David Cameron is a gifted politician. He has a knack for sounding both reasonable and reassuring that, in another life, would have made him an excellent second-hand car salesman.

But the prime minister will need all his political skills to persuade British voters that the draft deal he has struck represents the fundamental change in the relationship between Britain and the EU that he once promised. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
David Cameron should hurry up and hold that referendum on British membership of the EU. If the UK prime minister does not get a move on, there might not be an EU left to leave.

Francois Hollande with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Republic Day in New Delhi

This week, François Hollande, the president of France became the latest world leader to visit Delhi and pay court to India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. He is following in the footsteps of Barack Obama, Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe – all of whom have paid official visits to India, over the past 18 months. Hollande’s visit was particularly productive because he managed to sign a deal to sell India 36 Rafale fighters. The desire to sell weapons to India – which is the world’s second largest arms importer, after Saudi Arabia – accounts for some of the international courtship of the Modi government. More important, however, is the sense that India will be one of the big global powers of the 21st century – and needs to be cultivated.

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By Gideon Rachman
The EU has faced two major crises over the past six months — one involving the euro, the other involving refugees. By coincidence, the same two countries are at the centre of both problems — Greece and Germany. Last summer, Germany almost forced Greece out of the euro, rather than agree to the EU lending further billions to the Greek government. Now, Germany is reeling under the impact of the arrival of more than 1m would-be refugees, most of whom have entered the EU through Greece.

I am often asked what is the “mood” of Davos? I always find this question hard to answer – possibly because it is meaningless. However, after four days in the Congress Centre, or trudging from hotel to hotel, I do have a fairly sure grasp of this year’s preferred clichés at the World Economic Forum. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
The death of David Bowie last week made me feel first wistful, then optimistic. At a time when the papers are full of war, terrorism and crashing markets, listening to Bowie reminded me not to get too worked up about the daily headlines. Music and art will last, long after the political and economic news has faded away.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Over the next few weeks, the international media will fixate on the New Hampshire primary – a crucial step in the race for the US presidency. It is a safe bet that the “Bulgarian primary” will not get a fraction of the same press attention. But Bulgaria’s decision about which candidate to support as the next UN Secretary-General, could have a major impact on international politics over the next five years. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Europeans populated the world. Now the world is populating Europe. Beyond the furore about the impact of the 1m-plus refugees who arrived in Germany in 2015 lie big demographic trends. The current migration crisis is driven by wars in the Middle East. But there are also larger forces at play that will ensure immigration into Europe remains a vexed issue long after the war in Syria is over.

By Gideon Rachman
When judging forecasts about 2016, beware of the “continuity bias”. This is the temptation to assume that this year will be a bit like last year — only more so. In fact, recent political history suggests that the events that define a year tend to be the big surprises and sudden discontinuities (call them “black swans” or “unknown unknowns”, if you must).

By Gideon Rachman
In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s major power centres. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled.

Albert Rivera, Ciudadanos party leader

The political headlines in Europe this year have all been about the rise of the political extremes. The National Front surged in France, the Law and Justice Party took power in Poland, the Alternative for Deutschland saw a revival in Germany – and Britain’s Labour Party chose a new leader from its far-left fringes.

The elections in Spain on December 20th, however, offer an interesting contrast to this trend. One of the big stories of the campaign has been the rise of a centrist, liberal party called Ciudadanos. If the polls are to be believed, the ruling centre-right People’s Party (PP) is likely to emerge as the largest single group after Sunday’s vote. But the new party (“Citizens” in English) will be in a close battle for second place with the Socialists and Podemos, a radical left party. Even if Ciudadanos comes in fourth, the party’s position in the political centre-ground could mean that it holds the balance of power. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
The relative strengths of nationalism and internationalism were tested in France over the weekend. And this time the internationalists came out ahead. In Paris, Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, was able to bring down his flashy green gavel and announce that almost 200 nations had agreed a climate change deal.

By Gideon Rachman
Something is changing in the west’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. You can read it in the newspapers. You can hear it from politicians. And you can see it in shifts in policy.

By Gideon Rachman
When the House of Commons set out to debate military intervention in the Middle East this week, the technical issue at stake was whether the UK should extend its bombing of Isis from Iraq into Syria.


By Gideon Rachman
I have a nightmare vision for the year 2017: President Trump, President Le Pen, President Putin.
Like most nightmares, this one probably won’t come true. But the very fact that Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen are running strongly for the American and French presidencies says something disturbing about the health of liberal democracy in the west. In confusing and scary times, voters seem tempted to turn to “strong” nationalistic leaders — western versions of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

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.