Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Putin’

IS is on the shores of the Med. Putin is rampant. Does anyone in British politics even care?

25/02/2015, 01:18:03 PM

by Rob Marchant

As if it were not enough that the EU’s two principal member states – in the form of their leaders, François Hollande and Angela Merkel – spent much of the last few weeks happily handing to Vladimir Putin parts of another European country on a plate in return for “peace”, chickens have now come home to roost in another benighted country only a few hundred miles from the EU.

It was not, as some have tried to maintain against all logic, that the West intervened in Libya and provoked a reaction against it. It was self-evidently that it did not intervene enough. In timidly restricting itself to a no-fly zone, it did not remotely attempt to help set up a functioning democratic state in the aftermath or prevent a power vacuum being filled by jihadists. In fact, NATO left early, against the wishes of the new government.

It is by now painfully obvious that wherever there is unrest in the Muslim world, jihadists will not be slow in moving in. The trick is not to let them get established. Proactive, not reactive; a stitch in time.

There is very little about Iraq on which critics and supporters of intervention agree, but most would concede that the Allies carried out a fairly effective military action and then botched the peace. For all the current crop of world leaders criticised their predecessors over that episode, it didn’t stop them repeating the exact same error in Libya.

By the time it got to Syria, of course, the alliance which had helped free Libya of Gaddafi had lost its appetite even for that kind of limited, genocide-preventing intervention. Hear no evil, see no evil. And what was the result of that? Well, genocide, naturally: 220,000 dead and counting.

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2015 is going to be a dangerous year

31/12/2014, 11:15:28 AM

by Rob Marchant

No, not because there is a general election coming and, given how balanced on a knife-edge the whole thing is, the stakes are unusually high and any false move will likely be enough to do for Labour’s hopes. Although that, too, is true.

At our year-end stocktaking, perhaps it behoves us to climb into the helicopter and look at where we are in time and place.

And if there were a year to bring home to European and US citizens that their current leaders do not really seem up the job of world statesmanship, 2014 was it. In terms of foreign events, it has been a fairly astonishing year.

First in the list of astonishing feats has been that the bullying leader of a major military power – and the world’s sixth largest economy – could take two sizeable bites out of a neighbour’s territory, with scant response from the developed world, other than an outbreak of gratuitous harrumphing and some fairly limited sanctions.

An action and reaction that reminded anyone with a sense of history of nothing so much as the gradual nibbling away of Czechoslovakia in 1938 by Germany, one of the main preludes to the Second World War. And of Chamberlain’s memorable response, that it was “a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing”.

Second, that the US should delude itself that there was a realistic hope of sensible negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons, with the US negotiating hopefully that the country might see fit to give up something that international law said they were not supposed to have in the first place. The Iranians, surely, cannot believe their luck that it has gone this far.

Third, that the West’s abject failure to act in Syria three years ago has, predictably, come back to bite it in the horrific form of Islamic State, happy to assassinate the innocent merely to send us all a crazed message.

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The Uncuts: 2014 political awards

31/12/2014, 10:01:09 AM

Politician of the year – Alex Salmond

The loss of the independence referendum was meant to be the end of the SNP. The Scottish public gave their verdict and the SNP’s raison d’etre was rejected. Cue internal ructions and a nationalist collapse.

That’s how it was meant to be.

But it wasn’t, largely because of Alex Salmond.

He made mistakes in the independence campaign – notably over nationalist plans for the currency – but Salmond’s easy charm and force of personality helped make the race much closer than many expected.

And following defeat, standing down as leader, his legacy to the SNP is to have taken them to the brink of holding the balance of power in next year’s Westminster election.

If the SNP register a general election result even vaguely in line with their current poll rating, then under Alex Salmond’s leadership, the Scottish nationalists will have fundamentally transformed British politics.

The SNP will have usurped the Liberal Democrats as the third party and Scottish independence will be a real prospect just a few months after it was meant to have been decisively rejected.

No other party leader or MP will have had such a profound impact and for these reasons, Alex Salmond is Uncut’s politician of the year for 2014.

Media misjudgement of the year – Nigel Farage’s leadership of Ukip

The common media narrative about Nigel Farage’s leadership of Ukip would not be out of place in a Mills and Boon novel. Charisma, personality and star quality are meant to be the Farage hallmarks.

He certainly generates good copy and has helped filled countless columns and reports with newsworthy content.

But away from the day to day photo-opps in pubs and quotable one-liners, Nigel Farage has made a catastrophic error. Through his words and actions he has helped confirm Ukip’s biggest negative, toxifying Ukip as the party for racists.

At the start of October, at the height of the largely positive publicity around the Clacton by-election, YouGov polling found that 55% of the public believed Ukip to be more likely to have candidates with racist or offensive views, while 41% believed the party to be racist (41% believed it not to be racist).

In a general election, Ukip’s vote will be squeezed as the choice is polarised between Labour and Conservative and being seen as extremists will amplify this effect.

In the biggest domestic election held this year, when millions voted in the local elections, Ukip’s national equivalent vote share actually fell compared to last year – from 23% to 17%.

Nigel Farage’s main task this year was to detoxify Ukip and make them a viable choice for all voters. By failing to redefine Ukip as an optimistic, unprejudiced party (along the lines that Douglas Carswell clearly wants to), Nigel Farage has ultimately doomed them.

Gaffe of the year – George Osborne for the Autumn Statement

George Osborne’s Autumn Statement is the political equivalent of the loud celebrations of AC Milan when 3-0 up at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final, the fatal conceit that opens the door to wounded opponents transforming into glorious victors. 2010’s “emergency budget” was Paolo Maldini’s goal in the first few minutes of the final, establishing an early advantage grounded in Conservative credibility and Labour profligacy. Everything Osborne has done since then, akin to the brace of Hernán Crespo goals that drove home Milan’s first half advantage, has sought to reinforce these perceptions.

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Five tests for Cameron in Russia

15/12/2010, 05:23:07 PM

by James Watkins

We missed a trick in 1991 – and David Cameron will know this when he visits Moscow in the New Year.

Back in the early 90s the then US president, George H W Bush and John Major,  hunkered down in Downing Street, may not have publicly crowed at the collapse of the Soviet Union, but their actions spoke louder than their words. Though Russia joined the G8 group of wealthy nations, the lack of assistance fully to buttress the Russian economy led to a dive in living standards – rubbing salt into Russia’s already wounded pride.

This chain of events has led to the nationalism we see today, with Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, saying that Stalin was not all bad and that the Soviet collapse was a “catastrophe” while Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, deliberately made a show of visiting islands that are a bone of contention between Russia and Japan.

All of this is not the best backdrop to the British prime minister’s visit, but there have been some developments that have recently boosted Russian confidence.

NATO and Russia agreed this autumn to work together on anti ballistic missile defence. In April, the United States and Russia agreed on a major nuclear arms reduction treaty. The Russian government was able to extend its lease for its Black Sea naval port – thanks to a pro-Moscow Ukrainian government. Russian troops still occupy parts of northern Georgia which – superficially – gives Russia the upper hand in the region. And, as we all know to England’s cost, Russia will host the World Cup. (more…)

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