we don’t?
Previous scares, such as when Time magazine reported on “the automation jobless” in the early 1960s, were just that. But many technology gurus insist that this time is different as artificial intelligence (AI) comes of age.… Seguir leyendo »
The killing of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on Monday evening might have prompted knee-jerk comparisons to the 1914 assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, but it almost certainly won’t spark a World War One-type conflict. The lethal truck attack that killed 12 in Berlin a few hours later, however, could ratchet up the prospect of yet another political shock in Europe.
2016 looks set to keep throwing out unexpected, often brutal surprises right to its end. If 1989 – the year the Berlin wall fell – was the point at which globalization, liberal democracy and the Western view of modernity was seen to triumph, the year now concluding might yet be seen as when the wheels came off.… Seguir leyendo »
On Dec. 19, the United Nations Security Council unanimously called for U.N. officials to observe the stalled evacuation of thousands of residents and fighters from the last rebel-held districts in the city of Aleppo, a process that began four days earlier. With President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its allies regaining full control over Syria’s largest city, the nearly six-year-old Syrian civil war is entering a new phase.
Assad and his allies – including Russia, Iran and various Shi’ite militias from Lebanon and Iraq – had imposed a long siege, including air strikes and intensive shelling, on the rebel-controlled parts of Aleppo.… Seguir leyendo »