Articles from The Times
THE LITVINENKO AFFAIR gives a human dimension to what we in the West find most disturbing about modern Russia. It leaves the impression of rogue elements of the Russian State murdering enemies with impunity, at home and abroad. Add to this Andrei Lugovoy’s surreal claim that MI6 had a hand in the murder and Russia’s use of its “energy weapon” to bully its neighbours and it is as if the Cold War never ended.
How Russians see the end of the Cold War is actually a good place to start to understand the muscle-flexing of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Two explanations are popular in Moscow. Liberals argue that the Russian people voluntarily renounced their oppressive, incompetent system, but then the West trampled all over them, claiming victors’
THE POISONING in London of the former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko confirms what we already know: that it is dangerous to criticise the Kremlin. It comes less than a month after the shooting in Moscow of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who tirelessly exposed Russian atrocities in Chechnya. Paul Klebnikov, another crusading journalist, was shot dead in 2004.
Dozens of other critical journalists have lost their lives or their jobs since Vladmir Putin came to power. And not just journalists: Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin in 2004 when he ran against a Kremlin-backed opponent in the Ukrainian presidential election. Pesticides compete with guns and less lethal means to silence opposition.
Who orders, plots and carries out
THERE IS no doubt that Western opinion is being softened up for a US or Israeli strike against the Iranian centrifuges at Natanz. “Can anyone within range of Iran’s missiles feel safe?”, screams a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, displaying a map of the Eurasian land mass with Iran at its centre.
As part of the softening-up come the justifications, as false as the ones that preceded the Iraq war, but more disgraceful second time round. Here are the counter-arguments.
First, it needs to be trumpeted that a military strike now would be illegal under international law. The UN Security Council would never authorise it, since Iran has not breached the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that allows
THERE ARE TWO competing visions of international relations. On the one side is the Blair-Bush “new” doctrine, which links world security to the spread of Western values. On the other side is the traditional doctrine of national sovereignty, which precludes intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. In between wobbles the United Nations, whose charter commits it to uphold non-intervention, but which is pulled to the intervention by the present sentiment of its most powerful Western members.
The problem that the Blair-Bush school of reformers faces is that there is still a lot of life left in the old charter doctrine. The UN exists to defend sovereign states against aggression. Any military action has to be authorised by
CLEVER ELSIE, soon to be married to Hans, was sent down to the cellar by her mother to get some beer. She saw a pickaxe above her which had been forgotten by the masons. Clever Elsie was paralysed by the thought that “if I should marry Hans and we should get a little baby, and he grows up and we send him down to draw some beer, that pickaxe might suddenly fall down on his head and kill him”.
The clever Elsie of the Grimm fairy-tale was a case of extreme risk-aversion. In a recent speech, Tony Blair called for a “sensible debate about risk in policymaking”. Government, he went on, was under constant pressure to “act to eliminate risk in a way that is out of all proportion to the potential damage”. The result was a “plethora” of
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