Thursday 13 Dec 2018 | 02:16 | SYDNEY
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Europe

Brexit deal debate reveals dark side to EU diplomacy

The saving grace of a nasty divorce is durable insight into the true values of the parties involved. And so, with Brexit. The Withdrawal Agreement – which has triggered rancorous opposition in parliament and a political crisis in the UK – lays bare the diplomatic cards. Whatever its eventual

The distant fate of Russia’s Far East

Ten years ago, Vladivostok was the scene of street marches and demonstrations. The area known as the Russian Far East had experienced a long economic slump after the collapse of the old Soviet Union and anger had built. The demonstrations were eventually and brutally put down after riot police were

Russia-Ukraine: soggy response to Kerch aggression

With its doctrine of scrupulous media balance – “they said, he said, we don’t know” – Western reporting on the latest phase in Russia’s relentless imperialist aggression against Ukraine has been as misleading as what has gone before. Even the sight of Russian special forces swarming

Brexit: the Northern Ireland conundrum

Seamus Heaney, the late Irish poet and playwright, once (half-) joked that “anyone born and bred in Northern Ireland can’t be too optimistic”. Optimism in Northern Ireland is certainly in short supply. British Prime Minister Theresa May has presented a draft agreement with the European

The Merkel legacy – a study in shades

In announcing this week that she would recontest neither the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union in December nor the German Chancellorship at elections scheduled for 2021, Angela Merkel was being her characteristic self. Conceding to political reality without acting impulsively, her plan

Trump scores a win over Russia

Typically, Vladimir Putin answered Washington’s decision this month to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by making new nuclear threats against Europe. His posturing underscored why this was the right decision. Better known as the INF Treaty, this agreement was signed in 1987

India’s Arctic energy partnership with Russia

When people discuss Indo-Russian relations, they generally focus on Russia’s arms sales to India. However, India’s energy relations with Moscow also possess considerable and, arguably, growing significance. This was revealed at the latest bilateral summit this month during Vladimir Putin

Europe: Merkel, May, and Moscovici

Underlining the continuing chaos in Europe, it has not been a good week for Germany, the UK, or Italy. The end of the tunnel looks far away, and unrelentingly dark. In Germany, the extraordinary result in this month’s state election in Bavaria has shaken an already weakened Chancellor

European companies driven out of Iran

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering a review of Australia’s support for the Iran nuclear deal. The news comes after US President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal in May from what is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The US has subsequently

Beware of fighter pilots bearing gifts

In late September, an interesting news story populated some portions of the internet. A person purporting to be a (possibly retired) Russian fighter pilot flying one of Moscow’s most modern jets, a Su-35, claimed to have engaged in (and won) a mock air-combat against America’s premier fighter

Not (yet?) a European Army

The headline “Armed force of 10,000 to patrol borders” recently featured from the European Union about Frontex is not quite what it appears to be. It does not herald the nucleus of an European Army, but then again, the EII might. Confused? You are not the only one “lost in EU

Germany: A tale of two conservatisms

It was a political scandal that cooler heads could so easily have resolved: Hans-Georg Maaßen, President of Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, publicly expressed ‘scepticism’ that footage showing migrants being chased by right-wing demonstrators through the streets of

The crowded skies of Syria

The downing of a Russian Il-20 aircraft off the Syrian coast this week with the death of 15 personnel is another reminder of the cost to Moscow of its pro-regime military intervention. A little over six months ago, nearly 40 Russians died when a transport aircraft crashed on approach to

The Sino-Russian entente

Russia’s Vostok-18 exercises have received significant attention, thanks mainly to the Kremlin’s grand announcements about their scale. If Russia’s defence ministry is to be believed, up to 300,000 military personnel from all services will take part. Notably, they will

Russia’s Vostok-2018: a rehearsal for global war?

What are we to make of Russia’s Vostok (East)-2018 exercise? From 11–15 September Russia’s Far East will host Vostok-2018 the largest Russian military exercise since Zapad (West)-1981. According to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, this latest exercise will engage some 300,000 Russian

Why a US–Russia team–up against China is unlikely

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month, one might wonder if the US and Russia are considering the formation of, if not an explicit partnership against China, then at least an informal condominium. Trump seemed to lend some credence to this speculation

Is Russia’s military better than America’s?

The US will devote $700 billion to its budget for 2018, dwarfing Russia’s $66 billion effort, a trend that has been consistent for more than 25 years. Yet Russia’s military has been relatively successful in recent conflicts, while the US armed forces have not. American wars

POTUS does a Putin

On 8 November 2016 a combination of the American constitution and vox populi – with perhaps a little help from elsewhere – placed enough power in the hands of a roué real-estate tycoon to affect the lives of every one of the 7.6 billion individuals on planet Earth. Events and trends

Russia’s disinformation game in Southeast Asia

In December, two Russian strategic bombers made an unusual flight to the Indonesian airbase on Biak in the province of Papua, where they conducted an air alert drill. Across the Arafura Sea in Darwin, Royal Australian Air Force squadrons went into a state of heightened alert. To the extent there

Indo-Pacific: are the British coming back?

The British Royal Navy looks set to make a significant reappearance in the Indo-Pacific after the long distraction of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Australian decision to buy nine BAE Systems Type 26 ASW frigates is the latest in a flurry of indications suggesting the UK has an increased

Trump-Putin: beyond election meddling

The Helsinki Summit, as it was dubbed, saw US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin come together with a formal agenda to discuss US-Russia relations, disarmament, the Syria and Ukraine crises, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula. But the moment was judged as a contest and

The President, his partners, and Putin

Donald Trump has left Europe reeling following his just-concluded visits to Brussels for the NATO summit, London for a bilateral visit, and to Helsinki to meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  Trump has also not shied away from interfering in the domestic politics of his partners … and delivered

High anxiety: Donald Trump’s summits

US President Donald Trump evidently expects his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin to be the easiest of his upcoming high-level meetings. If so, he has brought that condition upon himself. Trump’s choleric, ignorant, menacing, and, to be honest, strategically illiterate ramblings about

Boris Johnson exits. Pass the salt.

So it’s farewell Bonza Boris, for the moment at least. Boris Johnson, now former British foreign secretary, travelled to Sydney in July last year to deliver the Lowy Lecture, when he gently poked fun at himself and his youthful exploration of Australia, as well as the two countries

Novichok poisoning and the test for Britain

When England struck their winning penalty against Colombia at the end of a tense night of football on Tuesday, old assumptions crumbled. Had the team exorcised its fear of shoot-outs? Could they reach the final? And would the British Government really maintain its official boycott of Russia’s

Tail wagging the dog: Seehofer in Germany

Horst Seehofer loves to play the tough guy. Up to a point, anyway, and never jeopardising his position at the pinnacle of political power in Germany. The divisive issue of immigration allows smaller parties of the extreme right to jerk around their bigger coalition partners. Seehofer,

Denmark: fading out ghettoes

In Denmark, if you have dark skin and weren’t born in that country, chances are you live in what is officially dubbed a “ghetto”.  Ghettoes in Denmark are characterised by the government as neighbourhoods with high levels of unemployment, more frequent occurrences of

The sports make-over

Before a ball had even been kicked at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, star Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah was courted for a photo-op with Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov. Big international sports tournaments have been a familiar platform for countries to attempt to normalise global

Australia and Germany should work together on China

Efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to influence Australian politics have made headlines since 2017. In recent months, similar attempts have been at the centre of German debates. While geographically distant, Australia and Germany are well suited to address this challenge jointly,

Moscow’s other navy

Russia’s Navy is a highly visible and generally well-understood instrument of Moscow’s military power that has been on a slow process of re-equipment from its 1990s nadir. It now wields a fairly impressive range of capabilities, from new medium-sized ships, such as corvettes

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

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