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Westlake Legal Group > Eastern Europe

Daniel Hannan: Where would we now find another Norman Stone?

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

One good thing – only one – came out of Oliver Letwin’s wrecking amendment earlier this month. It meant that I was able to come back from Strasbourg for Norman Stone’s memorial service.

Had the Withdrawal Bill been approved by the Commons as scheduled, we MEPs would have been voting on it last week, Britain would be leaving tomorrow – and I would have missed my chance to bid a final farewell to perhaps the most capacious, restless, inspiring mind I have encountered.

As it was, I was able to take my place in St Martin-in-the-Fields among hundreds of (for want of a better shorthand) conservative intellectuals. There were dozens of Tory peers and MPs, scores of distinguished writers and academics and a good number of those anti-communist Mittel-European thinkers who, in many ways, made up Norman’s hinterland.

Arriving just in time from the European Parliament, I found myself between Peter Lilley and Alan Sked, the LSE historian who founded the Anti-Federalist League in 1991, changing its name to UKIP in 1993. Dominic Cummings ambled in a little late wearing what looked like a black gilet for the occasion. Michael Gove and Andrew Roberts were among those who gave readings. You get the picture: here was the tribe massing to mourn one of its own.

Not just the tribe, though. Norman was generous and eclectic in his friendships. Also giving readings were Tim Garton Ash, the historian whose enthusiasm for European integration recently won him the Charlemagne Prize, and Robert Harris, the brilliant Blairite novelist who turned Norman into “Fluke” Kelso, the alcoholic Scottish hero of Archangel – portrayed, to Norman’s amused delight, by Daniel Craig in the film version.

We sometimes toss out the word “influential” too easily, but Norman was a man who truly shaped the thinking of a whole generation of historians. He taught his students to look with fresh eyes, to notice what others had missed. He amassed what must be the greatest trove of historical asides collected by a single human being. His histories, like his gravelly-voiced soliloquys, fizzed with facts that were at once pertinent and astonishing: Nikita Khruschev bought his maths lessons from a starving professor for a sack of potatoes; serfdom was formally abolished in England only in 1922. Those gems are picked more or less randomly from the hundreds that stud Norman’s last work, Hungary: A Short History, published earlier this year. To read that book, or any in his oeuvre, is like sitting spellbound as the master raconteur poured whisky in and anecdotes out.

Could Norman happen today? What I mean is, could a professor with his personality and his opinions achieve an equivalent position in our national conversation? One has only to put the question.

Norman’s critics held that his lifestyle disqualified him as a serious academic. They wrote him off as a flâneur, an adventurer, a journalist. He certainly had a colourful romantic life, and showed scant respect for the usual pieties of his caste.

But there is no doubting his scholarship. When he was 43, he left Cambridge to become Professor of Modern History at Oxford, arguably the supreme accolade for an academic historian. His books were not frequent, but they won prizes. His knack for languages bordered on the miraculous. He spoke French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croat and Spanish. More impressively, he mastered both Hungarian and Turkish, becoming convinced in the process that they were more closely connected than linguists usually allow. When I say “mastered”, I don’t mean, as historians sometimes do, that he could get through source material with the aid of a dictionary. I mean that he could deliver a speech or conduct a TV interview in that tongue.

While he was at Cambridge, his fellow dons wondered whether anyone could be quite as linguistically capable as he appeared, and would seat him at dinner next to any visiting Eastern European scholar, hoping to show him up. The two would chat away animatedly. Afterwards, the other fellows would ask the visitor whether Stone was as fluent as he claimed. “Oh, yes,” the answer would come, “he has a quite extraordinary idiomatic grasp of my language – but he appears to have learned it from a pimp”.

In an age when many tutors put in office hours before returning to family homes, Norman was a constant presence, always the centre of attention, the aperçus flowing. (“There is nothing inevitable in history, so good historians should never use the word ‘inevitable’ – except for ‘German counter-attack.’”) He was more interested in teaching than in writing. He liked students, taking an unfeigned interest in their development, remembering every detail of what they had written.

Had he been on the Left, he would have been regarded as one of our towering public intellectuals. His bohemianism and affairs of the heart would have been seen as natural, indeed laudable, embellishments. But Norman committed the ultimate sin: he was a Thatcherite. Anarchic and irreverent, he never liked governments telling people what to do. In the end, his disdain for the pettiness and provincialism of the British academy drove him to give up Oxford’s top job for a larger budget and a higher salary in Ankara.

When Norman first started teaching, around one in three British academics identified as Right-of-Centre. Today, that number is one in eight – and far lower in the humanities. To be a conservative academic is to be a class traitor. Norman’s death was marked by a poisonous attack by the Regius Professor of History at Cambridge, masquerading as a Guardian obituary. Norman had committed the sin, apparently, of being a Right-wing journalist instead of a serious academic. (That professor’s next article likened Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament to the Nazi seizure of power. Any amount of journalistic bombast is fine in an academic, it seems, provided he is on the Left.)

Heterodoxy and free thinking are being snuffed out in the institutions that exist to defend them. A modern Norman Stone, finding the doors of higher education barred, would go elsewhere. He would doubtless be better off financially, but the rest of us would be impoverished.

I did not grieve for my old friend as I left the church: he lived and died on his own terms, God rest his soul. But I grieved for the state of higher education in Britain. I grieve still.

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Rick Perry in Lithuania: “I’m here”, not planning to resign

Westlake Legal Group Perry-7 Rick Perry in Lithuania: “I’m here”, not planning to resign Ukraine President Zelensky Ukraine The Blog Secretary Rick Perry Secretary of Energy resignation President Trump Eastern Europe

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is in Lithuania. During a news conference he tamped down speculation about possible plans to resign by the end of the year.

“No. I’m here, I’m serving,” he said when asked about the Politico report from Thursday night while at a news conference in Lithuania.

“They’ve been writing the story for at least nine months now. One of these days they will probably get it right, but it’s not today, it’s not tomorrow, it’s not next month,” he reportedly added.

This is just the latest update to the story that Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to include Secretary Perry in the hearings on President Trump’s telephone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings issued a subpoena last week and Perry was included.

As happens, the drama escalated when speculation began that Rick Perry plans to resign next month, or by the end of the year. Politico claimed to have three sources saying that Perry will resign. It continued as “sources” told Axios that President Trump called Zelensky at Perry’s request.

Perry’s spokeswoman denied his plans to resign to Politico.

“While the Beltway media has breathlessly reported on rumors of Secretary Perry’s departure for months, he is still the Secretary of Energy and a proud member of President Trump’s Cabinet. One day the media will be right. Today is not that day,” DOE spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes said.

Meanwhile, Perry is traveling in Europe and continues in his capacity as the energy secretary. Lithuania, Latvia, and Iceland are on his itinerary as he participates in a series of events with leaders and officials from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Baltic States. In Lithuania Sunday, he participated in the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation (P-TEC), a regional initiative consisting of 23 Central and Eastern European nations recently formed by the Secretary in March.

As a memo from the Department of Energy states, Perry followed up with a joint press conference with Minister of Energy Vaiciunas and European Commission Director-General for Energy Jorgensen. This is when he was asked about his resignation.

Secretary Perry will also convene a U.S.-Poland-Ukraine trilateral following up on the recent Memorandum of Cooperation signed in Warsaw last month to develop enhanced interconnections between Poland and Ukraine, as well as hold a dialogue with representatives of Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine to advance cooperation on ensuring the energy security of Moldova. Finally, the Secretary will host a joint press conference with Minister of EnergyŽygimantas Vaičiūnas and European Commission Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jørgensen.

The rest of the week is detailed, too, in the memo:

Latvia: On Tuesday, October 8, Secretary Perry will arrive in Riga, Latvia where he will deliver the keynote address at the EuroGas Central and Eastern Europe Conference to discuss energy security through energy diversity.

Iceland: On Thursday, October 10, the Secretary will arrive in Reykjavik, Iceland to host a U.S. Industry Roundtable to engage with local industry stakeholders and deliver the keynote address at the Arctic Circle Assembly where he will discuss the economic and energy potential of the Arctic region.

So, while Secretary Perry is overseas, making inroads into energy deals with the Arctic region, the press is busy asking if he’s going to be around for a while.

“The United States finds itself in a relatively new and unique position of being able to be a major importer, particularly of liquefied natural gas into Europe,” he told journalists in Vilnius after meeting with the Baltic counterparts.

“We hope that all the citizens of Europe recognize that we certainly look at this as a great opportunity to bring more freedom to the marketplace, more competition to the marketplace,” he added.

Perry also cited figures from the International Atomic Energy Agency, showing that the supply of US gas helped Europe save 8 billion US dollars last year.

Lithuania has also imported LNG from the United States via its terminal in Klaipėda.

It’s important for the U.S. to be a partner with European countries and the Baltic states in order to ease dependence on Russia for their energy needs. That should be the focus of stories coming out of Perry’s travels this week.

The post Rick Perry in Lithuania: “I’m here”, not planning to resign appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group Perry-7-300x162 Rick Perry in Lithuania: “I’m here”, not planning to resign Ukraine President Zelensky Ukraine The Blog Secretary Rick Perry Secretary of Energy resignation President Trump Eastern Europe   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

NATO Considers Missile Defense Upgrade, Risking Further Tensions With Russia

BRUSSELS — NATO military officials are exploring whether to upgrade their defenses to make them capable of shooting down newly deployed Russian intermediate-range nuclear missiles after a landmark arms treaty dissolves next month, according to three European officials.

Any change to the stated mission of NATO’s current missile defense system — aimed at threats from outside the region, like Iran — would probably divide the alliance’s member countries and enrage Russia, which has long said it views NATO’s missile defense site in Romania and one under construction in Poland as a threat to its nuclear arsenal and a source of instability in Europe.

“It would be a point of no return with the Russians,” said Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official and expert on the alliance. “It would be a real escalation.”

The United States announced in February its intention to withdraw from the 31-year-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 in the waning years of the Cold War, citing Moscow’s years of violations, a step the NATO alliance supported.

The treaty, which prohibits missiles with a range of 310 to 3,420 miles from Europe, will be terminated on Aug. 2 unless Moscow and Washington come to agreement to revive it in the next few weeks.

NATO ambassadors will make one last attempt to push Russia to withdraw its new cruise missiles and revive the treaty on Friday in Brussels.

Discussions about new missile defense measures are at their earliest stages, officials cautioned. NATO’s chief spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, denied that any studies of the feasibility of upgrading the ballistic missile defenses were underway. She said the alliance had repeatedly made clear that the existing ballistic missile defense system “is neither designed nor directed against Russia.”

But the alliance is considering new air and missile defenses, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last week without revealing details. And given the rising threat of the Russian cruise missiles, NATO members are expected to order the alliance to study defense options, either after the October defense ministers’ meeting or the December leaders’ summit, a senior alliance official said.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_157431471_e2f75b17-e6b1-46f5-8e59-e1012d158b25-articleLarge NATO Considers Missile Defense Upgrade, Risking Further Tensions With Russia United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Treaties Russia Nuclear Weapons North Atlantic Treaty Organization Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Europe Eastern Europe Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament

The NATO Aegis defense system in Romania in 2016. The systems there and in Poland are currently incapable of firing the interceptor used to strike intermediate-range missiles.CreditKay Nietfeld/Picture-Alliance, via Associated Press

Such an order would require all 29 allies to agree to it. But some officials think that if the treaty ends, the allies will at least be willing to examine the options. The senior official said that if the allies ultimately could not agree on shifting the mission of the ballistic missile defense sites, they may be open to a compromise that would introduce new systems to defend against Russian cruise missiles.

The push for improved defenses is fueled by Russia’s fielding of a new class of missiles as well as the expected demise of the treaty — a casualty of deteriorating relations between Russia and the United States. Eastern European countries, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, believe they are under growing threat of nuclear bullying by Moscow and have been eager to see the alliance develop new defenses.

Based on intelligence from multiple allied agencies, NATO countries have forged a consensus that the new Russian nuclear-capable cruise missiles pose a threat. The missiles, some American and European analysts fear, could give Moscow significant leverage, using the threat of attack to force other countries to de-escalate or give in to Russian demands during a crisis.

The relationship between Russia and the West has spiraled downward since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russia’s destabilization of Ukraine forced the alliance to reinforce its eastern flank with new troop deployments and military exercises. Moscow responded with its own military upgrades, ultimately including the deployment of a new class of ground-based cruise missiles that the West said violated the I.N.F. treaty. Russia’s election interference, its intervention in Syria and the attempted poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer in Britain further heightened tensions.

Any move by NATO to redirect its missile defenses or expand its system with new capabilities could be a tipping point. Russians have never believed the alliance’s denials that its interceptor system would not eventually be used to shoot down Russian missiles. The system has remained a persistent irritant for Moscow, which questioned why the alliance still needed it after Iran agreed in 2015 to pause its nuclear enrichment program and threatened to direct missiles at the alliance interceptor sites.

Officials at Russia’s NATO embassy did not return requests for comment.

Last week, allied defense ministers approved an examination of potential responses to the Russian deployment of so-called SSC-8 cruise missiles, the weapon NATO accuses Moscow of deploying in violation of the treaty, according to three NATO officials. They include expanding existing deterrence exercises and publicizing the alliance’s nuclear exercises, which are highly secretive. Drawing more attention to the allied nuclear exercises and arsenal would help deter Moscow’s use of its own weapons, some officials think.

NATO will probably need to examine more broadly what defenses it needs against the cruise missiles. Such work, if approved this year, would include exploring whether it can upgrade its Aegis Ashore radar and interceptor sites in Romania and Poland and looking at new radar or air defense capabilities against the cruise missiles.

Upgrading existing ballistic missile defense capabilities, including its two Aegis Ashore sites, would be complex. The NATO Aegis systems in Romania and Poland are incapable of firing the interceptor used to strike intermediate-range missiles. And given their close positions to Russia, the systems have significantly less time to detect, lock onto and attempt to intercept the missiles.

The United States Missile Defense Agency has examined how existing Aegis Ashore missile defense systems could be upgrade with new radar, software and interceptors to allow them to strike intermediate ballistic missiles and potentially cruise missiles, according to current and former officials briefed on the discussions.

Newer technologies like high-velocity projectiles and directed-energy lasers are likely to provide a far better defense long term, experts said. Ballistic missile defenses intercept missiles high in the atmosphere, while cruise missiles fly relatively low to the ground.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, has said the alliance is considering new air and missile defenses.CreditVirginia Mayo/Associated Press

Fielding new systems to defend against a cruise missile threat, rather than upgrading the existing ballistic missile defense, may also prove more politically palatable. “If NATO is to update its systems, it may undermine its yearslong claim that the launchers were never meant to counter Russia,” said Bruno Lété, a defense analyst in the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

But many Europeans see themselves as in the line of fire with the new Russian cruise missile deployments, he said. “There is a clear incentive for NATO to see if they can upgrade the existing systems to counter Russian intermediary missiles,” Mr. Lété said. “From a military perspective, this would be a relatively simple, decisive and cost-effective step.”

Russian military doctrine, according to American and European military strategists, is increasingly focused on using limited nuclear strikes to quickly end a potential conflict in Moscow’s favor. Such a use of nuclear weapons for a battlefield effect is unthinkable to European politicians and has made some allied officials more open to examining the practicality of using the existing missile defense system to defend against Russia.

“We want to make sure the Russians don’t want to exercise nuclear blackmail, and missile defense is the way to take away that intimidation, to deter that intimidation,” Mr. Townsend said.

American officials have focused on trying to deter Russian intermediate-range missiles by quickly developing their own ground-launched cruise missile, a class the I.N.F. treaty has banned. Many in the alliance oppose deploying new offensive weapons. NATO planners are not expecting a directive to add offensive capabilities, only to expand defensive measures, the senior allied official said.

Since April, the Aegis site in Romania has been undergoing an upgrade. Officials said it was long planned and did not involve recalibrating the system.

If the alliance wants to counter Russian cruise missiles, it may make more sense to deploy new technologies like directed-energy lasers, microwaves or electronic warfare measures, said Mark Gunzinger, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“We have invested in ballistic missile defenses, but frankly the cruise missile threat is a growing threat and we just haven’t fielded the capabilities to deal with it,” Mr. Gunzinger said.

Even if the alliance opts not to upgrade its Aegis Ashore sites, Mr. Gunzinger said, Russia’s new weapons will force it to field new air and missile defenses. Without them, it would be difficult to reinforce its front-line troops during a conflict, he said.

“Deterring Russia is going to take a different posture in Europe,” Mr. Gunzinger said. “It will take air and missile defenses to counter their salvos, it will take electronic warfare capabilities, it will take long-range precision strike.”

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Howard Flight: Why the time has come for drug legalisation

Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Confessions of drug use in their youth by politicians raises the case for controlled legalisation of drugs – at least of soft drugs, if not yet of hard drugs. Such drugs are already legal to some extent in 30 countries – largely in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Croatia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Portugal: in Latin America, in Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and Jamaica. To this must be added Cambodia, where all drugs are used publicly and legally: it is considered the country with the most freedom when it comes to drugs.

The newest country to take the legalisation path is Canada, which has brought in complex new laws legalising cannabis. It has been legalised throughout the country, though the rules will vary amongst the ten Canadian provinces. Even the mandated minimum age for consumption varies between the ages of 18 and 21. Nova Scotia, with a population of 940,000, will have 12 stores run in conjunction with the province’s Liquor Board; but British Columbia, with a population of 4.6 million, will have only one store. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, it will initially be available only online.

Canada’s intention is to show the rest of the world that cannabis legalisation is a good thing. Like the UK, Canada has spent a quarter of a century discussing this territory and advocating legalisation. The Canadian measures legalise the industry, but criminalise a lot of the aspects around the use of cannabis: only purchases from officially recognised stores will be legal; giving marijuana to a minor will remain illegal. In Ontario, people will be free to smoke or vape marijuana anywhere just as they are allowed to consume tobacco, but elsewhere, public consumption remains illegal and subject to a fine.

Mexico arguably provided the strongest case for legalisation. Against the background of Mexico having relatively high drug abuse, the black market and the drug cartels caused substantial criminal problems, and led to a large number of deaths. Drugs were legalised in 2009, and a lot of the legalised drugs are from hard drugs, including heroin and cocaine. The Government has legalised these drugs, hoping that decriminalisation would help in making Mexico a safer place. This has not yet been as effective as had been hoped.

Similar arguments now apply to London. The growing number of knife deaths are drug cartel-related. Teenagers can earn £45,000 per annum pushing drugs, and if they get knifed – e.g. for acting against their cartel – others are always willing to take their place. The police have an impossible task in trying to enforce the law. My judgement is that a majority of the police favour controlled decriminalisation. Part of the programme should include I.D Cards, which should help fight crime in a wider context.

In the USA, support for legalising marijuana has risen from 32 per cent to 54 per cent over the last nine years. There is an economic and commercial case for legalising. One of the beneficiaries of legalising drugs is the Government. Once drugs can be distributed commercially, tax can be imposed on them in the same way as they are imposed on cigarettes. The potential tax revenues could reach £5 billion.

Legalisation on the streets would also reduce Government police expenditure, saving the costs of seeking to enforce the law on drug prohibition. The cost of court proceedings, prosecutions and the sustenance of inmates incarcerated for unlawful drug use can also be saved. The legalisation of marijuana would also enables many of the sick to reduce their pain.

The arguments against liberalisation are that making drugs more accessible can lead to more people committing more crime. It can also cloud the mind, and can end in crime. Drugs contain chemicals and substances that can cause depression. If individuals are free to buy any drug ‘over the counter’, addiction and depression can result. If drugs become readily available, businesses can commercialise on this and encourage people to buy and become addicted. The results so far from countries which have liberalised have been mixed. The Netherlands has been disappointing. It had been hoped that more people would have ceased consuming drugs.

The arguments for controlled legalisation are in principle more powerful than the arguments against. To achieve a satisfactory out-turn from legalisation, such a programme would clearly need well-disciplined, prescribed distributors; these could be Government stores, or independent stores licenced and closely monitored by government.

As things stand, in large western Cites such as London, the current laws are useless but have created a large criminal and vicious distribution industry. It is difficult to see anything other than legalisation and close Government monitoring thereof being able to address the drug problems.

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