Why Putin Wants to Change the Russian Constitution

Vladimir Putin Dmitri Medvedev
Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with his prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, at his country residence outside Moscow, January 25, 2016 (Kremlin)

Russian president Vladimir Putin has called for a referendum to approve constitutional changes that would nominally hand more power to parliament.

The changes, if approved, might improve Russia’s rating in the Freedom House index, but democracy is probably not on his mind.

Only hours after his yearly address to the combined Federal Assembly, in which he made his proposals, Putin accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and replaced him with the little-known head of the Federal Tax Service, Mikhail Mishustin.

The moves have left both Russians and Russia experts wondering: what’s happening? And what’s next? Read more “Why Putin Wants to Change the Russian Constitution”

Everything You Need to Know About the Labour Leadership Election

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a conference of European socialist parties in Paris, France, July 8, 2016 (PES)

After leading the British Labour Party into its worst electoral defeat since 1935, Jeremy Corbyn is stepping down as leader.

The contest to succeed him will take three months and pit defenders of Corbyn’s legacy against centrists who believe the party must change.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the Labour Leadership Election”

The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, Explained

Welded pipes of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline are lowered in northern Greece, November 2016
Welded pipes of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline are lowered in northern Greece, November 2016 (TAP)

After four years of construction, the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) has started pumping gas into Europe.

TANAP is part of Europe’s Southern Gas Corridor, connecting the South Caucasus Pipeline (completed) with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (still under construction). It aims to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan all the way through to Italy, where it flows into the European market.

Once the system is fully operational, it should be able to pipe 16 billion cubic meters of natural gas into Europe per year. Read more “The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, Explained”

Corbyn’s Extremism Is Why Labour Will Lose Again

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a meeting in Highbury, North London, January 8, 2018
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends a meeting in Highbury, North London, January 8, 2018 (Catholic Church England and Wales)

Few British voters outside the Conservative Party trust Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a one-time liberal who opportunistically embraced the reactionary cause of Brexit to advance his own political career and who shamefully besmirched Parliament to get his preferred version of Brexit through.

And still he is projected to win the election in December with support for the Conservatives trending toward 45 percent. Labour, the second largest party, is at 25-30 percent in the polls.

The reason is Jeremy Corbyn. He has pulled Labour so far to the left that middle-income voters no longer trust it.

Corbyn’s net approval rating is the lowest of any opposition leader since counting began in 1977. Just 16 percent of British voters have faith in him. Read more “Corbyn’s Extremism Is Why Labour Will Lose Again”

The Unrest in Catalonia, Explained

Catalans demonstrate in Barcelona, Spain against the imprisonment of separatist leaders, October 19
Catalans demonstrate in Barcelona, Spain against the imprisonment of separatist leaders, October 19 (Fotomovimiento)

Protests continue in Catalonia against the imprisonment of nine of the region’s separatist leaders.

Tuesday night was quiet, probably because it rained heavily, but I don’t expect this to peter out soon.

In case you haven’t been following the news, or don’t know much about Catalonia to begin with, here is an explainer to get you up to speed. Read more “The Unrest in Catalonia, Explained”

Why Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Impeachment

American president Donald Trump answers questions from reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, July 18
American president Donald Trump answers questions from reporters in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, July 18 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

That didn’t age well.

Just a few days ago, I wrote that House speaker Nancy Pelosi was dragging her heels on impeaching Donald Trump and cautioned against assuming that the most successful woman in American politics was making a mistake.

Now Pelosi has come around and only the third impeachment of a president in American history will soon be underway.

What has changed? Read more “Why Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Impeachment”

Turkey’s Purchase of a Russian Missile System, Explained

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey meet in Saint Petersburg, August 9, 2016
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey meet in Saint Petersburg, August 9, 2016 (Kremlin)

Russia sent Turkey a seventh batch of components for the S-400 missile defense system over the weekend. According to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, all S-400 missiles will be deployed by April 2020.

Erdoğan has also said he is planning to send specialists to Russia for training on how to operate the S-400s.

The deal has met stiff resistance from NATO allies, who are threatening to kick Turkey out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. So why is it going ahead with the purchase? Read more “Turkey’s Purchase of a Russian Missile System, Explained”

How Close Are Western Balkan States to Joining the EU?

European Council
The European Council meets in Brussels, November 25, 2018 (Bundesregierung)

Leaders of the six Western Balkan countries that remain outside the EU are meeting in Poland this week to discuss their possible accession to the bloc. Four — Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia — are candidates to become member states.

Last year, a similar summit was held where the existing member states expressed their concerns about corruption, weak governance and unfree markets in the region. What has changed since then? Read more “How Close Are Western Balkan States to Joining the EU?”

The European Protests You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in Berlin, March 15, 2017
Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić listens to German chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in Berlin, March 15, 2017 (Bundesregierung)

Large demonstrations have been taking place in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, every week since the end of November against the government of Aleksandar Vučić.

Vučić has been in power since 2014, first as prime minister and for the last two years as president. He leads the Serbian Progressive Party, which, despite its name, is right-wing. He started his career in the far-right Serbian Radical Party, which was founded by the convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj in 1991. Read more “The European Protests You’ve Probably Never Heard Of”