This Week’s Top 5 Picks in International History and Diplomacy

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, March 22, 2013.

(Photo: AFP)

Has a New Cold War Really Begun? (£)

Odd Arne Westad

Foreign Affairs

For about four years now, since Russia’s occupation of Crimea and China’s launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, there has been much speculation about whether another Cold War between East and West is coming. In the last month alone, headlines have proclaimed that “The New Cold War Is Here,” heralded “Putin’s New Cold War,” and warned that “Trump Is Preparing for a New Cold War.” But are we really returning to the past? Contemporary politics is full of false analogies, and the return of the Cold War seems to be one of them.

At its peak, the Cold War was a global system of countries centered on the United States and the Soviet Union. It did not determine everything that was going on in the world of international affairs, but it influenced most things. At its core was an ideological contest between capitalism and socialism that had been going on throughout the twentieth century, with each side fervently dedicated to its system of economics and governance. It was a bipolar system of total victory or total defeat, in which neither of the main protagonists could envisage a lasting compromise with the other. The Cold War was intense, categorical, and highly dangerous: strategic nuclear weapons systems were intended to destroy the superpower opponent, even at a cost of devastating half the world. (Read more)


The ISIS Files

New York Times

MOSUL, Iraq — Weeks after the militants seized the city, as fighters roamed the streets and religious extremists rewrote the laws, an order rang out from the loudspeakers of local mosques.

Public servants, the speakers blared, were to report to their former offices.

To make sure every government worker got the message, the militants followed up with phone calls to supervisors. When one tried to beg off, citing a back injury, he was told: “If you don’t show up, we’ll come and break your back ourselves.” (Read more)


The Left’s Embrace of Empire

Lyle Jeremy Rubin

The Nation

Bret Stephens, arguably the most hawkish voice at The Wall Street Journal throughout the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, now occupies an even more prominent perch at The New York Times. Bari Weiss, also formerly of the Journal, has also moved to the Times, despite a history of smearing Muslim and Arab professors. And Max Boot, yet another Journal veteran, has been rewarded with columnist status at The Washington Post for his intrepid defense of America’s wars. A similar pattern can be discerned across network television and public radio, where proponents of American hegemony—ranging from former Bush speechwriter David Frum to founder of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol to editor in chief of The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg to former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and a daunting litany of national-security-state officials—are presented as wise sages. (Read more)


Britain sees the Commonwealth as its trading empire. It is sadly deluded

Ian Jack

The Guardian

Early April, 2018. In Brisbane a cheeky radio interviewer asks Prince Charles if he really does carry a personal lavatory seat on his travels, and the prince replies, “Oh, don’t believe all that crap.” Elsewhere in the Queensland capital, India win gold in the women’s weightlifting and lose to Cameroon in the men’s basketball. At Buckingham Palace, a menu is drawn up for a banquet to be attended later this month by 53 heads of state or their representatives. In Whitehall, the Department for International Trade ponders the effects on British farming of hormone-treated beef imports from Australia, which is a probable consequence of the UK’s first post-Brexit trade deal. (Read more)


Russia’s $55bn pipeline gamble on China’s demand for gas (£)

Henry Foy

Financial Times

The bright afternoon January sun offers little respite from the minus 40C temperature for the pipeline construction workers crunching through the snow in Russia’s Far East region.

In the sprawling pine forests of the country’s eastern wilderness, the cold air burns cheeks and catches in throats, as the thick, grey exhaust fumes from the colossal earthmoving diggers hang like clumps of candyfloss.

The four-dozen engineers near the town of Neryungri are part of an 8,500 crew working all-year round to build Gazprom’s Power of Siberia, a 3,000km pipeline that runs from the gasfields of eastern Siberia to the Chinese border in the south-east.

The pipeline is Russia’s most ambitious, costly and geopolitically critical energy project since the fall of the Soviet Union, and represents a $55bn bet on uncharted territory by the world’s biggest gas company. (Read more)

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