Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s faintly sinister foreign minister, is not a man who panics easily. So it is worth paying attention, to what Lavrov has just said about North Korea. “The situation could simply get out of control, it is slipping toward the spiral of a vicious cycle,” was his comment yesterday. You could dismiss this as the usual Russian criticism of US foreign policy, since Lavrov was implicitly knocking the US military exercises that seem to have provoked North Korea’s most recent, blood-curdling threats. Or you could take what Lavrov has to say seriously. I’m inclined to do the latter. There are still far too many people in the West, who treat North Korea as a joke. That could be a big mistake. Read more
- ‘The troika decision-making [is] baffling and the vision of the founding fathers of the single currency [is] a mockery,” argues Christopher Pissarides, an adviser to the president of Cyprus, as other small eurozone nations are feeling increasingly defensive about their economies.
- Stefan Wagstyl suggests that the latest Brics summit has exposed the limits of the five nations’ possible co-operation. (Imagine a group of five friends who get together to build a holiday house but can’t agree on what it should cost, where to put it or who should pay for it.?) Meanwhile Gideon Rachman reckons that Brazil is the only Brics country that still qualifies to be a member of the club. Read more
What next for the Brics?
The Brics started life as a marketing gimmick dreamt up by Goldman Sachs to promote emerging markets, but the notion has taken on a life of its own and this group of nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are now a formal organisation who have just met for their fifth summit. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Stefan Wagstyl, editor of beyondbrics, and Andrew England, South Africa correspondent, reporting from Durban, where the group has agreed to set up a Brics-led development bank. But do the Brics matter, what unites and divides these nations, and are we likely to still be discussing this group in ten years’ time?
Join the club: leaders of the Brics (Getty)
As the Brics conclude their fifth summit, Jim O’Neill must be wondering whether it has all got a bit out of hand. Back in 2001, O’Neill – a Goldman Sachs strategist – coined the catchy acronym Bric to cover the four largest emerging markets: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Now O’Neill has lived to see his clever idea become a geopolitical fact. The question – does the Bric concept make sense? – no longer really matters. It makes enough sense for them to meet on a regular basis. Read more
Shinzo Abe in Washington on February 22 (Getty)
It’s rare that the sequel is better than the original movie, but so far Shinzo Abe II is doing much better at the box office than its ill-fated prequel. As we approach the first 100 days in office mark, here are five differences (and a few similarities) between Shinzo Abe I and Shinzo Abe II.
1. Shinzo Abe I had a dull subtitle. Constitutional Amendment failed to excite the public and never got anywhere. Deflation Slayer, on the other hand, the subtitle for Shinzo Abe II, has got everyone talking, from bond traders and currency speculators to ordinary Japanese fed up with economic drift.
2. It is often forgotten that Shinzo Abe I, released in October 2006, had a strong opening. Abe travelled to Beijing and mended relations with China. But the movie quickly trailed off as the plot foundered on a boring and jerky narrative involving disappearing pension records and a series of ministerial scandals. Shinzo Abe II was strong even before the opening credits rolled. Many audience members were so excited that shares soared and the yen weakened even before Abe appeared in the opening scene.
3. The plot of Shinzo Abe II is intriguing. It starts off as a story about a bold economic experiment, but no one knows how it will end. Will the Japanese economy at last gain some traction after 20 years in the doldrums? Or will the gamble end in catastrophe with hyperinflation and capital flight? Read more
By Gideon Rachman
In the end, the Cypriots swallowed the bitter medicine. Facing national humiliation and a bleak future many complain their small nation has been forced to succumb to the will of a larger, merciless power – Germany.
Boris Berezovsky in August 2012 (Getty)
Police have found “no evidence” so far that anyone else was involved in the death of exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, but are retaining “an open mind”, according to one of the detectives working on the case. It’s hardly surprising that questions remain. While one friend told the FT: “In the last few months, he was very depressed, very low. He felt beset by all the issues that surrounded him”, another – Nikolai Glushkov, a fellow Russian exile – told the Guardian’s Luke Harding: “I will never believe in the natural death of Boris Berezovsky.” It may be a while before any certainty is reached [update: police said late on Monday that a postmortem found the cause of death was “consistent with hanging”] – but in the meantime, it’s worth reading up on the life of a man whose influence over his homeland will be felt for a long time to come.
- Owen Matthews recalls his first meeting with Berezovsky in 1998, at the “luxurious Logovaz Club, a restored prerevolutionary mansion in central Moscow”. In a piece full of pithy assessments (“Yeltsin may have made Russia free, but it was Berezovsky who made it for sale”; “Berezovsky was Dr. Frankenstein, whose monster was a poker-faced little KGB officer”), Matthews paints a vivid picture of the mathmetician-turned-kingmaker whose love of power contributed to his undoing.
- Writing for the FT, Ben Judah contrasts the Berezovsky of old – “they called him ‘the comet’, because he burnt so bright and talked so fast” – with the “insecure, self-doubting and anguished man” of recent months.
As the BRICs assemble for their summit in South Africa, what better way to celebrate the occasion than to buy the splendid “Lunch with the FT, 52 Classic Interviews” book. The connection may not seem immediately obvious. But think about it. The BRICS have flourished through a relentless focus on commerce, and this is what the FT is trying to do, through repackaging some of our best interviews and selling them in a beautiful commemorative edition, that will take pride of place in your lovely home. When your friends see this stunning volume, with its glorious full-page colour cartoons, they will admire you for your good taste! You might even enjoy reading some of the interviews. Read more