Vladimir Putin with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban
In the West, Vladimir Putin is often viewed as something of an international pariah. Shift your perspective, however, and it is quite striking how many international friends, the Russian president has cultivated.
Mr Putin, who enjoys posing bare-chested, is particularly good at making friends with other “strongmen”. His roster of special friends include Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. This week, Mr Putin has also been demonstrating that he is capable of finding pals even inside the “enemy camp” – the European Union. The EU may have imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, but that has not stopped Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary – and another self-styled strongman – from rolling out the red carpet for Mr Putin. Read more
♦ Cronyism is being blamed for the slow pace of reform in Ireland.
♦ An AP investigation reveals that a US citizen who went missing on a private business trip to Iran actually had ties to the CIA and was on an unapproved mission.
♦ Bill Keller at the New York Times mulls over negotiations with Iran: “For the moment, our hard-liners pose a greater problem than Iran’s.”
♦ Egyptians are outraged that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was not Time’s person of the year. Read more
♦ From our comment pages: “How a digital currency could transform Africa“.
♦ Pigs’ trotters are crucial to the advancement of lowly Chinese Communist party officials.
♦ Some interpreted the Westgate attack in Kenya as a sign of al-Shabaab’s weakness, but there are signs that it is regrouping and recruiting new members, becoming “an extended hand of al-Qaeda” in the words of Somalia’s president.
♦ US trade policies are driving the global obesity epidemic, even as its own citizens get healthier.
♦ The Dutch real estate market is getting a new lease of life.
♦ A Egyptian general ousted under Mohamed Morsi has been rehabilitated by his protégé Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and put in charge of the general intelligence service.
♦ South Korea is aggressively targeting US technology for its own use in a variety of Korean weapons programmes, according to Foreign Policy.
♦ Modern Korea, with its electrical power lines, is encroaching on older villages and farmland. Villagers have protested through self-immolation, demonstrations in Seoul and even a two-year sleep-in.
♦ The Afghan government attempted to form an alliance with Islamist militants in the hope of taking revenge on the Pakistani military. Read more
Remember the neocons? They were the powerful and controversial group of thinkers who argued that the promotion of democracy in the Middle East was the key to winning the “war on terror”. The influence of the neocons peaked during the Bush administration, when they became vocal advocates for the invasion of Iraq.
Many of the critics of the neocons always argued that all this talk of “democracy” was simply a hypocritical mask for the promotion of US or Israeli interests. So I was interested to see how leading neocon thinkers have reacted to the coup in Egypt and the assault on the Muslim Brotherhood. Have they kept the democratic faith, or have they gone along with the military? Read more
♦ The Egyptian military reasserted its privileged political position by removing Mohamed Morsi from power. Troops surrounded the state broadcasting headquarters and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief of staff, delivered a televised speech announcing the takeover. Morsi’s authoritarian governing style exacerbated the huge challenges Egypt already faced – including a moribund economy and intense political polarisation, reports the FT’s Borzou Daragahi. David Gardner says that Morsi’s government, the liberals and Mubarak’s “deep state” are just as much to blame for Egypt’s stormy state of affairs as the generals.
♦ The Indian newspaper Patrika has achieved success through itsreputation for credibility – it doesn’t take political bribes, which is increasingly common among other Indian newspapers – and for public interest advocacy – it focuses on hyperlocal coverage.
♦ Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, has backed a deal to break up the Russian export monopoly that supplies gas to Lithuania by anchoring a ship off of a small nearby island to process deliveries of liquefied natural gas for homes and businesses.
♦ Le Monde reports that France has a “big brother” similar to the American Prism system that systematically gathers huge amounts of information on internet and phone activity.
♦ The FT’s Chris Giles argues that Carney’s “forward guidance” plan for the BoE may be too risky, even though it is based on a strategy used by other central banks including the US Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan. Read more