The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 22 September 2015

Image: Jorge Láscar

Nabbing Nato

Throughout the crisis in Ukraine, Nato has tried to walk a careful line – standing up to Russian aggression without throwing in its lot with the government in Kiev. Ukraine, after all, is not a Nato member. But Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg’s visit to Ukraine this week suggests that the western alliance is doing all it can to offer support. Stoltenberg will oversee new civilian-protection exercises between Nato and Ukraine forces, open a new Nato office in Kiev and watch a military doctrine be signed that names Russia as an “aggressor”. All this may indicate to Ukraine that membership of the alliance is not impossible in the future but one suspects that Nato would prefer the relationship to stay at arm’s length.

Image: U.S. Navy/Amanda R. Gray

South China seachange

As Xi Jinping lands in Seattle today for a week-long state visit to the US, somewhere in the presidential agenda will likely be the sticky subject of the South China Sea. America’s allies in Southeast Asia are increasingly concerned by continued building projects in these disputed waters, and this week the Philippines – prompted by what appears to be a third Chinese airstrip being built on a stretch of reclaimed land – is debating whether the US Navy should be invited back to Subic Bay where Vietnam-era vessels once docked. “Asean countries may silently welcome the US inclusion as a benign stabilising power,” says Collin Koh, a maritime-security researcher at Singapore’s Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies. “But this will potentially heighten tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea.”

Image: Edmund de Waal

Worth your Waal

Since 2010’s The Hare With The Amber Eyes – Edmund de Waal’s dizzying family history of Nazi-defying survival and precious stones – new books and exhibitions by the British writer-potter have become events that unite both the publishing and art worlds. This week is a big one for De Waal-fanciers with the publication of The White Road, a very personal pilgrimage to the heart and history of porcelain, and a project at London’s Royal Academy, simply titled white. So how big a deal is a new De Waal hitting bookshops? “He created a new genre,” says Cathy Rentzenbrink, books editor at The Bookseller. “It’s a biography-art history mash-up that hasn’t really been seen before. This is highly anticipated.”

Image: Tee Eric

Singapore pedal power

Despite being hot, humid and rapidly built, Singapore is a haven for cyclists and this week residents are recognising the role that its landmark Park Connector Network (PCN) played in turning the city onto pedal power. Over the past 25 years, some 300km of shady thoroughfares have been carved into Singapore’s urban landscape and the PCN has resuscitated overlooked corridors of the city with routes alongside waterways and disused railway lines. “Before this network cyclists couldn’t ride without being a hindrance,” says Tony Lo, CEO of Biking Singapore. “It’s not fool-proof as it doesn’t yet provide direct commuter routes but the beautiful scenery makes extra distances worthwhile.” A vehicle tax has also proven a little extra incentive for many to choose two wheels over four.

From Monocle 24

Image: Thomas Humery

Going solo: Air’s Nicholas Godin

How do you know the right time to break free from the band? Tune into Culture with Rob Bound as we hear from Air’s Nicolas Godin on his latest solo project.

From Monocle Films

On the high street

High streets around the world are increasingly imperilled by the threat of online retailers and click-and-buy commerce. Ahead of our talk on the topic at Monocle’s inaugural conference in Lisbon, we devised a few simple fixes that urban planners should heed to keep bricks-and-mortar shops honest and interesting.

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