Tuesday 18 Jun 2019 | 23:28 | SYDNEY
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Europe

Superpower scrutiny at Shangri-La

For the past two years, the highlight of the annual IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore was the keynote speech by the sadly departed former US defence secretary Jim Mattis. This year the task of speaking on behalf of America to the leading forum of Asian defence

Europe and the Anglosphere drifting apart

Beyond the somewhat confusing continental results of this month’s elections to the European Parliament, a longstanding trend becomes clearer. Britain is trying to go alone on its nationalist and conservative way, mirroring the US and Australia. At least on the Monday morning after the

The last straw for Theresa May

After Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and David Cameron, Theresa May is the latest Conservative Prime Minister to have been undermined by her inability to manage the divisions within her party over Europe. May tried to achieve something that was always going to be difficult, respecting the outcome

The Sino-Russian relationship is being misunderstood

Too often, the past is mistaken as a guide for the future, rather than as lesson from which to avoid making the same mistakes. Take the relationship between China and Russia as an example. Too often judgements about the decisions of Russian and Chinese politicians are clouded by stereotypes of the

Huawei reaches into Britain

Whatever the true situation behind the sacking of Gavin Williamson as British defence secretary over claims (which he strenuously denies) that he leaked information to the Daily Telegraph from a meeting of the National Security Committee on Chinese telecom company Huawei, one thing is crystal clear

Visa tussles: here come the Irish again

The Irish campaign to gain access to the E-3 visa in the United States has roared back to life.  Currently, Australia is the only country with access to the 10,500 E-3 visa slots. Yet Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who led a delegation of US legislators on a visit to

Notre Dame: the day after the big fire

More than a church went up in flames in the Parisian fire this past Monday night, which destroyed much of the interior of the cathedral Notre Dame, though left the stone façade seemingly intact. Author Ken Follett called the medieval cathedrals in Europe “the pillars of the Earth”. Notre Dame

The souring mood towards Beijing from Berlin

Until recently, Germany was one of the few major Western countries that China had consistently amicable relations with in an increasingly hostile international environment for Beijing’s export-oriented industries and foreign investments. Germany, China’s fourth-largest trade partner, did not

Do you care about Slovakia? You should

Over the weekend, Slovakia held its presidential elections. Slovakian politics is not often on our radar but the decisive victory of Zuzana Caputova is notable because it seems to buck the tide of right-wing populism, conservative nationalism, and Euroscepticism washing over much of the European

The greatest British political crisis of modern times

Brexit appears to be approaching a bewildering denouement. Prime Minister Theresa May has reached a dead end with a negotiated deal that met the criteria for leaving the European Union and would have done so in an orderly fashion but satisfied very few. Hard-line Leavers considered it so much

Ignoring international law in the Blue Pacific

Both the Australian Labor Party and Coalition have expressed support for France to remain as a Pacific power, seeing the French Republic as a stable, democratic, Western ally at a time of growing Chinese influence in the Pacific Islands. Australia’s neighbours are well aware that Australian

Brexit: Britain’s Commonwealth pivot is nothing new

In the midst of Britain’s painful extraction from the European Union, a saga which deepened this week with a second parliamentary defeat for Theresa May’s Brexit deal, key figures on the Conservative right harbour a quiet hope that the Commonwealth will come to the rescue. Notwithstanding the

Fisheries and Brexit – a slippery affair

Despite accounting for a mere 0.12% the UK’s overall economic output, fisheries is one of the most contentious issues in the Brexit jumble. Highly politicised, negotiations on the future fisheries regime could tarnish the overall outcome of British departure from the EU. Issues of British

The global significance of an electoral showdown in Europe

The upcoming fight for seats in the European Parliament will show whether authoritarian National-Populists, globally on the upswing, can extend their reign to the heart of the European Union. The 700-plus members of the European Parliament are elected in each of the 28-member countries of the

Learning from Brexit in Donald Trump’s America

For those of us with an internationalist viewpoint, watching the Brexit process unfold in the context of the Trump Presidency has left us demoralised and despondent. In both cases, we see the rise of populism and demagoguery in great liberal democracies. We see chaos, a self-inflicted wound. And we

Breaking Russia’s space stranglehold

The test launch of a SpaceX astronaut capsule to the International Space Station (without astronauts aboard) is cause for celebration. It marks the debut of the first crew-carrying orbital spacecraft from America since the development of the Space Shuttle decades ago. But it also signifies the

Trouble in Munich: the transatlantic breakup

Since 1963, the Munich Security Conference has been a fixture on the international scene. During the Cold War it was an important forum for debate on the West’s policy towards the Soviet Union. It was often described as a “transatlantic family meeting.” Last weekend I attended the 2019

Film review: They Shall Not Grow Old

Jackson achieves magnificently his professed goal of making a film about the human experience of the war. The commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War were so regular that by 2018 a degree of commemoration fatigue seemed to have set in. Was there anything more than could be said

Russian arms flood Southeast Asia

Russia’s “hard” power is generally well-understood. President Vladimir Putin has ensured this is the case, particularly through his proclivity to showcase Russian strength in Ukraine and Syria. And who could forget Russia’s arsenal of nuclear weapons? Not Donald Trump: just last weekend,

Film Review: Brexit – the Uncivil War

A workable divorce deal hasn’t even been inked, yet already one of the most seismic episodes in British political history has been scripted, dramatised, and broadcast to an audience languishing in the deadlock of its aftermath. Brexit: The Uncivil War centres upon the successful Vote Leave

Brexit: British people vote with their feet

With Prime Minister Teresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal rejected this week by the House of Commons, the future of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union remains as uncertain as ever. Possible scenarios include a further vote on the deal, an exit with no deal agreed, an extension of

Brexit barneys and three big questions

As the tick-tock of the Brexit clock moves toward a deadline of 29 March, the ramifications are fast unfolding. The UK parliament has now comprehensively rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed deal for British withdrawal from the European Union. There is a demand to see Plan B within days

Aid mergers: no unscrambling the egg

Britain’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has called for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to be rolled into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This would be a monumental mistake for a country looking for relevance in a post-Brexit world. Over the past two

Russian gas will not stop China’s air pollution

As Beijing clamps down on air pollution, it is seeking to replace coal power plants with cleaner natural gas, especially for heating during winter. Consequently, China has intensified relations with Russia, one of the world’s leading gas exporters, to expand energy ties. But although upping gas

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

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