THE POISONING in London of the former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko confirms what we already know: that it is dangerous to criticise the Kremlin. It comes less than a month after the shooting in Moscow of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who tirelessly exposed Russian atrocities in Chechnya. Paul Klebnikov, another crusading journalist, was shot dead in 2004.
THERE IS no doubt that Western opinion is being softened up for a US or Israeli strike against the Iranian centrifuges at Natanz. “Can anyone within range of Iran’s missiles feel safe?”, screams a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, displaying a map of the Eurasian land mass with Iran at its centre.
THERE ARE TWO competing visions of international relations. On the one side is the Blair-Bush “new” doctrine, which links world security to the spread of Western values. On the other side is the traditional doctrine of national sovereignty, which precludes intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. In between wobbles the United Nations, whose charter commits it to uphold non-intervention, but which is pulled to the intervention by the present sentiment of its most powerful Western members.
CLEVER ELSIE, soon to be married to Hans, was sent down to the cellar by her mother to get some beer. She saw a pickaxe above her which had been forgotten by the masons. Clever Elsie was paralysed by the thought that “if I should marry Hans and we should get a little baby, and he grows up and we send him down to draw some beer, that pickaxe might suddenly fall down on his head and kill him”.
LIBERALS ON both sides of the Atlantic are dismayed by President Bush’s nomination of the arch-hawk John Bolton as US representative to the UN. They are wrong; Bolton’s appointment may give the UN just the shot in the arm it needs. It promises serious US interest in UN reform; it challenges the UN to get serious.
On 17 October the people of Belarus will be asked to approve a constitutional change allowing their President, Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko, a third term. No one doubts the result. As Joseph Stalin once said: ‘It’s not how people vote that matters, it’s who counts the votes’.
Sir, There have always been two main areas of uncertainty relevant to current policy towards Iraq (letters, February 8, etc). First, how much weaponry of mass destruction (including means of delivery) does Saddam Hussein possess? Secondly, how much damage can he do with an arsenal of such weapons?