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The Economist: Europe

The Economist: Europe

With a growing global circulation (now more than 1.5 million including both print* and digital) and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognized and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary.

Articles by The Economist: Europe

How the Kremlin outwitted Amnesty International

4 days ago

Mar 6th 2021ON MARCH 1ST Russian news announced that Alexei Navalny was moving to a new prison, Penal Colony No. 2, notorious for psychological torture. Two days later his lawyers found him in a different, and less ghastly, jail. Russia’s justice system likes to keep people guessing.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The Kremlin says Mr Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader, is a common criminal, as well as being a Western agent. Its propagandists tout his (plainly bogus) fraud conviction. Their struggle to convict him in the court of public opinion has received a boost from an unlikely source: Amnesty International, a global human-rights group.On February 23rd Amnesty said it had decided to stop calling Mr

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Despot, genius or both? France argues about Napoleon

4 days ago

Mar 6th 2021PARISTO SOME HE was a military genius, strategic mastermind and visionary leader who bequeathed to France a centralised modern administration and sense of gloire. To others he was a tyrant and a butcher who squandered French supremacy in Europe on the battlefield of Waterloo. Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in captivity on the British island of Saint Helena at the age of 51, has long inspired both admiration and distaste, even in France. Now, ahead of the bicentenary of his death on May 5th 1821, those rival passions have been revived.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Alexis Corbière, a deputy from Unsubmissive France, a left-wing party, declared: “It is not for the republic to celebrate its gravedigger.”

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How Germany’s Greens conquered the industrial heartland

4 days ago

Mar 6th 2021WINFRIED KRETSCHMANN has a strong claim to be the world’s most powerful Green politician. True, Greens occupy a few junior ministries in places such as Austria and New Zealand. But Mr Kretschmann is the undisputed ruler of the state of Baden-Württemberg, an industrial powerhouse in Germany’s south-west that, with 11m people, is bigger than most EU countries. Ten years ago, voters spooked by the Fukushima nuclear accident and sick of decades of rule under the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) doubled the Greens’ vote, elevating them to power at the head of a left-wing coalition. Even Mr Kretschmann was surprised. Yet he handily secured re-election in 2016, and may well repeat the feat at Baden-Württemberg’s election on March 14th. How he pulled it off carries lessons for

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Armenia’s army turns on its prime minister

4 days ago

Mar 4th 2021YerevanFOR A MAN in his own army’s cross-hairs, Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian prime minister, seems unfazed. As long as the Armenian people have the final say, “there will be no coup,” he told The Economist this week. The only way out of the crisis consuming his country, he says, leads through the ballot box and early elections.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.There are no tanks on the street in Yerevan. But Mr Pashinyan is fighting for his political life. On February 25th dozens of officers, including the country’s top soldier, Onik Gasparyan, demanded the prime minister’s resignation, accusing him of incompetence. Mr Pashinyan called this an attempted coup, refused to step down and ordered Mr

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Skiing without lifts in France

11 days ago

Feb 27th 2021SAINT-MARTIN-DE-BELLEVILLETHE MECHANICAL clatter of chairlifts and the bass beat of high-altitude bars are familiar soundtracks in an Alpine ski resort every winter. So the quiet of the mountains this season is startlingly strange. French ski resorts are instead alive to different sounds: children tobogganing, huskies pulling sledges, defiant enthusiasts trudging uphill on skis with skins. Late last year, when the French government decided to clamp down on covid-19 once more, it shut all uphill transport but kept resorts open. This means the French can still go skiing—but without lifts.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Some solutions are punishing. Ski touring, or uphill skiing, involves struggling up

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How brave German hairdressers won a battle for human dignity

11 days ago

Feb 27th 2021BERLIN“HUMAN DIGNITY shall be inviolable.“ The first article of Germany’s constitution turns out to have surprisingly broad application. For while much of Germany’s service sector remains in the deep freeze, on March 1st Germany’s 80,000 hair salons will be allowed to reopen. Some politicians frowned at the decision, taken in mid-February. But it has “something to do with dignity”, argued Markus Söder, Bavaria’s premier.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Germany required hairdressers to close before Christmas. During this long winter many mop-headed Germans immersed themselves in distinctly undignified self-cutting Instagram tutorials, or made hair-raising dashes to salons in Luxembourg. Others went

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Europe’s underground abortion network

11 days ago

Feb 27th 2021WANDER AROUND any Polish city and the same phone number pops up on an array of unlikely surfaces. It is scrawled on bus stops and billboards. It can be daubed on the side of a church. Head online and the same number (+48 222 922 597) appears in people’s usernames. Those who dial it are put through to Kobiety w Sieci (“Women on the Net”), a group that offers women information on how to get abortions. In a country where providing terminations is now, in effect, illegal, it is a useful number to have.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.In October Poland’s constitutional court struck down a law allowing abortion in cases of fetal abnormality. Of the 1,000 or so legal abortions in Poland per year before the

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The Kremlin’s criticism of Alexi Navalny is making him more popular

18 days ago

Feb 20th 2021MOSCOWFIRST THEY ignored him. Then they smeared his underpants with Novichok, a nerve agent. When he survived that, they jailed him. And now they are trying to demonise him. After years of refusing to utter his name in public for fear of making him seem important, the Kremlin is levelling its most intense propaganda at Alexei Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader. He is the subject of every prime-time news programme and talk show—and they are not being polite.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The scale and intensity of this propaganda assault are reminiscent of campaigns waged by Stalin’s henchmen in the 1930s against “enemies of the people” and, more recently, are comparable to the Kremlin’s

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The rise of dirty politics in Europe

18 days ago

Feb 20th 2021THE BOIS DE LA CAMBRE is the most handsome park in Brussels. Its 123 hectares offer mature forest and potential peace for the residents of the Belgian capital’s well-to-do southern suburbs. Naturally, the Belgians—among Europe’s biggest petrolheads—built a motorway through it. During the lockdown, the park was closed to traffic. Pedestrians were delighted. Drivers were furious, court cases came and a new front in the culture war was born.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Grumpy motorists are easy to find in Europe today. Head north to the Netherlands and they moan about speed limits. There, motorway traffic now crawls along at 100kph (62mph) after the government cut the daytime speed limit from 130kph

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Mario Draghi begins the toughest job in European politics

18 days ago

Feb 20th 2021BERLIN AND ROMEMARKETS HAVE a way of bowing before Mario Draghi, who on February 13th took charge of Italy’s 68th government in 75 years. Stocks soared the moment it was reported he had been asked to become prime minister. Three days after he took office, investors flocked to a bond auction, slashing Italy’s borrowing costs. It was reminiscent of the hot days in July 2012 when Mr Draghi, then president of the European Central Bank, vowed to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the embattled euro. The bond-buying scheme the ECB assembled to render Mr Draghi’s promise credible was never used: his words were enough to calm the financial furies.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.But tackling Italy’s problems

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Why Corsican number plates are popular

18 days ago

Feb 20th 2021PARISJUST OVER a decade ago, France dropped a rule that had obliged motorists to change their car’s number plate each time they moved house to a new administrative département. The point was to ensure, in true bureaucratic style, that the vehicle’s plate matched the place of residence. Since 2009, however, car owners have been free to choose which département code they display, turning number plates into a test of sentimental attachment, with unexpected results.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The surprising favourite is Corsica, an island that is home to just 340,000 people. The 2A that represents one of the island’s two départements, along with its symbol of a bandanna-wrapped head, was the most

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Catalonia’s separatists score another victory, but a hollow one

21 days ago

Feb 15th 2021MADRIDCATALANS PRIDE themselves on their seny, their hard-headed common sense. Yet when it comes to politics, as Jaume Vicens Vives, a great Catalan historian of the mid-20th century, pointed out, they have more often acted with its opposite: rauxa, or emotional impulsiveness. In the run-up to an election for the regional government on February 14th, many expected that practical matters such as the pandemic and the economic slump would be uppermost in Catalan minds. But the wounds of October 2017, when an unconstitutional referendum on independence for one’s of Spain’s most important regions led to the jailing of nine separatist leaders, are still raw. The Catalan authorities let the prisoners out on day release so that they could campaign. Once again, the emotional divide

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Turkey’s president scapegoats gay-friendly students

25 days ago

Feb 13th 2021ISTANBULSQUADRONS OF armed policemen block the entrance. Metal barriers line the avenue leading up to the campus. Snipers occasionally emerge on nearby rooftops. Bogazici University has long been considered one of Turkey’s most prestigious. Today it resembles a besieged terrorist hideout.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.That, believe it or not, is how Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sees it. On February 1st police stormed the campus and detained dozens of students who were protesting about his appointment of a government loyalist as their rector. The protests have taken place regularly for over a month. They escalated after the arrest of four students who had organised an art show that

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Covid-19 school closures are widening Europe’s class divisions

25 days ago

Feb 13th 2021AMSTERDAMNO ONE IS ever truly ready for lockdown. But when the Netherlands closed its schools in December, the Herman Wesselink College, a high school in a well-off suburb of Amsterdam, was readier than most. About half its students have parents who completed higher education. Nearly all have their own bedroom to study in. The school has given its pupils laptops for years, and during the first lockdown last spring switched smoothly to remote learning. The director says students have not fallen behind a whit in terms of content, though their study skills have languished.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The Mundus College, a trade school in a poorer Amsterdam neighbourhood, has had it rougher. About a

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Shelters fear an influx of no-longer-wanted lockdown pets

25 days ago

Feb 13th 2021BERLINARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER owned a succession of pet poodles. Franz Kafka maintained that “all knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers is contained in the dog.” Frederick the Great exclaimed: “The more I see of men, the better I like my dog.” Pets have been deeply embedded in Germanic culture for centuries, but never more so than now. As people seek a cure for covid-induced solitude and angst, demand has surged for dogs, budgies, snakes and even cats.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The German Kennel Club says dog sales increased by 20% in 2020. Prices for puppies sold on pets4homes, Britain’s largest online ad site for pets, more than doubled. A Yorkshire terrier pup can set you back

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Mario Draghi is set to become Italy’s next prime minister

25 days ago

Feb 13th 2021ROMEWAS THERE ever a luckier prime minister than Mario Draghi? Or an unluckier one? He is set to come into office with around €200bn ($240bn) from the EU’s recovery funds to spend. But he will also take over Europe’s worst-performing economy in a pandemic and with a parliamentary majority hard put to agree on anything, let alone on controversial structural reforms the European Commission wants to see implemented as the largesse is disbursed.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.By February 12th, as he prepared to announce a cabinet featuring a mixture of politicians and technocrats, only the far-right Brothers of Italy party had declined the chance to climb aboard the “Super Mario” bandwagon. The

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The European Union must face up to the real Russia

25 days ago

Feb 13th 2021WHEN ROBERT CONQUEST, a historian, was working on a new edition of “The Great Terror”, his seminal text on Stalin’s crimes, he was told to come up with a new title. The book had described the horrors of the Soviet Union at a time when apologism for it was still rife. By the time of the new version, freshly opened archives had vindicated Conquest’s account. His friend Kingsley Amis, a novelist, suggested a pithy new title: “I told you so, you fucking fools”.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Head east in Europe today and it is easy to find similar sentiments about Russia. The Baltic states and Poland warned Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, against visiting Moscow in the wake of its

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A Swedish film festival has just one attendee

February 4, 2021

Feb 6th 2021WHEN THE Goteborg Film Festival offered the chance for a film fan to spend seven days alone on an island, with only 60 films for company, the organisers weren’t sure if anyone would want to apply. The pandemic has been isolating enough, even for Swedes, who have yet to lock down like other Europeans. The lucky winner would not be able to bring a phone or contact friends and family during a week of stormy seas and dark Swedish winter. No one was expecting that the festival would get over 12,000 applications from 45 countries.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The chosen castaway, a pink-haired Swedish nurse called Lisa Enroth, has been on Hamneskar island, 37km north-west of Gothenburg (as it is spelt in

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Russia’s regime is weakened by putting Alexei Navalny in jail

February 4, 2021

Feb 6th 2021MOSCOWJUDGING BY THE security measures, you would have thought Moscow was experiencing a terrorist attack. Police in riot gear surrounded the capital’s main court and blocked the approaches. Muscovites suspected of being protesters were whisked away and bundled into police vans. By lunchtime 350 people, including journalists, had been detained, adding to nearly 2,000 arrested during protests two days earlier. Jails and detention centres filled up so fast that many demonstrators were held in police vans in freezing temperatures without food or water for up to 40 hours.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The reason for the mass arrests was Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader, who had returned last

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How Europe dodges responsibility for its vaccine fiasco

February 3, 2021

Feb 3rd 2021AT THE END of December, a smiling Ursula von der Leyen appeared in front of a camera to hail the beginning of the EU’s vaccination programme. The president of the European Commission boasted that from Sofia to Helsinki Europeans were being jabbed with drugs bought collectively and then divvied up by the commission. It was, she beamed, “a touching moment of unity and a European success story”. A month later, the smiles have vanished. The EU has vaccinated a much smaller proportion of its people than America, Britain or Israel has done. The programme has been dogged by a lack of doses and clunky roll-outs. Supply problems hit when AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish drug firm, warned that it would provide less than half of the 80m doses it had pledged to the EU in the first quarter of

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Mario Draghi is summoned to form Italy’s government

February 3, 2021

Feb 3rd 2021ROMEIN CERTAIN COUNTRIES, when the politicians are considered to have failed, it is time for an unsmiling general to appear on television to announce he has seized power. In Italy, the procedure is more benign: a man in a well-cut suit, usually one with a successful career as a central banker behind him, is called to the presidential palace to get the nod.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.On February 3rd just such a man, Mario Draghi, arrived at the palace on the Quirinal hill to be asked by the president, Sergio Mattarella, to head a new government. Mr Draghi accepted, conditional on the support of a parliamentary majority. Mr Mattarella called in the former boss of the European Central Bank after

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Why Germany won’t kill Nord Stream 2

February 1, 2021

Feb 1st 2021BERLININ THE CHILL waters off Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic sea, a complex game of cat-and-mouse is playing out. A flotilla of Russian boats is rushing to complete the construction of Nord Stream 2, a 1,230km (765-mile) gas pipeline that would double capacity from Russia to Germany. Less than 150km of it remains to be built. Meanwhile, the American government, armed with sanctions legislation, is picking off companies it suspects of involvement. As the saga enters its endgame, the pipeline’s fate may depend on the outcome of this race.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Nord Stream 2 has inspired criticism ever since 2015, when Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed gas giant, and five European energy

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How the pandemic reversed old migration patterns in Europe

January 28, 2021

Jan 30th 2021AFTER A DECADE in Britain, it took Alexej Kirillov barely 24 hours to decide to leave. In March 2020, as Europe’s borders slammed shut, Mr Kirillov, a 31-year-old strategy consultant, had a choice: lockdown in a costly, lonely London flat or go home to the Czech Republic and be close to family. “I was not planning to leave for another five years, or longer, or never,” he says. But covid-19 changed his mind. Nearly a year on, he has set up shop in his homeland. A temporary return has become permanent. “Now I’m back, I think why didn’t I move back sooner?”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.He was not alone. In 2020 Europe saw a great reverse migration, as those who had sought work abroad returned home.

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Why France’s vaccination roll-out has been so slow

January 28, 2021

Jan 30th 2021POISSYTHE LOGO outside the vaccination centre shows a red-caped Super Granny zapping the spiked coronavirus with one fist, while clutching a medical syringe in the other. Named “Chez Mauricette”, a nod to the first French patient vaccinated against covid-19, the place sounds more like a friendly local café than a health clinic. In the industrial town of Poissy, north-west of Paris, this is a deft antidote to grim times, and an effort to confront the peculiar scepticism of the French. “People are exhausted and anxious,” says Karl Olive, the town’s centre-right mayor, and a former football referee: “They need a bit of fun.”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.On a recent weekday afternoon, patients wait

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Germany’s economic prospects for this year have darkened

January 28, 2021

Jan 30th 2021BERLINIF EUROPE’S ECONOMIES were a brass band, Germany’s would be the tuba: the biggest, most reliable generator of oom-pah-pah on a continent of cornets and bugles. Last spring it coped with the sharpest recession since the second world war better than its neighbours, thanks to a shorter and looser covid-19 lockdown and a massive fiscal stimulus. This year Germany was expected to recover its mighty puff more quickly than its peers.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.However, the latest statistics suggest that the tuba’s valves are stuck: the recovery might not be as robust as forecast. On January 14th Destatis, the official statistics agency, announced that the German economy shrank by 5% last year.

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A cult leader gets 1,000 years in jail for keeping sex slaves

January 28, 2021

Jan 28th 2021ISTANBULFOR YEARS, Adnan Oktar’s cult made for outrageously bad television. Newspapers indulged him as a crackpot, an Islamic preacher surrounded by a harem of women in heavy make-up and swimsuits. (Mr Oktar argued the bikini was a form of religious covering.) Few people took him seriously. The authorities mostly seemed to ignore him.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.His luck ran out on January 11th, when a Turkish court sentenced him to over 1,000 years in jail for fraud, torture and sexual abuse. Mr Oktar was a chameleon. He embraced, then disavowed, anti-Semitism. He convinced his followers he was the messiah. He preached a conservative strand of Islam in the 1980s, dialogue betwen Christians,

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The EU should stop ignoring the vaccine race and try and win it

January 21, 2021

Jan 23rd 2021“COPIUM” IS THE most useful recent addition to the political lexicon. The portmanteau of “cope” and “opium” is a metaphorical opiate that dulls the pain of defeat, according to Urban Dictionary, a useful guide to slang. In Europe a slow vaccine roll-out across the EU has left its leaders huffing gallons of the stuff. So far the EU, a club of mostly small rich countries, has vaccinated 1.4% of its population. By contrast Israel, a small rich country, has vaccinated a third of its population. Even Britain, whose health service is a punchline on the continent, has jabbed 7%. With nearly 5% of people vaccinated America, the uncaring antithesis to the EU’s self-image, has done better than anyone in the bloc.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more

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Alexei Navalny returns to Moscow to face Vladimir Putin

January 21, 2021

Jan 21st 2021MOSCOWIT IS 8.30PM on January 17th. Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia stride through the arrivals terminal of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. A gaggle of journalists is trying to keep up. Mr Navalny spots a bright poster of the Kremlin on the wall. He stops in front of it. Cameras snap. “I am not afraid…this is the happiest day for the past five months of my life,” Mr Navalny declares. “I have come home.”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Those were Mr Navalny’s first public words back on Russian soil. (Five months earlier he had fallen into a coma after being poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent, and was evacuated to Germany for treatment.) Moments after he spoke, he was detained by officers in black

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A benefits scandal sinks the Dutch government

January 21, 2021

Jan 23rd 2021AMSTERDAMEVERY COUNTRY’S welfare state is a reflection of its soul. Take the Netherlands, an egalitarian country but also a deeply Calvinist and bureaucratic one. Dutch benefits are generous. Income inequality is among the lowest in the EU. But benefits are subject to complicated rules meant to exclude the undeserving. These can run amok. Over the past decade, systems meant to snoop out abuse of child-care benefits wrongly labelled more than 20,000 parents as fraudsters and drove many into penury. On January 15th Mark Rutte, the prime minister, and his cabinet resigned over the scandal. It may herald a modest shift to the left in Dutch social policy.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Child care in the

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Russia quits the Open Skies treaty

January 21, 2021

Jan 23rd 2021THERE ARE few opportunities left for Russian military officers and their NATO rivals to meet face-to-face and shoot the breeze. Soon there may be none. On January 15th Russia said that it would follow America in withdrawing from the Open Skies treaty, a decades-old arms-control pact that allows unarmed surveillance flights over 33 countries.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.America left the treaty in November, complaining that Russia had imposed unacceptable restrictions on flights over Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave north of Poland, and had used its own flights over America to map out critical infrastructure (which is permitted). NATO allies were aghast, though publicly they sided with

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