Anne Applebaum (Continuación)

Russian President Vladimir Putin sacked his prime minister last week and replaced him with one Viktor Zubkov, an obscure official never before mentioned as a potential leader. Wondering why? Here are a few of the rumors in circulation:

¿ Because Zubkov is completely unimportant, Putin intends to make him the next president of Russia, a possibility that Zubkov has not denied: After all, the presidential election is not until March 2008, leaving plenty of time for the Kremlin-controlled media to introduce Zubkov to the Russian public. (Putin's motive? Zubkov can keep the Kremlin office chair warm so that Putin can return in 2012.…  Seguir leyendo »

"And Iraq and Afghanistan and their tragedies; and the reeling of many of you under the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgages; global warming and its woes; and the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa; all of this is but one side of the grim face of this global system."

Dennis Kucinich? Naomi "No Logo" Klein? Daniel "Danny the Red" Cohn-Bendit? If you guessed "none of the above," then you are either an astute observer of the anti-globalization movement -- or you have already read a transcript of Osama bin Laden's latest video production. If so, you will also know that bin Laden, after denouncing the "capitalist system" that "seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations," called for Americans to convert to Islam because, among other things, taxes are lower in Islamic states.…  Seguir leyendo »

Famously, Margaret Thatcher hated holidays. Even when persuaded to take a brief one in Salzburg, the British prime minister could hardly bear the enforced relaxation. Upon hearing that Helmut Kohl was vacationing at a nearby Austrian lake, she called to request bilateral talks with her German counterpart. Kohl, who couldn't bear Thatcher, claimed to be ill, or so the story goes. She went anyway -- and promptly ran into Kohl, eating a large ice cream at an outdoor cafe.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Nowadays world leaders vacationing within a 500-mile radius of one another don't have spontaneous meetings, with or without ice cream.…  Seguir leyendo »

My friend Nikita was looking drawn and tired the last time I saw him. He's a historian, but he doesn't have much time for archives these days. Instead, most of his energy is devoted to fighting the Moscow city authorities who want the residents of his state-owned apartment building to move out, presumably to sell the building to developers. He's willing to leave the apartment he's lived in for decades, but the law requires the authorities to find him a new apartment in the same part of central Moscow. None had been forthcoming.

Some of the tenants were giving up, even drifting out of town.…  Seguir leyendo »

"Yes, the Piccadilly line is running slowly today; took me ages to get here." I first learned that someone had tried to set off two car bombs in London late last week from two women talking in a shop. Parts of the city center had been blocked off for a few hours that morning, they complained -- so tiresome, especially on a Friday, when one had hoped to go home early. Thank goodness, someone else said later, that by afternoon the area was clear, and the Piccadilly line -- the tube line that runs beneath the target site -- was operating normally.…  Seguir leyendo »

Late last week you could have been forgiven for thinking that the Star Wars era had begun. Space-age computer graphics dominated the news: Satellites orbited the globe, target sites throbbed on interactive maps of Europe and the Middle East. The talk was of Russia and Iran and of whether high-tech missile defense equipment might endanger human health. The pictures, in the wake of the Group of Eight summit, were of statesmen: George Bush's helicopter landing at a Polish beach resort, Vladimir Putin giving interviews (" I am a true democrat"). At any rate, that was the news and the talk, and those were the pictures, if you happened to be living in Central Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was a sunny day in June, and George W. Bush was making a speech at the University of Warsaw. Inside, the politicians listened with interest; outside, crowds gathered to cheer; afterward, the press was full of praise.

Hard to imagine, but true: That's what President Bush's first visit to Poland was like -- and I was there -- in the unfathomably distant summer of 2001. On that same trip, Bush also went to Spain. During a joint news conference, the Spanish prime minister, José María Aznar, thanked Bush for his administration's "kindness." Said Bush: "Spain is a friend of the United States, and [Prime Minister] Aznar is a friend of mine."…  Seguir leyendo »

And now for a quick quiz: A European country -- a member in good standing of NATO and the European Union -- has recently suffered multiple attacks on its institutions. Can you (a) name the country, (b) describe the attacks and (c) explain what NATO is doing in response?

If you can't, don't worry: NATO itself doesn't quite know what it is doing about the attacks, despite the alliance's treaty, which declares that an armed attack on one of its members is "an attack against them all." The country is Estonia -- a very small, very recent member of NATO; the attacks are taking place in cyberspace; and while the perpetrators aren't exactly unknown, their identities can't be proved either.…  Seguir leyendo »

He has been called everything from an " inferior Bill Clinton" to " as divisive a figure as Thatcher". His record in the Middle East has been described as one of " catastrophic failure," and his mistakes have been attributed to " stupendous moral vanity". He has been called a success, a failure, lucky, unfortunate: "Blair: A Modern Tragedy" is the title of the Spectator magazine's special 36-page end-of-Blair supplement. Yet during the onslaught of political obituaries that have appeared in Britain since his long-awaited resignation speech last week, " You wait, you'll be sorry when they're gone" was a sentiment quite frequently expressed about Blair and his wife, Cherie, too.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was October 1987, three weeks before the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Soviet elite had gathered in Moscow to mark the occasion. After the customarily lengthy speech by Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, the chairman asked whether anyone wanted to respond.

Unexpectedly, Boris Yeltsin, then the Moscow party boss, went up to the rostrum. He spoke for a mere 10 minutes -- and in that 10 minutes changed Russian history.

Reading that speech now, it's hard to see what the fuss was all about. Yeltsin complained that the party lacked "revolutionary spirit" and that the Soviet people suffered from "disillusionment."…  Seguir leyendo »

And now, alert readers, it is time for a test: Here are two demonstrations, representing two political movements, that took place recently in two neighboring countries. For which country should fans of "democratization" cheer loudest?

Example No. 1: This demonstration took place in Moscow on Saturday. More precisely, it took place in Pushkin Square, legendary site of Soviet-era dissident protests. Some 2,000 to 3,000 people came to show their opposition to the Kremlin -- and they were greeted by some 9,000 club-wielding riot police officers. About 200 people were arrested, including Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who was described in the Russian Web site…  Seguir leyendo »

If you didn't notice that last Sunday was the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Union, don't worry: Most Europeans didn't either. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds the rotating European presidency, did invite all 27 heads of state to hear Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," and it's true that at one designated Berlin nightclub, the Europeans of tomorrow danced to music played by DJs from all 27 countries. Fireworks went off as well, and of course a document was signed -- the "Berlin Declaration"-- which described Europe as an

"Idea, a hope for freedom and understanding."

Still, an aura of gloom hung over the whole affair, as it does over the whole continent, at least whenever the Idea of Europe is pondered.…  Seguir leyendo »

Anyone who has ever had the good luck to work in old archives knows how surprising they can be. A thick and unappetizing file might, with patience, yield a wealth of interesting detail; a pile of yellowed papers can contain the solution to an old riddle. Recently, an amateur archivist stumbled across the letters of Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father, in a collection of documents that had been gathering dust in the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research for 30 years -- proving that there was still more to learn, even about the most famous of all Holocaust victims, even in the middle of New York City.…  Seguir leyendo »

Clearly, there is something about Ayaan Hirsi Ali that annoys, rankles, irritates. I am speaking as one who does not know Hirsi Ali -- the outspoken Dutch-Somali critic of Islam -- but as one who, while living in Europe, cannot seem to avoid meeting her detractors. Most recently I met a Dutch diplomat who positively glowered when her name was mentioned. As a member of the Dutch parliament, Hirsi Ali had, he complained, switched parties, talked out of turn and refused to toe whatever was the proper political line. Above all, it irritated him that she did not share his Dutch faith in political consensus.…  Seguir leyendo »

"I have a difficult time explaining that speech. It doesn't accord with either the world as we see it nor with the character of our interactions with the Russians."

-- Condoleezza Rice, Feb. 15

Ten days have passed since the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, made a speech in Munich accusing the United States of plunging the planet into "an abyss of permanent conflicts," of deliberately encouraging the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and (this from a country that regularly blackmails and manipulates its neighbors) of having "overstepped its national borders in every way." During that time, the American secretary of state -- quoted above -- has not been alone in expressing surprise.…  Seguir leyendo »

"If you wanted to support democracy in the Arab world, why did you begin with your enemies instead of your friends? Why Iraq and Iran? Why not us?"

It's an excellent question, and when it was posed to me a few days ago by Mokhtar Trifi, president of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, I at first found it hard to answer. Trifi, whose dark suit and elegant French make him seem like the statesman he ought to be, does indeed seem a far better candidate for American friendship and support than, say, the prime minister of Iraq.…  Seguir leyendo »

Once, the British Empire fought a war for the right to sell opium in China. In retrospect, history has judged that war destructive and wasteful, a shameless battle of colonizers against the colonized that in the end helped neither one.

Now, NATO is fighting a war to eradicate opium from Afghanistan. Allegedly, the goals this time around are different. According to the British government, Afghanistan's illicit drug trade poses the "gravest threat to the long term security, development, and effective governance of Afghanistan," particularly since the Taliban is believed to be the biggest beneficiary of drug sales. Convinced that this time they are doing the morally right thing, Western governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars bulldozing poppy fields, building up counternarcotics squads and financing alternative crops in Afghanistan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Like so many other scandals, this one unfolded in a pattern at once familiar and depressing. First there was an unsubstantiated leak in a somewhat marginal weekly; then a denial. Then there were more substantial leaks in more mainstream media; then more denials. Then, all at once, there were behind-the-scenes maneuvers, interventions at high levels and, finally, at the last possible minute, a resignation.

But this scandal had a few twists: Instead of a politician, the authority figure in question was the newly appointed archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus. Instead of political hacks, the behind-the-scenes maneuvers featured Pope Benedict and high-ranking priests.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hitler shot himself before capture, Stalin received a grand state funeral and Pol Pot died while under house arrest. Just last week, the brutal leader of Turkmenistan, Saparmurad Niyazov, died of natural causes. In fact, when the noose tightened around his neck early Saturday morning, Saddam Hussein became one of a surprisingly small number of modern dictators executed by their own people: Benito Mussolini, Nicolai Ceausescu -- and now the man who once called himself Iraq's president for life. Of those three, Hussein is the only one who had anything resembling a trial.

Other than that, there is no reason to view Hussein as an exceptional or unusual heir to the 20th-century totalitarian tradition.…  Seguir leyendo »

On the day James Baker's Iraq report was published, I gritted my teeth and waited for the well-earned, long-awaited, Franco-German "Old Europe" gloat to begin. I didn't wait long. "America Faces Up to the Iraq Disaster" read a headline in Der Spiegel. In the patronizing tones of a senior doctor, Le Monde diagnosed the "political feverishness" gripping Washington in Baker's wake. Suddeutsche Zeitung said the report "stripped Bush of his authority," although Le Figaro opined that nothing Baker proposed could improve the "catastrophic state" of Iraq anyway.

And then, for two weeks . . . silence. If there are politicians, academics or journalists anywhere in Germany and France who have better ideas about how to improve the catastrophic state of Iraq, they aren't speaking very loudly.…  Seguir leyendo »