Listen to this article
This article is from today’s FT Opinion email. Sign up to receive a daily digest of the big issues straight to your inbox.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s struggle to find the right response to the poison attack on a former double agent in the English cathedral city of Salisbury highlights an age old struggle, writes Tony Barber: how best to deal with Russia.The UK blames Russia for the use of a rare Soviet-era nerve agent on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, so it has expelled 23 Russian diplomats alleged to be spies, cancelled a visit to London by Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, and scrapped plans to send members of the royal family to the football World Cup in Russia.
But in truth, there is only so much the UK can do. Some some sort of relationship with Russia is unavoidable. But the health of the relationship is tied to Russian domestic conditions, which swing from secretive, autocratic truculence to relatively liberal openness and back again. Western countries can do very little to affect this cycle of change.
Banking triumphant: The apparent victory of David Solomon in the race to succeed Lloyd Blankfein as chief executive of Goldman Sachs has reignited an old debate at the Wall Street firm about the relative importance of banking versus trading. William Cohan observes that Mr Solomon, a career banker, probably bested Harvey Schwartz, a trader, because he understands risk taking and how the various pieces of Goldman fit together into a powerful whole.
Hawking’s example: Scientist Stephen Hawking, who died this week, had much to teach us, and not just about his academic speciality of physics, according to Tim Harford. Hawking’s immense curiosity and enthusiasm made him a master of persuasion. Unlike some public intellectuals, Hawking was not very interested in conflict for the sake of it. Experts who hope to follow in his footsteps should remember that curious people are less subject to the temptations of partisanship and more willing to abandon cynicism towards unwelcome information.
"Bloody Gina": Donald Trump’s pick to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, is a 30 year veteran of the agency who is widely respected for her political skills as well as being a big fan of singer Johnny Cash, writes Katrina Manson in a profile. But her nomination has already run into opposition because of her part in the war on terror after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She personally oversaw an American black site in Thailand at which captives were tortured, allegedly earning herself the moniker “Bloody Gina”. Later, at the request of a supervisor, she drafted a cable directing dozens of videotapes to be consigned to shredding.
Best of the week
How Stephen Hawking took physics to the limits by Anjana Ahuja
A smooth man succeeds at Goldman Sachs by John Gapper
Feminist drive stirs the closed world of policy and research by Roula Khalaf
America v China: How trade wars become real wars by Gideon Rachman
Deterrence is the antidote to Putin’s poison by Philip Stephens
Whistleblowers deserve our thanks — and protection, too by Brooke Masters
America’s census must drop the citizenship question by Gillian Tett
What you’ve been saying
This week, we asked for your opinion on whether Philip Hammond should ease austerity in UK public spending. Here’s an edited selection of what you had to say:
Better late than never
The government should have increased public spending years ago, said Alasdair Rankin by email. The economy, wages and government finances would be in much better shape if it had. The current level of interest rates is a clear sign that the economy is underperforming. The time for focus on deficit reduction is when the economy is strong not weak. £435bn in Quantitative Easing has not had the desired effects across the economy. Additional spending should focus on areas where more investment will have to happen anyway, such as the NHS, infrastructure, adult social care and removal of freezes and caps on welfare spending.
Current conditions call for Keynes
I am not very economically knowledgeable but I do believe that the Blair and Brown governments should have run a budget surplus, wrote LiberalMillenial in online comments. The 4-5% rise in debt between 2001-2007 could have been avoided and there would have been much more room for fiscal expansionary policies. What we need is a good dose of Keynesian economics - spend your way through a recession, double down during boom years
Spending will lead to growth
After years of delaying and revising down his austerity targets, with nothing to else to show for it but pain, stagnant growth and feeble productivity, it is surely time that the Chancellor changes track, argued Thomas by email. Ending austerity would enable real wages to rise and demand to increase, leading to a higher rate of economic growth; the deficit would then take care of itself. There is nothing to be gained by more pain.
Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: Going Dutch
Unilever moves base from UK to Netherlands
The Big Read: US economy learns to tune out Trump-induced chaos
While the White House lurches from one crisis to another, as key figures leave or are sacked, the real economy seems oblivious to the political tumult
Person in the News: Gina Haspel, the undercover spy picked to head the CIA
Her role in post-9/11 torture drew criticism yet supporters praise her collegiate side
FT Collections: How do you solve a problem like Russia?
Skripal attack, cyber aggression and sham elections challenge the west to respond
Britain plays for high stakes in its face-off with Russia
The UK has to deal with Moscow as it redefines its role in the world
Helmut Maucher, Nestlé chief executive, 1927-2018
The dairyman who sharpened food group’s appetite for growth
Undercover Economist: Stephen Hawking’s restless scientific curiosity pulled us all in
The physicist, unlike so many experts, knew how to communicate difficult ideas
Goldman Sachs’ change of CEO reignites an old Wall Street debate
David Solomon’s expected ascension says much about the future direction of banking
FT View: Digital protectionism and national security Where are the limits of government interference in the tech industry?
FT View: Why Jeremy Corbyn is still blind to the truth about Russia The UK opposition leader is culpably naive about Vladimir Putin
The Big Read
The Big Read: US economy learns to tune out Trump-induced chaos While the White House lurches from one crisis to another, as key figures leave or are sacked, the real economy seems oblivious to the political tumult
Get alerts on Opinion when a new story is published