June 11, 2019

When I was in Moscow three weeks ago I was briefing myself for an interview with the Soviet Union’s last president, Mikhail Gorbachev. As it happened he had to cancel it as he went into hospital for tests. One of the American academics I always read is Gordon Hahn, an ex fellow of the highly regarded Centre for Strategic and International  Studies....

June 4, 2019

I’m on the 250 km/hour train hurtling from Moscow to St Petersburg when it suddenly clicks in my mind. My apologies for being so stupid, but despite regular trips to Russia over many years I have only suddenly got it- I too have been brainwashed about Russia by Western politicians, media and authors, like nearly everyone else.

What I noticed in Mosco...

May 28, 2019

Brexit grabs the attention of much of the world, not least because Britain once had an Empire and ruled a great part of the world’s peoples. And it’s the caretaker of the English language, the Empire’s most important legacy. Add to that the BBC, the world’s favourite and most trusted radio and TV station, its top universities, its production of pop...

May 21, 2019

Amnesty International reported this week that an Iranian lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has been sentenced to 38 years in jail and 148 lashes. She has dedicated her life to defending women accused of removing their hijabs in public. The persecution of human rights dissidents in Iran appears to be getting worse.

It makes it harder to feel sorry for Iran, ev...

May 14, 2019

Maybe, after all, there is an argument for saying that the world needs more violence not less if we are to make its societies more equal. This is one conclusion one can derive from Walter Scheidel’s new book, The Great Leveler.

He starts from what we all know by now: the richest 62 persons in the world own as much net wealth as the poorer half of hum...

May 7, 2019

Do we, especially our politicians and media, focus more on threats than on opportunities, dwell on loses more than on gains, and learn more from past failures than from successes?

When we are children we are frightened of bogeymen. When we are adults we often inflate dangers.

When two years ago Steven Pinker published his book telling us how the numbe...

April 23, 2019

Traditionally old men have sent young men to fight the wars they have started. Today it may be somewhat different. Old men may be shying away from war while young men are still beholden to it.

The world, as never before, is becoming demographically lopsided, with older people concentrated in rich countries and the young in not-so-rich countries. Thes...

April 16, 2019

Conversation with Manmohan Singh, was always fascinating at the time he was prime minister of India. It was difficult to challenge his superior intellect. He could, in his calm, disciplined way, out-argue anyone. He saw where India was going with a degree of exactness that dwarfed other observers. On the economic front it was, for his Congress Party...

April 9, 2019

“Since the days of the Roman Empire”, Daniel Kalder wrote in his book “The Infernal Library”, “dictators have written books, but in the twentieth century there was a Krakatoa-like eruption of despotic verbiage, which continues flowing to this day.”

It’s a strange thing but true that many dictators began their working lives as writers “which probably...

April 2, 2019

The International Criminal Court (ICC) which prosecutes crimes against humanity is under attack again by the Trump Administration for pursuing Americans. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama supported it.  George W. Bush tried to close it down but then decided to cooperate with it. Donald Trump is against it and encouraged John Bolton, his National Securit...

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