The U.S. Presidential Election occurs on November 3, 2020.
Due to the Pandemic, it is quite likely that there will be a huge number of postal votes. These votes must bear the signature of the person voting otherwise the ballot could be discounted.
This election could create huge problems with lawyers challenging votes and people taking to the streets to support their candidate.
Trump has already said if he trails in the vote he will say it is a fix and will challenge. In other words unless Biden wins by a large amount of votes and gets enough Electoral College votes, Trump will not accept the results. The Electoral College has the votes by States equal to that States’ number of Congressmen plus its two Senators. Thus California has 55 votes whereas Montana has just three votes.
If neither candidate gets enough Electoral College votes to win (270 needed), the Constitution requires the House of Representatives to select the President and the Senate the Vice President.
Under the Constitution, each STATE delegation in the House gets 1 vote. If States with an equal distribution of Democrats and Republicans, Biden and Trump may not succeed in getting the 26 votes required. The House becomes deadlocked.
The Senate can choose the Vice President by simple majority vote which has a Republican majority.
If the House is deadlocked when Trump’s term expires on January 20, the line of succession kicks in and either Pence or Harris become President. With this Senate that would be Pence.
THIS IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT EVERYONE VOTES EARLY AND REMEMBERS TO SIGN THEIR POSTAL VOTES SO THEY ARE NOT CHALLENGED.
We know already that Putin wants his puppet Trump re-elected and the Russians will do what they can to mess things up.
A study of young Americans has shown some terrifying results about the Holocaust.
23% says it’s a myth or exaggerated
10% don’t think it happened
12% had never heard of it
11% think the Jews were responsible
63% are unaware that 6 million Jews perished
Adults between 18 and 39 (48%) could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto in the second world war.
These facts are astonishing and very disturbing.
On the 16th October 2019, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim near Krakow, Poland. It is a place that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
On the 12th October 2019 I was in Berlin and visited the part of Berlin called Wanssee and the house where the Final Solution was planned by a group of highly educated men
The highly educated men were Reinhard Heydrich, Otto Hofmann, Heinrich Müller, Adolf Eichmann, Martin Luther, Erich Neumann, Wilhelm Kritzinger and Drs. Roland Freisler, Josf Bühler, Alfred Meyer, Wilhelm Stuckart, Rudolf Lange, Eberhard Schöngarth, Georg Leibbrandt, Gerhard Klopfer.
It is truly alarming this ignorance as the right wing in several countries are on the rise so could genocide once again be inflicted on the human race?
In February I moved to The Philippines to marry my sweetheart but it didn’t work out so I have returned to the U.K.
I have come back to a Government that is so totally incompetent and quite alarming. The U.K. has the worst Covid-19 infections in Europe due to this incompetence.
Even more alarming is that the Brexit Trade negotiations are going nowhere and the latest event is that the Government is introducing a piece of legislation that will break International Law and is quite open about this fact. The Prime Minister, a quack called Boris Johnson, led by an adviser Dominic Cummings who is intrinsically evil, is so disorganised in his thinking that he is way out of his depth. Johnson is a Trump clone with sociopathic tendencies who is out for just himself. He has surrounded himself with Cabinet members who are out of their depth as well.
The Conservative Party has brought this situation to the present mess. First David Cameron called a Referendum on our membership of the European Union and lost it. He called it to try and unite the factious party. Instead he has divided the nation into two camps. He resigned and was succeeded by Theresa May who was worse still. She would say memes like Brexit is Brexit which had no meaning at all. She was intransigent in her dealing with the E.U. and failed. She even called a General Election to attempt to get a bigger majority and only succeeded in reducing her majority to single digits.
So she resigned and the party chose Boris Johnson as its leader. He is a chancer, a father of many children whom I fully expect he cannot name and a man of no firm conviction. As a journalist for the Daily Telegraph he wrote two columns – one pro-EU (Remain) and one anti-EU (Leave). He decided that being a Leaver would get him the top job so that is the way he jumped. He called an election and won in a landslide due mainly to the fact that the Labour Party was led by a man (Jeremy Corbin) incapable of leading his party let alone the country. He was far left and seemed to be anti-semitic to boot as the party fell in the polls. He has now been replaced by Keir Starmer, a more centrist man.
So the situation in the United Kingdom is that it is far from United. Scotland is led by the Scottish Nationalist Party which wants to remain in the EU and leave the Union. Wales may go the same way. The biggest problem is Northern Ireland which shares the island it is on with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. There is an unmanned border between the two as long as the UK is a member of the EU but once it is out trade becomes problematic. This is the major factor between the EU and the UK on trade. To complicate matters even further the new bill, mentioned above, could scupper the Good Friday Agreement, the Peace Treaty that united the Loyalists and the Republicans. The real issue is that the UK has no right to be on the island of Ireland and the sooner Northern Ireland becomes part of the Republic the better. That would leave England on its own.
The problem with Conservatives is that they live in the past admiring British history and are bad at dealing with the present. Who wants to return to the 1950s? It is a racist party preferring English speaking Australia and America to foreign speaking European countries that share our values.
Remember the UK chose to leave the EU and not the other way around and yet the UK expects the EU to give it the same terms it had as an EU member.
Sun 30 Aug 2020 07.02 BSTLast modified on Mon 31 Aug 2020 09.05 BST
Mohammad Hallak found the key to unlock the mysteries of his new homeland when he realised you could switch the subtitles on your Netflix account to German. The 21-year-old Syrian from Aleppo jotted down words he didn’t know, increased his vocabulary and quickly became fluent. Last year, he passed his end of high school exams with a grade of 1.5, the top mark in his year group.
Five years to the month after arriving in Germany as an unaccompanied minor, Hallak is now in his third term studying computer science at the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences and harbours an aspiration to become an IT entrepreneur. “Germany was always my goal”, he says, in the mumbled sing-song of the Ruhr valley dialect. “I’ve always had a funny feeling that I belong here.”
Hallak, an exceptionally motivated student with high social aptitude, is not representative of all the 1.7 million people who applied for asylum in Germany between 2015 and 2019, making it the country with the fifth highest population of refugees in the world. Some of those with whom he trekked through Turkey and across the Mediterranean, he says, haven’t picked up more than a few words and “just chill”.
But Hallak is not a complete outlier either. More than 10,000 people who arrived in Germany as refugees since 2015 have mastered the language sufficiently to enrol at a German university. More than half of those who came are in work and pay taxes. Among refugee children and teenagers, more than 80% say they have a strong sense of belonging to their German schools and feel liked by their peers.
Success stories like Hallak’s partially redeem the optimism expressed by Angela Merkel in a sentence she spoke five years ago this week, at the peak of one of the most tumultuous years in recent European history – a sentence that nearly cost her her job and that she herself has partially retreated from.
“I put it simply, Germany is a strong country,” the German chancellor told the media at a press conference in central Berlin on 31 August 2015, trying to address concerns about the steeply rising number of people – mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – applying for asylum in Germany that summer.
“The motive with which we approach these matters must be: we have already managed so much, we’ll manage this.” During the German TV broadcast of her interview, headlines flashed up to report that Hungary was sending trainloads of people to the German border, 20,000 of whom turned up at Munich central station the following week alone.
The German phrase Merkel used, Wir schaffen das, became so memorable mainly because it would in the weeks and months that followed be endlessly quoted back at her by those who believed that the German chancellor’s optimistic message had encouraged millions more migrants to embark on a dangerous odyssey across the Med. “Merkel’s actions, now, will be hard to correct: her words cannot be unsaid,” wrote the Spectator. “She has exacerbated a problem that will be with us for years, perhaps decades.”
The Alternative für Deutschland party, founded two years previously on a more narrowly anti-euro ticket, discovered a new populist stride: when Merkel said “We will manage”, the rightwing party claimed, she really meant “You will manage”, asking the German public to cope with rising levels of crime, terrorism and public disorder.
“We don’t want to manage this!” the AfD politician Alexander Gauland proclaimed at a party rally in October 2015. Over the coming months and years – in the wake of the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, the Bataclan terror attack in Paris and the truck rampage on Berlin’s Breitscheidtplatz Christmas market – that sentiment seemed to gain traction with a growing part of the German population, even when the crimes were not carried out by people who had arrived in 2015.
By 2017, there was a prevalent view that Wir schaffen das would be Merkel’s undoing, a “catastrophic mistake” as Donald Trump said in January that year. “The worst decision a European leader has made in modern times,” Nigel Farage told Fox News. “She’s finished.”
Yet today Merkel still sits at the top of Europe’s largest economy, her personal approval ratings back to where they were at the start of 2015 and the polling of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), buoyed to record levels by the global pandemic. When Merkel steps down ahead of federal elections in 2021, as is expected, her party’s successor currently looks more likely to be a centrist in her mould than a hardliner promising a symbolic break with her stance on immigration.
The question is what could she have done differently? You can’t seal a wide-open border with rhetoric and a few guardsGerald Knaus, migration expert
The AfD, meanwhile, never reached the point “when it will be the country’s second-largest party”, as historian Niall Fergusonpredicted in February 2018. The party has established a steady presence in local parliaments across Germany, especially in the states of the formerly socialist east. But at federal level the AfD has dropped to fourth in the polls, down from its third place and 12.6% at elections in 2017, and has been stricken with infighting since immigration has dropped off the top of the political agenda.
The spectre of jihadist terrorism, which some feared the refugee crisis would usher into the heart of central Europe, has faded from view in recent years. After a spate of seven attacks with an Islamist motive in Germany in 2016, culminating with a truck driven into a Berlin Christmas market that December, the country has seen no further attacks for the last three years.
Peter Neumann, a terrorism expert at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies, recalls being invited onto a German TV programme at the height of the crisis in 2015. “I gave my optimistic best back then, but deep down I was worried,” he says. “Will this work out? With nearly a million people about whom we know so little? In the end, those fears were misplaced.
The events of the summer of 2015 did evidently mobilise and further radicalise Germany’s rightwing extremist circles, who targeted asylum shelters with arson attacks or assassinated politicians with pro-immigration views, such as the CDU’s Walter Lübcke. No other country in Europe saw as much severe and fatal rightwing violence in 2019 as Germany.
Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigations records a rise of criminal offences, including violent crime, in the years between 2014 and 2016, linking the trend to the influx of migration. The percentage of asylum seekers found guilty of such crimes also doubled in the same period. However, the majority of these offences were within the refugee shelters where new arrivals were initially housed. By 2017, when Trump claimed that “crime in Germany is way up” because it had taken in “all of those illegals”, the number of overall recorded crimes was decreasing. Last year, crime in Germany sank to an 18-year low.
What about the organised crime on Europe’s borders, where human traffickers prey on those willing to risk it all in the hope of a better life? In a 2017 book on reforming asylum policy, British economist Paul Collier argued that “while the industry was already well-established in the Mediterranean, the massive rise in demand triggered by the invitation from Germany further increased demand for smuggling by criminal syndicates.”
Gerald Knaus, chairman of the European Stability Initiative, a thinktank that advises EU member-states on migration policy, disagrees vehemently: “The thesis that Merkel created the refugee crisis was absurd in 2015, and it’s even more absurd in retrospect,” he says.
Empirical studies have failed to find data proving that Merkel’s Wir schaffen das significantly intensified the movement of refugees into Europe, although it is likely that the attention drawn towards Germany’s liberal stance on asylum influenced the decisions of those who were already in Europe at the time.
“The question is: what could she have done differently?” says Knaus. “Reintroduce borders and try what France did after the Bataclan attacks in November 2015, sending all irregular migrants back to Italy? That proved futile: France received twice as many asylum applications in 2019 as in 2015. You can’t seal a wide-open border with rhetoric and a few more border guards, while brutality was fortunately ruled out in Germany.”
Germany’s stance in 2015 did prove too optimistic in the sense that Merkel’s government seemed to believe that the tumultuous events of that summer would lead to a quick reform of the Dublin Regulation, the mechanism that determines which state is responsible for examining an asylum application. Knaus says: “The Germans thought everyone would sign up to a quota system because it was ‘fair’, but they couldn’t explain how this would work in practice.”Advertisement
Instead, Merkel’s government took unilateral steps to slow down the rate of new arrivals to a trickle. An agreement between Turkey and the EU to stop irregular migration and replace it with a resettlement scheme, developed by Knaus’s thinktank, drastically stemmed the flow of migrants to Europe in 2016. Merkel’s government later tried to limit asylum applications from north Africa by adding Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to its list of countries considered safe, though the proposal was later rejected by the upper chamber of Germany’s parliament.
In March this year, Germany launched a social media campaign to deter Syrian refugees from embarking on a journey to central Europe, and Merkel’s “grand coalition” with the centre-left Social Democratic party voted against taking in even just 5,000 vulnerable refugees stranded in Greek camps.
Merkel never recanted her words of August 2015, as many even in her own party insisted she should. But she did ensure a situation like the one that followed won’t be repeated on German soil during her tenure.
On a sweltering afternoon in Berlin’s suburban south, preparations are afoot for the annual summer fete at the Marienfelde transit centre, a sprawling concrete camp that used to be the first port of call for many East Germans who fled to the west during the cold war, and now houses asylum seekers from around the world. While volunteers erect socially distanced benches and hang up garlands in the courtyard, a group of men and women from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have gathered inside to meet the Berlin senate’s integration officer, to ask for advice and air grievances.
A 44-year-old Syrian is concerned that he might fail next month’s language exam, even though he will need a pass in order to start working. German classes have been cancelled because of the pandemic, and the wireless signal inside the camp is too weak for online learning. “Berlin, on our doorstep, that is Europe,” says the man, who doesn’t want to give his name for fear of getting into trouble with the Syrian embassy. “But this shelter is like a little Syria: everyone speaks Arabic.”
Germany was not the destination of choice for the father of three, who arrived in the country via the resettlement programme of the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, in 2018. He is grateful that Merkel’s government took him in, but the wait for a work permit is starting to exasperate him. Before Berlin, he worked for six years as a pastry chef in Izmit, Turkey, but German bakers won’t accept his qualifications – he would need to do another two-year apprenticeship first. “It’s very frustrating.”
The integration officer assures him she empathises with his plight: Katarina Niewiedzial, who has been in the post since 2019, was once a migrant herself, having arrived in Germany from Poland as a 12-year-old. She knows from personal experience the areas of public life where Germany is ill-equipped for the task of integrating newcomers.
German employers are often still reluctant to recognise foreign qualifications. If migrants lack the certificates to prove they are qualified enough to do a job, they can apply to prove their skills in an interview, but they need fluent German to do so – a bigger challenge for adults in their 40s than teenagers like Hallak. Last year, the German Chamber of Commerce only carried out 80 such “qualification analysis” processes in the whole of Germany.
Often refugees end up in jobs they are overqualified for, such as catering, which in turn are more precarious and have cut staff during the pandemic: in May this year, the number of unemployed Berliners without a German passport was up by 40% compared to the same period in 2019.
Many experts think that the integration classes that have been mandatory for refugees in Germany since 2005 are no longer fit for purpose, holding back those with academic qualifications while failing to offer real help for those who arrive without being able to read or write. The percentage of those failing the all-important B1 language test has risen rather than fallen over the last five years. And yet, Niewiedzial is optimistic. “Germany can be a very sluggish country, full of tiresome bureaucracy,” she says. “But it’s also able to learn from its mistakes and draw consequences from them.”
Since 2015, she says, the state had massively expanded its asylum authority, created thousands of posts to coordinate volunteers, turned shelters into permanent homes and trained specialist teachers. Germany has managed. “It’s a success story, even if no one quite has the confidence to say that yet.”
27 August 2015 71 migrants are found dead inside a refrigerated lorry abandoned in Austria. The discovery sparks international revulsion, and contributes to the decisions of several countries to open their borders to people fleeing war and poverty.
31 August 2015 Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, says Wir schaffen das – We’ll manage this – after visiting a camp for newly arrived refugees. Soon after she announces an open-door policy; in the year that follows over a million people claim asylum in Germany.
13 November 2015 The Bataclan attack in Paris is the first of a series of deadly attacks by Isis-affiliated extremists across Europe. In July 2016 a Syrian who declared his support for the group kills himself and injures 15 others with a homemade bomb at a music festival in the German town of Ansbach. The far right uses the attacks to argue against Merkel’s refugee policies.
March 2016 The EU strikes a deal with Turkey to return all refugees and migrants who reach Europe across the Aegean sea. This dramatically reduces the number of people arriving in Germany and other European countries to claim asylum.
19 September 2016 Merkel’s CDU party suffers a slump in support to just 18% in Berlin state elections, while anti-immigration populists Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) enters the German capital’s state parliament for the first time. Mayor Michael Müller warns that the level of support it won “would be seen around the world as a sign of the return of the rightwing and the Nazis in Germany”.
19 December 2016 A Tunisian whose asylum application had been turned down rams a truck into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and wounding 70. Isis claims it inspired the attack.
24 September 2017 The populist radical-right AfD party enters the Bundestag, the German parliament, as the third biggest party. After Merkel forms a coalition with the Social Democrats, it becomes the largest opposition party.
October 2018 After crushing defeats in local elections, Merkel says she will step down as CDU leader almost immediately, and will not contest the 2021 elections, making her fourth term as Germany’s chancellor her last.
2020 Merkel’s effective handling of the coronavirus crisis helps restore her popularity, particularly as the US and UK stumble. One poll finds over 80% of Germans think she is doing her job “rather well”.
• This article was amended on 31 August 2020. An earlier version said that Germany had the second highest population of refugees in the world; this was corrected to fifth highest population. It also said the German government had added Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to its list of countries considered safe; in fact this proposal was later rejected by the Bundesrat.
Who will give Europe leadership when Merkel is gone?
One of the biggest things I cannot understand is how Evangelical Christians in the U.S. can support such an un-Christian person as Donald Trump. He preaches hate against blacks, LGBTQ people, Mexicans, other Latinos, people who support Democrat politicians etc.
Trump has no empathy, is woefully uneducated and has divided American society more than any individual before. His admiration for Putin, Kim Jong Un and other despots shows how perverted he is. His disregard for the United States Constitution knows no bounds.
In the U.K. the Cabinet of Johnson is woefully ridiculous. His personal advisor, Dominic Cummings, spent three years in Russia so one could well ask if he is working for Putin and doing his bidding. Cummings is seen as the real Head of Government as Johnson only is interested in those who support him rather than the best people for jobs. An example is Dido Harding who was Chief Executive of an ISP that had its user’s data stolen; then was made in charge of Track and Trace on he Covid-19 pandemic and failed completely. As a reward for these two huge failures, she was appointed as Interim Chair of the new National Health for Health Protection despite having never worked in Health before. Johnson loves incompetents as when he tried to get ex-Cabinet member, Chris Grayling appointed to the Chair of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee to prevent the Report on Russian Interference in the Brexit Referendum. He failed to get that appointment when a Tory MP voted with Labour members to decline the appointment. He served as Transport Secretary, Justice Secretary and Leader of the House and was a disaster in all these positions which is generally accepted by all. As long as they support Johnson they get appointed and one wonders if Cummings suggests these incompetents to ruin the U.K. to the benefit of Russia.
Russia’s most prominent opposition leader was reported to be in “serious condition” in intensive care in a Siberian hospital. His spokeswoman said he might have been poisoned while taking a flight to Moscow.
Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was in intensive care and unconscious in a Siberian hospital on Thursday after suffering symptoms of what his spokeswoman called poisoning.
A plane carrying Mr. Navalny, 44, who was returning to Moscow, made an emergency landing in Omsk after he started feeling unwell, the spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said on Twitter.
“We assume that Alexei was poisoned with something mixed with his tea,” Ms. Yarmysh wrote. “That’s the only thing he drank this morning.”
The head doctor at the hospital in Omsk, Alexander Murakhovsky, said Mr. Navalny was in “serious condition,” according to the Russian news agency Tass. No further details were released, and the government had no immediate comment on Mr. Navalny’s condition.
Last year, he was hospitalized with a “severe allergic reaction” in jail, which his doctor at the time suggested could be the result of a poisoning, after he was detained for leading an unauthorized election protest.
He had been arrested and sentenced to 30 days in jail for calling a rally to protest a decision by the election authorities to bar several opposition candidates from running for Moscow’s City Council.
Mr. Navalny, a lawyer, anticorruption activist and vocal critic of President Vladimir V. Putin, was doused with a bright green liquidin the Siberian city of Barnaul in 2017 by an unknown assailant who had pretended to shake his hand.
He said that a doctor had told him he had lost 80 percent of the sight in one eye after suffering a chemical burn from the green liquid.
While there was no independent confirmation that Mr. Navalny had been poisoned before falling ill on Thursday, the Russian security services have been suspected of targeting a number of dissidents and others, including Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian double agent who was poisoned in England in 2018.
I am reading a book called Putin’s People by Catherine Belton who was the Moscow Correspondent for the Financial Times from 2007-2013.
The book shows how criminal Putin and his cronies are and it all started in St. Petersburg where Putin was Deputy Mayor. It is a fascinating read.
This is a man who is admired by Trump and Johnson and tells you a lot about them both.
I returned from six months in the Philippines a week ago. The population of the Philippines is 109, 757,035 and as of August 11, they had experienced 143,749 cases of Covid-19 and had 2,404 deaths which is 22 deaths per 1 million of population.
The U.K. population is 67,926,890 and as of the same date had 313,798 cases and 46,706 deaths which is 688 per 1 million of population.
The U.S. population is 331,224,597 and has had 5,334,767 cases and 168,535 deaths which is 509 per 1 million of population.
Brazil has a population of 212,731,302 and has had 3,123,109 cases and 103,421 deaths which is 486 per 1 million of population.
Germany has a population of 83,814,910 and has had 219,648 cases with 9,269 deaths which is 111 per 1 million of population.
The world average is 96.1 deaths per 1 million of population.
In London, many people do not wear masks when out and about. I took a bus today and one is required to wear a mask on buses but a man got on in front of me with no mask and the driver said nothing to him. A single decker bus is restricted to just 14 passengers and a double decker to 30 passengers and many seats have tape across them to enforce social distancing.
In Manila, the police enforce mask wearing and there were checkpoints to enforce this. There were heavy fines if you disobeyed. When Malls reopened, to enter them you had your temperature taken first and then you could enter. If you went to a restaurant, you had to fill out a form with your name, address, phone number and the time you were in the restaurant so you could be traced if someone proved to have an infection.
Many people would say that the Philippines is a third world country but they have handled Covid-19 better than many so-called first world countries like the U.K., the U.S., Brazil.
Germans obey Government rules in general but in countries like the U.K., the U.S. and Brazil – all governed by right wing politicians – they show a laissez faire attitude to this killer disease. Is that sensible? Why are the people allowed to put other people in danger by ignoring the rules?
With what Hegel would call the cunning of reason in history, Germany’s long overdue shift was precipitated by a previously unknown virus of Asian origin and a ruling of the German constitutional court. The former made it clear even to a sceptical German public that south European countries were suffering from a disaster no one could say was their own fault, and therefore deserved economic solidarity. The latter, firing a warning shot over the bows of the European Central Bank, made it clear that everything could not be left to the monetary policy of the bank. A Europe-wide fiscal response was needed as well. Precisely as I dared to hope in a commentary earlier this year, Merkel has seized the opportunity with both hands. Hats off to her.
But there are also longer-term developments underpinning my hopeful dream. Berlin now has a critical mass of politicians, officials, journalists, thinktanks and foundations who are thinking hard about what Europe’s strategy should be – and not just for the current German presidency of the EU. If a black-green (CDU/CSU-Green) coalition government emerges from next autumn’s general election, that will only strengthen its European commitment. In the European Council on Foreign Relations’ recent EU-wide survey of foreign policy professionals, 97% of those asked said Germany is the most influential country in the EU and 82% identified it as the “most-contacted” country. In Europe, Germany is the indispensable nation.
Yet, awoken from my daydream by a cold shower of rain, something the British summer is always happy to provide, I see two major difficulties down the road ahead. Ever since the first unification of Germany, a century and a half ago, the country has wrestled with the problem of what Kurt-Georg Kiesinger, a federal chancellor in the 1960s, called its “critical size”. His near-namesake, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, put it more pithily: “too big for Europe, too small for the world”. Kissinger’s formulation is brilliant but not quite right. Germany is too big to be just another European country, but it’s not big enough to be a hegemon even in Europe, let alone in the world.
So however wise a German strategy may be, it cannot be realised without a set of international partners. The giant challenges of climate change and the emergent authoritarian superpower China – which is to the early 21st century world what Wilhelmine Germany was to early 20th century Europe – cannot be addressed unless you have the United States under a President Joe Biden returning to a constructive internationalism, and the strategic engagement of powers like Australia, Japan and India. Europe’s own problems cannot be solved without the active involvement not just of France and Spain but also of Italy (understandably preoccupied with its own internal problems), Poland (currently peddling an archaic anti-German line), the Netherlands and others. For foreign and security policy, Europe also needs the clout of Britain – which is the big strategic reason for Merkel to try to broker the Brexit deal which I believe still can be done this autumn.US to pull 12,000 troops out of Germany as Trump blasts ‘delinquent’ BerlinRead more
The other great unknown is German public opinion. On the face of it, there seems to be a solid pro-European, internationalist consensus in German society. But underneath, there are some worrying trends. The outside world is always alert to any possible revival of a greater Germany tendency, yet more prevalent is still the greater Switzerland tendency: just leave us alone to be rich and free. The German stereotype of south Europeans in the Eurozone scrounging off virtuous, hardworking north Europeans has not simply disappeared. The way electoral support surged for the xenophobic nationalist Alliance for Germany (AfD) following the refugee crisis was a worrying sign. So are well-documented reports of far-right sympathies in the military and security services. And contemporary Germany society has not yet gone through the test of really hard times at home.
To be denounced by Donald Trump as “delinquent” must be infuriating, but the emotional extremism of German alienation from the United States goes far beyond eminently rational anti-Trumpism. A real ideological and geopolitical myopia is revealed in the finding of a recent Körber foundation poll that only 37% of Germans think having close relations with the US is more important for Germany than having close relations with China, while a staggering 36% say it’s more important to get on with China and another 13% favour equidistance.
Germany cannot simply conjure up the necessary international partners, but this is something that’s in its own hands. As a distinguished former German ambassador to China, Volker Stanzel, has argued, foreign policy can no longer be left to the elites. It needs to be anchored in a much wider process of education and democratic debate. That’s all the more true because, due to the country’s “critical size” and the shadows of its past, the international role that the German public needs to understand and support is this historically unusual, difficult, carefully balanced one. For Germany can never be the prancing hegemon, just the steady, skilful football midfielder who keeps the whole team together – and doesn’t even get the applause for scoring goals. Yet sometimes those midfielders are the true heroes of the team.
The prime minister’s silence on the findings of the intelligence and security committee speaks volumes
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, is it a duck? Or, more pertinently, at the moment, if Boris Johnson acts like a Russian asset and talks like a Russian asset, is he a Russian asset?
This isn’t a cute Johnsonian provocation. An “asset” in intelligence terms is not necessarily someone who actively works for a foreign state. It’s someone who’s used by a foreign state. It’s someone who acts – knowingly or unknowingly – to further that state’s interests.
“This is about pressure from Islington Remainers who had seized on this report to try to give the impression that Russian interference was somehow responsible for Brexit,” Johnson said, in response to a question that had nothing to do with Brexit.
It doesn’t matter why Johnson who, until 2016 was an Islington Remainer, made these remarks. Or what motivated him or what he seeks to gain from them. But by politicising a report from the ISC he has done something dark and dangerous. Because the ISC does not act like other committees. It is scrupulously non-partisan and proudly independent. The findings of the report were endorsed by its current and previous Conservative chairs. And to reject its findings is not just a foreign policy win for Russia – and all other states that could benefit from interfering in our elections – it’s a fork in the road for Britain, the parliamentary democracy.
“This committee has been subject to unprecedented delay and dislocation,” Julian Lewis, the committee’s new chair, said on Tuesday. “This must never happen again.” But what can be done to prevent it? Nothing.
What did Johnson know, when? What role did he play in MI6’s lack of action? Is he negligent? Is he complicit? And will someone ask Sir Alex Younger, the head of MI6? Because in December 2016, a month after the US election, he made a rare public speech. The internet had changed everything, he said, and the “connectivity at the heart of globalisation” had created a “fundamental threat to our sovereignty”. It was a warning. But to whom? The prime minister, Theresa May? Or his boss? Boris Johnson.
It took nearly a year for any kind of response at all. Then, in November 2017, May made a landmark speech: “Russia, we know what you are doing,” she said.
The timing of this was not an accident. It was two weeks after the first of Robert Mueller’s indictments were unsealed. Many threads of his investigation ran through London. The Russian ambassador was a key conduit between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin in the summer of 2016, when Johnson was foreign secretary. And WikiLeaks, based in London’s Ecuadorean embassy, was revealed to be “Organisation A”, a channel for Russian intelligence. It was no longer credible to ignore British involvement in a transatlantic web of Kremlin-influenced operations.
And yet that’s exactly what we did. That’s the revelation of last week. “In stark contrast to the US handling of allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the report notes, “where an intelligence community assessment was produced within two months.” Hundreds of FBI agents, lawyers and prosecutors worked for more than three years on Mueller’s investigation in the US. Here, on the other hand, when asked by the committee for its assessment on Russian interference in the referendum, MI5 initially handed over six lines. Six lines!
This has been staring us in the face for four years. We know the big tech platforms have created a vulnerability at the heart of our democracies. We can no longer feign ignorance. And yet we do. Perhaps at the heart of it all is the infected abscess that is the EU referendum. We need to understand what happened in it, the MPs said last week, to have any hope of protecting our elections in the future. This is an urgent matter of our national security, uncomfortably overlapping with our politics. Because what else might an inquiry find?The Russians stand accused of exploiting with disinformation and lies the same platform that Johnson’s chief aide, Dominic Cummings, exploited with disinformation and lies.
Perhaps at the heart of it all is the infected pustule that is the EU referendum
And then there’s Arron Banks. Or “page 13, footnote 50”, as Kevan Jones, the MP for North Durham, told the press conference when asked if Banks was in the report. The only individual named in the 44 pages, as a tweet from Leave.EU pointed out, “and cleared”, and who had threatened to sue the committee before it had even published.
By the time Theresa May made her speech in November 2017, I’d been working for a year on my investigation into big tech and the EU referendum and was disturbed by the lack of investigation in Britain. That week, I wrote an angry piece: “Theresa May has finally acknowledged that Britain is not insulated from fake news and lies from the Kremlin, but what is the government going to do about it?’
Nothing, it turned out. Not a thing.
Earlier this year, I spent days writing a chronology of this investigation. It’s for the court case that Mr [REDACTED] footnote 50, p13 continues against me.
November 2017 was an inflection point, not just for me but Britain too. Just three months later, Russia would use a nerve agent on our streets and kill a British citizen. “Russia, we know what you are doing,” May said. But we didn’t. We still don’t. And, under Boris Johnson, we refuse to look.
This is a vital report that demands a response. That it hasn’t got one from the man who is leading the country is a source of profound disquiet. This is a critical moment and the decisions we make now will affect our future.
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck. Britain has a national security problem. And his name is Boris Johnson.
• Carole Cadwalladr is a reporter and feature writer for the ObserverTopics