🌎 Just had a chance to read @BorisJohnson’s speech at Munich Security Conference @MunSecConf in full. Conference isn’t widely covered in UK but is, in my opinion, most valuable transatlantic security forum of the year - buy-in at highest levels in DC & EU. Some takeaways... 👇
🇺🇸 Very punchy in respect of welcoming US return to multilateralism. Some have tried (and failed) to tie the PM to the Trump world view but speech was explicit in welcoming US return to Paris agreement and a clear, pro-NATO position. That’ll play well in Brussels and DC.
🌳 An optimistic tone about COP summit in Glasgow. Clear that @AlokSharma_RDG has PM’s backing to work w/ John Kerry to secure a meaningful outcome (and, by extension, a big UK diplo triumph). UK to shepherd “Net Zero by 2050” initiative. Key global leadership role possible.
The bravery on show here is incredible. It’ll be fascinating to see how Lukashanko responds to this. Even being the dictator he is, he overplayed his hand in jailing Tsikhanouskaya’s husband and has inadvertently created the first real mass opposition mvmt since 1994.
While I prefer to focus on Lukashenko’s dictatorial impulses, he’s shown a pragmatic (self-interested?) side at times - usually on foreign policy, where he’s deviated from fealty to Putin (refusing to recognise Crimea annexation) to warm up relations with the EU & secure visa lib
While Lukashenko’s goons will no doubt do their worst to frustrate Tsikhanouskaya’s ability to compete - slashing tyres on campaign cars, ballot stuffing etc. - his recent silence suggest he’ll avoid further punitive measures on her personally.
I've now had the chance to read the entire #RussiaReport. Some interesting observations for all with an interest in international security policy and tackling Russian misinformation campaigns. Some thoughts:
Key finding: "a continuing international consensus is needed against Russian aggressive action". This is no surprise and extends further than simply electoral interference/cyber attacks. There can be no question of revisiting of sanctions imposed after Crimea annexation.
Repeatedly, the report emphasises the threats posed by Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. No surprise in this sense. Pleasing to impact of specific Russian attacks on allies in Ukraine (Crimea) and Montenegro reinforced. UK must keep a close eye on emerging threats to partners.
Russian Ambassador to UK Andrey Kelin’s interview on #Marr this morning was one lie after the other, littered with coded threats of retaliation over Magnitsky sanctions and ongoing investigations into Salisbury killings. @RussianEmbassy focussed on smears and misinformation.
Claim: “We do not interfere... in elections”. Fact: runs directly contrary to clear evidence published by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Russia has offered no counter-evidence. Other clear examples in Ukraine, Moldova, Germany etc.
Claim: “We do not know what happened [in Salisbury]”. Fact: yes, we do. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory traced Novichok directly to state actors, w/ clear evidence agents were sent to UK from RU’s Main Intelligence Directorate. Russia has offered no counter-evidence.
#Macedonia election today. Polls tight. PM Zaev has been gutsy in office - NATO accession a real achievement. But he overreached & raised hopes for EU accession too high - & they were dashed by France’s veto. Rightist VMRO painting him as weak/gullible. theguardian.com/world/2020/jul… 🇲🇰
The ultimate outcome will come down to minority Albanian parties. Zaev delivered in their long-cherished aim of giving Alb language parity. VMRO‘s recent rhetoric doesn’t sit well w/ country’s minorities but they’ve struck deals in the past. Whoever offers most will form govt.
Worth mentioning that it’s impossible to actually know how many ppl live in Macedonia or what its true ethnic breakdown with. No census has taken place since 2002. Likely to have seen a growth in Albanian population. Will a census be their price for joining a coalition?
As predicted, a blowout landslide for Pres. Vučić and the SNS. Including SNS’s coalition partners, the Socialists, the incumbent government has received roughly 75% of the vote. This victory was expected, particularly given boycott of the poll by some of govt’s loudest critics.
Fortunately, it appears as if Vojislav Šešelj/Radicals have lost all their seats in Parliament. Few will mourn that. But it’s hardly encouraging for Serbian democracy that the only opposition to SNS is likely to be a small block of SPAS MPs & MPs representing national minorities.
I’ve just learned about a crack-handed Soviet plan to assassinate former Yugoslavian President Tito using biological weapons. It reads like something out of a cheap airport paperback. Here’s how the story goes...
The Soviet agent I.R. Grigulevich was placed into Italy using a false Costa Rican passport and renamed “Max”. He became a well-known figure in local LatAm embassy circles and was appointed a roving Ambassador for Costa Rica in Yugoslavia and Italy.
In 1952, he visited Yugoslavia and was a hit with Tito’s advisors who promised to organise for him to have a personal audience with the President himself. “Max” excitedly reported this back to his Soviet handlers. An assassination plot was hatched.
The decision of Vetevendosje (VV) representatives to boycott the National Assembly session is ominous but expected. If anything, the formation of this new govt boosts the narrative and support base of @albinkurti. I expect VV support to soar.
This is a “win” for President @HashimThaciRKS who played poker with the Supreme Court and won. While his PDK party aren’t part of the new coalition, he’ll find this new govt. far more malleable than a Kurti-led administration.
Discovered the music of an American jazz artist called Terry Callier this week. Some brilliant and little-known tracks to explore. His life story is fascinating - a true comeback story. 🎵 🎷 Thread >>
He grew up in Chicago where he was friends w/ Curtis Mayfield and Major Lance, playing the city’s African American jazz clubs in the restless early 60s when Martin Luther King’s mvmt was at its peak. His mother discouraged his music career, preferring him to focus on his studies.
Throughout the 70s, he enjoyed modest success, touring w/ titans like Gil Scott-Heron although never managed to gain commercial notoriety. Throughout this period, he recorded prodigiously but largely in obscurity; destined to be another talented musician that never quite made it.
News broadcasts have been full of images of unrest in #Lebanon over the past 24 hours. A few thoughts on what’s going on in the country, what led to this unrest and what should come next. 🇱🇧 *THREAD* 👇
The unrest and violence of the past couple of days – including the torching of banks in Tripoli/Trablus – represent an escalation of existing tense situation, not a fresh conflict. Since October last year, protests have been intermittent and varied hugely in their size & severity
When civil unrest happens in any country, people always look for a “cause”. In #Lebanon, there’s a myriad of them. The “spark” for the October riots was petrol tax hikes. Just like a match to petrol (pardon the pun), it ignited the fire – but underlying factors are far broader.
With @JoeBiden cemented as the Democratic nominee, it’s worth looking in detail at his foreign policy record to try and draw some conclusions about what kind of President he’d be on the world stage and how he may differ from Trump. #Election2020. 🇺🇸 🌍 *THREAD* 👇
Before looking at specifics, it’s the length of Biden’s record that’s most striking. He first joined US Senate Foreign Affairs Ctte in 1973 when Mao was still Chinese premier & US recognised Taiwan, Brandt was W German Chancellor, Tito ruled Yugoslavia & Brezhnev was USSR premier
The foreign policy universe he cut his teeth in was v much still framed by carnage of post-World War Two order & far removed from the less clear threats we see today from organise terrorist groups and non-state actors like ISIS. Asia and Africa were total economic minnows then.
It’s hard to really believe that it has been five years since my grandmother left us. I think I’ve mostly gotten over the sadness at losing her and can look back on amazing memories - which is a good place to be. I wanted to write a few things about her life...
She was born, to Scottish and French parents, in the spa town of Montecatini in 1927 while my great grandfather, Raoul Dunlop, was on business. Raoul had been in Brazil for many years, where he had set up the first telephone links from Europe to S America for Cable & Wireless.
When she was just a few weeks old, the family returned to Brazil - which Vovó always considered her home and country. Raoul was in his early 50s when he married a young French lady in her 20s, Lucienne Alice - my great-grandmother. Vovo had five much-older brothers and sisters.
A quick thread on a few fun places to visit in #Kosovo. Right now, I should be having a cold beer in Priština with @robshamilton but instead, I’m on my sofa looking at old photos... 🇽🇰 ⛪️ 🕌 ⛰ 📸
From a “tourist” perspective, it’s hard to beat #Prizren whether on a hot summer day or frosty winter night. Walking up the Kaljaja Fortress through the forest and then looking down on the mosques and churches below is unforgettable. @alexbirtles
I love the town or #Peja/#Peć. At the foot of beautiful mountains, it has the freshest air and crispest spring water in Kosovo. The reconstructed old bazaar is one of the best in the country and it’s harder to find a more peaceful place than the Serbian Orthodox monastery.
As a result of coronaboredom, I’ve been flicking through some photos from the last few years. In no particular order, here are a few places I can’t wait to go back to... 📸 🌎 ✈️
#Canterbury 🇬🇧 - because it’s where I grew up, where my family are, is steeped in history and has some of the best pubs in the country.
#Brazil 🇧🇷 - My second home and mother’s home country, it’s a place with everything; from beautiful beaches to towering waterfalls to booming commerce and one of the world’s most exciting food cultures. Saudades.
#Kosovo PM Albin Kurti (Vetevendosje) ousted by no confidence vote. His junior coalition partners LDK were joined by all other opposition parties and the minority Serbian List to pass a clear 82-32 motion. Some thoughts on what will happen next... 🇽🇰
This is a big win for President Hashim Thaçi, who absolutely loathes Kurti. Thaçi is a pretty unedifying character but is the ultimate survivor of Kosovo politics. He spies a chance to feather his own nest by getting his own PDK (a fairly crooked cabal) party back into govt.
Thaçi has been conducting side negotiations with Serbia on a final settlement for Kosovo for months, if not years. It’s clear Kurti wasn’t playing ball on a key plank of his rumoured deal with Serbian President Vučić - that is, a land swap between Kos and Serbia.
I’m saddened to read this rather spiteful piece about the United Kingdom in Germany’s @zeitonline newspaper. There’s so much about the piece that needs challenging... zeit.de/amp/politik/au…
The author takes a scornful tone towards UK’s economy - a bizarre line of attack when one considers actual figures rather than emotions. Service sector (80% of economy) hit 17 month high last month. Total accumulated growth for the UK for 13 quarters to November exceeded Germany.
Economic modelling shows the UK’s long-term economic growth could exceed that of Germany, France and Italy. Similarly, the UK is projected to remain fastest growing economy in G7 between 2016 & 2050. This doesn’t speak to the decline the author foretells.
New #Kosovo Foreign Minister is calling for recall of multiple ambassadors, alleging they are politically-appointed. Among others, removal of likes of Vlora Citaku and Lirim Grejcevci would be a self-inflicted wound that would rob country of serious, well-connected figures.
The same removal of ambassadors took place in Georgia - almost but not as quite as febrile a political environment as Kosovo - in 2013 and the country’s standing still suffers as a result.
There are already substantial concerns about the direction the Vetevendosje-led govt. is taking. I’d suggest that removing some of the country’s most eloquent advocates in order to replace them with govt.-friendly nominees would be foolhardly...
Interesting stats from the University of Liverpool/Economic and Social Research Council - just 29% in Northern Ireland would vote for unity with Ireland. belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-…
As pointed out by @ThomasDDowse, the Alliance and Green votes are worth looking at here. They may be perceived as "unaligned" in the unionist/nationalist divide but their voter base isn't. The constituencies they perform well in all have unionist super-majorities.
Explains why many I've chatted to in the DUP seem more sanguine about the rise of Alliance than you'd expect them to. Their hypothesis - supported by this data - is that Alliance/Green voters would overwhelmingly back the union in a border poll.
Sensible move by Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to stand down as CDU Chairman. The news will be welcomed by her party. Looks likely she'll be followed by Friedrich Merz, who has been agitating for the role internally ever since his close defeat by AKK in 2018. Some thoughts... 🇩🇪
Merz showed his inate organisational strength - and personal appeal to many in the CDU - in only very narrowly losing to AKK when she had vast institutional support from the "Merkelite" establishment. He's now in poll position to seize control of the party infrastructure.
A Merz leadership would represent decisive move away from the Merkel era - which frankly may be what the party needs. German voters are tired. Expect a Merz leadership to be more expressly right-wing on economics and immigration than the devoutly Christian Democrat Merkel.