In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘Russia’s violent crackdown sets the tone for Putin’s remaining years’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 31 July


The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Moritz Pieper in The Independent

on recent anti-Putin protests

Russia’s violent crackdown sets the tone for Putin’s remaining years, and issues a challenge to the west

“Political instability (as defined by the Kremlin and linked to Putin’s remaining years in power until 2024) will be seen by the Russian government as one of its defining challenges for the years ahead. If anything, this weekend’s violent arrests were a reminder of the growing gap between the Russian and western governments regarding civil and political liberties, regardless of Russia’s Council of Europe membership. They also represented a challenge to the west. Russia believes other nations should set aside disagreements over domestic politics in their pursuit of issue-specific foreign policy cooperation with Moscow.”

2. Rober Boyes in The Times

on the dilemma facing China’s leaders

Will Hong Kong be the next Tiananmen Square?

“Now China is facing a similar dilemma to 1989: whether to use the military to crack down on the increasingly ferocious street demonstrations in the former British colony. If Beijing goes down that route it risks international opprobium and the end of the carefully spun illusion that President Xi Jinping is a voice of reason in an emotionally over-charged world. But the alternative, to wait out the crisis and let the overwhelmed local police handle the protest movement, carries its own dangers. The authority of the Hong Kong government is melting by the day and Xi wants to sedate its inhabitants at the latest by October when the country celebrates with great fanfare the 70th anniversary of Chinese communist rule.”

3. Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian

on the threat to the opposition

Labour risks total wipeout if it fails to take Boris Johnson seriously

“For the first time in years, it faces a Conservative party leader with a clear strategy, a united team and an open chequebook. However much he clowns about, Johnson is a serious threat to Corbyn. He must be taken seriously.”

4. Justin Webb in UnHerd

on the plastic straw as a Trump campaign symbol

How Trump makes suckers of the libs

“The Trump straws underline the biggest challenge facing the Democratic candidate who eventually emerges to fight Trump. This person is going to have to be a communicator of genuine Reagan or Clinton like abilities. He or she is almost always going to be on the more complicated side of any argument with this President and not just because he simplifies (and lies) but because the cases the Democrats want to make often depend on evidence that is relatively unclear, or subject to change or scientific re-thinking. There is nothing wrong with this of course: life is complicated. But the communication of complexity requires, in an age where the jejune is king, some real mastery of messaging. The Trump straws and the death of American recycling can be addressed. But that sucking sound is the President guzzling all the attention and the political fizz once again. The paper straw crowd are going to have to work hard to guard against the sogginess that leads to drinking disappointment.

5. Benjamin Wallace-Wells in The New Yorker

on last night’s Democratic primary debate

In the Democratic Debate, It Was Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders Versus the Moderates

“In the midterm elections, Democratic candidates won votes in moderate suburban districts across the country, and with them a broad national majority, by effectively portraying the Republicans as radicals—the party of Obamacare repeal and child separation—and themselves as defenders of the way that things had been. The simple news tonight was that Warren moved the Democrats a bit further from the party of the 2018 midterms, and a bit closer to the activists in the streets. The subtler development was that she altered the direction of the progressive left, so that it no longer pointed so directly at a utopian socialism but to the oppositional work of what she called “big, structural change. That’s the revolution now.”


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