I never had much time for the Greenham Common women. As a mildly reactionary student of the 1980s, I regarded them – and their protest camp outside a British nuclear-weapons base – as silly and misguided. After all, decades of experience taught that nuclear deterrence worked.

The US and its allies are at war with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is at war with the Syrian government. So does that mean that the West is now in alliance with the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad? Logic would suggest that – objectively speaking – this must be the case. Talk to western officials, however, and you are told a much more complicated and confusing story. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

This weekend America announced that it was sending more troops to Iraq, Russia allegedly sent more troops into Ukraine and President Barack Obama set off for Beijing.

Viktor Yanukovich's despotic decor

This is shaping up as the year of the controversial presidential mansion. In February, after the revolution that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine, one of the very first things that demonstrators did was to head for his residence outside Kiev. Pictures of its vast grounds, including a lake and a galleon, were soon doing the rounds of the internet. Read more

American elections – even midterm elections – always offer great entertainment: eccentric candidates, whooping crowds, bizarre attack-ads, pontificating pundits, the changing colours on electoral maps. But there is often a sneaking suspicion that the actual results may not have much relevance to real life. The turn-out in Tuesday’s midterm elections looks like it was about 40%. The majority of ordinary Americans may have felt that the 2014 elections were unlikely to change much. It is hard to disagree. Here are four arguments for the irrelevance of the mid-term elections. Read more

Historians may record that Brics mania reached its height during the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff used the occasion to host a summit of the leaders of the five Brics: Brazil itself, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The formation of a new Brics development bank was announced, with its headquarters in Shanghai.

Nobody ever said that reforming Italy would be easy. But Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, is going through a series of brutal tests this month – as he fights on two fronts, in Brussels and in Rome. Read more

Speaking on television earlier this year, Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, declared that his government’s budget would not be written to “satisfy Brussels”, adding – “We are a great nation . . . France is a sovereign country.”

It was an interesting week to visit Spain. On Tuesday, I interviewed Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, on stage at an FT conference in Madrid. We spoke, just as dramatic news was emerging from Catalonia that the regional government there was calling off its independence referendum.

Rajoy was understandably pleased. He pronounced that this was “excellent news”. But just as the Spanish prime minister was leaving the stage, so Artur Mas – the head of the devolved Catalan government – was beginning a press conference in Barcelona. His contribution muddied the waters. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
General Sir Philip Chetwode, deputy chief of Britain’s Imperial General Staff, warned in 1919: “The habit of interfering with other people’s business and making what is euphoniously called ‘peace’ is like buggery; once you take to it, you cannot stop.”

I suspect that many people’s first reactions to the news that Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize will have been similar to mine: joy that Malala had got the award, but slight puzzlement that it has been given to her jointly with Kailash Satyarthi, a much less-famous Indian campaigner. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Is Vladimir Putin a wimp? The Russian president has a macho image and has shocked the west with his annexation of Crimea. But, in Moscow, there are hardliners who seem frustrated that he has not gone further.

The news that a patient with the Ebola virus is receiving treatment in an American hospital is making headlines in the US. But, even before the Dallas case was revealed, there was growing alarm in western capitals, about the implications of the virus for Africa.

When President Obama gave his speech to the UN last week, it was his remarks about war in the Middle East that made the news. But what the president had to say about Ebola was also striking. He warned that it was a disease that “could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destablise economies.” Read more

By Gideon Rachman
The demonstrations on the streets of Hong Kong present China with its biggest political challenge since the pro-democracy movement was crushed in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. The parallels between the demonstrations in Hong Kong now and those in Beijing, 25 years ago are eerie – and must be profoundly unsettling to the Communist party leadership. Once again, the demonstrations are led by students demanding democratic reform. Once again, the central authorities have lost control – and risk facing a choice between repression and a humiliating climbdown. Once again, the ultimate question is the power and authority of the Communist party in Beijing.

The appointment of Donald Tusk as president of the European Council was greeted with a certain amount of bafflement in Brussels. The former prime minister of Poland does not speak much English or French – and they are the two main working languages of the EU. And while he is known as a strong and sometimes charismatic leader, he is not someone who is renowned for his interest in detail – or his patience with committee work. The main job of the council president is to broker complicated deals between national leaders – a job that requires patience, a command of detail, a degree of modesty and, preferably, an ability to converse without the need to go through translators. The outgoing council president, Herman van Rompuy, ticks all these boxes. Mr Tusk, arguably, ticks none of them. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

In 1990 Kenichi Ohmae, a management consultant, published a book called The Borderless World, whose title captured the spirit of globalisation. Over the next almost 25 years developments in business, finance, technology and politics seemed to confirm the inexorable decline of borders and the nation states they protected.

A friend of mine in Scotland who supports the UK has just sent me an e-mail about his impressions of the campaign ahead of the vote on Scottish independence on Thursday. I think it is an evocative and alarming piece of writing, so here is the email in full: Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Until recently, I thought I did not much care if Scotland voted for independence. But, now, as the prospect becomes very real, I am surprised by how upset I feel. I follow the polls obsessively. I fume at the incompetence of the No campaign and the insularity of the Yes. And my sense of foreboding grows as the day grows closer.

It is still called the Yalta European Strategy Meeting. But this year, the annual international forum on Ukraine and and the world is taking place in Kiev, not Yalta. That is because Yalta is now in Crimea, which has been annexed by Russia. To judge from the mood of the conference, nobody expects Crimea to return to Ukraine anytime soon. On the contrary, on Saturday morning Arseniy Yatseniuk, the Ukrainian prime minister, warned the conference that Vladimir Putin’s goal is “to take the entire Ukraine”. Read more

The announcement by Petro Poroshenko that Russia has withdrawn 70 per cent of its troops from Ukraine has prompted both hope and anguished debate in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev – where I am at the moment. The argument now is whether Ukraine should try to cut a peace deal with Moscow.

President Poroshenko is regarded as the chief partisan of the “peace party” in Ukraine. But he has to tread carefully because many Ukrainians would regard cutting a deal with Vladimir Putin’s Russia as folly or betrayal – or both. Read more