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 “Different Player, Same Game”

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 (Kremlin)

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 “Estonia’s President Sends Wrong Message Meeting Putin”

Germany’s Nord Stream Climbdown Should Put Ostpolitik to Rest

Vladimir Putin Angela Merkel
Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow, May 10, 2015 (Kremlin)

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 “Germany’s Nord Stream Climbdown Should Put Ostpolitik to Rest”

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 (Kremlin)

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 (Kremlin)

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 “Why Greek-Russian Relations Haven’t Improved”

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 (Kremlin)

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

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

Barcelona Spain
Night falls on Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya, Spain, September 11, 2017 (Sergio Marchi)

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

Trump Doesn’t Understand New Cold War, Doesn’t Understand Presidency

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Donald Trump doesn’t understand why Russian “resets” have failed in the past, tweeting, “Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the ‘smarts.’ Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry.”

The real reason, as Ryan Bohl has explained here, is that America and Russia have diametrically opposed interests in Europe. “Smarts” or personal chemistry has nothing to do with it.

In fairness, Trump is hardly the first American president who believes he can overcome the restraints of history and geopolitics through the sheer force of personality. Nor is he the first one to fail. Read more “Trump Doesn’t Understand New Cold War, Doesn’t Understand Presidency”

Good, Bad and Ugly in Trump’s Drug Plan, Corbyn Parrots Russian Talking Points

Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017
Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017 (White House/Benjamin Applebaum)

Politico reports that Donald Trump is eying common-sense drug reforms — as well as the death penalty for drug dealers.

Here is the good, bad and ugly in the president’s plan to fight America’s opioid epidemic. Read more “Good, Bad and Ugly in Trump’s Drug Plan, Corbyn Parrots Russian Talking Points”

Everything You Need to Know About the Russian Spy Poisoning

The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England
The British flag flies over the Houses of Parliament in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a nerve agent in the United Kingdom two weeks ago. The British government blames Russia for the attack.

Here is everything you need to know about the attack and its consequences. Read more “Everything You Need to Know About the Russian Spy Poisoning”