19/02/2022
19 Feb 2022

Theatre of war

19 Feb 2022

Theatre of war

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Features
James ForsythJames Forsyth
Theatre of war: Putin’s deadly dramatics over Ukraine

Vladimir Putin now knows that the West won’t fight for Ukraine. The past few weeks have shown that. All options are open to Moscow. Russian troops could march on Kiev or stay on the border destabilising Ukraine’s economy until its government gives way. If Putin wanted a fight, he would win — at least initially. No western military force will stop Russia from crossing the border. The main question is what punishment the West would be able to inflict on Russia after an incursion.

Theatre of war: Putin’s deadly dramatics over Ukraine
Paul Wood
Russian roulette: is Moscow’s bluff backfiring?

A bluff only works if you can carry it off convincingly. The massing of some 130,000 Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s borders has led to London and Washington declaring that a full-scale invasion is imminent, but it could still be a feint. The Russians know everything they do can be seen by satellite. On the phone from Kiev, Colonel General Ihor Smeshko says he is not inclined to read too much into the Russian army’s logistics.

Russian roulette: is Moscow’s bluff backfiring?
Owen Matthews
The western press is giving Putin what he wants

Why does Vladimir Putin need Russia Today and Sputnik News when the western media are doing such a great job on his behalf? Throughout his two decades in power, Putin has yearned for international respect. Failing that, he’ll settle for fear. And what more satisfying outcome could there be for a serial sabre-rattler like Putin to have his bluff finally taken seriously? For weeks, British papers and TV have been filled with images of scary Russian tanks, warships and artillery blasting away — mostly provided, if you check the photo credits, by Russia’s Ministry of Defence.

The western press is giving Putin what he wants
Julie Bindel
What explains the rise in lesbian divorce?

At one stage, I had a special tray in my study into which to throw all my lesbian wedding invitations. This was around December 2005, when lesbian and gay couples could first sign a civil partnership agreement, providing legal protection including a basis for next-of-kin and inheritance rights. Although the law still did not allow actual marriage between same sex couples, many lesbians went full throttle with their weddings.

What explains the rise in lesbian divorce?
Andrew Watts
Sick jokes: why medics need gallows humour

Most jobs have their own joke books. If you’re outside the job, you don’t get the joke — and if you do get the joke, you’re on the inside; which is what the jokes are for. (It’s the same with all comedy: some, if not most, of the appeal of Stewart Lee is in being the sort of person who finds Stewart Lee funny.) But some jobs have joke books which, from the outside, are not just unfunny but actually offensive. Usually the most stressful jobs, those that involve the rawest emotions, have a gallows humour that is thought to relieve that stress.

Sick jokes: why medics need gallows humour
Ben Lazarus
The algorithm myth: why the bots won’t take over

Google once believed it could use algorithms to track pandemics. People with flu would search for flu-related information, it reasoned, giving the tech giant instant knowledge of the disease’s prevalence. Google Flu Trends (GFT) would merge this information with flu tracking data to create algorithms that could predict the disease’s trajectory weeks before governments’ own estimates. But after running the project for seven years, Google quietly abandoned it in 2015.

The algorithm myth: why the bots won’t take over
Michael Auslin
The growing bond between Moscow and Beijing

Four years ago, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping made pancakes together in Vladivostok while thousands of their military forces conducted joint exercises in Siberia. This month, as China hosted the Olympics, Putin and Xi announced that a ‘new era’ in international relations had begun, one in which the two great authoritarian powers of the 21st century will reshape the liberal international order established in 1945 and reaffirmed in 1991.

The growing bond between Moscow and Beijing
Ivo Dawnay
P.J. O’Rourke’s death marks the end of a great satirical era

There was something old school about P.J. O’Rourke, who died on Tuesday, something that felt like a leftover echo of the American Revolution. Visiting him in his ancient, low-ceilinged, clapboard farm-house in Sharon, New Hampshire, one half-expected Paul Revere to burst breathlessly into the kitchen warning that the British were coming. Though he was by birth an Ohio boy, New England felt like the tweedy satirist’s natural environment — a pioneer sensibility that combined American impatience with the Old World with a nostalgic yearning for the oak-panelled values and certainties of yesteryear.

P.J. O’Rourke’s death marks the end of a great satirical era
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