Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from June, 2014

The closing of borders and of minds

The latest repressive measures instituted by Vladimir Putin includes wholesale travel bans on millions of Russian citizens. As in the Soviet times, foreign travel is to be made difficult and expensive. Anyone with any contacts overseas is suspect, and the smell of treachery is a miasma over anyone foolish enough to speak out against the mafia regime. Those who believe in a different, more open way for Russia are now themselves seeking to leave, before it is too late.

The lie machine of Russian State propaganda has stepped up its twisting of the truth and indeed there is now significant evidence that the KGB apparatus of bugs, wiretaps and snooping- which dwarfs anything in the West- is being used to discredit those who oppose Russian aggression in Ukraine. The open season unleashed on the leaders of Poland is being openly spoken of as an act of Russian political aggression against the fiercely anti-Putin government in Warsaw.

So far, so unsurprising. Russia is using unconventional means…

China and the Meaning of Freedom

I have recently visited China. It was not, strictly speaking, my first trip to the Middle Kingdom, since I visited Shenzhen last year and have visited Hong Kong twice before. However, it was certainly the first time to visit the heartland of China- Ningbo in the Yangtze delta and Beijing. I had always felt somewhat reluctant to visit an officially still Communist state, since Soviet Socialism remains in my mind the moral equal of National Socialism. Both systems embody a contempt for the individual, whether that contempt is manifest as race hatred or class hatred is rather beside the point. Of course I was aware that Deng Xiaoping had ended the most egregious repression, and have written on this blog that the arrest of the Gang of Four was an act of liberation in its way as powerful as the fall of the Berlin wall. Nevertheless I had rather ambivalent feelings as I boarded the flight to Beijing.

The first thing to say about China is that it is now in many ways a highly advanced country.…

Rewriting History

There is an interesting article by Michael Weiss in Foreign Affairs pointing out the ongoing contest between Russia and Estonia. What is interesting is not so much the Estonian response to Russian spying, but just how intense the competition has become. At the same time comes reports of possible confrontations in space and hostile interceptions by Russian air force planes in the Black Sea and the Sea of Japan.

The Cold War is back with a vengeance.

Russia, having crushed the free media at home has also orchestrated an information war where seemingly large numbers of cybertrolls are unleashed on any commentary that challenges the Russian media narrative. A good example are the comments on Simon Heffer's brimstone filled condemnation of Putin being present at the D-Day commemoration in France. This is organised and orchestrated astroturfing. It is a brutal and deeply unpleasant corruption of free speech.

As I have often written, the hostility of Vladimir Putin's Russia towards the …

It is not yet over in Ukraine

The election of a new president in Ukraine is not the end of the crisis, but it does mark a point of change, and hopefully of improvement. The seizure of Crimea by Russia- in contravention of all international law and all promises given- has jolted the security position of NATO as almost nothing else could. Russia now insists that anywhere where the Russian or Soviet flag once flew may be a legitimate claim for Moscow. That in principle could mean Germany or Alaska. In practice it is still a threat to NATO, since the Kremlin claims thee right of intervention, whether or not any local Russian population survives, and regardless of that population supporting Russian intervention or not. Certainly it seems pretty clear that the Russian speaking population of the Donbass does not support the attempt by paramilitaries to transfer their home to Russian control. Nevertheless the Kremlin continues to seek a way to either control the Donbass directly or render it so unstable as to be beyond th…