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Sober American leadership is sorely lacking in global politics. While Donald Trump insists Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with the 2016 election, the Russian president is using his increasing confidence to stoke insecurity. Particularly in the Middle East, the lack of US involvement has paved the way for an increased Russian dominance.

Philip Stephens was at the Munich Security Conference and describes the atmosphere of gloom in his latest column. Speaker after speaker reeled off the threats — from Russian revanchism to Bejing’s military build-up in the South China Seas. He argues that the most unnerving sense among national leaders is one of helplessness. There is little resolve among the major world powers to broker solutions.

For re-engagement with Russia, Philip recalls the lessons of the cold war. The US needs to have a readiness to confront aggression, plus a willingness to seek out areas of potential agreement. Or deterrence and dialogue, as it used to be called. But the absence of a coherent world view in Trump’s Washington makes a return to a rules-based world a dream (for now).

Visions for leaving the EU
David Davis ruled out a “Mad Max” Brexit this week. Robert Shrimsley imagines other dystopian futures for the UK after leaving the bloc — including a Hunger Games Brexit, a Blade Runner Brexit and a Terminator Brexit.

Basel confusion
Simon Samuels argues that confusion remains over the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s capital requirements. Unless all banks have clear guidelines that can be followed, he argues that Basel will fail as a global regulator.

Fixing the NHS
Martin Wolf argues that if Britain’s National Health Service wants to be a world-class system, it has to be funded properly. And that can only be done by raising taxes.

Best of the rest

A Question for U.K. Ministers: What Were You After With Brexit? — Simon Nixon in The Wall Street Journal

A Supreme Court shaped by Trump could decide gun control — Charles Lane in The Washington Post

The Trolling of the American Mind — Ross Douthat in The New York Times

Rees-Mogg and friends are playing with fire — Iain Martin in The Times

As the Tories rail against Corbyn’s past, they’re losing the fight for the future — The Spectator editorial

What you’ve been saying

UK must look to post-Brexit IT infrastructure — letter from Roger Johnson

Many with experience of the IT industry have severe doubts about the ability of all parts of UK government and commerce to complete the IT changes needed to be ready for this new world. Ironically the steeper the Brexit cliff edge, and the bigger the subsequent changes to existing regulations and procedures, the longer the implementation period will need to be. The issue is made more acute since very little can be done to begin the task until precise specifications can be written following the UK parliament approving the necessary legislation following the completion of negotiations with the EU. Government is littered with examples of IT and other projects with massive cost overruns and even cancellations due to specifications being repeatedly modified once design and implementation has started.

Comment from emmacrostrategy on Alibaba’s social credit rating is a risky game

The problem with Ant Financial’s or any other private entity in China’s promise of privacy is it has no power to enforce its own promises. Because the demands of e-commerce in this case a demand for privacy by customers contradicts the social direction in which China is heading. Once data resides on Chinese servers, the government will always have a back door.

‘Russian meddling’ is no more than a diversion — letter from Luis Suarez-Villa

American democracy was hijacked long ago by money and powerful interests, turning it into what amounts to a system of legalised corruption. Lobbying, political action committees (super-pacs), myriad forms of campaign contributions and patronage are at the core of this phenomenon. By comparison, the so-called Russian meddling in the 2016 election seems amateurish at best, and perhaps (more seriously) a way for the political establishment to divert the attention of the American people from the real problems of a corrupt system of public governance, whose patrons and beneficiaries want the rest of the world to think it is democratic.

Today’s opinion

‘Mad Max’ Brexit and other dystopian visions for leaving the EU The Financial Times has seen a secret government memo listing the options

South Korea’s Garlic Girls conquer the Winter Olympics The success of the women’s curling team reflects the rise of the nation itself

Free Lunch: Fixing the internet’s broken markets Can Big Tech be restructured for the common good?

EM Squared: Asia to account for 75% of EM index in proposed shake-up MSCI proposes cutting weight of stocks with unequal voting rights

Opinion today: The personal finance data trap Alibaba’s risky experiment ‘gamifies’ how customers achieve opaque credit ratings

A distracted Trump makes room for Putin America’s embrace of belligerent nationalism has collapsed its political authority abroad

Cecil Rhodes’ statue will gaze down at another kind of scholar Global scholarships open to everyone are a century in the making

Markets Insight: Complacency about the Fed is a habit investors must kick With inflation rising and output gap shrinking, policy expectations need to change

FT View: A plan to make Warsaw pay for its defiance In principle EU funding should be conditional on respecting EU rules

FT View: Making progress against the American gun plague As the culture changes, incremental steps can help slow the killing

FT View

FT View: A plan to make Warsaw pay for its defiance In principle EU funding should be conditional on respecting EU rules

FT View: Making progress against the American gun plague As the culture changes, incremental steps can help slow the killing

The Big Read

The Big Read: Silvio Berlusconi vs Vincent Bolloré face off in battle of the media barons Mediaset and Vivendi go to court next week just days before the former prime minister’s party competes in Italian elections

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