Ukraine’s government just faked a journalist’s death. Will it be worth the cost?

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  • Anne Applebaum

KIEV, Ukraine — One of the reasons democracies have responded so ineptly to the flood tide of crass disinformation coming from Russia is that there is no obvious form of counter-strike, no straightforward tit-for-tat response. The Russian president lied about invading Ukraine, for example — the men in uniform crawling all over Crimea were just soldiers on vacation, he said, who might have bought their military equipment in shops. When he awarded medals to those same soldiers a few months later, what would have been an adequate, measured reaction? Blast fake news across the border? Tell lots of crazy Vladimir Putin stories, just to see which ones stick? Continue reading “Ukraine’s government just faked a journalist’s death. Will it be worth the cost?”

Ireland’s abortion referendum reminds us that history is never written in stone

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  • Anne Applebaum

I was in Dublin in May 2015, on the day that Ireland held a referendum on same-sex marriage. The “yes” vote — in favor of allowing gays to marry — won resoundingly. That night, I walked through a street party which took over the city center. People spilled out of the pubs, sat on the curbs, talked and laughed. I was in town for a literary festival and asked one of the people who’d invited me how she had voted. She’d voted yes, she told me, though not because she was particularly invested in same-sex marriage. Instead, she said, “I wanted to show the Catholic Church that they don’t rule us anymore.” Continue reading “Ireland’s abortion referendum reminds us that history is never written in stone”

Trump’s actions on North Korea have consequences. Here’s a list of them.

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  • Anne Applebaum

It was mocked when it first appeared a few days ago. But now the White House commemorative coin — the one struck to mark the great peace summit between President Trump and “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong Un — will go down in history. Like the famous “ Inverted Jenny ” — a 1918 stamp with the image of an airplane printed upside down — the coin has already become a collectible. It pompously marks an event that isn’t going to happen, and its price will rise sharply as a result. Continue reading “Trump’s actions on North Korea have consequences. Here’s a list of them.”

Zuckerberg’s visit to Brussels shows European politicians also have no clue about social media

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  • Anne Applebaum

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. But we should still be profoundly disturbed: It has now become clear that our elected representatives, the people whom we send to parliaments and congresses to make laws on our behalf, cannot cope with the profound technological changes that are transforming our political debate. The poor performance of the U.S. Senate, some of whose members were barely capable of posing questions to Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg during a hearing last month, might have been an anomaly. Now the European Parliament has managed to organize an unsatisfying hearing as well. Continue reading “Zuckerberg’s visit to Brussels shows European politicians also have no clue about social media”

Watch what happens in Rome. It could be our post-Trump future.

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  • Anne Applebaum

The Northern League started out as a secessionist party, advocating the breakup of Italy and independence for the northern provinces. The Five Star Movement started out as a joke — it was invented by a comedian — and then became a social media operation. Both evolved: The Northern League turned itself into a far-right party, using aggressive language about immigrants, while the Five Star Movement adopted some classic left-wing policies, calling for a universal income and high public spending. Together, they are now set to run the Italian government. Continue reading “Watch what happens in Rome. It could be our post-Trump future.”

Let us hope John McCain’s vision of America long outlasts him

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  • Anne Applebaum

“I have been amusing myself latterly with reading the voluminous letters of Cicero. [T]hey certainly breathe the present effusions of an exalted patriot, while the parricide Caesar is left in odious contrast.” Those words were written by Thomas Jefferson on Dec. 10, 1819, in a letter to John Adams, himself a great Cicero scholar. America’s second president even modeled himself on the great Roman orator and politician: “All the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher,” Adams once wrote. Continue reading “Let us hope John McCain’s vision of America long outlasts him”

Trump has put America in the worst of all possible worlds

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  • Anne Applebaum

In retrospect, the era of American hegemony — the moment of the “sole superpower,” when the United States was the “essential” country — was remarkably brief. It began in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, probably peaked just before 9/11, and for the past decade — under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama — it has been drawing slowly and unevenly to an end. Even while it lasted, this hegemony was partly a game of smoke and mirrors. It depended on perceptions: belief in American wealth, fear of American military power, admiration for American values. It depended on the absence of opponents: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the relative weakness of China. Continue reading “Trump has put America in the worst of all possible worlds”

In Trump’s White House, foreign policy is now made on a whim

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  • Anne Applebaum

Quite a few Europeans woke up Tuesday morning to sunshine (the weather is finally good here) and some cheerful news: The Trump administration would not, in fact, be slapping steel and aluminum tariffs on the continent, and the European Union would not, in fact, be responding with tariffs of its own. Even the night before, no one knew what the White House would decide. Extraordinary preparations had already been made. The E.U.’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, had drawn up a list of carefully chosen retaliatory tariffs, including one on motorcycles (meant to affect Harley-Davidson Inc., which is based in Wisconsin, the home state of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan) as well as bourbon (from Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell). Continue reading “In Trump’s White House, foreign policy is now made on a whim”

People power worked in Armenia. It won’t work everywhere.

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  • Anne Applebaum

“When I saw the masses of East German citizens there, I knew they were in the right.” A quarter-century later, that was how Lt. Col. Harald Jäger explained his decision to open the gates and let his fellow citizens through the Berlin Wall. Jäger was guarding a border checkpoint on Nov. 9, 1989, in the hours after East German leaders had announced that the travel rules were changing. As Berliners flocked to the wall, demanding to cross into the West, he asked repeatedly for clarification from his superiors, but nothing was forthcoming. Continue reading “People power worked in Armenia. It won’t work everywhere.”