Germany’s Hour

LONDON – Who runs the European Union? On the eve of Germany’s general election, that is a very timely question.

One standard reply is, “The EU’s member states” – all 28 of them. Another is, “The European Commission.” But Paul Lever, a former British ambassador to Germany, offers a more pointed answer: Berlin Rules is the title of his new book, in which he writes, “Modern Germany has shown that politics can achieve what used to require war.”

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A Trip Through Putin Country

VLADIVOSTOK – Russia’s Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) railway “can be hardly named as a popular tourist attraction,” says one tourist website of the some 2,000-mile railway traversing Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East. “Most people even never [sic] heard of it.”

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Britain’s Deepening Confusion

LONDON – “Enough is enough,” proclaimed British Prime Minister Theresa May after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. Now, it is clear, almost half of those who voted in the United Kingdom’s general election on June 8 have had enough of May, whose Conservative majority was wiped out at the polls, producing a hung parliament (with no majority for any party). Whether it is “enough immigrants” or “enough austerity,” Britain’s voters certainly have had enough of a lot.

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Trump’s ​War Policy in Syria

LONDON – Clearly, the last word has not been said about the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, Syria, on April 4, which left 85 dead and an estimated 555 injured. But three points – concerning responsibility for the attack, the United States’ military response to it, and the episode’s effect on the course of Syria’s civil war – need to be made.

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Russia’s Nonprofit Spies

LONDON – Nothing so riles Western opinion about Russia today as its law on foreign agents. Enacted in July 2012, the law requires all non-commercial organizations (NCOs) engaged in (undefined) “political activities” to register with the Ministry of Justice as “carrying functions of a foreign agent.” A follow-up measure in 2015, the “Undesirable Organizations” law, required any such NCO to identify itself publicly as a “foreign agent.”

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Economists in Denial

LONDON – Early last month, Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, blamed “irrational behavior” for the failure of the BoE’s recent forecasting models. The failure to spot this irrationality had led policymakers to forecast that the British economy would slow in the wake of last June’s Brexit referendum. Instead, British consumers have been on a heedless spending spree since the vote to leave the European Union; and, no less illogically, construction, manufacturing, and services have recovered.

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Another Reset with Russia?

LONDON – The question of the West’s relationship with Russia has been buried by media stories of hacking, sex scandals, and potential blackmail. The dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele about US President Donald Trump’s activities in Moscow some years ago may turn out to be as credible as the claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction – or it may not. We simply don’t know. What is clear is that such stories have distracted attention from the task of bridging the diplomatic chasm now dividing Russia and the West.

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