Notebook

central asia Kazakhstan russia

Kazakhstan’s Russia problem

Central Asian state leaders have been visibly unnerved by the invasion of Ukraine, and China has been all too happy to comfort them. However, should Russia succeed, its former allies in Central Asia will likely pay a heavy price.

russia reinforcements

Putin sees himself as engaged in an existential war with the West

The most important strategic decision a wartime leader must make is determining the nature of the war they are fighting. With Putin’s most recent announcement, it looks ever more as though Moscow sees the conflict in Ukraine as part of an existential struggle against the West.

kharkiv offensive

Ukraine’s success in Kharkiv forced Putin’s hand

While the announcement of Russia’s mobilisation has lengthened the dark tunnel of war, the light of Ukrainian victory still glows. Ukraine’s army must exploit its momentum before the arrival of Russian reinforcements.

Elizabeth II meets Paddington bear

Her Great Quality

Elizabeth II’s playful sense of humour brought us fleeting glimpses of her unguarded private side. No wonder we clung to them.

Postage stamp of Queen Elizabeth I

The two Elizabeths

Very few monarchs have been so widely adored as Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II. Perhaps it is because they placed love at the centre of their relationship with their subjects.

queen at balmoral

Elizabeth the Dutiful

If you were to attach one descriptive word to Queen Elizabeth, as in Alfred the Great or William the Conqueror, it would be dutiful.

wage earner fund sweden

What pushed Sweden away from socialism?

Sweden’s radical economic policies during the Cold War decades inspired socialists worldwide. However, its wage earner funds found little support and instead generated a new vision of Sweden, a society centred on free market principles rather than collectives.

butterfly ukraine

Missing the swallowtail butterflies of Ukraine

In the teeth of Russian assault, we think of Ukraine as the borderland, the bloodlands, Europe’s cursed killing ground. But no-one mentions Ukraine’s extraordinary natural beauty.

Pieter Bruegel

Bruegel had a Worldview

The prolific paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder may be familiar, but a closer look at the artist’s philosophy reveals he remains defiantly counter-cultural.

reagan and gorbachev

Gorbachev did not end the Cold War alone — the West won

Gorbachev decided to fold up the Soviet Union without a military confrontation, for which he certainly deserves praise, but to present him as a man who ended the evil of European Communism out of a deliberate choice is a misreading of history, and one designed to minimise to essential contributions of Reagan and Thatcher.

salman rushdie fatwa

A brief history of the fatwa

The role of fatwas provides a dark insight into the relationship between Iranian religion and politics over the past century.

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