07/01/2017 Dateline London


07/01/2017

Foreign correspondents currently posted to London look at events in the UK through outsiders' eyes, and at how the issues of the week are being tackled around the world.


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Transcript


LineFromTo

Hello and welcome to Dateline London.

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two stories likely to dominate the year ahead.

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First, the future of the European Union as Britain

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And secondly, how far President Putin and Russia

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are steering events in the Middle East and elsewhere,

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with Donald Trump perhaps in the passenger seat.

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Annalisa Piras, who is an Italian film maker.

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Lyse Doucet, who is the BBC's chief international correspondent.

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Michael Gove of The Times, and who is also a Conservative MP.

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Britain's top diplomat in the European Union,

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Sir Ivan Rogers, quit this week amid the continuing political

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row about Britain being unprepared for Brexit.

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But with Italy's banks in trouble, the Greek crisis unresolved,

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elections in Germany and France in 2017 and in Italy by 2018,

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plus fears about the euro, how much of a mess is the European Union

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and more importantly the eurozone actually in?

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Michael? Over the course of this year the attention will focus on

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German elections and French elections and Dutch elections

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particularly and three countries there will be strong populist

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challenges. I believe Gert builders in the Netherlands will top the

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poll, but I suspect the other parties, for the first time in the

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Netherlands, will save the person who topped the poll should not be in

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government. In France I suspect Marine Le Pen will make it to the

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run-off and run the other candidates very close. In Germany the Germany

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the alternative the Deutschland, the

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anti-immigrant, anti-EU party will get more than 20% in the polls and

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may do better than the social Democrats, the coalition partners.

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It will shake the confidence of the EU's current leadership. How much of

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that do you agree with? There are many parties in Germany and Italy

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who are pretty Eurosceptic. Yeah. The kind of picture that Michael has

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just painted is correct. Not much is going to happen until the German

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elections in the autumn so we have in front of us a long period of

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uncertainty and instability in which populist forces are going to mount

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an extraordinary challenge to the status quo. Having said that, there

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is something else going on, which is extraordinary story, and terrifying,

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which could pull together the European Union leaders who are going

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to be smart enough and convincing enough to explain to the people

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what's going on in the world. I'm referring to the migrant phenomenon

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which is going to accelerate massively and is going to show, for

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the first time in European history, how the outside challenges can

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combine with inside challenges and make the situation untenable unless

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Europeans work together. Specifically on Italy, how far are

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people concerned about the Italian banks? I've seen debt write-downs of

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50%, people are suggesting in reality many banks will be lucky to

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get 20% back on bad loans. In other words they are insolvent. The

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banking crisis in Italy is one crisis and people have lost faith in

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the banking system and the government a long time ago. There

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was a very eloquent front cover of a magazine saying welcome back to the

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past. Italy is looking at 2017, looking back at what has been

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happening in Italy and not expecting anything good from this New Year.

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There is a generalised gloom and doom, despair, lack of any hope

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whatsoever. The banking crisis is just one of the aspects. Lyse, we

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tend to look down one end of the telescope, Brexit Britain and the

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challenges here. How difficult to all these other challenges make it

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for any British government? You talk about the European Union and we have

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discussed how disunited and shaky and fragile this edifice of the

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European Union is. Brexit was another jolt. It is now very shaky

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in a year with major elections. For those two pillars, Germany and

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France, looking inward, and you can't look inward all the time. You

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have to take care of the external factors. Brexit will force them to

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look inward as well. That is what could set in motion, and already

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has, along with the victory of Donald Trump in the USA, these

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political forces that are tearing at the whole ethos of the EU. The

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migration crisis was emblematic of just how divided Europe is

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politically, socially, morally, in every which way in terms of how they

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responded. There was no EU response to that and there still isn't. From

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the United States, is the European project in serious trouble in 2017,

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and particularly the euro? The European project is in tremendous

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trouble and far worse than the people in the US are aware of.

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People are focused on the domestic situation. Having watched the EU

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closely for several years, there's never been a crossroads like this

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before and the idea of a closer union is so discredited at this

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point that it's almost not worth uttering the words. I've had this

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disagreement with Annalisa before. She talks about a common European

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response to the immigrants and I think that's beyond the leadership

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of Europe. You put those 28 or 27 leaders in a room and you have such

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competing, impossible to reconcile self interest that the immigrant

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crisis could be what divides it and what leads to gradual breaking away.

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Hungary, for example, and some of those countries surrounding Hungary

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take one view, Germany and other. Germany, Italy, everyone's crisis

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point is different, and so is Britain's. For any British Prime

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Minister or negotiating team, never mind affections from the civil

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service, to get the attention of any European leader, particularly Angela

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Merkel this year, will be difficult. It is. One of the points made by two

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of the principal negotiators is that until the German elections

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concluded, it will be difficult to get the full focus and the full

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attention of everyone in Europe on these negotiations. The point is

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also made that once negotiations are concluded, there needs to be

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agreement as much as possible across Europe before any deal can be

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settled. There is an imperative on the Prime Minister and the British

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negotiating team to make clear, and I know the Prime Minister hopes to

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in the next week or so, what the core asked of the European union is.

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Clarity in this process is absolutely critical to success. More

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important, what is the core ask of Britain? You have your cake and you

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want to eat it. Yes. Europe might be able to respond. I expressed my

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softball, what is Britain asking of the EU? We need to be clear about

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what Britain is requesting. It's not open-ended, the clock is ticking.

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Once the trigger is pulled with Article 50, they have two years. You

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cannot waste a year, even though a year with Germany and France

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focusing on their elections, they will have to do something about

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Brexit is Brexit. It's not just Theresa May saying that, John Claude

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Yunker has said it, so has Merkel, you have to get it done quickly. It

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will be up to Britain to clarify, because I don't think anybody in the

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British government knows what Brexit they want. I think they do. A

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critical thing for the EU is if those who are currently steering it

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play a clumsy hand, that will only strengthen what they considered to

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be populist forces. Marine Le Pen has put the European institutions on

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notice that if British institutions are punished for leaving she will

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make that a rallying cry. It is also the case that if countries like

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Poland and Hungary that take a very different line to the current EU

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court leadership see that leadership privileging its position, its

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ultra-federalist position over some of their interests, that could

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create difficulties as well. Can I ask some of you who cover these

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things to take a step back from this week 's headlines in Britain. Ivan

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Rogers have left. Many people would not be familiar with his name or the

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name of his successor. How important of these people who have been

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derided in some of the papers as the Sir Humphreys? How important are

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these people rather than the politicians? Are good ambassador or

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High Commissioner is gold dust. They are your eyes and ears in the

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country and they have... They are able to tell you forensically what

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the situation is. It is up to leaders to listen... Or not. Even

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though nobody should listen to experts! They are the experts of all

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experts. Ivan Rogers said he knew the British system so well, he knew

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the European system so well, he knew all the players. His replacement is

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also a very steady hand, but she's losing a key person. It is a tragedy

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for Britain that he has resigned. Simply because the world is getting

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so complex, the old order is being replaced by completely unstable and

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unpredictable orders. Diplomats in this moment are keyed to the

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national interest because they understand the way the world is and

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the way it's going. The fact he has resigned and he has warned the civil

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servants, please speak to the power, it's very, very important. Let's not

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forget that the British diplomatic service is considered to be one of

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the best in the world. Rogers is a patriot, he is an example of the

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best of the Foreign Office. The fact that he has left is very, very

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significant and very, very serious. The world is getting very, very

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complex and to look only at the British interests and not looking at

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the big picture is very dangerous for the national interest. It also

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struck me in his farewell e-mail to the civil servants when he was

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pointing out that Whitehall and in general Britain doesn't have the

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negotiating expertise, doesn't have the staff, doesn't know enough about

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how to do the trade deals and he also, in his earlier memo which

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leaked, pointed out that even after this two-year process it will be up

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to each national parliament to approve the deal and it could fail

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at that point. He said some pretty important things that bats the Prime

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Minister was not interested in hearing. I'm conscious that the idea

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of some kind of Goldilocks Brexit, that everybody likes, not too hard

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or soft or hot or cold, won't even work within your own party. The

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least of the Prime Minister 's worries is the Conservative Party.

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There's a strong consensus behind the type of Brexit most

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conservatives would like see. Philip Hammond against Theresa May, big

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differences. I don't think so. It's interesting to see the way opinion

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has moved outside the Conservative Party. This week and is capable --

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Vince Cable made it clear he thought freedom of movement shouldn't

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continue. Who would have imagined 12 months ago that someone is committed

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as Vince to the Liberal Democrat tradition would have said one of the

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core freedoms of the EU should no longer apply? Theresa May she's --

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says she wants workers for the farming community and others save

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they want banking and service sectors to have freedom of movement.

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It's entirely possible to have a migration policy that allows Britain

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to get the skills it needs in the sectors that matter without

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accepting freedom of movement as it currently operates within the EU.

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You will say but not being the single market. You're not going to

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say that! The problem with the muddled thinking is that Britain

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seems still not able to understand that you can't have your cake and

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eat it. You can't have the single market and not freedom of movement.

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It's not on the table! It's not on the table! I don't think we do want

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to be in the single market. The cake is not on the table. Balatoni.

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President Putin has engineered a rapprochement of sorts

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with a key player in Nato - Turkey - and is using it to drive

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It comes as Donald Trump prepares to take over the US presidency

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amid concerns he is close - perhaps too close -

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to Putin, and picking a fight with China and possibly Iran.

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As Mr Trump remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma,

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where are the flashpoints we should worry about in 2017?

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And is Putin playing a weak hand with great skill?

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The report by the US intelligence agency, the bits that have made

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public, it does suggest that Russia really played a very strong role in

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the US election, quite an extraordinary role, whether it made

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any difference in the voting is a matter of contention. I don't think

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there's much doubt it made a difference. Mr Trump doesn't think

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so. They had a very concerted, well directed, successful 16 and 18 month

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intrusion into the Democratic Party's e-mails which I blame the

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Democrats. They were sloppy. We are all pretty sloppy with their e-mails

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and they left themselves to blame, they were completely wide open to

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state intrusion and Putin's people do that sort of thing

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extraordinarily well. It was very effective. It had to have swung some

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votes towards Trump, but so did a lot of other things. Nobody is

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saying Trump is the president because of Putin, but he enters with

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this very cloudy relationship with Putin that will be problematic. It

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is extraordinary in our lifetime to have any American leader being that

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close to the leader of the Kremlin, particularly somebody who used to be

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in the KGB. It sounds like science fiction and if ten years ago

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somebody would have told you rub candid and would have been elected

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with the help of a former KGB agent, it would have sounded crazy. That

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script would never work! Actually we need to brace ourselves because we

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are entering a very, very dark year. 2017, especially in Europe with all

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these elections, and clear evidence that Russia has been waging cyber

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warfare to influence the American elections, of all countries, is

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something that might really put us on alert. We've got a number of

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elections in Europe and Putin has already been trying to meddle with

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Germany, public opinion, in many ways. He's been doing it in the

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former Warsaw Pact countries, he's been doing it everywhere. We need to

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be aware. This is a year in which what we have taken for granted, the

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international law and order, the kind of force of the law, is going

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to be replaced. We know that Francois Phil on in France is quite

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receptive to Russia playing a bigger role in Europe. We know that Putin

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is playing what could be seen as a very weak hand, but playing it very

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well. That's exactly what American diplomats will concede. A week and

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played extraordinary well. In December 2015 when Russia decided to

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intervene militarily in Syria, there were warnings from Barack Obama it

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would be another Afghanistan, a quagmire where Russia will get

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bogged down. What has happened instead is that Russia, President

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Putin has had the projection of military force and forced the

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conclusion he wanted. I spent most of 2016 going to one security forum

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after another with Western leaders saying we will not accept the

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changing of borders in our Time by force, we will not accept the

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post-1945 order will be changed. Russia went into Crimea and it is

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still there. Russia not only shifted the momentum on the battlefield in

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Syria, saved President Assad from collapse on free -- key front lines,

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it's a key player on the battlefield and I was in Aleppo jeering the last

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stages of the war for that important city. Then he shifted to the

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negotiating table. It was Russia and Turkey which negotiated the

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evacuation from Aleppo. Russia and Turkey is driving the talks to take

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place not in Geneva of Vienna or Paris, but in Russia. It's

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extraordinary. Even British diplomats will concede that Vladimir

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Putin went from zero influence in the Middle East in 20 15th to now

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being the major player with the military force and the political

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will to back it up. Golf states are saying we wish our ally was

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President Putin. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and also Iran, the

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impact of Russia putting its weight about and being successful. Has that

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changed things? It's always been asked if Russia and Iran CI die in

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Syria, but they don't. They have a shared interest in seeing President

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Assad, or at least his regime, remaining, but they have different

:18:54.:18:56.

strategic interests. Russia wants its military base, Iran wants to

:18:57.:19:01.

maintain its corridor to Lebanon and has Bhullar, it wants its access to

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forces. The question will be once President Trump enters the mix. He

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seems to want to work with President Putin, but he also wants to

:19:15.:19:18.

undermine Iran's influence. If you're going to work in Syria, it's

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hard to square that circle. How do you see President Trump's relations,

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potential relations, with Mr Putin? Do you see that as a worried that

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Britain should be concerned about? One should be alive to some of these

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concerns. There are people who have been in the Trump entourage who have

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said things about Putin that give me cause for concern. There are others

:19:45.:19:47.

in the Trump transition team who have been quite robust towards

:19:48.:19:52.

Russia. It is an area of concern. But we should take one step back.

:19:53.:19:56.

Many of the games President Putin has made which

:19:57.:20:11.

cause me concerned and heartache are as a consequence of the weakness

:20:12.:20:15.

shown by President Obama. We had an opportunity to intervene in Syria in

:20:16.:20:17.

2013. The British Parliament much to my regret chose not to. Present an

:20:18.:20:20.

Obama said that was the reason they didn't do it. The President of the

:20:21.:20:23.

United States could have shown greater resolution and clarity at

:20:24.:20:26.

that time. It's a great shame that in the final days of his presidency

:20:27.:20:30.

there's been an element of displacement activity on the part of

:20:31.:20:34.

President Obama and John Kerry. They have concentrated the United Nations

:20:35.:20:39.

about resolutions on Israeli settlements rather than accepting

:20:40.:20:42.

that they played a much bigger role in the clips of Western power in the

:20:43.:20:47.

Middle East and the unhappy consequences that Lyse has alluded

:20:48.:20:52.

to with God states looking to Russia for a role. They play a heavier role

:20:53.:20:57.

and carry it a heavier responsibility than anything Mr

:20:58.:21:01.

Trump has to have on his conscious at this moment. How far do you buy

:21:02.:21:05.

that? The other way of looking at that same story is that after

:21:06.:21:09.

Afghanistan and after Iraqi, Obama did not want to get involved in some

:21:10.:21:17.

kind of protracted conflict. The opinion polls and MPs here said the

:21:18.:21:22.

same thing. There's a consistency to the eight years of Obama's foreign

:21:23.:21:27.

policy. It's been a bit ambiguous in Afghanistan but he's not wanted more

:21:28.:21:32.

interventions and I think he inherited a truly disastrous

:21:33.:21:35.

situation from the prior administration and has spent eight

:21:36.:21:38.

years trying to cope with it and now it goes back the other way. It's a

:21:39.:21:42.

very confusing time for American foreign policy. Six months ago Obama

:21:43.:21:46.

was proud of what he had accomplished and what he had not

:21:47.:21:50.

been dragged into and I think that's no longer the case. I was with US

:21:51.:21:56.

diplomats the day the US went into Syria and they were convinced Putin

:21:57.:22:01.

was making a disaster error and he's -- it's paid off beautifully for

:22:02.:22:07.

Putin. On the other hand, if you want to be more optimistic, it is

:22:08.:22:12.

true that this new international scenario does put a lot of pressure

:22:13.:22:17.

on the Europeans. It is true that the bombing of civilians by the

:22:18.:22:23.

Russians in Syria has caused all the European leaders to really think

:22:24.:22:29.

long and hard, what are we going to do? If America doesn't in gauge, if

:22:30.:22:35.

America decides, as Trump has said, that he doesn't want to pay any more

:22:36.:22:41.

for Nato, the Europeans by necessity have to come together in order to

:22:42.:22:48.

ensure their own security. The last European Council, there was no

:22:49.:22:52.

discussion of what had been happening in Syria and no resolution

:22:53.:22:56.

to deal with what Russia had been responsible for. It's only in the UK

:22:57.:23:00.

that there is a live debate about the need to increase defence

:23:01.:23:07.

spending. That's not correct. There are plenty of smaller countries. If

:23:08.:23:12.

you've been watching EU politics you would see there's been an

:23:13.:23:16.

acceleration in terms of common defence spending, common research.

:23:17.:23:23.

More spending? But not more men and more material. The Baltic states are

:23:24.:23:28.

concerned. If you look at who is putting forces on the eastern border

:23:29.:23:33.

of Nato come it is America, Canada, Britain. One of the concerns that I

:23:34.:23:38.

have is that the European Union, for the reasons we discussed at the

:23:39.:23:41.

beginning, is turning inward and while there is a belief that they

:23:42.:23:45.

should be institutional change within Europe, what there isn't is

:23:46.:23:50.

the resolution in dealing with the anti-democratic forces that Putin

:23:51.:23:55.

has marshalled. We've come full circle. We started off with Michael

:23:56.:23:58.

saying there was huge internal issues to reserve -- resolve, and

:23:59.:24:04.

there are in the EU, but they will be forced to confront the problems

:24:05.:24:09.

of their unity, or the lack of it, when President Trump stalks about

:24:10.:24:12.

Nato and you have to pay your own way. What about when President Trump

:24:13.:24:16.

starts talking about easing the sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.

:24:17.:24:22.

Angela Merkel were leading the way in terms of Russia and dealing with

:24:23.:24:26.

Ukraine. These are red button issues for Europe in terms of values and

:24:27.:24:32.

principles. They cannot left then drift away. I suspect if Marine Le

:24:33.:24:39.

Pen doesn't win, if Francois Phil on might have a chance, that will be

:24:40.:24:43.

the key moment in which we could see a real change in Europe, especially

:24:44.:24:49.

on defence and security issues. France is very keen. That will also

:24:50.:24:53.

have a strong influence on Brexit negotiations. We have one minute

:24:54.:24:59.

left. I wanted to ask you if we'd missed what could be the scariest

:25:00.:25:04.

story of the year, which is China, North Korea, South Korea, relations

:25:05.:25:09.

there and Donald Trump's attitude to China. We don't know what he will

:25:10.:25:15.

do, but it is interesting. And his attitude to nuclear proliferation,

:25:16.:25:18.

where has attitude has been its no problem. Will it change in the Oval

:25:19.:25:23.

Office? We don't know, he hasn't clarified his view. He was very

:25:24.:25:28.

robust about North Korea. Judging from his tweets rather than major

:25:29.:25:37.

policy statement. Whatever Obama told him rattled him on that first

:25:38.:25:40.

day when Obama first met with him after the election. Trump expresses

:25:41.:25:42.

a willingness to Japan and South Korea to get nuclear weapons. What

:25:43.:25:47.

he said would overturn their codes of nonproliferation. On that note,

:25:48.:25:49.

happy New Year! You can comment on the programme

:25:50.:25:51.

on Twitter @gavinesler We're back next week

:25:52.:25:54.

at the same time.

:25:55.:25:58.