By the autumn of 1940, the entirety of Western Europe except Spain and Portugal lay under Nazi control, as did much of the Centre and parts of the East: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France had all fallen without serious resistance, and Britain’s refusal to take the German offer of leaving the Continent to the Nazis and the Nazis would leave the British with India had incurred the wrath of the Luftwaffe with night after night of air-raids.
It was in this context that a meeting was held, on 23 October 1940, between Adolf Hitler and Spain’s ruler, Francisco Franco. The meeting, taking place at the railway station in Hendaye, within conquered France, on the western-most point of the Franco-Spanish border, was also attended by the foreign ministers, Ramón Serrano Súñer (Spain) and Joachim von Ribbentrop (Germany). The Germans arranged the meeting to try to get Spain into the war, and General Franco attended the meeting intent on refusing—politely. Continue reading →
The Idea of Central Europe: Geopolitics, Culture and Regional Identity (2018), by Otilia Dhand, is an engaging and rather ambitious book, a work of intellectual history. Dhand’s core argument is that from the introduction of the term “Central Europe” in the nineteenth century, it did not describe a set geographical zone and the definition was always contested since the term was an attempt to construct local identities, a self separate from some other, as an instrument in the pursuit of geopolitical interests, always revisionist: these were attempts to will something into existence by influencing political behaviour. Continue reading →
Execution of Jan Beuckelszoon // Illustration in a book by Lambertus Hortensius
In 1534, shortly after the onset of the Protestant Reformation, a radical sect from this new movement, the Anabaptists, seized the city of Munster in Germany and governed it for sixteen months as a millenarian cult in a manner so alarming it managed to bring together Catholic and Lutheran forces to put it down. The experience had a profound influence not only on the development of Anabaptism thereafter, but on the manner in which the Reformation more generally unfolded. Continue reading →
“Luther at the Diet at Worms”, by Anton von Werner, 1877
The Diet of Worms convened 500 years ago today. Four years earlier, Martin Luther had sent his Ninety-five Theses as part of a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Brandenburg. The date on which Luther sent this letter, 31 October 1517, is now celebrated as “Reformation Day”, but the Reformation in a serious sense did not begin until after Luther was summoned before the 1521 Diet of Worms. Continue reading →
At Saturday’s summit in Istanbul between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany, the focus was on extending the September 17 Turkey-Russia ceasefire agreement reached in Sochi that spared Idlib a full-scale offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his supporters, and to “progress” on the political track. Continue reading →
Today in Istanbul, four governments—Turkey, Russia, Germany, and France—are meeting for a summit over Syria, attempting to consolidate the Sochi Agreement signed by Russia and Turkey over Idlib, and re-invigorate the international political process. There is little reason to think that these talks can succeed on either front. Continue reading →
The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik), a semi-official think tank on the model of Chatham House, to which it is affiliated, was subjected to an arson attack on 22 August. The claimants to the attack, the “Autonome Gruppen” (Autonomous Groups), framed it as in part a response to Turkey driving the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) out of the Efrin province of north-western Syria. Their message was amplified by PKK propaganda channels. A summary of the message and the original are below. Continue reading →
Pro-PKK demonstrators in Frankfurt, Germany, 18 March 2017, REUTERS / Ralph Orlowski
The BBCreported yesterday that on 7 December the Metropolitan Police Service arrested four people—two 17-year-old boys, a 38-year-old woman, and a 50-year-old woman—were arrested in the Haringey area of north London as part of a probe into terrorist fundraising, through money laundering and fraud. The terrorist group at issue is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and those arrested are believed to have contributed to the PKK’s finances through sale and distribution of one of the PKK’s most important propaganda instruments, the Yeni Ozgur Politika (New Free Politics) newspaper. Time will tell if this is a one-off or the beginning of a serious and long-overdue attempt to curtail the PKK’s propaganda-recruitment activity and fundraising in the West. Continue reading →
U.S. troops patrolling with the YPG/PKK in the village of Darbasiyah, northern Syria, on the border with Turkey, 28 April 2017
The United States has tried to engage in Syria almost solely in a counter-terrorism capacity, against Daesh (IS) and—in a recently-escalating campaign—against al Qaeda. The narrowness of the focus on jihadist terrorists led to the US disregarding wider political dynamics in the war in Syria—and to a degree in Iraq, too—and partnering with forces that over the long term will undo even this narrow mission.
The announcement yesterday that President Donald Trump will now arm the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to expel Daesh from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, is the end-point of this policy, setting up a very dangerous medium- and long-term situation that will redound to the benefit of terrorists. Continue reading →