Corbyn’s Spy Career, Catalan Language War

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn meets with in Highbury, North London, January 8
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn meets with in Highbury, North London, January 8 (Catholic Church England and Wales)

The Sun reports that, as a freshman parliamentarian, Jeremy Corbyn was targeted for recruitment by the Czech secret police in 1986 and met at least three times with an intelligence officer posing as a diplomat.

Corbyn says he never knowingly consorted with an East Bloc agent, but John Schindler, an intelligence expert, points out that only one year before the Labour politician was approached, Britain had expelled 25 Soviet “diplomats” who were really KGB officers “and the high-profile case got nonstop coverage in the British media.”

For Corbyn not to have considered the possibility he might be meeting with a spy would have been incredibly naive.

Moreover, Czech human rights abuses under communism were well-known even at the time. What was Corbyn thinking?

Corbyn, I’m sure, will argue it’s important to hear both sides. That’s what he said when he was asked to defend inviting Hamas and Hezbollah representatives to London in 2009. Except he never invited or met with Israeli representatives, just as he didn’t seek meetings with American officials during the Cold War.

Corbyn has a long history of instinctively siding with enemies of his country and the West, from Irish republican terrorists to Fidel Castro to Hugo Chávez to Muammar Gaddafi. Michael J. Totten wrote a good overview in The Atlantic last year. That’s what makes the Czech spy story, despite coming from the notoriously sensationalist The Sun, so believable. Read more

America’s Inexplicable Failure to Stop Gun Violence

Flags of the Washington Monument in Washington DC, February 17, 2015
Flags of the Washington Monument in Washington DC, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

Nothing confounds foreigners more about America than its relationship with guns.

I’ve been writing about American politics for almost a decade now and even I don’t get it.

In that time, the problem has only got worse. The five worst shootings in American history occurred since 2007. 1,806 Americans have been killed with guns this year alone.

I’ve heard all the arguments. I’ve read the studies. I’ve seen the figures. This much is clear: The widespread availability of guns makes the United States more vulnerable to gun violence.

This shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say. But even on a day like this, after seventeen students and teachers were shot and killed at a high school in South Florida, it is. Read more

Debunking Trump in the Russia Scandal

American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017
American president Donald Trump gives a speech in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

American president Donald Trump and his allies have come up with various defenses in the Russia scandal: There was no collusion; Collusion isn’t a crime anyway; The FBI is biased; Trump had every right to fire James Comey; And what about Hillary Clinton?

Here I’ll debunk those arguments. Read more

EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14 (NATO)

Americans continue to worry that closer defense cooperation in Europe might compromise NATO.

Echoing Madeleine Albright’s “three Ds” — no duplication, no decoupling, no discrimination against non-EU NATO states — Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States ambassador to NATO, warned on Wednesday that European efforts shouldn’t be “protectionist, duplicative of NATO work or distracting from their alliance responsibilities.”

“In Texas we say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” the former senator added.

But transatlantic solidarity goes two ways. On the same day Hutchison cautioned European allies against weakening NATO, Defense Secretary James Mattis hectored them for failing to meet their defense spending targets.

Their boss, Donald Trump, has in the past declared NATO “obsolete”. Little wonder Europe is making its own plans.

Many of which complement NATO, from improving mobility by creating a “military Schengen” to developing a European infantry fighting vehicle.

Also read Tobias Buck in the Financial Times, who reports that Germany still has a long way to go before it can lead a European army. Read more

Ruud Lubbers Played Small Role in East-West Nuclear Diplomacy

American president George H.W. Bush meets with Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers in The Hague, July 17, 1989
American president George H.W. Bush meets with Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers in The Hague, July 17, 1989 (Anefo/Rob Croes)

Former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers died on Wednesday at the age of 78. A Christian Democrat, he was the country’s longest-serving prime minister, leading three coalition governments between 1982 and 1994.

I had a chance to interview Lubbers when I interned for the Dutch weekly Elsevier in 2012. We were working on an India edition and Lubbers was known to have a relationship with the Gandhis.

In his flat in Rotterdam, Lubbers told me about his first meeting with Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian prime minister, in 1985. Read more

Catalan Liberals Start Language War to Woo Conservatives

Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Catalonia's Citizens party, gives a radio interview, February 1
Inés Arrimadas, the leader of Catalonia’s Citizens party, gives a radio interview, February 1 (Ciutadans)

Spain’s liberal Citizens party has proposed eliminating the Catalan language requirement for civil servants in the region.

Catalan would be plus, but no longer a prerequisite for most jobs in the public sector.

The idea is unlikely to go anywhere. Although the Citizens made their proposal in the Spanish Congress, which could attempt to overrule the separatist majority in the Catalan parliament, national parties would be foolish to aggravate relations with the province.

So why bother? Because it’s another way for the Citizens to prove to voters in other parts of Spain that they are a national party now. Read more

Introducing Transatlantic News and Opinion Roundups

I’ve been experimenting with a new format to share news and links: daily roundups of the most important stories from Europe and North America, usually with links to analysis and opinion elsewhere. Follow the News tag to find the latest installments. Read more