By Gideon Rachman
When political leaders start rewriting the past, you should fear for the future. In Russia, Hungary, Japan and China, recent politically sponsored efforts to change history textbooks were warning signs of rising nationalism.

Gideon Rachman

How do we decide what matters in the world?

The question is prompted by the coincidence of the crisis in Ukraine and the third anniversary of the outbreak of war in Syria.

There is no doubt that it is Ukraine that is dominating the attention of world leaders and the media. John Kerry, US secretary of state, is meeting Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, in London today to discuss Ukraine, while Angela Merkel has been working the phones with Vladimir Putin to try to defuse the crisis.

The front-pages of newspapers blare about the build-up of troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border. My own work has reflected these priorities, with my last three FT columns on the Ukrainian crisis.

But are we right to be so focused on Ukraine rather than Syria? Read more

Gideon Rachman

Businesses that fear Britain might be on the way out of the EU can breathe a little more easily this morning.

Ed Miliband’s announcement that a Labour government would be unlikely to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership means the issue may well be off the agenda for some years. Read more

A few weeks ago, even Europeans were paying little attention to events in Ukraine. Now the whole world is watching. This is because the Russian incursion into Ukraine is widely seen as a direct challenge to the US-led world order. If President Vladimir Putin gets away with it then other governments, such as China and Iran, may decide defying America is getting less risky.

Gideon Rachman

As diplomatic discussions with Russia get underway, the fate of Crimea looms large. An obvious question is whether the west could or should accept the de-facto annexation of Crimea by Russia. Beyond simple appeasement of Russia, the argument to do this would be that Crimea has long been an oddity in Ukraine. It was part of Russia, until it was gifted to Ukraine by Kruschev in the 1950s. It is the only bit of Ukraine that has a Russian-speaking majority. Why not just hand it over? Read more

By Gideon Rachman
When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Moscow stock market did not crash. That is because there was no Moscow stock market. By contrast, the news that Russian troops have taken effective control of Crimea was greeted, on Monday, by a 10 per cent collapse in shares on the Russian market.

Gideon Rachman

As the Americans and Europeans struggle to craft a common response to the escalating crisis over Ukraine, it is vital that they work closely together. That makes it particularly unfortunate that relations between the US and Germany are in very poor repair – much worse than is commonly realised. Read more

Gideon Rachman

Is America really prepared to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year? Even the European nations that also have troops in Afghanistan are none too sure. On the one hand, it is assumed in European capitals that the White House statement on Tuesday – saying that the US military had been instructed to prepare for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan – is partly bluff. It is well known that the Americans are getting on very badly with President Hamid Karzai, and want to put pressure on him. On the other, some of America’s Nato allies fear that the US might be using the argument with Karzai, as an excuse to scale back a post-2014 military commitment that they were already uncomfortable with. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Amid the tragedy, euphoria and confusion in Ukraine, the risks of renewed confrontation between Russia and the west are rising. An east-west struggle over the fate of Ukraine would be a tragedy for the country – increasing the risks of civil war and partition. But while a brutal arm-wrestling match between the Kremlin and the west – with Ukraine as the prize – is a distinct possibility, it is absolutely not in the interests of Russia or the west. On the contrary, the Russians, Europeans and Americans have a common interest in preserving Ukraine as a unified country that avoids civil war and bankruptcy.

Gideon Rachman

Anti-government protesters in Independence Square (Getty)

Tomorrow, the EU will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the violence in Ukraine. It seems inevitable it will impose targeted sanctions aimed at the Ukrainian leadership, to signal disgust at the violence used against demonstrators. Up until now, the EU has resisted imposing sanctions because it was still hoping to achieve a negotiated solution with President Viktor Yanukovich. It now seems likely that the Ukrainian president will be deemed a political pariah.

The need for an urgent reaction is understandable. But, beyond that, it is not yet evident that the crisis in Ukraine will do anything to clarify the EU and the US’s strategic goals in Ukraine. Until that happens, policy is likely to be ad hoc and reactive. The difficulty is that western leaders have several goals – some of which are contradictory. They need to decide which of them are most important, and also which of them are achievable. Read more