Russia

Compare the high drama of the Poland-Russia game with the organized tedium of the meeting between France and England. (Never mind the army of Russian nationalists marauding in the streets of Warsaw or the local patriots standing in their way, the police keeping the two groups of drunken patriots apart. That's been done: English fans have patriotically tottered down the streets of the world and clashed with local population and police.) I'm talking about the game in which teams seem to abandon all tactical consideration and attack, as was the case today with the Poles, thereby risking defeat.

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The Need to Lead

Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global PowerBy Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic Books, 208 pp., $26)  When it comes to offering a vision to guide American foreign policy, Zbigniew Brzezinski’s latest book, unlike so much other literature of this type, refuses to lament or exaggerate the alleged decline in American power and influence. Instead Strategic Vision offers a kind of blueprint—a path that Washington must take, in Brzezinski’s view, to ensure a secure international order, in which free markets and democratic principles can thrive.

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Elena I Wish  Naturalism lives. If Zola were a Russian in Russia today, he might have written Elena. Zola being absent, the director Andrei Zvyagintsev has written this screenplay with Oleg Negin, looking at lives with that combination of candor and regret that marks the best naturalist work. This approach in itself is a novelty in Russian films. Another is the milieu. The history of naturalism is closely woven with suffering, with the impulse to inform the disregarding world of social or economic oppression.

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Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life By Lev Loseff Translated by Jane Ann Miller (Yale University Press, 333 pp., $22) Joseph Brodsky caught the attention of the outside world for the first time in 1964, when he was tried in Leningrad for the crime of writing poetry. That is not how the indictment read, of course: his “crime” was that he did not have a regular job, and was therefore a “parasite.” But a scurrilous article attacking Brodsky in the Evening Leningrad newspaper not long before his trial gave the game away.

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Maxim Katz is an unlikely Russian politician. There is his Jewish surname, his youthful age of 27, and his long, flowing dark hair. There is also his choice of profession: A former poker national champion, Katz now makes his living by staking promising poker players to big-pot tournament games, in return for a cut of the winnings. He didn’t even live in Russia for an eight-year stretch, from 1993 to 2001, when he resided in Tel Aviv.

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It should have raised red flags when both Syria and Russia approved of Kofi Annan’s February 23 appointment as the United Nations-Arab League Joint Special Envoy (JSE) to Syria. But after bickering world powers repeatedly failed to agree on an emissary to broker an end to the killing spree in which Bashar al-Assad has killed more than 9,000 people, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, was content to laud Annan as “an outstanding choice.” Certainly the Ghana-born Annan comes loaded with credentials: former U.N.

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At two separate events in Washington recently, Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, insisted that it should be a “total no brainer” for Congress to end the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment—which denies normal, unconditional trade to non-market economies that restrict emigration—to Russia. The waning utility of Jackson-Vanik, McFaul claimed, was entirely exhausted by the completion of WTO negotiations.

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Late last year, as the regime of Bashar Assad was continuing its murderous rampage against the people of Syria, the governments of Iran and Russia offered their diplomatic support. But Bashar also received significant practical assistance from a much more unlikely ally: an Italian surveillance firm by the name of Area SpA. Throughout all of 2011, employees of that company were being flown to Damascus to direct Syrian intelligence officers in the installation of a computer system that would allow the Syrian government to scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country.

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Pravda Lite

As international outcry grows alongside the body count in Syria, one news network has taken a decidedly unconventional approach to covering the crisis.

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Rick Santorum’s Catholic faith is an obvious centerpiece of his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, and it is rare for him to speak without referencing his religious beliefs. It is also rare, however, to hear him speak about his particular church, St. Catherine of Siena, which he and his family have belonged to for at least a decade. Even his 2005 manifesto on his personal faith and politics, It Takes a Family, did not mention the church. I was curious to learn more about it, so last Friday morning, I attended a 9 a.m. Mass there. St.

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