In the most notable of the many photographs snapped at the gala held to mark his 80th birthday, Mikhail Gorbachev seems shorter and rounder than he did in his prime, back when he was one of the most important people in the world. He is inscrutable, only half-smiling; he also looks disheveled, and perhaps unsure of himself. Those impressions may of course be exaggerated by the fact that in this particular picture, the onetime general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has his arm around Sharon Stone. Continue reading “The Long, Lame Afterlife of Mikhail Gorbachev”
At this stage in any American presidential election, it is almost too easy to make fun of the primary contenders. It is especially true this year, when the sitting president – serene, remote, unchallenged – has no need to contest his party’s primary at all. Inevitably, his opponents seem insubstantial and unserious by comparison. Invariably, cartoonists will caricature them as, say, sparrows on a telephone line, chirping away at the eagle in the White House, and columnists will make up disparaging names (one past group of primary contenders was known as “the Seven Dwarves”). Continue reading “Who has what it takes to beat Barack Obama?”
I was in a meeting on the other side of London on Wednesday while President Barack Obama was speaking in Westminster Hall, so I didn’t hear what he said. But I could see him. My meeting was in a room that contained a flat-screen television with the sound turned off, permanently tuned to Sky News. Because I was sitting across from this flat-screen television, it was impossible not to glance at it every so often, just to see what was going on. Continue reading “He Just Called to Say He Loves Us: Barack Obama in London”
It’s always satisfying when hoary old national stereotypes suddenly prove to be true. On Friday, the British were brought together as a nation by a royal wedding. On Sunday morning, Poland was brought together as a nation by the beatification of the former Pope. On Sunday night – and well into Monday morning – my fellow Americans were brought together as a nation by their delight in the execution of Osama bin Laden. You sing God Save the Queen, they say a “hail Mary”, we chant “USA, USA”. And all of us wave our national flags. Continue reading “Bin Laden killed: For a day or two, we’ll feel like the United States of America again”
Vladimir Putin’s ruthless control of the Kremlin looks set to be tested, writes Anne Applebaum.
This week, Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, said he might stand for re-election in 2012. A day later, Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, said he might oppose him. In any other European country, this would be run-of-the-mill political news. In Russia, where politics remain opaque and democracy is manipulated, it’s a sensation: open competition between two national leaders would be unprecedented. Continue reading “Is Dmitry Medvedev ready to stand up to Vladimir Putin’?”
Freedom fries,’ served instead of French fries back in 2003, are no longer on the menu in Washington DC. French wine, out of fashion after Jacques Chirac refused to join our ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq, is no longer shunned. Au contraire. Continue reading “The New Alliance”
Libya: Gaddafi is about to force Barack Obama’s hand
Barack Obama is about to learn a lesson – the US president can’t be neutral, writes Anne Applebaum.
Is it cowardice? Is it indecisiveness? Or is it clever diplomacy? Depending on who you ask in Washington, you’ll get a different explanation for President Barack Obama’s silence, to date, on the subject of Libya. Since the uprising began, he has made only one extended comment on the Libyan rebellion, and it was thoroughly anodyne. Continue reading “Libya: Gaddafi is about to force Barack Obama’s hand”
For the first time in a long while, not only is there news from the Arab world, there are arresting pictures as well. Revolutions make for exciting live broadcasting, and some of it has been riveting. Continue reading “The revolution may be televised – but don’t expect the full story”
For a man who earns his living by publishing other people’s email, Julian Assange has a high opinion of himself. You can hear that in his rhetoric, which combines the paranoia of the early Bolsheviks with the arrogance of a teenage computer hacker. Continue reading “The Sensational Truth”
First, a disclaimer: this review will not touch upon some recent, odd behaviour of this book’s author, Orlando Figes, because I can’t see that it’s relevant. The history of the Crimean war is far removed in time and in space from contemporary literary politics, and I think we should keep it that way. Continue reading “A Far-Fetched War”