By John Thornhill
© The Financial Times Ltd 2014 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
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
The stand-off continues. The ultimatum, reportedly given by Russia to Ukrainian military forces in Crimea to surrender by 5am (3am GMT), passed without incident. Russian President Vladimir Putin has given a press conference in which he stepped back from the brink of confrontation but insisted Viktor Yanukovich was toppled in an “unconstitutional coup”. The US continues to press for full withdrawal of Moscow’s troops from Ukrainian territory. Global equities traded higher and haven assets retreated as markets reacted with relief to an apparent easing of tensions.
By Shannon Bond, John Aglionby and Amie Tsang with FT correspondents around the world
My brother has a small Chinese vase standing on his mantle – an antique that tells us something about Russia‘s centuries-old techniques for imposing its will on weaker neighbours.
The vase is a small remnant of what had been a much grander set of pottery originally given to Russia’s Catherine the Great by the Chinese emperor, and then handed to my ancestor, Szczesny Potocki, in return for his services. Read more
The stand-off between Russia and the G7 over Moscow’s intervention in the Ukrainian region of Crimea continued on Monday. Financial markets reacted sharply to developments: fears of a war wiped a tenth off the value of Moscow’s stock exchange, sent the rouble tumbling to an all-time low and pushed up the price of commodities. At the UN in New York, the security council meeting turned into a showdown between Russia and several other nations, including the US and UK, which strongly condemned its incursion on Ukraine’s territorial integrity. And tensions were high in Crimea where it was reported Russia had given Ukrainian military forces an ultimatum to surrender.
By John Aglionby and Leyla Boulton in London, Shannon Bond in New York and FT correspondents around the world
By Toby Luckhurst
The manoeuvre was vintage Putin. After answering journalists’ questions for four hours and five minutes in an annual press conference – which had already included a question about Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the Russian president chose to slip the main news into a casual comment to a group of journalists afterwards. Russia’s most famous political prisoner, and arguably one of the most famous in the world, will be pardoned after ten years in jail “in the shortest time”.
By Gideon Rachman
No event has done more to spook the Kremlin, over the last decade, than the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004. Now Vladimir Putin’s worst moment looks like turning into a recurring nightmare as demonstrators once again fill Kiev’s Independence Square, demanding that their country move closer to the EU and further away from Russia.
By Luisa Frey
♦ Typhoon Haiyan should remind us of something basic: the Philippines remains an extremely poor country, says David Pilling.
♦ Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s requirement that online information concerning citizens to be kept within the country sparks furore, writes the FT’s Brazil correspondent Joseph Leahy.
♦ The EU is trying to gather six former Soviet states in its Eastern Partnership programme. Ukraine, the centre of attention, could face Russia’s retaliation if joining.
♦ In an Iran hobbled by sanctions, organization Setad provides an independence source of revenue and patronage for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reports Reuters.
♦ John Kerry’s Saturday-night meeting with his counterpart Laurent Fabius was a late turning point in three days of intense talks about a deal on nuclear Iran, according to The Guardian.
♦ In China, dozens of couples travelled to the birthplace of Mao Zedong to participate in a collective wedding. This comes amid growing divisions over how to define Mao’s legacy ahead of the 120th anniversary of his birth, reports Sinosphere, The New York Times’ China blog.
♦ The mystery surrounding recently discovered masterpieces stolen by the Nazis reveals much about Germany’s attempt to deal with its past, writes Spiegel Online. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Will the Palestinian economy ever be able to break its isolation? The past two decades’ rounds of failed peace talks didn’t manage to build an independent Palestinian economy which can break free of Israel – the question is now if a new $4bn plan to revive the economy will be able to change that.
♦ Tests taken from Yasser Arafat’s corpse have shown high levels of radioactive polonium-210, suggesting the former Palestinian leader could have been poisoned. Arafat’s widow describes it as “the crime of the century”.
♦ External pressure is also threatening Georgia. The FT’s Neil Buckley reports about the “borderisation” of South Ossetia.
♦ Greece may be the next Weimar Germany, says Greek professor Aristides Hatzis. The parliament contains neo-Nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, populists and defenders of conspiracy theories. Although there is a strong coalition government, failures in implementing reforms seem to be outweighing successes.
♦ Meanwhile, “power, prestige, and influence of the United States in the broader Middle East is in a death spiral”, writes Bob Dreyfuss. He argues in Le Monde Diplomatique that the disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s economic crisis and the Arab Spring contributed to the decay of American influence.
♦ The future of the US-Egyptian relationship is also in focus. Washington’s establishment of relations with former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel al-Nasser “can serve as the most promising template for a stable and productive relationship between the two countries today”, says Robert Springborg in Foreign Affairs.
♦ Peter Baker, from Foreign Policy, writes about how the warm Russian-American relationship became icy. Through interviews and secret notes and memos, he reconstructs the story of former President George W. Bush’s pas de deux with Vladimir Putin, offering lessons for Obama as he struggles to define his own approach to Russia.
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Commentary on international affairs, with Gideon Rachman and his colleagues