By Gideon Rachman

He has been called a phoney, a fraud and a threat to democracy — and that is just by members of his own party. Other critics have compared Donald Trump to Hitler and Mussolini. I have shared in the widespread horror at Mr Trump’s rise but at the same time, a small voice in the back of my head has sometimes asked: “Is he really that bad? Might all this hysteria be a bit overdone?”

Some of the thousands of refugees and migrants queuing at the Greek-Macedonian border

Rarely has the EU needed Turkey so badly. And rarely has Turkey looked like such an unattractive partner.

The EU’s strategy to end its “migrant crisis” hinges on an effort to persuade Turkey to stop the flow of would-be refugees heading from Turkish shores to Greece. That plan will be the focus of an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on March 7th. So it is particularly unfortunate that the Turkish government should have chosen the days before the summit to raid and effectively take over the country’s largest opposition news group in an apparent bid to end its critical coverage of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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By Gideon Rachman

There was a time when Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was widely tipped to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor of Germany. Good-looking, aristocratic, married to a descendant of Bismarck and beloved by the popular press, zu Guttenberg had cut a dash, first as a decisive economics minister, and then as Germany’s youngest defence minister — appointed at the age of 37 in 2009. And then, in two disastrous weeks in early 2011, his gilded career fell apart, after it was revealed that he had plagiarised large parts of his doctoral thesis. Within two weeks, zu Guttenberg had resigned from the German government. Shortly afterwards, he left for a career in business in the US.

The Donald Trump media feeding-frenzy is in full flow. But beyond all the fun stuff about the horse-race and the insults, have there been any really good articles explaining the Trump phenomenon? I have found two recent pieces particularly interesting. Thomas Edsall explains how – “The economic basis for voter anger has been building for over 40 years” – and has some interesting numbers on the stagnation of real wages, the shrinking of the middle-class, the disappearance of manufacturing jobs and the impact of Chinese accession to the WTO.

Another good analysis, this time on the Vox site, looks at the kinds of people who are attracted to Trump’s rhetoric – and in particular at political scientists’ work on the rise of authoritarian attitudes in America. Apparently, people’s attitudes to parenting are a good predictor of their attitudes to Trump. Those who value obedience in children, above all, are “authoritarian” types, who also like Trump. But there are also is a large group of people with “latent authoritarianism”, which is aroused when they feel under threat. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Tear down this wall” demanded Ronald Reagan in Berlin in 1987. “Build the wall” demands Donald Trump, the man poised to take over Reagan’s party by winning the Republican nomination for the US presidency in 2016.

By Gideon Rachman

In his highly entertaining biography of Winston Churchill, Boris Johnson observes that — “To some extent all politicians are gamblers with events. They try to anticipate what will happen, to put themselves on the right side of history.” Mr Johnson even interprets his hero’s decision to campaign against Hitler, early in the 1930s, in this cynical light, explaining that Churchill — “Put his shirt on a horse called anti-Nazism . . . and his bet came off in spectacular fashion”.

By Gideon Rachman

Why is the Middle East in flames and Russia on the rampage? In both Europe and the Middle East, it is common to hear the blame placed on Barack Obama. The US president, it is charged, is a weak and disengaged leader who has allowed international events to get out of control.

Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry in Munich

The situation in Syria is so horrific that it is tempting to grasp at any straw. The news that world powers have agreed a route to the declaration of a ceasefire, in a week’s time, may be just such a straw. Of course, any prospect of a stop to the killing has to be welcomed. Yet, at the same time, there are obvious grounds for scepticism, based both on the details of the agreement and on the record of the parties involved – above all, the Russians. There are many difficult conditions to be fulfilled, before the ceasefire would come into force. The likelihood that some of these conditions will not be met would give Russia a giant loophole to justify the continuation of its bombing campaign in and around Aleppo. And, unfortunately, the record suggests that Russia is very good at dragging the west into negotiations – as cover for its continued military campaign. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
For those who are worried that Donald Trump is a new Mussolini in the making, I have reassuring news. Based on his performance at a weekend rally in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Mr Trump is far too boring a speaker to make a convincing fascist dictator.

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