Different Player, Same Game

Presidents Andrzej Duda of Poland and Donald Trump of the United States answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, June 12
Presidents Andrzej Duda of Poland and Donald Trump of the United States answer questions from reporters at the White House in Washington DC, June 12 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump has not exactly shied away from advocating for better American relations with Russia. During his presidential campaign, he argued that “Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other toward defeating terrorism and restoring world peace.” He has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and accepted his denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But even Trump’s Russophilia is no match for geopolitical reality. Read more

Estonia’s President Sends Wrong Message Meeting Putin

President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia meets with her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin in Moscow, April 18
President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia meets with her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, at the Kremlin in Moscow, April 18 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

For the past decade, the Baltic states have maintained a strict policy toward Russia: no official state visits by presidents, prime ministers or other high-ranking officials.

That changed last week, when Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid visited a newly renovated embassy in Moscow and stopped by the Kremlin for a cup of tea with Vladimir Putin.

In itself, the meeting does not carry much weight, as nothing crucial was said or done. But it sent the wrong message. Read more

Germany’s Nord Stream Climbdown Should Put Ostpolitik to Rest

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin deliver a news conference in Sochi, May 18, 2018
German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin deliver a news conference in Sochi, May 18, 2018 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Frederick Studemann argues in the Financial Times that Germany’s Ostpolitik breathes its last in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline controversy.

Germany’s allies in Central European and North America have for years argued against the extension of the Baltic Sea pipeline, arguing — correctly — that it is a political project for Moscow. It doesn’t need the extra capacity. It wants to cut its dependence on Russia-wary transit states in Eastern Europe, most notably Ukraine. Read more

Recent Revelations in the Trump-Russia Scandal

Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Presidential Press and Information Office)
  • After Trump fired FBI director James Comey — for refusing to end the investigation into his first national security advisor, Michael Flynn — the bureau started to investigate if the president himself might be working on behalf of Russia. Flynn is now on trial for lying about his foreign contacts.
  • Trump privately discussed withdrawing the United States from NATO.
  • Not only did he meet with Vladimir Putin five times without other officials present; Trump went so far as to snatch the meeting notes from his own interpreter and tell the linguist not to share what had transpired even with administration officials. Read more

Why Greek-Russian Relations Haven’t Improved

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers a question from a reporter in Moscow as Russian president Vladimir Putin looks on, April 8, 2015
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras answers a question from a reporter in Moscow as Russian president Vladimir Putin looks on, April 8, 2015 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

When the far-left Syriza party took power in Greece in 2015, there were fears (including here) that it might trade the country’s Western alliance for an entente with Moscow.

The party had called for a “refoundation of Europe” away from Cold War divisions and its leader and the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, suggested Greece could serve as a “bridge” between East and West.

Three years later, nothing has come of it. Read more

Trump Believes Summit with Putin Has Reset Relations. He’s Wrong

Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16
Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia meet in Helsinki, Finland, July 16 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Two years on the job, Donald Trump still doesn’t understand foreign policy.

After meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, the American said relations between their two countries had “never been worse.”

“However,” he added, “that changed as of about four hours ago.”

As if a single meeting of two leaders could change the fate of nations. Read more

Five Catalan Politicians Jailed, Five Reasons for Russia’s Spy Poisoning

Catalan politician Jordi Turull makes a speech in Barcelona, December 12, 2013
Catalan politician Jordi Turull makes a speech in Barcelona, December 12, 2013 (CDC)

Five Catalan politicians, including the former speaker of parliament and three acting ministers, have been send (back) to jail for their role in the region’s attempt to break away from Spain.

The fifth, Jordi Turull, had been put forward as a candidate for regional president by the largest independence party, Together for Catalonia, but he lost a vote in parliament on Thursday.

A sixth, Marta Rovira, has fled to Switzerland to escape arrest.

Rovira has led the second-largest independence party, the Republican Left, since their leader, Oriol Junqueras, was jailed in December.

Thousands of Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona on Friday night to demonstrate against the Spanish judge’s decision.

The arrests make it even more difficult to form a new government in the region. The separatists have a majority, but all their leaders are now either in jail or in self-imposed exile. Read more