At a moment when much of the western world seems impotently indifferent to the destruction of a country – Syria – it is startling to be reminded yet again that thousands of Americans and Europeans risked their lives and futures in another country’s civil war. To Spain, between 1936 and 1938, came approximately 2,800 from the United States who formed the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as well as tens of thousands more from Britain, Poland and France, all volunteers in what they saw as a battle against fascism. In far higher proportion than the Spanish defenders of the Republic they came to help, they died on the battlefields with no markers on that soil. Of those an estimated 750 were American.
As the nations and people of the North Atlantic hurtle towards 2017, the populist forces which are unraveling the certainties that have bound them together since World War II become more powerful with every passing week. Britain’s vote on June 23 to “Brexit” the European Union (EU) was not the first centrifugal explosion. But it was certainly the most dramatic signal of changing times until November 8 brought the election of Donald Trump, an economic nationalist and diplomatic isolationist, to the U.S. presidency.
In a recent address to scores of enthusiastic fans at his huge palace in Ankara, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared himself ‘shepherd’ of the nation, citing in Arabic from the Prophet of Islam. For Erdogan’s ardent supporters, Turkey is a rising Muslim powerhouse under his strong leadership. Ankara’s traditional alliance with the West is only an impediment to Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman expansionism abroad and sultan-type dominance at home.
Italy’s overwhelming vote on Sunday (December 5) against an over-confident PM Matteo Renzi, left bankers scrambling to shore up the country’s third-largest lender and prevent other Italian banks from collapsing under both the staggering burden of unpaid debt (an estimated $393.47 billion, or €365 billion) and a weak, intransigent economy. By Monday’s close in Europe’s markets, Italy’s bank stocks had fallen overall by two percent, a decline that was probably offset by widespread expectation of the “no” vote.
On November 13, the Republic of Moldova, a member of the EaP (EU’s Eastern Partnership), and EU member state Bulgaria held final second round presidential elections, with Russia-friendly candidates emerging victorious in both instances.
© COPYRIGHT THE EUROPEAN INSTITUTE 2009
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