Russia’s latest attack on the Ukrainians is a warning to the West

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

On Saturday evening, three small Ukrainian naval vessels left the Ukrainian port of Odessa and headed for the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Along the way, they had to pass through the Kerch Strait, a sliver of water that lies between the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula and the Russian mainland. The Ukrainian ships were well within their rights to be there — a similar group of ships went through the strait just a month ago, and a 2003 treaty guarantees the rights of both nations to use those waters. But this time, in a carefully arranged provocation, Russian ships fired on the Ukrainian ships — and then seized them, along with 23 crew members. Continue reading “Russia’s latest attack on the Ukrainians is a warning to the West”

Iran’s regime could fall apart. What happens then?

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

We are now more than two weeks into a new sanctions regime on Iran, and it will be a long time before it ends. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has listed 12 conditions that Iran needs to meet before that happens. They include a permanent cessation of Iranian support for revolutionary groups abroad, as well as a permanent halt to Iran’s nuclear program. By its own definition, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a revolutionary regime dedicated to exporting its form of radical Islam; it’s also a theocracy that relies on nationalist sentiment to maintain its support. In other words, these conditions are not going to be met anytime soon. Continue reading “Iran’s regime could fall apart. What happens then?”

A not-so-fond farewell to Dana Rohrabacher, Putin’s best friend in Congress

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  • Anne Applebaum

It took a while for Orange County, Calif., to count all the mail-in votes, but officials there did it. The result: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) will be leaving Congress after 15 terms in the House. So as he leaves the stage, let’s spend a little bit of time saying goodbye to Rohrabacher, the soon-to-be ex-congressman from California’s 48th District. For Rohrabacher is, in his way, quite an important symbolic figure: He is the living, breathing embodiment of the moral corruption that has seeped into a part of the Republican Party foreign policy establishment — the part that long ago stopped caring about U.S. leadership of the democratic world. Continue reading “A not-so-fond farewell to Dana Rohrabacher, Putin’s best friend in Congress”

A bittersweet commemoration exposes ominous rifts in our new world order

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

On the 11th day of the 11th month and at the 11th hour — the moment at which the armistice ending World War I was declared a century ago — the leaders of the nations that once murdered one another during that brutal conflict gathered in Paris. That was expected. The surprise was the degree to which a formal occasion so brilliantly exposed the relationships between former allies and former opponents today. Continue reading “A bittersweet commemoration exposes ominous rifts in our new world order”

Trump campaigned to protect himself, not help Republicans

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

The midterms are over, so expect President Trump to adjust accordingly: The “caravan” will now drop out of the news; the troops sent to the border will quietly pass their time drilling in the Texas sunshine. The conspiracy websites and QAnon groups that have been chattering about “the invasion” for weeks will shift their focus, because they aren’t needed anymore. It’s not an accident that Trump lost his temper precisely at the moment when Jim Acosta of CNN posed a direct question about the caravans. The president knows the story was a stunt, and he wants to move on. Continue reading “Trump campaigned to protect himself, not help Republicans”

We have learned a lot about online disinformation — and we are doing nothing

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

In the two years that have passed since the 2016 election, we have learned a lot about malignant disinformation campaigns in Western democracies. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has indicted the Russian operatives who created fake identities and ran targeted advertising on Facebook. The ads themselves — supporting extreme anti-immigration groups and the phony “Army of Jesus” on the one hand, and fake “black lives matter” slogans on the other — have been made public. Reams of words have been written, studies have been made. We know how social media increases polarization, how fact-checking only reaches a narrow audience, how the lack of regulation enables false and opaque political advertisements, how algorithms favor angry and extreme views. Congress, Britain’s Parliament and the European Union have all held hearings to discuss the problem. Facebook and Twitter have taken down some Russian-origin accounts. Continue reading “We have learned a lot about online disinformation — and we are doing nothing”

We must fight harder against homegrown terrorism. But it won’t happen under Trump.

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Right now, the threat to ordinary Americans from homegrown terrorists, radicalized by racist and nativist conspiracies they read on the Internet, is significantly higher than the threat from Islamist terrorists, radicalized by jihadist conspiracies they read on the Internet. But as a nation, we aren’t going to admit it, and we aren’t going to stop it.

Continue reading “We must fight harder against homegrown terrorism. But it won’t happen under Trump.”

Stop helping demagogues change the subject

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

In Manila, the traffic is so bad that it isn’t worth driving anywhere during the day, because a couple of miles will take a couple of hours. In other parts of the Philippines, only a third of children ever finish primary school. Nevertheless, the loudest political debate in the Philippines, over the past two years, was not about public transportation or public education. Continue reading “Stop helping demagogues change the subject”

In Poland, another blow to the Catholic Church

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Sometimes works of art – books, plays, movies, songs – can change a culture. But sometimes, they epitomize how a culture has changed. Forty years ago, in October 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was named Pope John Paul II, galvanizing a wave of Catholic and secular activism in Poland that helped bring down a totalitarian regime. But now it’s October 2018. Record numbers of Poles are flocking to see a searing, painful film that condemns the Polish Catholic Church as corrupt and hypocritical. Continue reading “In Poland, another blow to the Catholic Church”