Robert Skidelsky
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Articles from Vedomosti (Ведомости)

Western Democracy is dying
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, November 01, 2007

 
The most popular late 20th century political myth was that the world was headed irreversibly to ‘democracy’. Francis Fukuyama gave it iconic expression in his 1989 article ‘The End of History’. Democracy, argued Fukuyama, was the ‘end point of history’, and most of the world was already ‘post-historical’. Fewer share his confidence today. China and Russia, the two major post-Communist powers, have been surprisingly slow to ‘catch up’ politically; and the prospect of Islamic ‘democracy’ fills the secular west with horror.
 
Today’s optimists comfort themselves with such small advances as the start of village elections in China. In Russia, next year’s presumed solution to the problem of succession –Putin as Prime Minister, Zubkov as

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The Hubris Syndrome
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Wednesday, October 17, 2007

 
‘Madness in great ones must not unwatched go’. So says King Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I was reminded of the phrase when reading David Owen’s fascinating book, The Hubris Syndrome. Lord Owen was Britain’s youngest foreign secretary in the late 1970s, then leader of a new political party, the Social Democratic Party, so he has seen most of the world’s top leaders at close quarters. He was also a doctor before he became a politician, so he neatly combines medical and political insights.
 
His thesis, in a nutshell, is that the ‘hubris syndrome’ –over-confidence leading to self-destruction - is a particular kind of mental illness which affects not just politicians but military commanders and heads of large companies. The idea that

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Burma and the case for intervention
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, October 04, 2007

 
The recent mass protests in Burma raise one of the most important questions in international affairs: when is intervention in the domestic affairs of other states justified? And if so, what form should it take? Russia and China (and more haltingly India) have taken the view that the troubles in Burma are a purely internal matter; the so-called ‘international community’ (i.e., the West) has been clamouring for stronger sanctions against the military regime, to be imposed by the United Nations.
 
Let’s be clear about one thing: no democracy would deny the right of concerned citizens to make their views about other countries felt, by way of speech, writing, demonstration, or by forms of voluntary boycott –for example of trade. The question

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Extradite Lugovoi? What were the British thinking…
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, July 26, 2007

 
 
When will the children grow up? Britain and Russia have been squaring up like surly adolescents. The Cold War is over, but both sides are addicted to Cold War games which have no purpose except to show that their testosterone is pumping powerfully.
 
The present quarrel started last November with the assassination by polonium poisoning in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer, who had become a British citizen. No one knows who did it, but a British police investigation pointed to Andrey Lugovy, now a Russian businessman, but formerly a KGB operative, as the chief suspect. The British government (technically the Crown Prosecution Service) asked the Russian authorities to extradite him to stand trial in London. The

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Making sense of the EU
Robert Skidelsky
Vedomosti | Thursday, July 12, 2007

 
I have not written much about the EU in these columns because it’s hard to know what to make of it. On one hand, it’s the most important political invention since the second world war-an experiment in voluntary union which transcends the old conflict between nation-state and empire, and serves as a model for a cooperative world order. However, its very voluntarism makes the EU politically ineffective. It is an economic giant, but a political pigmy. It is full of empty symbolism and bombastic rhetoric, overloaded with ‘processes’ which lead nowhere. It has some of the trappings of a state, and a state-like array of ‘competences’, but its main institutions are riddled with ‘opt outs’, and its members retain veto powers over its most vital

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