The malign side-effects of the Paris terror attacks and Europe’s migrant crisis are still emerging. But something that needs watching is the way in which the two issues are combining to isolate Germany within Europe. In particular, Germany’s vital relationships with its western and eastern EU neighbours – France and Poland – are under severe strain. Both the French and the Germans feel they are facing a national crisis – terrorism for France, migrants for Germany – and that the other side is not showing sufficient “solidarity”. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, two pictures sent a powerful message about how international politics are changing. One was of Barack Obama hunched in discussion in a hotel lobby with Vladimir Putin. The frosty body language of their previous meeting at the UN had given way to something more businesslike.

Donald Trump – would not rule out the idea of a database to track Muslims in America

Watching the debate on terrorism from the US this week has been a bizarre experience. The attacks took place in France – but it seems to be the US where the political demands for ever-tougher border controls are taking hold. On November 19th (Thursday), the House of Representatives passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (SAFE – get it!) which would stop resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the US indefinitely. By contrast, President Hollande has just reaffirmed that France will take 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Ever since the late Samuel Huntington predicted that international politics would be dominated by a “clash of civilisations”, his theory, first outlined in 1993, has found some of its keenest adherents among militant Islamists.

By Gideon Rachman
Nothing can separate us. We are one family”. So said Xi Jinping after becoming the first president of China to shake hands with a president of Taiwan. The meeting between Mr Xi and Ma Ying-jeou was undoubtedly historic.

For anybody who used to visit Myanmar during the darkest days of the military junta, Sunday’s national elections seem little short of miraculous. I remember travelling to Yangon in the early 1990s, when the closest you could get to Aung San Suu Kyi was to drive past the gates of her residence on University Avenue – where the opposition leader was held under house arrest. Almost all the leading activists for her party, the National League for Democracy, were in jail – usually under very harsh conditions.

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves at supporters as she visits polling stations at her constituency

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves at supporters as she visits polling stations at her constituency  © Reuters

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By Gideon Rachman
Donald Trump is so fond of the word “winner” that he even applies it to pieces of chicken. Having lunch with the FT a couple of years ago, the mogul-turned-politician pointed his interviewer towards a particularly succulent portion and declared: “That piece looks like a winner.”

By Gideon Rachman
At the beginning of this year, Angela Merkel had a good claim to be the most successful politician in the world. The German chancellor had won three successive election victories. She was the dominant political figure in Europe and hugely popular at home.

Britain has long built its foreign policy around a special relationship with the US. The coming week will witness an attempt by the UK government to build another special relationship — this time with the People’s Republic of China. The government of David Cameron will be straining every sinew to honour President Xi Jinping, during his five-day state visit to the UK. The Chinese leader will be the guest of honour at a banquet at Buckingham Palace, he will give a speech at Westminster, he will spend time with the prime minister at Chequers and will travel to Manchester with the chancellor of the exchequer.

President Xi’s visit has been meticulously planned to provide images that will play well in China. But all this pomp could well be disrupted by some unplanned circumstances. The US Navy has let it be known that, over the next few days, it intends to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has been bolstering these claims in recent months, by “land reclamation” exercises that have created artificial islands — some of which now host airstrips. The Americas are expected to sail within 12 miles of these new islands — to make the point that they do not accept that China has established new territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
How long can a country that represents less than 5 per cent of the world’s population and 22 per cent of the global economy, remain the world’s dominant military and political power? That question is being asked with increasing urgency in the Middle East, eastern Europe and the Pacific Ocean.

Tunisia is a small country with a population of just less than 11m. But it has played a big role in the upheavals that have shaken the Middle East.

It was in Tunisia that the popular uprisings against autocracy that became known as the “Arab spring” began in December 2010, setting an example that shook the region.

Zine el-Abidene Ben-Ali, Tunisian president, became the first autocrat to be toppled when he fled the country in January 2011. Mr Ben-Ali’s fall helped to electrify the rest of the Arab world as slogans and ideas that had first appeared in Tunisia spread to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain.

Four years later, Tunisia is still important — but for different, sadder reasons. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
In the 1930s, the Spanish civil war sucked in outsiders, with Nazi Germany backing the nationalists, the Soviet Union backing the Republicans and foreign idealists flocking to the country to fight on either side of the conflict.

George W Bush famously said that he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and “got a sense of his soul”. Maybe he did – for the former US and current Russian presidents are beginning to look like soulmates, when it comes to the idea of a “war on terror”. Like President Bush, President Putin has decided to deploy his country’s military in the Middle East, as part of a war on terrorism. And like President Bush, the Russian leader has argued that he is engaged in a struggle on behalf of the whole civilised world, while appealing for global support. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
American and Chinese presidents do not really know how to talk to each other. They are like computers running on different operating systems.” That was the verdict once offered to me by a US official, who has watched many US-China summits from close quarters.

By Gideon Rachman
Muslims have replaced Hispanics as the focus of verbal attacks on the US campaign trail with Donald Trump shifting his anti-immigrant focus to people of the Islamic faith.

Australian politics is so cut-throat and brutal that it is easy to treat it simply as a spectator sport – without much wider international significance. But that would be a mistake. The fall of Tony Abbott and his replacement as prime minister by Malcolm Turnbull may well herald a shift in Australian foreign policy that will be noticed in Beijing, Tokyo and Washington.

Put simply, Turnbull is likely to take a softer line on China. Abbott was a firm supporter of America’s pivot to Asia and the effort to push back against Chinese territorial ambitions. But Turnbull seems to be more sceptical. The evidence for his scepticism is set out, in this informative post from the Lowy Interpreter. It is interesting, in particular, that Turnbull has sympathetically reviewed the work of Hugh White, an Australian academic who has argued that the US should do more to accommodate a rising China – and that the alternative might be a catastrophic war. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
There is a comforting cliché in Brussels that the EU needs crises in order to progress. But the current cocktail of problems facing Europe — refugees, the euro and the danger that Britain might leave the union — look far more likely to overwhelm the EU than to strengthen it.

On Friday morning Petro Poroshenko announced a small breakthrough in the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian president said that for the first time in a year and a half, a full day had passed without a single artillery shell being fired on his country’s soil. It was the latest sign that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine – called for under the Minsk peace accords – may finally be beginning to take hold.

The Ukrainian leader was speaking at the annual Yalta European Strategy meeting in Kiev. (The meeting used to be held in Yalta but that is in Crimea – which is now under Russian occupation). After his speech, I interviewed Poroshenko on stage and asked him about the other provisions of the Minsk accords that have not yet been met – including demands for the withdrawal of troops and for the Ukrainian-Russian border to be sealed by the end of the year. Poroshenko told his audience that Russian troops and heavy weaponry remain on Ukrainian soil. When I pressed him about what should happen if these troops remain in place and the border stays open, the president was rather vague – insisting that there was no alternative to the full implementation of Minsk. There were no details about what he plans to do, if that doesn’t happen. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is right that the current refugee crisis is forcing Europe to consider whether it can live up to its own, self-proclaimed values. Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be “No”.

Yesterday a colleague asked me what I’m planning to write my next column about – “The migrant crisis”, I said. “Why are we calling them migrants”, he replied. “Why don’t we call them refugees?” It’s a good question and one that has been exercising many commentators. Al-Jazeera, for example, has already said that it will not use the word “migrant” since that implies a choice to move country. The correct term, they argue, is “refugee” – since most of the people on the move are in fear of their lives. David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary and now head of the International Rescue Committee, makes the same argument. He says that the word migrant “suggests these people are voluntarily fleeing, whereas in fact, if you’ve been barrel-bombed out of your home three times, life and limb demand that you flee.” The FT, however, is still running headlines about the “migrant crisis”. So are we wrong? I don’t think so. Read more