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  • In Toronto, the new Port Lands plan imagines a new island, Villiers, at the mouth of the Don.

  • Brexit means, among other thing, that the EU is no longer supporting the UK on the Chagos. The Economist reports.

  • VICE notes that people on Mauritius fear extensive fish farming will also boost the shark population offshore.

  • The Independent notes that tides and currents have created a new sand bar-cum-island more than 1 km long off of North Carolina, Shelly Island.

  • The National Post notes that sub-Arctic Vardo Island, in Norway, has moved on from its fisheries to become a NATO outpost set to watch Russia.

  • Carmela Fonbuena reports for The Guardian from Thitu Island, a Filipino-occupied island uncomfortably near a Chinese base in the contested South China Sea.

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  • Crooked Timber links the near-criminal destruction of Grenfell Tower with Thatcherism's deregulations and catastrophes.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that TRAPPIST-1e is slated to be among the first observational targets of the James Webb Space Telescope.

  • Far Outliers shares Edith Durham's account of an exciting St. John's Day in Albania in 1908.

  • Language Hat looks at a passage from Turgenev.

  • What, the LRB wonders, will Emmanuel Macron do with his crushing victory after the parliamentary elections, too?

  • Marginal Revolution wonders to what extent is Germany's support for Nord Stream consistent with Germany's concerns over NATO and Russia.

  • Ed Jackson's Spacing Toronto article about the need to preserve queer public history in Toronto is a must-read.
  • Torontoist's Alex Yerman notes the new activity of the Jewish left against a conservative establishment.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that modern Russia is repeating the Soviet Union's overmilitarization mistakes, only this time with fewer resources.

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The National Post carried Mike Blanchfield's Canadian Press article reporting that, if Trump lived up to his rhetoric and did withdraw from NATO, Canada will have to increase its spending and its presence significantly. Canada's development into a larger military power would certainly be a major shift.

Canada will have to contribute more to NATO if the U.S. follows through on president-elect Donald Trump’s musings on withdrawing from the alliance, says the head of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.

Liberal MP Bob Nault cautions that Canada and its NATO partners need to see how U.S. foreign policy formally takes shape after Trump’s Friday inauguration.

But he says Canada remains committed to the 28-country alliance and can’t let it become weakened if the U.S. — its largest financial and military contributor — scales back its involvement.

“That means countries like ours will have to step up to the plate,” Nault said in an interview Monday.

Nault said the upcoming defence policy review will help Canada decide where and how it should deploy its military resources. With a federal budget coming this winter that could mean an increase in defence spending, he added.
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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly calls on journalists to stand up to Trump.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at exocomets.

  • Language Log shares an ad from the 1920s using the most vintage language imaginable.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money talks about globalization as a mechanism for concentrating wealth at the top of the elite.

  • The LRB Blog talks about the ghosts of the Cold War in the contemporary world.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen argues that Germany has its own responsibility in transatlantic relations.

  • The New APPS Blog looks at the importance of administrative law.

  • The NYRB Daily celebrates John Berger.

  • Savage Minds proposes a read-in of Michel Foucault in protest of Trump's inauguration on the 20th.

  • Towleroad reports on the latest statistics on the proportions of LGBT people in the United States.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the continuing depopulation of the Russian Far East and examines the shift to indigenous naming practices in Kyrgyzstan.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about the process of journalism.

  • Crooked Timber features a confusing critique of Clinton from the left.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes the presence of Roman coins and at least one Persian mathematician in ancient Japan.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the Republican Party has halted preparation for a Trump victory.

  • Language Hat reports on a poetic new classification system for the history of English.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on one improbable defender of Trump.

  • The New APPS Blog studies North Carolina as a subject for an academic boycott.

  • Torontoist reviews the Nuit Blanche just past.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that the West is weak in relationship to Russia.

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  • Bloomberg notes concerns over Northern Ireland's frontiers, looks at how Japanese retailers are hoping to take advantage of Vietnam's young consumers, examines the desperation of Venezuelans shopping in Colombia, looks at Sri Lankan interest in Chinese investment, suggests oil prices need to stay below 40 dollars US a barrel for Russia to reform, observes that Chinese companies are increasingly reluctant to invest, and suggests Frankfurt will gain after Brexit.

  • Bloomberg View gives advice for the post-Brexit British economy, looks at how Chinese patterns in migration are harming young Chinese, suggests Hillary should follow Russian-Americans in not making much of Putin's interference, and looks at the Israeli culture wars.

  • CBC considers the decolonization of placenames in the Northwest Territories, notes Canada's deployment to Latvia was prompted by French domestic security concerns, and looks at an ad promoting the Albertan oil sands that went badly wrong in trying to be anti-homophobic.

  • The Inter Press Service considers the future of Turkey and looks at domestic slavery in Oman.

  • MacLean's looks at China's nail house owners, resisting development.

  • The National Post reports from the Colombia-Venezuela border.

  • Open Democracy considers the nature of work culture in the austerity-era United Kingdom, looks at traditions of migration and slavery in northern Ghana, examines European bigotry against eastern Europeans, and examines the plight of sub-Saharan migrants stuck in Morocco.

  • Universe Today notes two nearby potentially habitable rocky worlds, reports that the Moon's Mare Imbrium may have been result of a hit by a dwarf planet, and reports on Ceres' lack of large craters.

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  • James Bow writes about the importance to him of Toronto's Bakka-Phoenix bookstore.

  • The Dragon's Gaze considers the search for the debris disk of HR 8799.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that, early in the solar system's history, Venus may have been much better for life than Earth.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map noting the names for "tea" in different European languages.

  • Savage Minds considers the ethnography of danger and risk for tourists at the Rio Olympics.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the degeneration of the Donbas conflict.

  • The Financial Times' The World notes Obama's expressed concern for Polish democracy.

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  • Bloomberg notes the decline of Japan's solar energy boom with falling subsidies, suggests 1970s-style stagflation will be back, looks at how an urban area in Japan is dealing with overcrowding, looks at Russia-NATO tensions, and examines how Ireland is welcoming British bankers.

  • Bloomberg View looks at the return of Russian tourists to Turkey, notes Russia is not suffering from a brain drain, looks at the Brexit vote as examining the power of the old, and argues the Chilcot report defends Blair from accusations of lying.

  • CBC reports on the end of Blackberry's manufacturing of the Classic.

  • The Globe and Mail notes that, once, gay white men were on the outside.

  • The Independent describes claims that refugees in Libya who cannot pay their brokers risk being rendered into organs.

  • The Inter Press Service describes the horrors of Sudan and looks at how Russia will use Brexit to fight sanctions in the European Union.

  • MacLean's reports on the opening up of the Arctic Ocean to fishing and looks at Winnipeg support for Pride in Steinbach.

  • The National Post reports on the plague of Pablo Escobar's hippos in Colombia, looks at Vietnam's protests of Chinese military maneuvers, and examines Turkey's foreign policy catastrophes.

  • Open Democracy notes the desperate need for stability in Libya.

  • The Smithsonian reports on how video games are becoming the stuff of history.

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  • Bloomberg reports on the problems of France's Burgundy wine region, looks at the impact of Brexit on the economy of South Africa, and thinks Airbnb will survive San Francisco.

  • Bloomberg View considers what the European Union will do next, looks at the EU's failure to capture hearts and minds, and notes that young Britons are now trapped.

  • The Globe and Mail reports on the problems of Sobeys.

  • The Inter Press Service reports on Cuban agriculture.

  • MacLean's examines the reasons for Québec separatists' disinterest in Brexit.

  • National Geographic notes the suspension of Florida's bear hunts.

  • The National Post suggests Canada could take up the slack in NATO left by the United Kingdom.

  • Open Democracy considers tabloid-driven nationalism in the former Soviet Union and features Owen Jones talking about the need for post-Brexit Britain (or England) to change.

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  • Bloomberg notes that Alberta's oil camps are set to revive quickly and looks at Uruguay's venture onto global caviar markets.

  • Bloomberg View argues that the US military buildup in Europe is unnecessary and talks about reducing urban inequality.

  • CBC notes controversy over forcing women to wear high-heeled shoes and considers the import and scale of Russia's doping scandal.

  • The Globe and Mail interviews prolific author James Patterson.

  • MacLean's notes how the Parti Québécois' cycles of self-destruction hurt Québec's politics.

  • The National Post reports of a FBI raid of an Orthodox school in New York's Kiryas Joel.

  • Wired argues California's drought is likely permanent and notes the impending mass introduction of electronic paper.

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Window on Eurasia's Paul Goble notes a Russian article suggesting that Turkey might interested in pushing the GUAM alliance into forming an alliance against Russia.

The Turkish government is seeking to revive GUAM in order to form an alliance of states against Russia broader than the pan-Turkic groupings it had promoted in the past, Aleksey Fenenko says; but he adds that Ankara faces real difficulties in doing so and that Moscow has the means to block any such geopolitical effort.

In today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” the instructor on world politics at Moscow State University says that “Turkish diplomacy is trying to revive a block like GU(U)AM” consisting of “countries which have difficulties with Russia” and which thus could help Ankara in its conflict with Moscow (ng.ru/cis/2016-02-26/3_kartblansh.html).

GUAM was formed by Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. Uzbekistan later joined and left the organization: hence, its acronym. Like Latvia, Turkey already has observer status in the group and like its members it wants to make the organization into “an alternative” to the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The idea of creating such a grouping of states arose in the mid-1990s. In June 1996, Moldova and Georgia issued a joint statement. And in October 1997, they were joined by Azerbaijan and Ukraine in calling for a system of mutual consultations in order to “’counter Russian hegemony.’” That became GUAM at a meeting in Yalta on July 7, 2001.

But despite the aspirations of its organizers, the group has not become a truly effective grouping of states, Fenenko says. They are divided on many issues, and Uzbekistan has pointed to its dissolution by leaving as a result of differences with the others over relations with the United States.
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CBC reports on something shocking, Harper's interest in taking Canada out of the OSCE.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper wanted to pull Canada out of one of Europe's leading security organization four years ago, but U.S. President Barack Obama helped convince him to stay, according to three European ambassadors.

The ambassadors described on Monday what happened in 2012, when Harper suggested Canada would withdraw from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a 57-country alliance that includes NATO and European Union countries.

The diplomats said Harper believed the organization was no longer relevant because Europe was mainly peaceful, a view that was widely shared at the time. The outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine would later change that.

Their account flies in the face of a heated denial issued by former foreign affairs minister John Baird in April, 2013 during testimony before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.

Baird was confronted by New Democrat MP Helene Laverdiere who said she was "flabbergasted" to hear that Canada wanted to withdraw from the organization.
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Finland's strained relations with Russia is the subject of Raine Tiessalo's Bloomberg article.

The western nation that shares the longest border with Russia is building up its military arsenal, just in case.

Having already moved as close as politically possible to NATO, Finland now wants to spend more on its own war ships, fighter planes and army personnel. Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto says his government has little choice under the circumstances.

“The crisis in Ukraine and increased global tensions have led Finnish policy makers to think that we must take care of our own defenses," Niinisto said in an interview in his office in Helsinki this week.

A lawmaker for the Finns Party -- the nationalist junior partner in Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s ruling coalition -- Niinisto has already pushed through Finland’s first increase in military spending in three years. That followed repeated incursions by Russian fighter planes into Finnish airspace in the aftermath of President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

The added cost of beefing up Finland’s military is putting pressure on an economy that has contracted for the past three years and that was stripped of its top credit grade at Standard & Poor’s in October 2014.

“Even though Finland is going through hard times, defense and internal security are the only sectors that will get more funding,” Niinisto said.

According to the Finnish Defense Ministry, spending is set to rise 9 percent next year to 2.89 billion euros ($3.1 billion), equivalent to 1.4 percent of gross domestic product. The government has agreed to raise the defense budget by 150 million euros from its current level by 2020.
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Friend of the blog Jussi Jalonen recently noted on Facebook that the Turkish shootdown of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 on the Turkish-Syrian border, the pilots successfully escaping in parachutes only to be shot dead by Syrian Turkmen Brigades in Syria, underlines the complexities.

The Syrian Turkmen are a substantial ethnic minority, apparently concentrated near the Turkish border, amounting to the hundreds of thousands. How many hundreds of thousands? Might it even be millions? There's no firm data, it seems, much as there is no firm data on the numbers of Iraqi Turkmen. What is known is that these Turkmen minorities are numerous, that their zones of inhabitation overlap at least in part with that of ethnic Kurds, and that they are politically close to Turkey. As Vox's Zack Beauchamp noted, in the particular case of Syria the Turkmen are opposed to Russia.

he Turkmen arrived in what's now Syria centuries ago, as various different Turkic empires — first the Seljuks, then the Ottomans — encouraged Turkish migration into the territory to counterbalance the local Arab majority. Under Bashar al-Assad's rule, the mostly Sunni Muslim Turkmen in Syria were an oppressed minority, denied even the right to teach their own children in their own language (a Turkish dialect).

However, the Turkmen didn't immediately join the anti-Assad uprising in 2011. Instead, they were goaded into it by both sides. Assad persecuted them, treating them as a potential conduit for Turkish involvement in the Syrian civil war. Turkey, a longtime enemy of Assad, encouraged the Turkmen to oppose him with force. Pushed in the same direction by two major powers, the Turkmen officially joined the armed opposition in 2012.

Since then, they've gotten deeply involved in the civil war, receiving significant amounts of military aid from Ankara. Their location has brought them into conflict with the Assad regime, ISIS, and even the Western-backed Kurdish rebels (whom Turkey sees as a threat given its longstanding struggle with its own Kurdish population). Today, the Syrian Turkmen Brigades — the dominant Turkmen military faction — boast as many as 10,000 fighters, per the BBC, though the real number could be much lower.

The Turkmen role in the conflict has put them directly in Russia's crosshairs. The Russians, contrary to their stated goal of fighting ISIS, have directed most of their military efforts to helping Assad's forces fight rebels. The Turkmen have clashed repeatedly with Assad and his allies in the north — which led to Russian planes targeting Turkmen militants last week.

Turkey was not happy, and called in the Russian ambassador to register its disapproval. "It was stressed that the Russian side's actions were not a fight against terror, but they bombed civilian Turkmen villages and this could lead to serious consequences," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a description of the meeting provided to Reuters.


Could, as Beauchamp suggests, the Turkish attack have been a warning to Russia to avoid attacking Turkey's ethnic kin? It's imaginable, at least.

All I can add is that there's a tragic irony here. At least in part in an effort to diminish the negative consequences from Russia's support of armed ethnic kin against their parent state in Ukraine, Russia has now come into conflict with Turkey's armed ethnic kin as they fight against their parent state.
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  • blogTO examines the nature of Toronto's abundant consumption of electricity.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a study of the atmosphere of Wasp 80b.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that Russian rocket manufacturer Energomash may go out of business as a result not of sanctions but of threatened sanctions.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money does not approve of Kenya's plan to deport Somali refugees.

  • Mark MacKinnon shares an old 2003 article of his from Iraq.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the new Vulcan rocket.

  • pollotenchegg maps, by province, the proportion of Ukrainians claiming Russian as their mother language.

  • Registan argues that NATO and Russia might be misinterpreting
  • Spacing Toronto shares a screed on cyclists.

  • Towleroad notes that Chile now has same-sex civil unions.

  • Transit Toronto notes that the TTC has hired an external corporation to manage the problematic Spadina subway extension.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that libertarians do exist as a distinguishable political demographic.

  • Window on Eurasia examines turmoil in Karelia and terrorism in Dagestan.

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  • blogTO notes that Yorkville's Lettieri is shutting down.

  • Crooked Timber starts a debate as to who won the latest Greece/Eurozone confrontation.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting a new way to analyze carbon-rich exoplanet atmospheres.

  • The Dragon's Tales observes that India is hoping to build its next aircraft carrier quickly.

  • Languages of the World's Asya Perelstvaig announces that people can now apply for her online Stanford course.

  • Marginal Revolution argues that antibiotics are of underestimated value.

  • Spacing reviews an interesting-sounding book, The Language of Space.

  • Towleroad notes an anonymous college lacrosse player who has just published a book of love poems to his boyfriend.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia wants to weaken Baltic faith in NATO and suggests that everyone, detractors and supporters alike, overestimate Putin.

  • The Financial Times' World blog notes that apparently Russia was unhappy with being ignored, so explaining in part why it went into Ukraine.

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  • blogTO's Chris Bateman notes that Yonge and Eglinton is set to boom in coming years, between condo and mass transit construction.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the second stage of the Kepler mission.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the redetection of exoplanets WASP 39b and WASP 43b, and links to a study of proto-Kuiper belts in young planetary systems.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes Russian air deployments to Belarus.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers the concept of "kung fu" sociology, used to undermine false claims.

  • Geocurrents considers the environmental implications of marijuana cultivation.

  • Language Log notes a paper mapping language diversity onto geographic complexity, regions more difficult to traverse being more linguistically diverse.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is very critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that the Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara is enormously costly.

  • Otto Pohl commemorates the 71st anniversary of the deportation of the Kalmyks, while Window on Eurasia notes the high degree of assimilation of Kalmyks.

  • The Planetary Society Blog provides an overview of the observational history of Ceres.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer takes issue with a review of his new book, The Empire Trap.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Ukrainian support for NATO and Ukrainian opposition to giving up the Donbas, notes Tsarist emigrés' support for Russia in Crimea, argues that Russia really hasn't incorporated Crimea, and notes Latvian interest in launching a Russian-language television channel.

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  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on nearby old brown dwarf WISEP J004701.06+680352.1, just 27.3 light years away.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes the finalization of the Eurasian Union.

  • Far Outliers notes Bosnian Serbs' hostility to NATO and the UN in 1994.

  • jsburbidge writes about the role of Herod as a figure of fun in late medieval and early modern English drama.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the impending water shortage along the Rio Grande.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that Iranians can apparently now pay to escape military service, responding to a fiscal crisis.

  • pollotenchegg maps Ukrainian use of Russian-based Internet E-mail accounts.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests Chinese patience with Venezuela is running out.

  • Towleroad links to an essay looking at the underground gay scene in Iran.

  • Transit Toronto notes the impending retirement of the TTC's Orion V buses.

  • Window on Eurasia notes a new campaign against the Latin script, concerns that Russian may lose the North Caucasus, and a Russian Red Cross report that the Russian state smuggled weapons into the Donbas republics via humanitarian convoys.

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  • blogTO lists ten quirky facts about the Annex.

  • Centauri Dreams notes that exoplanet 55 Cancri e has been detected from the ground.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that the proportion of metals in an emergent solar system can have significant consequences for gas giant formation.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports Nigerian interest in buying the new Sino-Pakistani JF-17 fighter.

  • Far Outliers looks at how Yunnan became Chinese and Muslim all at once.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that tests of sexual orientation can't be applied to GLBT refugee claimants and celebrates the continuing decline of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the interestingly and differently gendered impact of technological unemployment for men and women.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer does not think the new Kurdish oil deal will be viable.

  • Savage Minds looks at African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston, and how her works reflect a knowledge of the people.

  • Spacing reviews the intriguing-sounding book Derrida for Architects.

  • Torontoist notes John Tory's swearing-in as mayor.

  • Understanding Society looks at the sociology of urban black America.

  • The Financial Times' The World notes the reasons for rivalry and non-alliance between Russia's Putin and Turkey's Erdogan.

  • Peter Watts is disappointed with the movie Interstellar.

  • Window on Eurasia observes Kazakhstani concern with Russian television, looks at a Siberian town that has received Ukrainian war casualties, and suggests NATO has deterred Russia in the Baltic States.

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At Open Democracy, Stefan Wolff and Tatyana Malyarenko make the argument that a replay of the Cold War with Putin-era Russia is even less likely to end with a Russian victory than this one.

While it may not look like it at the moment, the rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine are on a straight course to become yet another so-called frozen conflict in the Russian periphery. Russian actions over the past few days and weeks have all the hallmarks of policies that were tried and tested in the early 1990s: a shaky, Russian-mediated ceasefire (the Minsk talks leading to the agreements of 5 and 19 September), modest gestures of conciliation towards the affected state (the EU-mediated Russian-Ukrainian gas deal of 30 October) and military and humanitarian support to consolidate the separatist regime and increase its dependence on Moscow (the various official and unofficial forms of assistance rendered to the rebels over the past several months). That said, it is also worthwhile to remember that establishing de facto states, such as in Georgia and Moldova, was always a means to an end—to dictate the terms of “reunification”, to gain permanent control over some former Soviet republics' foreign-policy choices.

Russia, it seems, may be getting away not just with the illegal annexation of Crimea but also with establishing yet another de facto state under its control, thus frustrating another country’s sovereign choice of seeking closer integration with the EU—either through permanent Russian-controlled instability like we see now or through a federated Ukraine in which the eastern regions would be able to represent Moscow’s interests effectively in Kiev. But this may be a serious miscalculation on Russia’s part.

Unlike 20 years ago, Ukraine’s Western partners have imposed gradually harder-hitting sanctions, the escalation of the crisis has sent the Russian rouble into free-fall and the Russian economy teeters on the brink of recession. Moreover, sustaining four million people in eastern Ukraine is of an entirely different magnitude to doing so for tens of thousands in South Ossetia and Abkhazia or a few hundred thousand in Transnistria.

Russia may not need a full-scale war to retain a foothold in eastern Ukraine at the moment, but it can hardly afford one either—and decreasingly so. We may well be at the beginning of a new cold war but, as with the last one, Russia is unlikely to win it. This offers some hope in the long term, but it is hardly a cause for yet another round of the Western triumphalism that Gorbachev considers the main reason for the regression in East-West relations. Because, when Russia eventually loses, this will have come at a much higher cost to many more people and countries than Russia and Ukraine.

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