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War in Europe is not a hysterical idea

August 29th, 2014

Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next. September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house. Read on »

Obama’s legacy could be a revitalized NATO

August 22nd, 2014

Not long ago, someone asked me about President Obama’s foreign policy “legacy.” I was startled by the question. There are two whole years left, I told my interlocutor; it’s way too early. She seemed surprised that I was surprised: “Can he really do anything significant in only two years?”
The answer is, yes, of course he can do something significant in two years. Two years is a lifetime in politics. Two years ago, no one imagined Russia would be at war with Ukraine. Two years from now, the map of the Middle East may be totally different. In 1948 and ’49, two years was plenty of time to conceive, negotiate and write the original North Atlantic Treaty, the piece of paper that set up NATO. Read on »

Russia’s blow to globalization

August 8th, 2014

While it lasted, globalization was a beguiling tale we told ourselves about the future. The world is interconnected and therefore getting not just richer but more peaceful. The technologies of international capitalism — outsourcing, insourcing, offshoring — would not only make the world’s businesses more profitable, they would make people less quarrelsome. We would play chess online with Indians, and thus become more like them. We would buy software from China, and thus never go to war with them. Even better, once they started trading, India and China would never go to war with each other. Read on »

Russia’s message to the E.U.: Money talks

July 25th, 2014

David Cameron, the British prime minister, led the attack: It would be “unthinkable” for the British to sell a warship to Russia, he declared. Almost immediately, the French president, François Hollande, confirmed his intention to do precisely that: He would, he said, deliver a Mistral amphibious assault ship to the Russian navy, as contracted — and then he hit back hard. “This is a false debate led by hypocrites,” one of his party colleagues declared. “When you see how many [Russian] oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own back yard.” Read on »

The Malaysia Airlines crash is the end of Russia’s fairy tale

July 18th, 2014

Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane. Read on »

Welcome to Free Kiev

July 11th, 2014

Last month, Andrei Kuznetsov left his native St. Petersburg and flew to Ukraine. When he arrived at the Kiev airport, he asked for political asylum. The bemused guards, unaccustomed to any sort of asylum-seekers, let alone Russian asylum-seekers, couldn’t figure out what to do with him. Finally, he told a Radio Liberty reporter, “they let me in as a tourist and gave me the link to a U.N. site with procedures for applying for asylum.” Read on »

The last democratic World Cup?

June 12th, 2014

Like a time-honored ritual, the run-up to any world-class sporting event is always the same. A few months before, the stadiums aren’t ready and the hotels have no hot water. The highways are dirt tracks and the athletes have nowhere to sleep. The local newspapers predict calamity. Will the beach volleyball final not be held for lack of a net? Will the qualifying match between Paraguay and Ivory Coast be abandoned because the referees couldn’t land at the unfinished airport? Read on »

Europe is seeing a East-West clash of values

May 30th, 2014


By any measure, it was a landmark, landslide victory — for Europe. On May 25, Petro Poroshenko declared victory in the first round of the Ukrainian presidential election. He had won more than 55 percent of the vote — and Ukrainians knew exactly what they were getting. Poroshenko campaigned on integrating his country into European institutions. After his victory, he repeated that goal. Ukraine is on the brink of financial catastrophe and is fighting a de facto invasion: Well-armed Chechen soldiers have now arrived to assist the Russian-made insurgency in the east. Yet in his victory speech, Poroshenko declared he wanted not only to “put an end to war, to put an end to chaos,” but also to “bring in European values” to his country. Read on »

Developing nations could benefit from trying Southern democracy

May 16th, 2014


At a highly orchestrated “election rally” in Cairo last weekend, supporters of Abdel Fatah al-Sissi sang, danced and waited in vain for him to show up. Unsurprised, most assumed that Sissi — the military leader who ousted and jailed Egypt’s previous president — didn’t come for “security” reasons. Since taking power last summer, Sissi has overseen the murder of hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the arrest of some 16,000 others. He has declared he will eliminate the organization “just like that.” And so he has enemies: Two assassination attempts have been foiled already, and clearly he’s expecting more. Read on »

Finding the energy to deter Russia

May 1st, 2014


Seven Russians were added this week to the U.S. sanctions list, along with 17 Russian companies. In Brussels, the European Union also lengthened its sanctions list from 33 to 48. Once again, analysts are looking at the names, the assets, the influence of the people targeted. Once again, some ask whether any sanctions can ever work, at least well enough to change anyone’s behavior. Read on »

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