Europe/Americas update: November 5-6 2018



The US State Department said on Tuesday that it is preparing another wave of sanctions against Russia over the Sergei Skripal attack in the United Kingdom. The Trump administration invoked the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act back in August, imposing an initial round of sanctions while giving Russia a 90 day window to demonstrate that it’s eliminated its chemical and biological weapons program lest it be subjected to additional, stronger sanctions. That window is now closed. It’s unclear what the new sanctions will entail but they are intended to be “more draconian” than the first set.


German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has finally canned Hans-Georg Maassen, the former head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution whom Seehofer transferred to a position in the ministry in September on account of the fact that he’s, well, fascist. It turns out that Maassen is still fascist even in the new job, and so Seehofer–who’s not exactly anti-fascist himself–tragically has had to let him go altogether. Seehofer himself is now taking heat from leftish opposition parties for coddling Maassen in the first place.


We don’t get to talk about Monaco very much around here, but they’re reportedly investigating a Russian oligarch named Dmitry Rybolovlev, who owns the AS Monaco football (the foreign kind) club, on corruption charges:

A Monaco judge has for over a year been investigating whether Rybolovlev sought to influence Monaco law enforcement officials in his long-running dispute with Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier.

The Russian alleges Bouvier swindled him out of $1 billion by overcharging him on 38 pieces of art he purchased over a 10-year period and is suing his former art adviser in Monaco, Singapore and Switzerland. Bouvier has denied wrongdoing.

The Monaco prosecutor confirmed to Reuters an operation linked to the investigation but declined to say if Rybolovlev was being questioned by police.

Rybolovlev is also known for having purchased Donald Trump’s former Palm Beach mansion for $100 million and change back in 2008. He also sold Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi for $450 million to none other than Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. So he seems like a real decent guy who keeps very high quality company.

Yeah, definitely just a cool dude with cool friends (Wikimedia Commons | Francknataf)


French police have reportedly arrested six people with far right political leanings for plotting to assassinate President Baldr Emmanuel Macron. I’m not sure I buy this, frankly. As far as I can tell, Emmanuel Macron and his less-popular-than-legionaires-disease centrism has been a great boon to the French far right. Why they would want to turn him into a martyr is beyond me.


A new poll indicates that if they had another bite at the apple, British voters would choose 54-46 to remain in the European Union. Which is a real bummer, because it’s back to looking like they’re not only leaving the EU, but leaving on bad terms. Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar has rejected a Brexit backstop for Northern Ireland that would have left the entire UK in the EU customs union but would have given London the right to end that arrangement at will. Varadkar has also ruled out a temporary backstop that would end after three months whether the UK and EU had come to a deal on the Irish border or not. Senior figures in the Democratic Unionist Party are now suggesting that a “no deal Brexit” is inevitable, and since the DUP can crash Theresa May’s minority government if it wants, that could be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Northern Irish border problem remains remarkably unchanged. Ireland will veto any Brexit deal that returns to a hard border, which means either Northern Ireland alone or the entire UK need to remain in the customs union. But the DUP will veto any deal that leaves Northern Ireland in the customs union without the rest of the UK, and hardliners in May’s Conservative Party will veto any deal that leaves the entire UK in the customs union. Good luck with all that.

Meanwhile, the UK is mad that Brussels is treating it differently from other EU member states just because the UK is leaving or whatever:

In a vote among the 28 member states on the latest allocation of the bloc’s £26.5bn development budget, the UK government declined to give its support for aid spending for the first time.

It instead issued a statement accusing the commission of failing to offer the best value for money for European taxpayers by discriminating against British-based organisations that were seeking funding.

The criticism was made in response to a commission decision to include clauses in its contracts with aid providers stating all funding will be terminated should there be a no-deal Brexit.

Sorry guys. Elections have consequences.



The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor wonders if Donald Trump’s warm embrace of fascist Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro is going to cause long-term problems for the US:

In Bolsonaro, Trump may see an ideological fellow politician who shares his contempt for international agreements and organizations. Bucking years of Brazilian diplomacy, Bolsonaro has announced that his government will move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and may shutter the Palestinian mission in Brasilia. Following so closely in Trump’s footsteps deepens the sense of a new right-wing axis emerging in world politics, one within which the Brazilian leader may play a prominent role.

This may be good news for Trump, particularly if he seeks to turn up the heat on Venezuela — Bolsonaro has advocated a far tougher line against Brazil’s dysfunctional northern neighbor than his more liberal opponents. But there’s a risk of his rule drifting into the tyranny derided by Bolton.

“The new Brazilian president’s policy positions will likely please Washington in the short term. But what their longer-term effect will be, for both Brazil and the United States, is worth asking,” analysts Roberto Simon and Brian Winter noted in Foreign Affairs.


The EU on Tuesday extended its sanctions against Venezuela over Nicolás Maduro’s human rights record for another year.

Meanwhile, Maduro’s government is moving soldiers to reinforce the country’s border with Colombia. Three Venezuelan soldiers were killed over the weekend in an attack allegedly carried out by a Colombian paramilitary group, possibly the Colombian rebel group ELN.


It would make some sense if ELN were behind the cross border attack in Venezuela, because the group has been very active in Norte de Santander department, along the Venezuelan border. At least 850 people have been displaced in that province over the past week due to fighting between the ELN and a local gang called Los Pelusos for control over the area’s drug trade. The ELN is still trying to fill the vacuum left by FARC’s decision to go legitimate last year, but so are local gangs and elements of FARC that refused to end their rebellion. This tends to lead to violence.


The first group of Central American migrants in The Caravan of Doom has reached Mexico City. Cue the wailing sirens and flashing red lights at the White House. The Mexican government is still working to keep the caravan from reaching the US border with a combination of asylum applications and deportations, but some portion of this caravan is inevitably going to wind up knocking on Donald Trump’s door.


There are a bunch of elections happening tonight or something if that’s your thing. It looks like Democrats are going to retake control of the House of Representatives and their margin could actually be pretty big. It looks like they’re going to lose a little ground in the Senate, but in their defense there were a lot of red state Democratic senators on the ballot this cycle so it was a tough year on that front. Looks like a few Democratic governorship pickups as well. Not sure what’s happening in state legislatures, I’ve been too busy blogging to pay close attention. Overall not the huge shattering anti-Trump wave of people’s wildest dreams, but control of the House is important and those governorships mean a few more states that can’t be gerrymandered to hell by Republicans after the 2020 census.


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