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Russia today is the result of 4 centuries of Imperial dictatorship followed by 70 years of Communist dictatorship, yet is supposed to have discovered democracy 25 years ago! France has been a democracy since its revolution 225 years and it is still far from being perfect. The UK's democracy has been evolving since 1215, but it still has an hereditary head of state and legislators. Democracy is more than elections, such as those that put Putin back into the Russian Presidency.

Russia is not yet ready for a European-style democratic political model. I am sure that Putin is, for Russia, a normal/inevitable step toward an inescapable democratisation of the country, writes Alexis Beresnikoff. We should stop trying to give instructions to countries which do have neither the same culture, the same history, the same level of progress, nor the same mentality. Just give the country some time!

Speaking at RUSI on 14th December. the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) drew attention to the fact that the rules based international order is being challenged. In the annual lecture at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach highlighted the importance of military relations in a politically turbulent world. He outlined a world of threats and risks, and argued that the UK still has a leadership role to play in many of the organisations of which it is a member; the UN, NATO, the Commonwealth and the OSCE. Sir Stuart drew attention to the policy adopted by Syrian and Russian forces in the siege of Aleppo, of deliberately attacking medical facilities, as an example of how internationally accepted norms are being challenged. Nick Watts reports further for Defence Viewpoints on the next page.

Comments made by Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson last week to the Royal Institute of Foreign Affairs suggesting that Britain would not seek to obstruct EU based efforts to develop closer defence co-operation between themselves may well be sensible politically but they beg more questions that the UK Government must also be prepared to answer including how such move by the EU might damage the NATO alliance and if they did, what would Her Majesty's Government propose to do about it? Put simply, remarks made by Mr. Johnson last Friday might have been better not said.

Independent commentator Howard Wheeldon reflects that Mr. Johnson's remarks came just a few days ahead of the two-day planned meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels today at which he is expected to preach that Europe's 25 other members of NATO must spend more on defence. Clearly, in the wake of in this case, well-made remarks by US president-elect Donald Trump, that European members of NATO need to take a bigger share of the cost of NATO and the inference from this that America is no longer prepared to pay 70% of alliance costs means that Europe will have no alternative but to increase spending on defence. This also suggests to me that while attaining the minimum 2% spend of GDP on defence that NATO members agreed to work toward back in September 2014 must not be allowed to be fudged and that while 2% of GDP should in my view be a marker for smaller members states to achieve others need to spend at least 3% of GDP on defence.

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