It is not too hard, in this season of pantomime rehearsals, to imagine a script from those masters of the netherworld just beyond the sober, grind-and-queue lives most of us lead — the Coen brothers — constructing a conversation between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. The great filmmakers might contrive to have those unchallengeable leaders discuss the difficulties facing other world leaders.
“Theresa is having a hard time of it, Vladimir?”
“Yes, but what do you expect when you allow your parliament to answer back? I tried to warn her.”
“Yes, but at least she didn’t have to crawl like our young friend in Paris.”
“No, I thought he had a reasonable army, Chairman?”
“Yes, so did I. Did you ever face an investigation like Robert Mueller’s, Vladimir?
In reply, the smiling KGB alumni invites his Chinese friend to visit the Mueller investigation’s office via a sleeper computer masquerading as a harmless social media portal on a junior intern’s smartphone.
“What would he want to investigate anyway, Chairman?”
Even if the Coens could imagine such a tête-à-tête, it is hard to think they could, even in their wildest moments, imagine the bizarre events unfolding in London, Paris, and Washington.
In London, the implosion of British democracy is described as a “constitutional crisis”, as if the ghost of Wallis Simpson stalks parliament. As each rollercoaster day passes, an escape from the darkening maze becomes ever more difficult to find and will remain so for the medium term. Perfidious Albion has become Precarious Albion — or maybe both. One issue — the backstop — will decide which.
In Paris, in an effort to bolster his precarious presidency, Emmanuel Macron has promised tax concessions and a higher minimum wage after a month of violent protests. His hand was forced but the right decision was reached, even if by the wrong route. The same issues face most European governments and they would serve their countries, and each other, well if they implemented them. Macron’s survival is of consequence outside France, especially as Angela Merkel’s influence fades. His commitment to the European project that has benefited this country enormously is pivotal.
Not to be outdone, Washington, “Smocking Gun” Washington, seems ever more like Nurse Ratchet’s ward. “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun… No Collusion,” Twittered the leader of the free world. Indeed.
And all the while the IMF warns that the storm clouds of the next global financial crisis are gathering, despite the world financial system being unprepared. It yesterday warned “crisis prevention is incomplete” more than a decade after the last banking collapse.
All the while, as the West’s once-stable democracies play Russian roulette, the president and the chairman look on, wondering what lunacy will emerge next. They may have another slice of ptichye moloko as they watch and celebrate as farce, as it must, becomes opportunity.