Ian Williams

China’s Arctic ambitions should trouble the West

Four Chinese warships were spotted off the coast of Alaska last weekend. According to the US coast guard, the ships were in the Bering Sea around 124 miles from the Aleutian Islands. They were inside America’s exclusive economic zone, which extends to 200 miles, but within international waters. ‘We met presence with presence to ensure there were no disruptions to US interests,’ said a coastguard commander, as he monitored their progress. The Chinese were within their rights to be there, but the uneasy standoff was another example of Beijing boosting its presence around the Arctic. One of Russia’s leading Arctic scientists, was arrested and charged with treason This time they

Mark Galeotti

Why the plot to kill Putin would be a mistake

Is the assassination of Vladimir Putin the answer to ending the war in Ukraine? A collection of émigré Russians who have declared themselves the ‘Congress of People’s Deputies’ and a Russian parliament in opposition have called for the West not only to support them in a campaign to overthrow Vladimir Putin, but actively to play a role. This would be a serious mistake. At a recent gathering in Warsaw, these émigrés, all of whom at some point or another had previously been elected as parliamentarians in Russia, agreed their ‘victory plan,’ a seven-point programme, due to be presented during Nato’s forthcoming Washington summit. Their fundamental view is that the war

Mark Rutte can’t rescue Nato

No-one really thought that Klaus Iohannis, Romania’s president since 2014, was going to be the next secretary general of Nato. Iohannis put himself forward in March as a candidate who would bring a new perspective to the leadership of the alliance, but it was never a plausible bid. When Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defence announced last week that Iohannis was withdrawing his name, it removed the last obstacle for Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, to be anointed. Rutte is the ultimate technocrat. Pending formal confirmation, Rutte will take office as 14th secretary general of Nato on 1 October 2024, succeeding Jens Stoltenberg of Norway who has served for

Lisa Haseldine

Who will Russia blame for the Dagestan shootings?

Twenty people have been killed – including 15 police officers and a priest – following two coordinated gun attacks in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan. The attacks began simultaneously at approximately 6pm local time yesterday in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala, with the groups targeting two synagogues and two churches. In Makhachkala, the assailants also opened fire on a traffic police checkpoint. According to the Dagestani authorities, at least 46 people have been injured, although unconfirmed reports suggest the true number may be higher. The church and synagogue targeted in Derbent have both burnt down. There has been little pressure on the Russian security forces to identify and neutralise Islamist terror threats Overnight, the Russian authorities

Matt Ridley, William Cook, Owen Matthews and Agnes Poirier

28 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Matt Ridley argues that whoever you vote for, the blob wins (1:02); William Cook reads his Euros notebook from Germany (12:35); Owen Matthews reports on President Zelensky’s peace summit (16:21); and, reviewing Michael Peel’s new book ‘What everyone knows about Britain’, Agnes Poirier ponders if only Britain knew how it was viewed abroad (22:28).  Presented by Patrick Gibbons.  

Why Kim Jong Un is rolling out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin

When Vladimir Putin lands in Pyongyang today on his first visit to North Korea in 24 years, it will be the second time he has met his fellow dictator, Kim Jong Un, in under a year. Even if the summit simply brings more bright lights and signatures, it would be a mistake to dismiss the trip as mere showmanship. The message from the two leaders will be clear: an anti-Western coalition is not merely a fiction, but a worrying reality. Back in 2000, North Korea was six years away from conducting its first – albeit far from successful – nuclear test and struggling to recover from a devastating self-induced famine.

Patience is running out with Nato in the Baltic states

You can’t miss the vast banner emblazoned on the high-rise building overlooking central Vilnius. It reads: PUTIN, THE HAGUE IS WAITING FOR YOU. Not one to mince their words, the Lithuanians. And neither are the Latvians or Estonians. In the face of an increasingly menacing Kremlin, the Baltic states – on Nato’s front line against Russian aggression – display an in-your-face bravado, which nevertheless overlays a palpable unease about the future. Many thousands disappeared into its bowels, never to be seen by their families again The threat posed to them by Russia was the issue which dominated much of the debate in the Baltic countries during the lead-up to the

Mark Galeotti

Why is Putin still so desperate for western validation?

Everyone loves Russia, or at least echoes its talking points – if you believe the country’s state media. Why should it be so important for Vladimir Putin, who tries to appear impervious to foreign criticism, to magnify any seemingly supporting words? It underlines a centuries-old insecurity at the heart of Russia There was a distinct absence of western guests at last week’s St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), once Russia’s shop window for investment and trade deals and nicknamed the ‘Russian Davos’. There was the Hungarian foreign minister (who presented attending as an act of maverick courage), but otherwise the main dignitaries there came from the Global South – or

How Putin plans to fund a forever war in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s costly war in Ukraine has transformed Russia as the president has forced the country to pivot onto a war footing to support it. Now, going a step further, Russia is embarking on a significant tax regime overhaul, a move that hasn’t been seen in almost a quarter of a century. The tax shake-up will allow the Kremlin to further prioritise military spending as it attempts to keep its invasion going. In the early years of Putin’s rule, Russia sought to attract a lot of foreign investment, boost the number of small and medium-sized businesses, grow the middle class and encourage them to spend. As a result, in the 2000s, private investments

A short history of cricket in Ukraine

Since the start of Vladimir Putin’s cold-blooded invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the stories and images being broadcast from the country are horrifying. War is gutting Ukrainians’ lives, but the ambitious and quirky place where I have lived and worked is still there. Many people are surprised, for example, to learn that Ukraine has several cricket teams. The father of cricket in Ukraine is a man named Hardeep Singh, who brought the game to the city of Kharkiv in 1993. After first arranging hit-arounds in local parks, where he and other expats from India could stave off homesickness, Singh went on to create a cricket league with several teams. If

Putin’s purge of his top generals

In the past month, Vladimir Putin has had five top generals arrested on corruption charges. More are likely to follow in what looks like a gathering purge by the Federal Security Service (FSB). ‘There is a fierce clean-up under way,’ a source close to the Kremlin told the Moscow Times last week. ‘There is still a long way to go before the purges are finished. More arrests await us.’ Without doubt, the FSB will find plenty of the corruption it’s looking for. Timur Ivanov, Russia’s deputy defence minister – the first senior general arrested – was hardly shy about flaunting his wealth. If embezzlement and bribery are suddenly impermissible, no

Michael Simmons

Quentin Letts, Owen Matthews, Michael Hann, Laura Gascoigne, and Michael Simmons

31 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Quentin Letts takes us through his diary for the week (1:12); Owen Matthews details the shadow fleet helping Russia to evade sanctions (7:15); Michael Hann reports on the country music revival (15:05); Laura Gascoigne reviews exhibitions at the Tate Britain and at Studio Voltaire (21:20); and, Michael Simmons provides his notes on the post-pub stable, the doner kebab (26:20). Produced by Patrick Gibbons and Oscar Edmondson.  

Are we heading for a new Cold War in Antarctica?

Russia’s reported discovery of 510 billion barrels of oil in Antarctica has led to warnings of a new ‘Cold War’ of sorts. ‘Russia could rip up a decades-old treaty and claim oil-rich Antarctic land,’ Yahoo News told its readers. The Daily Telegraph said ‘Russia (has) sparked fears of an oil grab in British Antarctic territory’. Russia is a major polar player The reaction to the find – which was made in evidence submitted to the House of Commons Environment Audit Committee – suggested there was potential for conflict. Some of this alleged oil is thought to be in the Weddell Sea, a remote body of water that happens to be

Ian Williams

Putin and Xi’s anti-West alliance is strengthening

The visit by Russian president Vladimir Putin to the north-eastern Chinese city of Harbin today was no doubt designed as a symbol of the tightening economic relationship between the two countries. Harbin is a gateway for their burgeoning trade; the Russian leader was there to open a China-Russia expo. In the minds of many Chinese nationalists, though, Harbin has far darker symbolism. ‘Little Moscow’, as the city is sometimes called, was established by Russian settlers at the end of the nineteenth century and was the administrative centre of the Russian-built Chinese Eastern Railway. This was an imperialist project to give Russia a shortcut to Vladivostok and the Russian Far East,

Russia and China have never been equal partners

Barely a week after inaugurating himself as president once again, Vladimir Putin has gone to China – his first foreign trip of his new term. He is accompanied by a rarely seen entourage of all the principal ministers of state, the head of the Russian central bank, leading industrialists and top managers of state-controlled companies.  Along with all the pomp and grandeur laid on by the Chinese, this cast list provides a handy illustration of the deepening friendship and cooperation between the two superpowers. Moscow and Beijing have a history of ‘eternal friendship’. But Russia and China have never truly been equal partners in their friendship with benefits. Putin and

Is Andrei Belousov Russia’s Albert Speer?

President Vladimir Putin’s appointment of the civilian economist Andrei Belousov as Russia’s defence minister in the third year of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine is bad news for Kyiv and its allies. Replacing the unpopular Sergei Shoigu with Belousov marks a clear shift in Putin’s strategy: he views the war as a battle of economic attrition.  There is hardly anyone better suited for the job than Belousov. A Soviet-trained economist, he cut his teeth in academia before joining the government just months before Putin became prime minister in 1999. Since then, he has climbed through the ranks to become Putin’s economic advisor and, from 2020, the First Deputy Prime Minister, overseeing

Lisa Haseldine

Sergei Shoigu out as Russia’s defence minister

It’s reshuffle time in Moscow and it seems that Sergei Shoigu, who has served as Vladimir Putin’s defence minister for the last 12 years, is out. He’s being replaced with Andrei Belousov, an academic economist who has been advising Putin for 20 years and spent the last four as deputy prime minister. It’s a surprise appointment given Belousov’s lack of military experience. Sergei Lavrov, 74, stays as foreign minister, as does Valery Gerasimov, 68, head of the army. Rumours had been swirling about the demotion of Shoigu, 68, for some time, especially after one of his deputies and close allies, Timur Ivanov, was last month thrown in jail pending trial for

Cindy Yu

Slavoj Zizek, Angus Colwell, Svitlana Morenets, Cindy Yu, and Philip Hensher

32 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud: Philosopher Slavoj Zizek takes us through his diary including his Britney Spears Theory of Action (1:08); Angus Colwell reports from the front line of the pro-Palestinian student protests (8:09); Svitlana Morenets provides an update on what’s going on in Georgia, where tensions between pro-EU and pro-Russian factions are heading to a crunch point (13:51); Cindy Yu analyses President Xi’s visit to Europe and asks whether the Chinese leader can keep his few European allies on side (20:52); and, Philip Hensher proposes banning fun runs as a potential vote winner (26:01).  Produced by Patrick Gibbons and Oscar Edmondson.

Why is Russia’s economy booming despite sanctions?

Over two years on from the invasion of Ukraine, Russia is the most sanctioned nation in the world. And yet the country’s economy is set to grow faster than any G7 democracy this year. How is this possible? Back in 2022, Boris Johnson vowed to ‘squeeze Russia from the global economy piece by piece, day by day and week by week’. President Joe Biden promised that sanctions would ‘impose a severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time’. Russians are spending more on restaurants, white goods, and even property – they have never had it so good Yet these dire warnings never materialised: Russia’s economy has proved resilient in the

Lisa Haseldine

In Putin’s Russia, Victory Day is no longer about 1945

Stepping out onto Red Square for today’s Victory Day parade in Moscow, it was clear to see that Vladimir Putin was in a good mood. Arms swinging with almost comic vigour as he walked, he sat down in the stands above Lenin’s mausoleum with a smug smile on his face. The pathetic fallacy of the flurries of snow on this uncharacteristically cold day were not going to interfere with his glee. The Russian president has reason to be cheerful: two days ago, he indulged in his fifth inauguration ceremony in the Kremlin, handing himself another six years in power. The war in Ukraine is currently working in his favour; Ukraine

Lisa Haseldine

Putin’s next six years in power spell more repression for Russia

Amidst the golden splendour of the Kremlin’s Hall of the Order of St Andrew, Vladimir Putin was once again inaugurated as president of Russia this morning. But while today’s event was in many ways a carbon copy of the ceremony that has taken place five times now since 2000, it marks a significant watershed in the history of Putin’s rule: for the first time since assuming power 24 years ago, his leadership can no longer be considered constitutionally legal. Technicalities such as this, though, matter little to Putin. Taking to the podium in the hall that once served as the throne room to the Tsars of Russia, Putin placed his hand on a specially-bound

What’s the truth about Ramzan Kadyrov’s ‘terminal illness’?

Is Ramzan Kadyrov dying? The independent Russian-language publication Novaya Gazeta recently published an investigation in which it claimed Kadyrov was terminally ill, suffering from pancreatic necrosis. Putin’s ally, it claimed, may not have long to live and it cited a long list of evidence to back up its claim.  Throughout his rule, Kadyrov and his cronies have committed many crimes to shore up their power, and have enjoyed the Kremlin’s protection throughout. But even Putin’s patronage cannot protect Kadyrov from his own mortality. Kadyrov appears to be doing his best to ensure that his family is well placed after his death The Chechen ruler’s health, judging just from his appearance, is clearly failing. Recent videos published