Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Cold War’

Armistice 2018 Commemoration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th November, 2018

3FD0BB67-E403-4016-BDB7-B1A8C5D35606I found pictures of the Armistice Day commemorations in Paris today deeply moving. President Emmanuel Macron spoke with dignity against nationalism and war. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stood next to him, underlining how these two great European powers, which had fought each other three times during a period of just 75 years, are now allies and the mainstay of the European Union — a body which now unites not just most of the countries of Western Europe but also the formerly Communist states of central and Eastern Europe. It was good that both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump were present, too (even if Trump blotted his copybook by pulling out of an earlier, related engagement because rain was forecast). Despite some recent tensions in the West’s relations with Russia, the Cold War, which kept us teetering on the verge of nuclear Armageddon, is long over. Scores of nations were represented at senior level in Paris, but shamefully Theresa May was not there. Apparently she thought it more important to be at the Cenitaph in London rather than participate in this unique, truly global event. Reportedly she sent David Lidington MP (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster) instead, though naturally he did not get to stand with the top leaders, thus relegating the UK to second rank. At a time when Britain’s reputation is at rock bottom among our EU partners as Brexit loooms and many Conservative and Labour politicians fall over themselves to be rude to the EU and the 27 other member states, while banging the drum of British exceptionalism, this was a serious miscalculation. Theresa May is trashing the UK’s standing in Europe and the wider world, while Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn just stands on the sideline, nodding.

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The New Cold War

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 28th February, 2015

Vladimir PutinBoris NemtsovThe murder in Moscow yesterday of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was a cruel reminder of just how far the values of Vladimir Putin’s Russia differ from the European mainstream. Many other critics of the Kremlin — not least journalists — have been killed, beaten up or imprisoned since Vlad the Bad came to power. I suppose it was natural for the West to imagine when Communism collapsed a quarter of a century ago that Russia would modernise politically as well as economically, in short to become more like us, but this assumption failed to take into account the fact that Russia is unlike Europe in many ways — including the high regard many Russians have for strong leaders and their rejection of contemporary European liberal views on everything from the right to peaceful protest to same sex marriage. Moreover, even if Putin is out-of-step with European and North American values, he has many admirers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. So as a new Cold War seems to be shaping up in the wake of the Russian intervention in Ukraine Moscow is unlikely to find itself alone out in the cold. In the meantime, it is natural for us to feel compassion for the small band of brave liberal voices inside Russia itself who dare to speak out. They deserve our support, as well as sanctuary in Europe if they feel their only means of survival is to get out.

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Edward Lucas at the Gladstone Club

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 9th July, 2012

Cut-and-dagger spy plots were quintessentially of the Cold War, but as Economist journalist and author Edward Lucas told the Summer Party gathering of the Gladstone Club at the National Liberal Club this evening, modern Russia is as active in the dark arts of alternative diplomacy as the Soviet Union was, and at least as ruthless. Under Putin’s watch, vast sums are creamed off the Russian economy to feed a greedy crop of oligarchs, mega-criminals and the post-Communist nomenklatura. Ed was able to draw on his experience in Moscow as a foreign correspondent, but also on the interviews and other research done for his hard-hitting book Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West (Bloomsbury, £20). Some of the characters in that book, like Anna Chapman, will be familiar to readers of quality newspapers, but many others are much less well-known — including Herman Simm, the former chief of Estonia’s Defence Ministry and Russian spy. It’s a murky world, in which people still get killed, including here in London. Ed has lost several friends, including campaigning Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, murdered with the approval of people high up in Moscow. And yet, he said tonight, we welcome wealthy Russians here in London, to buy up top-of-the-range property, educate their children in British public schools and even purchase our newspapers. Not all the super-rich Russians who arrived in Britain with suitcases full of money were murderous thugs, of course. But after Ed’s talk — amusingly in the David Lloyd George room, where he used to huddle with other Young Liberals years ago — many of us were wondering if we ought not to be a little more careful.

Links: www.edwardlucas.com and http://gladstoneclub.org

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Will Iceland Sink or Save the World?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 9th October, 2008

Iceland rarely hits the world’s headlines, except when it launches a Bjork or hosts a Cold War summit. But now it stands accused (by the British) of starting a Cold War itself, with its sudden freezing of nearly nine hundred million pounds worth of British assets in Icelandic banks, much of these deposited by local authorities in the UK. Kent County Council is particularly exposed, while in London, the borough of Barnet has substantial holdings which it might not be able to get its hands on. In retaliation, Gordon Brown has ordered the freezing of Icelandic assets in Britain, though James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, was singularly unable to specify on ‘Newsnight’ tonight the scale of what those might be. This all brings back memories of the Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland over fishing rights in the 1950s and 1970s, though this new Cold War is potentialy far more serious. The LibDems have rightly said that the local authorities need to be reassured by the British government that their money in Iceland will be covered by some compensation scheme, otherwise Councils might start start withdrawing money from all banks everywhere, which would dangerously exacerbate the financial crisis here.

By supreme irony, tonight’s ‘Newsnight’ programme also screened a feature by the Science Editor, Susan Watts, on the possiblity of using Iceland’s basalt rock as a giant carbon sink — to suck in carbon dioxide from the atmopshere and thereby help save the planet from global warming. This is all a weird coincidence, of course, but I am sure I won’t be the only person going to bed tonight wondering whether there isn’t some way of profiting from this juxtaposition to make what Karl Popper would have called a ‘leap of the imagination’ to combine the two things, so Iceland can help save us rather than sink us.

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