Crimea

  • The pragmatists have won out over the radical idealogues in Venezuela’s administration and Nicolás Maduro is starting to take orthodox steps to repair the economy.
  • Israel is staying out of the fracas in Ukraine: it cannot jeopardise ties with Russia, even if that puts it at odds with the US.
  • The US-Japan relationship has been the bedrock of Asian security and economic growth, but recent frictions have raised questions about how committeed they are to the partnership.
  • The decline in crime in Western nations could have been a result of the removal of lead from petrol.
  • It may have been disparaged for its decline since the fall of the Soviet Union, but the Russian army has upgraded to 21st-century tactics in order to seize the initiative from the west.
  • Residents of Crimea are living in a state of perpetual confusion, but Crimean authorities are pushing for the peninsula to become the world’s next Las Vegas.

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By Gideon Rachman
Any western leader negotiating over the fate of smaller countries in central or eastern Europe does so in the shadow of two bitter historical experiences: the Munich agreement of 1938 and the Yalta agreement of 1945. At Munich, the British and the French agreed to Adolf Hitler’s demands for the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia – without the participation of the Czech government, which was not represented at the talks. At Yalta, the British and the Americans made a deal with Josef Stalin that, de facto, accepted Soviet domination over postwar Poland and other countries under Russian occupation – again, without the participation of those concerned.

Every armed conflict has its femme fatale, the woman who tantalises men on the home front, or taunts them from behind enemy lines.

In World War Two, think of Betty Grable, the leggy film star whose image graced countless US servicemen’s quarters, or Tokyo Rose, the nickname for the Japanese-American radio presenter later prosecuted as a war criminal. Or Lili Marleen, the fictional soldiers’ siren from the popular song played and sung on both sides of the front.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and apparent designs on eastern Ukraine – a murky tale with few identifiable heroes or villains – has brought the world Natalya Poklonskaya, who has become the fresh and comely face of an ugly and fast-expanding east European war. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

As US President Barack Obama and the leaders of the EU huddle together this week, they will strive to look united and resolved. The reality, as Vladimir Putin knows, is that they are divided and uncertain. The Russian president has moved with a speed and ruthlessness that has left western leaders floundering. Russia swallowed Crimea, in less than a week, with scarcely a shot fired. It has now massed troops on Ukraine’s eastern border – and all that the west has so far offered the Ukrainian military is a supply of US army ready-meals.

Europe’s response to the Crimean crisis
Ben Hall is joined by Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief and Neil Buckley, East Europe editor to discuss Europe’s response to Russia’s summary annexation of Crimea, the first such grab for sovereign territory by a European nation since the second world war. President Vladimir Putin’s move has prompted outrage in European capitals, and the muscular tone of his speech to the Duma on Tuesday will have triggered some alarm about Russian intentions. But Europe’s response so far seems timid, as governments weigh their economic interests with standing up to Russian aggression.

By Stefan Wagstyl

All this talk of fascism: the most abused and overused word in the political dictionary is once again being royally abused and overused.

For weeks, Russian propaganda has portrayed the protesters in the Kiev Maidan as fascist, along with the interim government, and most of western Ukraine. Now Oleksander Turchynov, Ukraine’s interim president, has returned the compliment – and called Russian president Vladimir Putin a fascist. Read more

Today Lithuania celebrates the 24th anniversary of its declaration of independence on March 11 1990 – the first former Soviet republic to take such a step – after decades of Soviet rule. Yet this declared independence did not become reality until September 1991. First a violent Soviet crackdown killed 14 people in January 1991 and a propaganda war hit the airwaves with distinct echoes of Moscow’s current efforts to justify its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

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  • Ten years ago Christine Spolar, FT investigations editor, reported on the Iraq war. She returned last month to find old colleagues and friends living in fear.
  • China’s leaders love watching House of Cards because it confirms their perceptions of the workings of US government.
  • Japan’s yakuza have seen their numbers decline for the first time in years: is it because of a police crackdown, or are they going underground?
  • Francis Fukuyama looks at how effectively the US translates its economic power into foreign and security policies.
  • Tatar leaders war of jihadi-style violence against Russia over its Crimea occupation.
  • Lawrence Summers says the west should make modest promises to Ukraine and then strive to deliver more than it expects.

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The international crisis over
Russian troops are in effective control of many parts of the Ukrainian region of Crimea and the United States is threatening Russia with isolation if it doesn’t back down. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Neil Buckley, East Europe editor and chief US commentator Edward Luce to discuss how this dangerous situation is likely to develop.

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