While much of Europe slashes spending to reduce deficits, surging oil prices are allowing Russia to splurge. The Kremlin’s choice of stimulus package is a bit of a throwback, though—among other things, a new fleet of warships to challenge China. Last week Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced a whopping $678 billion package of new defense spending for the next decade, with a quarter of the money going to revamp Russia’s Pacific fleet. On the Kremlin’s shopping list: 20 new ships, including a new class of attack submarines, plus new missile subs, frigates, and an aircraft carrier.
The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was so fond of raki that he died of liver disease. But alcohol is becoming the latest battleground in Turkey’s culture wars. New regulations introduced this month by the conservative, Islamic-leaning AK Party government have caused a storm of protest from the imbibing elite.
Look at global economics from a moral point of view, and it’s a story of virtue rewarded. Growth in the West, fueled by easy credit and consumption, collapsed in the 2008 financial crisis. Growth in the East, by contrast, fueled by saving and production, has held steady. But look more carefully, and the reality is that Asia’s legendary culture of saving, while not quite a myth, is fast declining in many places.
The oil tycoon’s second conviction on questionable charges marks a turning point for Russia. Or, to be more precise, proves that those who believed Russia was at a turning point under Dmitry Medvedev are sadly wrong.
The WikiLeaks documents released so far paint a remarkable picture of just how closely the U.S. and Russia have been working on containing Iran. An extremely detailed exchange of views between top U.S. and Russian officials in Washington in February is described in detail.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s lofty rhetoric is at last coming true—to a point. The country’s Federal Migration Service has announced an easing of the Soviet-style registration system that has kept many citizens from living wherever in Russia they choose. The Education Ministry has announced that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago will become required reading in Russian high schools—a dramatic reversal of Putin-era efforts to whitewash Soviet history. And for the first time in years, opposition rallies are being allowed in downtown Moscow. Even the Kremlin’s gray cardinal, Vladislav Surkov—the man behind the creation of the country’s brutish pro-Kremlin youth groups—said he expected the Russian opposition to be elected to power in 10 years’ time, and that he sees Russia’s future as “one of the Western democracies.”
In a visit to London last week, Turkish President Abdullah Gül declared his country to be a bright spot amid Europe’s gloom: “It wouldn’t be surprising if we start talking about BRIC plus T [for Turkey].” The boast was more symptomatic of Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions than its real economic heft—in cash terms, its GDP is only half of Russia’s, the poorest BRIC nation. Still, it’s clear Turkey wants to box above its weight internationally: Gül reaffirmed Turkey’s determination to join the EU, and promised support for a NATO missile-defense system aimed at securing the continent against attack from Tehran.
Dmitry Medvedev has made his name talking up liberal ideas and blasting corrupt bureaucrats. But when his nation’s pride is at stake, Russia’s president sounds like his hard-nosed mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. As Medvedev revealed last week that the 10 Russian spies arrested in the U.S. last June were betrayed by a mole inside Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, and that the turncoat had since fled to America, the usually mild--mannered president added with relish that a “Mercader” had already been sent to deal with the traitor—a chilling reference to Ramón Mercader, the secret agent sent by Joseph Stalin to kill archrival Leon Trotsky with an ice pick.
The recent suicide bombing in Istanbul was a blow to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatening an eight-year run of rising stability and economic growth. Erdogan faces an election next summer in which the Kurdish minority vote will be critical to his AK party, and it looks like Kurdish rebels dispatched the bomber. The main Kurdish party, the PKK, disclaimed any responsibility, but the suspicion is that PKK freelancers may have planted the bomb to strengthen the hand of their imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, in peace talks with the government. Erdogan needs those talks to bear fruit before the vote. So he faces a delicate situation: any concession to the PKK risks cementing its role as the dominant political force in the Kurdish areas, where the AK has growing support, yet incentives and security guarantees will be necessary to bring PKK leaders out of their mountain hideouts and to the peace table. And all bets are off if senior PKK leaders have lost control of rogue...
To this day, many Russians can only wish they had never heard of Afghanistan. But two decades after the Soviet Union’s humiliating pullout, NATO is working to get Russia back into the country. The plan, championed by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, would have Moscow provide helicopters to Afghan and NATO forces, train Afghan national-security forces, and assist in counternarcotics programs and border security.
Two decades after the Soviet Union’s humiliating retreat from Afghanistan, NATO is working to get Russia back into the country to help fight drug trafficking and rebuild Afghan security forces. The deal is championed by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as part of a “new start in the relationship between NATO and Russia.”
On Monday the German-based media company Axel Springer announced the closure of NEWSWEEK RUSSIA, the Russian-language title it had licensed from NEWSWEEK since 2004. It was one of the few independent newsmagazines left in Russia, and its demise marks the end of one of the last bold and critical voices in the country’s increasingly bland and docile media landscape.
After 36 years and more than 40,000 deaths, one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running insurgencies—the separatist struggle of Turkey’s Kurds—could soon be over. Last week Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted that his government was finally negotiating with Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, imprisoned since 1999. Not long ago, such talks would have been political suicide. But Erdogan is riding high after a victory last month in which voters backed his party as it introduced a new constitution pushing the military out of politics. With the Army, traditionally the fiercest opponents of any deals with Kurdish terrorists, on the back foot, Erdogan is now freer to strike a grand bargain with the remains of the PKK.
The Russian political elite has lined up behind the new president, Dmitry Medvedev, rather than the old one, Vladimir Putin.
Moscow’s barrel-chested mayor, Yury Luzhkov, has been a force in Russian politics since 1993, but recently he learned who’s boss. When the -mayor thought he could run a highway through a patch of woodland on the city’s outskirts, Dmitry Medvedev blocked it—and when Luzhkov publicly complained, the Kremlin launched a media campaign accusing the -mayor of corruption, intimidation, and even murder.
Back when there was no tourism but only travel, the rich would take steamers and luxury trains to Constantinople to visit one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. A century later, Istanbul is as international as ever—it’s been named Europe’s Capital of Culture this year—and many of the grand old hotels have new face-lifts, while many boutique hotels are opening in historic buildings.
Yevgeny Chichvarkin once took London by storm. Bounding onto the stage at the Russian Economic Forum four years ago in red sneakers, graffiti-sprayed jeans, and a top that proclaimed that he was MADE IN MOSCOW, the 34-year-old Russian businessman told the elite gathering how he’d grown his Evroset mobile-phone company into a billion-dollar empire in just five years, and that a “new generation of young businesspeople” was “ready to integrate Russia into the world economy.”
Worry is rising over the risk of terrorism at Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics. Last week’s deadly attack on a hydroelectric station in Russia’s deep south only added to the concern. The number of attacks in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus was up 57 percent last year, and unlike the Chechen wars of 1994–2001, these killings have been the work of a bewildering array of rebel groups, some motivated by radical Islam but others by separatism or clan warfare.
It’s not often that Brussels and Moscow see eye to eye on the politics of the former Soviet Union. But both want Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko gone, preferably after elections slated for early 2011. The EU has long criticized Lukashenko for abusing opposition activists and censoring local media.