Foreign affairs

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

By Gideon Rachman

At the Democratic convention last week, I experienced an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu. Emblazoned across the arena was the rallying cry of the Hillary Clinton campaign — “Stronger Together”. It was a depressing reminder of “Stronger In,” the slogan of the losing Remain campaign in Britain’s referendum on EU membership.

So long, Philly. Democrats are streaming away from their party convention and heading home for the final 15-week sprint to the presidential election on November 8. It’s going to be brutal.

Hillary Clinton left most of her party with a spring in its step after a rousing speech (by her standards) on Thursday night. Bill Clinton seemed to have a great time, judging by the fun he had with the balloons that fell from the ceiling. Read more

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Donald Trump is renowned for knowing how to dominate a news cycle, but did he really intend to dominate today’s? As the delegates at the Democratic convention cool down from the blistering Philadelphia heat outside, ahead of speeches tonight from Barack Obama, Tim Kaine and others, Trump has garnered a big chunk of attention for himself with his latest Russian turn.

In a press conference, he urged Moscow to track down and hand over tens of thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server which have yet to be released. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” he said.

 Read more

Discord at the Democratic Convention

The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia got off to a turbulent start this week, revealing deep divisions between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The FT’s World News editor Ben Hall discusses what this means for Clinton’s campaign for the White House with Washington bureau chief Demetri Sevastopulo and Gideon Rachmann, the FT’s chief foreign affairs commentator.

It must be hard being Ted Cruz. Just when you assume there could not be more people who dislike you, your own support base turns on you. The Texas senator’s decision not to endorse Donald Trump as the Republican candidate on Wednesday evening highlighted the divisions that have been simmering in Cleveland. Mr Cruz has the dubious honour of being the first person to be jeered at this convention — after Hillary Clinton, of course — and his wife, Heidi, had to be escorted from the arena.

Depending on your perspective, Cruz’s address was petulant or noble — given the personal attacks he has endured from Trump. He attempted to address those concerns head-on with the Texas GOP delegation on Wednesday morning, explaining he was not a “servile puppy dog” to Trump. But there were plenty of detractors present. (Read our report on Cruz’s clash with his own supporters here — and watch this video of Texans opining on what he has done.) Read more

Donald Trump has been a winner in Cleveland this week. But he has been a loser in Las Vegas.

Trump International Hotel Las Vegas – co-owned by the Republican nominee and his Sin City friend Phil Ruffin – has agreed to pay $11,200 in lost wages to settle a complaint filed on behalf of two pro-union workers. Read more

Outside the perimeter of the Republican National Convention, protesters have beenmaking the case against Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico. Inside the convention, Marco Gutierrez, a 42 year-old Mexican-American mortgage broker, has found himself preaching a more unusual message: “Latinos for Trump”.

“He’s got life experience, knowledge and an ability to restore the economy. I’ve seen a lot of Latinos lose their savings. Donald Trump brings hope to businesses,” Mr Gutierrez said in an interview. Read more

Turkey’s bungled putsch

Following a failed military coup in Turkey, President Erdogan has launched a sweeping crackdown on alleged plot sympathisers. Who was responsible for the uprising? And how have Ankara’s western allies responded? The FT’s World News editor Ben Hall speaks to Mehul Srivastava, the FT’s correspondent in Turkey, and former Turkey correspondent Daniel Dombey.

It was a carefully worded criticism – just 160 words long – that Barack Obama delivered to Poland’s government on Friday, as the US president used the NATO summit in Warsaw to rebuke the country’s right-wing ruling party for moves that have caused a constitutional crisis and seen it charged with endangering democracy.

But the subtle critique, which drew surprise among Polish journalists and anger among some ruling politicians, was months in the making, involved dozens of advisers and hours of discussions, which culminated in a late-night meeting on the eve of the speech and a critical intervention from former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. Read more

A day that began with a rare show of political unity over the killing of five Dallas police officers had by the late afternoon taken on a sharper political edge, although sometimes in surprising ways. Read more

Chilcot report issues damning verdict on Iraq war

This week’s Chilcot report delivered a damning verdict on Britain’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. The UK’s political, military and intelligence establishments were all implicated, but particular criticism was reserved for Tony Blair, the former prime minister. Daniel Dombey discusses the report’s findings with the FT’s James Blitz and Roula Khalaf

Broken-hearted by Brexit, thousands of Britons are applying, or thinking of applying, for citizenship in another EU country. All I can say is, unless you have recently won the BBC television quiz shows Mastermind or University Challenge, forget Denmark.

According to Inger Støjberg, Denmark’s integration minister, more than two-thirds of the first batch of foreign applicants who took a new Danish citizenship test in June have failed the exam. Only 31.2 per cent passed, she announced on Tuesday. Take a look at some of the questions, and you will see why most people have flunked the test. Read more