Is Russia on track for joining the ‘common European space’? This was the topic of a conference in Vilnius last weekend, organised by the ‘Russia in United Europe’ committee, whose coordinator is Duma deputy, Vladimir Ryzhkov.
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’.
As President Putin chips away at Russian democracy, it is worth being reminded why, in the words of Winston Churchill, democracy is the worst system possible, except for every other.
What did Gordon Brown think of the Iraq war? “We stand full-square with the American government and people in fighting terrorism and will continue to do so,” he declared in 2001. But his support for the prime minister’s Iraq policy was scanty. According to Anthony Seldon, Brown had “serious misgivings.” Had he made his disagreement public, Blair would have fallen. But Brown would not necessarily have inherited the throne, which may explain why he kept quiet.
The American-British invasion of Iraq was supposed to open up a new front in the war against terrorism. Its most obvious fruit, though, has been to open a new front in the terrorist war against Western countries, by adding to the offence of the West against Islam.
With the price of crude oil up from $29 a barrel in 2000 to over $40 now, the world economy is experiencing its fourth oil price shock in the last 30 years. In nominal terms, this is the highest price ever, but in real terms the price of oil remains well below the 1981 peak, when it was equivalent to $72 in 2004 dollars. In the previous shocks, prices came down again, in each case in the wake of a global recession. What will happen this time?
The resumption of capital flight from Russia is a predictable response to the Russian government’s onslaught on the Yukos and Michael Khodorkovsky. It’s a sad time both for investors in Russia, and for all those who still hope that Russia will develop along more or less Western lines. Both the symbols and habits of autocracy are re-establishing themselves. This is not a return to communism. But it may mark a drift back to what the historian Richard Pipes called the ‘patrimonial state’, in which state power is uncontrolled by secure rights of private property.