As the Syrian government and its backers tighten their grip on Aleppo, and Turkey and Russia reveal yet another ceasefire in Syria, the same questions trouble many an outraged onlooker. Has the United Nations ever seemed more toothless than it does now? Why did this congregation of almost 200 countries lack the power first to prevent, and then to halt, such civilian bloodshed? Why had it been unable to convene all the parties around the same table to any productive end? And if the UN is incapable of acting in a crisis such as this, what is the point of it?… Seguir leyendo »
Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de Octubre de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.
Nicolas Sarkozy went into the centre-right Republican party’s first ever presidential primary as favourite. A past president, a fiery orator, and the closest – in language and in his focus on “identity” – to the National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, he was widely seen as the one most likely to compete with her on her own terms in the election proper, and win.
That is not how it turned out. Sarkozy came third in Sunday’s first round and the field is now left to Alain Juppé, former prime minister and mayor of Bordeaux, and another former prime minister, François Fillon, who came up on the outside, to top the poll.… Seguir leyendo »
The past month or so has been one of the most perilous periods in European security since the collapse of communism and the end of the original cold war. This has little to do with the UK’s referendum vote – although it undoubtedly added to the overall uncertainty. It is because, in the runup to the summit meeting of Nato members in Warsaw this past weekend, both the Atlantic alliance and post-Soviet Russia were probing each other’s intentions as rarely before, and without a reliable rulebook to constrain them.
Moscow was always going to take a dim view of this year’s gathering, not least because of the historical vibes.… Seguir leyendo »
How far we have come from the warm generosity of the German summer to the cold hard reality of a Nordic winter. Europe’s internal borders have been closing; its external borders are being reinforced. And governments are looking for ways to foot the bill for receiving and integrating all the new arrivals, many of whom have crossed deserts and seas in the hope of finding a safe haven in Europe.
The German finance minister has mooted an EU-wide tax on petrol. Danish MPs are debating a law to allow the confiscation of asylum-seekers’ valuables to help pay for their keep. It turns out the Swiss already do this.… Seguir leyendo »
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the incident in which a Russian SU-24 fighter jet was shot down by the Turkish air force, this was an accident waiting to happen. Ever since Moscow announced that Russia was going to launch airstrikes on Syria, the risks were obvious.
One, at the outset, was the danger that poor coordination between Russia and all the other forces operating in Syrian airspace would lead to the US, for instance, downing a Russian plane (or vice versa), even though both sides insisted they were fighting the common enemy, Islamic State. In fact, defence officials from either side rapidly met to work out some rules, and these appear to have been observed.… Seguir leyendo »
So often has the power-sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland teetered on the brink of collapse that the temptation is to turn a blind eye until the threat is either averted or comes to pass. The temptation is especially great at a time when the calls on the attention of politicians and public on the mainland are so pressing. From migration to the Chinese stock markets to the meltdown in the Labour party, there is quite enough to be going on with as the new political term begins. Northern Ireland is always with us, is it not?
Yet there is more than enough reason to sit up and take notice this time around.… Seguir leyendo »
Two years ago, the UK parliament rejected a plan for air strikes on Syria, a decision accepted by the prime minister with good grace. Two months ago the new business secretary, Sajid Javid, appeared to speak for the government when he tartly dismissed calls by former members of the top brass for “boots on the ground” to try to halt the advance of Islamic State, saying it was up to the people in the region to fight their own wars.
Two weeks ago David Cameron mooted UK participation in allied air strikes over Syria for the same purpose, but promised to place any proposal before parliament in the autumn.… Seguir leyendo »
The glorious truth about diplomatic openings is that fact can trump fiction for strangeness. Take the Bible and the key-shaped cake that a former US national security adviser took to Iran when embarking on the Iran-Contra deal. Or, 15 years before, the convoluted route via Pakistan by which Henry Kissinger arrived in Beijing to prepare the way for Richard Nixon’s historic trip. Could the fantastical tale of Sony, its hackers and the North Korean leader one day be seen as an unintended patch of darkness that hastened the dawn?
However comical or satirical the tone, it was probably not a good idea for Sony to commission a film with the assassination of a real-life leader as its subject.… Seguir leyendo »
After a harrowing delay, the first bodies from MH17 arrived back at their point of departure on Wednesday. The sendoff from Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, had been dignified, in contrast to most of their treatment over the previous six days. There were decent coffins, a short military ceremony and soberly dressed officials with heads bowed. A measure of order had been restored.
These arrangements, it appears, were the result of highly complicated negotiations between many parties. There were representatives of Malaysia (because the plane was theirs); of the Netherlands (because this is where the plane had set off from, and the majority of the passengers were Dutch nationals); of the Ukrainian government (because the plane came down within its borders); of the anti-Kiev rebels (because they control the actual territory where the plane crashed); and of Russia (because it had some lines open to the rebels, if not as much real leverage as many still believe).… Seguir leyendo »
Within hours, even minutes, of the Ukraine air disaster, there was only one culprit in the eyes of much of the world. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was already in the dock.
Russia, it was assumed, had supplied the murderous weapon system to anti-Kiev fighters, in a move not just belligerent but reckless (because the recipients were unlikely to have the necessary expertise). The Kremlin, it was also assumed, pulled the rebels’ strings, ordering them to advance or retreat as suited its purpose. So, whoever pressed the button to launch the missile, the buck stopped with Moscow.
There are reasons to question both these assumptions.… Seguir leyendo »
The contest for eastern Ukraine may not be over, but when Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, described the recapture of Sloviansk at the weekend as of «huge symbolic importance», he was not exaggerating. Other towns and cities remain in rebel hands, including the million-strong conurbation of Donetsk, but Sloviansk was the rebels’ military headquarters. The hoisting of Ukraine’s flag over the city hall marks a decisive advance for the government in the government in Kiev.
Which should raise a question: where are the Russians? If President Vladimir Putin was so intent on re-establishing Moscow’s influence over Ukraine, if he was so determined to preserve Russia’s fraternal ties with these fellow Slavs, if his ultimate objective was the reconstitution of empire, then why has he not rushed to the aid of those fighting, and dying, in Donetsk and Sloviansk?… Seguir leyendo »
It is a reflection, and not necessarily a negative one, on the state of South Africa that tomorrow’s general election has attracted far less attention around the world than the murder trial of the athlete Oscar Pistorius. The televised hearing, of course, has star quality, emotional extremes and high drama – all of which have been conspicuous by their absence from the election campaign. But the relative humdrum nature of this political contest may not, in itself, be a bad thing.
Twenty years after the end of apartheid South Africa has clocked up some notable achievements, not the least of which is to have held five one-person one-vote elections, which have carried conviction at home and stood up well to international scrutiny.… Seguir leyendo »