1. Look who will (likely) ruin 2017
Europe has endured major angst these last 12 months, and many would say that the year 2016 was among the Continent’s most unlovely since the Balkan civil war. As we tiptoe into 2017, there’s no reason to believe that things will take a striking turn for the better.
So in this spirit of gloom, POLITICO brings you a dozen characters who will make you want to stay in bed — with the covers pulled firmly over your trembling head.
These aren’t the most obvious villains or potential wreckers of joy. So Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t on this list. Nor is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, nor even the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May or the National Front leader Marine Le Pen, doughty depressants all: We can take it for granted that they will make us miserable in 2017, almost certainly on numerous occasions.
Instead, we give you a list of some of the other spoilers, a supporting cast of whom the best that we might wish is that they have a relatively quiet year.
The dozen follow, in alphabetical order.
- British tabloid editors
If the most pungent thing in France is its cheese, the equivalent across the Channel is the tabloid newspaper. The Sun, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Express have a robust hold on British popular opinion and regard Brexit as the greatest thing to have happened to Britain since the Normans arrived in 1066.
Do not underestimate the tabloids’ ability to poison ongoing negotiations to such an extent that Prime Minister May is left with no option other than the hardest of “hard Brexits,” good neither for Britain nor the EU.
Their coverage of Europe’s refugee crisis has been hysterical, making a compromise with the EU on free movement a non-starter, and they would likely recoil at any deal that has the U.K. pay “too much” into the EU budget or lengthen the transition. The British tabloids also have a perverse hold on the imagination of officials in Brussels — and every anti-European front page will only harden the resolve of Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Brexit negotiator, to be as unyielding to Britain as possible.
- Michael Flynn
This retired U.S. Army lieutenant general is President-elect Trump’s pick for his national security adviser. If there’s anyone in Trump’s likely cabinet who embodies to perfection the European stereotype of an Ugly American, it’s Flynn, a man so politically incorrect he can make his boss seem like a Boy Scout.
Flynn subscribes to the view that the U.S. is in conflict with an “Enemy Alliance,” comprising North Korea, China, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. He also has close ties to Putin and the Kremlin-controlled RT television network. Most alarmingly for Europe, he has a record of incendiary utterances on Muslims, including a tweet that said: “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”
The next time an incident of Islamist terrorism occurs in France, Germany or Belgium, do we really need a White House consigliere to amp up the discordant rhetoric?
- Beppe Grillo
The founder of Italy’s 5Star Movement, Grillo has been a notable political innovator since his institution of Vaffa-Day (or F**k Off-Day) in 2007, in which he and his fellow-travelers named and shamed all the politicians who were in office in spite of being indicted for corruption. Although they became a trifle repetitive, these V-Days were a highly satisfying political stunt in a land of endemic venality.
In the years since, Grillo has raised his mutinous spiel to maximum volume, assembled a loyal army of activists, and managed to get two young women elected mayor, in Rome and Turin. So far, he has basked in the role of Absolute Opposition to Power, claiming for himself a certain unsullied purity.
But Grillo’s Robespierre-like rants are getting increasingly unfunny, and suggest that Europe will have reason to be afraid should he ever acquire a proper position of authority. How will that play out in a crashing economy and feeble democracy?
- Jarosław Kaczyński
The leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, Kaczyński is arguably the most powerful anti-European politician in the EU. He has attacked Brussels’ “horrible bureaucracy” and “institutionalized undermining of the nation-state,” phrases that would make Nigel Farage proud.
A former prime minister, he was described recently by Lech Wałesa as “dangerous and irresponsible” (words that should strike most observers as apt, even allowing for Wałesa’s crankiness).
Kaczyński is tearing Poland apart, undermining the rule of law and the freedom of the press, and could destabilize the finely tuned power-sharing agreements in Brussels if he campaigns against his country’s own leader at the European Council, Donald Tusk.
Poland was the golden child among new EU member countries. It’s become the new basket case thanks to Kaczyński.
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* YOUTUBE —Justify Your Existence . The views of George Bernard Shaw applied to modern Russian society and depiction of the first products of its degradation under the foreign influence and because of the lack of an ideological core.
* YOUTUBE — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIaLgV2pKr8 2017 Annual Forecast Preview. Stratfor Vice President of Global Analysis Reva Goujon highlights the key geopolitical trends for the coming year.
For more analysis, visit: http://www.Stratfor.com
- YOUTUBE — George Soros The Future of Europe . A special conversation with George Soros and Chrystia Freeland on the Future of Europe.