Leaders Are Not Their Countries

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán attends a debate in the European Parliament in Brussels, May 19, 2015
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán attends a debate in the European Parliament in Brussels, May 19, 2015 (European Parliament)

It’s a tried-and-tested strongman tactic: conflate yourself with the nation to silence your critics. Read more

How Should Europe Deal with the Putin Apologist in the White House?

American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12
American president Donald Trump and Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte arrive to a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

I’m glad Donald Trump’s shameful behavior in Helsinki, coming on the heels of his ally-bashing in Brussels and the United Kingdom, is finally waking up even conservatives to the fact that we have a Putin apologist in the White House.

When former intelligence chiefs start to call the president a traitor for accepting Vladimir Putin’s denials of waging information warfare on the United States, we should perhaps ask ourselves if Jonathan Chait didn’t have a point when he argued in New York magazine that the Trump-Russia scandal could be worse than we thought?

For us in Europe, the why matters less than the what. Whatever Trump’s motives, we must deal with an American president who is determined to sabotage the Atlantic alliance and establish an accord with Putin.

The question is, how? Read more

Italian Parties Putin-Friendly, But Policy Shift Unlikely

Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni and Russian president Vladimir Putin attend a conference in Sochi, May 17, 2017
Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni and Russian president Vladimir Putin attend a conference in Sochi, May 17, 2017 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s election can’t keep Vladimir Putin up at night. No matter which party comes out on top, the Russian leader can expect a friendly government in Rome.

  • The center-left Democrats may be the least Russophile of the four major parties, but they still have a soft spot for Russia. Their leader, Matteo Renzi, threatened to block the renewal of EU sanctions in 2015. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign-policy coordinator, has been criticized by Eastern Europeans and NGOs for not taking a hard enough line against Russia.
  • Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister and leader of Forza Italia, is on famously good terms with Putin.
  • His allies in the Northern League — who, in turn, ally with Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France — are openly sympathetic of Putin, whom they see as a defender of traditional, Christian values.
  • The populist Five Star Movement no longer wants to take Italy out of NATO but still calls for a reduced role in the alliance as well as an immediate end to sanctions. Read more

This New Cold War Is Ideological Too

The skyline of Moscow, Russia, March 27, 2017
The skyline of Moscow, Russia, March 27, 2017 (Julian Buijzen)

Because Russia promotes an agenda that is native to Europe, few seem to realize this Second Cold War is just as ideological as the first.

If anything, the fact that Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine can tap into a homegrown Western reactionary movement that shares its beliefs makes the ideological challenge he poses more insidious. Read more

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, November 25, 2015 (European Parliament)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s late surge in the French presidential election has invited comparison with the unexpected success of Bernie Sanders in last year’s Democratic primary in the United States.

The comparison is not altogether off in the sense that Mélenchon’s rise is largely due to the unpopularity of technocratic socialism under the incumbent president, François Hollande. Sanders’ candidacy similarly reflected a disillusionment in the centrist incrementalism of Hillary Clinton.

But there is no comparing the policies of the French candidate, who is backed by the Communist Party, to those of the senator from Vermont, whose views would be mainstream in France. Read more

Farage Travels to California to Continue Putin’s Work

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 13, 2011
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 13, 2011 (European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari)

After playing a key role in persuading Britons to vote to leave the European Union, Nigel Farage is moving to California to help Russia in another way: by breaking up America’s largest state. Read more

Hamon, Macron Face Putin Apologists in French Debate

French presidential candidates François Fillon and Benoît Hamon shake hands before a debate in Aubervilliers, outside Paris, March 20
French presidential candidates François Fillon and Benoît Hamon shake hands before a debate in Aubervilliers, outside Paris, March 20 (AFP/Eliot Blondet)

Benoît Hamon and Emmanuel Macron don’t have a lot in common. The former wants to raise taxes in France in order to finance a universal basic income. The latter wants to cut taxes and reduce public spending.

Yet the two presidential candidates made common cause on Monday, when they faced three Putin apologists in the first televised debate of the 2017 campaign. Read more