In Depth

Instant Opinion: Vladimir Putin ‘wants Scottish independence’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 22 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. Stephen Daisley in The Spectator

on the Kremlins plans for the union

Why Putin wants Scottish independence

“[If Scotland votes to end the union,] Britain would either be disarmed or humiliated and Nato would face losing one of its nuclear powers. For Putin, this would represent not only the humbling of a prominent Western nation but the weakening of the international body he deems the greatest obstruction to Russia’s expansionist designs. There is a reason Russia Today pumps out so much independence-related and SNP-sympathetic content. There is a reason it airs a weekly show fronted by a former first minister of Scotland and icon of Scottish nationalism. There is a reason Sputnik chose Edinburgh for its UK headquarters. It is the same reason that Iran also interfered in the 2014 referendum: destabilising a rival power, one that plays an important role in promoting democracy, the rules-based international order and American global leadership. Our enemies see in the dismantling of the Union a chance to cut Britain down to size. Continued government negligence of this threat imperils not just our democracy but our national security.”

2. Daniel Finkelstein in The Times

on abandoning Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy

Labour’s return to sanity will goad the left

“Since Sir Keir was elected, the Corbyn left have been in retreat. Their response to Rebecca Long Bailey’s dismissal was woefully weak, probably because even they could see that fighting over a Zionist conspiracy theory that the originator had withdrawn wasn’t the best territory. But while clearly weaker than both they and lots of commentators estimated, the Corbyn left has not gone away. It will pick its moment, and its place, and there will be a fight. There will be skirmishes all over the battlefield, but I think the most likely place for the biggest engagement will come over foreign and security policy. Traditionally, that is the issue Labour fights over. The Labour Party from its early days was a coalition between the working class and trade unions on the one hand and middle-class liberal and socialist intellectuals on the other. As a result, there has always been a strand of Labour opinion that was internationalist and pacifistic and another strand that was more nationalistic and readier to support the use of arms.”

3. Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe and professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King's College London, in The Daily Telegraph

on getting ready for 31 December 2020

Preparing for the worst Brexit may prove an effective way of preparing for the best

“Signing any kind of agreement now would all but guarantee the Prime Minister the same kind of hero’s welcome. He will be the man who achieved the seemingly impossible not once, but twice, and in so doing will spare businesses already dreading the impact of Brexit the added problems implied by tariffs and quotas. And of course both sides are consequent of the broader political implications. In the event of no deal, it is all too easy to imagine relations between the UK and the 27 descending into a cycle of recrimination and counter-recrimination as each side blamed the other for failure... So yes, the Government might be warning us to get ready for the worst. This might, prove an effective way of making us get ready for the best (which is not all that much better). But let’s not kid ourselves. There is time left for a deal to be done, and both sides will strive their utmost to make sure they do it.”

4. Glen O’Hara, professor of modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes University, in The Guardian

on the PM’s free thinking chief advisor

Are Dominic Cummings’ visions anything more than just policy tourism?

“There’s a lot of profit to be had in Cummings’ famous blog posts, and quite some heft to his worldview. Many of the individual elements are compelling. Management is undoubtedly important, and Cummings is correct to stress its vital role in making things happen: time and again politicians say ‘such and such will be so’, and boring old public policy experts go away thinking ‘no it won’t’. There are specifics on which he’s right. His advocacy of pure research over so-called ‘application’ is persuasive. In terms of the actual business of government, there is little doubt that Cummings’ attacks on ‘big procurement’ – on outsourcing profit guzzlers such as Carillion and Capita – hit the mark. But there are more than enough gaps to give one pause. Given that Cummings (along with cabinet office chief Michael Gove) appears to be in charge of Whitehall, this might be thought at least a little worrying.”

5. Gretchen Whitmer, governer of Michigan, in The New York Times

on making mask wearing a ‘nationwide mandate’

Mask Up, America

“Wearing a mask is not a political statement; it is about protecting our loved ones from the spread of this deadly virus. I know the president has begun to understand that — he wore a mask on his visit to the Walter Reed military hospital this month. And on Monday, he tweeted that ‘it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.’ I applaud his statement, and urge him to back it up by issuing a nationwide mask mandate like Michigan’s, requiring masks on public transport, indoors, or outdoors when a distance of six feet cannot be maintained. It allows exemptions for small children, when eating or drinking, communicating with a hearing-impaired person, officiating at a religious service and for those engaged in a public safety role. The president has the chance to save tens of thousands of lives. I am hopeful that he will seize this opportunity. In the meantime, be smart, be safe and mask up, America.”


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