Russian dolls

by Maria on November 24, 2006

In Europe, we’re having to re-evaluate and re-negotiate our relationship with Russia. Not easy, when you consider that Russia’s ‘relationships’ with its Near Abroad – the very countries whose love the EU hopes to earn using soft power and economic enticement – are toxic, violent and dysfunctional. Russia truly is the jealous wifebeater of eastern Europe and central Asia.

From the outside, Russia looks like a poisonous nest of oligarchs, ex-spies, energy tycoons who are both oligarchs and ex-spies, and an increasingly indifferent populace and authoritarian centre. We watch but don’t understand as their poisonous games are played out in London football clubs and sushi bars. And we can see the power games Russia plays to try to isolate or simply antagonise former Soviet and now EU states (and also how states like Poland rather clumsily try to use the EU to retaliate). But there’s so much long history and bad blood, that most Europeans can’t really understand what’s going on.

So, with Christmas stockings in mind, what are the best new books/sources in English on modern Russia? (or in French) And any on the ex-Soviet new member states and their relations with Russia?

More generally, how do we Europeans come to terms with a resurgent Russia (without the Germans breaking ranks)? Should we continue to woo the Near Abroad? Even when it’s clear the Belarussians are only courting us to wind up Putin, and we’ve wrongly encouraged the Georgians to believe they’re not on their own?

Big questions for a Friday afternoon. But maybe while CT’s US readers are sleeping off the turkey, some of the rest of us can think about how Europe in particular needs to approach Russia.

Downing Street Memos Down Under

by John Quiggin on November 24, 2006

Australia now has its own version of the Downing Street memos, dating back to 28 February 2002. That’s when Trevor Flugge, Chairman of our (massively corrupt) grain trading monopoly AWB was told of the invasion of Iraq, and of Australia’s planned participation by our Ambassador to the UN*, John Dauth who even predicted that readmitting weapons inspectors would only produce a short delay.

This adds yet another layer of deception to what was already an amazing story of duplicity.

* The official line from our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is that Dauth was just making a lucky guess.

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