Spain v’s Scotland?

Another issue is that burning question in UK/Spanish relations…not Gibraltar (why the UK wants to hang onto a seedy Monkey infested rock is beyond me…I propose to swap it for a bottle of Sangria to each UK household! :yes:) but the Scottish Referendum. If you’ve listened to the media you’d be under the impression that the Spanish are against Scottish independence. Actually, why hear is nothing of the sort! Catalonian independence and Scottish independence are, as many Spaniards will point out, entirely separate issues. Indeed I suspect the Spanish sense the danger of trying to link these two matters, as it only adds fuel to the fire in Catalonia.

Indeed, speaking of Scotland, opinion polls now suggest that the margin between the two sides has narrowed to the point where just a 5% swing could tip the scales. I would argue that the SNP have failed to close the deal with the case for independence as they are being somewhat unrealistic. I would question whether it would be possible to negotiate and implement independence within 18 months, or indeed even desirable to do so. And don’t get me started on the ridiculous idea of keeping the UK pound (just issue your own currency like every other country in the world!).

However the Tories have screwed up royal. Rather than fighting the campaign on practical grounds they’ve instead tried to fight it on wishy, washy issues such as pointing out there will be no team GB in the Olympics (yes I’m sure the Scot’s will be devastated when they realise that Chris Hoy and Andy Murray will be competing for Scotland instead of team GB ), or the fact that Scot’s will have to make an international call to ring England (they are aware the EU is talking about getting rid of roaming charges altogether?) or whether there will be dog border controls to stop people taking their pooch South for the weekend (who let the dogs out? |-|).

Inevitably, many Scottish are seeing through this as childish drivel and this is driving more and more the way of the SNP. It’s not so much a case of the SNP winning the referendum, but the Tories risk losing the referendum, despite the SNP best efforts to screw things up.

And in a demonstration of the Tories supreme arrogance, its been revealed that the Tories have not made nor enacted any contingency plans to deal with the consequences of a successful yes vote. They have just assumed they’ll win! However, as Robert Peston of the BBC points out, this is a fairly audacious gamble. The danger is that in the event of a close run thing this could lead to market jitters (which would effect trade in London probably more than in Scotland) and could lead to a full scale run on the pound.

And since we’re talking about it, referendums are fickle affairs. During the lead up to the 2001 Nice treaty referendum in Ireland, the government held a comfy 10% lead in opinion polls, right up until polling day…when they lost by about 54%! So the present lead for the no camp in Scotland is practically waver thin. A small percentage of those “don’t knows” waking up referendum day and voting yes could easily swing things.

But again to return to this EU related question. At the risk of sounding like Nigel Farage, but it would be wholly outside of the EU mandate to deny Scotland membership, as the EU president suggested, on grounds that it might influence matters in Spain. This amounts to the EU being used to resolve what is an internal matter in member state. Or more specifically an attempt to link the internal matter in one sovereign state with an unrelated matter in another sovereign state, some that is well outside the remit of the EU.

Now while unfortunately the Spanish government seems to be trying to use the Tory playbook for dealing with Catalan (which explains the sudden popularity of Catalan independence ;D, it’s a bit like Osborne taking financial advice from Berlusconi!), the rest of the EU isn’t going to be happy with that…indeed I suspect even the Spanish people won’t be keen. Recall that the bulk of the EU would be either neutral on this matter (Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, etc.) or indeed bias towards Scotland and they idea that they would allow the EU to be made smaller just so that Tory euroskeptics (who are talking of leaving anyway!) or the Spanish can score a few points on domestic matters is just bonkers.

The Rain in Spain falls mainly….on the mountains!

Went to Spain for a week to see their Easter celebrations. While in the UK Easter festivities seems to involve hiding Easter eggs in the garden, the Spanish take it a bit more seriously, with Parades almost every night during holy week.

You may enquire incidentally why is some in the parade wearing pointy hoods like members of the klan? Actually this is a tradition that goes back many centuries, and relates to various brotherhoods (or sisterhoods increasingly) who look after the various floats for these parades. For some strange reason the largely anti-Catholic KKK decided to copy the uniforms of an overtly Catholic organisation :no:. Then again Americans (particularly those from the South) have never been known for their strength at understanding foreign cultures!

I also went walking in the Spanish mountains where it was either too hot (nearly got heat stroke the first day!), too wet (rained the second time for 4 hours straight, only people I saw were two Spaniards coming down who thought I was mad going up in this weather :crazy:, whereas I thought they were crazy going down because of a little rain) or too much snow (in the Sierra Nevada, yes 24’C at the coast -5’C up there). Also the small matter of the Spainsh roads. Some of which in the mountains are ridiculously steep, twisty and exposed 88|. It’s like going mountaineering with you’re car!

Anyway it did occur to me while away who we can easily debunk some of the right wing myths we’ve been hearing lately, notably from UKIP. They claim that Britain is a seemingly unique country that many in the world (including the whole of the EU apparently!) want to come and live in.

While I don’t want to offend anyone, the fact is that Britain is a small cold and damp miserable little Island, with overpriced houses and a boozy pub culture and bland food. While many people want to come to the UK to work on a temporary basis (usually when they’re young and mobile), very few actually plan to stay here, as after all there are far nicer places in Europe to live (should you be enquiring why I and so many Irish are here, we come from an even, smaller, damper Island with higher living costs, more drinking and even blander food! :))).

Of course by working and then leaving prior to retirement all said workers are doing is helping to subsidise the NHS and pay the UK’s pensions. I wonder how popular UKIP would be when people work out the sort of services cuts we would have to impose here if they had their way on immigration. And as for migrants coming over to claim benefits, only a tiny fraction of them do this, which costs the state next to nothing and the benefits paid out in many other EU countries are actually higher than in the UK (including those in Spain!….I know where I’m going if I lose my job ;D ). And of course given that vast number of UK pensioners living in southern Spain, we’re hardly in a position to claim to be angels in this regard.

Weekly Roundup

Debating the EU
I drifted through a few blogs where a number of UKIP types seem to think that just because their candidate “won” a debate with “I won’t raise tuition fees” Clegg this somehow entitles them to an “in or out” referendum. Or that it means that they will do well in the upcoming elections. I’m afraid that’s not the way it works!

Consider the situation in the US with Ron Paul. He has a habit of not just winning political debates during the Republican primaries but winning them well. While not one of my favourite people, he tends to be much better informed and well-read than other US politicians. And let’s face it, his opponents don’t exactly help matters, e.g. Rick Perry forgetting which departments in the US government he’s going close down, in the middle of a debate with Ron Paul (one could argue its not hard to win a debate when your opponents are douches like some of the circus of fools that make up the Republican primaries).

However, Ron Paul has never been able to turn such victories in the debates into electoral success at the polls. Despite numerous runs for the Republican nomination and a cult following among some of the Tea Party wing of the GOP, he has never actually managed to carry a single state. Indeed he usually struggles to get more than 10% of the vote. And this is among fellow conservatives!

Of course the reason for this is very simple. Ron Paul’s policy’s are considered very controversial and extreme (if not out right crazy), even among conservatives (His supporters are sometimes mockling called “Paulestinians” by fellow Republicans).

Similarly one could argue that many of Farage’s views are equally controversial among even Tory supporters (the Daily Telegraph recently describe him as “a buffoon”), and similarly its not very likely this will translate into electoral results. Particularly as he managed to show himself up as a bit of a fantasist, which will not play well with the moderates (who tend to ultimately decide any election) who don’t speak loony toon.

Irish Presidential Visit
The Irish president, Michael D. Higgins is paying a historic visit to the UK, staying with the Queen in Windsor castle. We even have had a state banquet with Martin Mc Guinness in attendance. I mean a few years ago news that any member of Sinn Fein was on his way to the palace would have resulted in a security alert! :))

Michael D. Higgins is not your average politician, as I mentioned sometime ago. He calls himself an intellectual (something of a contrast to most politicians, particular in America where there is rampant anti-intellectualism), a former university lecturer and a poet. One assumes that the reason why Ian Paisley isn’t attending this little do is just in case Higgins reads him some of his poetry (which would likely be like Vogon poetry to Paisley!).

Even so it is worth considering why these events are taking place. The strong cross border trade fostered by the European Union and the long, but sustained peace process has gradually enabled tensions to be defused. The road has been long. Indeed prehaps one of the reason why we have peace is that people began instinctively turning off the news when ever they started going on about the latest stage of the peace process!

Even so it does show the way forward for other parts of the world, where there is conflict between different communities. It also shows the value of institutions like the EU. In short, are Farage and his buddy Putin paying attention?

Parking on Pavements
There was something in the news the other week about a campaign by disability groups to have parking cars on pavements banned, as their members often find pavements blocked by cars. Its also a problem for parents with pushchairs (worth reading some of the comments on this page for an example of the issues faced).

I would argue the problem here is that while the majority of people do behave responsibly, e.g. parking up on the pavement, but tucking it away in such a way as too not to block the pavement. But it’s that 10% of society who are basically assholes who are the problem. I’ve seen some motorists taking parking on pavements to its illogical absurdities. By for example parking in such a way that pedestrians are practically forced to climb over their cars (often because they don’t know how to parallel park properly!). Or as they pull in, even driving along pavements, beeping pedestrians out of the way (as I saw someone do the other week). Or parking an Artic lorry on the pavement (as I saw some idiot do a while ago).

Or there was the moron in an 8 wheeler dumper lorry the other day. He wanted to turn left, but there was a queue of cars turning right. His solution? Mount the pavement, drive along it (at a corner with a blind spot, again in a massive dumper lorry with lots of blind spots!), jump back down onto the road, skipped the queue and then turned… all without without signalling! 88|

Perhaps I could propose a solution to an outright ban. Make it such that the law provides immunity from prosecution and voids vehicle insurance for any damaged caused to a vehicle parked on the pavement. Hence if someone decides to drive along the pavement or park it thoughtlessly, me and other pedestrians are legally entitled to vent our frustrations by knocking out one of his wing mirrors of our choosing. Or if someone parks a car and blocks the pavement, I’m entitled to walk across his bonnet. Or wheelchair user/passer-by is legally entitled to smash in the car window, release the hand brake and let the car roll into the nearest ditch. That’ll learn em!

Seriously thought, I think the problem here is that there has been this new urban planning movement which on the one hand seeks to make cities more pedestrian friendly, but also assumes that cars and pedestrians can mix. By for example creating “shared space” junctions without any defined right of way or traffic lights for pedestrians or cars. Or as noted allowing cars to park on pavements.

The problem is, this works okay if everyone is nice and courteous and paying attention (i.e. not walking along texting…or worse driving and texting!), but that isn’t always the case!

Wiki fools
1st of April is the usual day of those infamous April fools. I’ve noticed Wikipedia has developed a habit, not of putting up prank articles, but putting up genuine articles on the 1st of April, just labelling them a little differently.

For example, on the 1st of April on of the featured stories was the case of Batman suing the Commissioner (not Batman suing commissioner Gordon, but a tax case from 1953, filed by a Mr R. L. Batman) ;D

Or how Amy Garnett is the UK Rugby’s most often used hooker (that’s the female Rugby team in case you’re not getting that one).

Or the described the founding in 1935 of the Reserve Bank of India as an attempt to control all the money in the country (we’ll that’s generally what central banks do!) :))

That the 1833 convention in Texas was an attempt to stop evil. Or how the Duke of Alba lost his glasses.

Or my personal favourite, that by launching Gmail Google gave people the ability to store 1GB’s worth of spam :>>

It burns!
A wee funny story. I happened to burn my hand 88| a few nights back while cooking spuds. Nothing too serious but a little sore for a while. I occurred to me, what if I need to go to hospital?

I’d had a glass of wine, so not enough to have contributed to the accident but enough to rule out driving, and at that hour of the night, difficult to get a cab. So I’d likely have to get an ambulance. That would be difficult given that the 999 operator would be getting an Irish guy on saying “sure I been cookin the spuds and I burnt meself”. No doubt they’d assume it a prank call and hang up. It would be like me ringing the police and complaining that someone was after robbing my lucky charms :))

Tories all at sea on wind farms
An interesting article by former energy secretary Chris Huhme regarding wind energy. He points out that the Tory policy regarding wind power, where they have cut and are often openly opposing onshore wind farms, makes no sense. It effectively amounts to a policy of higher bills. The only energy source that can hope to compete with Natural Gas on price is onshore wind.

Nuclear is too expensive (as I’ve discussed before). Their efforts to save on bills by cutting energy efficiency tariffs (or “green crap” as Cameron prefers to call it) will actually in all probability increase bills in the long term.

And this is particularly relevant given that a few years ago the Tories effectively committed to an energy policy that amounted to a new dash for gas. But with events in Crimea, one must wonder where this gas is going to come from? There are alternatives to Russian gas, as I evaluate on my energy blog, but all of them are long term policies which will only work with a mixed energy grid, i.e. getting as much as we can from renewables, which means more onshore wind, and greater energy efficiency (which means those green tariff’s they hate and more).

Marathon cancelled…for lack of water…seriously!
Sheffield council hardly covered themselves in glory recently. They screwed up in the provision of water supplies to a half marathon they were organising in the city (blaming a private contractor, which sounds suspiciously to me like they tried to save a few pennies too many). Yet rather than just assume that runners would have the good common sense when told of this to either back out, if not able, or source they’re own water (e.g. carry water, or nip into a shop on the route, or have one of their mates in the crowd get water for them), they decided (as a result of a “risk assessment“…or SAPS as I called it, standing for Save Ass Policy Scheme) to try and cancel the race, leaving thousands of runners who’d been training for the event in the lurch.

Of course inevitably many of the runners simply said sod it and took off running. Now you’d think the council would leave it at that and retreat with their tail between their legs. But inevitably the called out the police to set up road blocks and try to stop the runners. The police only relented when their own “risk assessment” concluded that it would be more risky to stop the marathon, plus where would they put 4,000 runners they’d have to arrest and don’t they have some actual real criminals to go chase.

Now this would be excusable if we were in the middle of summer, but of course it was a chilly wet April, hardly the sort of conditions where people are going to faint. I mean its not as if they were holding it in Bahrain or something! But the problem with these “SAPS” is that they are motivated by a fear of what some ambulance chasing lawyer might convince a judge to rule, rather than anything based on common sense.

All in all, if Sheffield council can’t organise a marathon one has to worry if they are competent and capable of running anything else. I hope the electorate in the city take note of this incident and remember it next time there’s an election.

The BBC Bias on Climate Change

One line you will regularly hear from the likes of UKIP or the Tea party types is that the major news channels, in particular the BBC can’t be trusted, as the media are “biased” against them. That for example on the topic of climate change, the BBC is biased towards “the warmist agenda”…which seems to mean they believe the nice guy with the PhD in climate studies and the hundred or so published papers to his name over screaming lord piss-pop with a degree in Reiki medicine from Hollywood upstairs medical school.

Anyway, a recent report from the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology committee has criticised the BBC for its coverage on the climate change issue…for being if anything too biased against the mainstream scientific position.

In essence they’re criticism of the BBC is that the beeb will often report on the science of climate change, interviewing for example some respected scientist, or a government minster, or some green campaigner. Who will back up his/her position by pointing to peer reviewed studies by a host of sources or organisations (many of which have nothing to do with the IPCC and no reason to be biased either way). And then in the interest of journalistic “balance” the BBC will pull out some climate contrarian such as Bjorn Lomborg or Delingpole (recently fired from the Telegraph), who’ll counter said peer review studies typically with “opinion”, technobabble or half-baked myths.

Obviously, there is a world of a difference between someone’s opinion and a peer reviewed study backed up by actual data. It’s the equivalent of a doctor showing you an X-ray and suggesting they need to operate straight away, but you applying equal weight to the fact that the bloke down the pub the other night says you look fine, or something you saw in the Daily Mail Health section.

Indeed this problem isn’t just an issue for the BBC on its climate coverage, but an issue with all media on many issues relating to science. Where again the often feel the need for “balance” by bringing on some loony toon homeopathic quack and giving equal weighting to his opinions as they give to many decades worth of scientific research. Even the comedian Dara O’Brian picks up on it in one of his sketches.

While people are entitled to their opinions, its important to apply appropriate weighting, particularly given that many on the right have strong ideological reasons to adopt a climate denial position.

The Totalitarian tendencies of UKIP and the Tea Party

And speaking of Putin, one of the issues that came up during last nights debate was Farage’’s admiration for Vladmir Putin. This despite the fact that his hero is clearly showing many signs of becoming yet another of the world’’s despot’s, and is greatly undermining world security. Indeed if anything, Putin’’s actions highlight why we need an EU to present a united front against him and avoid a European policy on Russia being dominated by the interests of the US.

Inevitably in the mind of a fantasist like Farage, he cannot understand why anyone would be so desperate as the Ukrainians to join the EU. He fantasied also last night that in the event of the UK leaving, the EU would implode without Britain, trying to suggest that protesters in Greece and Cyprus were fighting to break up the EU.

Actually what the protesters were opposing was the lack of EU solidarity for the situation in Greece, which they argue is not in keeping with the spirit of co-operation (i.e. they want an EU that isn’t dominated by right-wing, free market acolytes like Farage, Cameron or Merkel).

And in truth if the UK left (interesting to read how Brussels reacted to the debate), the rest of the EU would likely heave a huge sigh of relief, probably move towards greater federalisation…which, as was pointed out to Farage last night, he’’d have no choice but to sign up too (and pay for!) as part of the price of getting a free trade agreement with the EU.

But leaving such obvious contradictions and hypocrisies aside, I would argue that Farage’s fawning over Putin betrays the fact that inside UKIP or the Tea Party types talking loudly about “liberty”, there’s an Authoritarian fighting to get out.

The fact is that many of the policies that UKIP or the Tea Party propose are impossible to implement (at least within a democracy) and often contradictory, as I’ve discussed in a prior post.

For example on energy, UKIP have this strange obsession with nuclear (which we should probably be worried about!) wanting to get much of the UK’s energy from nuclear. But a nuclear building programme would be a major international project that would take many decades and require much free movement of migrant workers. Even the French, despite their massive investment in nuclear cannot build an entire plant by themselves. Indeed the core of the reactor as well as many other crucial parts would almost certainly come from either Japan, China or Korea. So obviously this plan is incompatible with UKIP’’s policy on immigration.

Indeed who is going to pay for these reactors? The British financial service’s industry turned its nose up at nuclear, even with the government offering to allow them to charge up to three times the going rate for electricity, hence why Hinkley point C is being financed by the Chinese.

And this mirrors the reality that much of the inward investment into the UK over the last twenty years has come from Asia and Europe, the very places which UKIP proposes to shut the door on, the very people whom they and the Home office are driving around telling to “go home”. How exactly would the UK fund its economic growth with policies that effectively make inward investment into the UK impossible?

And then there’s UKIP’’s policy on tax. One of the major hurdles faced by governments at the moment is the so-called “baby boomer” pension time bomb, which represents a demographic shift with far more retirees and less and less working age people paying tax to fund pensions. There are questions as to how the UK or many other Western states will avoid bankruptcy and afford to fund these pensions. Up until now the UK has managed to get around these demographics, by working age migrants coming in, getting jobs (sometimes as carers for the elderly!) and paying tax. Better yet, not only do we not have to pay for the education or upbringing of these migrants, many of them ultimately leave the UK before they get old and become a burden on the tax payer.

Where Farage see’s scary dark skinned foreigners, the Treasury see’s free money. As I’ve mentioned before migrants, be they from the EU or beyond, are less likely to claim benefits that British citizens and the tiny amount this costs the taxpayer is easily outweighted by the taxes from those migrants who are working and earning. So many of those old folks cheering on Farage last night need to consider that a vote for him is probably a vote for a reduced pension and living out your days living on cat food while burning furniture for warmth.

Inevitably if UKIP ever made it into power, either as a majority party or a coalition partner, its likely that like so many other far right populist parties in other European countries, they’d be confronted with a fairly swift reality check. They would find it impossible to implement their policies (as they are often unworkable and often non-starters from day one). Even their cherished “in or out” referendum on the EU (consider it took the SNP many years and two parliaments to get this on the ballot paper despite holding a majority) would not be guaranteed, nor as straightforward to implement as they propose, as I’ve discussed before.

What has resulted in other EU states, is typically that the Populist Party simply implodes at this point as it fails to achieve its stated goals, amid infighting and backstabbing, leading to an early election and them being crucified in the polls.

The alternative route however, which we’ve seen in other parts of the world, is to implement such radical policies by eliminating the principle obstacle – democracy. Hence when a UKIP government finds the energy industry still wants to build wind farms (about a third of the electricity in republican Texas now comes from wind) or indeed the industry spooked by uncertainty stops all infrastructure improvements, forcing a messy nationalisation of the entire energy industry (maybe not a bad idea, but Farage’s icon Thatcher would be rolling in her grave). When immigrants start leaving and taking their money with them, the state reacts (as Putin has done in the past) with capital controls. When prices soar as a result of the impact of the country’s reduced trade with other countries, the state starts trying to fix prices.

When pensioners and the (former)working class types who originally voted them into power, show up outside parliament banging on pots and pans, the government is suddenly looking for new police powers to stop them. And when the media reports on this crack down and starts making a big deal about it, the state looks to censor these stories. This is essentially how Farage’’s hero Putin when from populist to defacto dictator.

Similarly the American Tea Party is beset by obvious contradictions (as I mention in this long post here). Should you think Farage is a little unhinged, just listen to Rand Paul, the poster child of the Tea Party and US libertarians. He has endorsed a view that Christianity should be the state religion of the US, that it would be okay for a restaurant to refuse to serve someone based on their race and the discrimination against disabilities act should be repealed.

And those are among his less insane political positions, as he has also suggested that Medicare payments to doctors (i.e. hundreds of thousands a year) amounts to “slavery”, takes his pro-life views to the point of wanting to ban the morning after pill, blames World War 2 on the US and wants to face off against his opponents not with a debate, but by fighting duels (pistols at dawn!) :crazy:.

Meanwhile the religious conservative wing of the Tea Party wants to not only ban gay marriage but adopt policies like those in Uganda (which were inspired by a US preacher) and ban it altogether. If you think Obama’’s too authoritarian with Obamacare, one can scarcely think of a government that is more authoritarian than one which not only comes in the door of your house, but up to the bedroom and tell’s you want you can and cannot do.

And the Libertarians favourite, the imposition of the gold standard, shows they are poor students of history. As a gold standard would probably have the oppose effect they believe (interesting lecture on that from an economist here), where we would see the rolling back of many of the post-Nixon free market reforms and a return of Keynesian style government intervention in the economy. Now while a little bit of that might not be a bad thing, the point is the end result of such a policy would be more “big government” not less.

Back in the real world, politicians often use the term “realpolitik” to describe the dilemma they often face. As there are certain policies that would just be impossible to implement, either because they would lead to massive discrimination and unfairness to certain people (democracy can be characterised as “majority rule with minority rights”) or the end result would be so hugely unpopular that the government of the day would be guaranteed to lose the next election, or the policy is just not practical or workable.

So while populist politicians might make interesting sound bites, the truth is that much of what UKIP is about is right wing political fantasy. Hard core political porn for disaffected Tories.

But should Clegg have taken Farage on? Not in the context in which the debate was held. “Debating” with someone who lives in a fantasy world make about as much sense as playing blind poker with a compulsive liar. You say you’ve a 4 of a kind, he say’s he’s got a full house, you get an all blue, he claims to have a flush. You can’t win!

Putin’s Speech

The BBC have an interesting article by Oliver Bullough about a little known and often forgotten speech that Putin made upon becoming Russian Prime Minster back in 1999. At the time, Russia was in a pretty bad way. Having defaulted on its national debt a few months earlier, corruption was rife, the nation becoming little more than a fiefdom of various Oligarchs and gangsters. And the country’s alcoholic President Yeltsin was going through Prime Minsters almost as quickly as he went through cases of Vodka.

So it’s no surprise that many assumed that Putin, the country’s 5th PM in a year wouldn’t last a month in the job and few people took his acceptance speech as anything more than the usual propagandist, nationalistic posturing. However, it’s becoming clear that he meant everything he said in that speech, notably about regaining Russia’s soviet era status as a major power.

One could draw parallels with Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. When he wrote this he was in prison for a Munich beerhall brawl (that started as a crude half-baked attempt at a revolution). And even after he came to power, most dismissed it as sloganeering nonsense, the sort one would expect to hear from a confirmed right-wing loon. Again, the assumption was that the nazi’s time in charge of Germany would be short. It wasn’t until the 1938 before people realised the awful truth.

Now while I’m not saying Putin is a nazi, he’s certainly an authoritarian and like others in the dictator club its unlikely he will relinquish the reigns of power easily, nor listen to reason, not least because there’s unlikely to be anyone left in his inner circle willing to try and talk sense into him. As I mentioned in a prior post, he’s probably done huge damage to Russia’s defensive capabilities by all but guaranteeing that many of Russia’s neighbours will now join or co-operate with NATO, leaving him ringed by NATO bases.

And the Russian economy will inevitably suffer too. And this is important, as one of the reasons for Putin’s actions in Crimea might be that even before events in the Ukraine, the wheels were starting to come off the Russian economy. Much like how the Argentina Junta invaded the Falklands to distract the public from an economic downturn, it’s possible this is what Putin has been attempting in Crimea. However, while he might not be facing a military intervention from the West (yet!), economic pressure and sanctions are the last thing the Russian economy needs right now.

Russia is now rated as badly in corruption terms as tin-pot dictatorships such as Mali or Azerbaijan. Inward investment into Russia is for the very brave or stupid, insuring against a debt default is now impossibly expensive, and indeed many wealthy Russians are already hoarding their wealth outside the country. The only thing sustaining the Russian economy right now is high oil and gas prices. And of course this limits his options in terms of turning off the European gas supply (as he could only maintain such an embargo for a short period). And oil prices are a fickle thing. One can never rely on them behaving as expected, particularly given that its America’s allies in OPEC who ultimately set the world’s oil price.

And there’s another trend of history that one considers here. It is a myth of history that it was the actions of Western intelligence and military spending by Reagan and Thatcher that brought down the Soviet Union.

Actually, the real reason why the Soviet Union collapsed like a house of cards, was because it was a house of cards. It was a badly run, authoritarian regime that was ultimate crushed under the weight of its own bureaucracy, corruption and incompetence. And a collapse of oil prices was a key factor in triggering the USSR’s final death throes, as I touched on this in a prior post.

And it seems unlikely that Putin (an ex-KGB man) realises this (and again less likely that any of his inner circle would dare tell him), hence the risk that he’s basically now going to repeat all of the soviet union’s mistakes only to see the whole sorry mess collapse around him.