European Council on Foreign Relations

Is Belarus a real country?

My interview with Andrew Wilson about his latest book, 'Belarus: the last European dictatorship', has just been published on the New Books Network. Here's the accompanying blog post and the link to the audio.

A couple of weeks ago I took a bus from Warsaw and travelled east across the River Bug. The border took a long time to cross, but then this was no ordinary border – it was the border between the Europe of the modern world, of the EU (with all of its problems) and liberal democracy, and the Europe of the Soviet era and authoritarian rulers. I crossed the border into Belarus.

Belarus has been getting a bad press since the middle of the last decade, when Condoleeza Rice famously labelled President Lukashenka ‘Europe’s last dictator’. Every so often news squeaks out about repression aimed at opposition figures, of currency devaluations and of curiosities like secret pipelines

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Lada Rivas and utopian economic visions

I once tried to buy a four-wheel-drive car in Sarajevo. I thought about buying a Serbian-made Lada Riva, a no-frills tractor-like workhorse that could make light work of a ploughed field in a monsoon. “Don’t,” said a wheeler-dealer Bosnian Serb contact of mine, who owned an unlikely restaurant complex on an industrial estate and wore cheap leather jackets. “I thought about it once, but I am married and have enough troubles in my life without a Riva.” He was right.* The Riva was the epitome of Soviet engineering – rugged (because it had to be with Russian roads that turned to quicksand twice a year in the rasputitsa season), fixable with a hammer and a bit of banging, and otherwise actually rather badly built. I was told the petrol gauge was especially faulty, and owners had to get used to estimating how many miles they’d covered on each tank to avoid spluttering to a halt in the

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The Far North in focus

I've written and broadcast about Charles Emmerson's book 'The future history of the Arctic' enough times for it to look as though I'm his agent. I'm not - I just happen to think his book is an excellent treatment of a fascinating subject! Apologies over, I'm going to talk about Charles once again...

I have just started work on a non-ECFR project that touches on ECFR's subject area. I have started presenting audio podcasts for the New Books Network, and the first subject touching on European issues was an in-depth interview with Charles. The interview is here for those interested in the Arctic - and not just those of us Europeans who call Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland or Russia our home.

The book builds up a historical picture of a land that is harsh and difficult to understand yet mystical and promising. The people that it breeds are hardy and self reliant: in one

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ECFR book club: Zombies & foreign policy

Sometimes the intelligent need not be the enemy of the interesting. If it was, then we would never end up with a book like Dan Drezner’s ‘Theories of international politics and zombies’. Yes, you read that right. Zombies – undead creatures that populate rickety horror films while feasting on the brains of their human victims.

I have known about Dan Drezner (a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University) and his work for a while now, thanks to his excellent and provocative blog on the Foreign Policy site. Unfortunately I’d never had time to pick up this strange book of his, mixing up political theory and the flesh-eating undead, so was delighted to get hold of this podcast interview that he did with the New Books Network, explaining the thinking behind that strange title.

The idea is that many of the key theories of international relations can be

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ECFR book club: The fall of the West?

This is the second in a series of blog posts looking at books and articles that have changed the way ECFR staff feel about Europe and foreign policy. Click here for more

In the streets around ECFR's London office there are reminders that some institutions are built to endure. There are the buildings of parliament, the ministries of Whitehall, and the pealing bells of Westminster Abbey, coronation site of British monarchs since 1066. The streets are also full of crash barriers and spare ground is being colonised by TV companies. Westminster and the surrounding area is preparing for the latest episode in the long saga (or soap opera) that is the Royal Family - the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

But, as the websites for financial products warn, past performance is no guarantee of the future. Will William and Kate live to become King and Queen, or will they be swept

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