China’s vendetta against Nato

46 min listen

Last week, President Xi Jinping visited Serbia. An unexpected destination, you might think, but in fact the links between Beijing and Belgrade go back decades. One event, in particular, has linked the two countries – and became a seminal moment in how the Chinese remember their history. In 1999, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed by US-led Nato forces. Three Chinese nationals died. An accident, the Americans insisted, but few Chinese believed it then, and few do today. The event is still remembered in China, but now, little talked about in the West. Xi’s visit was timed to the 25th anniversary of the bombing itself. ‘The China-Serbia friendship, forged

The cost of European peace

After six months of delay, the US Senate has finally passed a $60 billion foreign-aid package which will send urgently needed ammunition and military equipment to Ukrainian soldiers. It may well be the last such cheque to be signed in Washington. Donald Trump is favourite to be the next president of the United States and the senators closest to his brand of ‘America First’ politics, J.D. Vance of Ohio and Josh Hawley of Missouri, led the opposition to the Ukraine package. Their argument, crudely put, is that Europe should bankroll its own defence. The American money confirmed this week gives Europe about a year to adjust to this new reality and

Russia will not attack Nato

There is a lot of war fever about. In January, Grant Shapps, Britain’s tiggerish defence secretary, said the UK was in a ‘pre-war’ period. The West’s adversaries in China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are mobilising, he said. Not wanting to be outdone, Shapps’s Labour shadow John Healey wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘If Putin wins, he will not stop at Ukraine.’ Timescales for when this conflict will come vary. Shapps said it could come within the next five years, whereas the estimates of European politicians range from three to eight years. Nato’s top military official warned that Europeans must be ready for a conflict with Russia within two decades. An

Is Nato ready for war with Russia?

38 min listen

Welcome to a slightly new format for the Edition podcast! Each week we will be talking about the magazine – as per usual – but trying to give a little more insight into the process behind putting The Spectator to bed each week. On the podcast: TheSpectator’s assistant foreign editor Max Jeffery writes our cover story this week, asking if Nato is ready to defend itself against a possible Russian invasion. Max joined Nato troops as they carried out drills on the Estonian border. Max joins us on the podcast along with historian Mark Galeotti, author of Putin’s Wars. (00:55)  Then: Lionel Shriver talks to us about the sad case of Jennifer Crumbley, the mum

Zelensky was right to feel cheated by Nato

Gitanas Nauseda stood outside his palace and checked his watch. The Lithuanian President’s guests – the leaders of the other 30 Nato countries, VIPs from Europe and Asia, Volodymyr Zelensky – were an hour late for dinner. Nauseda idled on the red carpet with his wife, and the couple stared at the setting sky. An adviser muttered down his phone and shook his head. The President shrugged. Nato had just issued a statement saying that Ukraine would become a member of the bloc ‘when allies agree and conditions are met’. The alliance needed to see ‘democratic and security sector reforms’. Zelensky tweeted that the statement was ‘absurd’. He had come

Why Nato shouldn’t let Ukraine in just yet

Deciding whether Ukraine should eventually join Nato is hotly debated. There are good reasons to favour its inclusion, but not now, while the war is ongoing. It would transform the war into a conflict between nuclear-tipped Great Powers and vastly increase the danger. Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, is not happy with the uncertainty over his country’s membership. Actually, that’s an understatement. He is furious, according to reports. But that’s the decision taken by the allies meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Joe Biden led the side urging delay.  In a tweet Tuesday morning, Zelensky said, ‘It’s unprecedented and absurd when [a] time frame is not set neither for the invitation nor for

Enlarging Nato will ostracise Russia (1997)

It’s 25 years this month since Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were invited to join Nato. The Spectator’s cover story that week was this essay by Susanne Eisenhower, president of the Eisenhower Group and granddaughter of President Eisenhower. Explore The Spectator’s archive here. Washington, DC When historians, decades from now,  consider the 20th century they will probably be struck by how the major conflicts of the century were ultimately resolved. At the century’s end, Germany, the country that wreaked more destruction on the world than any other power, is economically prosperous, unified and firmly locked within Nato — all due to the magnanimity of its victors. The Russians, on the other hand, enter the new

Is Jill Biden calling the Nato leadership shots? 

Ben Wallace has confirmed the worst-kept secret in Westminster: he’s the likely UK candidate for the Secretary General of Nato. Speaking in Berlin on Wednesday he told reporters: ‘I’ve always said it would be a good job. That’s a job I’d like.’ It’s a position that falls vacant in October and Wallace has a good claim, having been defence secretary for nearly four years, one of the few to emerge with credit from the Kabul evacuation, and has won plaudits for fighting the Whitehall machine to equip Ukraine before Putin’s invasion last year.   Mr S learns however that a surprising obstacle is standing in his way: the First Lady of

China is playing the long game over peace in Ukraine

At the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi announced that his country was currently in consultations with ‘our friends in Europe’ over the framework of a peace proposal for Ukraine. It is to be laid out in full by President Xi Jinping on the first anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s invasion – 24 February. Beijing’s peace initiative would, said Wang, underscore the ‘need to uphold the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the UN Charter’ but at the same time ‘respect [the] legitimate security interests of Russia’. On the face of it, it appears that Beijing is not saying anything new. Furthermore, both German Chancellor Olaf

Has a Quran-burning protest ended Sweden’s Nato dream?

A crowd gathered outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm on Saturday afternoon to watch far-right politician Rasmus Paludan burn the Quran. Paludan, who leads the anti-Islam ‘Hard Line’ Danish party, was watched by dozens of photographers, police officers and bemused passers-by. Paludan is no stranger to controversy: he has previously been convicted under racism and defamation law. This latest stunt was called to show his party’s opposition to immigration and, he says, to stand up for free speech. Now, though, the stunt has become a diplomatic crisis for Sweden – and there are fears that its bid to join Nato could go up in smoke. Sweden is in the middle of trying to end

Will Nato accept Ukraine?

Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky made an offer to Vladimir Putin. Ukraine would drop its ambition to join Nato and would instead stay neutral, he said. It would not align with the West, in exchange for an end to hostilities. It was a sincere offer, and unpopular with Ukrainians. Yet it was significant: Putin had cited Ukraine’s Nato ambitions as the main reason for the invasion, saying it showed the West was somehow threatening Russia. But today, that offer ended and Zelensky is seeking the ‘accelerated’ Nato accession granted to Finland and Sweden this year. Will Nato accept? Jens Stoltenberg, Nato Secretary-General, dodged the question when asked today. ‘Our focus

Letters: Britain needs the English National Ballet

Putin’s options Sir: I agree with Paul Wood that Vladimir Putin is on the back foot (‘Cornered’, 24 September). His actions, from partial mobilisation to nuclear threats to the rapid referenda in occupied Ukraine, indicate a psychopathic gambler who hopes that one last spin will turn Lady Fortune his way. However, there is a big gap between ‘losing’ and ‘lost’, and that is where the focus on the nuclear threat by the West is unhelpful and dangerous. As well as the partial mobilisation, Putin ordered in August a 10 per cent increase in the size of the military to more than a million combat troops. Combine this with the ‘economy

Is Germany afraid of China?

The German air force has taken off for its first deployment in the Indo-Pacific region. It will take part in Australia’s biennial warfare exercise Pitch Black from Friday, side by side with other western nations as well as regional partners such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Berlin’s show of solidarity will be welcomed by Nato allies, but it will also draw pushback from China. It’s an opportunity for Germany to show that it can make a meaningful contribution to the deterrence of Chinese aggression in the Pacific. But in order to do so convincingly it will have to resist pressure from Beijing with more confidence than it has in

East Germans still find it hard to see Russia as the enemy

Not all of Germany is against Vladimir Putin. Sahra Wagenknecht, a Left party MP, recently defended him, saying he is not ‘the mad Russian nationalist’ of caricature and sending weapons to Ukraine was a ‘US-driven policy’ which played a role in provoking his invasion. Her views are quite common in East Germany and not only among the left. The far-right party Alternative for Germany, which has most of its support in the East, opposes sanctions and providing weapons. A recent opinion poll asked whether Berlin should ‘be tough on Russia’: half of West Germans agree, but just a third of East Germans do. Some 58 per cent of East Germans

Nato is no longer ‘brain dead’

Finland and Sweden will be formally invited to join Nato today. Them joining the alliance will bolster Nato’s presence in the Baltic and make it easier to defend Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The alliance now has a clear, strategic purpose again Turkey had objected to the two countries joining, regarding them as too soft on Kurdish separatists, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees as ‘terrorists’ threatening his country. But having received some concessions on that front, Erdogan has dropped his objections. There’s also speculation that the US will sell F-16 fighter aircraft to Turkey in exchange for its cooperation on this matter. It is remarkable that Sweden, a country which has so

Cold Turkey: why is Erdogan resisting Nato’s expansion?

Driving a hard bargain is the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief survival skill – one that has kept him in power for nearly as long as his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. And the basic principles of bargaining are twofold: never give something away for nothing, and make your threats to walk away convincing. No surprise, then, that Erdogan’s buzz-killing announcement last week that Turkey would oppose Swedish and Finnish membership of Nato was made in characteristically blunt terms. Speaking of a planned visit of Nordic diplomats to Ankara, Erdogan asked: ‘Are they coming to convince us? Excuse me, but they should not tire themselves.’ He directly contradicted his own

Nicholas Farrell

Italy’s hostility to Nato is building

Ravenna, Italy The war in Ukraine has caused an unholy convergence of the left and right in Italy. While there is nothing formal so far about this alliance of enemies, it nevertheless threatens to destroy the unity of Nato. The most high-profile participant is -Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega – the party with the second-highest number of MPs in Italy’s parliament – which is invariably defined as ‘far right’. Salvini, who has been one of Vladimir Putin’s strongest supporters outside Russia, condemned the invasion of Ukraine and has now come out as a pacifist. He opposes Finland and Sweden joining Nato, or sending more arms to Ukraine, on the

The problem with Macron’s vision for Europe

The Ukraine crisis has transformed international affairs, forcing countries the world over to rethink their alliances and interests. New patterns are forming that will probably stay in place for many years – and one outcome is that global deals are being seen as more effective than regional ones. Sweden and Finland look set to join Nato, and Britain has agreed a defence deal with Japan. In theory, EU countries are required to come to the help of any member that is attacked, but Sweden and Finland feel that only Nato membership (which offers a place under America’s nuclear umbrella) can afford them true protection. As they wait for the applications

Why the new Anglo-Swedish pact matters

Boris Johnson has travelled to Stockholm to sign a mutual defence pact with Sweden to tide the country over until it enters Nato. He’ll then travel to Finland to agree similar terms. This is quite significant for a few reasons. To the Prime Minister, the ‘global Britain’ post-Brexit strategy means signing global new trade and defence relationships: with European and global partners. In other words, showing that Brexit Britain has not turned in on itself but is keen to make new and global alliances – stepping up as an ally at times when even America is reluctant. This is one of those times. In theory, the European Union has a mutual defence clause (Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty) 

The age-old story of strongmen

The only good news, after the massacres in Ukraine, is that so many ugly behemoth super-yachts have been seized and will not be polluting the seas this summer. There is no more horrible sight than an oligarch’s super-yacht on the horizon, and that is before it disgorges its passengers, which is a horror show in itself. Arab boats, with their hookers on board, are even worse. The other good news is that Elon Musk has become the largest shareholder in Twitter, and in a Trojan War replication has challenged Putin to a duel. Oh, what a wonderful world this would be if those who started wars would duke it out