Mark Almond

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Doesn’t the decisive victory of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Sunday’s elections put an end to concerns about the country’s stability? Hasn’t calm returned to Nato’s strategically vital bulwark on the edge of the Middle East after five months of political impasse and growing sectarian violence?

Sadly not. By handing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan such a strong mandate, Turkey’s voters have swung behind a leader whose hallmarks have become capitalising on tension and fear. In the run up to the polls, the president was accused of threatening to come after critical newspaper editors once the elections were over.…  Seguir leyendo »

As any visitor to Istanbul can see Turkey straddles Europe and Asia - to be precise two huge suspension bridges cross the divide. It is the low rumblings of a geopolitical shift in this pivotal nation, away from the West and towards its neighbours in the East and North, that has rightly brought Barack Obama to the country.

Repairing the rifts that George W. Bush left in America's relations with old friends is the key thrust of the early Obama agenda. When the Turkish parliament failed to back the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, it left the State Department's spokesman speechless.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia's energy giant, Gazprom, is at the heart of a new cold war pitting the Kremlin against Washington. In the old cold war, Soviet gas still flowed west at the height of rows between Reagan and Brezhnev - but postcommunist Russia is proving less pliant than the "evil empire".

Gazprom is at the heart of modern Russia. Its former chairman is the country's president, and many key executives work part-time in the Kremlin. It is, above all, not only Russia's biggest company but the world's biggest energy supplier. Back in the sleepy Brezhnev days it was run like the gas board here under Harold Wilson, and with as much geopolitical significance.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tzipi Livni, the new leader of Kadima, Israel's ruling party, is close to joining that very select club of women heads of government. Ms Livni, Israel's Foreign Minister, if she becomes her nation's second woman prime minister, will face the day-to-day security dilemmas that are not on the agenda of the more numerous women leaders of Scandinavian or Antipodean countries.

It is not only the politically correct who will welcome a woman politician who climbs to the top of the greasy pole, particularly one without a dynasty like the Gandhi family or the Bhuttos to push her there. But gender cannot be ignored in discussing the challenges likely to come Ms Livni's way in the male-dominated and decidedly macho Middle East.…  Seguir leyendo »

For many people the sight of Russian tanks streaming across a border in August has uncanny echoes of Prague 1968. That cold war reflex is natural enough, but after two decades of Russian retreat from those bastions it is misleading. Not every development in the former Soviet Union is a replay of Soviet history.

The clash between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia, which escalated dramatically yesterday, in truth has more in common with the Falklands war of 1982 than it does with a cold war crisis. When the Argentine junta was basking in public approval for its bloodless recovery of Las Malvinas, Henry Kissinger anticipated Britain's widely unexpected military response with the comment: "No great power retreats for ever."…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia goes to the polls on Sunday under a shadow. Although many foreign observers will be scattered across the vast country, the west's preferred agency for election observing, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, claims it was blocked from sending monitors to Moscow.The Kremlin sees the OSCE as a western battering ram which uses charges of election fraud to destabilise regimes disliked by Washington. When the Labour MP Bruce George, who is big in election observing for the OSCE, said in October that "there is no way that it will find that Russia's elections meet international standards", Putin saw red.…  Seguir leyendo »

Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chávez, certainly knows how to rile his critics in Washington. "Oil is going straight to $100," he declared in Nicaragua last week. "No one can stop it." Launching a project there to refine subsidised Venezuelan oil was a good way of tweaking the US's tail in its backyard. Chávez's host was Washington's bete noire in the 1980s, the Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. Ortega was re-elected last year, in part because he could plausibly promise Nicaraguans a bonanza of Venezuelan economic aid after 17 years of futile IMF-imposed austerity "reforms".

On the back of high oil prices, Chávez has been able to do almost everything Washington would prefer not done in the western hemisphere.…  Seguir leyendo »