Date: July 10, 2017

The Bear in the neighbourhood: Comments from experts on Russia policy

Is Russia an existential threat to the West? Is it just another geopolitical adversary? The answer to this question can determine Western action and Western goals. If we consider the Second World War definition of the West, which is limited to Western Europe and North America, policy prescription will be radically different than when one compares an ever expanding NATO and EU. This is important, and has been a major factor in punditry’s analysis of US President Donald Trump’s meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Hamburg G20, at a time of extreme global turmoil.

What we know so far is that there has been external interference in the US presidential election, by cyber attacks, originating from Russian mainland. That’s the US joint Intel assessment. Although the assessment claims that the cyber attack was ordered by Vladimir Putin, no public evidence was forwarded to corroborate that claim, and it is all classified. Nor is there any evidence of any active collusion between Russian intelligence and Trump campaign, yet, nor any clear indication of whether Russian interference decisively tilted the vote count.

Reporting continues to attempt to flesh out details, as investigations continue. Last week the Wall Street Journal reported last week that a Republican operative, Peter Smith, who claimed to have had communications with former Trump official advisor Michael Flynn, was actively seeking Clinton emails from hackers. Matt Tait, a cybersecurity professional who was a source for the Journal‘s reporting, wrote that he was contacted by Smith, who represented himself as working with the Trump campaign, to verify emails he said he had received on the dark web.

Whatever else turns out, Russia is still a geopolitical adversary of the United States and Europe. It is imperative for countries to have a clear coherent grand strategy and one based on a clear understanding of the issues. In light of that, we asked three International Relations experts, two from US, one from UK, on how should the West deal with Russia.

Here’s what they said.

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The (Liberal) Empire strikes back

Cathy Young analyses Trump’s pivotal Warsaw speech, and critiques, alongside many others, my Quillette piece.

Here’s my original.

For the sake of balance you should read both, and I applaud Quillete, and my editor Claire for being so balanced, which is rare in these days of hyper-partisanship, and of course Cathy, who I admire, exceptionally passionate as she is, for the spirited response.

This debate is crucial, for the future direction of US (and UK/Western) FP.

And I hope it continues.

 

 

Anti-European left is welcome to migrate to humanitarian idylls like Zimbabwe

It is sometimes good to be reminded of how stark ideological differences are between us. Many had mixed feelings about President Donald Trump’s pro-Western civilisation speech in Warsaw, but my friend Niall Gooch wrote for many of us when he said two things are true at the same time: Trump is a bad advocate for Western values but those values are real, good and worth defending.

Others disagree. Often in strong terms. Franco Berardi, an Italian member of the pan-European leftist movement Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, offers this description of the continent and its civilisation:

Democratic Europe is an oxymoron, as Europe is the heart of financial dictatorship in the world. Peaceful Europe is an oxymoron, as Europe is the core of war, racism and aggressiveness. We have trusted that Europe could overcome its history of violence, but now it’s time to acknowledge the truth: Europe is nothing but nationalism, colonialism, capitalism and fascism.

Nothing. Philosophical heritage? No, nothing. Scientific progress? No, nothing. Great literature? No, nothing. Great architecture? No, nothing. A home of such unprecedented liberal order that Berardi can insult his homeland and its people in peace? Nothing. 

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La République En Marche?

Can Macron make France a leader of the liberal world order?

The victory of Emmanuel Macron for French president and his party’s majority in parliament was perceived by many as the foundation of a new bulwark against the rise of the far-right both in Europe and around the world. After Hillary Clinton’s disappointing loss to Donald Trump in the United States’ presidential elections, it seems ill-advised to hope for any sort of truly liberal (or, apparently, coherent) leadership from the United States in the near future. The truly worrying support for Marine Le Pen’s candidacy throughout France and, indeed, Europe was enough to have many, including myself, watching the French elections with an interest usually reserved for an Australia-New Zealand Rugby World Cup final.

When the news broke that Macron’s party, En Marche, had (beyond most projections) won an actual parliamentary majority, giving him the requisite power to start making the changes to French labour law that he had been promising throughout his campaign, many political commentators were quite sincerely taken aback. Macron is young, liberal, English-speaking pro-business and pro-European Union. He is about as far as it is possible to get from either of the mainstream French parties, and in a different solar system entirely than that of his rival Marine Le Pen of Front National, the French extreme right.

However, the parliamentary majority that seemed such an impressive victory for Macron and En Marche did come under fire considering the remarkable rate of abstention from voting across France; over half of the country did not vote. Despite that crushing statistic, however, Macron has taken that majority and run, moving quickly to change laws and making a considerable impression both at home in France and overseas.

He moved quickly to secure meetings with foreign leaders and dignitaries, making generally favourable impressions. However, it would be premature to heave the sigh of relief that worldwide observers must be tempted to do.

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