Five reflections on Europe's migrant crisis

  • 4 September 2015
  • From the section UK

I'm in Berlin reporting for Newsnight at the moment on the crisis engulfing Europe. Here are a few of the wider issues I think it's worth reflecting on.

People Are Seeking a Better Life

Image copyright Getty Images

Arguments about names - "migrant" versus "refugee" for example - ignore the complexity of many peoples' motivation.

Speaking to Faris, a Syrian from Aleppo, at the Berlin refugee reception centre, it's clear that he is escaping a vicious war.

But when I asked him what he would think about a European Union quota system that might require him to move on to Poland or the UK he insisted, "I want to stay in Germany," adding this was because of the quality of education available. As soon as he's settled, Faris intends to send for his wife and children.

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Sergeant says most detainees 'set free' in Afghanistan

  • 7 August 2015
  • From the section UK
A US Marine unloads ammunition from a rifle magazine into his helmet after arriving in Kandahar Image copyright Getty Images

The British campaign in Afghanistan was hampered by problems with the handling and prosecution of those it picked up on the battlefield - that much was clear to those of us who embedded with troops in Helmand province. But the scale of some of these issues has now been exposed by Colour Sergeant Trevor Coult who has made serious allegations to Newsnight.

Shockingly, he says that soldiers became so exasperated by seeing arrested insurgents returning quickly to their own communities that they became, "reluctant to detain" them, and, "in preference they would rather shoot them on the ground to save the taxpayer money and to save soldiers being killed".

Read full article Sergeant says most detainees 'set free' in Afghanistan

Turkey: The erratic ally

A Turkish soldier stands guard at a border crossing with Syria Image copyright AFP

If you're sitting in the Pentagon or State Department there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that Turkey is embracing the struggle against the Islamic State group with a vigour it has never shown before; bombing them; allowing US aircraft to use Turkish air bases for the same purpose; arresting hundreds of suspects in Turkey, and tightening security on the Syrian border.

Read full article Turkey: The erratic ally

Iran nuclear deal: A 10-point primer

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Iran's president Hassan Rouhani

World powers have reached a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions. What are the main takeaways? Here's a quick rundown.

1. It curbs Iran's nuclear programme, it doesn't stop it. They will still have nuclear plants, and the ability to re-process and enrich their own uranium fuel - the US gave up on the goal of stopping that two years ago.

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Budget 2015: Defence breathes a sigh of relief

Merlin helicopter on the flight deck of HMS Illustrious Image copyright Getty Images

With hindsight you might say there were hints from Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, and briefings from those around George Osborne that defence would escape the worst effects of what was widely expected to be an austerity budget.

But even so, today's announcement - that the forces' budget would meet the 2% of GDP Nato target until 2020 - caught many Whitehall insiders by surprise.

Read full article Budget 2015: Defence breathes a sigh of relief

Virgin Galactic flight trials face delay after crash

Images of Virgin Galactic crash Image copyright AP
Image caption In an accident last year, the Virgin Galactic craft separated from the carrier aircraft and broke apart

Virgin Galactic's planned commercial space service may still be years away from taking flight, and its chief executive admits, "we've got work to do, that's for sure", in a Newsnight report on the project.

Flight testing suffered a tragic setback last October when Virgin's Enterprise spaceship broke up in flight over California's Mojave desert, killing one of its test pilots.

Read full article Virgin Galactic flight trials face delay after crash

Is the West losing its edge on defence?

  • 14 April 2015
  • From the section Europe
F/A-18F fighter landing on USS Carl Vinson

Speak to those who are in charge of the West's defence or have recently stepped down, as I did for Radio 4's programme The Edge, and you will find a very worried group of people.

They speak at length about the decline of their own forces, explain the growth of those of their challengers, and worry about the long term consequences for stability in many parts of the world.

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How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine?

  • 10 March 2015
  • From the section Europe
Pro-Russian separatist fighters near Debaltseve Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pro-Russian separatist fighters have captured Debaltseve

Western arguments about how to counter President Vladimir Putin's support for east Ukraine separatists are leading to clashes over the question of how deeply involved Russia's military is in the conflict.

The latest salvo between Nato allies came in a German government briefing to Spiegel magazine that accuses the alliance's supreme commander (American Gen Philip Breedlove) of disseminating "dangerous propaganda" on the extent of Russian military involvement, trying to undermine a diplomatic solution to the war.

Read full article How many Russians are fighting in Ukraine?

Lobbyists 'delaying Apache contract'

  • 7 March 2015
  • From the section UK
A UK Apache attack helicopter taking part in a training exercise on Salisbury Plain

A £1bn Army contract to replace its Apache attack helicopters has been delayed due to lobbying by the firm AgustaWestland, Whitehall insiders say.

The BBC has learned the MoD wants to buy a replacement from US firm Boeing, which is offering a cheaper deal for a joint order with other countries.

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On board with the US air crews fighting Islamic State

  • 15 January 2015
  • From the section UK

How is progress measured on board the US aircraft carrier which is playing a key role in the fight against Islamic State?

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, plying the waters of the Gulf, represents a big slice of the coalition effort being used to pound the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq - an onslaught that has been going on for the best part of five months now.

Read full article On board with the US air crews fighting Islamic State