Uncertainty After Catalans Vote to Break Away from Spain

View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013
View of the Palau Nacional in Barcelona, Spain, December 29, 2013 (CucombreLibre)
  • Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has stepped back from declaring independence immediately, requesting mediation.
  • Mariano Rajoy’s government in Madrid is refusing talks until Puigdemont renounces secession altogether. Read more

Italian Right Makes Pact for Prime Ministership

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 17, 2014
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, September 17, 2014 (European Parliament)

Italy’s two largest right-wing parties have agreed that whichever one of them receives the most votes in the upcoming election will provide the prime minister in a future coalition government.

The separatist Northern League is currently outpolling former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s once-dominant Forza Italia. Together with the national-conservative Brothers of Italy, they would win around a third of the seats in parliament.

The ruling center-left and the populist Five Star Movement would each win another third. Read more

Other Conservatives Should Be Wary of Imitating Kurz

Austrian People's Party leader Sebastian Kurz meets with other conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22
Austrian People’s Party leader Sebastian Kurz meets with other conservative party leaders in Brussels, June 22 (EPP)

Sebastian Kurz’ success may not be a template for other conservative party leaders.

The young Christian democrat defeated the far right in Austria this weekend by moving his People’s Party to the right on identity issues and immigration.

But Austria is more right-wing than most countries in Europe and its Freedom Party still achieved an almost historic result on Sunday. Read more

To Trump’s Mind, A Good Deal Means Somebody Else Loses

Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Donald Trump of the United States meet at the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, July 8
Presidents Michel Temer of Brazil and Donald Trump of the United States meet at the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, July 8 (Bundesregierung)

The reason Donald Trump is unable to govern effectively, argues Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, is that he has a misguided view of negotiation: for him to “win”, somebody else needs to lose.

This cartoonish kind of “dealmaking” is the only thing Trump knows:

His whole business history is one of cutting “deals” in which he gets lots of gain and little risk and the other guy basically gets screwed.

This only worked up to a point. Trump went through numerous bankruptcies and exasperated so many lenders that he was reduced to seeking capital from shady international operators and money launderers in the former Soviet Union.

As Marshall puts it, “You can only screw people over so many times before they refuse to work with you anymore.” Read more

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Mapping the Soviet Invasion of Western Europe

1987 American Defense Department map of a speculative Soviet invasion of Western Europe
1987 American Defense Department map of a speculative Soviet invasion of Western Europe (TechConex)

As late as 1987, two years before the Berlin Wall fell, the United States seriously considered the possibility that the Soviet Union might start World War III.

This Defense Department map shows the broad outline of a two-pronged Soviet attack on Western Europe. Planners expected one army to march across the Northern European Plain into the Low Countries and another to dive across Bavaria into France and the Iberian Peninsula.

At the time, the Soviets had thirty forward-deployed divisions in Eastern European to spearhead an invasion force with another 94 in Western Russia. NATO was outnumbered and counted on the threat of massive nuclear retaliation to deter the Reds.

Atomic weapons played a different role in Warsaw Pact planning. Far from a last resort, they were envisaged as something like big artillery pieces that could clear the way for a ground invasion. Read more

Italian Voting Reforms Could Have Little Impact on Balance Between Parties

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2010 (Stefano Maffei)

Voting reforms enacted by the Italian parliament this week could do little to make the country more governable, an analysis of Ipsos polling data by Corriere della Sera reveals. The three main political blocs would remain roughly equal in size.

The new law allocates a third of the seats in the lower chamber on a first-past-the-post basis and removes the premium for the largest party.

The expectation was that these changes would hurt the populist Five Star Movement and help the mainstream left and right.

But it turns out the effect could be negligible. Read more

Brexit and Trump as Reactionary Fantasies

Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, March 9, 2016 (Donald J. Trump for President)

Andrew Sullivan sees similarities between Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. Both, he writes in New York magazine, are reactionary fantasies:

Brexit and Trump are the history of Thatcher and Reagan repeating as dangerous farce, a confident, intelligent conservatism reduced to nihilist, mindless reactionism.

Trump is the worst of the two. His absurd claims about the economy being a “disaster” before he took over and now posting record growth; his tough talk as substitute for foreign policy; his determination to reverse every one of Barack Obama’s policy accomplishments and his daily Twitter tirades are about as clear an escape from reality as one can imagine.

For the four in ten Americans who still support him, that is the point of Trump’s presidency: to pretend the modern world — with its changing climate and demographics, relaxed gender norms, declining religiosity, global supply chains and devaluation of manual labor — doesn’t exist. Read more