Europe/Americas update: June 14 2018



Russia is hosting the FIFA World Cup for the next month–perhaps you’ve heard about that. Which is a nice chance for Vladimir Putin to parade himself around like a world titan. It’s also a nice chance for a bunch of young Russians and young foreigners to meet and mingle. But is that such a good idea? According to Russian politicians, not really. And the reason they offer might will not at all surprise you:

Foreign critics often dismiss Russia’s State Duma as a rubber stamp parliament carrying out the will of President Vladimir Putin. But its members can, and do, weigh in on the country’s most pressing issues. For instance, is it okay to make babies with a charming foreign soccer fan?

Tamara Pletnyova, a member of the Communist Party and chair of the Duma’s Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs, says no. “There will be girls who meet men, and then they will give birth. Maybe they will get married, maybe they won’t. But the kids will suffer, just like they suffered [after the 1980 Moscow Olympics],” she told a Moscow radio station in remarks translated by the Independent.

You can probably tell where this train of thought is leading. She continued: “It is one thing if the parents are of the same race; quite another if they are of different races. We should give birth to our own children.”

Yeah, that’s the stuff. I guess it could be worse–as Keating writes, another Duma member, Aleksandr Sherin, is advising Russians to stay away from foreigners altogether on account of how they’re probably all diseased in some way. He seems nice.


Russian officials also have some advice for Norway: if you’re going to invite the US to station more soldiers in your country, be prepared for some payback:

Oslo announced on Tuesday that it would ask the United States, its NATO ally, to send 700 Marines to train in Norway from 2019, against 330 at present, and said the additional troops would be based closer to the Russian border.

“This makes Norway less predictable and could cause growing tensions, triggering an arms race and destabilizing the situation in northern Europe,” the Russian Embassy said in a statement on its Facebook page.

“We see it as clearly unfriendly, and it will not remain free of consequence.”

OK then. Well, have a nice football tournament anyway.


The Czech Social Democratic Party will announce on Friday that its members have approved entering a coalition with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ANO party. The ongoing corruption investigation into Babiš pre-politics business life has made it difficult for him to cobble together a stable coalition, but since Czech President Miloš Zeman has made it clear that it’s Babiš or bust the Social Democrats have decided to work with him. The coalition will still be a minority, but it is expected to get support from the Czech Communist Party.


While France and Italy are having a little feud over migration, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is currently staring into the abyss over the issue. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who is chair of Merkel’s Christian Social Union coalition partner, is far more reactionary on immigration than Merkel and appears to be on the verge of either pulling out of the governing coalition or at least calling for a confidence vote on Merkel’s chancellorship. This is an almost unprecedented situation in German politics–the CSU, which is active only in Bavaria, and Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union have been allied with one another since the 1940s. But the CSU is currently at risk of losing control in Bavaria to the Nazi-lite Alternative for Germany, and so it’s tacking right in response. And, also Seehofer is a reactionary asshole with racist tendencies.

Seehofer wants to institute a migrant policy that bars most migrants from entering the country, while Merkel wants to wait on implementing a new German policy until after this month’s European Union meeting, wherein she plans on pushing for a new EU-wide migration policy. If she can’t back Seehofer off, her coalition will be at imminent risk of collapse.


Speaking of politicians who are in serious trouble, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras may find himself facing a confidence vote soon over his naming agreement with Macedonia the Republic of Macedonia the Republic of North Macedonia. Tsipras is being accused of caving in for allowing the former Yugoslav republic to keep the name “Macedonia” and the adjective “Macedonian” at all. He’ll probably keep his gig though I wouldn’t put money on it, and more importantly this whole name deal is going to have a really rough time in Athens and may not survive it.


Theresa May is also having a real, real good time. She’s trying to negotiate a deal in parliament that gives MPs a say in the final Brexit deal the UK strikes with Brussels, but doesn’t give them the ability to control the government’s negotiating approach. Unhappy pro-EU Tories want parliament to have substantial power over the eventual settlement, while perpetually aggrieved pro-Brexit Tories are wary of giving parliament any kind of veto over the process. May has multiple pieces of Brexit-related legislation on the agenda and is at risk of losing them, embarrassingly, if she can’t thread this needle.



Nicolás Maduro has a new vice president. He named Constituent Assembly boss Delcy Rodriguez as his VP on Thursday, while shuffling former VP Tareck El Aissami out to take over as minister of industry and national production. El Aissami has been sanctioned by the United States, but it’s unclear whether that was part of the reason for the change.


Nicaraguans engaged in a 24 hour strike starting at midnight on Wednesday, to call for the ouster of President Daniel Ortega. Nearly 150 people have been killed, mostly by Nicaraguan authorities, since protests against Ortega began in April, but he continues to rebuff calls to step aside.


Finally, I thought we’d end with a lighthearted look at HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS:

A senior advisor to the State Department appointed just two months ago has been quietly vetting career diplomats and American employees of international institutions to determine whether they are loyal to President Donald Trump and his political agenda, according to nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials.

Mari Stull, a former food and beverage lobbyist-turned-wine blogger under the name “Vino Vixen,” has reviewed the social media pages of State Department staffers for signs of ideological deviation. She has researched the names of government officials to determine whether they signed off on Obama-era policies — though signing off does not mean officials personally endorsed them but merely cleared them through the bureaucratic chain. And she has inquired about Americans employed by international agencies, including the World Health Organization and the United Nations, asking their colleagues when they were hired and by whom, according the officials.

“She is actively making lists and gathering intel,” said one of the sources, a senior diplomat. Stull was named in April as a senior advisor to the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which manages U.S. diplomatic relations with the United Nations and other international institutions.

Her probing, along with a highly secretive management style, has become so uncomfortable that at least three senior officials are poised to leave the bureau, according to the sources. Officials there have warned some Americans employed by the U.N. to sidestep traditional meet-and-greet sessions with the department’s upper management to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

The Vino Vixen is bringing McCarthyism back. We’re really making American great again now, folks.

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