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Leaders in America’s top 3 European Allies face Crisis
- Britain: Teresa May tries to manage a Brexit vote motivated by anti-immigration
- France: Emmanuel Macron faces rioting in the streets over a carbon tax
- Germany: Angela Merkel has to step down as leader amid backlash over middle east immigration
Filmed at the Royal Geographical Society on 15th April 2014. The First World War is not called the Great War for nothing. It was the single most decisive event in modern history, as well as one of the bloodiest: by the time the war ended, some nine million soldiers had been killed. It was also a historical full stop, marking the definitive end of the Victorian era and the advent of a new age of uncertainty. By 1918, the old order had fallen: the Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia; the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires had been destroyed; and even the victorious Allied powers had suffered devastating losses. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And yet barely two decades later, the world was again plunged into conflict. Little wonder then that historians still cannot agree whether Britain’s engagement was worth it. For some, the war was a vitally important crusade against Prussian militarism. Had we stayed out, they argue, the result would have been an oppressive German-dominated Europe, leaving the British Empire isolated and doomed to decline. And by fighting to save Belgium, Britain stood up for principle: the right of a small nation to resist its overbearing neighbours. For others, the war was a catastrophic mistake, fought at a catastrophic human cost. It brought Communism to power in Russia, ripped up the map of Europe and left a festering sense of resentment that would fuel the rise of Nazism. We often forget that, even a few days before Britain entered the war, it seemed likely that we would stay out. H. H. Asquith’s decision to intervene changed the course of history. But was it the right one?
The United States is not directly bombing civilians in Yemen, but it is providing arms, intelligence and aerial refueling to assist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as they hammer Yemen with airstrikes, destroy its economy and starve its people. The Saudi aim is to crush Houthi rebels who have seized Yemen’s capital and are allied with Iran.
That’s sophisticated realpolitik for you: Because we dislike Iran’s ayatollahs, we are willing to starve Yemeni schoolchildren.
.. To their credit, some members of Congress are trying to stop these atrocities. A bipartisan effort this year, led by Senators Mike Lee, Chris Murphy and Bernie Sanders, tried to limit U.S. support for the Yemen war, and it did surprisingly well, winning 44 votes. New efforts are underway as well.
.. World leaders are gathered for the United Nations General Assembly, making pious statements about global goals for a better world, but the Assembly is infused with hypocrisy. Russia is up to its elbows in crimes against humanity in Syria, China is detaining perhaps one million Uighurs while also shielding Myanmar from accountability for probable genocide, and the United States and Britain are helping Saudi Arabia commit war crimes in Yemen.
That’s pathetic: Four of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are complicit in crimes against humanity.
In stark contrast to England, Russia appeared profoundly unqualified to host a monthlong tournament expected to draw well over three million spectators. For starters, Russia didn’t have a great soccer tradition; its team hadn’t even qualified to play in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, thanks to an embarrassing loss to Slovenia.
.. More important, it didn’t have adequate stadiums or other infrastructure, and since it was already going to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, there were serious questions about how it could afford to build what was required.
.. To most observers, Russia didn’t seem like a serious threat to England’s hopes, but Mr. Steele’s confidential sources told a very different story.
Mr. Putin, then serving a four-year term as prime minister, saw hosting the World Cup as a vital way to project his country’s power, and his own, around the world. He was determined, sources said, to win the bid at any cost.
.. Russian government officials and oligarchs close to Mr. Putin had been enlisted to push the effort, cutting shadowy gas deals with other countries in exchange for votes, offering expensive gifts of art to FIFA voters and even dispatching Roman Abramovich, the billionaire who owns the London-based Chelsea Football Club, to South Africa to pressure Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president.
.. Multiple generations of FIFA administrators were brought down, accused of collectively taking hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes.
.. Court records from the case run into the thousands of pages, and prosecutors spent weeks laying out every tangled intricacy of their digging in a six-week criminal trial in federal court in Brooklyn late last year. But Russia, strangely, seems to have been completely absent from any of it.
.. An attempt by FIFA itself to audit the bid after the fact was stymied when it was discovered that a football foundation linked to Mr. Abramovich, Mr. Putin’s oligarch pal, destroyed the Russia bid team’s computers.
.. The country has somehow found a place at or near the center of nearly every geopolitical conspiracy, most of them considerably more insidious than where a quadrennial soccer tournament should be held.
.. On June 14, the Russian national soccer team will square off against Saudi Arabia in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium for the opening match of the 2018 World Cup. Lacking talent in midfield, a viable scoring threat, an organized defense or a well-regarded coach, the Russian squad hasn’t had any notable success since 2008 and qualified this time because host nations get an automatic spot.