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Why the military is divided over Britain’s nuclear deterrent

Written by Simon J Smith.

One thing was very striking at the recent Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Land Warfare Conference, where current British Army personnel including top brass and Ministry of Defence officials were heavily present. The issue of replacing Trident, the UK’s sea-based nuclear deterrent, was not discussed at all.

This conference was taking place a few months ahead of Conservative plans to renew the deterrent like for like. This was guaranteed by the party’s victory at the general election in May, and has since been reaffirmed by Michael Fallon, the defence secretary.

Yet when it comes to Trident, the British military are “split on this issue as never before”. That was the conclusion of a report by the Nuclear Education Trust and Nuclear Information Service that was published at the end of June. So why the difference in views? Continue reading Why the military is divided over Britain’s nuclear deterrent

How Indonesia’s 1965-1966 anti-communist purge remade a nation and the world

Written by Asvi Warman Adam.

Between October 1965 and March 1966, members and supporters of Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI), the third largest in the world at the time, were hunted down and murdered. Historian Robert Cribb estimates 200,000 to 800,000 people were killed.

The anti-communist violence brought Suharto to power in 1967, replacing the country’s founding president Sukarno. In the midst of the Cold War, the tragedy changed Indonesia from a fiercely independent Asian nation into a pro-Western country.

Historian Asvi Warman Adam explains what happened and the impact it had on Indonesia and global politics. Continue reading How Indonesia’s 1965-1966 anti-communist purge remade a nation and the world

Is Portugal a poster child for austerity?

Written by Jamie Jordan.

Austerity works. That’s the message of Pedro Passos Coelho, the Portuguese prime minister, to voters. After three years of recession, Portugal registered a return to growth of 0.9% in 2014, exited its three-year bailout and the economy is projected to expand a further 1.6% in 2015 and 1.8% in 2016.

Portugal’s growth figures have led to the country being labelled a “star pupil” of the eurozone crisis. Advocates say the country demonstrates how the formula of “expansionary austerity” can work if prescriptions are followed closely. And the current coalition argues that their successful implementation of austerity policies and structural reforms have moved the Portuguese economy from an import-led to an export-led model. Economic growth registered recently is considered a direct product of this. Continue reading Is Portugal a poster child for austerity?

Just how dangerous are the skies over Syria?

Written by David J Galbreath.

Washington greeted reports of the Russian air force’s first wave of airstrikes on September 30 with fierce rhetoric. Moscow, said defence secretary Ash Carter, was “pouring gasoline on the fire” in Syria.

The strikes reportedly hit rebels fighting pro-government forces in various towns including Hama, Homs and Jisr al-Shughour in the west of the country, a long way from areas further east where Islamic State holds sway. Kremlin spokesmen claimed that their airstrikes attacked 12 IS targets – but this has been disputed by people on the ground in Syria who posted video of the explosions on social media.

Russia’s decision to join the bombing party in Syria follows a summer of fruitless and inconsequential diplomacy and raises important questions about who is bombing who and what these campaigns aim to achieve. Continue reading Just how dangerous are the skies over Syria?

A reassuring coastal break, but Corbyn now has a deadline to turn Labour around

Written by Eunice Goes.

After being called the “most dangerous man in British politics”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn decided to use his first party conference in Brighton to show he is as normal and British as a cup of milky tea – despite his record as a radical socialist.

Considering Labour’s catastrophic defeat in the last election, this may appear a very modest goal – but Corbyn needs to clear this hurdle before he can even begin to convince sceptic voters in marginal seats to support his agenda. So, Brighton was as much about reassuring the wider public about the “normalcy” of his politics as it was celebrating his election as Labour leader.

When he arrived on stage to deliver his first conference speech he looked relaxed and personable. His self-deprecating tone was well received by the very sympathetic audience in the conference hall. He tried to make the most of the lack of unity within the shadow cabinet by showing that he was open to discussing issues – to persuade and be persuaded. Continue reading A reassuring coastal break, but Corbyn now has a deadline to turn Labour around

Austerity: Portugal is on a different path to Greece and Spain – here’s why

Written by Jamie Jordan.

There is an air of calm in Portugal. Like Greece and Spain, Portugal was bailed out by international creditors and underwent austerity measures that included tax hikes and salary cuts across the public sector. But the political effect of this has been starkly different.

Greece has had five general elections in the past six years and seen the rise of the left-wing, anti-austerity Syriza party. Spain too has seen a surge in popularity of the ideologically-similar Podemos. Portugal, meanwhile, has enjoyed significant continuity.

As the country’s October 4 general election approaches, the centre-right ruling coalition of the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, which has overseen the implementation of austerity and structural reform, has begun to stretch out ahead in opinion polls over the main opposition centre-left Socialist Party. This has been a huge turnaround since January when the Socialist Party had a significant lead. Continue reading Austerity: Portugal is on a different path to Greece and Spain – here’s why

Why Putin ended up gambling on airstrikes in Syria – and what might come next

Written by Scott Lucas.

For those watching closely, the signal for Russia’s first airstrikes came in a statement early on September 30 by Kremlin spokesman Sergei Ivanov, just after the upper house of the parliament authorised military operations:

To observe international law, one of two conditions has to be met – either a UN Security Council resolution or a request by a country, on the territory of which an airstrike is delivered, about military assistance.

In this respect, I want to inform you that the president of the Syrian Arab Republic has addressed the leadership of our country with a request of military assistance.

Within hours, witnesses were reporting that Russian jet fighters were bombing parts of Hama and Homs Provinces in western Syria. Activists said scores of people – almost all civilians – had been killed, disseminating videos and photographs of slain or injured children. Continue reading Why Putin ended up gambling on airstrikes in Syria – and what might come next

Disputes over the South China Sea could put East Asia at war again

Written by Timo A. Kivimäki.

Philippine authorities have released satellite pictures of six reefs in the Spratly archipelago that indicate that the Chinese are building artificial structures in the disputed territories of the South China Sea. According to some observers, these features could allow China to extend the range of its navy, air force, coastguard and fishing fleets into the disputed areas.

In response, the US and the Philippines announced they would further strengthen their alliance to increase their military capacity. The Philippines have already given the US military access to bases on Philippine soil, two decades after the closing of the last American bases there.

The news about Chinese building projects and the possible military consequences have not yet been commented on by the Chinese media or by Chinese officials, but it seems clear that the reinforcements are yet another move in a long, steady game of escalation between the US and China. Continue reading Disputes over the South China Sea could put East Asia at war again

North Korea unveils its nuclear ‘treasured swords’ to the world again

Written by Robert Winstanley-Chesters.

North Korea’s announcement that “normal operation” was again underway at its Yongbyon reactor complex sent a characteristic wave of anxiety through the world’s Pyongyang watchers. The country’s nuclear ambitions had, after all, been largely forgotten in what seemed like a lull in North Korea’s fractious relations with the wider world.

Even as the Korean peninsula itself endured a summer of high tension, the West’s complicated fear of North Korea has been displaced by a myopic public narrative currently fixated on the European refugee crisis, the murderous idiocy of Islamic State, and the travails of Donald Trump.

Things are clearly rather different on the inside. The regime’s primary tool of geo-political leverage can have slipped nobody’s mind – and North Korea’s recent statements speak volumes about how the Kim regime conceives of its nuclear programme. Continue reading North Korea unveils its nuclear ‘treasured swords’ to the world again

Plenty for Labour’s new recruits, but Corbyn speech was no vote winner

Written by Charles Lee.

Jeremy Corbyn is not a great orator. He has spent most of his career talking to the already persuaded from the backbenches. Nevertheless, his low-key and patently decent approach proved highly effective in the Labour leadership campaign. The test, then, for his first major speech as party leader was whether he could carry these qualities over into the high-stakes arena of the televised party conference.

Lengthy and rambling in places, there was a familiar mixture of personal modesty and ideological conviction that delighted delegates in the conference hall. What is less certain though, is whether Corbyn has done enough to convince the wider public.

My University of Bath colleague David Moon is an expert on the rhetoric of Labour Party leaders. He told me before the speech that tone rather than content would be key to understanding its impact. And he was right. Continue reading Plenty for Labour’s new recruits, but Corbyn speech was no vote winner