48 Hours With The Scottish National Party

Four findings from the final SNP conference before the independence vote. The party realises it needs to do more to appeal to women voters, and is calling for more women in business and in politics. The Nationalists distrust the English press, and animosity is building. The SNP’s backroom operations are super-efficient. And the party truly believes it will win the referendum (Metered) (975 words)

Interview: Arundhati Roy

Interesting throughout, on India’s politics and economy. Narendra Modi and the BJP speak for a “brash new middle class” panicked by slowing growth: “They were sitting in an aircraft hoping to take off and suddenly it’s frozen”. Corporate India backs Modi. It wants aggressive government. Modi will deliver. But his target will not be Muslims, as many have predicted. It will be anybody who resists massive industrialisation (3,080 words)

The Moment For Greece To Default

The Greek economy is far from recovering, or rebounding; it has collapsed. Half the population lives on pensions; youth unemployment is over 60%; 90% of households have tax debts they cannot pay; the debt-to-GDP ratio will hit 177% this year. In the short-run the country is solvent because no debt is falling due. But in the long-run it is doomed — unless it can restructure. So now would be a good time to default (Metered) (900 words)

Britain On The Low Road To Break-Up

Support for Scottish independence is rising ahead of September’s referendum. Britain is “sleepwalking towards a break-up of the union”. Alex Salmond’s Scottish Nationalists have have pitched their populist appeal well, and won the trust of voters. They may still lag in the polls, but they are catching up, and the momentum is with them. History may remember David Cameron as the last prime minister of Great Britain (Metered) (1,100 words)

Leaving Afghanistan

Some good news from Afghanistan as Western troops withdraw. The presidential election went smoothly; turnout was heavy; the winner looks likely to be former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, who is well-qualified if “super-temperamental”. According to a friend: “He is the sort of man who could easily order an execution in a fit of anger one evening, and deeply regret it when he calms down the following morning” (4,400 words)

How Western Is Germany? Pick of the day

Germany’s ties to Russia go deep; deeper than Germany could acknowledge in the post-war decades while it was anchoring itself into the European Union. But even the Second World War now counts as shared history binding Germany and Russia. A new East-West crisis may find Germany choosing, if not Russia’s side, then a position somewhere in the middle. Because, whatever happens, Germany will never attack Russia again (2,390 words)

Ukraine, Putin And The West

If you have read nothing about Ukraine and Russia in the past six months, and would like to be brought up to date, this is a piece you should read. And if, per contra, you have read everything, but have trouble fitting the bits together, then again, this is a piece you should read. It argues, in brief, that America helped bring about the crisis in Ukraine by thoughtlessly caricaturing and humiliating Vladimir Putin (3,880 words)

Modi Will Bring Trouble

Narendra Modi is “potentially big trouble” if, as seems highly likely, Indians choose him as their next prime minister. He is a “populist” who promises more than he delivers; he is a “hard-edged Hindu nationalist” who “rides roughshod over Muslim sensibilities”. He will polarise and agitate his own country. He will create new tensions with Pakistan and China. India is “embarking on a sea change” for the worse (Hard) (800 words)

Scots Can Be Sterling Squatters

An independent Scotland will not need England’s permission to go on using Sterling if it chooses to do so. Scottish banks can continue printing Scottish pound notes backed by English pounds. Private contracts can be made in any currency. The Bank of England would no longer be lender of last resort; but 82% of the Scottish banking system is foreign-owned, so let the banks look after themselves (Metered) (820 words)

I Watched Russian State Television Pick of the day

If you are wondering what Russians at home make of their country’s adventures in Ukraine, here’s part of the answer: They are hearing a completely different story, one in which Russia rescues decent Ukrainians from marauding Nazis, sacrilegious feminists and scheming Poles. According to Russian television it’s all a bit like 1812, when Russia drove back Napoleon’s army and brought peace to Europe (1,320 words)

Israel: Sheldon Is Iran’s Best Friend

Iran hopes to ruin Israel by keeping it enmeshed in low-intensity warfare in the occupied territories: “The more Israel is stuck there, the more Palestinians and the world will demand a one-state solution,” What’s ironic is that American pro-Israel hawks, such as gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, have much the same strategy, if different ambitions. They are Iran’s allies; they destroy the thing they love (Metered) (968 words)

Can Anyone Stop Narendra Modi?

The man most likely to become India’s next prime minister has a long shadow over his past. As chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 Modi, a “lifelong Hindu nationalist”, was accused of “allowing or even abetting” riots in which Hindus slaughtered more than 1,000 Muslims. He may have changed since then, as his more enlightened defenders claim. If elected, he may govern India well. But India deserves better (Metered) (1,070 words)

Putin’s World

Krastev is the best analyst of modern Russia bar none. Here’s his key point: “The West has no idea what Russia is willing to do, but Russia knows exactly what the West will – and, more important, will not – do. This has created a dangerous asymmetry.” Russia’s project for Ukraine is to make it like Bosnia: Technically a single country, but radically federalised, with one part owing primary allegiance to the country next door (840 words)

Japan’s Russian Dilemma

Important and interesting. Former defence minister gives Japanese perspective on Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Pre-Crimea, Japan had been hoping to charm Russia into discussing the Kuril Islands, occupied by Russia and claimed by Japan. Post-Crimea, Japan is one of Russia’s fiercest critics. It wants Russia out of Crimea, for fear that successful Russian expansionism will set a precedent for China (930 words)

Israeli Sniper Looks Into The Crosshairs Pick of the day

IDF sharpshooter tells of mission to disable “The Shamen”, a Palestinian militant, with a bullet to the leg. “It is 10 times harder to shoot someone in the leg than to simply kill him. The leg is narrow, easily concealed by the land, and always moving. And I could have always shot above the leg and claimed it was an accident. No one would have known. It’s ironic how much effort we put into not killing these men” (4,550 words)

Why Henry Kissinger Never Goes Away

Whatever the international crisis, you can rely on Henry Kissinger to “caution against the rashness of humanitarian intervention and admonish the White House to avoid disrupting the international order”. Accruing evidence of his own past “complicity in mass slaughter”, so far from disgracing him, strengthens his credentials as the avatar of a “relentlessly cynical American perspective on the rest of the world” (710 words)

Interview: Michael Hayden

Former NSA and CIA boss discusses surveillance after Snowden. “It has become harder for American services to cooperate with friendly services with common goals. What foreign service would want to cooperate with us, given our absolute seeming inability to keep anything secret?” Bugging Merkel’s phone was a serious mistake: “Shame on us”. But bugging Schroeder’s would have been understandable (2,900 words)

What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden

Sensational story. Pakistan’s duplicity is much suspected but rarely so well explained. Its intelligence service hid and protected Osama bin Laden. Its top generals and Al Qaeda jointly murdered Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan nurtures the Taliban as a “proxy force” to “eventually dominate Afghanistan”. America knows the truth but keeps it under wraps “for fear of setting off a greater confrontation” (Metered paywall) (5,000 words)

A Conversation With Vladimir Lorchenkov

Moldovan novelist talks about his homeland. Entertaining throughout. “If Moldovans spent all their efforts to leave Moldova on creating a normal state instead, they would be living in paradise … For Moldovans, it is easier to disguise a crack in the wall by the flag of the European Union than it is to fix this crack … In Moldova, writers write in Romanian or in Russian. It does not matter, because their books are not read here” (2,900 words)

Vladimir Putin, International Lawyer

Posner fisks Putin’s speech to the Russian Duma on the referendum in Crimea, and finds it legally astute, if politically disingenuous, and at points mendacious. “The subtext, I think, is that the United States claims for itself as a great power a license to disregard international law that binds everyone else, and Russia will do the same in its sphere of influence where the United States cannot compete with it” (1,120 words)

Malaysian Airlines MH370 Contact Lost

If you are following the Malaysian Airlines missing-plane mystery, you may want to dip into this message board. I’ve linked to the most recent page of discussion as of Saturday morning, but naturally, the thread is growing hour by hour; and no real news as yet. From a recent post: “Is it plausible that, after seven days we still do not know what ocean (or land mass) this aircraft is in, and we may never know? Unfortunately, Yes”

After Action Report

An American armoured vehicle is ambushed in Iraq; the soldiers return fire; tragedy ensues. Powerful tale extracted from Redeployment, a collection of short stories by Phil Klay, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Anbar province. Dexter Filkins of the New York Times called Klay’s book “the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls”. NB: As you might expect, much strong language and violence (5,940 words)

Ukraine: The Do-Somethings Will Do Nothing

However sated you are with writing about Crimea, find room for this jagged, sparkling polemic against intervention: “The West is agreed on the Ukraine crisis. It agrees that something must be done, and it agrees that nothing can be done. Paradox is the stuff of foreign policy. It produces summits, holds conferences, forms and reforms contact groups … Some people just cannot bear to be left out of a fight” (1,120 words)

Let Crimea Go

The Russian-sponsored referendum on sovereignty over Crimea is “underhanded, dishonest, absurd — and completely legitimate”. If Crimeans “vote overwhelmingly to join Russia”, then any Western effort to stop them will be seen as “a violation of their right to self-determination”. The West can “sympathize with Ukraine”; but Ukraine’s title to Crimea is recent, whereas Crimea’s ties to Russia “go back centuries” (1,200 words)

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