The liberal crisis posed by Trump, Brexit and authoritarian nationalism

President Trump’s visit to the UK this week, like his NATO meeting, has characteristically stirred up massive controversy and been met with widespread demonstrations. Rather than diplomatically mute his approach, he revels in controversy, the “Great Disruptor”. People may detest what Trump does and who he is, or be incredulous about what is happening and be like rabbits in the headlights, but that may be uncomfortably beside the point. A major shift in global politics is in the making, a polarisation between liberalism and authoritarian nationalism, a liberal crisis. What is important to do is to step back from the controversy and look at the broader trends, of which Trump is a figurehead as well as a leader, as seen in the UK and elsewhere. An age of reaction Both in the US and in Europe, the post-Cold War liberal … Read more

British Russophobia gets another airing with the poisoning of a spy

British russophobia once again grips politics British russophobia has had a good airing once again in UK politics, this time over the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in the quiet cathedral city of Salisbury. Remarkably quickly, Putin has been accused and found guilty and a massive effort made to secure backing from Western allies for a verbal counter-attack, in contrast to previous murders of exiled Russians and others from Eastern Europe. One might legitimately ask why. History of Russophobia Ramping up Russophobia has a long history. In the 19th Century, politicians were much occupied by what they thought was the threat to Britain’s hold over India by the advance of the Russian Empire under the Tsars. Hence the support for the “Sick Man of Europe”, the declining Ottoman Empire. Russia was seen as expansionist and authoritarian. So … Read more

How the Brexit end-game negotiations cruelly exposes the UK’s weaknesses

As the UK cabinet finally and very belatedly gets round to talking about the crucial Brexit end-game, nine months after triggering Article 50, yet more data has emerged today to confirm what many of Gove’s dreaded experts have been saying for a long time, that the economic impact of Brexit on the UK is far worse than that for the other EU states, and thus Britain is in a very weak bargaining position. Thus one of the central planks of the Brexiteer case for Leave has been fatally undermined. It is therefore no surprise that the UK is currently conceding to the EU demands during the Brexit negotiations. To do otherwise would wreck the economy, and thus it shows how the extremists can very probably no longer carry the day in the cabinet or Parliament. The UK has very probably … Read more

For Britain under Brexit global politics is exposing her weaknesses for all to see

Welcome to the brave new world of post-Brexit global politics, a world where Britain’s power and influence is already much diminished. What is being experienced is very far from what was promised, but not much realised by the British public, for whom world affairs is not something in which it takes much interest. Historically, public opinion is far more focused on domestic matters like the cost of living, the economy, housing, the health service etc., and has only got involved in foreign affairs in times of national crisis such as the outbreak of war. The outbreak of the First World War was one such example. Thus foreign policy is left to politicians, and often to the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary. The arrival of a serious crisis can therefore be a shock, and it is therefore possible, in the post-Brexit … Read more

Liberalism retreats before the advance of nationalism and the strong man

The turbulence of 2016 has revealed enough to make clear that we now have two competing visions of the global political order, liberalism and nationalism. One might say “nothing new then”, given that such a competition is in some ways a reversion to an older pre-1945 pattern, were it not for the apparent progress made since then to create a rules and human rights-based international order. Now however, some might think that such progress is going into reverse, with the rise of “strong man” authoritarian regimes in important states like Russia, Turkey, India and even, for some, the USA under Trump, to join longer-standing regimes in places like China. Suddenly liberal democracy looks to be under threat. A rules-based liberal global order Since the end of the Cold War, and the competing claims to legitimacy of democracy and communism, it … Read more

How the Ukraine conflict requires mature statesmanship

The collapse in relations between the West and Russia over the Ukraine conflict reads like a textbook example of how nation states get sucked into a conflict which creates its own dynamic from which neither side seem able to extricate themselves. It makes a fascinating case study were it not also that the consequences of a false step would be lethal. It is ironic that this is happening in the centenary of the First World War, also involving the same main participants. At its roots lie some very similar causes, and neither side once again look able to climb down without serious consequences. It might be useful to look at the different perspectives involved. Putin and Russia For Putin, the authoritarian President of Russia, there are various schools of thought as to his policy. He is probably foremost a patriotic … Read more

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