With a NATO summit starting on Wednesday in Brussels, leaders from member states are trying to figure out how best to handle Donald Trump:
The allies see the President Trump of 2018 as different from the one who came to NATO last year — more aggressive, less willing to be moderated or guided by his senior staff and cabinet secretaries, more confident, especially after his meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in his own diplomatic prowess. They worry about his propensity for off-the-cuff pronouncements, like calling for abandoning sanctions against Russia or suspending NATO military exercises.
The allies believe they have a decent story to tell about military initiatives to deter Russia, and they are expected to emphasize the considerable progress they have made in reaching spending targets, increasing spending on equipment and improving the readiness of their forces. And they have learned from the last year that handling Mr. Trump with kid gloves only seems to prompt his contempt.
That being said, the Europeans will still be operating at a disadvantage, analysts say. “They’re caught between dependency and outrage,” said Jan Techau of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “Outrage means to push back, it’s a question of dignity, but the strategic dependency is real, so you have to endure it,” he said.
Trump is already starting to whine about NATO member defense spending, his favorite NATO-related gripe, so it promises to be a real fun summit.
When Donald Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki next week one assumes the subject of Ukraine will come up at some point. Though, hell, it’s Donald Trump, who knows? Anyway, the Ukrainian government says it’s received “assurances” that Trump will not cave to Putin on Ukraine-related issues. So you should probably expect Trump to come out of the Helsinki meeting ready to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea or something.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis was forced on Monday to fire the head of the country’s anti-corruption agency, Laura Codruta Kovesi. He didn’t want to fire her, but Kovesi was terminated by Romania’s justice ministry back in February on the grounds of being too good at her job, and Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled in May that Iohannis, because Romania’s presidency is a weak office, doesn’t have the power to overrule the cabinet. The Romanian government’s quest to decriminalize corruption continues to thrill and astound.
REPUBLIC OF NORTH (?) MACEDONIA
With its naming dispute with Greece at least temporarily in the rear view mirror, the Macedonian government is expecting to begin the NATO membership process when the alliance meets in Brussels later this week. Just in time for Trump to demand they spend more on defense.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz may be blazing a trail for European center-right parties hoping to survive the onslaught from fringe right populists:
The Austrian political analyst Thomas Hofer thinks that Kurz “indeed embodies a new type of political conservativism in Europe” by managing to establish a new position in between classical European center-right conservativism and right-wing populism. “He argues populistically, but in a much more agreeable manner than right-wing populist representatives,” he said. Hofer cited Kurz’s stance on migration and welfare policies as examples of the chancellor trying to walk the middle ground between hard-liners and moderates. “As such, he can serve as an example for other conservative parties in Europe when it comes to their repositioning,” he said. At the same time, Hofer cautioned that applying Kurz’s strategy to other countries may not be a winning strategy, because it is partially predicated upon the exceptional communication skills of the Austrian chancellor himself and his ability to attract the disaffected while not alienating those content with the basic status quo.
Basically this amounts to taking the worst part of center-right politics–the subservience to wealth and business at the expense of anyone who isn’t wealthy and doesn’t own a business–and the worst part of populism–the racism–and weaving them into a glorious shit tapestry that manages to both co-opt and cave in to the diseased right wing fringe all at the same time. Kudos to him.
Sometimes the best way to make fun of the Dauphin of France is just to let his words speak for themselves:
Faced with declining poll numbers and suspicions that he favors the rich, President Emmanuel Macron of France fiercely defended his business-oriented approach in a speech on Monday, declining to renounce policies that have seen decreases in taxes for the wealthy as well as in protections for workers.
“If you want to share the cake, you’ve got to have a cake,” Mr. Macron told a joint session of the French Parliament, in what he has established as an American-style annual state of the union address. “It’s misleading to fight for employees if you don’t also defend companies.”
The Second French Revolution is going to absolutely rip.
Well I hope you’re all satisfied, because you’re not going to have Boris Johnson to kick around anymore:
Boris Johnson has quit as foreign secretary, claiming in his resignation letterthat the UK was headed “for the status of a colony” if Theresa May’s soft Brexit plans were adopted.
The leading Brexiter said that he tried to support the line agreed at Chequers on Friday but while the “government now has a song to sing” he could not manage to support the plan agreed.
“The trouble is that I have practised the words over the weekend and find that they stick in the throat,” Johnson wrote. “Since I cannot in all conscience champion these proposals, I have sadly concluded that I must go.”
Johnson was the third minister to quit in 24 hours following the Chequers deal, although his resignation was announced by Downing Street at 3pm before he had a chance to complete his letter.
May has now managed to turn what seemed to be a general agreement among her cabinet on Friday into a situation where her cabinet is hemorrhaging ministers and her job is once again hanging by a thread. Oh, and only 29 percent of the British public now trusts her to properly handle Brexit. I’m amazed it’s that high, to be honest.
It takes 15 percent of Tory ministers, or 48 of them, to trigger a vote of no confidence. At this point it’s unclear if that many have submitted the necessary letter to do so, though senior party figures outside the cabinet are saying they don’t envision a challenge to May’s leadership yet. Apparently she acquitted herself well at a party meeting on Monday evening so she’s sticking around for now.
May appointed former “Remain” voter turned Brexit supporter Jeremy Hunt as her new foreign secretary late Monday. Meanwhile, she’s trying to claw back some dignity by taking a farcical hard line toward the European Union, demanding that they “engage constructively with her new Brexit proposal or risk seeing the UK crash out of the bloc without a deal.” It’s been apparent for quite a while now that the EU prefers seeing the UK crash out without a deal to giving in on any of its four key points. So, you know, good luck with all of that.
Finally, via Twitter the Huffington Post’s Zach Carter puts the Trump administration’s hostility to breastfeeding in the context of the Clinton and Obama administrations’ approaches to global health issues. This doesn’t paint either Clinton or Obama in a very good light:
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