Mark Urban, Diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, BBC Newsnight

This is where the global struggle for peace and security gets incisive, informed, coverage

Ukraine crisis: Is this Cold War Two?

24 March 2014

We overdo the talk of turning points and milestones in covering summits, but, when it comes to the G7 at The Hague, it's very hard to see it in any other terms.

Events in Ukraine have profoundly changed Western perceptions towards Russia and it's very hard to envisage any rapid return to business as usual.

Arriving in the Netherlands for this summit, President Barack Obama said the US and Europe were united in imposing sanctions that would bring "significant consequences to the Russian economy".

Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador in Moscow, wrote on Monday morning that President Putin "embraces confrontation with the West… [and] has made a strategic pivot".

Ukrainian soldier and tank
A Ukrainian soldier stands guard near a tank position close to the Russian border

Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister, added on Twitter that Mr McFaul's gloomy prognosis was understating the problem since the Russian president was "building on deeply conservative orthodox ideas".

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Revisiting Baghdad: How bad are the sectarian tensions?

13 March 2014
Dora is famous for its sprawling markets

Conventional wisdom holds that the sectarian currents sweeping through the Middle East are turning Iraq once more into a battleground, and gains made by the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki are at risk as the grim ticker of violent death chatters once more into life.

Sunni extremists, from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), have staged risings in those notorious trouble-spots of the anti-American insurgency of several years ago, Ramadi and Fallujah.

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Ukraine crisis: Europe's leaders are haunted by history

6 March 2014
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
EU leaders are holding an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss how to respond to Russia's troop deployment on Ukrainian soil

Europe's leaders, meeting to address Russia's takeover of Crimea, are haunted by history. The problem is that it's a different history that preoccupies each of them and hinders the search for consensus.

For British politicians there are undercurrents of appeasement, 1930s style, a parallel drawn directly by Sir Malcolm Rifkind earlier this week. Hillary Clinton too has invoked the comparison with Nazi Germany's behaviour.

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UK to spend £2.5bn on F-35 fighters

11 February 2014

The UK is about to commit to the F-35 fighter project, a US-led effort to produce 3,000 aircraft which is set to cost more than £600bn globally.

The initial UK order for 14 F-35Bs will, with support costs added, cost about £2.5bn, Newsnight has learned.

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Nato's Anders Fogh Rasmussen sees power slipping away

4 February 2014

There is an unmistakeable sense among Western decision-makers of power slipping away.

It's not an argument about American abstention or decline, although that plays into it for some critics of the Obama administration.

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The Yulia Tymoshenko contradiction

10 December 2013

Ukraine is in political crisis again.

Since its "Orange Revolution" nine years ago, pro-Western and pro-Russian groups have contended for political power. The current president, Viktor Yanukovych, stands accused by protesters of turning his back on Europe, after refusing to sign a partnership agreement with the EU.

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Syrian chemical weapons set to be destroyed at sea

28 November 2013
Suspected chemical weapons found in Syria

A plan has been hatched to destroy Syria's chemical weapons at sea using US Navy auxiliary vessel MV Cape Ray.

Industry sources told BBC Newsnight the plan will put a mobile destruction plant aboard that uses water to dilute the chemicals to safer levels.

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Saudi nuclear weapons: US senator demands Obama action

22 November 2013

A senior US senator, citing our Newsnight report concerning intelligence that Pakistan had made nuclear weapons that might be delivered to Saudi Arabia, has written to President Obama demanding he take action.

Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, says that while efforts have gone into stopping the Iranian atomic programme "it is clear that must also be expended to ensure that other nations in the Persian Gulf do not themselves develop a nuclear weapons capability".

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Saudi nuclear weapons 'on order' from Pakistan

6 November 2013

Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.

While the kingdom's quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran's atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.

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About Mark

Mark has covered diplomatic and defence matters for more than 20 years at the BBC.

His major stories have included: the 1990 invasion of Iraq and subsequent Desert Storm campaign; the collapse of the Soviet Union; the Oslo peace process in the Middle East; the wars that broke out in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s as well as the diplomacy that stopped them; the Second Palestinian Intifada; 9/11 and its aftermath; the Coalition campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the Arab Spring.

Before joining the BBC as a reporter he was Defence correspondent for The Independent newspaper for four years, covering the end of the Cold War and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He is also the author of several books on military matters, both current and historical. Mark read International Relations at the London School of Economics and served for a short time in the British Army.

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