05 Mar

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.


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When the US swung a Russian election

The US intervened on the side of Boris Yeltsin in the Russian presidential election of 1996, offering advice and influence to help him secure the finance he needed.

by Hélène Richard

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An earlier victory: Boris Yeltsin gives a triumphant speech after government forces suppressed an attempted coup in August 1991

Wojtek Laski · Getty

It is claimed that Russia now interferes in the political and social affairs of most western countries. President Emmanuel Macron believes the yellow vests movement is partly an attempt by a ‘foreign power’ to destabilise France, and everyone knows he means Russia. Russia, it is claimed, is behind the emergence of a major separatist movement in Catalonia, the UK vote to leave the EU in 2016 and Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 US presidential election. In the US, the idea that a foreign power might be trying to influence political events in this way rouses emotional reactions in the media and in government, and has led to an inquiry into the possible connections between Trump, his election campaign and Russia.

But, despite the outrage there, the US has itself not always been respectful of the sovereignty of other states. Former US State Department official Thomas Melia admits that ‘the CIA manipulated elections in 1940s Italy and 1950s Germany — and beyond electoral shenanigans, it also secretly helped overthrow elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s’. He adds that these things happened during the cold war, and that since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russian and US efforts to undermine foreign elections have not been ‘morally equivalent’: the US is pursuing ‘programmes to strengthen democratic processes in another country (without regard to specific electoral outcomes)’; Russia ‘manipulate[s] another country’s election in order to sow chaos, undermine public confidence in the political system, and diminish a country’s social stability.’ Steven Hall, former chief of Russian operations at the CIA, says comparing them ‘is like saying cops and bad guys are the same because they both have guns’. The policies intended to overthrow Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro illustrate this view: the official line is that the US is promoting democracy, while Russia is supporting an illiberal dictator .

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World Politics

United States


Exclusive: Policy adviser claims couple tried to gain grant for Chelsea’s boyfriend

Hillary and Bill Clinton in Limerick during a presidential visit to Ireland in September 1998.

Hillary and Bill Clinton in Limerick during a presidential visit to Ireland in September 1998. Photograph: Dan Chung/The Guardian

A veteran Democratic foreign policy adviser has accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of nepotism, dishonesty and vindictiveness in an assault on a previously untouched part of the Clinton political legacy – Ireland.

Trina Vargo, who was a behind-the-scenes Washington player in Northern Ireland’s peace process, claims the couple tried to obtain a scholarship to Ireland for a boyfriend of their daughter, Chelsea, and later cut funding for the scholarship to punish Vargo for backing Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination race.

Vargo makes the allegations in a book, Shenanigans: the US-Ireland Relationship in Uncertain Times, published this week in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

It lifts the lid on what Vargo sees as inept, deluded and, at times, farcical efforts by Irish politicians and officials to tap the Irish diaspora and potential allies in Washington and Hollywood.

Vargo, who founded the US-Ireland Alliance, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, shuttled between the US capital, Dublin and Belfast for two decades while advising Sen Ted Kennedy and the Clinton and Obama administrations on Northern Ireland.

Her portrait of the Clintons casts a shadow on a jewel of their foreign policy legacy, alleging pettiness and vengefulness after the historic peace-making of the 1998 Good Friday agreement.

Vargo set up a scholarship named after George Mitchell, a former US senator who helped broker the agreement, in 1999. It sends 12 US students to study in Ireland and Northern Ireland each year.

Vargo writes that in November 2000 Mitchell told her “with some uneasiness” that Bill Clinton, then nearing the end of his time in the White House, had phoned him to say he was “very unhappy” that Chelsea’s boyfriend had not been shortlisted from about 200 candidates despite a recommendation letter from the president.

Mitchell made clear he was not asking for the boyfriend’s inclusion, just seeking clarification. “It would be hard to believe that the timing of the president’s call wasn’t aimed at influencing us to make him a finalist,” writes Vargo.

The boyfriend remained off the shortlist, which Vargo believes put her on a path to joining the Clintons’ “enemies list”.

In 2007, Vargo advised Obama’s campaign on Ireland policy during his battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Clinton challenged her rival’s lack of experience and promoted her role in the peace process as first lady.

Clinton and her supporters grossly exaggerated her influence, says Vargo. “The tall tales just kept growing … disregard for the truth was not invented, merely taken to new heights, by Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign.”

Vargo helped Obama’s campaign to challenge the former first lady’s version, leading, she believes, to “payback” months later when Bill Clinton cancelled his attendance at a US-Ireland Alliance event in Belfast to celebrate the Good Friday agreement’s 10th anniversary.

There is no proof to back up the claim. An aide told Vargo a scheduling change was behind the decision and declined to elaborate.

In 2012, the state department, then under Hillary Clinton, cut its annual $500,000 contribution to the Mitchell scholarship, citing budgetary measures. “The elimination of funding … was not about the money,” Vargo writes.

The Guardian has contacted the Clintons for comment.

Since 2015, Vargo has filed freedom of information requests to clarify the reason for the funding cut, supplying a list of names to the state department, but has only received documents with other, lower-level names.

The book also levels accusations at Irish politicians and officials. Successive Irish governments brought a “begging bowl” mentality to Washington by seeking funding for peace process initiatives long past their sell-by date, she says.

They also made clumsy efforts to tap the diaspora, such as creating the “certificate of Irishness”, a scheme scrapped for lack of interest in 2015, and annoyed Latinos and other groups in the US by unsuccessfully seeking special deals for Irish immigrants.

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Conservative governments fail because they cut and cut, and for a long time we don’t notice. Then we feel the impact

Stabbing victims, top row from left: Yousef Ghaleb Makki, Jodie Chesney, Hazrat Umar, Connor Brown and Kamali Gabbidon-Lynck; bottom row from left: Lejean Richards, Abdullah Muhammad, Sidali Mohamed, Nedim Bilgin and Jaden Moodie.

Their faces are hauntingly impossible to ignore, staring out from the front pages. Some are in school uniform, little more than children; others all teenage bravado, hovering on the difficult cusp of adulthood.

But all 27 teenagers were far too young to die like this, stabbed to death on the streets of Britain in the past 12 months. This is the kind of national moment that demands a swift, reassuring and comprehensive response from politicians. And yet what it gets is Theresa May, stiffly insisting that there is “no direct correlation” between the rising tide of knife crime and police numbers. Nothing has changed, or if it has then it definitely wasn’t her fault. It is a characteristically tone-deaf response to a public mood characterised by alarm and sorrow; why can’t she see that dead children requires something more emotionally literate than this? But the bigger problem is that what she’s saying flies in the face of common sense.

It would be disingenuous for police to argue that this was all about money, nothing to do with strategy or even with historic failures to gain the trust of a community. But nobody is saying that funding cuts are the sole cause of a complex social phenomenon such as gang crime (not that all knife crime is to do with gangs, obviously; what seems to have driven the Daily Mail to put those 27 young victims of knife crime on its front page is the fatal stabbing at the weekend of a 17-year-old private schoolboy from Manchester, and police have said there is no evidence that was gang-related). Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police chief who contradicted the prime minister by arguing that there was in fact a link between police numbers and violence, can hardly be accused of shroud-waving when she also stressed that there have been fewer knife murders on the streets of London this year compared to the same period last year.

The claim is simply that policing budget cuts of £250m since 2010, leading to fewer officers on increasingly dangerous streets, cannot fail to have some impact over time. And the same is true for cuts to every other part of the social fabric: youth services, early intervention with troubled families, mental health, education. These services all existed for a reason and we are once again having to learn the hard way what that reason is.

For May, there is an awkward personal history here. Almost five years ago, at the Police Federation’s national conference, the then home secretary delivered the most crushing of putdowns, a merciless lecture on police failures from the death of Stephen Lawrence to the death of a man caught up in the G20 protests, accompanied by a thinly veiled suggestion that since she had managed to cut their budgets without prompting a rise in crime perhaps they could stop complaining about it. She was heard in largely sullen silence, because if what she had to say was unwelcome, it was also true. There had been failures, and during the Cameron years, austerity did not have the predicted effect of driving crime up. That puzzled some criminologists at the time, but it seems the reaction may simply have been delayed.

This is how Conservative governments almost always fail in the end. They cut and cut, and for a surprisingly long time most people don’t feel the impact; frontline staff work overtime or come up with imaginative ways around the problem, or sometimes it turns out there is more fat to trim than anyone in the public sector wanted to admit. But eventually the nation starts to feel it – first the poorest, then the comfortable middle classes – and that is roughly where we are now. Knife crime is spreading out from London into other major cities, and even sleepy market towns are now experiencing an unexpected surge in violence as the county lines drugs trade reaches aggressively out into the shires. Law and order is being tested to the point where even readers of the Daily Mail and Telegraph are starting to notice, and the country deserves more than a hastily convened knife crime summit in response. Lives, as we are being reminded on an almost daily basis, depend on it.

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