Vladimir Putin Is Not Your Conservative Hero

Russian president Vladimir Putin listens to his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, during a meeting in Moscow, April 26, 2016
Russian president Vladimir Putin listens to his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, during a meeting in Moscow, April 26, 2016 (Kremlin)

In an interview with the Financial Times, Vladimir Putin claims “the liberal idea” has “outlived its purpose” and seeks to position himself at the head of a global reactionary movement against immigration, open borders and multiculturalism.

The Financial Times knows that Putin’s evisceration of liberalism chimes with anti-establishment leaders from American president Donald Trump to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini in Italy and the Brexit insurgency in the UK.

But true believes ought to take a closer look at the Russian leader. He may sound like an ally, but he’s really not interested in your cause. Read more “Vladimir Putin Is Not Your Conservative Hero”

Leaders Are Not Their Countries

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán enters the European Parliament in Brussels for a debate, April 26, 2017
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán enters the European Parliament in Brussels for a debate, April 26, 2017 (European Parliament)

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

Viktor Orbán used it this week, when he told critical members of the European parliament they were condemning not only him and his government but the entire nation of Hungary.

Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first vice president, had the right response when he called this the “coward’s way out” of a debate. Read more “Leaders Are Not Their Countries”

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

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 “Italian Parties Putin-Friendly, But Policy Shift Unlikely”

This New Cold War Is Ideological Too

Moscow Russia
The sun rises over the Red Gate Building in Moscow, Russia (Unsplash/Jean Colet)

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 “This New Cold War Is Ideological Too”

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders

France's Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 2015
France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon gives a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, November 11, 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 “Jean-Luc Mélenchon Is Not the French Bernie Sanders”

Hamon, Macron Face Putin Apologists in French Debate

Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1, 2012
Former French prime minister François Fillon attends a meeting with other European conservative leaders in Brussels, March 1, 2012 (EPP)

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 “Hamon, Macron Face Putin Apologists in French Debate”

It Seems Everybody Around Trump Was Talking to the Russians

Donald Trump
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

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 “It Seems Everybody Around Trump Was Talking to the Russians”

Conspiracy Theorists and Putin Apologists: Trump’s National Security Team

Donald Trump Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama meets his successor, Donald Trump, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, November 10 (White House/Pete Souza)

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 “Conspiracy Theorists and Putin Apologists: Trump’s National Security Team”