The Octopus in Political Cartoons

Octopuses are a popular trope in political art. They came in vogue in the 1870s, when Frederick W. Rose depicted Russia as a giant octopus lording over Eastern Europe. The sea monster was quickly given to Germany when it posed a bigger threat to peace in Europe. During the early Cold War, it was Russia’s turn again. The octopus was the perfect metaphor for spreading communism.

Here is a selection of the best and worst tentacled sea creatures. Read more

Spain Promises Not to Hold Brexit Hostage to Gibraltar

View of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016
View of Gibraltar, April 6, 2016 (Scott Wylie)

Spain will not hold the Brexit negotiations hostage to discussions about Gibraltar, the country’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, has told ABC newspaper:

I do not want to jeopardize an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom by subjecting it to a need to alter Gibraltar’s status at the same time.

Dastis did say he hopes the Gibraltarians will consider sharing sovereignty with Spain, but his statement appears to be a climb down.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy earlier said he would not allow Gibraltar to remain in the European single market if Britain leaves.

A European Council negotiation document published by the Financial Times read that “no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.”

This was interpreted in Britain as giving Spain a veto over the terms of its exit. Read more

Immigration Could Be Macron’s Achilles’ Heel

French president Emmanuel Macron attends a military remembrance ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris, May 15
French president Emmanuel Macron attends a military remembrance ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris, May 15 (Facebook)

Patrick Chamorel makes another fine point in his essay about Emmanuel Macron in The American Interest.

He points out that the French president has barely talked about crime, immigration, integration and terrorism:

His emphasis on the necessary liberalization of the economy disproportionately reflects the preoccupations of the most urban, educated and prosperous sections of the population.

In smaller cities and the countryside, people worry about other things. Read more

So Much for Yet Another Russian Reset

A flag of the Russian Federation
A flag of the Russian Federation (Amanda Graham)

From Reuters:

US president Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law on Wednesday new sanctions against Russia that Congress had approved overwhelmingly last week, criticizing the legislation as having “clearly unconstitutional” elements.

Ever since the United States entered the stage as a world power, it’s brushed up against Russia. From the 1918-20 international intervention that halfheartedly tried to prevent the rise of Soviet communism to this latest American sanctions bill, the US has long hoped to turn Russia into yet another reliable ally, joined together in a liberal order of peace and prosperity.

That geopolitical naivety is deeply embedded in the American body politic: candidate after candidate has hoped to defang the Russian bear with arms outreached, only to discover that Moscow sees not friendship but subjugation.

It is a relationship between an idealistic, extremely safe nation state and a cynical, deeply insecure one. One finds every betrayal or turnabout shocking; the other sees them as a natural course of events. Read more

Hard to See How Trump’s Unpredictability Is Making America Stronger

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

Donald Trump’s seven months as president have been one surprise after another. From his unexpected diplomacy with China and his certification of the Iran nuclear deal — both of which he lambasted as a presidential candidate — to daily stories of White House intrigue and the dismissal of top government officials, Trump has created an atmosphere of unpredictability in Washington DC.

This is deliberate.

“We must as a nation be more unpredictable,” he argued last year.

But is it improving America’s position in the world? Read more

Macron Takes Inspiration from California and Scandinavia

Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron
Former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron (Facebook)

Patrick Chamorel, who specializes in comparing American and European politics, argues in The American Interest that French president Emmanuel Macron’s economic vision is a mix of the Californian and Scandinavian models:

On the one hand, an embrace of start-up culture, a preference for entrepreneurship over rent-seeking, outsiders over insiders and individual mobility over jobs-for-life; on the other, he evinces a belief in the positive role government can play to protect the weak and equalize access to opportunities.

Macron wants to free companies from excessive social costs and bureaucratic constraints, but he has also pledged €50 billion in public investments. Read more

Donald Trump Wants Conflict with Iran

American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6
American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6 (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

By all accounts, Iran is complying with the 2015 multilateral agreement that curtailed its nuclear program. The country is giving full access to inspectors, who have found no violations.

The only person upset by this is Donald Trump.

The New York Times revealed earlier this month that the American president had only reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance with the deal.

Now the same newspaper reports that he has instructed his team to find a way to declare Iran noncompliant — whether it is or not.

Congress requires the president to certify every three months that Iran is meeting its obligations under the agreement. If Trump doesn’t, then lawmakers have sixty days to restore sanctions that were rescinded in 2015. Read more