US politics

Gideon Rachman

Leaked tapes of expletive-filled conversations involving senior Polish ministers are extremely embarrassing to the government in Warsaw and to some of its leading figures, such as Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister (above). And that, presumably, is exactly the intention.

Amidst all the uproar, relatively few people seem to be asking who would have the resources and expertise to expertly bug several Warsaw restaurants – over the course of a year – and then the motivation to release the tapes. The obvious answer, based entirely on circumstantial evidence, would be Russia’s intelligence service. 

By Richard McGregor in Guantánamo Bay

Wire-topped fence and a watch tower at the abandoned 'Camp X-Ray' detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Caption: AFP

There are many ways to measure the never ending “war on terror” but inmates in the US military detention centre at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba have one – this will be their fourth football World Cup in custody, and only the second they have been able to watch.

US military officers who led journalists around parts of the facility highlight very different things from when the camp was established in a rush in early 2002, to house alleged terrorists picked up off the battle field in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. 

US and China taking climate change seriously
Gideon Rachman is joined by Pilita Clark, environment correspondent, and Richard McGregor, Washington bureau chief, to discuss renewed efforts to tackle climate change. The Obama administration appears to have succeeded in making climate change a public health issue, and has set a target of reducing US power plant emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. Meanwhile rumours abound that China could include strict targets in its next five year plan, although sustaining economic growth remains its priority.

  • If Narendra Modi becomes India’s next prime minister he may not be a tyrant (as his critics claim) but nor might he be an economic colossus (as his supporters believe), says the FT’s Victor Mallet. In fact, his economic accomplishments could turn out to be far more modest than market expectations.
  • Plans to restrict immigration in Switzerland are raising questions about the country’s relationship with the rest of the world and exposing the complications of the kind of arms-length relationship with the EU that eurosceptics around the continent crave.
  • Forty years after he first identified the deadly Ebola virus, the microbiologist Peter Piot returns to the village in the Democratic Republic of Congo where it all began.
  • Politico looks back at Hillary Clinton’s relationship with the media, which has spent decades raking over every aspect of her personal life as well as her political career, and how that could affect her decision to run for the presidency.
  • The New Republic reports from the Central African Republic on how the country is falling apart: “When looking for solutions to the horrors here, one is tempted to say that any ideas that don’t start or end with genocide qualify as good ones.”

 

♦ Thousands of young Muslims are being radicalised through social networks and propelled towards violence in Syria.

Latvia‘s ‘second class’ Russian residents are arguing for better rights, making many locals nervous amid the Crimea crisis.

Ukraine‘s ‘Kamikaze’ economy minister has one of the world’s toughest public administration jobs as he battles to deliver on unrealistic expectations.

♦ The rise of a US oligarchy amid widening inequality is threatening democracy, with both parties up for rent to wealthy lobbyists.

♦ ECB arch hawk Jens Weidmann often finds himself in a minority of one. But the appeal of being the person who is convinced everyone else is wrong seems to have waned. 

By Gideon Rachman

As US President Barack Obama and the leaders of the EU huddle together this week, they will strive to look united and resolved. The reality, as Vladimir Putin knows, is that they are divided and uncertain. The Russian president has moved with a speed and ruthlessness that has left western leaders floundering. Russia swallowed Crimea, in less than a week, with scarcely a shot fired. It has now massed troops on Ukraine’s eastern border – and all that the west has so far offered the Ukrainian military is a supply of US army ready-meals.

♦ Many Iranians see basij– the ideologically-driven volunteer forces of the Revolutionary Guards – as stick-wielding thugs, but they show a softer side as they sip cappuccino and discuss art at Café Kerase.

♦ Although demographic and other factors are against the US Republicans, the Grand Old Party is seeing a strange revival.

♦ It’s not a good time for Japan to put its tax rates up, which is why the government is allowing retailers to act like they haven’t.

♦ Much has changed in Sarajevo since the day in 1914 when Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, providing the spark that lit the flames of the first world war, yet much has remained the same.

♦ The Egyptian army’s gift of land for homes has prompted speculation over a closely guarded secret: the size of the army’s stake in the economy.

♦ A property boom across Germany‘s biggest cities has been dubbed a betongold – literally concrete gold – rush. 

Both the US and the EU are stepping up their sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea. So far it has all been very personal; both the US and the EU have focused on making life difficult for key individuals in and around the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin. But that is unlikely to be the end of it. Both the US and the EU have threatened to impose further, broader, sanctions on the Russian economy. So in terms of trade, what might they target? 

James Politi

Are Americans more on board with President Barack Obama’s efforts to clinch massive deals with the Pacific Rim and the European Union than most Democratic lawmakers give him credit for?

This week, the well-respected, bipartisan, NBC-WSJ poll found that 44 per cent of Americans were more likely to vote for a member of Congress who “favours new trade agreements with other countries”, compared to 20 per cent who said they were less likely to; 34 per cent said it made no difference, and 2 per cent were unsure. 

Credit Suisse executives testified before the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in what was at times a contentious hearing over allegations of tax evasion.

A scathing report from the subcommittee on Tuesday said that Credit Suisse made false claims in US visa applications, conducted business with clients in secret elevators and shredded documents to help more than 22,000 American customers avoid US taxes.

Credit Suisse chief executive Brady Dougan disputes the report’s claims, saying the bank conducted an expansive internal investigation, shut down client relationships and required US customers to prove tax compliance.