By Gideon Rachman

Later this week, EU leaders will meet in Bratislava — minus one country. The Slovakia summit will be the first to take place without the UK. But Britain will loom large in discussions, as Europe grapples with Brexit.

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“What is Aleppo?”

That was the question Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor and current Libertarian Party candidate for president, posed to his interviewer on MSNBC this morning, when asked what he might do about the crisis in the Syrian city.

This wasn’t a philosophical question (“what is Aleppo, really?”) or an answer on Jeopardy (“What is Aleppo, Alex? I’ll take Potent Potables for $400″). This was, Johnson later said in a statement, a presidential candidate “blank[ing]” on a fairly basic foreign policy question.

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Draghi behind EU symbol

The European Central Bank’s governing council has kept interest rates on hold and reaffirmed its plans to run quantitative easing to March 2017 or beyond if needed

President Mario Draghi told the press conference that the committee did not discussion of its quantitative easing programme. But, that a committee has been tasked with evaluating optinos to “ensure a smooth implementation” of the asset purchase programme.

Economic forecasts were slightly downgraded. GDP growth in 2016 is expected to be 1.7 per cent, falling to 1.6 per cent in 2017 and 2018. This compares to a June forecast of 1.6 per cent in 2016, followed by 1.7 per cent in each of 2017 and 2018. The ECB’s forecast for inflation in 2016 remains unchanged at 0.2 per cent. Inflation in 2017 has been revised down to 1.2 per cent, from 1.3 per cent.

Key points

  • Interest rates are kept on hold in September
  • The ECB’s asset purchase target is unchanged at €80bn per month
  • Economic forecasts are slightly downgraded.
  • Draghi says that the downgrades are “not so substantial to warrant a decision to act”
  • Draghi says the ECB did not discuss an expansion of the asset buying programme

 

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“When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”

That was Donald Trump at the first Republican primary debate last year, bragging about how he gets politicians to do his bidding. Now some are wondering whether the timeframe might be even shorter. Read more

Merkel’s populist challenge

Angela Merkel is facing a new challenge to her leadership after the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany dealt her party a stinging blow in a regional election on Sunday. What threat does the success of the populist party pose for German stability and for Merkel’s chance of remaining as chancellor? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Stefan Wagstyl, the FT’s Berlin bureau chief and Fred Studemann, comment editor.

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Is it time for Hillary Clinton to start panicking?

Two recent polls provide opposing – and seemingly contradictory – responses.

The first, a CNN/ORC national survey, shows Donald Trump topping Clinton 45 per cent to 43 per cent among likely voters. The second, a 50-state poll from the Washington Post and SurveyMonkey, illustrates just how much of a built-in electoral college advantage Clinton has – and even shows her leading in Texas.

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By Gideon Rachman

Journalism is sometimes said to be the first draft of history. This article is the first draft of a history exam for students graduating in 2066. I have tried to imagine the questions future historians will ask about today’s political events.

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.

 

As we wrap up the week, here is one take-away: ageism is alive and well! At least in the world of campaign politics.For much of the past two weeks, conservative news sites have focused on the status of Hillary Clinton’s health. (Is she prone to seizures? Does she secretly wear a defibrillator?) – conspiracy theories Clinton tried to put to rest on a Monday appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show.

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You’re a racist! No, you’re a racist! Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took their bitter battle for the White House deeper into the political trenches on Thursday with duelling speeches in which each accused the other of being racist. Read more

Turkey’s Syrian gamble

Turkey sent tanks into Syria on Wednesday, as part of a major offensive ostensibly against Isis – but also to contain Syrian Kurds. The move follows a recent coup attempt against President Erdogan and a deadly terrorist attack in the southern Turkish town of Gaziantep. Andrew England, the FT’s Middle East editor, speaks with Turkey correspondent Mehul Srivastava and former Turkey correspondent Daniel Dombey.

 

Donald Trump will have an unusual special guest on stage tonight when he holds a campaign rally in Jackson, Mississippi: Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party who along with Boris Johnson spearheaded the populist movement in Britain that led to Brexit. Read more

Hillary Clinton was on late-night television on Tuesday having her pulse checked by chat show host Jimmy Kimmel, as well as forcing open a jar of pickles.

The gags on ABC television were a response to mutterings about Clinton’s health by allies of Donald Trump including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Earlier this month Trump himself asserted that Clinton “lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on Isis”. Read more

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.

Do you hear that leaky faucet? That’s the sound of the never-ending Hillary Clinton email saga, which 77 days out from Election Day continues to bring new revelations.

Today, Judicial Watch, the conservative legal group, revealed that Clinton and her lawyers had failed to release almost 15,000 work-related emails to the FBI. The State department now has one month to appraise those emails, after which it and Judicial Watch must set a timeline for them to be released. Read more

Another one bites the dust. Two months after firing his first campaign manager and two days after reshuffling his senior team, Donald Trump revealed on Friday morning that Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman who had been running the whole operation, ​had resigned. But was the departure a resignation? The evidence ​is unclear but ​​suggests otherwise.

Exhibit A: On Wednesday morning, Manafort told me he was “staying” when I asked if the revamp meant he was out. Read more

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