Instant Opinion

‘Joe Biden needs to up his game on Russia’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Kori Schake in The New York Times

America’s Russia policy has a Biden problem

on a puny president

“There are many things the Biden administration has done right in managing the crisis Russia provoked over Ukraine,” says foreign policy expert Kori Schake in The New York Times. But “despite these successes, Russia still looks poised to invade Ukraine”. Vladimir Putin is “still threatening to use military force” and the problem for US officials is that Joe Biden “is sending the message that the United States is afraid of confronting Russia militarily. Even if the United States is unwilling to fight alongside Ukrainians,” she warns, “it’s a big bargaining advantage for Russia if it’s telegraphing willingness to go to war and we’re ultimately reassuring it that it doesn’t need to worry about us.” A major issue is the “insular nature of Biden’s decision-making, including his reliance on like-minded advisers, lacks rigorous thinking and fuels a kind of arrogance that can lead to unforced errors”. “We should be grateful President Biden is in office during this crisis rather than President Trump,” she adds. But “Biden needs to up his game”.

2

Sandra Laville in The Guardian

Cressida Dick could not solve the Met’s problems. She could barely admit they existed

on bad ’uns

“Last week the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, put the current commissioner Cressida Dick on notice that the behaviour of her officers was a return to the bad old days of the 70s,” says Sandra Laville in The Guardian. Back then, “corruption went hand in hand with sexism and racism as an unchallenged cultural norm within Scotland Yard”. But Dick “never had the clarity of vision and purpose” to “effectively cleanse the rot from an organisation”. The outgoing Met commissioner “never saw that the unchecked behaviour of multiple bad ’uns amounted to a culture of impunity, or that the repeated themes of violent misogyny, racism, homophobia and abuse of power in the wrongdoing of officers was a sign of a systemic problem”. To do something about such problems, “you have to admit they exist in the first place,” Laville adds. But “Dick singularly failed” to do so and instead “repeatedly employed the excuse that the horrific behaviour of Metropolitan police officers was the work of the odd “bad ’un”.

3

Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph

Whisper it, but I’m beginning to see how Boris just might survive this

on a stay of execution

“The prime minister we see before us now is a very different creature to the one who governed by diktat for the best part of two years,” says Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph. “He’s humbly asking Tory MPs what to do, then doing it” and while “it’s humiliating” for Boris Johnson, it is “greatly improving the quality of the government”. Many of “his worst ideas are being abandoned” and “it seems to be working insofar as the rebellion is losing steam”. “He’ll be doing a lot of thinking – and the result may well be something resembling an NHS reform plan,” says The Spectator’s editor. For now, “the chances of a full Johnsonian recovery look slim”. But as one loyalist said to Nelson: “The aim is to make it to Valentine’s Day, then May Day, then summer. So far, so good.”

4

Gerard Baker in The Times

Elitist snobs are demonising Canadian truckers’ revolt

on a war on workers

The truckers’ protest in Canada was sparked by a decision by Justin Trudeau to impose a vaccine mandate on truck drivers, says Gerard Baker in The Times. He describes the Canadian prime minister as a man who “in his unctuous persona” manages to “combine the most repugnant of two north American national stereotypes: the cloying sanctimony of Canadian moralism and the preening vanity of American egomania”. He writes that “most of the media in the US have decided that the Canadian trucker revolt is the latest alarming manifestation of far-right, American, white supremacism”, searching “far and wide for evidence that the Canadian protests are all simply a fascist front funded by wealthy Americans”. The “vehemence” of the response by the media and tech giants suggests the trucker dispute is “the latest theatre in the war on working classes waged by people who once were supposed to be their advocates and allies”. In other words, “elitist snobs” have framed the issue as evidence that the “(usually white) working classes are too stupid to understand the facts, the science or the data” of Covid. But truckers spend “upwards of 20 hours a day alone in a cab with the merest of human interaction”. In that context, he says, the vaccine mandate “seems needlessly onerous”.

5

Shaul Behr in The Independent

I’m a Jewish Spurs fan and Y-word chants don’t offend me – I love them

on chants in context

Why does Shaul Behr support Tottenham Hotspur? Because, he writes, they are “the Y** Army. And I am a Jew”. The Israeli writes that, when he went to his first Spurs game a few years ago, he was “at first disconcerted – and even a little alarmed – by the people around me suddenly yelling ‘Y** Army!’ I’m an Orthodox Rabbi. Were they looking at my kippa?” he wondered. But it then occurred to him “that these fans were actually expressing a kind of love and solidarity with me and my people. Tens of thousands of non-Jews, all effectively telling me, ‘We’ve got your back, mate. We’re all Jews here.’” He had “never felt prouder to be a Spurs supporter” and is “not in the least offended by the ‘Y** Army’ chants. On the contrary – I love them.” Although many Jewish people are offended by those chants, Behr insists that context is important. “‘Hey, you, f****** Y**!’ sneered by a skinhead with a swastika tattoo is about as offensive as you can get,” he says. But “‘Y** Army!’ cheered by a friendly Spurs fan is not offensive. It’s the diametric opposite of offensive.”

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