Foreign affairs

Barack Obama said this week that he would like to see Matteo Renzi “hang around” as Italian prime minister even if he loses a pivotal constitutional reform referendum in December. Such a scenario would represent a reversal of Mr Renzi’s vow to leave office if he is defeated, but may be reassuring for markets and investors looking for political stability in the eurozone’s third-largest economy. But it might not be that simple. So what are Mr Renzi’s options?

Rexit Read more

At the end of a disastrous week, Donald Trump is doubling down on the put-downs.

The polls are showing the damage wrought by the video of him talking in lewd terms about groping women, followed by accusations from multiple women who said he had assaulted them. With those tumbling numbers in the background, the billionaire’s response on Friday was to ramp up attacks on his accusers. Read more

Vladimir Putin votes in parliamentary elections

The record low turnout in Russia’s parliamentary elections last month was blamed in part on deliberate attempts by the authorities to suppress voter interest, in the belief this would help the ruling, pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Elections were brought forward from December to September, when many urban Russians prefer harvesting vegetables in the autumn sun at their dachas at weekends to staying in the city to vote.

But a group of opposition candidates says the turnout reflected fundamental disillusionment among Russians with the ruling regime – and the whole political process. If so, that represents an important and potentially worrying shift for the Kremlin. Read more

Two pieces of espionage dominated the campaign on Friday – and both are likely to provide fodder for Sunday’s second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

One’s about Russia and the other is about Trump talking, well, dirty. To deal with the not-suitable-for-work one first, the Washington Post has unearthed audio and video that shows Trump bragging “in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women”. Read more

Antonio Guterres

Antonio Guterres, who is poised to be confirmed as the next UN Secretary-General, certainly comes to the job with relevant experience. The 66-year-old former prime minister of Portugal served for ten years, between 2005 and 2015, as the head of the UN High Commission for Refugees. And he will assume office amidst the most acute refugee crisis the world has faced, since 1945. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Theresa May has one great advantage as a politician. She looks serious and responsible. But appearances can be deceptive. If you examine how the UK prime minister is handling Brexit, a different sort of politician emerges.

A proposed EU-US free trade agreement is in deep trouble. In principle, a similar EU-Canada accord ought to be easier to conclude, but it is running into obstacles in the home stretch.

Much opposition to these deals is to be found in Europe. But which European political forces are uncomfortable about transatlantic free trade, and why?

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Covering Donald Trump and the 2016 ​race ​feels a bit like this:

The rabbit hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Donald had not a moment to think about stopping himself before he found himself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

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The health of the presidential candidates took centre stage in the campaign after Hillary Clinton abruptly left a 9/11 memorial ceremony over the weekend after feeling “overheated”. Her campaign later revealed that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia last Friday.

Some have argued that the fact that she went to the memorial – and continued to campaign – despite her diagnosis proved her dedication and resilience. But it is bound to ignite speculation on the right, fuelled by rival Donald Trump, that she is physically unfit for office.

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Three weeks after president Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of attempting to launch sabotage missions into the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, the all-out Russian invasion that was feared has not materialised.

But Mr Putin has managed to secure one-on-one meetings at this weekend’s G20 summit in Hangzhou with Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s François Hollande – and may “informally” meet US president Barack Obama. This may have been his aim all along. Read more

Europe’s fraying economic ties with America

Economic ties between Europe and the US took a knock this week when the EU slapped huge back taxes on Apple and several European politicians declared transatlantic trade talks to be effectively dead. Gideon Rachman asks Tony Barber, the FT’s Europe editor, and Shawn Donnan, the FT’s world trade editor, what hopes remain for a successful conclusion to the TTIP talks. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

There was something distinctly presidential about Angela Merkel’s European travels last week. The German chancellor met 15 other EU leaders on a whistle-stop tour of the continent. It is the kind of speed-dating diplomacy that US presidents often undertake, as they build consensus and reassure allies.

By Gideon Rachman

Two of the great political parties in the west — the Republicans in the US and Labour in the UK — are in a state of near collapse. That, in turn, threatens the health of democracy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Russia and Ukraine: a new crisis?

Russia has been back in the spotlight recently, after President Putin replaced his long-standing chief of staff Sergei Ivanov. Meanwhile, tensions have mounted in eastern Ukraine, prompting fears of a new Russian offensive. Russia is still heavily involved in Syria. Is a new crisis building? Gideon Rachman speaks with Kathrin Hille, the FT’s Moscow bureau chief, and Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe editor.

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Brazilians like to shrug off the country’s woes by saying that as long as they have football and carnival, everything is fine, or “tudo certo”. Now they have another reason to rejoice: US Olympic swimmers accused of allegedly fabricating a robbery in Rio de Janeiro. They may face charges for lying to officials. Read more

Theresa May, the UK prime minister, says that “Brexit means Brexit”. But when will it actually happen?

The whole question of the timing of Britain’s departure from the EU is now open to question. Britain has still not triggered Article 50, which gives formal notification that the UK intends to leave and fires the starting gun for negotiations. The Sunday Times claimed recently that Article 50 may not be triggered until late next year because of a mixture of administrative chaos in the UK and political uncertainty caused by elections in France and Germany in 2017.

Given that it will then probably take a minimum of two years to negotiate the divorce, that would mean that Britain’s exit from the EU would not happen until the end of 2019. Over at the Independent, however, Andrew Grice makes the case that delaying Brexit this long is not politically feasibleRead more

One topic that I am following closely at the moment is the resurgence of Chinese nationalism and the growing nervousness of the country’s neighbours. This piece by the BBC’s Carrie Gracie on Chinese nationalism and the Olympics gives a broader insight into the country’s growing victim mentality.

The FT’s Jamil Anderlini wrote about the rising tide of Chinese nationalism in one of the best and most chilling pieces to appear in the paper this week. Read more

Donald Trump sought to reset his flailing candidacy with what his campaign billed as a major economic address on Monday in Detroit, with the property developer and former reality TV star promising to slash regulation, cut taxes in a “tax revolution” and revive manufacturing through an “America First” economic policy.

Trump’s aim was to attract Republicans who have been repelled by some of his xenophobic rhetoric and erratic impulses. But an open letter signed by 50 senior Republican national security officials illustrates just how difficult that may be. In it, Republican former heads of the CIA, NSA and homeland security, among others, write, “none of us will ever vote for Donald Trump” because he “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and wellbeing”. Read more

The battle for Aleppo

The battle for Syria’s second city is both a grave humanitarian crisis and a potential turning point in the country’s long civil war. The FT’s Erika Solomon and David Gardner join Gideon Rachman.

Eighties outreach: Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko pictured in 1985

Japan is a society where wheels operate inside wheels. That explains how, 30 years ago, your humble correspondent achieved a certain fame by becoming the tennis and dancing partner of the Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko of Japan, the couple who, two years later, would ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, from which Akihito on Monday signalled his intention to abdicate.

The proximate cause was the 40th anniversary ball of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, of which I was then president. I was told by the club staff that, as a matter of protocol we should invite the Imperial Couple but, not to worry, they would not come. So Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone became the principal guest of honour.

But on the Monday before the Friday black tie ball, I got a call in my office asking me to come over to the Akasaka Palace to discuss the circumstances of their attendance, one of which would be to disinvite the prime minister. The mixing of church and state, as it were, would be inappropriate, which Nakasone’s office understood perfectly and said he would come for drinks with the honoured guests and be long gone by the time They arrived for dinner

They came, saw and conquered. I had been told They would leave after the dinner and toasts – mine to the Imperial family, his to the freedom of the press – but they didn’t. They stayed through skits by club members and when the band struck up a tune, They took off for the dance floor. After a few seconds, my wife and I followed and stayed close to them as a waltz became a scrum. Read more