Europe/Americas update: October 25 2017



Moscow is planning to test its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat, twice before the end of the year. The Sarmat was supposed to be tested in March but that’s been delayed. Actually, if you want to be all nitpicky about it, the Sarmat was really supposed to be tested in 2015, but who’s counting? It’s supposed to take over as the basic Russian ICBM over the course of the next decade or so–assuming they do actually get to test it at some point.


An ultra-nationalist member of the Ukrainian parliament named Ihor Mosiychuk was injured, and his bodyguard killed, in an apparent assassination attempt on Wednesday evening in Kiev. A car bomb or possibly motorcycle bomb hit Mosiychuk as he was leaving a TV studio where he’d just done an interview. Mosiychuk is a member of Ukraine’s Radical Party, which ideologically is an eclectic mix of left-wing economics and reactionary anti-Russian nationalism. Given his politics he undoubtedly has plenty of enemies among pro-Russian Ukrainians–and Russians too, for that matter.

Meanwhile in Crimea, Russian authorities released two leading Tatar activists, Ilmi Umerov and Ahtem Chiygoz, who were then flown to Turkey. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for brokering their release.


After a round of negotiations on Tuesday, all three of the parties expected to form Germany’s next governing coalition–even the leftist, pro-Europe Greens–rejected the idea of a common Eurozone budget. The common budget is one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s ideas, maybe the only one he’s ever had that actually has merit because it would do something to counter the fact that joining the Euro basically requires a country to hand the keys to its economy over to the German banking sector. The Greens also seem to have caved on the issue of balanced budgets, but they are hoping to get a reconsideration of plans to increase defense spending–which, of course, would put Germany back on Donald Trump’s naughty list.


Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras says that Madrid’s actions have left Catalonia no choice but to declare independence, which likely means that such a declaration is coming soon. There is a Catalan parliament session scheduled for Thursday afternoon, and President Carles Puigdemont could make the declaration as soon as that session, though there’s still a chance he could call for snap elections to undercut Madrid’s move to take direct control over the region. The invocation of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution and the looming possibility of Madrid’s takeover is reminding many in Catalonia of the Franco regime, which went to great lengths to strip Catalonia of its cultural identity and suppress its separatist inclinations.



Julio de Vido, an Argentine lawmaker and former minister of planning under ex-President Cristina Fernández, was stripped of his legislative immunity and arrested on Wednesday over corruption charges stemming from his time at the ministry. I’m no expert on Argentina to be sure, but this seems like a cautionary tale for Fernández, who is also under a cloud of corruption and just ran for and won a senate seat partly to gain the same legislative immunity that doesn’t seem to have helped de Vido very much.


On the other hand, we have Brazilian President Michel Temer, who at this point could probably beat a homeless guy to death on live TV and get away with it. Temer’s acolytes in the lower house of the Brazilian parliament voted again, for the second time this year, to protect him from a corruption charge on Wednesday. For a guy whose approval rating would round down to zero (it hovers around three percent), and who seems to face another serious corruption allegation every other week nowadays, this is really pretty remarkable to watch. But Temer keeps the plutocrats happy–they’re pretty much his only constituency now–and that’s enough to keep most of the congress on his side.


It probably comes as no surprise that, despite Rex Tillerson’s lip service to increasing diversity at the State Department, the Trump administration has absolutely no interest in doing anything of the sort:

Ten months into office, Trump has put forth nominations for 51 of 197 open ambassador slots. Of those, 36 are men and only a small handful are nonwhite. A State Department spokesperson wouldn’t confirm if Tillerson met his goal for putting forth at least one minority candidate for each ambassador posting and referred Foreign Policy to the White House for questions on ambassador nominations. The White House declined to comment.


While Tillerson pledged to boost diversity at the top, many of the few remaining senior ranking minority officials were pushed out or forced into retirement.

The preponderance of white men being nominated for these jobs would be ugly on its own merits, but it’s all the more so given that at least some of those white men have been of the unqualified and socially stunted man-child dipshit variety. And on that note, I give you former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown:

Scott Brown, the United States’ ambassador to New Zealand, said guests at a Peace Corps event in Samoa were “beautiful” and told a woman server she could make hundreds of dollars in hospitality in the US — prompting a State Department inquiry into his propriety at official events.


“Apparently somebody took offense to that,” the former Republican senator from Massachusetts said in a video addressing the incident. “I was in fact told by my people, you’re not Scott Brown from Rye, New Hampshire, anymore, you’re an ambassador. And you have to be aware — culturally aware — of different cultures, different insensitivities, and I’m always welcoming that kind of good advice.”

In Ambassador (cue the dry heaves) Brown’s defense, who could have predicted that in the strange, local customs of an exotic land such as, ah, New Zealand, it would be inappropriate to encounter random women in service positions, go on at length about how hot they look, and let them know that they could make big bucks working in the US–you know, on account of being so hot? He was just trying to offer them some helpful career advice! Brown later said that people were making a big deal out of nothing because they don’t like Donald Trump, and while he’s not wrong, I think you need to allow for the fact that part of the reason people don’t like Trump is that he surrounds himself with scumbags like Scott Brown.

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