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The pressure is on Ukraine

February 27th, 2014

The editor of a publication that will remain unnamed called me the other day wanting to know what I thought: Would Russia invade Ukraine before midnight? She needed to know before her deadline. I didn’t have any inside information, but I guessed: No, I told her, I didn’t think Russia would invade Ukraine ­— because it doesn’t need to. Read on »

Ukrainian smears and stereotypes

February 21st, 2014

For those who are new to the subject — indeed, for those who have been following it for many years — the Ukrainian crisis can seem murky. The Ukrainians have a president, Viktor Yanukovych, who granted himself dictatorial powers and then repealed some of them; announced a truce and then broke it; claims to enforce the law but employs thugs who haul journalists out of cars and shoot them. The Ukrainian opposition, meanwhile, has three separate leaders who may or may not actually control the Ukrainian protest movement at any given moment. Read on »

Assad’s low-tech WMD: Starvation

February 6th, 2014

To the modern imagination, there is nothing so terrifying as a high-tech weapon. Our horror movies are filled with crashing planes, engineered viruses and rogue computers that have taken charge of spaceships. Our security nightmares have long been focused on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The phrase we use to describe these contemporary horrors, “weapons of mass destruction,” implies something diabolically modern, something so innovative that it can kill thousands in an instant. Read on »

Ukraine shows the ‘color revolution’ model is dead

January 25th, 2014

The Ukrainian parliament recently passed legislation directly modeled on Russian precedents. The laws curb demonstrations, using language broad enough to apply to almost any gathering. They criminalize “slander,” which might mean any criticism of the government. They require the members of any organization with any foreign funding, including the Greek Catholic Church, to register as “foreign agents,” which is to say spies. These laws were passed at night, with a show of hands. Deputies did not discuss them or, in some cases, even read them. Read on »

Can Ukraine and India go beyond slogans?

January 9th, 2014

In the first week of the new year, in two very different parts of the globe, the citizens of two very different democracies were struggling with a very similar problem: how to reform a corrupt but legitimately elected political elite. Read on »

China and Russia bring back Cold War tactics

December 26th, 2013

“Is this a new Cold War?”
Every time I say anything to anyone anywhere about Russia nowadays, that’s what I’m asked. And there is a clear answer: No. This is not a new Cold War. Neither the United States nor Europe is locked in a deadly, apocalyptic competition with Russia, China or anyone else. We are not fighting proxy wars. The world has not been divided into two Orwellian halves, democrats vs. communists. Read on »

Mandela’s death marks a time of reckoning for South Africa’s ANC

December 7th, 2013

In Johannesburg a few months ago, I asked a young, black and politically savvy South African journalist how his newspaper would cover Nelson Mandela’s death. He shook his head: He dearly wished not to have to cover it at all. “I just hope I’m not in the office that day. I just hope I’m away, maybe in a different country.” Read on »

In Ukraine, rule of law is the loser

November 29th, 2013

This week, Ukrainians learned that their country really does lie on a fault line between two civilizations. This does not mean they are enduring a “clash of civilizations” or a religious conflict of the sort once famously predicted by Samuel Huntington: Ukraine is more correctly described as a country lying between the civilization of institutions and of the rule of law, as epitomized by the European Union; and the civilization of arbitrary rule, as embodied by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Read on »

Aid after typhoon in Philippines shows the politics of generosity

November 14th, 2013

In Beijing a few months ago, I met a young Filipina journalist who did video interviews for a Chinese Web site. She seemed clever and competent. She spoke perfect American English, which she learned growing up near a U.S. base. She was very pleased to be in China: Her job in Beijing was interesting, paid well and gave her a future. I asked whether she thought her career might take her to the United States. She shrugged. She would never get a visa, let alone a job. Not worth trying. Read on »

Spying for the sake of spying

October 31st, 2013

It was early evening in a restaurant east of what used to be the wall, and we were debating the only issue of interest to anyone in this city right now: If you were tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, what would you learn? Read on »

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