Daily Archives: May 20, 2014

Gideon Rachman

A visit by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to Beijing would be an important event, at any time. But, coming on the heels of Moscow’s military interventions in Ukraine, it takes on a special significance.

With Russian relations with the West in the deep freeze over the Ukraine crisis, it is clearly in the Kremlin’s interest to improve ties with China. Beijing is likely to prove a willing partner. They too have an increasingly tense strategic relationship with the US. Meanwhile, the Americans will be watching nervously from the sidelines. 

• The US has filed criminal charges against five Chinese military officers, alleging they hacked into the computer systems of five US companies and a labour union to steal trade secrets. It is the first time Washington has singled out a foreign government in connection with such offences.

• Narendra Modi’s stunning victory in India’s parliamentary election brings a promise of greater social mobility but also reflects a darker side of the country’s democracy: the way money determines political outcomes.

• Libya is braced for further conflict after a retired general and allied military officers led an attack on militias.

• Bosnian novelist Andrej Nikolaidis, writing in The Guardian, describes how the floods that have engulfed the former Yugoslavia have united the people of the Balkans.

• The New York Times asks why, despite benefiting from the EU’s generous Common Agricultural Policy, so many French farmers are tempted to vote for the National Front in this weekend’s European elections

Germany’s allies may think that Berlin is slow to engage with the rest of the world – and show some political muscle commensurate with its economic weight.

But the German public has the opposite view: in an opinion poll published on Tuesday, only 37 per cent support a more active German foreign policy with 60 per cent against. 

Neil Buckley

The dangerous stand-off between separatists and pro-government forces in Ukraine’s two easternmost regions continues, threatening to tip into a Yugoslav-style war. Yet for the first time in more than two months, there are tentative signs that Russian pressure on Ukraine may be easing.

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday said he was ordering Russian troops camped near Ukraine’s border to return to their permanent bases, even if there was little immediate sign of movement. Moscow “respected”, but did not explicitly recognise, self-rule referendums in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk held last week. 

David Pilling

General Prayuth Chan-Ocha“This is not a coup.” These words – uttered at 3am on television by General Prayuth Chan-Ocha – would hardly be reassuring in any country. In Thailand, where the army has overthrown elected governments 11 times since the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in 1932, they can only mean one thing. Normal democracy is suspended.

Thailand has been in the throes of political crisis for more than a decade since the election of Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001 uncorked the economic and democratic ambitions of millions of poorer Thais. That has alarmed many members of the Bangkok elite who see their privileges threatened and the position of their beloved king jeopardised. Mr Thaksin was deposed in 2006 by the army, which on that occasion, at least, had the grace to call a coup a coup. 

By Gideon Rachman

In America, they have Super Tuesday. Europe is about to have a Super Sunday, with elections for the European Parliament taking place across the 28-member EU, ending on May 25. That same Sunday, Ukraine will be holding a presidential election. The next day, Egypt will hold its own presidential vote. And then, towards the end of that week, on May 29, President Vladimir Putin’s pet project – the formation of a Eurasian Union – will receive the formal go-ahead with a signing ceremony between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.