Cosas de España/Galiza
I see that Spain’s summer temperatures are forecast to be 2 degrees above the average – except in Cádiz, the Canaries and the North West. TBH, no one up here will be upset about this. The mid 20s to – God forbid – the mid 30s is more than enough for us. And today is glorious.
The mayor of Pontevedra city has pronounced: It’s not my duty to make sure you have a parking spot. For me it’s the same as if you bought a cow, or a refrigerator, and then asked me where you’re going to put it. I have some difficulty with the logic of this but there can be no doubt his 20 year war on cars has done a lot for the city. Unless you want to drive into it and park somewhere, of course. Or even find your way round what has become a veritable maze, in which the traffic flow is regularly – deliberately? – changed. And the signs telling you so are only in Gallego. En passant, the changes announced only yesterday are in a barrio called Valley of the Crows, on the city’s northern edge.
When I came to Pontevedra in 2000, not speaking much Spanish, the English Speaking Society of Pontevedra was a godsend to me, allowing the rapid formation of many friendships with local folk, both young and old. Yesterday, the President passed away. A great joke-teller and singer, he presided over many enjoyable dinners. Fond of his whisky and his cigarettes, he’d smoked throughout his long life, dying at 92. TBH, I wasn’t too keen on his smoking during our regular Friday night dinners and was pleased when it was finally banned. Anyway, as is the custom in Spain, he’ll be cremated within 24 hours and many of his friends will celebrate his life at a Mass tonight. RIP, Cándido. You enriched many lives. And there can be no greater praise.
Ukraine v. Russia
As expected/feared, the Russians are slowly – and destructively – reinforcing their hold on the Donbas area and even on oblasts to the West of it. Which will lead to realists/appeasers increasingly demanding peace talks around territorial concessions to Putin and the preservation of his ruthless personal fiefdom. With unpredictable consequences for the future. See the article below on this – a view in opposition to yesterday’s article from the realist, Max Hastings
At least there’s a it of good news from there today: In the Georgia Republican primaries, the Trump-backed candidate was heavily defeated by Pence’s choice.
The Way of the World
In the world of the hyper-rich – especially in the areas of extremely expensive wines and paintings – clever folk are often parted from their money quite easily. For example by buying things that either don’t actually exist or are being sold to several people at the same time and never seen by any of them. The latest case is of a sociable chap called Philbrick who swindled his (‘sophisticated’) victims out of £70m. Yes, £70m. Quote: The art world hopes his imprisonment will draw a line under an embarrassing saga that’s another chapter in the industry’s inglorious history of scammers, fraudsters and hustlers. It might. But it won’t be the last.
Quote of the Day
Guns don’t kill, people do. Just about the most specious and evil slogan ever to be mouthed. By the NRA in the USA, of course.
I typed the word tanatorio in an (English) message to a friend last night. It’s Spanish for ‘funeral home/crematorium’. The computer changed it to ‘tandoori’, so it was a good job I noticed. And ‘job’ just became ‘Job’. . .
Finally . . .
The fossilised remains from a giant flying reptile the size of a bus have been discovered in Argentina. But there’s no truth to the rumour that it’s to be called Borisosaurus. Oh, ‘flying’. I thought it said ‘lying’.
To amuse . . .
For passing readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here. If you’re passing through Pontevedra on the Camino, you’ll find a guide to the city there.
Vladimir Putin deserves nothing less than defeat. The Kissinger approach to international relations has its merits, but on Russia the appeasers are wrong: Robert Tombs, The Telegraph
Henry Kissinger, fast approaching his hundredth year, is still eminently capable of making a lucid argument and commanding global headlines. At the World Economic Forum this week, he urged Ukraine to temper its heroism with wisdom, and called for negotiations within the “next two months or so”. Ukraine would be “a significant participant”, but it must not pursue “a war against Russia itself”. Russia had been for 400 years “an essential part” of “the European balance” and Ukraine should be content to be “a neutral kind of state”.
This is a classic example of the realist approach to international relations of which Kissinger has been a leading exponent since he wrote his PhD in 1954 on the post-Napoleonic restoration of Europe. Realism sees states as rational and long-term actors, operating through high-level diplomacy aimed at mitigating conflict. Although often dismissed as “realpolitik” devoid of morality or “appeasement” devoid of courage, it contains its own ethics.
Being realistic is surely ethical, and caring more about outcomes than about rhetoric and emotion can be deeply moral. Kissinger is alarmed about the long-term danger that the Ukraine war will create an increasingly confrontational and chaotic world.
The acid test of realism is whether it works. Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in 1938 is the worst example in modern history of realism that did not work. Chamberlain wanted to treat Hitler rationally: to understand his demands and make reasonable concessions to avoid the catastrophe of world war, which he rightly dreaded. But Hitler was not rational and the catastrophe came.
Moreover, refusing Hitler’s demands over Czechoslovakia, even to the point of war, would probably have led to his overthrow. But giving in to him made his domestic position unassailable, and it tempted the Soviet Union into an effective alliance with Germany, leading directly to the horrors of the Second World War.
We could see the problem the world is now facing as a conflict of two forms of realism, as in 1938: is it more realistic to make concessions to the aggressor in the hope of avoiding worse, or to resist in order to defeat the aggressor and deter others? China today is in a position comparable with that of the USSR in 1939, when it signed a pact with the triumphant aggressor Hitler.
The Kissinger view – or an appeasement interpretation of it – is already being seized on by those who want the war to end as quickly as possible. As in 1938, for some this is an instinctive quasi-pacifist reflex. We see it in Germany today. There are also many whose strong economic and political interests are to return to normal and persuade Russia back into the fold. These include much of the German establishment and Emmanuel Macron in France.
So we could soon see an unravelling of the much-vaunted solidarity of the democratic world and of Nato. On one side we would probably find Britain, most of the Eastern European and Scandinavian countries, and Biden’s America. On the other side, Germany, France, Hungary and most of the non-aligned world who understandably fear the economic consequences of a war that is not theirs.
The appeasers may have their way, and Russia be offered a token victory. The language of Kissinger and others is already undermining the Ukrainians’ negotiating position. Why should Putin make any concession if he thinks opposition is weakening? His domestic authority, like that of Hitler, would be strengthened by even a semi-success. Worse still, it seems up to now that China is pulling back from its support for Russia and thinking twice about attacking Taiwan: but what if Putin proves the West to be as divided and feeble as its enemies hope?
The danger of appeasement is that it strengthens and encourages aggressors, and at best delays conflict while making the eventual reckoning worse. But Kissinger said something that has been little noticed: that the solution should be a return to “the status quo”. This should mean a Russian withdrawal to its starting points, liberating the Ukrainian coast and leaving Putin with nothing to show for his costly and devastating war. However he spun it, that would be defeat. The West should consider nothing less.