Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
Back when most of today's Western decision-makers were in college, Sting had a hit song with “Russians.” It began:
In Europe and America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr. Khrushchev said we will bury you
I don't subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too
It sometimes seems that most Western analysis of Russia has the sophistication of this song.
The simplicity of the idea that all humans are essentially the same, and that a common understanding is thus always within reach, is seductive. Its appeal stems from the fact that few things are harder than knowing someone whose views of the world are profoundly different from yours. This is why it has been so difficult for a veritable army of Western experts to explain or predict Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior.
Since Russia annexed Crimea in March, a narrative has emerged in the West that seems to provide a basis for understanding and negotiating with Putin. According to it, Russia is pursuing its strategic interest in keeping Ukraine unallied with the West because it needs a “buffer zone” between itself and members of North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
from The Great Debate:
Since Russian troops seized Ukraine's strategic Crimean peninsula in late February, and separatists backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin began waging a bloody insurgency in the country's east, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has walked a fine line.
The transatlantic military alliance has sent hundreds of troops to Ukraine to train alongside Kiev's forces. But at a major summit in early September, NATO declined to offer Ukraine membership. The alliance doesn't really want to go to war over Ukraine.
from The Great Debate:
For more than six months now, since Russia annexed Crimea, Western politicians and analysts have been asking what can make Vladimir Putin stop or retreat. It’s the wrong question, and the policies that have flowed from the resulting debate have been misguided, because they are based on the fallacy that the West can do something to influence Putin's actions.
Putin has always been a master of the public lie, both of the bold-faced variety and the mixed-message variety, and for the last six months he has used this skill to keep the West playing catch-up in Ukraine. It’s a game the West is losing.
It’s ECB day and after Mario Draghi’s recent dramatic utterances, expectation for fresh action has grown, expectations which are likely largely to be dashed.
Draghi told the world’s central banking elite in Jackson Hole last month that market inflation expectations were falling markedly and the European Central Bank would use everything in its power to stabilize them in order to avoid a deflationary spiral. He also ripped up central banking orthodoxy by calling for more fiscal spending by governments at the same time as redoubling economic reform efforts. How to read that?
Barack Obama is in Estonia before the NATO summit in Wales intending to pressure Vladimir Putin to back off in Ukraine. The rhetoric will be strong – not least about protecting the Baltics under NATO’s umbrella.
But with zero chance of western military action in Ukraine the hope is that economic pain via sanctions will bring Moscow to heel. Existing sanctions are clearly hurting the economy – the rouble has plumbed record lows as capital flees or shuns the country – but that hasn’t stopped Putin so far.
Pro-Russia separatists at talks with representatives from Moscow and the OSCE in Minsk said they would be prepared to stay part of Ukraine if they were granted "special status", which is unlikely to be acceptable to Kiev.
The talks will continue later in the week and come as the Ukrainian military faced a run of reverses on the battlefield which Kiev says have been engineered by the intervention of at least 1,600 Russian combat troops.
Ukraine is nearer the brink with Russian forces now pretty clearly operating over the border. The past week has seen Ukrainian forces flee in the path of a new rebel advance which Kiev and its western allies says has been directly aided by Moscow's forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Sunday for immediate talks on "statehood" for southern and eastern Ukraine, though his spokesman tried to temper those remarks, that following an aggressive public showing in which Putin compared the Kiev government to Nazis and warned the West not to "mess with us".
from John Lloyd:
The world is no longer divided by communism vs. capitalism. But it’s still divided by ideologies that have their clearest expression in the policies of Russia and the United States. That division contrasts liberal and realist views of the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s realist stance has won ground. No country will help Ukraine get Crimea back, which Russia annexed in March. There’s no invitation pending for Ukraine to join the European Union – the more so since the new president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has ruled out any applications for membership for at least five years. And NATO will not rush to admit a nation that it would be pledged to defend from armed incursion.
Financial markets perked up on Monday after Russia called off military exercises near the Ukraine border but was the confidence well founded?
NATO’s chief told Reuters there was a "high probability" Russia could launch an invasion of Ukraine where the government said it was in the "final stages" of recapturing Donetsk, the main city held by pro-Russian rebels, a battle that could be a decisive turning point in the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
A reminder that while the euro zone crisis may be in abeyance, it still has the ability to bite.
Portugal will blow 4.4 billion euros of the 6.4 billion euros left from Lisbon’s recently exited international bailout programme shoring up troubled lender Banco Espirito Santo which will be split into "bad" and "good" banks. Junior bondholders and shareholders will be heavily hit.