Robert Skidelsky
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Project Syndicate "Against the Current"

A Trip Through Putin Country
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 
VLADIVOSTOK – Russia’s Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) railway “can be hardly named as a popular tourist attraction,” says one tourist website of the some 2,000-mile railway traversing Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East. “Most people even never [sic] heard of it.”
 
The BAM’s older rival, the Trans-Siberian Railway, is certainly more popular. Since opening in 1916 it has attracted many big names, including the travel writers Peter Fleming, Paul Theroux, and Colin Thubron. But it is the BAM – this unloved northern spur, initiated by Stalin in the 1930s, and completed under Leonid Brezhnev in 1984 – that offers the more useful window onto the Russian mood outside of cosmopolitan Moscow and St. Petersburg. Today, BAM land is overwhelmingly

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The Protocols of Donald J. Trump
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Tuesday, July 18, 2017

 
 LONDON – It is an odd quirk in the history of logic that the blameless Cretans should have given their name to the famous “liar paradox.” The Cretan Epimenides is supposed to have said: “All Cretans are liars.” If Epimenides was lying, he was telling the truth – and thus was lying.
 
Something similar can be said of US President Donald Trump: Even when he’s telling the truth, many assume he is lying – and thus being true to himself. His trolling is notorious. For years, he claimed, with no evidence other than unnamed sources that he called “extremely credible,” that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent. During the Republican primary, he linked his opponent Senator Ted Cruz’s father to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He has

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Britain’s Deepening Confusion
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Monday, June 19, 2017

 
 LONDON – “Enough is enough,” proclaimed British Prime Minister Theresa May after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. Now, it is clear, almost half of those who voted in the United Kingdom’s general election on June 8 have had enough of May, whose Conservative majority was wiped out at the polls, producing a hung parliament (with no majority for any party). Whether it is “enough immigrants” or “enough austerity,” Britain’s voters certainly have had enough of a lot.
 
But the election has left Britain confusingly split. Last year’s Brexit referendum on European Union membership suggested a Leave-Remain divide, with the Brexiteers narrowly ahead. This year’s general election superimposed on this a more traditional left-right split, with

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The Varieties of Populist Experience
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Wednesday, May 17, 2017

 
Emmanuel Macron’s decisive defeat of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential runoff was a major victory for liberal Europe. But it was a battle, not a war. The idea that one in three French citizens would vote for the National Front’s Le Pen was inconceivable only a few years ago.
 
Commentators have affixed the “populist” label to the wave of demagogic politics sweeping Europe (and much of the rest of the world). But, beyond the raucous style common to populists, what do these movements share? After all, Spain’s Podemos and Greece’s Syriza are of the left. France’s National Front, the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) are of the right. Beppe Grillo, the leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement,

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Trump’s War Policy in Syria
Robert Skidelsky
Project Syndicate | Thursday, April 20, 2017

 
 LONDON – Clearly, the last word has not been said about the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, Syria, on April 4, which left 85 dead and an estimated 555 injured. But three points – concerning responsibility for the attack, the United States’ military response to it, and the episode’s effect on the course of Syria’s civil war – need to be made.
 
First, all governments lie, not congenitally, but when it suits them and they think they can get away with it. This must be the premise of any effort to establish the truth about what happened. A good starting point is that democratic governments lie less often than authoritarian regimes, because they are less likely to get away with it. So one should prefer Russian

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