Orange Shadows

How some of the siloviki went over to Yushchenko and, in their account, helped prevent a crackdown in Kiev on or around November. One of the reasons the orange revolution didn’t end in blood red.

Difficult to check, of course, and naturally the services want to ingratiate themselves with the new regime, but consistent in its outlines with what we were hearing at the time, too.

While wet snow fell on the rally in Independence Square, an undercover colonel from the Security Service of Ukraine, or S.B.U., moved among the protesters’ tents. He represented the successor agency to the K.G.B., but his mission, he said, was not against the protesters. It was to thwart the mobilizing troops. He warned opposition leaders that a crackdown was afoot.

Simultaneously, senior intelligence officials were madly working their secure telephones, in one instance cooperating with an army general to persuade the Interior Ministry to turn back.

The officials issued warnings, saying that using force against peaceful rallies was illegal and could lead to prosecution and that if ministry troops came to Kiev, the army and security services would defend civilians, said an opposition leader who witnessed some of the exchanges and Oleksander Galaka, head of the military’s intelligence service, the G.U.R., who made some of the calls.

Read the whole story before it disappears into pay-per-view.

Paul Johnson: carried away as with a flood

The catastrophic tsunami in the Indian Ocean gave many of us reason to crack open the dictionary and reacquaint ourselves with the term ‘theodicy’. Crooked Timber‘s Brian Weatherson, for example, saw in the catastrophe an opportunity to discuss the ‘problem of evil’ (i.e., given the manifest existence of evil in the world, is it not correct to say that God, if he exist, may be all-good, or all-powerful, but in any event cannot be both?).

Now that is is a very proper thing for a philosopher to discuss. As for me, though, I have never found the problem of evil very interesting, as it seems to presume that God plays a much more direct role in the day-to-day running of the world than I think he does.

But this is not the place to explore my unorthodox religious views. I wish instead to consider the religious views of Paul Johnson, which are presumably much more orthodox than my own and are at any rate, I think, far more offensive. For Johnson regards the tsunami from the perspective of classical theodicy, and concludes that it was a Good Thing.

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Change in Germany

John Kornblum, former US Ambassador in Berlin, knows a thing or two about Germany from his forty years’ acquaintance with the country.

In a nation traumatized by violent upheavals, voters seem to demand an emotional insurance policy before accepting change. This insurance must promise that new methods will not undermine the social and economic stability, which is so important to their special postwar sense of self.

New ideas must be sold as not really changing anything. Change must be seen as a method of strengthening stability, not as a new way of doing things. German politicians have become adept at making new ideas sound like old ones. In the words of Konrad Adenauer: ?No experiments.?

A current example of this phenomenon is the tone of political and economic writing in Germany. With a few notable exceptions, authors focus on the inevitability of collapse. Germany?s economy is destined to decline, the Chinese will rule the world, and America is finished as a great power.

There are few grand visions for a new future. Instead, readers are warned that if they do not move quickly, their comfortable world will collapse around them. Motivation is negative rather than positive.

However strange this discussion may sound to outsiders, it seems to be serving an important purpose within Germany. Belief in the old stability is wearing away. As 2004 comes to an end, the most important question is not whether there is going to be change, but how it will come and which direction it will take.

The whole essay is here. I think the part about undertaking significant change while maintaining the whole time that nothing is changing is particularly accurate.

When I was doing more transatlantic bridge-building, I used a sports metaphor.
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The Greens and Die Gr?nen

Via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, an interesting article by Matthew Tempest in Spiegel Online (in English) comparing the rather contrasting fortunes of the German and British Green Parties. Both were founded at around the same time (the article does make an error in saying the Ecology Party renamed itself as the Green Party in the 70s – the change didn’t take place until the 80s, partly to link in with the increased use of the name Green across Europe and the rest of the world) but while the German party is now part of the Government with a number of representatives in the Bundestag, the British Party (or parties, given that the Scottish and Northern Ireland Green Parties now organise separately from the England and Wales Party) still seems some way from a breakthrough into Parliament, let alone government.

The article highlights two main reasons for the different levels of success achieved by the two parties – firstly, and most obviously, the different electoral systems in Britain and Germany and secondly, the way internal divisions were resolved in the two parties. Where the realists (‘realos’) won the internal party debates in Germany, the fundamentalists (‘fundis’) won in Britain, preventing the move towards mainstream politics that benefited the German party.
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Brass Crescent Awards from alt.muslim

In addition to our own European blog awards, I note that via Crooked Timber (and in turn from The Head Heeb) the people at alt.muslim are taking votes for the First Annual Brass Crescent Awards. This selection of blogs and posts on Islam or by Muslims offers some much needed diversity in the discussion of Islam-related topics. Several blogs from our blogroll have been nominated under various headings (primarily Best Non-Muslim Blog), including Abu Aardvark, The Head Heeb, Amygdala and Informed Comment. One Fistful of Euros post (full disclosure: by me) has also been nominated in the Best Post category. It seems a little strange to be classed as part of the “Islamsphere”, but it’s not a badge I’m bothered to wear.

By all means, go over to alt.muslim and take a look at the nominated posts. Getting some sense of the breadth of Islamic opinion and of the perceptions of Muslims is something I would consider near to a civic duty these days, and I think they have assembled an excellent collect for those interested in doing so.

Reckless Predictions, Pt. 2

EU vote boosts Ukraine membership hopes

by George Parker in Brussels, Raphael Minder in Strasbourg and Tom Warner in Kiev

Financial Times, 13 January 2005

Ukraine’s long-term hopes of joining the European Union were boosted on Thursday when the European parliament voted overwhelmingly to open the door to possible membership. …

Although the parliament’s vote was non-binding, it was a surprisingly strong endorsement of Ukraine’s membership aspirations by the EU’s directly-elected assembly and the clearest sign yet to Kiev that the EU’s door is open.

Deputies voted by 467 votes to 19 in favour of resolution calling for Ukraine to be given “a clear European perspective, possibly leading to EU membership”.

Reckless predictions, looking better and better.

Awards Season Far From Over

The next round of the Koufax Awards! If you think we deserve it, you can vote for us in the Best Group Category.

The 2005 Bloggies!
You can nominate us for any category you think apply, particulary the one for best European weblog.

Our own blog awards! Do you know what I hereby announce? I hereby announce that the voting phase for the European Weblog Awards will commence on the 27th of January. Keep the nominations coming until then.