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.
Both the US and the EU are stepping up their sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea. So far it has all been very personal; both the US and the EU have focused on making life difficult for key individuals in and around the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin. But that is unlikely to be the end of it. Both the US and the EU have threatened to impose further, broader, sanctions on the Russian economy. So in terms of trade, what might they target? Read more
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
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.
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
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 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.
The Sochi Winter Olympics and the image of modern Russia
Even by Olympic superlative standards, the Sochi games are an extraordinary event. The most expensive Olympics ever, these games are the personal project of President Vladimir Putin, bankrolled by the country’s billionaire oligarchs.
In this week’s podcast, Ben Hall, world news editor, is joined by Kathrin Hille, Moscow bureau chief and Neil Buckley, East Europe editor to discuss whether after the build up, snags and negative portrayal in western media, are we now seeing a normal winter Olympic contest?
Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Getty)
As Mikhail Khodorkovsky enters a fourth day of freedom in Berlin after his stunning release from a remote prison colony last Friday, some conclusions can now start to be drawn. All suggest it is premature to get too excited about the implications of the liberation of Russia’s most famous political prisoner.
First, though it may be true – as Mr Khodorkovsky claims – that no formal conditions were attached to his pardon by president Vladimir Putin, the former Yukos oil company chief is in de facto exile. He says he will not return to Russia while a $500m legal claim related to his first conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges in 2005 still hangs over him. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled this claim illegal. But unless Russia’s supreme court strikes it out, Mr Khodorkovsky fears it could be used, at the very least, to prevent him from leaving Russia again if he did go back. Read more
Protesters in Kiev's Independence Square, Dec 2013 (Getty)
November 22 2004 In Ukraine’s second round election, the Central Electoral Commission declares pro-Russian incumbent Viktor Yanukovich the winner. Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the opposition decries widespread voter fraud and electoral irregularities.
November 23 2004 An estimated 500,000 protestors assemble in Kiev’s Independence Square. The Orange Revolution is born. Ukraine’s Supreme Court suspends publication of the election results pending an investigation.
December 8 2004 Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the elections, a December re-run of the disputed presidential election is announced. Protesters scale down their demonstration and government employees return to work. Read more
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
♦ 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.
♦ For more than 30 years, female singers in Iran have not been able to sing solo or perform to a mixed audience. Hassan Rouhani’s softening rhetoric has many hoping that restrictions on cultural life will also be eased.
♦ Growing public anger about immigration from former Soviet states poses a dilemma for Vladimir Putin as he seeks to build a regional trade bloc with Russia’s neighbours.
♦ There is something to be learned about people’s personalities from the way they cycle.
♦ Businesses and residents in Chinatowns from London to San Francisco fear that the struggle to keep up with rising rents and other challenges is threatening their communities. Caitlin Moran at The Times thinks that the “self-selecting majority of the wealthy and conservative” could be good news for the rest of the UK, as the young people locked out of the capital choose to make their home towns glorious instead.
♦ Egypt’s deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa-Eldin is an advocate for restraint, but the political climate in the country has put him under fire from both the military’s supporters and its critics.
♦ Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, argues that talks with Iran have succeeded in the past and can succeed again. He uses his discussions with Iranian diplomats after 9/11 as an example: “The Iranians were constructive, pragmatic and focused… And then, suddenly, it all came to an end when President George W. Bush gave his famous “Axis of Evil” speech in early 2002.”
♦ Chrystia Freeland considers how and why populists, “the wilder the better”, are taking over from the plutocrats.
♦ The New York Times examines how the NSA has been revealed as “an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations.” Read more
♦ The FT’s Neil Buckley interviews Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most famous prisoner – a former oligarch who dared to cross Vladimir Putin.
♦ Trade has broken from a 30-year trend of growing at twice the speed of the global economy, pushing economists to wonder whether there has been a fundamental shift in world business.
♦ The Palestinians have called on countries to tell companies linked to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to withdraw immediately because the settlements violate international law.
♦ Mark Carney says the Bank of England is open for business and the days when the Old Lady preached the perils of “moral hazard” without due regard to financial pressures are well and truly over.
♦ The allegation by the German government that the NSA monitored Angela Merkel’s mobile phone has set off recriminations behind the scenes in the US.
♦ The NYT looks at the friction point between the Philiippines and China in the South China Sea, reporting from a ship at the dividing line.
♦ Formula 1 is considered entertainment, not a sport, by the Indian government, while chess is considered to be a sporting event.
♦ There is some disbelief over Al-Sisi mania.
♦ Tony Blair in the the Balkans to deliver some “deliverology”. Read more
After a testing two years for Vladimir Putin that saw the first serious protests against his rule, Russia’s president was back to his relaxed, confident and sometimes acerbic self at an annual meeting with academics and journalists on Thursday.
Though avoiding triumphalism, Mr Putin seemed to bask in his diplomatic success over the plan for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons. He also appeared to believe the sting had been drawn out of the demonstrations that followed parliamentary elections in December 2011 and his own decision to return for a third term as president. Read more
ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images
By Catherine Contiguglia and David Gallerano
Russia has been the talk of the town since the announcement by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov of a diplomatic initiative to get Syria to turn over chemical weapons. Then all eyes turned to Russian president Vladimir Putin when his New York Times op-ed appeared, arguing that air strikes could “could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
Here are some of the best articles on the man who has managed to keep a grip on Russian power for over a decade, and his maneuverings around the Syria crisis and beyond. Read more
By David Gallerano
♦ “Why would Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who gasses his people to break a stalemate in a war he and his clan regard as existential and almost certainly cannot win, voluntarily surrender an arsenal he has been holding largely in reserve?” This and other questions in today David Gardner’s analysis of the situation in Syria.
♦ In a New York Times’ op-ed Vladimir Putin directly addresses the American people and their political leaders on Syria: “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States”.
♦ Russian expert Michael Metzger illustrates how Putin’s move to avert the US intervention in Syria was inspired by secret KGB chess tactics.
♦ Life in Egypt has “shrunk politically, geographically and socially, with the vast majority of the public high on fascistic nationalism”. Sarah Carr explores the effects of the clampdown on the daily life of the Egyptian people. Read more
By David Gallerano
♦ “We cannot rebuild this economy on this same pile of sand”, President Obama said in April 2009. Robin Harding analyses the rebalancing process of the American economy and draws an alarming conclusion: the United States is building again on the same foundations of sand.
♦ The notorious gang rape of December 2012 in New Delhi is changing the way Indian women react to sexual abuses and violence.
♦ Triton Foundation gets $24m in insurance while a farcical trial goes on in Romania: the brand new episodes of the incredible saga of the paintings stolen from the Kunstahl Museum in Rotterdam.
♦ The New York Times illustrates in detail the long process that led Vladimir Putin to make his proposal on Assad’s chemical weapons.
♦ Meanwhile, satirical news site the Onion reports on how the US arms industry reacted to John Kerry’s declaration: “our Secretary of State had to run his big fat mouth about options for averting war, and now we’re out hundreds of billions of dollars”. But Lockheed’s CEO Marilyn Hewson is reassuring: “He will probably say something idiotic in the near future that would lead to another lucrative international conflict”. Read more