How long before Russia seeks a Cyprus naval base?

Posted on March 18, 2013

The EU’s latest step to “solve” the Eurozone crisis is the pillaging of the savings stored in Cypriot banks. It’s not hard to see the various harmful implications – a collapse of confidence in bank saving in Cyprus itself, a blow to the already miniscule levels of confidence in banking elsewhere in the EU, further reductions in bank capitalisation as savers realise the mattress is the safest place for the cash and so on.

One aspect of the affair that has yet to be widely considered, though, is the opportunities this offers to Russian foreign policy. Russians are the largest group of foreign savers in Cyprus (some legitimately, others less so), and the Russian government has loaned billions to keep the faltering Cypriot state and banking sector afloat.

Now, with Cyprus plunged into a new crisis, Putin’s Kremlin is reportedly “considering” the generous step of extending the existing loans and possibly offering more. The question this raises is simple: what will the Russians want in return for their kind helping hand?

The answer is disturbingly self-evident. Only this morning, the Russian navy announced it was to establish a new, permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean – the first since the post-Soviet retreat of the early 1990s.

At the moment, the Russians have a naval facility in Tartus, a port in Syria. Their shameful solidarity with Bashar al-Assad has been motivated at least in part by the desire to keep a foothold in the Med, but their ally’s position of power is now in doubt. At any time the Syrian regime could fall, and be replaced by a government of rebels who are unlikely to look kindly on hosting a naval base for the chums of the dictator they have just unseated.

So the Russian Mediterranean Naval presence needs a new home. Cyprus seems the natural place – it’s at the Eastern end of the sea, close to allies in Syria and potential enemies in Israel in the event of a conflict with Iran. Most compellingly of all, Cyprus is broke – and evidently ready to do just about anything for cash.

When the Eurozone’s fans say the single currency protects our security, I’m not sure a new Russian naval base on our doorstep was what they had in mind.

Thanks, Brian, but no thanks

Posted on November 28, 2012

It would be in my interests for Brian Leveson to support statutory regulation of the press tomorrow.

As Guido Fawkes writes in the Wall Street Journal today, putting a legislative leash around the neck of the mainstream media will only have one effect – to drive a truth-hungry public to online outlets and blogs for real news and honest insight.

This has always happened. When the Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union censored what could be published, people shipped in or built their own presses and produced samizdat – illicit, underground news-sheets and books that circulated in secret. It is notable that the Russian word “samizdat” literally means “self-published”.

Samizdats were never expected to be subject to balance, they were explicitly written from a particular perspective and, most of all, they gloried in saying whatever they wanted – not saying what others demanded they say.

If, 50 years ago, people’s hunger for a free speaking press was sufficient that they were willing to transport and conceal large pieces of industrial machinery, the internet will have a far easier job of it.

Information is a commodity in its own right. It can be bought and sold, it can be given away or stolen, its price can be increased or devalued. And just the same as any other commodity, the one thing that cannot be done to it is successful prohibition.

The problem – and those who dislike our free press do view it as a problem – is the twin, trickster forces of supply and demand. The more people are interested in something, the higher its price rises and the harder it is to keep secret. The harder you try to keep it secret, the larger the incentive becomes to leak it – be it for cash or cachet.

This is what happened with MPs’ expenses. Yes, Heather Brooke fought a brilliant legal battle for the public’s right to know, but the scandal really broke when the censorship practiced by Commons authorities created such a high-paying Black Market that an insider was willing to sell the data to the Daily Telegraph.

These forces are inevitable, irresistible and they won’t be changed by legislating to make our press unfree. If the Daily Telegraph hadn’t been in a position to buy and publish MPs’ expenses, then someone else would have done so – on the internet, offshore and out of reach of the fat, black marker pens of Westminster’s quiet censors.

For goodness’ sake, the net filtering out forbidden commodities isn’t even tight enough to catch guns, grenades and tonnes of drugs – can anyone really believe it could be made tight enough to catch something as small and as fleet of foot as knowledge?

So I, and Guido, and a thousand other blogs yet to be born would be in a pretty good position should Brian Leveson persuade the Government to end three hundred years of British press freedom. Advertising would increase, traffic would boom, and everyone would be able to feel every shade of smug about their latest Google Analytics numbers.

But you won’t find me cheering for it. What would be the attraction of being a more widely read, or even a richer, libertarian in a country that has become less free? No, I’d rather miss out on the opportunity, thank you very much, Brian.

Gorgeous George’s Twitter Twaddle

Posted on August 10, 2012

George Galloway has never been far away from the top of the Talkers of Nonsense League, but yesterday he managed to excel himself. “Gorgeous” George, renowned for fulminating against “imperialists” for their violent and oppressive ways, has turned his fire on that notorious running dog of capitalism, water-boarding enthusiast and plutocrat, the, err, Dalai Lama.

That sound you can hear is the snapping of the last thread even vaguely connecting Galloway to reality.

Never one to stop digging if he finds himself holding a shovel and standing in a hole, the Mustachioed Maoist didn’t exactly cover himself in glory when pulled up on it, either:

@wallaceme he is neither vicious nor an imperialist. But he does think he’s God and he does want to take Tibetans into the obscurantist mist

— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) August 9, 2012

So that’ll be the Dalai Lama, a follower of Buddhism – a religion with no God whatsoever, still less a belief that leading priests are themselves God on earth – who in Galloway Land “thinks he’s God”. It seems George needs to do a resit on his religious studies GCSE.

It wasn’t a good day on Twitter for Bradford’s answer to Rasputin. Having rejected the Tibetans’ right to live freely, and then fundamentally misunderstood one of the world’s major religions, he merrily tweeted agreement that he is a “tankie” - ie a hardline Stalinist who supported the crushing of the Hungarian Uprising by Soviet tanks.

Perhaps Galloway may want to reconsider whether Twitter is for him…

The Labour Representation Committee: Back in the USSR

Posted on July 09, 2012

There is a fascinating internal struggle going on within the Labour Party at the moment. The GMB Trade Union declared their intent to ban Progress, the arch-Blairite pressure group, from the party, and appear to be well on their way to doing so.

Atul Hatwal’s Labour Uncut article on the topic drew attention to some of the factions on the hard left of the party who aren’t coming in for the same kind of criticism allotted to Progress. So I wandered over to the website of the Labour Representation Committee, a leftist pressure group who quite cheekily took their name from the original name of the Labour Party itself.

There I found this remarkable gem of a blogpost, identifying the LRC – which is chaired by John McDonnell MP – as an eager ally of the Assad regime in Syria. Which, at a time when Assad is murdering civilians by the thousand, is pretty classy.

It’s worth reading the whole piece as a classic case-study in deluded, old-school leftism, peppered as it is with references to “world capitalism and imperialism”, “bourgeois nationalism” and “the world masses” (whose official spokesman is, of course, taken to be Cuba).

For now I’m going to give you just one staggeringly brilliant quote:

“Sensing its end coming near, capitalism prepares for war not against Syria, or Iran, but against the USSR”

Err, against who?

It’s bad enough having Parliamentary representation for a group that harks back to the beliefs of the USSR, but it seems the LRC think the Evil Empire still exists. If their campaign to save Bashar Al-Assad’s skin is motivated by a desire to preserve the Soviet Union, then they may be in for a nasty shock next time they look at a map…

 

++ Update ++

Though Cowards Flinch has done some digging into the backstory of Marie Lynam, the LRC blog author (who the LRC’s leadership are desperately trying to distance themselves from in the comments below), and points out that she is apparently a member of the Fourth International Posadists.

The Posadists are a really hardcore Trotsykite cult clique who are actually odd enough to have their own Fortean Times article – thanks to their ideological leader’s weird beliefs, which included campaigning for a nuclear war as soon as possible and the idea that UFOs were sent by an alien socialist utopia.

In that respect, they’re kind of like the Scientologists, except they believe in taking everyone’s money rather than just that of their own members. Should the LRC really have Posadists blogging for their site?