Cold War

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.

  • Gideon Rachman thinks Narendra Modi is the jolt that India needs, but in his risposte Edward Luce argues that the risk is not worth taking.
  • China is poised to pass the US as the world’s leading economic power this year. This moment has come sooner than expected: FT economics editor Chris Giles explains the working out.
  • David Gardner thinks Bashar al-Assad is more vulnerable than he looks.
  • The recent freeze in east-west relations has revived interest in Moscow’s Cold War museum.

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♦ The FT’s partner charity for this year’s Seasonal Appeal is World Child Cancer – Shawn Donnan and Andrew Schipani look at the work it has been doing in Colombia.
♦ The FT’s Jamil Anderlini explains why London gains little from trying to please Beijing.
♦ As territorial disputes escalate in the waters around China, the Chinese government has been asserting ownership over thousands of shipwrecks in the South China Sea, which it says have been in its territorial waters for centuries.
♦ David Sanger at the New York Times analyses the row over the disputed islands: “As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.”
A geopolitical tug of war is pulling Ukraine to the brink of upheaval once more.
German Christmas markets are not what they used to be – gifts and wholesome foods are being replaced by fatty foods and tacky fairground rides.  Read more

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s revelation that his newspaper was forced by British spooks to destroy hard disks containing files provided by the contractor Edward Snowden included a fascinating detail on modern spy craft. The Guardian reported:

“In a subsequent meeting, an intelligence agency expert argued that the material was still vulnerable. He said by way of example that if there was a plastic cup in the room where the work was being carried out foreign agents could train a laser on it to pick up the vibrations of what was being said. Vibrations on windows could similarly be monitored remotely by laser.”

I’m sorry, come again?

You read that correctly. GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, feared that if Russian or Chinese agents were unsuccessful in penetrating the Guardian’s computer systems, they might try to listen to journalists discussing the Snowden files by using a laser beam.

That sounds like a far-fetched plot line from the US hit TV series Homeland…

True. But laser microphone surveillance has been going on ever since the Soviets and Americans went toe-to-toe during the Cold War.

Some experts argue that intelligence services take the risk of laser audio surveillance into account when constructing their own headquarters. Read more

Here are the pieces that got us interested today: