Yes, Rex Tillerson, U.S. taxpayers should care about Ukraine. Here’s why.

“Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” That was the question that Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, was heard to ask at a meeting of the Group of Seven foreign ministers, America’s closest allies, a day before his visit to Moscow this week. We don’t know what he meant by that question, or in what context it was asked. When queried, the State Department replied that it was a “rhetorical device,” seeking neither to defend nor retract it. Continue reading “Yes, Rex Tillerson, U.S. taxpayers should care about Ukraine. Here’s why.”

Amid Brexit, British citizens are suddenly gripped by nostalgia

The British government invoked Article 50 of the treaty on European Union last week, officially triggering Britain’s departure from the trading arrangements, economic treaties and security agreements that it has shared with other Europeans for more than 40 years. Some people were delighted, others devastated. But a loud subset of British citizens were suddenly gripped by a different emotion: nostalgia. Might it now be possible to turn the clock back to the 1970s — or earlier — in other ways, too? Continue reading “Amid Brexit, British citizens are suddenly gripped by nostalgia”

Every day a new Russian revelation. That’s not as bizarre as it sounds.

The former national security adviser wants to testify under immunity. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee sneaks off to the White House for illicit briefings. Every day brings a new revelation in Washington, and every day reveals the story of someone else’s conversation with someone else from Russia. Continue reading “Every day a new Russian revelation. That’s not as bizarre as it sounds.”

The critical questions on Russia

There is nothing new about a Russian government seeking to exert influence in Western countries. For many decades, the Soviet Union supported Western communist parties and ran disinformation campaigns (Operation Infektion, the campaign to convince the world that the United States invented AIDS, was one of the most famous). The KGB slipped money and guns into the hands of terrorists and extremists, the Red Army Faction and the Irish Republican Army among them. Continue reading “The critical questions on Russia”

Sweden, immigrants and Trump’s post-Enlightenment world

The Enlightenment belief that we can know and understand reality — that we can measure it, weigh it, judge it, use reason to explain it — underlies all of the achievements of Western civilization, from the scientific revolution to the Industrial Revolution to democracy itself. Ever since René Descartes asked himself how it was possible to know that melting wax is the same thing as a candle, we have believed that reason, not mythology, sensibility, emotion or instinct, provides a superior way to understand the world. But is that still true? Continue reading “Sweden, immigrants and Trump’s post-Enlightenment world”

France’s future depends on one question — and one man

The issues under debate in this year’s French presidential election are broad and varied: terrorism and trade, the retirement age and social security, the legacy of France in Algeria and the future of France in Europe. But in truth, only one issue really matters: Can the heady cocktail of fear-mongering, nationalism, nostalgia, resentment, pro-Russian foreign policy and big-government economics — a philosophy that is described, unsatisfyingly, as “far right” or “populist,” that takes a particularly virulent online form and that has contributed to recent electoral victories in the United States and Britain — be defeated in a major Western country? And if so, how? Continue reading “France’s future depends on one question — and one man”

The specter of Trump in Munich


Diplomatic events are always made smoother by a touch of ambiguity. But at this year’s Munich Security Conference, the annual gathering of the the transatlantic alliance, the ambiguity shaded into something a little weirder. Speaker after speaker called for unity and cohesion in the face of the grave dangers facing the Western alliance. But nobody could quite bring themselves to say the truth out loud: that one of the gravest dangers facing the Western alliance is the president of the United States. Continue reading “The specter of Trump in Munich”

“What happens to us?” Why Sweden is so worried about the Trump administration

A winter evening in Stockholm, lights glinting in the harbor, snow falling outside. “And what about us,” I am asked, “up here in the North? What happens to us?” My Swedish companions are journalists, analysts and civil servants, people who care about their country’s national security. Though neither elite nor wealthy, they do share a worldview. They think their country’s prosperity depends on the European Union and its open markets. They also think their safety depends on the United States’ commitment to Europe. And since President Trump took office, they suddenly find themselves staring into an unfathomable abyss. Continue reading ““What happens to us?” Why Sweden is so worried about the Trump administration”

If May embraces Trump, her ‘global Britain’ is doomed


Everybody else was talking about economics. But all through the Brexit referendum campaign and in the months after the vote, I worried about British geopolitics. I worried about Britain’s alliances. I worried that the protracted divorce negotiations between Britain and its closest economic and political partners would create misunderstandings and eventually anger — and indeed, this is already coming to pass. Continue reading “If May embraces Trump, her ‘global Britain’ is doomed”

Trump’s dark promise to return to a mythical past

A green lawn, a white picket fence, a shining sun. Small children walk home from school; their mother, clad in an apron, waves to greet them. Father comes home in the evening from his well-paid job, the same one he has had all of his life. He greets the neighbors cheerfully — they are all men and women who look and talk like he does — and sits down to watch the 6 o’clock news while his wife makes dinner. The sun sets. Everyone sleeps well, knowing that the next day will bring no surprises. Continue reading “Trump’s dark promise to return to a mythical past”