Wednesday 20 Jun 2018 | 10:23 | SYDNEY
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Europe

The ever-widening Atlantic

“Believe me, I would never have imagined that a German Foreign Minister would ever have to say such a thing.” So confessed Heiko Maas in a remarkable speech delivered in Berlin last week. His subject was nothing less than the demise of the “world order that we once knew”, in

The US and the West: with friends like that ...

In February last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made a startling comment at the 2017 Munich Security Conference. He asserted that “the post–Cold War order” had come to an end, and called instead on “leaders with a sense of responsibility” to

Japan-Russia: Abe’s brutal truth

On 26 May, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow for what was their 21st bilateral meeting. For the most part, the outcomes of that meeting paint a sorry picture for the Abe administration. No meaningful progress was made at the meeting on core

Ireland’s abortion referendum

Ireland is about to vote in a referendum on whether to repeal what is commonly known as the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, and legislate to permit abortion. Much like the 2015 Irish referendum that legalised same-sex marriage, this vote will address changing social attitudes that

Russia: patrons of assassinations

The attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in early March saw a global response sterner than many expected. More than 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from embassies worldwide. Yet despite global condemnation, the assassinations appear to have continued. Russian

AfD and the politics of German identity

Heckles, shrieks, denunciations, and counter-accusations: the nineteenth German Bundestag casts a vastly different impression to the staid, somnolent proceedings of yesteryear. Armed with a tactic of “permanent provocation”, the sudden appearance of nearly 100 representatives from the far-

Can Europe salvage the Iran deal?

Trump finally did it: in perhaps one of the most ridiculous moves of his presidency (although competition on that front is fierce), he announced that his administration would remove the US from the Iran deal and reimpose all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. This is not only a gross violation of

French choreography in the Pacific

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Australia was a frank success, although some observers were puzzled after he raised the idea of a “Paris–New Delhi–Canberra” diamond within an Indo-Pacific axis.  Yet this proposal is clarified by French national objectives

Europe: the movers and the shakers

The way in which the European Union and its member states responded to recent strikes by the US, France, and the UK on Syrian chemical weapons targets very clearly exposes the strengths and weaknesses of European power. One or two Europeans are movers, but most are shakers. When it came down to

In Syria, Trump must collude with Russia

President Donald Trump is under enormous pressure to respond militarily to the latest provocation by the Assad regime, but he would do so against all of his instincts and earlier pronouncements to end US military involvement in the Syrian war. Just days before the chemical attacks in Douma,

Europe and its populists

The overwhelming victory of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party in Hungary’s 8 April elections is yet another sign that nationalist and populist parties are alive and kicking in Europe. Fidesz won 49% of the vote, about the same percentage as the seven largest opposition parties

Rouhani, Erdogan, and Putin’s bizarre love triangle

It appears a new regional security order is encircling Syria as the civil war grinds into its seventh year. This shift was visible last week, when the leaders of Turkey, Iran, and Russia met in Ankara to discuss solutions to the Syrian crisis. The detailed talks covered de-escalation zones

Australia vs China, Europe vs Russia

The “bitter split among Australia academics” (reported in the Financial Times) with regard to attitudes towards China, and the Skripal poisoning incident that prompted an unprecedented number of European countries to take highly symbolic measures against Russia, have a common denominator

Skripal: the weight of evidence

On Tuesday, the head of Britain’s Porton Down laboratory caused a stir when he admitted that his scientists had not identified the “precise source” of the Novichok nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and Skripal’s daughter Yulia, on 4 March. The comment

Skripal: the West escalates, but where is the proof?

Australia, the US, and several EU nations joined forces with Britain this week to expel Russian diplomats from their nations. The decision is based on the widespread view that the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin is responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England earlier

Russian pragmatism on display in South East Asia

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Myanmar recently in a clear display of Moscow’s pragmatism. Many Western observers, especially from the US, present Vladimir Putin as either a Machiavellian mixer with almost superhuman abilities – he who put Donald Trump in the White House and

Russia: the counter-intelligence state

Upon receiving confirmation that the UK had formally accused Moscow of poisoning Sergei Skripal, the former spy, as well as his daughter and 21 others, then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it was almost beyond comprehension that a state would act this way. Unfortunately, this

Russian spy case: dead men walking

“Crush treason ruthlessly, crush it mercilessly.”Modest Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov (1874), Act IV, Scene 2 In theory, Russia prohibits capital punishment – even mass murderers are jailed for life. But in practice, some Russians accused of treason or seen as a threat to the state, or to its

The choice between hard or soft Brexit

It’s been almost a year since the United Kingdom formally notified the European Union of its intention to leave the EU. Since then, the UK and EU have been engaged in intense negotiations about the mechanics of Brexit, all with a view to the UK’s formal departure on 29 March 2019. In

The flawed logic of Russia’s new weapon systems

During his presidential address on 1 March, Vladimir Putin revealed additional information on six major new Russian weapons systems, some unveiled for the first time. Four of the weapons, discussed below, are principally relevant in a strategic nuclear sense; that is, they carry atomic warheads and

Germany gets a government

After five frustrating and tedious months, Germany finally has a government. On Sunday morning, representatives of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) announced that its membership had voted in favour of returning to power as the junior party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Conservative

To Russia: a plea of caution on Syria

The recent UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria was arguably a vital step towards the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to 5.6 million Syrians deemed in “acute need”. Yet shortly after the resolution was unanimously adopted, the Syrian Government

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

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