What the opposition did and how Erdoğan managed to escape outright defeat.

Populist Autocrat

What the opposition did and how Erdoğan managed to escape outright defeat.

By Murat Somer and Jennifer McCoy

May 2023 

Turkey’s hotly contested May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections saw a record turnout of 88.9 percent. Heading into the election, polls had given opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was supported by two alliances of opposition parties, a slight edge over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan, who has been in power for two decades, was seeking yet another term despite Turkey’s declining economy and the government’s poor response to a catastrophic earthquake earlier this year. He seemed more vulnerable going into the election than ever before.

By the end of the night, however, Erdoğan (with 49.5 percent) had just missed the 50 percent threshold to win outright and will head into the May 28 runoff nearly 5 points ahead of Kılıçdaroğlu (who won 44.9 percent). A third candidate, ultranationalist Sinan Oğan, won 5.2 percent of the vote, and his endorsement could tip the balance in either direction. The president’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its allies have for now retained their majority in parliament. However, allegations of election irregularities could lead to some seats being reallocated to the opposition.

These outcomes came as a surprise and disappointment to many. So we must ask: How did Erdoğan escape defeat? And how did the opposition come so close in the first place?

Three factors explain Erdoğan’s stronger-than-expected first-round performance. First, intense polarization and negative partisanship kept voters from switching from pro-Erdoğan to anti-Erdoğan blocs, even when they were unhappy with the government’s performance. Erdoğan’s use of political rhetoric demonizing the opposition, identity politics, and fear-mongering disinformation helped him to keep most of his base despite the distresses of high inflation (estimated to be at 80 percent) and the February earthquake. Meanwhile, Kılıçdaroğlu had the backing of opposition parties that had fielded separate presidential candidates in 2018, yet he failed to improve on their combined total from five years ago.

Second, it is exceedingly difficult to defeat elected autocrats. One need only look at Vladimir Putin in Russia, Hugo Chávez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, and, more recently, Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Aleksandar Vučić in Serbia—both of whom won landslide elections last year, dashing hopes for change. Still, Erdoğan was facing his biggest challenge ever, given his mismanagement of the economy, his government’s inadequate response to the earthquake, and years of corruption. To compensate, he not only secured major loans from Saudi Arabia and Russia so that he could entice votes with handouts such as free gas for a year, but he also engaged in more electoral manipulation and discrimination.

Third, Erdoğan put to full use the “Frankenstate” he has constructed over the years to promote himself and stifle his opponents. He has politicized state television and, through his oligarchs, taken over most private mass media, allowing him to deny or control coverage of the opposition (for example, producing uneven, discrediting, and at times demonizing portrayals of opponents) for up to 80 percent of voters. Erdoğan also may have received Russian help with a deep-fake video that aired at his closing campaign rally and depicted terrorist PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) members singing the opposition’s campaign song. He jailed leftist pro-Kurdish leaders and potential candidates, and convicted popular opposition figure Ekrem Imamoğlu, now mayor of Istanbul, of “insulting” the election commission following shenanigans in Imamoğlu’s 2019 mayoral race, threatening to disqualify him from running for president.

Crucially, Erdoğan’s compliant parliament changed the rules this year for seat allocations in that body, requiring parties in an alliance to agree on a single list of candidates if they wanted to receive the full benefit of forming an electoral alliance. This task was guaranteed to be a challenge for an alliance of six opposition parties. In the end, the opposition did better in large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, but the ruling People’s Alliance won in rural areas where gaining a seat requires fewer votes. Thus the governing alliance won 53.5 percent of seats with just 48.4 percent of the vote, while the two opposition alliances together won 46 percent of seats with 45.5 percent of the vote.

The Opposition’s Innovations

Democratic oppositions often are ideologically fractured and helpless against autocrats’ democracy-eroding tactics, which over time tilt the playing field so dramatically that beating them becomes nearly impossible. Perhaps just as damaging, many opposition groups lack a vision for addressing fears and grievances that bring autocrats to power in the first place. They are not offering the people realistic, democratic alternative solutions to their problems. Turkey’s opposition, in contrast, has made significant and innovative advances on both fronts—electoral competition and governing strategies—in recent years. This, in large part, is why the opposition alliance was narrowly favored going into the election. And it did hold its own against great odds, ultimately keeping Erdogan’s presidential vote under 50 percent for the first time in his three presidential contests. Whether or not the opposition prevails on May 28, it has acted creatively and made strides in organization and mobilization that will serve it in the future. Its strategies and tactics could provide valuable lessons for oppositions worldwide. Here are seven of them:

1) Unite: Turkish opposition parties understood that they could not win on their own against an autocrat viciously using its powers to divide, discredit, and disempower the opposition. So they joined together, forming two major coalitions: the Nation Alliance (also known as Table of Six) and the Labor and Freedom Alliance. These coalitions jointly endorsed Kılıçdaroğlu as president. Oğan, the third presidential candidate, is now trying to play kingmaker.

Although the Nation alliance strategically coordinated electoral lists for some parliamentary districts, it should have created more united lists. It also failed to coordinate at all with the leftist Freedom and Labor Alliance for parliamentary seats, which helped Erdoğan’s alliance in the parliamentary vote. Turkey’s electoral system has a high threshold for party entry (7 percent) and uses the D’Hondt formula to distribute seats (benefiting larger parties). That, combined with the government’s ability to gerrymander the 87 electoral districts, at least to some degree means that Turkey’s is not a pure proportional-representation system, making it more imperative for opposition parties to join together.

2) Depolarizing messages: Erdoğan has long used polarizing politics to demean and vilify his opponents and to keep his voters loyal, whether they like the government or not. The more voters dislike or fear the opposition, the more hesitant they’ll be to punish the regime at the ballot box. To disarm or at least neutralize that strategy, the Turkish opposition formed left-right alliances that cannot be pinned to any single identity, ideology, or legacy. This was so effective that Erdoğan had to resort to unprecedented levels of disinformation and hate speech to demonize the opposition.

The opposition so far has mostly avoided the temptation to respond in kind and risk further polarizing Turks. Instead, it has proposed a new Turkey—one of tolerance and diversity that respects religious freedoms. Most surprising perhaps, is the viral “Alevi” video, in which Kiliçaroğlu put his own minority Alevi Muslim religious identity front and center and called on young people to embrace diverse identities. Although such positive tactics can be, and have been, effective, we must still recognize that it is hard to defeat negative sentiments of fear, anger, and hate.

3) Consensus-seeking and program-based politics: Rather than simply presenting an anti-incumbent message or offering an alternative strongman (a common approach), Turkey’s opposition alliances have focused on their programs and policies. They have stressed that Kılıçdaroğlu is seeking votes for his alliance and its program, not for himself, and they have signed detailed documents laying out their agreed-upon reforms. The agreements detailed in the Nation Alliance’s 244-page memorandum of understanding have injected an unprecedented programmatic depth into Turkish politics and lend credence to the opposition’s claim that it has a bigger agenda than simply ousting Erdoğan.

4) Conflict resolution: Turkey’s opposition alliances have developed an agree-to-disagree culture to back up their promise to rebuild the country’s democracy with a broad-based consensus. Nonetheless, they have not been immune from disagreements and infighting. In the most serious instance, Good Party leader Meral Akşener left the Nation Alliance only to return two days later. For the most part, however, the constituent parties have shown a commitment to keep talking until they reach some kind of agreement.

5) Extraordinary tactics disarming the autocrat: The opposition has used creativity and humor to counter the government’s heavy-handed tactics. The opposition’s clever use of social media has helped it to overcome the incumbent’s extensive informational advantages. Kılıçdaroğlu’s nightly videos from his humble kitchen, which contrasts sharply with Erdoğan’s flamboyant presidential palace, are a good example. Creativity comes in handy, especially for frustrating the government’s strategic repression. Erdoğan has weaponized a politicized judiciary to selectively cripple his most promising political rivals—for example, by bringing charges against İmamoğlu when he rose in the polls as a potential presidential candidate. Kılıçdaroğlu has declared İmamoğlu as his running mate, together with Mansur Yavaş, Ankara’s equally popular mayor, and the five other party leaders who make up his alliance. This creates not only a supremely representative leadership team, but also a clear obstacle to Erdoğan sidelining individual rivals.

6) Looking to the future with concrete proposals: Autocrats promise to navigate their countries through troubled times and address pressing problems such as climate change, immigration, and inequality with a strong hand. In reality, they hollow out democratic institutions, talk tough, and implement policies that exploit but do not solve these global problems. A week before Turkey’s pivotal twin elections, Erdoğan was not campaigning on promises of social equality, price stability, or food security. Instead, he was boasting about his assertive foreign policy and the country’s flourishing arms industry, huge parts of which are owned by members of his own family. This may swell national pride and bump up Turkey’s ranking in the global military pecking order, but it will not make Turkey or any of its neighbors more secure.

Many democratic oppositions fail to propose realistic solutions to the problems plaguing society beyond returning to the past that voters rejected in the first place. The Turkish opposition has been trying to change that. It is far from reaching consensus on many issues that divide parties of the right and left. But it is offering a program for the future while trying hard not to alienate supporters of its constituent parties, a problem that has stymied oppositions in Hungary, Serbia, and Venezuela. The opposition’s platform includes economic proposals, such as restoring the independence of the Central Bank, as well as far-reaching reforms, such as signing the Paris Climate Convention, promoting a green economy, and addressing poverty and high youth unemployment with a universal basic income for lower-class families and 18-to-25-year-olds. Perhaps most important, the opposition wants to replace Erdoğan’s oppressive hyperpresidential system with a democratic and consensus-based “reformed” parliamentary system more amenable to discussing issues freely and inclusively.

7) Collective leadership: In Turkey’s hyperpresidential system, the opposition has taken the extraordinary step of proposing a collective leadership team, with two popular mayors and the leaders of the other five parties joining Kılıçdaroğlu as proposed vice-presidents. Although vice-presidents are not elected in Turkey, this promise of a leadership team representative of all the parties in the Nation Alliance demonstrates its commitment to remaining united in a new government and implementing its agreed-upon program.

No Effort Is Wasted

None of these innovations guarantees success for the opposition. The limits to its ability to overcome the hurdles of an entrenched, energetic, and charismatic strongman were on full display on election night. But the opposition still has a chance to win. The runoff will be a battle for turnout, and the opposition must motivate demoralized voters to go to the polls. Kılıçdaroğlu will have to explain that he will be able to govern stably with a legislature dominated by the AKP and its allies. He will also need to find a way to secure Oğan’s endorsement, perhaps by finding common ground on policies of immigration and secularism. These are major challenges.

Whether the Turkish opposition wins this time around or not, its strategies and proposals will be highly informative. It may not yet be able to unseat Turkey’s autocrat, but it has managed to keep opposition support more alive than ever and forced Erdoğan to keep radicalizing his policies and alliances in order to survive. These same strategies can benefit other oppositions challenging autocrats and would-be autocrats. Beyond that, political parties and civil society groups in democracies worldwide can use these strategies as they try to confront urgent challenges in contexts of deep inequality, divided societies, and democratic backsliding.

Murat Somer is professor of political science at Koç University, Istanbul.  He is coeditor, with Jennifer McCoy, of “Polarization and Democracy: A Janus-faced Relationship with Pernicious Consequences,” a special volume of American Behavioral Scientist (2018) and author of Return to Point Zero: The Turkish-Kurdish Question and How Politics and Ideas (Re)Make Empires, Nations and States (2022). Jennifer McCoy is Regent’s Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University, nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and visiting researcher at Koç University in Istanbul. She is coeditor, with Murat Somer, of “Polarizing Polities: A Global Threat to Democracy,” a special volume of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2019).

Chris Christie Doesn’t Want to Hear the Name Trump

An illustrated portrait of Chris Christie
Illustration by The Atlantic. Source: G Fiume / Getty

Blogger’s note: A few surprises here. Can Anyone really know Chris Christy? Smart guy like him or not. Very hard to pin hown. Changes stories a lot, but can “take you in.”


APRIL 22, 2023, 7:30 AM ETSHARE


“How many different ways are you gonna ask the same fucking question, Mark?” Chris Christie asked me. We were seated in the dining room of the Hay-Adams hotel. It’s a nice hotel, five stars. Genteel.

Christie’s sudden ire was a bit jolting, as I had asked him only a few fairly innocuous questions so far, most of them relating to Donald Trump, the man he might run against in the presidential race. Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, was visiting Washington as part of his recent tour of public deliberations about whether to launch another campaign.

Color me dubious. It’s unclear what makes Christie think the Republican Party might magically revert to some pre-Trump incarnation. Or, for that matter, what makes him think a campaign would go any better than his did seven years ago, the last time Christie ran, when he won exactly zero delegates and dropped out of the Republican primary after finishing sixth in New Hampshire.

But still, color me vaguely intrigued too—more so than I am about, say, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. If Christie runs again in 2024, he could at least serve a compelling purpose: The gladiatorial Garden Stater would be better at poking the orange bear than would potential rivals Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, and Nikki Haley, who so far have offered only the most flaccid of critiques. Over the past few months, Christie has been among the more vocal and willing critics of Trump. Notably, he became the first Republican would-be 2024 candidate to say he would not vote for the former president again in a general election.

Read: Just call Trump a loser

Christie makes for an imperfect kamikaze candidate, to say the least. But he does seem genuine in his desire to retire his doormat act and finally take on his former patron and intermittent friend. Which was why I found myself having breakfast with Christie earlier this week, eager to hear whether he was really going to challenge Trump and how hard he was willing to fight. Strangely, he seemed more eager to fight with me.

It was a weird breakfast. Shortly after 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Christie strolled through the ornate dining room of the Hay-Adams, where he had spent the previous few nights. He was joined by his longtime aide Maria Comella. We sat near a window, with a view of the White House across Lafayette Square, and about 100 feet from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Trump had staged his ignominious Bible photo op three springs ago.

I started off by asking Christie about his statement that he would not vote for Trump, even if the former president were the Republican nominee. “I think Trump has disqualified himself from the presidency,” Christie said.


So what would Christie do, then—vote for Joe Biden? Nope. “The guy is physically and mentally not up to the job,” Christie said.

Just to be clear, I continued, this hellscape he was currently suffering under in Biden’s America would be as bad as whatever a next-stage Trump presidency would look like?

“Elections are about choices,” Christie said, as he often does. So whom would he choose in November 2024, if he’s faced with a less-than-ideal choice? “I probably just wouldn’t vote,” he said.

Interesting choice! I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a politician admit to planning not to vote, but it’s at least preferable to that cutesy “I’m writing in Ronald Reagan” or “I’m writing in my pal Ned” evasion that some do.

I pressed on, curious to see how committed Christie really was to his recent swivel away from Trump, or whether this was just his latest opportunistic interlude before his inevitable belly flop back into the Mar-a-Lago lagoon. Say Trump secures the nomination, and most of his formal “rivals”—and various other “prominent Republicans”—revert to doormat mode. (“I will support the nominee,” “Biden is senile,” etc.) What’s Christie going to be saying then, vis-à-vis Trump?

We were exactly seven minutes into our discussion, and my mild dubiousness seemed to set Christie off. His irritation felt a tad performative, as if he might be playing up his Jersey-tough-guy bit.

From the July/August 2012 issue: Jersey boys

“I’m not going to dwell on this, Mark,” Christie said. “You guys drive me crazy. All you want to do is talk about Trump. I’m sorry, I don’t think he’s the only topic to talk about in politics. And I’m not going to waste my hour with you this morning—which is a joy and a gift—on just continuing talking, asking, and answering the Donald Trump question from 18 different angles.”

I pivoted to DeSantis, mostly in an attempt to un-trigger Christie. Christie has made a persuasive case that DeSantis has been a disaster as an almost-candidate so far, especially with regard to his feud with Disney. But would Christie support DeSantis if he were to somehow defeat Trump and become the nominee?

“I have to see how he performs as a candidate,” Christie said. “I really don’t know Ron DeSantis all that well … I’m going to be a discerning voter,” Christie added. “I’m going to watch what everybody does, and I’m gonna to decide who I’m gonna vote for.” (Reminder: unless it’s Trump or Biden.)

Read: Just wait until you get to know Ron DeSantis

I had a few more follow-ups. “So, I know you don’t want to talk about Trump …”

“Here we are, back to Trump again,” Christie said, shaking his head.

Trump, I mentioned, has been the definitional figure in the Republican Party for the past seven or eight years, and probably will remain so for the next few. Not only that, but Christie’s history with Trump—especially from 2016 to 2021—was pretty much the only thing that made him more relevant than, say, Hutchinson (respectfully!) or any other Republican polling at less than 1 percent.

This was when Christie lit into me for asking him “the same fucking question.” Look, I said, at least 40 or 50 percent of the GOP remains very much in thrall to Trump, if you believe poll numbers.

Christie questioned my premise: “No matter what statistics you cite, what polls you cite, that’s a snapshot in the moment, and I don’t think those are static numbers.”

“It’s been true for about seven years,” I replied. “That’s pretty static.”

“But he’s been as high as 85 to 90 percent,” Christie said, referring to Trump’s Republican-approval ratings in the past. There will always be variance, he argued, but those approval ratings would be much smaller now. Christie then accused me of being “obsessed” with Trump.

Read: Why won’t Trump’s Republican rivals just say it?

At this point, Christie was raising his voice rather noticeably again, an agitated wail that brought to mind Wilma Flintstone’s vacuum. I was becoming self-conscious about potentially disturbing other diners in this elegant salle à manger.

A waiter came over again and asked if we wanted any food. Christie, who was sipping a cup of hot tea, demurred, and I ordered a Diet Coke and a bowl of mixed berries. “What a fascinating combination,” Christie marveled.

I told Christie that I hoped that he would in fact run, if only because he would be better equipped to be pugilistic than the other milksops in the field. Obviously, it would have been better if Christie had taken his best shots at the big-bully front-runner seven years ago instead of largely standing down, quitting the race, and then leading the GOP’s collective bum-rush to Trump. But he has grown a lot and learned a lot since then, Christie assured me.

“I certainly won’t do the same thing in 2024 that I did in 2016,” Christie said. “You can bank on that.”

“Well, I would hope not,” I said. This seemed to reignite his pique.

“What do you mean, I hope?” Christie snapped. He took umbrage that I would question the sincerity of his opposition to Trump: “How about just paying attention to everything I’ve said over the last eight weeks?”

I told him that I had paid attention to what he said about Trump over the past eight years. Christie nodded and seemed to acknowledge that maybe I had a point, that some skepticism might be warranted.

Read: Chris Christie says his new book isn’t an act of revenge

I asked Christie if he had any regrets about anything.

“I have regrets about every part of my life, Mark,” he said.


“And anybody who says they don’t is lying.”

That said, Christie added, he would not change anything about his past dealings and relationship with Trump. He is always reminding people that he and Trump were friends long before 2016; that they went way back, 22 years or so. Christie told me that he and Trump have not spoken in two years. Did he miss Trump?

“Not particularly,” he said.

Do you think he misses you?



“I do,” Christie said.

“Has he called, or tried to reach out?”

“No, that wouldn’t be his style,” Christie told me. “That would be too ego-violative.” (I made a mental note that I’d never before heard the term ego-violative.)

“But I do think he misses me, yeah. I think he misses people who tell him what the truth is. I think he misses that.”

Christie had another meeting scheduled at nine at the Hay-Adams, this one with Congressman John James, a freshman Republican from Michigan. From Washington, he would head to New Hampshire, where he had a full two-day schedule planned—a town hall, a few campaignlike stops, some meetings. He told me he would make a decision in the next few weeks whether to run.

Before I left the hotel, I asked Christie whether his wife, Mary Pat, thought he should run. “My wife affirmatively wants me to do it, which is different than 2015 and 2016,” Christie told me. “She thinks I’m the only person who can effectively take on Donald Trump.”

That’s kind of what I think, I told him—that he could at least play the role of a deft agitator. Good, Christie said, but Mary Pat’s vote counted for more than mine. “I sleep with her every night,” he explained. I told him I understood.

“Have fun in New Hampshire,” I said as Christie shook my hand and pirouetted out of the dining room. He seemed to be no longer mad, if he ever was.

Mark Leibovich is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

‘Made in Europe’ debate blocks EU deal on ammunition deliveries for Ukraine 



Ukraine is asking Western allies to step up deliveries of 155mm artillery shells.

Ukraine is asking Western allies to step up deliveries of 155mm artillery shells.   –  Copyright  Alex Brandon/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

By Jorge Liboreiro  & Alice Tidey & Efi Koutsokosta  •  Updated: 21/04/2023 – 16:15

How European should European weapons be?

That is the question currently occupying the minds of diplomats in Brussels, who continue haggling about the technical details of a €1-billion initiative to jointly buy ammunition for Ukraine.

Despite a political agreement reached one month ago, the novel proposal finds itself stuck in negotiations, a delay that stands in stark contrast with the brutal developments on the battlefield.

Patience in Kyiv is wearing thin: in an unusually harsh rebuke, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba openly deplored the protracted stalemate as “frustrating.”

“For Ukraine, the cost of inaction is measured in human lives,” Kuleba said on Thursday.





The comment prompted a phone call the following day with Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who pledged the bloc would “do its utmost to deliver, and deliver fast.”

At the core of the ongoing dispute is the ideal of “strategic autonomy,” a policy concept that posits the European Union should become more independent and self-reliant, particularly in matters of defence, where an alliance with the United States has for decades set the terms.

This concept, which for the time being remains a theoretical aspiration rather than a political reality, has made its way into the €1-billion procurement scheme Brussels devised earlier this year to collectively purchase 155mm-calibre artillery shells, and possibly missiles, to help Ukraine resist the advance of Russian troops.

Ukraine has asked the EU to provide over 250,000 rounds of this kind per month, whose cost ranges between €2,000 and €4,000 per unit.

The initial EU deal foresaw that participating countries, together with Norway, would buy the ammunition only from defence companies based across the bloc, effectively excluding the arms industry of democratic partners such as the US, the UK, Israel and South Korea.

But in recent days, the exact contours of this “Made in Europe” label have caused a split among member states, who are required by law to agree by unanimity on any foreign policy measure.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to express their opinions in a franker manner, diplomats painted a picture of conflicting narratives with one country at the epicentre: France, one of the fiercest, if not the fiercest, proponents behind the concept of “strategic autonomy.”

According to the version described by several diplomats from different member states, France is asking for the supply chain of ammunition production to be entirely European, including the sourcing of key components needed to build the artillery shells.

“They want 100% EU supply chain,” one diplomat told Euronews, regretting what was described as “French never-ending amendments.”

But these claims have been described as “rubbish” and “impossible” by another diplomatic source who insisted no such plan to renege on the current agreement that takes into account the current limitations of European industry in terms of supply chains has been brought forward. 

Instead, they point the finger at Poland, a country known for its hardline stance against Russia, as one of the hold-outs behind the blockage, an accusation that Warsaw vehemently denies. 

The diplomat also suggested that some member states may be trying to go back on the original deal to buy only from EU manufacturers. 

France’s position remains ambiguous in the eyes of other capitals but is said to have gained the tactful backing of Greece and Cyprus, although their support is not absolute, Euronews understands.

“The majority of member states are for speed, in contrast to ‘buy only in EU’. It’s more about France, with Greece and Cyprus, against all others, with some small exceptions,” said a third diplomat.

In response to the alleged French demand, countries from Northern and Eastern Europe are making the case for pragmatism so as to deliver artillery shells to Ukraine as fast as materially possible.

Although there is a general consensus that European industry should be prioritised, the diverging views on value chains, which in many cases entail materials imported from countries like South Africa and Australia, are complicating the drafting of the final legal text and forcing lawyers to attempt different wordings that can please all 27 states.

“We don’t have an agreement and that’s disappointing,” said a senior diplomat, who noted the opposition stemmed from “one or three countries who are not happy with the text.”

“In a broader sense, it’s crucial that we strengthen the European defence industry. But we should not lose sight of what we’re doing here and that is to help Ukraine. Everything else is secondary.”

The French-led faction contests these claims, pointing to the original political agreement that introduced the EU-based requirement for defence contractors and bemoaning “elements of dramatisation” that suggest the bloc will fail to deliver the promised ammunition on its own.

“This ‘self-defeatism prophecy’ is always the thing that some Europeans like to indulge in, saying we’re never going to get there,” said a senior diplomat, insisting the “European war economy” will not only provide Ukraine what it needs to defend itself but would bring benefits for all 27 member states.

“Let’s believe in ourselves, please.”

The European Commission, which designed the joint procurement scheme, has said that, as things stand today, the gap between placing an order for weapons and the actual delivery is around 12 months due to an intricate combination of supply bottlenecks, lack of access to raw materials, insufficient skilled personnel and slow permitting processes.

The executive is working to pool EU funds to ramp up the production of artillery shells by the bloc’s defence industry, estimated to be spread across 15 facilities in 11 member states. The plans, including a concrete amount of cash, are expected to be unveiled in the coming days.

”We understand (Dmytro) Kuleba’s anxiety and the incredible pressure he’s under, but his tweet doesn’t reflect the reality of EU military support,” said a senior EU official, who spoke of ”lively” discussions among member states.

“A solution is very near. We’re all interested in helping Ukraine.”

If diplomats fail to resolve the issue over the weekend, the debate on “Made in Europe” will be passed on to foreign affairs ministers themselves, who are scheduled to meet in Luxembourg on Monday.



What’s the Path Forward for Haiti?

The New York Times Corrects Lousy Haiti Coverage in … The New York Times |  The New Republic

As the international community contemplates another armed intervention, a reckoning with history is long overdue.

As the international community contemplates another armed intervention, a reckoning with history is long overdue.

By Marlene L. Daut THE NEW YORKER

March 18, 2023

The Dynamic Nature of the Haitian Sòl - The Journeys Project

Haiti - Help People in Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Hunger & Poverty

Is Haiti Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

“What happened to the Creole pigs is a cancer for Haiti,” a woman explains in “Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy,” a documentary from 2009. Creole pigs—animals indigenous to the island of Hispaniola, which is home to both Haiti and the Dominican Republic—once served as bank accounts for Haitian families. By raising and selling a healthy, fattened pig, the woman says, a family could pay for food, clothing, and education. This all changed in 1981. An outbreak of swine fever in the Dominican Republic had spread to Haiti, and U.S. officials feared that the disease, which is harmless to humans but highly contagious and deadly among pigs, might reach the United States. A powerful consortium of foreign governments and institutions, including the U.S.D.A. and the International Development Bank, required Haitian farmers to kill every pig in the country. Farmers were promised compensation through U.S.A.I.D. and replacement pigs from North American farms.

“They could have saved a small reserve of pigs,” Yolette Etienne, of the National Campaign Against Violence, a Haitian nonprofit, says, in the film. “But the American government demanded total and complete eradication of the entire race of pigs that we had.” Foreign pigs arrived in Haiti, but they were vulnerable to disease and ill-suited to the climate, and proved unable to survive. The country’s pork industry was effectively destroyed, and the Creole pig went extinct. The effect of all this on the country was profound. Many rural families, facing starvation, flocked to Port-au-Prince to seek scarce factory jobs. The population of the capital swelled, causing mass unemployment and a housing crisis. Many Haitians became consumers rather than producers of food, relying on imports from abroad for sustenance.

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Governmental interventions in Haiti have a terrible track record—even ones that respond to natural disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince. That year, the United Nations sent two thousand troops and fifteen hundred police officers to Haiti to support the nine thousand peacekeepers already on the ground and help provide emergency relief, including food, water, and medical care. But some of those troops brought cholera with them, creating an overlapping disaster when an outbreak killed at least ten thousand Haitians and sickened hundreds of thousands more. The mission was also plagued by allegations of rape and sex trafficking; during the same period, U.S. families hastily adopted more than a thousand Haitian babies and children, as the U.S. government temporarily did away with routine screening protocols. Foreign N.G.O.s operating in Haiti have not fared much better. In 2018, media accounts revealed that Oxfam Great Britain covered up an investigation into the hiring of sex workers for orgies by its staff. The Haitian government responded by banning Oxfam from Haiti. A few years earlier, an investigation by ProPublica showed that the American Red Cross, which raised a half billion dollars for aid in Haiti after the quake, had squandered the money, building only six permanent homes.

Today, we’re again talking about intervention in Haiti. Since the assassination of the country’s President, Jovenel Moïse, in July, 2021, armed groups have taken over its capital and brought daily life to a standstill. Gangs have repeatedly cut off access to roads, the airport, and fuel supplies; they have also kidnapped for ransom numerous prominent members of Haitian society, and are charged with murdering people indiscriminately, with babies and children sometimes caught in the crossfire. Schools have closed, and travelling to hospitals, banks, and markets has become treacherous, if not impossible. Food and water are increasingly hard to obtain, and doctors are seeing a dangerous resurgence of cholera.

In October, the Biden Administration helped draft a U.N. resolution authorizing the deployment of international troops to Haiti. In an attempt to distance itself from the previous U.N.-led occupation, the resolution proposed a non-U.N. mission led by a “partner country.” António Guterres, the U.N.’s Secretary-General, had earlier proposed the dispatch of a multinational “rapid action force.” The resolution that was ultimately adopted by the U.N. makes no mention of foreign troop deployments. Still, the Canadian government has not ruled out participating in a foreign deployment, if there’s “a consensus across political parties in Haiti.” Ariel Henry, the acting Prime Minister and acting President of Haiti, and eighteen top-ranking Haitian officials (most of whom are no longer in office), previously requested the deployment of foreign troops, too.

But Haiti’s government is not a proper stand-in for its people. Headlines such as “Haiti calls for help” are misleading. Thousands of Haitians across the country have protested the idea of foreign intervention, rejecting Henry’s request and demanding his resignation. “Life is not going to get better with an international force,” Marco Duvivier, an auto-parts manager who took part in the protests in Port-au-Prince, told a reporter for the Associated Press. Widlore Mérancourt, the editor-in-chief of the Haitian news outlet AyiboPost, was more measured when he told me that, though sending foreign troops to Haiti might halt violence and temporarily restore basic governance, it would only be “a Band-Aid, not a long-term solution”; such an intervention, he said, wouldn’t address the “root causes” of a “social structure” that cyclically produces gang leaders who lead mass uprisings that largely comprise Haiti’s youth, resulting in government overthrows that lead to the deployment of foreign troops.

Haiti appears to be stuck between two bad options. To many foreigners, and to those in power in Haiti, intervention seems necessary to halt the current gang violence—and yet history and the Haitian people themselves tell us it’s a bad idea. Meanwhile, international intervention is already occurring without foreign soldiers, both discretely—the United States and Canada have repeatedly sent armored vehicles to the Haitian police—and through an ongoing process of economic and political interference. How can Haiti, and the world, move forward and out of the present crisis without repeating the mistakes of the past? How can the world do right by a nation it’s so often wronged?

The current crisis began in 2018, when Haitians took to the streets to protest the theft, by Moïse and other members of his political party, of money from a development fund linked to PetroCaribe, a now defunct Venezuelan program that sold oil to countries in the Caribbean and Central America. An investigation by the Haitian senate found that 1.7 billion U.S. dollars disbursed over eight years had been grossly mismanaged or stolen. Moïse faced criticism through the rest of his term, which, according to Haiti’s constitutional calendar, should have ended in February, 2021. But, instead of holding an election, he stayed in office, leading to further protests. Amid the chaos, armed gangs sidelined the Haitian National Police, jockeying for position while terrorizing the populace.

After Moïse’s assassination, the confusion and the conflicts deepened. Ordinarily, Claude Joseph, the acting Prime Minister, would have assumed power after Moïse’s death. But just a few days before his assassination, during his fifth year in office and after his term had technically expired, Moïse appointed Ariel Henry, a seventy-one-year-old neurosurgeon, to the position. Since Henry hadn’t yet been officially sworn in, Joseph prepared to take office, with the backing of the Haitian military and national police. But the Core Group—a body comprising ambassadors from Germany, Brazil, Canada, Spain, the United States, France, and the European Union, and representatives from the United Nations and the Organization of American States, who are supposed to promote democracy in Haiti—intervened by issuing a statement, urging Joseph to step down and Henry to take power. Many Haitians and Haitian Americans decried the statement, which resulted in Henry’s ascension, as yet more international interference.

There was a viable alternative to the Core Group’s solution. In August, 2021, community and institutional leaders representing disparate parts of the Haitian population, with the shared mission of finding a “Haitian solution to the crisis,” drafted the Montana Accord. Writers of the accord insisted that the international community refrain from intervening in their country’s politics, and called for elections to be held no later than 2023. They also demanded that the United States, the Core Group, and the U.N. cease all support for Henry’s government, because of its ties to the PetroCaribe scandal and other forms of corruption. In collaboration with more than four hundred civil and political bodies in Haiti, the writers of the accord identified an interim President and Vice-President who could preside over the government until elections could be held. “The Haitian people want to redefine their future outside of this state administered mainly by local and foreign actors,” they declared. The next month, Daniel Foote, the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, resigned, citing ongoing U.S. support for Henry’s administration. “The hubris that makes us believe we should pick the winner—again—is impressive,” Foote wrote. “This cycle of international political interventions in Haiti has consistently produced catastrophic results.”

The cycle of interventions began at the country’s founding, in 1804, when Haiti declared independence from France. After the Haitian Revolution—a twelve-year-long struggle led by formerly enslaved people against their enslavers—Haiti determined its own form of government and enjoyed robust trade with Britain, the U.S., and other nations. But France continued to pursue reconquest, and President Thomas Jefferson, caving to pressure from the French, instituted a trade embargo. Economic sanctions against Haiti reached an apex in 1825, when France, under King Charles X, forced Haiti’s President, Jean-Pierre Boyer, to agree, under threat of invasion, to a disastrous indemnity of a hundred and fifty million francs; the amount was later reduced to ninety million, but after tariffs, interest, and other fees, Haiti ultimately paid a hundred and twelve million francs. Even after the agreement, the United States and other Atlantic slave powers refused to recognize Haitian independence.

The United States finally recognized Haiti in 1862, a year after the U.S. Civil War began. All the same, it repeatedly encroached on Haitian territory, using gunboat diplomacy to seek territory for naval bases. From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. staged a full-blown occupation of Haiti—its longest military operation until the Vietnam War. Although U.S. diplomats framed the occupation as a response to the assassination of Haiti’s President, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, its fundamental goal was to force Haiti to pay loans and fees associated with the French indemnity, in which American banks had a fiduciary interest. The United States impounded all Haitian government revenue to insure that payments were made.


Haitians, naturally, protested the presence of U.S. forces. In 1919, the Haitian nationalist Charlemagne Péralte led a rebellion against the occupiers. U.S. soldiers responded with a harsh crackdown, killing Péralte and afterward circulating a picture of his body positioned in a crucified pose as a warning. During the occupation, more than fifteen thousand Haitians were killed by U.S. soldiers. The violent quashing of all protest was widely viewed by Haitians as a decisive turning point away from the country’s revolutionary principles of freedom and independence and toward autocratic rule. In 1929, the Haitian historian and diplomat Dantès Bellegarde told President Herbert Hoover that many Haitians now had a “general scorn” for the law, obeying it only “in order to escape its severe sanctions, decreed and applied by brutal force.” The economist Emily Greene Balch, who later received the Nobel Peace Prize, led a delegation to Haiti in 1926 and observed that “the Americans are training not police, but soldiers.” She wondered what the effect of such a force would be after American withdrawal. Haitians were soon to find out.

During the occupation, U.S. soldiers helped establish the puppet Presidency of the pro-U.S. politician Philippe Sudré Dartiguenave, paving the way for the United States to play a role in installing or deposing every subsequent Haitian President. François Duvalier, known as Papa Doc, was elected in 1957, allegedly by a landslide; as the writer Patrick Bellegarde-Smith has shown, however, four times as many Haitians voted for his opponent, Louis Déjoie. The U.S. supported the election because Duvalier was anti-Communist. In 1964, following another sham election, Duvalier declared himself “President for life.” The infamous brutality perpetrated by his henchmen, the Tontons Macoutes, is perhaps best summed up by Duvalier’s “Catechism of the Revolution,” widely circulated in the capital: “Our Doc who art in the National Palace for life, hallowed be Thy name by present and future generations. Thy will be done in Port-au-Prince and in the countryside. Give us this day our new Haiti, and never forgive the trespasses of those traitors who spit on our country each day. Lead them into temptation, and poisoned by their own venom, deliver them from no evil.”

Duvalier unleashed a reign of terror, censoring the press and imprisoning or killing his rivals along with journalists, academics, and students. When he died suddenly in 1971, his nineteen-year-old son, Jean-Claude, known as Baby Doc, inherited the dictatorship. Hardly less brutal than his father, he reigned until February, 1986, when a popular uprising known as déchoukaj, or uprooting, forced him out of office. As many as thirty thousand people were killed by the Duvalier regimes. Baby Doc fled to France, where he enjoyed protection and lived in exile for the next quarter century; meanwhile, a violent military junta came to power in Haiti. Most of its leaders had received U.S.-funded paramilitary training.

The junta left power in 1991, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former priest, took office, winning nearly seventy per cent of the vote. Aristide, Haiti’s first popularly elected President, was known for sharp criticisms of the U.S. He accused Haiti’s economic élite of exploiting the poor, and took the military to task for its human-rights abuses. After only eight months in power, his administration was toppled by the Haitian military in a 1991 coup. Even as he took refuge in the United States, Aristide publicly blamed the U.S. and the U.N. for much of Haiti’s economic and political turmoil. At the U.N. General Assembly, he criticized foreign leaders to their faces in a famous “ten commandments” speech known as the “Diskou Aristide.” His fifth commandment: “What belongs to us is ours. Ours is not yours.”

Aristide spent three years under the protection of the U.S. government, until he was reinstalled in 1994, through an initially popular military mission called Operation Uphold Democracy. But Aristide’s sudden reliance on U.S. intervention signalled a change in his loyalties. He was reëlected in 2000 amid allegations of election fraud and soon began using armed groups called Chimè to threaten, silence, and kill his critics. His regime lasted until February, 2004, and was followed by a U.N. peacekeeping mission that continued until 2017. Depending on whose version of the story one believes, Aristide either asked the U.S. government for help fleeing the country when his ouster again seemed imminent or was kidnapped by a coalition from the United States, Canada, and France, who colluded to remove him from office.

Many Haitians believe that the French government orchestrated Aristide’s removal because, in 2003, he engaged an international cadre of lawyers to study the nineteenth-century independence indemnity. They calculated that France owed Haiti twenty-one billion dollars in reparations—a number recently confirmed by an independent investigation at the New York Times. Speaking to the Times, Thierry Burkard, who was France’s ambassador to Haiti in 2004, acknowledged that Aristide’s removal was effectively “a coup,” orchestrated in part by France. It was, he said, “probably a bit about” the Haitian President’s request for reparations.

This is the history of neocolonial Haiti. Kwame Nkrumah, the former President of Ghana, has defined neocolonialism as the “last stage of imperialism.” A country subjected to neocolonialism “has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty,” he went on, but “in reality its economic system and its political policy is directed from outside.” Neocolonial foreign policies create continuous cycles of dependency.

Without a doubt, neocolonial Haiti is a spectacularly failed state—a shadow Haiti, unable to provide the basic necessities of life for its people. At the same time, its economy and elections have largely been controlled by foreign banks and the world powers. This is why the Haitian historian and anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot once referred to Haiti as “the longest running neo-colonial experiment in the west.”

Part of what makes neocolonialism so intractable is that, as a state fails, more neocolonialism becomes the only imaginable cure for the ills created by it in the first place. The United States’ Haitian policy has never been primarily directed toward the humanitarianism it touts; during the Cold War, the U.S. was first and foremost concerned with anti-Communism, and since the fall of Duvalier its main goal has been to prevent Haitian “boat people,” who flocked to Miami in droves during the Duvaliers’ dictatorships, from reaching the continent. Less than five per cent of Haitian asylum seekers in the U.S. are granted asylum, the lowest rate of any nationality for which data are available. More often, Haitian migrants have been brutally expelled. In September, 2021, for example, the U.S. began the process of deporting back to Haiti thousands of people sheltering near the Rio Grande—even as instability in Haiti, caused in large part by U.S. foreign policy, was the reason the migrants had fled.

What Haiti needs, above all, is a definitive rupture from the cycle of forced dependency kept in motion by foreign governments and international institutions. How does a shadow state like Haiti achieve decolonization from neocolonialism? As a first step, the U.S. and other U.N. member states must stop hailing elections to be organized by Haiti’s current leadership as the best route to future stability and security. In the words of James North, a longtime political correspondent covering Haitian politics, the gangs running rampant over the capital today are “largely paramilitary allies” of Henry’s (formerly, Moïse’s) ruling party, which has “dominated Haiti for the past decade with a combination of election fraud and violence.” Second, and most important, the international community needs to commit to charting a new path. Payments are part of that path: Haiti should receive compensation from France, the U.S., and the U.N. for damages related to the indemnity, the U.S. occupations, and other abuses.

Skeptics and critics often cite the corruption of Haitian leaders in arguing that Haitians are not as worthy of restorative justice as other victims of mass atrocities. Yet this argument is another neocolonial fallacy. “Oppression justifies itself,” Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, in “Colonialism and Neocolonialism.” “The oppressors produce and maintain by force the evils which, in their eyes, make the oppressed resemble more and more what they would need to be in order to deserve their fate.” It would be the job of a freely and fairly elected Haitian government to take on the work of appropriately managing the rebuilding of Haitian infrastructure with any reparations awarded to the Haitian people.

How do we get from the current crisis to a scenario in which elections and reparations are possible? One critical step might be to move the government away from the overcrowding and structural problems of Port-au-Prince. Although Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti, it is not Haiti itself; meanwhile, nearly half of the country’s estimated two hundred gangs are concentrated there. As Vadim Rossman has shown in his book “Capital Cities: Varieties and Patterns of Development and Relocation,” new capitals can play an important role in conflict resolution. Establishing an interim government in Cap-Haïtien, for example, a city two hundred kilometres to the north, might destabilize the gangs by forcing them to physically disperse and divide. Okap, as Haitians call Cap-Haïtien, has an international airport and other existing infrastructure, such as hotels, for meetings between foreign officials and diplomats; it also has a large port capable of handling both imports and exports. The economist Tyler Cowen has cited moving the capital to Okap as a promising idea. It might encourage migration out of Port-au-Prince, a city built for two hundred thousand people, which is currently home to nearly three million. (Bernard Ethéart, the director of Haiti’s National Institute for Agrarian Reform, also suggested moving the capital after the 2010 earthquake, for seismological reasons.)

Moving the capital and decreasing the population of Port au-Prince will not eradicate the gang problem on its own—there are smaller gangs in other cities, including in Cap-Haïtien. But, coupled with infrastructure projects that will create jobs, it could play a key role in engaging the youth of Haiti in work, education, and even governance. Clarens Renois, a coördinator for the National Union for Integrity and Reconciliation, a nonviolent political party, insisted in an interview with the New Humanitarian that Haitians do not need a “military solution; the solution is social, economic, and it’s about justice.” One gang member who joined when he was just fourteen echoed this sentiment when he remarked that, if given the opportunity, “the youth would wake up to work—not fight—because they [would be] making money.” Removing neocolonial barriers placed in front of Haitian agriculture—such as subsidies for U.S. farmers that have put Haitian rice farms out of business—could help make the countryside a viable place for Haitians to thrive. Supporting small-scale farming and micro-lending programs, such as those utilized by Haiti’s famous Madan Sara—market women who bring food produced in the countryside into the cities—is essential for Haiti’s future economic stability, too.

January, 2023, marked the two hundred and nineteenth anniversary of the declaration of Haitian independence. The United States, like Europe, needs to finally attend to the gaping wounds created by its colonial crimes. These wounds must be exposed to an uncomfortably bright light, so that they can be properly treated. If the West continues to repeat the past—sending and then withdrawing foreign troops, and showering Haiti with vast amounts of ineffective “aid”—then true Haitian independence will never be restored, and the world will continue to be morally and materially culpable for a humanitarian and political disaster it has spent centuries creating. There must be, and there is, another way, and just as in 1804 at Haiti’s founding, it will be Haitian-led. The path that leads to a once again sovereign Haiti will not be easy, familiar, or common sense; it will require daring, imagination, trust, and respect on all sides. But it is the only path that can produce something good. If the world truly wants what is best for Haiti and Haitians, then there is no choice but to take it–

Opinion  These radically simple changes helped lawmakers actually get things done

Democracy Dies in Darkness



Opinion  These radically simple changes helped lawmakers actually get things done

By Amanda RipleyContributing columnist




February 9, 2023 at 8:54 a.m. EST



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We hear a lot about the shocking dysfunction in Congress. By my count, this paper has published 90 articles on the GOP’s many tortured attempts to elect a speaker and another 84 (and counting) on the debt ceiling.

But what about stories of shocking function? Lately, I find those stories even more captivating.

For example, if any congressional committee were set up to fail, it was the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. It was the only House committee in the last Congress required to get a supermajority vote of its members to get things done. But it was also evenly split: six Republicans and six Democrats, so you do the math.

Oh, and its mission? To fix Congress. No biggie.

The last select committee created to reform Congress, which focused on budgeting, passed exactly zero recommendations by the time it ended in 2018. So, how did this modernization committee become one of the most high-functioning bipartisan workplaces on Capitol Hill, creating what a Roll Callreporter called a “parallel congressional universe”? How did it manage to adopt, in just four years, 202 bipartisan recommendations, about two-thirds of which have already been executed or made significant progress in that direction? What in God’s name is going on over there?

And what, if anything, can the rest of us learn about how to get things done in our own divided institutions and families?

After the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the Capitol, no one would have predicted this kind of comity, least of all the committee chairman, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.). He met with all the committee members, one by one, to ask what they wanted to work on. The answer was, basically: Nothing. Most didn’t think Democrats and Republicans would be able to sit in the same room together, let alone work with each other.


“Some of the conversations were really alarming,” Kilmer remembers. One Democrat told him: “I feel like not only was I in a relationship with someone who cheated on me; I was in a relationship with someone who cheated on me with someone who was trying to kill me.

Kilmer, a former management consultant and state legislator, is optimistic and fairly earnest by nature. His office is decorated with “Star Wars” throw pillows and a framed copy of the Rotary Club four-way test (“Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”). But after those 11 conversations, even he felt demoralized.

“We’re screwed,” he told his chief of staff. “We’re going to have to do some stuff differently.”Default Mono Sans Mono Serif Sans Serif Comic Fancy Small CapsDefault X-Small Small Medium Large X-Large XX-LargeDefault Outline Dark Outline Light Outline Dark Bold Outline Light Bold Shadow Dark Shadow Light Shadow Dark Bold Shadow Light BoldDefault Black Silver Gray White Maroon Red Purple Fuchsia Green Lime Olive Yellow Navy Blue Teal Aqua OrangeDefault 100% 75% 50% 25% 0%Default Black Silver Gray White Maroon Red Purple Fuchsia Green Lime Olive Yellow Navy Blue Teal Aqua OrangeDefault 100% 75% 50% 25% 0%

(Video: James Yang for The Washington Post)

Sometimes, crises make conflicts worse. Other times, they force radical creativity. In this case, Kilmer and his colleagues figured they couldn’t expect to fix Congress if they didn’t start with themselves. So they made a series of blazingly logical changes to their work routines and behaviors that were, in the context of Congress, straight-up radical.

Even before Jan. 6, Kilmer and his first Republican vice chairman, Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia, had been doing things differently — questioning basic assumptions about how Congress worked. Much of their energy focused on updating arcane systems in Congress — like the antiquated scheduling system that routinely double-booked members, expecting them to attend two hearings at the same time, for example — but they also investigated how to collaborate in the midst of conflict. And those lessons were, in some ways, more straightforward. Because it turns out that basic practices you would use to prevent anarchy in any kindergarten classroom were not being followed in Congress.

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To make conflict healthy, people need to have shared goals that they work on side by side, as equals. When they disagree, they have to talk to each other, rather than ignoring each other — or going to war. And it always helps to have snacks. (There are more than 500 studies showing this kind of “intergroup contact” can reduce prejudice and mayhem, but since you’ve likely been to kindergarten, you probably don’t need to read them.)

In Congress, there is virtually no drop-in workspace where members from different parties can have a casual conversation without a camera. In the hearing rooms, members sit separately, with Democrats on one side and Republicans on the other. Outside the hearing rooms, the antechambers and cloakrooms are also segregated by party. There are almost no opportunities for members and staff to see each other as complicated humans with families, doubts, questions and regrets. This is dysfunction by design. As Winston Churchill put it: “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

So the members of the modernization committee did things differently, on purpose. They started the session with a bipartisan planning retreat, which almost never happens. They hired one bipartisan team of staffers together, rather than separate staffs for Democrats and Republicans. That meant they started with twice as much capacity — and everyone rowing more or less in the same direction. They got a lot done in the 116th Congress, which led their colleagues to vote to extend the committee’s life span into the next Congress. “If all of Congress could operate the way that the modernization committee has, the nation would be in a much better place,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) said in 2020.

Then came Jan. 6, a rupture that felt irreparable, even for the modernization committee. Many Democrats refused to work with any of the 147 Republicans who had voted against certifying the election results — three of whom were on the modernization committee, including the new Republican vice chairman, William Timmons (S.C.).

After a long conversation that involved tequila, Kilmer and Timmons decided to confront the fracture directly. Because the only way out of difficult conflict is through. On March 20, 2021, the committee members met for a confidential conversation (on Zoom because of the pandemic) about what they’d experienced on Jan. 6 and how it was affecting their ability to work together.

No one was sure this intervention would help, not even David Fairman, a veteran mediator brought in to facilitate. “With elected officials, you wonder how much frankness and authenticity they will bring,” says Fairman, who works with the nonprofit Consensus Building Institute. Still, he knew from experience how critical it was for people to feel heard, especially when they’ve been harmed. So, he asked everyone to put aside their phones and other distractions. And he asked the committee’s leaders to speak first.

Kilmer talked about getting texts from the Capitol Police on Jan. 6, telling him to shelter in place. Alone in his office in the Rayburn House Office Building, he turned off the lights and pushed the furniture against the door. The building, which can be a maze, was new to him. The only exit he knew about had been closed by the police, according to the texts he was getting. So he stayed put.

For about five hours, he watched CNN on mute and texted with his family and his staff. He felt more heartsick than frightened. He thought about how, before he’d left for work, he’d told his kids not to worry about him; after all, he’d told them, he worked in some of the safest buildings in the United States.

Timmons then talked about his own experience that day. He explained that he wanted the protesters who had breached the Capitol to be arrested and held accountable under the law. He wished that President Donald Trump had done more, sooner, to stop them. And, at the same time, he said, he had serious concerns regarding the constitutionality of election-law changes that had been made very quickly in certain states, which was why he’d voted not to certify the election results that night. To Timmons, those things could all be true.

Then, Fairman asked both men to acknowledge what they’d heard. What had resonated with them? What did they understand, even as they disagreed? This sounded painfully awkward, and it was, at first. But they did it anyway. Then all the other members took their turn, one by one. “The conversations were quite remarkable,” Fairman says. “They surpassed my expectations.”


When people in intractable conflict sit down and listen to each other under the right conditions, they make surprising discoveries. “There were several cases when one party said something, and the other side’s jaw dropped,” said David Eisner, head of the nonprofit Convergence, which helped organize the retreat. “Both sides believed the other side had been acting politically. And something happened where they realized they were all people — people who had been through something traumatic.”

Even as they continued to bitterly disagree about many things, the simple experience of being heard was cathartic. “It felt like someone turned the air conditioner on,” Eisner says. “You saw people starting to be curious about each other again.” Afterward, several members told Kilmer they were ready to work together. Nothing was resolved, but much was illuminated. “It was still pretty raw,” Timmons says, “but it was helpful to understand the degree to which [some members] were legitimately in fear for their lives. It made me understand where they were coming from.”Default Mono Sans Mono

(Video: James Yang for The Washington Post)

Three weeks later, the committee held its first formal convening, inviting 25 other representatives to testify about what would help Congress function more effectively. For advice on how to fix a broken culture, the staff reached out to very-outside-the-Beltway experts such as psychotherapist Esther Perel, organizational psychologist Adam Grant and master facilitator Priya Parker.

Then, as Congress returned to in-person hearings, committee members did something truly startling: They stopped sitting up on high, on a dais, like every other committee and started sitting in a round table format, at the same level of the people who came to testify. Turns out that fixing politics starts by rearranging the furniture. “You can foster more productive conversation when you can look each other in the eye,” Kilmer says when I ask him to explain the obvious.

Remember how, in kindergarten, the teacher wouldn’t let you sit next to your best friend and co-conspirator? Well, the committee also integrated the hearing-room seating so that Democrats sat next to Republicans. And it stopped seating people based on tenure and allotting only five minutes to each member to talk. Instead, members chimed in whenever they felt moved to do so.

This sounds small, but it was utterly subversive — and surprisingly popular. “The members truly loved it,” remembers Yuri Beckelman, the committee’s staff director. “It made people more comfortable. It was very conversational.” This was in stark contrast to his experience on other committees, where members glared at each other from opposite sides of the room.

It was also refreshing for the witnesses, as I can attest. The modernization committee asked me to testify two years ago, based on a book I’d written on conflict, and I came in with low expectations. I’d covered a lot of hearings as a reporter, and they always felt choreographed, stilted and performative. This experience was different. It felt, at times, like members were sharing their genuine fears and asking real questions. It was not obvious who was on which political side, which was at once both disorienting and wonderful.

“I learned more in one hour in a modernization committee hearing than weeks sitting in every other committee venue,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) says. “We learned by conversation — not confrontation. It was the most profoundly meaningful and gratifying time I’ve spent in Congress.”

The members broke bread together too, meeting for dinner every few months, at Timmons’s insistence. Sounds simple? It wasn’t. “It was absolutely insanely hard to find the space,” he says. That’s partly because, in our polarized Congress, the speaker of the House controls just about everything, including the meeting space, and there was no easy way to reserve rooms for something like a bipartisan dinner.

But it was worth the hassle. In his short career in Congress, Timmons has served on the Budget Committee, the Education Committee and the Financial Services Committee, and none operated this way. “I’ve never had an exchange of ideas outside of the modernization committee,” he says. His phone contains the cellphone numbers for every Democrat on the committee. This might seem trivial, but it reveals an unusual level of trust. These days, personal phone numbers get leaked to the public by partisans, out for revenge. By contrast, Timmons has the numbers for only two Democrats from the Financial Services Committee in the last Congress (out of 30); both of those Democrats were also on the modernization committee.

To summarize, here is the secret to making an organization function in a time of deep division: “We actually spent time together, and we talked about things,” Timmons says.

Even hard things. After Jan. 6, Kilmer had a recurring nightmare. In his dream, he could not get out of the Rayburn House Office Building, try as he might. He was trapped, just like he had been in real life. He didn’t tell many people about this nightmare, but it kept him up at night on multiple occasions. And then, after that one tough, direct conversation with his Republican colleagues, the nightmare stopped. He has not had it since.


Just about every day, I hear from Americans who are suffering in some kind of poisonous conflict — in their company, their school, their church or their family. We are living in a culture that amplifies contempt and manufactures fear. A lot of people feel trapped. What if they could build a counterculture, like this one committee did? How much better might they sleep?

“My big takeaway,” Kilmer tells me, “is we need to have these tough conversations with each other.” Otherwise, the resentments and blame ferment underground, and they will come out in some other way.

In January, the committee disappeared, just like Cinderella’s dress. That was always the plan with a temporary committee. There is some talk of reincarnating it as a subcommittee to the House Administration Committee. But, either way, many of the committee’s recommendations are being rolled out, including new nonpartisan programming that took place during new-member orientations late last year and more bipartisan dinners through the Library of Congress. Others, including a recommendation to create more bipartisan gathering spaces and a particularly clever one to allow dual sponsorship of bills across the aisle, have gone nowhere — so far.

But the recommendations are only half the story. “The most compelling legacy of the modernization committee,” Phillips says, “is not what it did but how it did it.” Any committee in Congress could do the same things, should its leaders choose to do so. It’s unlikely, but then again, so was this whole story

Why Republicans Are Having Gas Pains

Paul Krugman


By Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

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Until just the other day, Republicans and conservative media loved, just loved talking about the price of gasoline. Indeed, “Remember how cheap gas used to be under Trump?” became a sort of all-purpose answer to everything. Is there now overwhelming evidence that the former president conspired in a violent attempt to overthrow the 2020 election? “Real America doesn’t care about the January 6th Committee. Gas is over $5 a gallon!” declared Representative Jim Jordan.

But now gas prices are falling. They’re down more than 50 cents a gallon at the pump; wholesale prices, whose changes normally show up later in retail prices, are down even more, suggesting that prices will keep falling for at least the next few weeks. And there’s a palpable sense of panic on Fox News, which has been reduced to whining about how the White House is taking a “victory lap.”

Actually, from what I can see, Biden administration officials are being remarkably restrained in pointing out the good news (which is probably a result of a slowing global economy). The larger point, however, is that Republican politicians’ focus on gas prices is profoundly stupid. And if it’s coming back to bite them, that’s just poetic justice.

Why is focusing on gas prices stupid? Let me count the ways.

First, while presidential policy can have big effects on many things, the cost of filling your gas tank isn’t one of them. For the most part, gasoline prices reflect the price of crude oil — and crude prices are set on world markets, which is one reason inflation has soared around the world, not just in the United States. Government spending in the Biden administration’s early months may have contributed to overall U.S. inflation — we can argue about how much — but has hardly anything to do with gas prices.

Second, while gas was indeed cheap in 2020, it was cheap for a very bad reason: Global demand for oil was depressed because the world economy was reeling from the effects of the Covid-19


Third, even before the pandemic struck, gas prices were unsustainably low.

Little-known fact: Prices at the pump plunged during President Barack Obama’s second term, falling from about $3.70 a gallon in mid-2014 — around $4.50 in 2022 dollars — to $2.23 on the eve of the 2016 election. News reports at the time marveled at Obama’s diffidence about claiming credit.

What happened? Mostly a boom in fracking, which increased U.S. oil production so much that it drove prices down around the world. As it turned out, however, that production boom didn’t make financial sense. Energy companies borrowed huge sums to invest in new drilling but never generated enough revenue to justify the cost. The fracking industry lost hundreds of billions even before the pandemic struck.

So high gas prices weren’t President Biden’s fault, and given the disappearance of the forces that used to keep gas cheap, it’s hard to think of any policy — short of creating a global depression — that would bring prices down to $2 a gallon, or even $3 a gallon. Not that Republicans are offering any real policy proposals anyway.

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But the G.O.P. nonetheless went for the cheap shot of trying to make the midterm elections largely about prices at the pump. And this focus on gas is now giving the party a bellyache, as gas prices come down.

It is, after all, hard to spend month after month insisting that Biden deserves all the blame for rising gas prices, then deny him any credit when they come down. The usual suspects are, of course, trying, but it’s not likely to go well.

Some right-wing commentators are trying to pivot to a longer view, pointing out that gas prices are still much higher than they were in 2020. This happens to be true. But so much of their messaging has depended on voter amnesia — on their supporters not remembering what was really going on in 2020 — that I have my doubts about how effective this line will be.

More broadly, many Wall Street analysts expect to see a sharp drop in inflation over the next few months, reflecting multiple factors, from falling used car prices to declining shipping costs, not just gas prices. Market expectations of near-term inflation have come way down.

If the analysts and the markets are right, we’re probably headed for a period in which inflation headlines are better than the true state of affairs; it’s not clear whether underlying inflation has come down much, if at all. But that’s not an argument Republicans, who have done all they can to dumb down the inflation debate, are well placed to make.

This has obvious implications for the midterm elections. Republicans have been counting on inflation to give them a huge victory, despite having offered no explanation of what they’d do about it. But if you look at the generic ballot — which probably doesn’t yet reflect falling gas prices — rather than Biden’s approval rating, the midterms look surprisingly competitive.

Maybe real Americans do care about violent attacks on democracy, overturning Roe v. Wade and so on after all.

If we continue to get good news on inflation, November may look very different from what everyone has been expecting.

China warns of ‘forceful measures’ if U.S. House Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

As if the world were not complicated enough right now, this is an issue that is not going to go away. Taiwan was below the radar until the new, more aggressive and powerful Chinese president emerged.


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BEIJING, July 19 (Reuters) – China’s government on Tuesday warned that it would take “forceful measures” if U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, after the Financial Times said she would go to the Chinese-claimed island next month.

Pelosi and her delegation will also visit Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, and spend time in Hawaii at the headquarters of U.S. Indo-Pacific command, the London paper added, citing people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said it has “not received relevant information” about any visit.

Asked about the report, Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said, “We do not confirm or deny international travel in advance due to longstanding security protocols.”

The Democratic leader’s visit to Taiwan had been postponed from April, after she tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, China said such a visit would severely affect Chinese-U.S. relations. 

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said any visit by Pelosi would “seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“If the U.S. side obstinately clings to this course, China will definitely take resolute and forceful measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “The United States must be fully responsible for all the consequences caused by this.”

Taiwan faces mounting pressure from China, which considers the democratically governed island its own territory. The issue is a constant irritant in ties between Beijing and Washington.

Taiwan, however, has been heartened by continued support offered by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has repeatedly spoken of its “rock-solid” commitment to the island.

Pelosi, a long-time critic of China, held an online meeting with Taiwanese Vice President William Lai in January as he wrapped up a visit to the United States and Honduras. read more

The White House had expressed concern about the Pelosi trip, the Financial Times said, citing three people familiar with the situation.

There were divisions in the Democratic U.S. administration over whether Pelosi should visit Taiwan, the FT quoted two sources as saying.

Some officials believed it had been easier to justify a visit in April, as that was just after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it added.

A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council would not comment on “travel that the Speaker’s office itself has not announced,” and reiterated that the United States remains committed to its One China policy.

Separately, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday, “through international waters in accordance with international law.”

“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” it said in a statement.

The United States has been carrying out such voyages through the stretch of water separating Taiwan and China about once a month. This has angered Beijing, which views them as a sign of support for the island.

This month, China sent fighters across the Taiwan Strait’s median line, an actionTaiwan described as a provocation. The incident came during a visit to Taipei by Senator Rick Scott, a Republican member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. read more

On Monday, China asked the United States to immediately cancel a potential sale of military technical assistance to Taiwan worth an estimated $108 million.



Curriculum Vitae   JULY, 2022


53 Winterberry Circle

Cross River, NY 10518

Home Telephone (914) 763-1888

Date of Birth  June 10, 1949

Place of Birth  Wilmington, Delaware USA


Graduate: Cornell University Ph.D. 1977 (Government)

The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies M.A. 1973 (International Studies)

Undergraduate: Vanderbilt University B.A. 1971 (Political Science)


“Assessing the Trump Administration”, Political Science Forum, University of Oslo, June, 2021


Fulbright Senior Lecturer, Riga Latvia  Jan. 26-June 29, 2006 at the University of Latvia

Fulbright Senior Lectureship, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, 1985-86.

Summer Fellowship Winner and Honorary Member, International Studies Association, 1975


Professor Emeritus Political Science and History, Mercy College, 2012-present

PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, 1987-2012, MERCY COLLEGE, Dobbs Ferry, New York 10522 (Associate Professor September 1983 -August,1987; Assistant Professor, September 1978 August 1983 ); substantial responsibility for new course development and building political science curriculum; student internships and advising; Model UN Director 1986-2011





VISITING ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, BARUCH COLLEGE / CUNY 1/77-8/78 (includes summer semesters 1977 and 1978); extensive responsibility for curriculum development and graduate student advising, thesis supervision.




RESEARCH INTERN, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 1971-1972 (extensive archival work).


International Relations

Comparative Politics (esp. Third World, but also Northeast Europe)

Foreign Policy (esp. US/Third World, but also Northeast Europe)

Public Administration / American Government


  • I have taught 112 distance/online learning courses in history /political science since 1994
  • I have developed an American History website for Mercy College http://faculty.mercy.edu/fshiels 

DISSERTATION TITLE: “The American Experience in Okinawa: A Case Study for Foreign Policy and Decision-Making Theory,”  Cornell Univ. 1977


Charles F. Olson Grant for Historical Research, 2002 ($10,000)

Faculty Development Grants at Mercy College, 1984-2004 totaling $18,500

Peace Studies Program (Cornell/Ford) Research Grants, 1975 and 1976.

Cornell University China-Japan Program Grant, 1976.

Cornell Center for International Studies Grant, 1975.



International Studies Association

FOREIGN LANGUAGES: French; basic Spanish and basic Japanese and Latvian

CURRENTLY: (2014) working on book on the future of progressive politics in the U.S., and a blog

https://progressivefutureusa.com/ , am studying and writing poetry at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY… I have recently published poetry in the NEW VERSE NEWS and SiXFOLD, DEEP SOUTH REVIEW, and won the Spokane Washington state first prize in the Amy Woodward Fisher World Poetry Contest 2018 for metered verse

RECENTLY (2013)- I assisted Prof. Beerd Beukenhorst of the University of Amsterdam, edit his Book WHOSE VIETNAM?, a foreign policy study and conducted a seminar at that University in Janauary of 2014 on my own research on civilian casualties in American foreign wars


  1.  “The Elephant and the Fox: U.S. Latvian Bi-Lateral Relations”, 2007 article and paper presentation
  2. “ Globalization and Country to Country Aid Projects”, 2008 article and paper presentation, Turiiba, Univ., Riga, March, 2008
  3.  “The Helsinki-Tallinn Connection: A Case Study in International Mentoring of Baltic States Entering the European Union” project/article being worked on presently

 General Publications /Paper Presentation-PAPER PRESENTATION – June 2019 University of Oslo, Norway senior faculty Address (6/19/2019) on The Current State of American National Politics

SEMINARS-  Tallinn Estonia, Jan. 2013, Estonia Technical University and Oslo Norway, Oslo University, Public Administration discussing the Obama foreign policy and issues in US/ EU relations

PAPER PRESENTATION: “Why We Bomb: The American Calculus of Foreign Civilian Lives,” at Lincoln College, Oxford University, Oxford, UK, 3/2010             

 ARTICLE: “Whose Dead?: The Killing of Iraqis and Afghanis to Save American Lives”, 2004-2006 research and submission of article this year for possible publication in The American Prospect, a progressive-mainstream magazine

ARTICLE/PAPER for PRESENTATION: “Why We Bomb: Strategic and Legal Questions about Civilian Deaths in American Wars”, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, November 1, 2006


ARTICLE: “Whose Dead?: The Killing of Iraqis and Afghanis to Save American Lives”, 2004-2006 research and submission of article this year for possible publication in The American Prospect, a progressive-mainstream magazine

ARTICLE/PAPER for PRESENTATION: “Why We Bomb: Strategic and Legal Questions about Civilian Deaths in American Wars”, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, November 1, 2006

BOOK REVIEW, for Houghton- Mifflin, of James Q. Wilson’s, American Government, the edition, 2006 (one of the best selling American government texts and the one used at Mercy College)

BOOK REVIEW, for Pacific Historical Review, of Nicholas Sarantakes’ Keystone: The American Occupation of Okinawa and U.S./Japanese Relations, May, 2002.

ARTICLE, “Presidential Houses Seen Through the Eyes of Children,” in Presidential Forum, Indianapolis, Spring 1996

BOOK CHAPTER, “Misperception at the Top” in H. Wiberg and Paul Smoker, Inadvertent Nuclear War, Pergamon, 1993, [refereed]

BOOK CHAPTER, “The American Interlude in Okinawa: 1945-72,” in George DeVos and Koji Taira (eds.), Okinawa: Challenge and Adaptation at Japan’s Periphery, U. Hawaii Press, forthcoming

BOOK, Preventable Disasters: Why Governments Fail, ( Rowman and Littlefield, 1991)

ARTICLE, “Iran: The Unheard Revolution,” in Kyushu University Review of Law and Politics, April, 1986 [refereed]

BOOK, Ethnic Separatism and World Politics, University Press of America, 1983

BOOK, Tokyo and Washington: Dilemmas of a Mature Alliance

Lexington Books (D.C. Heath) November, 1980

BOOK, America, Okinawa, and Japan, (Univ. Press of America) 1980

BOOK, The New American Foreign Policy: A Primer for the

1980’s, (edited reader) Collegium Book Publishers, 1979

ARTICLE, “American Rule in Okinawa,” in December 1978 Ryudai Law Review (Ryukyu National University, Japan) [refereed]

Study of Civilian Casualties in U.S. military interventions funded in part by Charles Olson Grant (more information available on request)


Discussant, panel “Distance Learning Applications in History: USA and Turkey” at the Conference on Computers and History, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, June, 1999.

Symposium Paper, “Misperception, Multipolarization and History in Fast Forward,” Presented at the Conference on the Consequences of the dissolution of the Soviet Union for the Inadvertent Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, held in Parnu, Estonia, April 16-20, 1993. Proceedings published by the Estonian Academy of Sciences in 1993.

Panel Paper, “Okinawa’s American Interlude: 19451972,” INTERNATIONAL NORTH AFRICAN AND ASIAN STUDIES (ICANAS) CONFERENCE, Toronto, August, 1991

Symposium Paper,”Preventing the Ultimate Disaster: Misperception at the Top,” CONFERENCE ON ACCIDENTAL NUCLEAR WAR, University of Copenhagen Centre for Research on Peace and Conflict, Copenhagen, June, 1990.

Panel Paper, “Nuclear Disaster Prevention in Theory and Practice,” INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ASSOCIATION MEETING, London, March 1989

Panel Paper, “Iran: The Unheard Revolution,” AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION CONVENTION, Chicago, September, 1987


CONVENTION, Boston, 11/86

Panel Paper, “Ethnic Diversity and Third World Democracy,” NEPSA, Boston, November 1984

Chaired Panel, “Ethnic Separatism and World Politics,” NEPSA, Philadelphia, November 1983

Chaired Panel, “New Directions in American Foreign Policy” and Presented Paper “Preventable Disasters” NORTHEAST POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION CONVENTION, Newark, November, 1981

Panel Paper, ” Rationality Revisited: Bureaucratic Politics Assessed” NY STATE POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION, New York, 2/79

Chaired Panel, “Comparative Foreign Policy,” INTERNATIONAL 


Nato to put 300,000 troops on high alert in response to Russia threat

Alliance’s leader says this week’s summit will agree its most significant transformation in a generation

Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the press conference to preview the Nato summit in Madrid on Monday
Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the press conference to preview the Nato summit in Madrid on Monday. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editorMon 27 Jun 2022 11.05 EDT

Nato’s secretary general has said this week’s Madrid summit will agree the alliance’s most significant transformation for a generation, putting 300,000 troops at high readiness in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance’s forces in the Baltic states and five other frontline countries would be increased “up to brigade levels” – doubled or trebled to between 3,000 and 5,000 troops.

That would amount to “the biggest overhaul of our collective defence and deterrence since the cold war,” Stoltenberg said before the meeting of the 30-country alliance, which runs from Tuesday to Thursday this week.

The rapid-reaction Nato Response Force currently numbers up to 40,000, and the proposed change amounts to a broad revision in response to Russian militarisation. Under the plans, Nato will also move stocks of munitions and other supplies farther east, a transition due to be completed in 2023.

The Norwegian secretary general conceded he could not make any promises about the progress of applications by Sweden and Finland to join Nato, because objections raised by Turkey to their membership remained unresolved.

Stoltenberg said Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had agreed to meet the Swedish prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, and Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, on Tuesday in Madrid to try to resolve the issue.

But he played down hopes of a breakthrough at the meeting on the margins of the Nato event. “It’s too early to say what kind of progress you can make by the summit,” he told a press conference.

Turkey has said it will block the applications of Sweden and Finland unless it receives satisfactory assurances that the Nordic countries are willing to address what it regards as support for Kurdish groups it designates as terrorist organisations.

Later on Monday, Andersson said still she hoped a last-minute deal could be reached, after a day of contacts between officials of the three countries in Brussels.

“My strong hope is that this dialogue can be successfully concluded in the near future, ideally before the summit,” Andersson said, emphasising that Sweden “condemns terrorism in all its forms” and that the insurgent Kurdish Workers’ party (PKK) was recognised as a terror group in Sweden.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, will address the summit on Wednesday morning, where he is expected to follow on from a plea made on Monday at the G7 meeting in Germany for western countries to provide arms so the war does not “drag on over winter”.

Stoltenberg said Nato would agree “a strengthened, comprehensive assistance package” for Kyiv, including immediate help to “secure communications, anti-drone systems and fuel” and longer-term assistance in transitioning from Soviet standard arms and equipment to their western equivalents.

But while the state of the war is likely to dominate the summit, Nato itself will only offer non-lethal aid because its members do not want the alliance to enter into fully fledged war with Russia. Arms supplies are instead made by member states.

Nato maintains eight battle groups across eastern Europe, aimed at acting as an initial frontline defence in the event of a Russian invasion. Four are in the Baltic states and Poland, and these were supplemented by the creation of four more in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia after the attack on Ukraine.

Germany said this month it would contribute a brigade of troops to defend Lithuania, where the country leads a 1,000-member battle group, although it emerged that the bulk of the extra 3,500 Berlin intends to contribute would be based on its own soil, ready to move farther east if needed.

Stoltenberg said he expected other Nato members to make similar announcements to defend the countries for which they are responsible. Extra troop numbers would be made up by “pre-assigned forces in their home country” who would regularly exercise in the countries to which they had been linked, he added.

Britain contributes about 1,700 troops to a multinational battle group it leads in Estonia. The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said nearly a fortnight ago that it was highly likely the UK would assign hundreds more troops in support of Estonia.

But Stoltenberg said there would not be a one-size-fits-all model, suggesting that not every battle group would be increased to the size of a full brigade. Canada leads the battle group in Latvia, where it contributes 700 troops, while the US is responsible for Poland.

Nato released figures showing that defence spending among its 30 members was expected to increase by 1.2% in real terms in 2022, the slowest growth rate in eight successive years of growth.

Nine countries are projected to exceed the 2% of GDP target, led by Greece on 3.76% and the US on 3.47% with Britain sixth on 2.12%, down marginally on the two previous years. France spends 1.9% and Germany 1.44%.

I write from Ukraine, where I’ve spent much of the past six months, reporting on the build-up to the conflict and the grim reality of war. It has been the most intense time of my 30-year career. In December I visited the trenches outside Donetsk with the Ukrainian army; in January I went to Mariupol and drove along the coast to Crimea; on 24 February I was with other colleagues in the Ukrainian capital as the first Russian bombs fell.

This is the biggest war in Europe since 1945. It is, for Ukrainians, an existential struggle against a new but familiar Russian imperialism. Our team of reporters and editors intend to cover this war for as long as it lasts, however expensive that may prove to be. We are committed to telling the human stories of those caught up in war, as well as the international dimension. But we can’t do this without the support of Guardian readers. It is your passion, engagement and financial contributions which underpin our independent journalism and make it possible for us to report from places like Ukraine.

If you are able to help with a monthly or single contribution it will boost our resources and enhance our ability to report the truth about what is happening in this terrible conflict.

Thank you.

Luke Harding

Foreign correspondent

Luke Harding head photograph