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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This is Dateline London,
the programme which brings together
international correspondents based
here with British columnists
who write about the world beyond.
It's been a week in which the old
Cold War powers appear to be
flexing their muscles, and Europeans
fear what it may mean for them.
Donald Trump - trade
warrior and peace maker?
Was someone in Russia responsible
for the poisoning on an English
street of a double-agent?
And, after Italians deliver
the political mainstream another
drubbing, are Europe's leaders
capable of fighting back?
With me: Yasmin Alibhai Brown,
who came to the UK as a refugee
from a hostile country and is now
a political commentator.
Agnes Poirier of the
French news magazine
Stephanie Baker, US
journalist writing from here
for Bloomberg Markets.
Ian Birrell, columnist
with the British newspaper
The Mail on Sunday.
A warm welcome to you all, good to
have you with us again.
The news that Donald Trump
is to meet Kim Jong-Un,
the North Korean leader,
to discuss reducing the nuclear
threat surprised many.
Only hours earlier he'd been
posing as a warrior,
at least in trade terms -
signing into law tariffs aimed
at repelling imports
of steel and aluminium.
"Trade wars are good and easy
to win", President Trump tweeted.
Six months ago, the President warned
he could unleash "fire, fury and,
frankly, power" against Pyongyang.
Perhaps the summit with Kim suggest
that's a war Mr Trump
doesn't think he can win.
Ian, is it evident that his
combination of mockery and threats
No, I think obviously
the positive and optimistic hope of
this is that two mavericks might
make a deal. But I think it's highly
unlikely. I think the truth is,
Trump has a habit of being boastful
and bragging and and and e-fit very
different things are happening. Here
he has gone out on a limb, we are
seeing him grow back a bit in
America, he has gone out on a limb
and promised this, giving away with
one of his cards, just like with
recognition of Jerusalem. The truth
is, they are talking about very
different things. Trump wants to see
nuclear weapon is removed from
Pyongyang. Qian Yan will not do
that, it is a vile state run by a
very small elite and they depend on
the nuclear weapons for safety.
have been to both North and South
I spent a long time with
dissidents, somebody in the special
forces with North Korea, he said
that during the sunshine policy,
which won a Nobel Prize, they were
ramping up ideas of how to attack
cities in the south, how to use
nerve agents, building up stockpiles
of nuclear and biological weapons.
They are talking about very
different things. North Korea are
talking about things such as
of the Korean peninsular and a
removal of the threat. What they are
releasing, they don't want America
and American weapons on the
peninsula. It is a very different
thing. People always talk, they want
to hear talks, they want to see
people getting around the table
together. But nobody comes up with,
where is the deal? There is no deal,
because Pyongyang will not remove
its weaponry and can't be trusted.
And the world can't give anything to
Is Kim Jong-un playing Donald
I think that is the fear.
Sceptics have said that he could be
walking into a clap. And Trump,
because he is very confident, thinks
that this is a sales job and he can
market his way out of it. It is
consistent with the reality TV show
formats of the presidency. That, you
know, he loves to surprise, he loves
the unconventional, he loves to be
first to do something. In this case,
the first time a sitting US
president meets with a North Korean
leader. There has been speculation
in the US that this was an attempt
to distract from a more damaging
story, this alleged hush money paid
to this pornography star, headlines
about Stormy Daniels were dominating
and this is a way to push those
This is an actress who claims
that she had a relationship with
Trump, but he has denied a.
lawyer paid her off before the US
election. Some people are saying, if
he can't do an airtight deal with a
pornography star, how is he going to
do a deal with North Korea?! The
White House has suffered
unprecedented departures in
turnover, the State Department is
not operating at full capacity, we
don't have an ambassador to South
Korea or an Assistant Secretary of
State for Asia. The person on point
for North Korea stepped down in
frustration. Rex Tillerson was
blindsided by this and not
consulted. If you are going to do a
deal with North Korea, you do need
to prepare. Of course, diplomacy is
better than the sort of schoolyard
taunts on Twitter, but this is a
high risk gamble that may not pay
What about Ian's point about
mavericks, mavericks can we the
rules" we have got these two
who are really
shaping up for a fight or a victory.
But I disagree with what he and has
just said. We were thinking of how
we might disagree exact but I do
disagree, over 60 years, the Korean
Bird's Hill has been in this
situation. What was really moving
was to see how the people on both
sides came together. They wanted to
come together over the Winter
Olympic Games. And I think one has
to think of a way to demilitarise
the entire zone. The US has no
business being there anyway. And
Japan now has two rethink its own
policies on defence. But I certainly
think that this doesn't come out of
anything sensible like that, it
comes out of these two men, who are
arguably the least rational and most
macho men upon the planet.
Yasmine is not going to invite
I think, you know, you
save a North Korean leader is
rational, I have the feeling he is
pretty rational, he's ruthless --
Jasmine is not going to invite them
around 40. I don't think Rocket
Man... I don't think he is
ridiculous at all. The idea actually
comes from him. I like his father
and grandfather, he's going to be
treated as an equal. You know, his
strange family has been ruling. And
years. And the Korean -- for 70
years. The war hasn't officially
ended. I agree with you when you
save or is room for massive
misunderstanding. I think the
sanctions are beginning to bite and
this is the reason why came once you
have some time. -- Y Kim Jong-un
wants to have some time. It happened
by former Jimmy Carter and Madeleine
Albright, it's been going on for
decades. Each time North Korea says,
OK, we're not going to suspend...
But I'm saying it's nothing to do
with him or Trump in that sense,
they are playing games with each
other. They want to be whatever they
think they can be. You are right
about the first, you know, I'm on
telly, and always the start of my
own drama, what goes on. Ian has
done programmes on it, and other
journalists do, what goes on in
North Korea is just so shocking, and
we don't know half of it, really.
I'm not defending the country, but I
do think the people of these two
careers need a break. But we don't
China and Japan. China
doesn't want to see the US have more
say than China. But China has been
retreating. Usually it was the
choice, you know, the first choice
for North Korea. So this is really,
you know, the Asian countries, how
they going to react? They have got
something to play that.
must not fall for the PR of North
Korea. The reality is, it is such a
tightly restricted country, you have
to be part of the elite even to live
in Pyongyang, you need paperwork to
go anywhere in the country. The only
people to come out are members of
the elite. The elite are doing very
well there. The rest of society is
being crossed. At the core of it, it
is the world's worst regime. It is
not just hype and propaganda. This
is a country which runs death camps
and have been accused by the UN of
breaking also also rules.
people on both sides are desperate.
Divided countries help nobody in the
end. Long-term, 100 years from now,
one wishes to see a united Korea.
I'm going to be ruthless now and
we're going to move on.
A week ago, perhaps
as you were watching this programme,
a man and his daughter collapsed
onto a bench in an English cathedral
Sergei Skripal was a Russian
former double agent,
jailed by Moscow and then
freed in a spy swap.
He's lived quietly
in the UK ever since.
The use of nerve agent prompted
suspicion of state-sponsored
poisoning, not exactly discouraged
by the presenter on state television
who warned Russian traitors -
"don't go to England, something
is not right there".
Yasmin, what's wrong?
Well, I think
it is... This is not a surprise. We
don't know. I keep hearing, we don't
have the full facts. I don't even
know if we ever will have the kind
of evidence that people need to
prove whether it came from, who did
what. We still don't know what
happened to Litvinenko, we don't
know what properly happened that.
This man was killed in 2006 because
of polonium, nobody can actually say
for certain who killed him.
of the man who's just been killed by
in mysterious circumstances last
year in Saint Petersburg. We don't
know. But what we do know is that
Putin asked for the law to be
changed at one point so that
traitors who had fled abroad could
be cut down. So, I see connections
between those kind of ambitions and
what we see. And why did they move
to Salisbury? This really is a
It is near Porton Down, the research
establishment for chemical and
really a magnet for all spy stories.
There is something in the British
psyche that attracts that, but
that's another programme. What is
striking is that you could have
thought that this man was safe. You
know, he was a double agent, he
admitted to his crime, he had been
sentenced and officially pardoned
and been the object of a swap, so
everything is fine. So now they are
digging up his wife's two -- grave
and his son.
People are wearing
hazmat suit in case there is any
Whoever did it, I
think the connections are pretty
right, I mean, it's extremely
frightening. You know, they say we
can out strike whenever we want and
whoever we want, and there's nothing
much you can do. I have the feeling
that if in 2006, almost 12 years
ago, if the British Government had
reacted more forcefully, perhaps
they wouldn't have considered it
twice before doing what they did in
Salisbury. But it's going to take
another ten years, you know, we're
starting the major and long-lasting
inquiry. We will know more in ten
But we can just shut
down their bank accounts.
the point. London, the UK, has more
power than many Western countries
because of the amount of Russian
money that flows through London. And
so if they want to make the Russians
pay, they've got the ability to.
the local MP who is a government
minister and also happens to be in
the British Treasury, the British
finance ministry, but something on
social media to say, there are
financial measures, this is one of
the weapons that could be used.
haven't implemented the legislation
to make the Litvinenko law take
To seize assets even before
This would allow them to
blacklist Russian individuals with
ties to human rights abuses or
Russian government officials that
they have traced to nefarious
activities. So they could push ahead
with that, and they really need to.
And if they do, you know, narrow
down the cause of this and who was
responsible, there should be much
stronger response, I agree with
that. The response to Litvinenko was
not strong enough. They should
consider a boycott of the World Cup,
which is an incredibly important...
It is due to open this summer in
It is an incredibly
important event for Putin, is a his
moment on the international stage.
That is a way to make him pay.
of the Government Security ministers
were saying on Saturday morning,
someone has come onto our soil who
has recklessly and brazenly
committed -- in nasty crime using a
nerve agent, you have to act in
There are three
certainties. President Putin wiggles
away and finds cracks in Western
societies and is pushing his
right-wing malevolent creed, in
Syria he is warming and killing
thousands of people. He did the
first annexation on European soil
and shot down a civilian airliner,
he kills lots of his enemies. The
second certainty is that Britain
will continue to talk tough and do
nothing. We did nothing over
Ukraine, really, few sanctions here
and there. The third thing is very
clear, Britain is the capital of
dirty money in the world. All of the
money is washed here by British
lawyers, estate agents and bankers
and sanctioned by British
politicians. If Britain wants to
take tough action instead of
registering state-controlled Mafia
is basically companies that are
operating here instead of allowing
all of this money to washed through
here, Britain will do nothing and
carry on taking the money. And it is
to our shame.
All we are about is
Italy's national election may not
have delivered a government yet,
but there was a clear
winner - populism.
Between them, 69% of voters
supported parties that have
challenged the political mainstream.
It isn't just Italy.
From Germany to Greece,
from the Netherlands to Hungary,
a consensus that held
since the collapse of
the Eastern Bloc 30 years
appears to be breaking up.
Angela Merkel, now that Germany
has a government again,
albeit one from a shrunken political
centre, says she'll roll
up her sleeves to begin reform
of the European Union.
France's Emmanuel Macron, a rare
mainstream winner of the last year,
even suggested post-Brexit Britain
would soon be hammering on the EU's
door, pleading to be let back in.
Is that a case of hubris?
unpick that narrative of doom and
gloom and populism in golfing Europe
that you find mainly in the British
media. I'm not saying it doesn't
exist, but if you go back since
Brexit, since Britain shot itself in
the foot, there's this element of
schadenfreude. They want, you know,
some part of the British media, the
conservative part, they want
everybody else act as unreasonably.
There was not a day passed without
an article before the French
presidential election saying Marine
Le Pen is going to win. We want her
to win, probably. No, she didn't,
and she was never going to be
elected. Then Angela Merkel can't
form that coalition in September.
Then you have all of these articles,
oh, Germany is unstable, Germany is
unfinished, Merkel is going to go.
Of course she wasn't going to go. It
was going to be difficult, she did
it as expected. As for the Italian
elections. I mean, I wouldn't say it
is 70% that voted for popular --
If they voted for 5-star
and the Northern league coalition.
They were pro-European and very and
-- until very recently. Look at the
electoral system in Italy, it's been
like this since the Second World
War. I'm not surprised at all by
what's happening there, and it's not
going to make much difference.
Forget about Matteo Renzi, once
elected with 40% only a few back.
Things change in Italy, and that's
not going to change. Merkel is
there, Macron was elected
not going to change. Merkel is
there, Macron was elected, yes,
Macron is very pro-European and 40
and like most young Europeans and
British young people, they offer
more integration. And it's going to
happen. It doesn't mean that, you
know, the complacency and lack of
democracy in the European
institutions shouldn't be addressed.
And I think there's a recognition of
that. And Brexit was a shock.
think there's a real question mark
over this, you know, Franco German
plan for closer integration now as a
result of this election. You know,
more than 50% of Italian voters
voted for anti-EU parties. You know,
Italy is now dominated by
politicians who have promised deep
tax cuts, lavish spending
programmes, and who while anti-EU.
You know, look at for instance the
plan for a banking union in Europe.
Do you really think that German
banks are going to sign up to a
banking union to stop Italian banks
when Italy is dominated by
politicians that have decided to
just below budget spending open? You
know, I think that is...
taking a longer view, talking about
50 years' time.
Right, in the
broader context you have seen the
collapse of the centre-left across
Europe, which is really down to the
fact that the social Democratic
parties have not defended the
welfare state as they had
previously, and they squeezed it as
a way of paying for, you know, the
outcome of the 2008 financial
crisis. And this is the price.
They've allowed these Populist
parties to come up with a similar
type of, you know, platform off, you
know, we're going to give you, we're
going to give you a social spending
programmes that, you know, harks
back to a decade ago, even though we
can't afford it. I mean, look at
Italy now. It's got the second
highest debt to GDP ratio in the
Eurozone. 130% to GDP. So the idea
that they can put shared with those
spending programmes is very
They have to have
another election, it's not clear.
I'm so pleased you said what you
did, I really needed somebody to say
that, because I'm sick and tired
of... I mean, Ukip, including this
institution. Big up Ukip in the most
shameful way. Whereas you could
But if you are talking about
those continental results and --
where is Ukip today. We saw the
collapse of the Greek left. A lot of
people thought that was down to
corruption and denying true
statistics. Dutch Labour has fallen
too, less than 6%, used to be the
main party of the left. The French
And the extreme
right as well.
The German SDP, worst
result in some two years, something
is going on, isn't it?
thing has kicked up a dust storm and
there is a crisis. But in the end,
good sense will prevail. I think the
European Commission and European
parliaments need more power. I think
to have a kind of, you know, a
parliament which doesn't have any
power, that has been part of the
problem. Reform is absolutely
needed. I think the European project
is much bigger than these individual
kind of rather spoiled people
reactions. The narrative we needed
to change, when this crash happened,
we needed people to say, it's these
bankers, these capitalists, the
worst kind of capitalists, who
brought us here. Instead the
populist people bring -- lane three
immigrants and the EU, we didn't
capture the narrative. I'm really
pleased you've captured that
I think you are both been
very complacent. I agree on the
narrative, I think all the wrong
people were blamed and I don't
disagree on that at all. But let's
look at Europe and Eastern Europe as
well, look at Poland, Hungary,
Italy, Spain. You say that France
was fine because the far right
didn't win, but the far right where
the second choice in the election.
But Marine Le Pen is on the way out.
Ukip has disappeared, but of course
it has, it has achieved its aims and
the Tory Party has switched hard to
the right. The idea is that populism
has disappeared, we are living in
interesting times. I know it is
breaking the rule, but none of us
really have a clue where it's going.
It could be going in any direction.
The idea that we can just...
and be fatalistic.
fatalistic. I'd just fighting for
what I believe in, tolerance and
borders which are fluid. The idea
that populism isn't a threat is...
The truth is that we are in very
turbulent times which could go
anywhere, there is such distrust of
institutions, politicians, banks,
the church, everything. So many
illusions have been shattered.
That's why this is both an
interesting and a scary time.
need to fight back. We can't just
We can't be complacent.
are saying, fight! This rolling over
before popular resin with the
history of Europe. Can't afford that
-- rolling over before populism with
the history of Europe.
institution is not able to grasp
that, and what is that, however you
want to describe it, that broad set
of politicians from the Christian
Democrats to the social Democrats in
so many continental European
countries have appeared to be
superfine, weak, or unable to keep
--, but answers in the way that
Stephanie was talking about?
think they have been supine or
complacent. I think, you know, when
you go around the world can actually
when you go around the world, people
say to you, I've just been in
Africa, in India, they say, isn't it
extraordinary what has been achieved
by the EU? Here, thousands of years
of war. It's been kind of put to
bed, actually. And, tough though it
is, how nationalism and pan
nationalism play out, this is
admired. In Africa they admired. We
are a bit spoiled. Because we don't
get the kind of that we see.
been to 60 countries in the last
five years and I've never once heard
anyone say, I wish we had the EU!
They may like a lot of things about
Europe... And we are so sceptical of
democracy at a time when people are
fighting and dying for it around the
world, and Trump is actually also
being so cavalier with it and
backing autocrats and everything,
that is part of the problem. We
don't realise how precious democracy
It is a generational point. You
are optimistic about younger people
being pro-European and wanting more
integration. There is a lot of
evidence from the very respected
attitude studies that they do every
year, the pew studies, last autumn.
It said 29% of the people that they
survey approved of a government in
which a strong leader can make
decisions without interference from
Parliament or courts. People are not
that bothered about democracy,
that's quite worrying, we have
become too complacent.
There is a
dissatisfaction within young people.
On the other hand, they didn't
bother to go and vote for Brexit.
And then they bothered to vote in
favour of Jeremy Corbyn just a sort
of Camilo, do something.
vote. A lot more voted than they
were given credit by. Like I will
give you another statistic
foundation. The least happy places
in the world and Europe and North
America. Where is the happiest
country in the world? Nigeria.
shows that the idealism that has
existed in lots of likely places,
there is optimism in lots of part is
in the world. But in Europe and
North America we are struggling to
see it when we have things that
others are fighting.
others are fighting.
others are fighting.
Thank you all
others are fighting.
Thank you all very
others are fighting.
Thank you all very much.
others are fighting.
That's it for Dateline
London for this week.
We're back at the same
time a week from now.
You can tweet us with your comments
on the programme - @bbcshaunley.