Italian Parties Putin-Friendly, But Policy Shift Unlikely
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
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
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
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
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
It Seems Everybody Around Trump Was Talking to the Russians
Was there anyone on Donald Trump’s campaign not talking to the Russians?
The latest news is that Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States in September, when he was serving as foreign-policy advisor on the presidential campaign.
We don’t know what the two discussed, but we do know that Sessions lied about the conversation taking place.
During his confirmation hearings, he was explicitly asked by senators if he had been in contact with Russians — any Russians — during the campaign. Sessions said “no”. Read more
Conspiracy Theorists and Putin Apologists: Trump’s National Security Team
Donald Trump is filling his national-security team with people who share his most worrying dispositions: an apologetic attitude toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, an alarmism about Islamic terrorism and a penchant for conspiracy theories.
Perhaps we should never have expected Trump, who lacks any foreign-policy experience yet seems to believe he is always the smartest guy in the room, to surround himself with more level-headed Republicans.
But the people he is choosing are the opposite of level-headed, which does not bode well for the next four years of American foreign policy. Read more