I have been covering Russia and eastern Europe for over 40 years and this has taught me that everything is not as it seems. Until 1991 it was inconceivable that the Soviet Union would disintegrate and disappear from the map of the world. It self-destructed. Why? We are still looking for the answers. If a superpower with enough nuclear weapons to end human life on this planet can disappear overnight, anything in international affairs is possible. Hence one is always looking for indications of the next crisis, be it human, economic, political or ecological. The world we live in is changing more rapidly than ever before and this puts a premium on good analysis. One needs to analyze the present bearing in mind the past. This does not mean becoming a prisoner of the past and seeing everything as conditioned by past experience. Perceptive analysis takes the past into account but attempts to explain the shape of today's events and a way out of the morass. Russia is often a prisoner of its past - its self-isolation during the communist era compounded age-old Russian suspiciousness of foreigners and alien ideas. Comprehending contemporary Russia and where it is heading is quite a challenge but one that is important. Russia is the largest state on earth and has the hydrocarbons and minerals to play an increasingly crucial role in the global economy.
Russia's greatest challenge is to keep pace with China. The latter is a superpower in the making and worth detailed study. I follow Chinese affairs with great interest.
The scourge of today's world is terrorism. What interests me are the reasons behind this phenomenon. What type of person becomes a terrorist and why are some willing to sacrifice their lives to promote their cause? It appears to me that terrorists can be divided into two groups: those with whom the existing authorities can negotiate and those who refuse to negotiate. The former group has political aims: independence (such as the IRA or ETA) and are amenable to a deal. The latter group is religious and are more interested in the next world than this world.
I have taught in several universities, first and foremost the University of London, and have published many books on Russia, eastern Europe and Central Asia. I researched Al Qaeda for a book on Afghanistan and Central Asia. My current research is concentrated on the rise and fall of communism and terrorism. The latter book with examine state terrorism (Nazi rule in Czechoslovakia for instance), religious (Al Qaeda) and secular (IRA, ETA) terrorism.July, 2004.