The Soviet spectre haunting Afghanistan

As US and British forces pull out of Afghanistan, further victims of the ‘grave of empires’, Russia is experiencing a mix of satisfaction, exasperation and trepidation. It has its own bitter memories of the country, after all. In 1979, as a friendly regime was falling back in the face of a mounting Islamic fundamentalist insurgency, Soviet forces rolled into Afghanistan. The idea was that by installing a new leader and mounting a brief show of force, the rebels would be intimidated back into line. Six months, the old men in the Kremlin told themselves, that is all it would take. And so began a vicious ten-year war that saw the deaths

Why the far-right flourishes in East Germany

A spectre is haunting Germany — the spectre of the AfD. Having come to prominence on a wave of anti-migrant sentiment, most German commentators believed that the Alternative für Deutschland was now a spent force. The party had been able to attract centre-right voters following the 2015 migrant crisis, many of whom may not have agreed with its entire manifesto but sought a political outlet for their scepticism of Merkel’s handling of the crisis. But last year, its national polling dropped to just over half the level of support it enjoyed in late 2018. The pandemic has brought to the surface many of the AfD’s most extreme members and activists,

A nuclear crisis is closer than you think

It has long been widely accepted as orthodoxy that the world was saved from nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis because of the wisdom of John F. Kennedy and the diplomatic backchannel his aides had with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. But this is only half true. The Soviet sources that have emerged since the end of the Cold War as well as recently declassified KGB archives suggest that, more than anything, we were saved from nuclear annihilation by sheer luck. In the late hours of 27 October 1962, the crucial day of the crisis, American ships targeted a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine with practice depth charges, forcing it to surface.