Posts Tagged ‘Putin’

The Russians are stalling on Syria, America must be ready to act

12/09/2013, 01:44:26 PM

by Dan McCurry

Sarin is invisible, odourless and deadly in tiny amounts. If it’s in your surroundings, you’ll soon know; typical symptoms include soiling yourself, and choking to death as your throat muscles contract.

The international convention to ban these chemicals came about following the killing of 5,000 Kurds in Iraq. Apart from a bizarre terrorist incident on the Tokyo subway, sarin hasn’t been used since, so the ban had been effective right up until Syria.

The fact that sarin has now been used, without consequence (so far), must have put ideas into the minds of other dictators. After all, it’s somewhat more effective than CS gas. This stuff can stop a riot in a minute and a revolution in a day. For dictators, possession of sarin ensures security of tenure is guaranteed.

No one disputes that this chemical was created by Assad’s regime.

We’ve now got Putin striding the global stage, negotiating to decommission the weapons. Prior to the negotiations Assad had lied for years claiming that he had no such weapons. Immediately prior to the negotiation Putin was claiming that the rebels had used the sarin on themselves.

Let’s be clear about the veracity of that previous claim. Putin now admits that Assad built the stock pile. Sarin doesn’t have any other use on Earth. It is a weapon. There is no dual purpose. It doesn’t come about by accident. It only exists in order to kill people. If Assad built this arsenal he must have been willing to use it.

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Cameron: a Tsar is born? Or saloon bar prime minister?

07/03/2011, 03:00:30 PM

by Dan Cooke

Downing Street spinners apparently briefed this weekend that in future David Cameron plans to use his office to “act as a critic of the government” and speak “as a tribune of the people against the government when it gets things wrong”.

The prime minister recently “joked” to the Westminster press gallery that he is more a chairman than chief executive of the government. The response was negative commentary suggesting lack of grip, surely giving pause for thought about the wisdom of such remarks if not meant in earnest. Nevertheless, the suggestion must be taken as a significant indication of Cameron’s strategy for the rest of the parliament.

The prospects for success of any strategy of prime ministerial detachment from day-to-day responsibility for government depend significantly on which of two principal alternatives No. 10 has in mind.

First, the briefers hint at a desire to present the prime minister as elevated above the decision-making of his ministers, while intervening selectively to correct errors or chastise lack of progress. Such an approach might appear cunning in the mind’s eye of a strategist, but would be disastrous in practice (like a restaurant manager wandering into the dining room to taste the food after it has already been served, as one commentator has observed). (more…)

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David Cameron’s vulgar obsession with image

10/11/2010, 09:02:41 AM

by Tom Watson

It was Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov who wrote “complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before being ascertained”.

When the history of the Cameron-Clegg administration is written, Andy Parsons will be a footnote to the coalition chronicles, a fleeting fact in a wider story of ultra-pragmatism and opportunity. He will feature more prominently on photographic bookplates than amid the text.

And yet, in the last week of the sixth month of this unique political construct, Mr Parsons has come to symbolise something more than the unbounded personal ambition of Messrs Cameron and Clegg.

He is an expression of the super-ego of the Prime Minister. And as any Zen Buddhist will tell you, the ego, unlike an Andy Coulson bad news day, is hard to extinguish. (more…)

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Chris Bryant reports from the Khodorkovsky trial

24/09/2010, 09:58:59 AM

Russia can often seem surreal. Layer upon layer of history. Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Lenin, Stalin, Yeltsin – and now Putin/Medvedev.

For all the oligarchic bling in all the shops, the red stars on the top of the Kremlin towers suggest Communism is still alive and the very walls of the fortress themselves seem to invite kremlinology. Who really pulls the strings? Is it the President, Medvedev, who is organising the probably accurate smearing of the Moscow mayor, which has dominated the state-run media for the last two weeks? Or is it Putin? And why are they doing it now, when mayor Luzkhov’s term runs out soon and he is barred from standing again? All too often, the labyrinthine political chicanery and the extraordinarily tight circle of the very well-heeled elite reminds one of communism, but without the ideology.

At the heart of the parabola of surrealism lies the legal system. Torture is endemic according to Amnesty International. Many prisons would be better termed ‘penal colonies’ or indeed ‘gulags’. Thousands are infected with HIV and have little or no medical care. And the criminal justice system is regularly used to settle political scores.

I went to see one such case this Monday.  The courtroom, on the third floor of a tired Moscow building, was tiny, panelled with cheap varnished plywood, its parquet flooring scuffed by decades of rearrangements of the furniture. At the front, a dais with the double-headed Romanov eagle and the flag of the Russian Federation limply hanging from a thumb tack and a piece of sellotape. To the left a sort of tank, made of reinforced glass and chunky steel, in which stood the two defendants, Platon Lebedev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

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