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 Pla├ža 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”

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”

China and Russia: True Love or Marriage of Convenience?

Vladimir Putin Xi Jinping
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China meet on the sidelines of a summit in Benaulim, India, October 15, 2016 (Kremlin)

China and Russia are making common cause at a time when Donald Trump’s America is turning its back on the world. Are we seeing the beginning of a global partnership? Or is this only a marriage of convenience? Experts disagree. Read more “China and Russia: True Love or Marriage of Convenience?”

Russians Were All Over Trump’s Campaign

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Back in March, I wondered if anybody in Donald Trump’s inner circle wasn’t in touch with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The answer, we know now, is no. The Russians were all over Trump’s team.

Whether this was collusion or a case of collective and massive misjudgment is something Robert Mueller, the special counsel, must find out, but clearly the Russians were trying to influence the outcome of the election.

The fact that none of Trump’s underlings disclosed their Russian contacts, and when first asked about them lied, suggests they knew they were doing something wrong. Read more “Russians Were All Over Trump’s Campaign”