Tuesday 20 Feb 2018 | 16:46 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Europe

France: more bucks for your bang

True to his pledge made during the French election campaign last year, President Emmanuel Macron last week put forward a proposal for a substantial and welcome increase in France’s defence budget. This move follows at least a decade of reductions in French defence spending. Macron’s election

Shot down over Syria

The downing of a Russian Su-25 aircraft this week marks the second aircraft lost to MANPADS surface-to-air missiles in six weeks. At the end of December, militants shot down a Syrian L-39 aircraft near Hama. Russia’s response has been swift and severe, conducting multiple

The comic opera of Italy’s election

The heads of the three main political groups contesting the Italian elections in March appear to have taken inspiration from opera buffa, or Italian comic opera. Should Italy turn a shade of populist or nationalist, will we see yet another crisis in Europe? Cosi fan tutti (All do it), said

Sea cables in a thawing Arctic

China has made a significant foray into the Arctic with the creation of a data “silk road”. Strongly supported by a newfound closeness with Russia, preliminary planning of a Chinese and Finnish–led trans-Arctic cable along the Arctic’s Northeast Passage in partnership with Japan and Norway

The real purpose of Russia’s presidential election

Vladimir Putin’s election to a fourth term as President of Russia on 18 March is a foregone conclusion. Nobody can remotely consider Russia’s presidential election to be democratic, whatever Putin and his defenders might say. Seeing as it is obviously a sham and a travesty, one might ask why

The unending nightmare for Germany’s Social Democrats

Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) is having a political nightmare from which it is unable to awake. Wounded by the experience of four years as junior governing party to Angela Merkel’s conservative Union, in September the party limped to a meagre 20.5% of the vote: their

Britain can be a power in Asia

Recently the Lowy Institute’s Aaron Connelly argued that there is not much Britain can do in Asia because British power is diminishing. This is unsurprising. One of the biggest challenges in international relations is ascertaining a given state’s place in the international system.

Macron’s mission to China

During French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to China, which concluded last week, his choice to gift China's Xi Jinping with a horse was apparently prompted by Xi's words of admiration during a 2014 trip to Paris. On that visit, Xi was greeted by a guard of honour from the Garde Ré

Putin’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment

Politicians have a track record of declaring military victory before it is achieved. Think the 'Mission Accomplished' banner unfurled behind George W. Bush aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on 1 May 2003, after which the war in Iraq continued for another eight years, claiming

Judging Austria’s lurch to the right

Austria’s far right Freedom Party (FPÖ) who was sworn-in just before Christmas as part of the Austrian government issued from legislative elections last October, is very right wing. Steeped in a brown past, it makes no bones about authoritarian leaning, anti-immigrant positions. In the European

Russia is not really withdrawing from Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin was reported this week to have ordered Russian military chiefs to redeploy ‘most’ of Russia’s Syria contingent back home. Exactly what constitutes ‘most', though, is anyone’s guess. There are reports that Russia

Post-Soviet states feel lure of (Chinese) socialism

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang's visit to Hungary for the sixth China-Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEEC) Summit last week demonstrates that China has become an increasingly important player in the post-Soviet space. Its presence in Central Asia is now an undeniable fact, but less well-

Trump and the Russian ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’

Truth and Russian affairs do not sit comfortably together. Churchill observed in 1939 that Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, and we find ourselves today struggling with this intrigue amid persistent claims about Donald Trump and links to Russia. This struggle also speaks to

Breakdown in Berlin

Since the beginning of Germany's election campaign a few months ago, Christian Lindner has demanded his role on centre stage. His slightly dishevelled face stared out in black and white from every brochure, billboard and advert for the Free Democratic Party (FDP), shamelessly transforming the proud

Russia in Syria: A course strewn with obstacles

Having vanquished Syria’s rebels militarily, Russia now faces the challenge of reconstructing a durable Syrian state. To convert military victory into a lasting political settlement that benefits it and its allies in Syria, Bashar Assad’s government and Iran, Moscow has moved quickly to

Macron, America and Iran: Searching for a middle way

French President Emmanuel Macron is considering a visit to Tehran in early 2018. Macron would be the first French President to visit Iran since Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in 1976, and given the tensions between Washington and Europe over the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of

What drives Russia’s Korea policy?

To discuss what's driving Russia's Korea policy, we need a framework within which we can begin to understand Moscow’s motives regarding North Korea’s nuclearisation and the ensuing international crisis.   First, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in

Britain’s defence planners face hard questions

In the last few days, the British press and social media have been rife with reports that the Royal Marines are to be reduced by 1000 from their present establishment of 6500. In addition, the amphibious fleet may be similarly reduced with the decommissioning of the landing platform dock (LPD) that

What the German election means for Europe and the world

The German far-right AfD has entered the Federal Republic’s parliament, while Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU and Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats suffered heavy losses. The 87% of Germans who did not vote for the ‘Alternative für Deutschland’, along with their elected leaders in government and

German elections: The collapse of consensus

It is unusual for a major party to assume a 'great responsibility' by being relegated to opposition. But this is precisely the situation facing the German Social Democrats (SPD) following its disastrous election performance last night. Humiliated by its worst result since World War II, SPD leader

Turkey’s EU accession: A useful fiction

By any measure, the German Chancellor debate between Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz last weekend was a dispiriting, monotonous affair. On irrelevant issue after irrelevant issue, both candidates spoke around each other, barely acknowledging one another's presence and finding themselves more often

How Trump’s new approach to Pakistan might pan out

Perhaps the most notable part of President Trump's new Afghanistan 'strategy' is its treatment of Pakistan, with Trump saying out loud what was once largely debated and threatened in private: The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no

The Russian ‘taboo’ and the German election

We need to come out of the dead end … Something must be offered so that Putin can change his policy without a loss of face … To express a taboo: I fear that the Crimea must be regarded as a permanent provisional solution. These words caused something of a sensation in Germany earlier this

US-Russia relations: No light at the end of the tunnel

Each month – each week – brings new and alarming developments in US-Russian relations. No one seriously expects any improvement in the near future. The only question is: how much worse can things get? During the initial period of the Trump presidency, the fear was that Trump would make some

Humanitarian corridors: Safe passage but only for a few

There is a counter-narrative emerging in Europe’s approach to irregular migration, even as EU governments seek new ways to discourage desperate journeys across the Central Mediterranean route to Italy. Via the skies over Rome and Paris, other journeys are getting safer, as church groups fly asylum

Clash or compromise: The return of history in Poland

Poland today gets almost uniformly bad press in the West, replete with stories alleging that Beata Szydło's government has all but dismantled the foundations of democracy on orders from Jarosław Kaczyński, Chairman of the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS), often identified as its é

Boris Johnson: Three cheers for the Anglosphere

Boris Johnson clearly has a soft spot for Australia. No white bread politician, his whole manner is a breath of fresh air. Not only was he smart enough to renounce his dual citizenship, he has turned dishevelment into an art form. He was at it again last night, delivering the 2017 Lowy Lecture

Macron puts his stamp on French foreign policy

French President Emmanuel Macron is striking a new, pragmatic and self-confident tone in the country's foreign policy, for which he's received a lot of kudos. The recent reception for US President Donald Trump in France is a perfect illustration of this new approach. Macron invited Trump to attend

Trump in Warsaw, Hamburg and Paris

Trump divides. Most people are either staunchly against or for US President Donald Trump – if not the man, then what he supposedly stands for. As most commentators find themselves in the former camp, there is no shortage of Trump critiques. Thus this piece will concentrate not so much on

The G20 Hamburg riots and the German election

In many ways, the city-state of Hamburg embodies the self-image that contemporary Germany likes to project. With sparkling new galleries and trendy cafés interspersed among rough-and-tumble beatnik quarters and burly workers' bars, it exudes an elegant but unpretentious charm. The gleaming new

Russia is weaker than it looks

G7 leaders recently agreed to maintain their sanctions on Russia imposed over its belligerence in the Ukraine. The sanctions are there to punish Russian aggression and deter any further territorial expansion. But the debate over how to restrain Russia often misses a clearer understanding of the

Italian push for early election crashes

Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, newly re-elected as leader of the governing Partito Democratico (PD), was triumphant. In an attempt to force an early election, Renzi had negotiated a four-party deal for a new electoral law. The deal (approved by centre-left PD, centre-right Forza

French foreign policy under President Macron

Now the French election cycle is complete, what’s next for France’s foreign and security policy? Macron’s victory on 12 May was decisive (he received 66% of the votes), but his real triumph has been the parliamentary elections. Optimists in his camp would never have anticipated that he would

Angela Merkel: Independent but not alone

The times are not easy for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She faces a national election in September and has assumed the mantel of primus inter pares in Europe since the euro crisis. And now, in the immortal words of another European leader to an American president, she is seeing a US president '

Putin’s Trump-supported hybrid war on the West

It needs to be understood that Russia views the EU and the West generally as an enemy. To say this is not Russophobia. It has been made clear in countless official Russian documents, to say nothing of their routine pronouncements, propaganda and actions. Nor is it something new. There were periods

Angela Merkel declares independence, sort of

German Chancellor Angela Merkel might have just told the Frankfurt beer hall crowd earlier this week that 'The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out'. But she didn't stop there, choosing instead to emphasise the just-completed NATO and G7 meetings with President

Europe’s mixed views on China’s Belt and Road

China’s Belt and Road summit is over but the Chinese narrative is only just getting started. In a video released by the state-owned media outlet China Daily, a Western father tells his daughter a BRI bedtime story: 'China’s idea does not only belong to China. It belongs to the world'. Yet the

Macron and the uprooting of France

For months the world has waited with bated breath for Emmanuel Macron to save France, Europe and democracy by succeeding in his outwardly improbable campaign to become the next French president. Now that he has, it is time to ask: what, with the 'Far Right' duly slain, does he actually have a

From Macron to Renzi: The centre fights back

Emmanuel Macron's decisive victory - 65% to 35% - over Marine Le Pen has calmed fears of a Eurozone crisis and boosted the hopes of centrists and business in Europe that the momentum for populist parties has stalled, at least for now. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman was quick to describe

'A Wary Embrace': Response to Stephen Blank

Stephen Blank's very generous comments on A Wary Embrace arrived too late to cover in my response to the original contributions in The Interpreter debate. But he brings up a number of additional points that deserve a reply. The nature of the China-Russia relationship Blank somewhat

Le Pen’s support grows but Macron still in front

Emmanuel Macron's odds of becoming French President have narrowed in the final sprint to Sunday's election, with four in every ten voters* set to back the extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen. A fierce opponent of immigrants, Muslims and the EU and an admirer of Vladimir Putin, the Front National

UK elections: A May day in June

After promising repeatedly there would be no early election, Prime Minister Theresa May has called a snap poll for 8 June, ostensibly to secure an electoral endorsement for the UK's Brexit negotiating position. May argues she needs the clear backing of British voters to stop other parties

Pages