By Gideon Rachman
Donald Trump is so fond of the word “winner” that he even applies it to pieces of chicken. Having lunch with the FT a couple of years ago, the mogul-turned-politician pointed his interviewer towards a particularly succulent portion and declared: “That piece looks like a winner.”

A protest in front of the parliament building in Moldova's capital, Chisinau

After President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, some feverish western politicians and commentators started to detect the Kremlin’s malign hand manipulating every event large and small across Russia’s former Soviet neighbourhood.

They drew particular attention to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, whose political classes contain vocal, westernised lobbies that rarely waste a chance to point their US and European interlocutors in an anti-Russian direction.

Yet the reality is not so black and white. Since the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991, it never has been. In important respects, the political, economic and social ills that afflict these states are home-grown. You can blame the Russians for a lot, but not for everything. Read more

Poland’s shift to the right
The election victory of Poland’s Law and Justice party took many by surprise given the successful economic record of the outgoing government. Gideon Rachman discusses why Poles voted for change, and what the result means for the country’s ties with the EU, Russia and Nato, with Tony Barber, Europe editor, and Henry Foy, Warsaw correspondent.

By Gideon Rachman
At the beginning of this year, Angela Merkel had a good claim to be the most successful politician in the world. The German chancellor had won three successive election victories. She was the dominant political figure in Europe and hugely popular at home.

If Vladimir Putin is looking for a way out of his estrangement from the west over the Ukraine crisis, he sometimes has an odd way of showing it.

Two days after Russia’s president met his US counterpart Barack Obama at the UN Security Council last month and called for an international coalition to fight Islamist terrorism, Russia gave the US just one hour’s notice that it would launch air strikes in Syria. It delivered the message via a Russian general who turned up on the doorstep of the US embassy in Baghdad.

Addressing the annual Valdai Club conference on Thursday, Mr Putin reiterated his appeal for co-operation in Syria – but only after running through a typical litany of complaints about US policy and behaviour.

Yet this was a different Mr Putin from the sour figure who, at the same meeting with foreign journalists and academics a year ago, delivered arguably his bitterest anti-US diatribe since his combative “Munich speech” of 2007.

By shifting the military theatre from Ukraine to Syria – however big a gamble Russia’s military intervention there may be – Mr Putin seemed to feel he had seized the initiative. His acid wit and self-assurance were back. Read more

Will Germany’s economy benefit from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to throw open the nation’s doors to enormous numbers of refugees from beyond Europe’s borders? What, if any, is the connection between this decision and the hunger of German business for new workers in a shrinking labour market?

On these questions there is a spectrum of opinions. At one end stands Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Front. On her party’s website you can find a video and text of a speech she delivered in Marseilles on September 8.

Ms Le Pen said of Ms Merkel’s decision: “Germany is most likely thinking about its ageing population, and it is most likely seeking to lower wages and to continue recruiting slaves by means of massive immigration.”

You don’t have to like Ms Le Pen’s vicious language to appreciate that Germany has a demographic problem. According to David Folkerts-Landau, a Deutsche Bank economist, the German population – the EU’s largest, at close to 83m – is set to decline by 3.5m over the next decade unless net migration into Germany increases significantly. Without such migration, he forecasts that the German labour force will shrink by an even greater 4.5m workers. Read more

By Ravi Mattu

To understand how Justin Trudeau became Canada’s 23rd prime minister, you need to first understand how Stephen Harper lost it.

His achievement in winning a majority government is remarkable. But for all the talk of Mr Trudeau’s image and good looks — one UK newspaper this week asked if he was the “sexiest” politician in the world — his victory in Canada’s elections owed as much to how voters’ viewed the Conservative prime minister he defeated as to a love-in for the new man. Read more

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee On Benghazi Attacks

Hillary Clinton faced her next big challenge in her quest for the 2016 US presidential race with an appearance before a Republican led congressional committee to testify about the 2012 Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead, including US ambassador Christopher Stevens. Barney Jopson followed the action from Washington with Demetri Sevastopulo, DC Bureau Chief and Emiliya Mychasuk, US Online News Editor. A link to the live stream of the hearing is here  

UK rolls out the red carpet for China

President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK has featured all the pomp and circumstance the UK can muster. Has it cemented the UK’s place as a prosperous best friend to China in the West or has Britain bowed too deeply to an authoritarian regime? Joshua Chaffin puts the question to Jamil Anderlini and Demetri Sevastopulo.

Britain has long built its foreign policy around a special relationship with the US. The coming week will witness an attempt by the UK government to build another special relationship — this time with the People’s Republic of China. The government of David Cameron will be straining every sinew to honour President Xi Jinping, during his five-day state visit to the UK. The Chinese leader will be the guest of honour at a banquet at Buckingham Palace, he will give a speech at Westminster, he will spend time with the prime minister at Chequers and will travel to Manchester with the chancellor of the exchequer.

President Xi’s visit has been meticulously planned to provide images that will play well in China. But all this pomp could well be disrupted by some unplanned circumstances. The US Navy has let it be known that, over the next few days, it intends to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has been bolstering these claims in recent months, by “land reclamation” exercises that have created artificial islands — some of which now host airstrips. The Americas are expected to sail within 12 miles of these new islands — to make the point that they do not accept that China has established new territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Read more

The EU package for Turkey agreed at the latest Brussels summit on the refugee crisis looks pretty desperate. The situation of Syrian refugees, the bulk of those braving death to try to make their way to Europe, is very desperate. Syria’s neighbours, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which together have taken in more than 5m refugees, once the unofficial tally is added to those registered by the UN, know that very well.

Now, the EU is offering Turkey three main things to get it to prevent Syrians transiting to Europe and keep them inside its borders. Stalled EU accession negotiations will be re-energised. Talks will start on liberalising EU visa rules for Turks. And Ankara will be offered something like €3bn in aid for refugees (about half the sum it has already spent) and border control. Read more

Turmoil in Turkey
Turkey suffered its worst terrorist attack at the weekend, but rather than uniting the country in grief, it has exacerbated suspicions that the ruling AK party is intent on stoking ethno-sectarian tensions ahead of next month’s elections. Ben Hall discusses the crisis with Daniel Dombey and David Gardner.

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hold First Debate In Las Vegas

Welcome to our coverage of the first Democratic presidential debate. My colleagues – Gina Chon and Shannon Bond – and I will provide the live updates from the debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas. Here is our primer on what to watch in the debate.  

By Gideon Rachman
How long can a country that represents less than 5 per cent of the world’s population and 22 per cent of the global economy, remain the world’s dominant military and political power? That question is being asked with increasing urgency in the Middle East, eastern Europe and the Pacific Ocean.

Tunisia is a small country with a population of just less than 11m. But it has played a big role in the upheavals that have shaken the Middle East.

It was in Tunisia that the popular uprisings against autocracy that became known as the “Arab spring” began in December 2010, setting an example that shook the region.

Zine el-Abidene Ben-Ali, Tunisian president, became the first autocrat to be toppled when he fled the country in January 2011. Mr Ben-Ali’s fall helped to electrify the rest of the Arab world as slogans and ideas that had first appeared in Tunisia spread to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain.

Four years later, Tunisia is still important — but for different, sadder reasons. Read more

Michael Horn, head of Volkswagen’s US operations, is the first senior executive from the German carmaker to appear before US lawmakers in the wake of the scandal that broke last month. The US Environmental Protection Agency has exposed VW for fitting software in some of its diesel engines to deliberately cheat emissions tests.

The deception has plunged the company into crisis, put it under regulatory scrutiny around the globe and and left owners wondering if their vehicles are affected.

By Mark Odell and Andy Sharman


What the TPP means for US-Asia ties
The US reached agreement this week with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim economies on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. Gideon Rachman discusses the scope of the pact and what it will mean for those who have signed up, and those left out, with Shawn Donnan and Geoff Dyer

By Gideon Rachman
In the 1930s, the Spanish civil war sucked in outsiders, with Nazi Germany backing the nationalists, the Soviet Union backing the Republicans and foreign idealists flocking to the country to fight on either side of the conflict.

George W Bush famously said that he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and “got a sense of his soul”. Maybe he did – for the former US and current Russian presidents are beginning to look like soulmates, when it comes to the idea of a “war on terror”. Like President Bush, President Putin has decided to deploy his country’s military in the Middle East, as part of a war on terrorism. And like President Bush, the Russian leader has argued that he is engaged in a struggle on behalf of the whole civilised world, while appealing for global support. Read more

Merkel under pressure
Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel is facing an array of problems ranging from the scandal at Volkswagen to the arrival of up to a million refugees in the country. Gideon Rachman discusses the extent of Germany’s difficulties and whether it amounts to a crisis with Stefan Wagstyl and Andy Sharman.