American Allies Drop Out Drip by Drip
December 07, 2010
I couldn't believe my eyes as I read Alan Cowell's New York Times report this morning that (as of now) 19 countries would not attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo for the imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
December 07, 2010
When faced with a particularly scary, nettlesome problem, there’s a natural tendency in Washington to accentuate the positive and play for time even when the clock has pretty much run out. This is certainly so with Iran’s nuclear program. In this case, U.S. officials have prepared for talks with Iran, China, Russia, and our key European allies by highlighting Iran’s nuclear difficulties.
December 03, 2010
A verdict in the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky—formerly Russia’s richest man and the founder of what was once the country’s largest private company, Yukos—is due to be read on December 15. Yet long before November 2, when Judge Viktor Danilkin of the Moscow Khamovnichesky District Court heard the final statements of prosecution and defense, adjourned the trial, and withdrew to his chambers to deliberate, the Moscow rumor mill had churned out a spate of likely sentences. They range from acquittal to the 14 years that the prosecutors asked for.
Why Wikileaks Is Bad for Progressive Foreign Policy
November 30, 2010
Will the latest Wikileaks dump really matter that much? It’s true, as both Laura Rozen and Kevin Drum have observed, that many of the secret messages don’t seem to reveal big secrets. As Rozen wrote yesterday: one is struck overall that the classified diplomatic discussions on Iran revealed in the cables are not all that different from what one would expect from following the public comments senior U.S.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Day in Court
November 09, 2010
Last Tuesday, in a Moscow courtroom, Mikhail Khodorkovsky—former oil magnate and the once the wealthiest man in Russia—delivered a remarkable speech. Khodorkovsky has been in prison since 2003 and he now faces additional charges that could force him to stay in jail for many more years. In his speech, Khodorkovsky offers a narrative of how any semblance of liberal government was snuffed out in Russia during recent years—and explains how his own fate has become part of this depressing story.
Way Too Big To Fail
November 07, 2010
There were many factors that led us to the financial crisis of 2008—dangerous derivatives, irresponsible ratings agencies, negligent regulators—but one was more important than the rest. We now know it as the “too big to fail” problem. What brought the economy to the edge of disaster wasn’t only that financial institutions had made rash bets on lousy investments, but that those institutions were so massive that when their bets went bad, they threatened to take the rest of the economy down with them.
Is Ballet Over?
October 13, 2010
An excerpt from 'Apollo's Angels.'
The End of the Great Game
October 06, 2010
Has the United States stopped playing the Great Game in Central Asia? In the wake of the destabilizing violence that occurred in Kyrgyzstan this summer, that seems to be the case. The Obama administration reacted slowly when at least 300 people were killed in inter-ethnic fighting in June and Kyrgyzstan seemed on the verge of spiraling out of control.
The Firing of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov
September 28, 2010
Earlier today, Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev fired Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov (see here and here for good news reports). For those of you who don’t closely follow the soap opera that is “As the Kremlin Turns,” here is a quick guide to bring you up to speed: Q) He fired him? I didn’t know mayors could get fired. A) Yes, actually in Russia the president is allowed to fire and appoint the governors of the regions, and Moscow and St.
The Velvet Surrender
September 17, 2010
Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.