Monthly Archives: February 2012

Edward Luce

What is it with Mitt Romney? Having failed in what ought to be the relatively simple task of knocking out Rick Santorum, the decreasingly prohibitive Republican frontrunner now appears in danger of giving away his “home state” of Michigan – the primary that was supposed to be his firewall in the Republican contest.

It is embarrassing enough that Mr Santorum is now running ahead of him in many national polls, as well as Thursday’s latest numbers from Michigan, which votes in less than two weeks. Can it really be that hard to take out Mr Santorum? This is a rival, after all, who wastes few opportunities to disparage contraception, which is in widespread use among all categories of voter. Even the most hardened social conservative knows that Mr Santorum’s prelapsarian social views would make him unelectable against Barack Obama. Poll after poll shows that self-described evangelicals say their highest priority is to deny Mr Obama a second term. Read more

Gideon Rachman

I am currently involved in a couple of online debates – one on Germany, one on whether America is in decline.

Clive Crook has written a thought-provoking riposte to my column on Tuesday, which he thought was too sympathetic to Germany in the current euro-row. Meanwhile, over on the Foreign Policy web-site, I have been debating with Bob Kagan on the vexed question of American decline. Read more

Esther Bintliff

A woman walks past the Bank of Greece headquarters with a wall covered with graffiti, reading: "Rob to Get Money," in Athens on February  13, 2012. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

Louisa Gouliamaki for AFP/Getty Images

Want to know a little of how it feels to live in Greece today? This photo, taken in Athens on February 13, could be a good place to start. The headquarters of the Bank of Greece defaced, the logo replaced with ‘Bank of Berlin’; a blood-like splatter of red paint; a scrawl of caustic advice to Greek citizens confronting pay cuts and tax rises: Rob to Get Money”. And in the corner, a woman, who is presumably trying to get on with the everyday reality of her life.

As the country flounders under unsustainable debts and the increasingly shrill demands of international creditors, the Greek people are facing their fifth consecutive year of recession- and that is before the latest round of austerity measures have even been enacted.

How much more can they take?And how long before the rest of Europe concedes defeat in its battle to prevent the country from a messy default? Read more

Gideon Rachman

Evangelos Venizelos, the Greek finance minister, has more or less accused Germany of trying to force Greece out of the euro. Is he onto something?

It depends which Germany you are talking about.

My impression from talking to policymakers in Berlin recently, and following the debate subsequently, is that different bits of the German government have different views on the matter. The Foreign Ministry and people around the chancellor seem keen to keep the Greeks in – for a mixture of political and economic reasons. The Finance Ministry is much more equivocal. Read more

John Paul Rathbone

February is the month of balmy summer days in Latin America, although the season of beach holidays hasn’t stopped a delicious diplomatic storm from brewing.

At the heart of the thundery electrostatic is the perennial problem. Will Cuba attend the “Summit of the Americas” this April? Read more

Gideon Rachman

The latest news from the EU is that the euro-group has postponed a meeting to approve the Greek bail-out. Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the group, announced – “I did not yet receive the required political assurances from the leaders of the Greek coalition parties on the implementation of the programme” . Insisting on iron-clad assurances from the Greek government is all very well. But there is one flaw in this strategy. Greece is due to hold elections in April. And the latest opinion polls suggest that the mainstream parties who are signing this deal could be swept away, anyway. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

The press review from around Europe does not make pleasant reading for the German foreign ministry these days. “Look at this stuff, it’s just unacceptable,” laments one diplomat – pointing to a front-page article from Il Giornale, an Italian newspaper owned by Silvio Berlusconi. The piece links the euro crisis to Auschwitz, warns of German arrogance and says that Germany has turned the single currency into a weapon. The Greek papers are not much better. Any taboos about references to the Nazi occupation of Greece have been dropped long ago.

David Pilling

Few can now doubt that Japan’s economy, hardly in the most robust of shapes anyway, has taken a battering from last year’s tsunami. On Monday, data showed that output fell between October and December for the third time in four quarters as companies battled a perfect storm of problems.  Read more

Gideon Rachman

The Russians and the Chinese are getting a frightful ear-bashing over their decision to veto the UN resolution on Syria. My colleague, Philip Stephens, puts the case against the Russians eloquently today. But, if you listen to what western governments are saying about Syria, their position is a lot more equivocal than you might imagine. There is no love lost for Bashar al-Assad – and there is genuine horror at the bloodshed. But, equally, there is deep foreboding about what might follow the current regime. Read more

Putin faces a a growing Russian protest movement, Xi Jingping visits Washington, and emissions trading causes friction at the EU-China summit

Gideon Rachman and FT correspondents in Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and Brussels discuss how Vladimir Putin will react to Russia’s growing protest movement, Xi Jingping’s visit to Washington and tensions ahead of the EU-China summit over the emissions trading scheme.