Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

6
Sep

BACK in June, after Spain’s second indecisive election in six months, the general expectation was that Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, would swiftly form a new government. Although his conservative People’s Party (PP) did not win back the absolute majority it had lost in December, it remained easily the largest party, with 137 of the 350 seats in the Cortes (parliament), and was the only one to increase its share of the vote. But the summer holidays have come and gone and Spain’s political stalemate is no closer to ending. That is cause for growing frustration and concern.

In two parliamentary votes, on August 30th and September 2nd, Mr Rajoy fell tantalisingly short of securing a mandate, with 170 votes in favour but 180 against. These votes started the clock for a third election, once seen as unthinkable. If no one can secure a majority by the end of October, parliament will be dissolved and Spaniards would face a Christmas election.

For this, most commentators put the blame squarely on Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the opposition Socialists. His 85 deputies hold the balance of power. But he refuses to allow enough of them to abstain to give Mr Rajoy his mandate. He accuses Mr Rajoy and the PP of betraying the trust of Spaniards and of burdening the country with austerity and corruption. Read more…

http://www.economist.com/

Sept. 5th, 2016

21
Aug

Germany and the UK: Hints of a Role Reversal

Written on August 21, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Foreign Policy

This piece was created in collaboration with the European Council on Foreign Relations. Almut Moeller is the co-head of ECFR’s Berlin office. The views expressed are the author’s own.

“Summer is off” was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s message at the end of July when she decided to interrupt her holidays for her annual summer press briefing. In the aftermath of the attacks in Wuerzburg, Munich, and Ansbach, as well as the attempted military coup in Turkey, Merkel felt compelled to address the German public on some fundamental questions of government policy.

The chancellor is traditionally expected to cover a lot of ground in this press briefing. And indeed, Merkel admitted in her typically sober and understated style that she did not feel “unterausgelasted” (“underworked”) by the number and scope of challenges to German and European societies. She even admitted to sometimes feeling like she needed a good dose of sleep — and suggested that all the events that have left the European Union and its members increasingly frail and disunited required deep reflection.

For policy analysts as well, this summer has hardly seemed like “time off,” but has nonetheless been a time for the brain to take a break from the news-driven routine and to engage in some bigger and longer-term thinking. Summer seminars — usually convened in pleasant settings — often provide just the right change of scenery to help structure one’s thinking process. And this year, British-German seminars have been particularly thought-provoking. Read more…

By Almut Moeller
August 18, 2016

18
Aug

What Exactly Is Going On In Ukraine?

Written on August 18, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Foreign Policy, Security

Among Russia watchers, the month of August has become somewhat notorious. Rare is the year that goes by without an eventful August. Sometimes the chaos is internal (the wildfires of 2010 and 2012), while other years the events are external (2008’s Russia-Georgia War comes to mind).

This year, another August surprise seems increasingly possible. The Ukrainian territories that have been occupied by Russia since 2014 are taking their turn in the spotlight. While violence in the east of the country—the so-called Lugansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics—has begun to ramp up considerably, the past days have seen worrisome developments in Russian-annexed Crimea.

The circumstances are still somewhat murky, but it seems clear that some kind of incident occurred on the Russian-occupied side of the Crimean border that resulted in the death of two Russian service members. While the events occurred over the weekend, they did not fully escalate until a few days later. The Russians have accused Ukraine of crossing that border—into what is de jure Ukrainian land—and committing “terrorist acts” that “we will not let pass idly by.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s monitoring mission could not “confirm media reports of security incidents involving shooting or military activities” in northern Crimea, and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt has written that the United States “government has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russian allegations.” Read more…

Hannah Thoburn, Aug. 11th, hudson.org.org

19
Jul

Deniz Torcu es economista y máster en Estudios de la UE y en Relaciones internacionales
19.07.2016

El intento de golpe de Estado en la noche del viernes 15 de julio ha sido una sorpresa tanto para Turquía como para la comunidad internacional. A pesar de haber sobrevivido a una historia llena con golpes de Estado en el siglo pasado, nadie preveía un nuevo –y débil– intento de tomar el poder en este siglo. Una fracción del ejército turco supuestamente vinculada a Fettulah Gülen, el clérigo islámico que reside en Pensilvania desde hace décadas en un exilio autoimpuesto, trató de tomar el control del Estado de una manera bastante torpe, apenas cerrando puentes y enviando tanques a los principales aeropuertos, mientras que el objetivo principal, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, era capaz de detener tranquilamente sus vacaciones en la costa del Sur para conectar con los medios de comunicación a través de su teléfono móvil.

Nada más aterrizar con total seguridad en el aeropuerto Ataturk de Estambul, Erdogan pidió a la gente salir a las calles. Su llamada fue seguida de inmediato por miles de seguidores y tuvo el eco de numerosas mezquitas que comenzaron a llamar a la oración, para apoyar al Gobierno y luchar contra los rebeldes del Ejército. Y con las primeras luces del sábado 16, Erdogan anunció que “el Presidente y el Gobierno democráticamente elegidos están a cargo de la situación y todo terminará bien”. Al cabo de pocas horas, grandes fracciones rebeldes del ejército comenzaron a entregarse a una policía que en todo momento se mantuvo leal a Erdogan. Read more…

5
Jul

RICHARD SOKOLSKY is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s policy planning staff.

In a pre-retirement interview[1] on May 1, NATO’s top military officer, General Philip Breedlove, warned that the Russian military might not be ten feet tall but was “certainly close to seven.” NATO’s war planners are right to worry about the Russian military threat to its eastern flank. Fortunately, the alliance may be in a stronger position than it thinks—and although its leaders may not realize it, what is important is that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals almost certainly do.

NATO’s efforts to build a stronger deterrent and defense posture in the east are necessary and long overdue. But they may not be enough to de-escalate the alliance’s confrontation with Russia and reduce the risk of a direct conflict. Two years after NATO launched plans to beef up defenses on its eastern front, a midcourse correction is needed to reduce the risk of a collision with Russia.

NATO’s perception of the Russian threat has changed dramatically since Moscow gobbled up Crimea. Once thought to be outmanned and outgunned[2] by NATO, Russia is now seen by many observers as a superior military force, poised to overrun an alliance that is “outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned[3]” on its eastern flank. From the West’s perspective, Russia is a revisionist, neoimperialist, and expansionist power determined to overturn the post–Cold War European security order, destroy NATO’s cohesion, and restore its sphere of influence throughout the former Soviet Union. As a military alliance with a collective security commitment at its core, NATO should be reinforcing its exposed eastern flank with a more persistent presence of heavier forces to reassure these countries of NATO’s resolve and capacity to make good on its Article 5 commitment. Military organizations are prone to plan conservatively, and NATO is basing its plans on a worst-case scenario.

From where Putin sits, however, “the correlation of forces,” to use an old Soviet phrase, probably looks quite different. From the Kremlin’s perspective, in its decision to spread east, NATO has muscled in on Russia’s traditional turf. Meanwhile, Moscow believes the United States seeks to subvert the Putin regime by promoting democracy in and around the country. Russia’s estimates of the military balance with NATO are permeated by a deep sense of inferiority in terms of conventional Prompt Global Strike capabilities, nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberweapons, and even the much-hyped hybrid forms of warfare. The Russian general staff, like NATO’s military planners, are basing their plans on worst-case thinking as well. Read more…

June 29, 2016; www.foreignaffairs.com

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