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The Spectator Podcast: Putin’s Losing Game

7 June 2018

1:46 PM

7 June 2018

1:46 PM


In this week’s episode, we talk about Russia’s hidden fragility, and ask, is Putin surviving on luck? We’ll also be getting to the bottom of Trump’s tariffs – is there really no rhyme or reason to them? And last, with all that’s going on in the world, is kindness what we all need more of?

The Russia World Cup is due to start in a week, and as the streets of Moscow are cleaned up in preparation, things seem to be going pretty well for Putin’s Russia. Russia has been asked to fill the void left by Trump in the Iran nuclear deal, Russophile parties are wreaking havoc to the EU establishment across Europe, and Russia’s involvement in Syria has established the country as a serious power broker in the region. But in this week’s cover story, Owen Matthews writes that Putin is surfing on borrowed luck, and sooner or later, it will run out. Owen joins the podcast, together with Christopher Granville, former diplomat and Russia expert at TS Lombard. Christopher disagrees with Owen’s vision of Russia, and of Putin as a poor leader:

‘One reads that Russia is evil and somehow a threat to us, our way of life. At the same time it’s a basket case, which is stagnating. I often feel when reading such things, well, make up your mind, which is it?’


Last week, Trump announced a fresh round of tariffs on aluminium and steel, targeting the EU, Canada, and Mexico. G7 leaders have expressed their anger ahead of the group’s Summit this weekend, with counter tariffs already planned. But is there really no rhyme or reason to Trump’s tariffs, as many are suggesting? Daniel McCarthy, editor of American magazine Modern Age, defends Trump’s decision, and he has it out with Matt Ridley, author of the Rational Optimist, in this week’s magazine. Matt joins the podcast, along with John Carney, Economics Editor at Breitbart. John doesn’t think tariffs are anything bad – in fact, Americans can thank protectionism for the country’s prosperity:

‘America’s economic expansion leading up to WWII and through the 1950s was through a tariff war! We built the world’s most prosperous and capitalist nation behind a tariff wall. So this idea that you cannot win with tariffs is, frankly, wrong.’

And now for something a little kinder: with Brexit in chaos, the NHS pushed to the edge, and a global trade war looming, is kindness what the world needs a little more of? Self-help books have gone crazy on this front, says Cosmo Landesman – kindness has become a fashionable movement, expected to solve the world’s problems. Gone are the days when it was simply a quiet virtue. Cosmo joins the podcast, together with kindness expert Gabriella Van Rij. Cosmo tells us about his irritation:

‘I keep noticing newspaper headlines with things like “Science proves that kindness is the key to personal happiness”, or “personal growth”. I even read one headline that said “Kindness can cure your cold”. And I began to think, well I’m all for kindness, but aren’t we making rather exaggerated claims?’

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