Trump on the Warpath, Puigdemont Arrested in Germany

American president Donald Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, February 1
American president Donald Trump arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, February 1 (USAF/Robert Cloys)

Donald Trump’s personnel shakeup is deeply troubling, argues Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine — especially the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, “two individuals who simply couldn’t capitulate to the demand that they obey only Trump, rather than the country as well.”

Tillerson is being replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo, “a man whose hatred of Islam is only matched by his sympathy for waterboarders.”

H.R. McMaster is being replaced as national security advisor by John Bolton, whose agenda, as Fred Kaplan puts it in Slate, is not “peace through strength,” but regime change through war.

Gary Cohn is being replaced as chief economic advisor by Larry Kudlow: according to Sullivan, “a sane person followed by a delusional maniac Trump sees on Fox.”

The State Department, indeed, the entire diplomatic apparatus, has, it seems, been replaced by Jared Kushner, “a corrupt enthusiast for West Bank settlements who no longer has a security clearance.”

Not only do the changes suggest Trump is preparing to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election; they also hint at a future war with Iran.

Everything we know about Trump’s character tells us that war is the only aspect of foreign relations he understands:

He cannot exist as an equal party in an international system. He has to dominate other countries the way he does other human beings.

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Five Catalan Politicians Jailed, Five Reasons for Russia’s Spy Poisoning

Catalan politician Jordi Turull makes a speech in Barcelona, December 12, 2013
Catalan politician Jordi Turull makes a speech in Barcelona, December 12, 2013 (CDC)

Five Catalan politicians, including the former speaker of parliament and three acting ministers, have been send (back) to jail for their role in the region’s attempt to break away from Spain.

The fifth, Jordi Turull, had been put forward as a candidate for regional president by the largest independence party, Together for Catalonia, but he lost a vote in parliament on Thursday.

A sixth, Marta Rovira, has fled to Switzerland to escape arrest.

Rovira has led the second-largest independence party, the Republican Left, since their leader, Oriol Junqueras, was jailed in December.

Thousands of Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona on Friday night to demonstrate against the Spanish judge’s decision.

The arrests make it even more difficult to form a new government in the region. The separatists have a majority, but all their leaders are now either in jail or in self-imposed exile. Read more

Falling Popularity Won’t Keep Macron Up at Night

French president Emmanuel Macron visits Corsica, February 6
French president Emmanuel Macron visits Corsica, February 6 (Elysée/Manon Pradier)

Emmanuel Macron’s popularity has fallen to its lowest point yet, with only one in four French voters supporting him anymore.

It probably won’t keep the president up at night. He still has four years left for his reforms to start bearing fruit while there is no unified opposition against him. Read more

Trump Doesn’t Understand New Cold War, Doesn’t Understand Presidency

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Donald Trump doesn’t understand why Russian “resets” have failed in the past, tweeting, “Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the ‘smarts.’ Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry.”

The real reason, as Ryan Bohl has explained here, is that America and Russia have diametrically opposed interests in Europe. “Smarts” or personal chemistry has nothing to do with it.

In fairness, Trump is hardly the first American president who believes he can overcome the restraints of history and geopolitics through the sheer force of personality. Nor is he the first one to fail. Read more

Mainstream Parties Win Dutch Elections, Catalans to Swear In President

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte listens to a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016 (European Parliament)

The far-right Freedom Party and the far-left Socialists underperformed in municipal elections in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

The ruling liberals and Christian Democrats shared first place. Both got 13 percent support.

Local parties took 33 percent of the vote, up from 28 percent four years ago.

The Greens gained at the expense of Labor and the liberal Democrats, especially in the major cities. Although they are still counting the votes in Amsterdam, the Greens are expected to overtake the liberal Democrats as the largest party there.

Cosmopolitan, left-leaning voters probably switched because they are disappointed the liberal Democrats went into government with three right-wing parties.

The outcome is nevertheless unlikely to destabilize Mark Rutte’s coalition, which includes the small Christian Union. Read more

Britain, EU Agree Transition Deal, Black Men Face Challenges in America

David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017
David Davis and Michel Barnier, the Brexit negotiators for the United Kingdom and the European Union, deliver a news conference in Brussels, June 19, 2017 (European Commission)

The United Kingdom has agreed to remain part of the European single market during the transition period following its departure from the bloc on March 29, 2019.

For the next year and a half, goods, services, capital and people would continue to move freely in and out of the United Kingdom. However, London will no longer have a say in the making of EU rules, including fishing quotas.

Other parts of the transition agreement include:

  • Britain will be allowed to negotiate and sign trade deals that go into effect after December 31, 2020.
  • Short of an innovative solution, Northern Ireland will continue to live under EU regulations, avoiding the need for a hard border in Ulster but creating the need for one between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Hardliners in Britain are appalled by the concessions. Read more

Everything You Need to Know About the Russian Spy Poisoning

British prime minister Theresa May answers questions in the House of Commons in London, England, July 20, 2016
British prime minister Theresa May answers questions in the House of Commons in London, England, July 20, 2016 (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a nerve agent in the United Kingdom two weeks ago. The British government blames Russia for the attack.

Here is everything you need to know about the attack and its consequences. Read more