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”

Joe Biden Is a Stronger Candidate Than You Might Think

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, August 27, 2014
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, August 27, 2014 (White House/Pete Souza)

Joe Biden might look out of sync with today’s Democratic Party. 76 years old, Biden is a Third Way-style liberal who used to be “tough on crime”, voted for the Iraq War and now faces his own #MeToo accusations.

Yet he is the frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination.

RealClearPolitics has Biden’s support at 39 percent, 23 points ahead of the runner-up, Bernie Sanders.

We’re still almost a year away from the first primaries. Polls are not usually predictive at this point in the contest and say more about name recognition. But Biden is also ahead in the endorsement primary, as measured by FiveThirtyEight. The former vice president has already convinced eighty prominent Democrats to support him against 55 for California senator Kamala Harris. (Who I think is actually the second strongest candidate at this point. Read Frank Bruni’s column about her in The New York Times.)

What explains Biden’s popularity? Read more “Joe Biden Is a Stronger Candidate Than You Might Think”

What to Expect from Snap Elections in Spain

The Palacio de las Cortes, seat of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, August 16, 2017
The Palacio de las Cortes, seat of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, in Madrid, August 16, 2017 (Shutterstock/Vivvi Smak)

Snap elections are likely in Spain after Catalan pro-independence parties joined the right-wing opposition in voting down Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ 2019 spending plan.

The Catalans gave Sánchez a majority to oust the People’s Party’s Mariano Rajoy in June. They demanded a legal independence referendum for their support, which Sánchez refused.

Here is how early elections could pan out. Read more “What to Expect from Snap Elections in Spain”

EFTA Is Not an Alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit Deal

Flag of Norway
Flag of Norway (Jorge Láscar)

The Sun reports that British cabinet secretaries Michael Gove and Amber Rudd — the former a leader of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, the latter a “remainer” — intend to push for membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) with Labour’s support if and when Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal fails in Parliament.

This plan is unlikely to succeed, for two reasons:

  1. It confuses the withdrawal agreement with the political declaration on the future EU-UK relationship.
  2. Neither the EU nor the EFTA would accept it as a short-term solution. Read more “EFTA Is Not an Alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit Deal”

Why Spain’s Threat to Hold Up Brexit Over Gibraltar Is Theater

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell attends a meeting in Brussels, July 17
Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell attends a meeting in Brussels, July 17 (European Council)

Spain has demanded greater clarity on the status of Gibraltar before signing off on the treaty that is meant to regulate Britain’s exit from the EU in March 2019.

“We want the interpretation to be clear in that text that the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU will not apply to Gibraltar,” Josep Borrell, the Spanish foreign minister, said on Monday.

Here is why his demand is a bit of a dud. Read more “Why Spain’s Threat to Hold Up Brexit Over Gibraltar Is Theater”

Trump Puts Mueller Critic in Charge of Mueller Probe

American president Donald Trump listens to a speech outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, July 12, 2017
American president Donald Trump listens to a speech outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, France, July 12, 2017 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

American president Donald Trump has replaced his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, with a loyalist, Matt Whitaker, who in the past criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Here is everything you need to know. Read more “Trump Puts Mueller Critic in Charge of Mueller Probe”