Putin: opportunist or master strategist?

Vladimir Putin has been playing brinkmanship in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Is the Russian president a master strategist or are his moves merely opportunistic? Gideon Rachman discusses the question with Neil Buckley the FT’s East Europe editor.

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

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Hillary Clinton may be abiding by the (potentially apocryphal) wisdom of Napoleon: “Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.”

The Donald Trump campaign is reeling from allegations that the Republican candidate sexually assaulted women – including today’s news that six witnesses are corroborating a People magazine writer’s story, one of many that Trump has denied. A slew of recent polls has shown Clinton extending her lead over the former reality TV star, who has attacked his accusers, including suggesting that some were too unattractive for him to grope. Yesterday he said he could see himself meeting Vladimir Putin before the start of his administration. He also suggested his party’s highest-elected official, Paul Ryan, might not want Trump to win “because maybe he wants to run in four years“.

As a result, Clinton may just have a chance of winning Texas (Texas?!). Read more

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This time next year could die-hard Donald Trump supporters be tuning into Trump TV?

Trump’s inner circle is exploring the possibility according to a big scoop by my colleagues Matt Garrahan and James Fontanella-Khan, who report that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has informally approached a top media industry banker about the prospect of setting up Trump TV after the presidential election in November.

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By Gideon Rachman

The assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul that began this week underlines the fact that the next three months will be a perilous period in international politics. Fighting is intensifying in the Middle East. Tensions are rising between Russia and the west. And relations between China and its Asian neighbours are getting edgier. All this is happening while the US is diverted by the Trump-Clinton melodrama and the transition to a new president.

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

South Africa’s political turmoil

South Africa has been shaken by news that the country’s respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan is facing fraud charges in what appears to be the latest episode in a power struggle with President Jacob Zuma and his allies. Many suspect the charges are trumped up and designed to give Mr Zuma total control of the levers of power. Ben Hall discusses what happens next with Joseph Cotterill and Andrew England

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

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Donald Trump denied a flood of fresh allegations that he groped or sexually assaulted women just days after the release of a video in which he brags about groping women.

The Republican nominee’s campaign is reeling from the publication of accusations from several women who claimed the former reality TV star forcibly kissed them, groped them or reached up their skirts. Here is a rundown of the latest accusationsRead more

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Pundits have been talking about it for years, but this time they may finally get it right: 2016 may actually end up being the year of the woman.

The simple reason is that Hillary Clinton appears increasingly likely to be elected the first female president. She currently leads Donald Trump by as much as 6.5 per cent in polling averages, and as Harry Enten points out at fivethirtyeight, a comeback from such a deficit at this point in the race would be unprecedented.

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There are exactly four weeks until election day, and with his poll numbers plummeting in the wake of a video that showed him bragging about sexually assaulting women, Donald Trump has found his true enemy: Republicans. Read more

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Donald Trump may have staunched the bleeding of his campaign, which has been reeling from leaked video released on Friday that showed the Republican candidate bragging about sexually assaulting women, with a more assured performance in what many observers noted was perhaps the nastiest, ugliest and darkest presidential debate in modern history. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

How did it come to this? The presidential election debates should represent US democracy at its finest. Instead, the second Clinton-Trump debate centred around sordid allegations of sexual assault, threats, lies and mutual contempt.

Candidates Hillary Clinton And Donald Trump Hold Second Presidential Debate At Washington University

The second US presidential debate brought the expected volley of accusations and insults but came to an unexpectedly dignified close in final remarks by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The action and reaction is followed here by the FT DC bureau team, led by Barney Jopson and Courtney Weaver, while Anna Nicolaou recorded the mood among supporters at the Trump Tower bar, curated by US online news editor Emiliya Mychasuk. 

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

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spent Thursday preparing for the second presidential debate, now just 72 hours away.

Clinton, who attended a Manhattan fundraiser but had no public appearances scheduled, hunkered down with aides to rehearse policy positions and no doubt practice a few one-liners. Trump, whose improbable presidential bid faces a make-or-break moment on Sunday night, scheduled his own town hall-style event for Thursday evening. Read more

Theresa May’s Brexit vision

At the UK Conservative party conference this week we got a clearer sense of Theresa May’s Brexit vision, with the prime minister announcing that the process for leaving the bloc will be formally set in motion early next year. So what are the implications at this stage for Britain – and for Europe? Gideon Rachman puts the question to Daniel Dombey, the FT’s Brexit editor, and Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker.

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Mike Pence tried out a novel strategy in last night’s vice presidential debate against Democrat Tim Kaine: pretend that the Donald Trump who has been campaigning for president for over a year and lived a very public life for at least 40 years does not exist.

Throughout the debate, Kaine listed Trump’s derogatory remarks about women, Mexicans, Muslims, President Barack Obama, the family of a slain US soldier and black people, along with his praise for Vladimir Putin, nuclear proliferation and mass deportations. Against Kaine’s onslaught, Pence offered up a folksy chuckle, an incredulous shake of his head and, occasionally, an outright denial that what Kaine said Trump had said was true – despite ample video evidence that it was. 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

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2016 vice presidential debate!

In this corner, weighing in at the exact average height and weight for a man of his age and dressed like the villain in a 1970s blaxploitation flick, Republican Mike Pence of Indiana. And in this corner, wearing dad jeans and telling you and your friends its okay to drink beers in his garage because he’s “cool”, Tim Kaine, Democratic senator from Virginia. Read more